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

Leave a comment

 

 

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.

 

 

Waiting.

5 Comments

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.

Allison’s dancing again.

4 Comments

There was a time when it was easy. Back when all she had to do was shower, throw on a little make up, and head out with a Screwdriver and that man-melting grin of hers. She’d get in her beat-up car and fish for the cover charge on the floorboard. A few crumpled bills in the clean ashtray. Scattered tip money from the night before. Music would pulsate through the brick walls of Joe B’s. It was a warehouse converted nightclub full of soldiers and rich kids from the local private college. Looking this way–casual, perfect hair and perfumed pressure points sending out waves of ‘you want me’–she belonged. Soldiers would stare at her as she entered the dark club. Cute, broad-shouldered boys with high-n-tights, clean hard faces, and stamina. She loved their shoulders and respected their service. But more than anything, it was the stamina. Lots of stamina.

She met Dave there. He was sitting at the end of the bar, bobbing his head and looking around. She smiled at him. He came over and cracked the dumbest jokes she’d ever heard.
“You aren’t good at this are you?” she said.
“Lots of folks say I make an ass of myself real good actually.” His smile was crooked and something about his face told her he’d never grow a beard. But still she laughed at him.
“Let’s go dance, come on.” she said.
Dave shrugged it off. “I got more left feet than a centipede!”
She leaned in to hear him talk. To let him smell the perfume and make his move.
“We could dance slow. Nobody’d notice if you held onto me tight.”
“Let me request a song.”
He took off into the crowd. She ordered them two more drinks.
When he came back, she asked,
“What song did you request?”
The DJ let the hip-hop song die down.
“We’ve got a request from Dave to Allison.”
She smiled. He took her hand.
Steel guitars began to play as the dance floor cleared. A twangy singer she didn’t know sang about meeting a girl and falling in love.
She and Dave were the only two on the floor. He held her tight.
“Everyone will notice us now.” She said with a grin.
“When a man like me dances with a woman like you, we want everyone to know it.”

Dave got out of the Army and started working at Coleman Trucking. A dedicated job running loads to Nashville and back four times a day. Allison stayed on waitressing until their first child arrived. She stayed with the baby in a two-room efficiency. Dave came home each night, held the baby, drank beer, and watched the news. Allison walked down to the phone booth to call her mother.
“Something’s wrong Mama.” She’d say.
“What honey?”
“I don’t know. I just thought it was gonna be different.”
“We all did.”

Dave was laid off four weeks before their third Christmas. Coleman went out of business. He played with they baby in the complex’s courtyard. Dave crushed beer cans on his head. The baby would laugh. Allison sold cars downtown for a while. She’d drive by Joe B’s sometimes. It had been converted into self-storage. She thought maybe there was symbolism in that. She smoked in secret. Never knew what would make Dave angry.

Dave talked about reenlisting while she made dinner.
“I’d still be an E-3 I bet. That’s about a thousand a month.”
“Who’d watch the baby when you went to basic. I’d still have to work.”
“So, you wouldn’t miss me?”
“Sure.”
“But you’re not telling me not to go. You’d know we’d be separated a lot. Maybe a year or two at a time.”
“We have to do something.”
“I couldn’t pass the PT test to get back in anyway. My back is fucked up.”
She stirred the Hamburger Helper.
“I didn’t know your back was hurt.”
“What?” he turned down the TV.
“I said dinner is done.”
“Great.” He opened another beer.

She stood in the gym beneath a banner that said, “Welcome Back Alumni!” Everyone from ten years ago hugged and shook hands like old people.
“Allison, you look so good! What’s your secret?”
“Sixty hours a week of mind numbing labor.”
Laughter.
“You always were the funny one. Somebody told me you married a soldier. That’s gotta be exciting!”
“He got kicked out the month we got married. He hit an officer. Broke his jaw in two places.”
Laughter.
“Oh, I’m sure. You’re so funny.”
“Anybody spike the punch yet?” Allison asked.

He was drunk when she got home.
“Anybody ask about me?” he said.
“None of them knew you Dave.”
“Damn baby needs a change. Little fucker, shit all over the place.”
“Just now?” she said going over to the crib.
“A couple of hours ago I guess. Is the store still open?”
She began to change the baby’s diaper. Feces stuck to the girl’s folds, dried up on her thighs.
Dave put on his shoes.
“You got any money? I’m walking up the street.”
“Honey, I’ll go up for you. You want a 12-pack? Maybe some chips?”
“You’re the greatest.” Dave said letting his shoes fall back to the floor.
Allison picked up the baby.
“I’ll take her to give you some peace. You deserve it.”
“Hurry back.” he said.
“I will honey. I love you.” she said.
“What?”
“Nothing. Be back in a bit.”

The store was closed so she drove passed it. The baby fussed some. Allison found a 24 hour store and bought some formula, one bottle, and small pack of nipples.
“You guys sell Grain?” she said.
“Yeah.” the clerk said looking at the clock. “For about five more minutes.”
“Great.”

The baby was asleep. Allison drove around town listening to music on the one working speaker. She drove by Joe B’s. It was being converted back into a nightclub.
A sign advertised. “Coming Soon: GRINDERS!”
“Grinders.” she said to herself.
She took a sip of the grain alcohol. She grimaced.

The baby didn’t wake up when the driver’s door closed. Allison walked up to the door of Joe B’s/Grinders. It was quiet and dark. She broke out the glass on the door and worked the lock open. The building smelled of drying varnish and fresh-cut pine. Moonlight came in through a high window, brushing the dance floor a gray-white hue. She remembered the music. The shoulders. She saw herself out there again. Laughing.

Allison began to weep. She took another sip then threw the bottle into the air. The glass shattered four feet in front of her. She pulled out her lighter and bent down.

When she exited the building the flames were spreading faster than expected. Fire licked the blackness leading to the second floor. It spread like wings to the walls. Allison turned back to look at the building. The baby still asleep.
She got in the car and drove away slowly.
She stopped to fill up at a station near the interstate. Allison read the big green signs. Knoxville. Charlotte. Richmond. She bought two packs of diapers. When they pulled on I-24 East, Allison glanced at the rearview mirror several times but knew they’d never be followed.

Jimmy Collins.

Leave a comment

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…

Bastards walk all over you sometimes, eh?

Leave a comment

This is a sign of my growing distaste for real work.
I woke up with a twisted haze floating around my eyes and the feeling that hangovers are in my DNA. The Drunkard’s Genome Project should receive some Stimulating benefits via Uncle Sam Adams. Most of the low-end bottles I saw in the trash can this morning had “Union Made” on the label. That makes it a legitimate industry for gubment help. Yes? No? Yeah, I don’t see my point either. This is further proof that I’m avoiding real work and rambling in hopes of finding something worth saying…

The real work is not taking yourself so seriously that every little thing is called “Real Work”, when typing to total strangers and those randomly courageous friends one has inherited along one’s path.

Right now, the real work is overcoming a bubbling distaste for my writing. This foulness, similar to sucking rancid meat juices off a homeless guy’s big toe, has developed into a full-blown nightmare. For the moment.
NOT the “Writer’s Block” everyone dreams about. I say “dreams” because it often seems that folks use “Writer’s Block” as an excuse to smell like a writer because hot bath of reality is too painful. They are trapped in a world of Fear and Laziness so perplexing, it is rationalized by Psychologists, Psychiatrist, and your favorite hair stylist alike. No, what I’ve got going on is running along this way.

I’ve got plenty to say, plenty of ideas, and plenty of work ethic…but every thing I hear in my head SUCKS comparatively speaking, to the words I’ve spent the day reading. That, my friends, is FEAR. NOT Writer’s Block.

Comic Interlude:

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

I once thought of self-publishing a series of short stories and entitling the collection, “A Writer’s Block.”

Get it?

If writer’s get Writer’s Block, do executioner’s get Chopping Block?

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

The source of my literary halitosis is my ill-advised attempts at finding ‘inspiration’. I also think ‘inspiration’ is overrated like Mojitos and drunk girls making out in front of cell phones…but skip that, for now. I picked up this book of Short Stories, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat outside to read a line or fifty. By the time I finished the first story, I was as depressed as a Jewish kid on Christmas morning.

The truth is every writer feels this way but, well, I normally don’t feel this way at all. Of all the hatchet jobs I’ve done on my frail self-esteem, insulting the words in my head as never crossed my mind. But I read a few more stories and heard this low moaning coming from deep within…down where words are scarce and ill-fitting (I’ve used that same description in a story once).

I guess the part of this that applies to other writers is that we’ve all felt like shit on the shoe soles of successful scribes. Those bastards whose words dart off the page and into our minds with a laser’s pace and precision.

It can make you sick, really. Yeah, they’re professionals, and have paid their dues, and have had their work edited, sliced, diced, collated, collaborated, and passed around to enough literary snobs to fill a private college campus…but still.

It makes you sick when that little voice says, “You’ll never ever be that good.”

Bastards.

By the end of the night this will pass. I don’t really mind the random attack of Fear. Most times I just laugh at it, sit down, and write whatever random words I hear.

Which is what I did just now…

-John.

14 is greater than 500.

1 Comment

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.”
-Ernest Hemingway.

Those 14 words equal any 500 words I could come up with today.
Actually, they hammer mine into the ground.

-John.