Another clueless, airhead model

Thursday, May 30, 2019

THE GAME


ALL CHARACTERS AND EVENTS WRITTEN IN THIS BLOG --- EVEN THOSE BASED ON REAL PEOPLE --- ARE ENTIRELY FICTIONAL.


CHAPTER I

Jessica Sanborn hung up the phone. Staring out the office window she slowly took in another ass chewing from the regional director. There was a time when her only concerns as project leader was maintaining and improving habitat on the Texas Gulf Coast Wildlife Refuge. Now she was inundated weekly with putting out human resource fires. The latest of those stemming from the complaint by a visiting female biologist after overhearing three refuge employees rattle off a litany of vulgar instructions on how to satisfy a woman. The same problem children again – Dan Sigmond, Vincent Ybarra and Jack Hammond. She was given an ultimatum; either subject these men to intensive cultural and diversity training or forget about that promotion to Chief of Refuge Operations. She made the call to request training from Milton Feebish, Chief of Cultural Enlightenment for Region 2 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She subsequently informed the children when to attend their training.

CHAPTER II

Dan and Vincent arrived first to the refuge conference room. Both employed as wildland firefighters, which, despite the glamorous title was often a position that included mundane repair of vehicles and maintenance of the refuge grounds. They sat at the furthest section of the room.
Soon after, Jack appeared. Protocol for Fish and Wildlife law enforcement personnel required him to wear the trappings of law enforcement officers – armored vest with body camera, radio and utility belt containing handcuffs, pepper spray, Taser and a Glock M-17 service firearm. These men have known each other for fifteen years. Not friends socially but comfortable enough to trade insulting barbs. Jack set his sights on Vincent.

Hey Vincent, my neighbor needs day laborers to fix his roof so I gave him your number.
Thanks, Jack. I’ll call him after I bang your mom.

Their Laughter abruptly stopped when Milton Feebish entered the room. The large box he carried contained a laptop and projector, training manuals, water bottles, donuts and a small plastic case. He was a middle age, balding man of average height. His frumpled shirt covered a midriff paunch. Sagging, alabaster skin suggested he rarely stepped outside or engaged in physical exercise.

Good morning gentlemen. Thank you for being here on time. I have a very ambitious and informative agenda today so bear with me while I set up. Setting the box down, he brought out two boxes of donuts.

I have water and donuts for you. They are Krispy Kreme so the sugar high will keep you awake all day. Hee-hee.

They didn’t laugh. These alpha males shared an unspoken agreement to give Milton the barest of attention. Still, those were Krispy Kreme donuts so they grudgingly accepted his offer.

After connecting his projector to the laptop, Milton handed out the 200-page study manual to each man. He returned to his station, using a Bluetooth remote to bring up the first page of his PowerPoint presentation: Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the Federal Workplace. Two minutes into the lecture Milton turned to see his students engaged with their cell phones. Milton said nothing rather, he continued on with the lecture. Moments later Dan’s vision blurred, accompanied by an inability to stay awake. He fell asleep sitting up. Likewise, Jack and Vincent nodded off.

CHAPTER III

Jack awoke first, realizing his immobility. His arms and legs were duct taped to the legs and armrest of his chair. His body armor, firearm and utility belt laid in a pile across the room. He looked to his side, seeing Vincent and Dan restrained in the same manner. After a minute of testing the limits of his restraints, he called out to his coworkers.
Hey! Hey! Wake up.

Clarity returned to Dan. What the fuck is… zzzzzzzzzz! Aw fuck! Zzzzzzzzzz! Dan grimaced as high voltage current shot through his body, nearly jerking the chair free from mounts bolted to the floor. The shock wave subsided.

Is this one of Roger’s and Antonio’s sick fucking jokes? Zzzzzzzzzz! After the shock passed, Dan remained quiet. Jack spoke to him calmly.

Dan, maybe you shouldn’t say anything. I thought this was one of their pranks too but they’ve never gone this far.

Roger and Antonio, both firefighters, were just as suspect as these men were into lowbrow antics but this was far more intricate than any prank they had pulled. Nevertheless, Roger and Antonio were expected to walk in any moment and have a good laugh at their expense. Milton entered the conference room instead.

Good evening. I’m glad you are awake from your sugar crash nap although I’m sure the Rohypnol in the donuts had a little to do with it. Hee-hee.

No laughter.

We will now resume training.

Vincent’s stupor dissipated. What the fuck! Zzzzzzzzzz! Fuck! Zzzzzzzzzz!

He writhed in agony until the high voltage torture stopped a few seconds later. He wasn’t finished.

Motherfucker, what… zzzzzzzzzz!

The electro-torture resumed then subsided. Vincent fell limp. His breathing laborious. At this point Dan put it all together. He recalled the same outcome from a scene in the South Park movie where Cartman received a shock from an implant every time he cussed. Only this shock originated from a wire protruding from patches adhered to bald spots on Vincent and Jack’s heads. The wires ran down their bodies across the floor then plugged into a computer. Dan noticed another wire from his head leading to that computer. He warned his friends.

Don’t cuss! It sets off a high voltage electric charge to your bodies!

Very good, exclaimed Milton. You figured out what happens when you curse. Those wires are plugged into a computer with speech recognition software that is designed to send an electric shock to whomever says a vulgar expletive. Now let us proceed with the training.

Fuck you! Zzzzzzzzzz! The current ripped through Vincent again. When it stopped, he remained quiet but his brown, piercing eyes expressed homicidal intentions.
Jack called out to Milton. You can’t get away with this. Other people are going to show up.
Afraid not, Jack. It’s a late afternoon on Friday. Jessica assured me before she left she was the only one working today. I take my job seriously and you three are the most bigoted, misogynistic federal workers I have encountered in 20 years at my job. I’ve waited that long for the right people to show up so I consider this a reward from God. Now please, can we continue?

Go fuck yourself!

Zzzzzzzzzz! Another current of discipline convinced Vincent to relent. Moisture spread out from the groin of his trousers. Milton turned on the projector. A layout of the board from the Jeopardy TV game show appeared on the screen. Each of the six blocks on the top row were categorized with a cultural-diversity related topic.



 Jack, you are first. Pick a category.

No. I won’t play your stupid, sick game.

Milton expected this from a ten year law enforcement veteran as well as from Dan and Vincent.

Now Jack, this is important for all of us. The Fish and Wildlife Service takes cultural diversity very seriously now. Men such as yourselves are relics of the past that need to acknowledge every race, sex, religious belief, ethnicity and sexual orientation should be treated with respect.
Jack’s response was an icy stare. It was time for Milton to incentivize them into capitulation.
Look at the back of your hands. You’ll see a small scratch. A similar one is on both your legs. That’s where I infected each of you with Staphylococcus aureus. You know it as flesh eating bacteria. Normally the symptoms take a three or four days to advance into decaying flesh but I’ve cultured an especially virulent strain. I’d say you have three hours before there is irreparable damage, then death.

Milton took a petri dish from the case. He proudly held it up to show blotchy bacterial growth on jellied agar medium.

Vincent observed his scratch. He and Dan were part-time emergency medical technicians. Both had seen patients in various stages of staphylococcus infection. It usually resulted in having their limbs amputated. The reason for infecting them escaped him.

What’s the point of infecting us, Milton?

Only one of you will win this game and that person will be treated with the antidote to neutralize the bacteria. The longer we wait the more the bacteria will spread and your chance of survival will likewise diminish. Any more questions?

Jack felt the first symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis on his hand – expanding rash and shiny skin around the wound. He also felt a slight fever coming on.

OK, you win, Milton. Let’s get on with the game.

Thank you, Jack. Pick a category.

HOLIDAY for 300.

A question flashed on the screen. This holiday is observed as a “day of joy” by persons of the Persian culture.

Fuck me, Jack thought to himself. What is Ram-a-dam?

That is incorrect Jack. The correct answer is What is Norooz? Also known as the Persian New Year. And it’s pronounce Rom-a-don. Dan, you’re next.

LGBT for 200.

This organization serves as a major non-for-profit advocacy programs for LGBT citizens, companies, entrepreneurs, and ally companies that seek information, resources, and access to power

What is the Rainbow?

No Dan. The correct answer is What is the Human Rights Campaign?

Jesus Christ! No one knows these answers!

You would know them if you read the study questions I sent to your email. And you are very close to having that computer discipline you. Vincent, pick a category.

Vincent?

Vincent was lost in thought. He remembered the reeking smell of rotting flesh in the hospital ward where a victim of the bacteria were treated. Morbid fascination prodded him to watch that patient in her delirium. At the bedside, Vincent lifted the sheet to reveal a leg severed at the knee yet still ineffectual at stopping the bacteria’s advancement. The fetid leg was swollen, purple tinged with broken blisters of gelatinous, foul-smelling fluid. Flakes of discolored skin festooned the bedsheets. He ran, vomiting in the hallway as Code Blue was sounded.

Vincent?

Um, STEREOTYPE, PREJUDICE, OR BIAS for 400.

Affinity is a form of ____ that can occur when we see someone we have an affinity with (e.g. attended same college, grew up in same town, remind us of someone we know and like)

What is…bias?

That is correct! Well done, Vincent! You have the board.

You can go suck my salty balls for 500!

Confusion filled the room when the reciprocating shock failed to occur. Vincent smirked, reveling in his rebellion then his punishment ensued and to Vincent’s horror it did not abate. His body convulsed in a synchronistic dance with 10,000 milliamps the software’s algorithms had determined for this transgression. Olive-hued skin burned then blackened. Hair shriveled to the scalp. He would have screamed if not for his jaws locking up. Death came within seconds but the software meted out its verdict for another twenty seconds, culminating with eyes exploding into splattered offal against the far wall. With the tape burned away, his charred body crumpled to the floor.

CHAPTER IV

Jack and Dan wretched on themselves. Each had witness death in their line of work but never that of a friend nor in such a violent manner. Milton was unfazed.

One down, two to go. Jack, I believe you have the board.

Law enforcement training kept Jack cool and thinking rather than yelling a barrage of threats at Milton. His firearm and Taser were on the floor only ten feet from him. He also noticed the body camera pointing at them with a red light indicating the On button was engaged. It was probably depressed after the vest was thrown to the floor. If he freed himself, he could reach the Glock within seconds and end this madness. He thought it best to play the game while he pulled against the tape to weaken it. A surge of pain brought attention to his hands. They were yellowish with weeping eruptions. Judging from the stains on his sleeves and trousers the bacteria had traveled up his extremities. Jack was not one to beg but pleading might buy him time to break free and throttle Milton’s fleshy neck.

I can’t concentrate, Milton. There’s too much pain from the infection.

Milton smiled. He walked to the box, removing from the case a medicine vial, syringe with needle, catheter and surgical gloves. Donning his gloves, he inserted the syringe into the rubber-tipped vial, removing 10 ml of its liquid contents. Walking behind him, Milton lifted Jack’s shirt up to expose the lower back. Dispensing without local anesthesia or antiseptic, he inserted a syringe into the epidural area of the spine. Jack arced his back, grimacing more from the thought then the pain. After removing the needle Milton inserted a catheter in the hole left by it. He injected the vial’s liquid into the catheter where it flowed into the spine until the syringe was emptied. He then faced Jack.

I’ll have you know I learned all that from YouTube. The lidocaine into your spine is triple the dosage so you shouldn’t feel any more pain.

Milton looked at Dan. Perplexed after seeing the bacteria’s effects were not as advanced. The game continued for another hour with neither contestant answering a question correctly.

This Jewish holiday is observed as a “day of anointment” with a 25-HR period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services

What is Hanukah?

Wrong Jack. The correct answer is What is Yom Kipper?

The Schnitzel, a thin slice of meat with noodles coated in butter and friend is served in this country.

What is Poland?

Wrong Dan. The Correct answer is What is Germany?

!!! DAILY DOUBLE!!!
You apply and are hired for a position at a new company. Before beginning your job, you inform your employer that you are undergoing a gender transition and will be presenting as a woman instead of as a man. Your new employer then informs you that the job is no longer available due to budget constraints. You later find out that another person was hired for the position. What form of discrimination is this an example of.

What is trannyism?

Wrong Jack. The correct answer is What is Sex based discrimination?

Ableism

What is hating albinos?

Wrong Dan. The correct answer is What is prejudice against people with disabilities?

You gotta be shitting me! Zzzzzzzzzz!

Jack, you are next.

Jack was now a ghoulish caricature of his former self. Eyes sank into a mottled head of exposed skull, matted tufts of hair and vestiges of ears. The bacteria had metastasized over his body, leaving oozing pustules and putrid flesh in their wake. The overpowering stench of decay forced Milton to run out of the room to the restroom. Realizing this opportunity for freedom Jack rotated his bounded wrists repeatedly. The motion allowed him to slip the right hand out of its skin as if he wore a glove. He unraveled the tape on his left hand then freed his legs. Rising to his feet, he ran towards his firearm only to collapse onto the carpet when his partially eaten femurs snapped in half. Jack crawled, undeterred from the pain. Dan watched as he edged closer to his Glock, leaving a trail of fleshy detritus. Only a foot away when Milton returned.

Nice try Jack, he quipped.

Milton walked casually to the firearm, removing it from the holster before Jack could reach it then
 pointed it at him.

You did not answer any of the questions correctly but I give you credit for trying so I’ll put you out of your misery now.

He fired one round into Jack’s chest but was unwilling to go near the body to confirm death. He walked over to Dan, resting the Glock’s barrel tip against his forehead. Dan stared back at him as he strained against tape. He needed a minute more of Milton’s gloating to break free.

Well, Dan. It’s been fun but I’m sure you know by now I had no intension of allowing any of you all to live. After I blow your brains out, I’m changing cars and driving to Mexico with a fake ID and almost three days head start before your people come back to work. I already have a remote location to live where no one cares who I am. Goodbye Mr. Sigmond, it has been fun.

Then, a voice behind him.

You can suck cocks in hell for 500!

Milton’s body seized up after two wire-guided darts embedded into his backside. 50,000 volts surged through his body. It lasted another five seconds as his body fell to the floor. Dan tore free from the tape. He looked at Jack whose now lifeless hand still grasped the Taser.

CHAPTER V

Dan drove Milton’s rented KIA ten minutes to a refuge forest that was off limits to the public. Once passed the gated entrance he drove an addition five minutes on a back road until stopping at the location he visited with Jack a week ago. The smell of death hung in the air. Crime scene tape cordoned off the site where bat researches found limbs and entrails strewed for several yards across the forest floor. They found only one head. One of those biologists had ratted out Dan and his friends so he took pleasure in knowing she would have nightmares for some time. The victims were identified as men with a long history of poaching. They made the mistake of hunting in an area where wild hogs had attacked people before.

Dan walked around the vehicle to the passenger’s side where Milton was gagged and bounded with duct tape at the wrist and ankles. He was dragged a few yards beyond the tape then thrown to the ground. He watched as Dan gathered several rebar, a small sledgehammer and the catheter case from the trunk. He hammered the rebar into the ground three feet from each of Milton’s arms and legs then tased him again. His body spazzed then fell limp. He was helpless to resist Dan cutting off his clothes with a pocket knife. He cast the clothes aside then flipped Milton over. A painful prick to the base of his spine was followed by a rush of numbness. Dan flipped him over again, removing tape then tying each limb to the rods with parachute cord. He then sat beside the naked, prostrate body.

For a few quiet moments, Dan took in the serenity of the forest under a canopy of live oaks. Eastern winds had pushed billions of mosquitoes from the marshes into the woods where they sought out scatter pools of water to lay eggs in. He watched as they sought out his blood to help gestate eggs but finding their access barred by his mosquito jacket and head net. Not so for his victim. With his knife, Dan sliced across Milton’s abdomen just enough to draw a beaded line of blood. Mosquitoes jostled among themselves to feed on the blood meal. The ravenous bloodsuckers were the least of his problems. With gloved hands, Dan removed the bacterial petri dish from the case. A waft of mold permeated the air as he opened the top and emptied the agar-bacterial contents onto the Milton’s wound.

As much as I’d love to hear you beg for mercy Milton, I’m going to leave you gagged. I don’t want to attract people who may be trespassing. That yellow tape over there was put up for a crime scene. There was not a crime committed though, just good old natural retribution on a couple of poachers. Jack said wild hogs ripped them to shreds. Probably the same hogs that tore into some teenagers that road their ATV’s around here last year. Hogs are very intelligent, Milton. After sundown they’ll be back for the scraps the cleaning crew missed. I would say a little over an hour from now. If not the bacteria will finish you off by the morning.

Dan stood up. Looking down at his captive.

It ain’t hard to figure out why you did what you did, Milton. You were acting out on a world that has bullied and laughed at you all your life. That will never change until people like you grow a pair. Use to be evolution took care of piss ants like you or someone put a bullet between your eyes. I wasn’t about to let Jack and Vincent’s family go through twenty years of hell until you were executed in Huntsville. There’s a time for justice and a time for frontier justice.

With that, Dan walked to the car. He drove it a mile down the forest road until veering off into a green ash swamp, bogging the car down in muck. He walked to the headquarters from there.

Within an hour, Milton’s entire body swelled from repeated mosquito bites and bacterial festering. Dusk had yet to fall but the heavy forest canopy amplified the darkness. His mind raced with thoughts of escape, his petty strength unable to pull up the rebar. The creatures of the night emerged when complete darkness fell. Their sounds magnified his terror of the unknown. He lacked the knowledge to differentiate between them except for pigs in the distant. A rising cacophony of grunts and squeals signaled the sounder was approaching Milton’s perimeter. He tried to remain quiet but the overpowering stench of wild hog musk made him vomit through his gagged mouth. He felt the ground rumble under hooves too many to estimate. Milton’s swollen eyes shifted, attempting to see dozens of hulking shapes milling around him. Some larger than the mammoth swine he once saw at a county fair. Something warm and fleshy touched his foot. Milton looked at a behemoth sniffing up his leg until stopping at his genitalia. Now he knew why Dan gave him the painkiller. Lack of pain forbade him from passing out as his penis was devoured.

Chapter VI

Agent Michael Edwin finished his questioning as Dan laid in the hospital bed. He told him Milton’s body, or what was left of it, was found over several acres after the car rental company gave law enforcement the coordinates of the KIA’s GPS signal. Jack’s body camera also corroborated most of Dan’s answers.

Alright, Dan. The doctor said you’re fully recovered from the infection. He also thinks those electric shocks you took killed off most of the bacteria. You are lucky Milton let you live after your two friends died. I can’t say though I wish we got to him first before the hogs. It appears he was going to hide out in the woods until the heat was off but ended up getting his car stuck in a swamp. The hogs got to him when he tried to walk out. Guess karma is a bitch for people like him.

Guess so, Agent Edwin. I’m leaving tomorrow morning. Maybe slip out the back to avoid the media then take a month of administrative leave in Michigan with my daughter.

Good idea. Well, I’m finished here.

Agent Edwin shook Dan’s hand and wished him well. He paused at the door, then turned around.
This seems like an open and shut case but there is one little anomaly in the forensic report I can’t wrap my head around. That body cam’s video stopped running right after Milton shot Jack.

And? Dan replied.

Well, Jack’s was issued a high capacity micro SD card.

What is your point Agent Edwin?

My point is that Fish and Wildlife officers carry the new ten-terabyte card in their body cameras and only law enforcement agencies have them. The card pulled out of the body cam was only sixty-four gigs and Jack’s fingerprints were not on it. No fingerprints at all for that matter. It was like someone removed the larger card then deleted part of its video and transferred that video to a smaller capacity card and put it in the camera. That person was smart enough to know our forensic team can’t dig up deleted video on a card that’s never had footage before. Very strange.

Both men looked at each other. Dan broke the silence.

That does sound strange but maybe Jack lost his big card so he used a smaller one that didn’t have enough storage.

Agent Edwin gave him a knowing look. Yeah, that’s probably what happened.

Monday, March 25, 2019

THE CALL OF ABRAHAM (GENESIS 12)


Abe Fremont peered around the corner to the back of the Canaan Dollar General. The only grocer in town.  A trucker was smoking in the cab of his 18-wheeler.  Seemingly in no rush to deliver his load of canned food.

What do you see, Abe?

Sarah Fremont twitched impatiently after asking her step brother for the third time.  Her current high was wearing off too soon because the last meth batch was cooked in haste and sloppily.  Red flags in hindsight if someone had bothered to see them before the meth lab blew up. Ms. Loretta Fremont, their mother and meth cooker, along with the trailer home were obliterated to Kingdom Come.
Abe growl back through clenched teeth.  Will you shut the fuck up already?

The plan was for his step sister to distract the driver with sex in the store’s restroom while he pilfered as much food as he could from the back of the rig.  Abe looked her over one more time. She was dolled up in Daisy Dukes, tube top and skanky makeup.  Her dyed blonde hair was just beginning to show black roots.  Meth and youth had managed to offset a diet of canned food but her face had aged well past her twenty years.  Still, she remained his go-to when he came home empty-handed from the bar.

Finally, the trucker climbed down from the cab.  Walking to the metal back door, he banged on it with the familiarity of someone who has done this a hundred times.  Abe turned to his sister after the manger let the trucker in.

Okay, get in there but wait till he brings in his first load before you talk to him.  Do what you gotta do, just give me about fifteen minutes.

She hurried to the front of the store then walked inside.  Abe followed a moment later.  He simultaneously perused the store while spying on Sarah as she worked the trucker.  She had a gift for persuasion he thought but then again, the horny truckers in this part of West Virginia would fuck a hole in the ground.  Within five minutes the trucker was following her to the restroom.  Leaving the store, Abe ran to the rig.  As expected, its back doors were open.  He climbed in with no time to see what was in the boxes he threw out on the ground.   When satisfied he had enough he jumped out to fetch his truck.  After filling the truck bed with boxes he drove off without his sister.  She knew the way home.

Sarah walked out of town up a back road long in disrepair. Human scavengers had picked through any salvageable junk strewed along its sides. This road was a remnant of the town’s glory days when King Coal filled the city’s coffer to pay for its infrastructure and first class schools.   The latter now reduced to two trailer class rooms.  Her older Johns rambled on about the days when a miner could buy a house and raise a family with only a high school education.  Even send his kids to college.  Fuck Obama for killing coal was a common insult even though coal mining in this county was in decline long before he became president.

The patrol car of her uncle, sheriff Haran Fremont, pulled alongside her. When Loretta became pregnant with Sarah at age 45, the doctor called it a miracle considering her syphilis-riddled uterus.  Terah, her husband, went to his grave not knowing his brother Haran was the real father. Loretta fessed up to Sarah and Abe about another father but never revealed it was Haran. When Loretta informed Haran that Sarah was his daughter, he felt obligated to raise her. He’s now recouping on his benevolence.

Hey Sarah, how’s it going?  You cleared up?

Sarah played along, knowing he wanted to get into her as soon as the crabs were gone.  She resisted the urge to scratch her groin.

Hey Uncle Haran.  Yeah, I’m all good.  Why don’t you come on over tonight?

Well, that’s awful kind of you to ask, Sarah.  Say, about ten?

Works for me, I’ll clear my schedule for you.

Harlan offered her a ride home but she insisted she needed fresh air. She furiously scratched herself when Haran drove out of sight.  Crabs were bad for customers and the competition for Johns was fierce in Canaan. If she wasn’t open for business her older step sister Hagie (by twenty years) would poach her clients. Hagie was already cleaning up on Medicaid checks for her eight kids she purposely kept out of school to make them appear addle-minded.

On cue, Hagie’s approached in her car.

Hey Sarah, need a lift? I’m driving to Abe’s to clean his trailer for candy.
Sarah smiled at her frenemy, thinking to herself - Code words, always code words! Why don’t you just come out and say you want to shoot heroin you fucking cunt addict!

Hey Hagie! Thanks, I sure could use a lift.

The women arrived at Abe’s trailer.  Navigating through a front yard of car parts, syringes and broken crack pipes they found Abe inside at the kitchen table. He was smoking with Jesús who comes through every summer to work the apple orchards in Virginia. Boxes from the Dollar General caper were stacked up against the wall.  They were deep in conversation on a scheme involving the state’s Indigent Burial Program.  They would take money for dead addicts no one claimed then bury them in the woods instead of a cemetery thereafter, pocketing the generous difference in costs.  Hagie made a beeline to Jesús, not realizing he wouldn’t have money to spare until his apple picking gig was over.  With those two in the guest bedroom, Sarah had Abe’s full attention.

Abe, we need to start thinking about ways to make money now that mom is no longer around to cook.  We can only cut the heroin so much with flour. When that runs out we won’t have money to buy more drugs. It was a good idea for us to get married and get me pregnant for welfare checks but I think my lady parts don’t work down there.

Sarah didn’t realize the buzz kill she laid on Abe.  He was tweaking to get away from the thought of being responsible again.  It came so easy to his mother and he was happy to reap the benefits with minimal work and free sex from his sisters.  Terah was on his deathbed from complications of black lung when he gave Abe the trailer and land and for a time, Abe honored his father with honest work in the mines.  Then that coal company went bankrupt. Abe had no other skills and only a GED.  His fortunes changed when his mother started cooking meth.  With her gone he had to start over.

I can’t think right now Sarah.  My brain needs to calm down so can you help a brother out?

Sarah sighed.  She walked over to Abe, kneeling in front of him on the tattered, stained couch.  At that time the heroin part of his speedball kicked in. He closed his eyes for a moment then opened them to find himself by a mountain stream.  He recognized the landmarks from his youth before the coal company blasted life from the mountain top to extract exposed coal veins.  He remembered playing on this mountain.  Eating his fill of fruit from paw-paw trees and drinking cool water straight out of gushing springs.  He shot squirrels for a campfire dinner under the stars.  Scampering onto a boulder he looked down on Canaan.  It was bustling and prosperous with restaurants and family-owned stores selling everything the community needed.  The city park was filled with families watching an improvised baseball game. Five miles outside town he saw a steady procession of trucks laden with coal as they left the mining compound.

Heavenly. Isn’t it, my son?

Abe was startled by the appearance of a possum talking to him. Despite the oddity of this, he felt calmed by its presence.

Who are you? I mean, possums don’t talk.

Do not fret Abraham for I am here in the images of what you have loved most in life, the town and mountain of your youth and Goober, your pet possum. 

Abe picked his pet up at arm’s length, holding it towards the sky.

Goober!  Oh Goober, you’re alive!

Yes, Abraham. I am both Goober and your God and I have come to guide you to the path you seek. 

Abe put Goober down then knelt before it.

Oh God, please forgive me for what I’ve done to my life and the people I’ve hurt.  Show me the true path I must take.

Abraham, leave the house of your father with Sarah and four of your children.  You will all prosper from the largess of the state and manna of meth, heroin and cocaine.     

But God, I don’t have kids!

Follow the path my son…

The possum and surrounding landscape vaporized before Abe’s eyes.  He looked down at Sarah.

I was in heaven!

Thanks for the compliment replied Sarah as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.  Did God give you any ideas to make money?

Oh yeah. I know exactly what we need to do but we’re gonna need help from Hagie.

Nothing pissed off Sarah more than needing her sister’s help.  That bitch!  We don’t need her!  She didn’t care if Hagie heard her in the adjacent room.

Keep it down, Abe whispered back.  And you better make up with Hagie because it’s God’s will.  When I get four babies out of her you and me are moving out of this town.  That’s all you need to know.

Bullshit, Abe.  You already have kids from her.  Are you so stupid you don't see the resemblance to Jereny, Jaxon, Brandi and Braden?

Abe thought for a moment.  It’s a small town and everyone has their fucking nose in everyone’s business but no one told him he was one of the five fathers who knocked up Hagie.

You’re right, Sarah. Now how do we get my kids and get out of this town? I need another sign from God.

Abruptly, a box from the stack fell to the floor, spilling its contents of hundreds of small Ziploc bags containing a white powder. A tag on each bag said the word FENTANYL.

EPILOGUE

The county coroner rubbed her eyes.  It was a late night and that fourth cup of coffee was just enough to help finish the last report on another overdosed addict.  A forty year old female, mother of eight.  Toxicology detected pure fentanyl in her blood. Both Kate and her assistant Jack knew her.
Intimately.

Well, Jack. By the looks of your scratching and my lip sores, Hagie left us both a going-away present.

Jack laughed.  Yeah, but it’ll all clear up in a week or two.  What about her kids?

I hear Abe and Sarah adopted four of them and moved out of the county.  The rest are wards of the state.  So sad but The Lord will provide.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Merry Mushroom Christmas!


All characters and events in this story may or may not be based on reality.


25 December 2018 # 14334

I’ve been tasked to write a story based on the thinnest of recollections of Christmas therefore, I started my own celebration of Jesus’ birth.  This story is a amalgamate of events which transpired on Christmas 2018.  It is not lost upon me that I, a 58-year old man is participating alone in a tradition made for celebrating with family and friends.  This is not meant to solicit pity.  My family stopped inviting me to Christmas parties only recently after nearly forty years of avoiding the invitation.  They’ll still pray for me to their dying days to keep me from going to hell.  

It took some effort to find the mushrooms.  A call made to a person who knew a person who knew a location to collect the fungi from cow pies outside Huntsville, TX.  I thought of this mushroom Christmas party too late to initiate a transaction from the Dark Web.  Too late to wait for funds to be deposited from my bank to the account of a digital currency exchange to an account with a TOR black market exchange where the vendor only accepted Bitcoins for purchase. 

Genus Psilocybe, species unknown. These could be any one of a several species in North America although the majority for sale are P. cubensis.  Might as well get into the spirit of the season I told Motorhead, my orange tabby cat.  He stopped licking his phantom testicles for a moment to look at me, the slave he’s tolerated for the last 12 years.  Othello, the deaf 17-year old Australian Shepard was oblivious on his mat.  Doobie, the black ninja assassin cat was not present. The Christmas tree substitute, Funastrum cynanchoides aka Ass Vine, grew entwined around a lattice in a 1-gallon pot on my desk. What is it that makes me inclined to cut the vine’s surface, smelling the putrid, exuding sap to confirm that it indeed smells like ass?

Ass Vine Christmas Tree

Othello

Christmas music! Must have Christmas music! What’s a Christmas without the endless drone of songs designed to keep adults in perpetual childlike subservience?  I gotta admit though, Handel’s Messiah does kick ass.  With songs setting the ambience I placed the mushrooms on a scale, weighing three grams.  Two grams more than my previous limit but fuck it, I wanted to see God or at least a reasonable facsimile.  I can’t speak for Islam or Judaism or any other of the World’s thousand other religions but I can say that even after a lifetime of atheism the Catholic church’s cultist brainwashing still retains a smidgen of hold on me.  Much like after seeing innumerable horror movies you have that inexplicable feeling there’s a monster waiting to disembowel you in the forest darkness no matter how silly the notion.  A final precaution: protecting my surgically replaced knee with a brace.

The taste of psilocybe mushrooms is horrid.  I liken it to eating a wet towel found in the bottom of a washer after two days.  I was prepared though, chopping and mixing the fungi with dairy-free coconut chocolate ice cream chased by a glass of orange juice. The latter a well-known urban myth or perhaps truth for enhancing the effects of the trip.  One more preparation: It’s a Wonderful Life playing on my computer screen.  A life-long favorite of mine, the movie is a microcosm of white Christian male exceptionalism in 1946 where women accepted their lot as baby ovens and people of color are so powerless that not even one was present in the background of Bedford Falls, Massachusetts. Still, it’s a great story of redemption and acceptance where you are so fucking important that if you didn’t exist the people you knew would live a life of loneliness, despair and unfulfilled ambitions.  

Depending on dosage and body mass the effects of magic mushrooms can begin anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours.  I can’t say exactly when my trip started, only that the first clue was Motorhead’s fur pouring off him in a cascading waterfall.  He stared at me, then called out in that disjointed meow of his.  This cat has been on the spectrum ever since he was found after riding in a car’s motor for 20 miles.  Hence the name.  

At this point the neocortex was partially shutting down, relinquishing most control to the ancient reptilian region of my brain.  I mimicked Motorhead’s meow, trying to decipher a cognitive language pattern.  There was an urgency to these actions as if I would never get another chance to understand him.  We continued this back and forth meow banter until he jumped from the bed to another room.  I followed, watching his fur flow onto the floor.  He walked towards his cat food on a small table to keep Othello from eating it.  I recognized his repeated meows as a sign he wanted me to see something.  In the past it was always a crippled insect, usually a grasshopper which was the extent of his hunting prowess.  I scanned the floor then focused on the body of a rodent under the table.  It was a rat, headless and eviscerated.   Offal radiated out from the body in haphazard directions. Ah! the ninja assassin cat left me an offering.  I picked up the rat.  Its dried entrails stretched from their adhered anchor point on the floor then snapped free around my hand.  Hand and rat swirled with a trail of visible echoes as I walked outside to thank Doobie. Leaving the door unlocked to do so was a tactical mistake as was evident when I missed my step off the threshold.  The rat flew from my hand into the night as I fell towards concrete. A lifetime of falls instinctively turned my body sideways to allow the upper arm take the brunt of it. Mostly.  Sharp bolts of pain in my bum knee felt rhythmic, a steady beat emanating then abruptly stopping as if I willed it to do so. I laid there for an indeterminate amount of time, raising my hand to touch intermittent rain drops.  Then panic as the drops coalesced into a white putty enveloping the arm towards my head.  I retained my composure, limping inside the house to the bedroom to watch the movie.  

I found it fascinating how George Bailey et al moved in concert with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture but even more astounding was the bellowing of my farts during the cannon fire.  Apparently, the songs had shifted from Christmas music to my classical mp3 list and the ice cream’s fake sugars had energized my gut flora, producing one explosive fart after another.  After the music ended, I continued farting and giggling because it was background noise during the darkest moments when George had lost everything.  As George begged the angel to restore his previous life, I spied from my periphery a dark object at eye level from atop a book case.  It was Doobie. We locked in a Clint Eastwoodesque stare down until I was the first to break contact.  I returned my gaze, thanking him for the rat offering however, sensing another opportunity to communicate I asked him - Why?  He yawned a reply.  I repeated my question to no avail.  Then it dawned on me - it’s who he is!  For the rest of this cat’s existence he will follow and refine his genetic raison d’etre. He can’t change, no one can’t change their genetic destiny especially humans.  Is this what you are trying to tell me, Doobie?  That we think we are masters of our domain, raping and pillaging the earth but our existence is a blip in the grand timeline of this planet’s existence and our species will eventually succumb to the billion-year web of life and death?  Again, no reply.  

Doobie slunk off the bookcase onto the bed then the floor.  I followed him to the guest room, my eyes adjusting to the peyote grow-light as he jumped onto a bed to curl up cat fashion. Whatever the cat’s intentions they held onto their secrets after I left mushroom dimension.  


Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Knee Thus Far

 Day 1

The operation to completely replace my knee took about two hours.  I felt no pain afterward but that was due to the nerve blocking medication.  After day two I was reduced to Vicodin and a walker, unable to lift the leg at all.


No regrets. It was to the point where nothing was between my knee bones.  They were grinding together into dust.

 Day 7

With Connor, my stepson, gone I was on my own.  I had prepared meals in advance but found I needed more supplies.  My coworkers volunteered to help in whatever capacity and only once did I need help to purchase groceries thanks to David Sigafoose.  After that day I managed to drive to the store, work and rehab but it was still touch and go.  I can get around in the open with a cane but need a walker around the house. 

Day 10

The staples are out. The doctor said I was making excellent progress.  The risk of infection is almost nil by now.  



Sleep is fitful.  The rehab center puts me through basic leg lifting and stretches. After a week of therapy I am able to lift my leg.

Day 25:

The swelling is reduced to the knee region, making flexibility problematic.  To remedy this I hit the stationary bike at work, bending the knee as much as possible.  I am finished with rehab after realizing my day to day routine at work far exceeds what I get at the rehab facility.  It figures, people go in there after a day of senescence but I'm on my feet for hours as well as carrying, stooping and putting my knee in positions that ultimately make it stronger.  I'd say I'm at 60% power level which effectively leaves me drained by 1700.  For a time I needed 10 hours sleep to recoup. During the night I awake to ice the knee down then go back to sleep.  The process is repeated after work.  Meds are reduced to 95% and taken mostly after hours of pushing myself physically.  The background pain which has drained me physically and mentally is dramatically reduced from previous weeks.  There are times I don't notice it and times when I move instinctively without worrying where to place my leg.  Every day is incrementally better albeit still frustrating.  I remain positive I'll pass the fire physical fitness test in April but if now I'll keep trying.  I need to remember that a lot of physically disable folks never get better.





Keep Positive!!!











Sunday, November 25, 2018

An Alternate World Story



It’s always a crap shoot finding another reality’s version of Alohahawk, George, Lumpster and Ed.  This time stream was behind mine by three months but reading their blog posts would narrow down where they’ll be this day.  Pinpointing it to the hour is trickier.  Most times I can stalk them from a distance on the trail, then engage at a stopping point for the night.  They were on their way down from Emery Peak, making the 7800-foot ascent in 5 hours from the trailhead at Big Bend NP.  With full packs no less.   If I timed it right, they will spend the night at a communal site on the trail and it was not unusual for another hiker to be sharing it. Still healing from the knee replacement, I didn’t make the ascent rather, I waited for them to pass me as I hid amongst the madrones and mountain mahogany bushes. Staying an unobserved distance behind I waited till they stopped at a campsite then joined them within the hour.  A bag of good weed is the best icebreaker and after 37 trips it’s a no-shitter they’ll readily accept my invitation to smoke.  The weed puts them at ease, makes them more incline to accept the surreal and unexplained. That’s when I hit them with whom I am.  As always, they humor me at first but after ten minutes of answering questions no stranger could know they begin to settle down to a modicum of acceptance. In the earlier realities before I perfected my intervention, they would pack up immediately and move down to base camp.  I further settle them down by proving I had no weapons and sit where they have the advantage to overtake me.  

Alohahawk 37: Ratt, um I mean Rogue Botanist, you say you are from another reality?  The one where you survived being hit by that car in Austin? 

Rogue Botanist: Yeah, I only suffered a strained knee ligament which eventually led to a full knee replacement last year.  I’m still recovering from the operation and you can’t imagine what a bitch it feels like hiking up a mountain.  What happened right after I died?

Alohahawk 37: We attended your funeral with your family in Austin – Randy, Jersey, Martha and Sue, Boo and Jack and several others except Tripp.  He said he had an important test to study for.  That was the last straw. We all drifted apart from him after that.  I guess you’re not surprised.

Rogue Botanist: Not in the least.  

Alohahawk 37 stared intensely at me.  I saw the conflict in his face because of our shared friendship before I died in this reality. He tried to discern how I would look thirty-seven years after my death. My father’s genes had caught up with me by now, giving me a more bulbous nose and jowls. The balding genes are from my mother’s side of the family.
  
George 37: I still think you’re full of shit. Some psychopath who has nothing better to do then play mind-fuck games but you’ve broken up the routine of this hike so I’ll play along. Tell me then, how did you get here from your so-called alternate reality?

Rogue Botanist: Well, in my reality I survive the vehicle accident.  I got off the UT shuttle bus to walked in front of it.  That’s when I was distracted by what looked like a jagged light tearing into open air. I walked to it while ignoring a car that sped past the bust in my direction.  The driver hit the brakes just enough to hit the side of my leg and push me into the light.  I kept my balance but the light had disappeared.  Like an idiot I was more concern with seeing a movie then staying at the accident scene.  Throughout the years there were random times when the arm which touched the light would glow slightly and that same jagged light appeared for second or so.  I never told anyone because it’s crazy talk.  Eventually I joined the Marines and became a botanist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a refuge complex by the Texas coast.  The refuge is a mix of coastal prairies and bottomland forests.  The forests are my favorite place to get away for the day especially in the spring when heat and humidity are still low.  Only employees and researchers are allowed in most of the bottomlands due to the remoteness and dangerous wildlife.  I like the solitude to think and botanize and usually the only man-made sound I hear is an aircraft.  I was making my way up a dry slough when I saw that light in front of me.  This time it was larger, like a door about ten by six feet wide.  I didn’t see the other side of the slough through it, just some weird cascading lights, like large rain drops.  By this time, I was more curious than freaked-out. This had to be a doorway to another world so I walked through it.  Inside, those lights flickered around amorphous doors which displayed exact copies of the slough on the other side of them.  I picked one but stopped short because I might not find my way back.  My day pack of survival essentials had a 100 foot of parachute cord.  I tied it to an oak tree on the slough bank and let out the remainder as I walked back into the portal staging area and through a door. That’s when my leg started dissolving.  It hurt like a motherfucker but reformed when I pulled it back.

Ed 37: Makes sense.  From what I know about the paradox of realities there can’t be two version of the same person occupying the same place.  It would rip the fabric of time and you to shreds. 

Rogue Botanist: Exactly as I thought so I tried another door but was careful in case of another cellular disruption.  After the fifth of sixth time I passed through into a reality that didn’t destroy me.  Nothing suggested the habitat around me was any different.  I tied off the parachute cord to another oak and walked out of the slough into the forest.  I didn’t go far because if I didn’t exist here then that meant there was no Fish and Wildlife employee called Rogue Botanist. I also had no means to get very far in that reality.  I needed a plan so I followed the cord back into the portal between worlds and back into my own reality.

Lumpster 37:  How long ago was that?

Rogue Botanist: About October 2016 but I entered your reality 7 days ago on March 3 my time.  Since its January here that makes me a visitor from the future. That’s not always the case though.  Sometimes realities are ahead of mine but after 37 trips it has never been more than about a year and two months, future or past.  It took a while but I’ve got it down to travel in alternate realities where I don’t disintegrate and I’ve made a few observations along the way.  Substances that are not alive don’t dissolve when I carry them over.  For example, money and clothes and cell phones.  They must lack enough quantum charge inside them to disrupt the fabric of reality. This was confirmed when I tried to bring over a sapling in a pot and ants.  They dissolved immediately.  It also seems all realities are synced up, give or take.  The same events here have occurred thus far in all realities I’ve encountered.  Same disasters, same news, same shit head President Trump. All my siblings and friends and even my ex-wife is doing the same thing, mostly.  By that I mean even though they are richer or poorer or in a different job they have the same morals and values, same health and end up with the same partner or spouse or alone.  I think at the Big Bang a nearly infinite number of universes were born at the same time with the same quantum destiny infused into their sub-atomic matrix.  They each expanded out along in their own time streams at the same speed.  The differences in the time line for each universe is because they’ve encountered some force which slowed some down if for a quintillionth of a second.  Who knows, maybe it was a black hole?  After 15 billion or more years of existence any tiny discrepancy in time adds up.  

George 37: Wait a fucking minute!  Every universe has the same outcome for each person?  No one of us in any of the gazillions of alternate universes could be billionaires or president or married to Scarlett Johansson? We are destined to live out the same destiny in every time stream?

Rogue Botanist:  So far, yes.  No offense but people like you and me are destined to not make a piss-ant change in the direction mankind is going.  Please pass the joint.

Alohahawk 37: Then why did you die in other realities if you were destined to live in yours?

Rogue Botanist: Good question.  I’m not sure but I’ve got a theory. I think I was present at the right time when the time streams of universes collided at the sub-atomic level, causing a tear in their realities.  In some realities I should have come away from that accident with only a damaged knee.  In others, time stopped for a split-second to alter that car’s speed with deadly results.  That might explain why I can’t enter every universe because the alternate Rogue Botanist survived in them. When I bumped into that light some of it infused into my body.  I think that made me a conduit to the portal between other doors.  Although the portal may be stable now it is still random but luckily, I’m retired and have the means to travel at a moment’s notice when it appears. 

Ed 37: I’m have to ask, did you come here to say one of us or someone close to us is going to die?  

Rogue Botanist: No.  All of you go about your lives in a fairly predictable and safe manner for at least another 3 months. Remember, I can only see what happens up to one and half years in some realities.  I should warn you Ed though to not give diamond earrings to your wife for y’alls anniversary.  From what I’ve read she is entering a minimalist phase in her life and you will be a hero when you substitute that present for a trip with her to Vancouver.  I recommend the VanDusen Botanical Gardens when you’re there.

Ed 37.  What the fuck?!!? How did you about the present?  This is blowing my mind, but thanks anyway!  

Alohahawk 37:   So, I guess, aside from natural curiosity you travel alternate realities to blow peoples’ mind for the fuck of it?

Rogue Botanist: In a way, yes but also, I want to see if I can make life a little better for people who are alternates to the ones I’ve known in my world.  I’ve accumulated a substantial amount of money from knowing what sport teams to bet on, what stocks to invest in or when a crypto-coin will skyrocket in value. On my way to the door I’ll leave enough money for my alternate family to care properly for my mentally ill brother for the rest of his life.  Maybe that’s playing God but at least I’m not a douche bag god that brings joy while killing thousands of people with a virus or tsunami.  Then again, if I’m right everyone I know everyone will live about the same way as their atoms were destined to live from 15 billion years ago.  No matter what I do.

George 37: What if the door is not there when you get back to it? What then?

Rogue Botanist: That’s the risk I take.  Instead of a parachute cord I now use 10-gauge cable with a carabiner.  In reality No. 14 the cord was eaten down to one thread after a rodent tore into it for nesting material.  Even though I take financial advantage of realities which are ahead of mine there’s always that unknown future.  I don’t know if I will die again in this reality or the door will disappear.  I’ve found the doors in all realities decrease in size within about three weeks.  In reality No. 23 it shrunk down to around the cable’s diameter.  Fortunately, I was able to expand the entrance with my hands to get inside.  From now on I limit my visits to ten days to cover my ass. 

Lumpster 37: Is it like Schrodinger’s cat between the portals?  

Rogue Botanist: Aw, another good question!  Like the cat I am in a superposition of states, neither entering or exiting.  I figured this out when I scratched myself pretty good before leaving reality No. 11.  At that time, I had planned ahead to stay in between portals with provisions to last two days. I noticed the scratch didn’t heal or become infected.  It was in stasis until I entered my reality. I also noticed I didn’t feel hunger or any pain.  I think I can live forever in between worlds.

Dusk had fallen on the Chisos Mountains. Alohahawk 37 turned on his micro lantern, illuminating the group as they sat in silence for a few moments.  The visitor brought conflict to each No. 37.  None of them were pious men but darkness brings out primal superstitions nevertheless. Was this a test of faith or is the universe or universes beyond any person’s puny comprehension?  Rogue Botanist broke the silence

Hey Alohahawk, how’s Sue?

Alohahawk 37: Oh, you know, spin classes and Zuma.  Same old, same old. Just like she was destined.  

The group chortled.  

Rogue Botanist (looking at Ed): And Karen and the kids?

Ed 37: Doing good.  Pretty happy with life and me. Just so you know, if I ever see you near my wife and daughters, I would beat you within an inch of your life. 

The others echoed that warning.

Rogue Botanist: Understood.  Besides, I’m not coming back because no door has an identifying marker.  When I leave this world, the odds are infinitesimal against finding it again.

George 37: I gotta say Rogue Botanist, before I met you, I had occasional thoughts of what life would be like if I had made different decisions.  Would I be single now or married to another woman?  Maybe the best gift you’re leaving us is even if we don’t control our destinies it all turned out like we wanted anyway.  

Rogue Botanist: Good to hear.  Listen, I think I should move on down to basecamp.  I’ve laid some heavy shit on you all and if you are like the previous 36 you won’t get any sleep tonight if I stay in the area.

Alohahawk 37: Wait.  We may not be the masters of our destinies but in this reality, you stay the night and we’ll sleep just fine.  Would you guys agree that our livers won’t end up in a plate of fava beans and eggs in the morning?  

Ed and George and Lumpster nodded. 

Rogue Botanist: Okay, then I’ll have one more drag and sleep under the stars. 

In the morning I was gone, leaving behind a waterproof envelope containing a letter with 4 lines of six numbers separated by comas with dates from February through March:

To All:
I had to leave early because I “know” I will encounter delays that could make it a little too close for comfort to reach the portal.  Thanks for “shaking up” the monotony of this reality.  I didn’t see it coming when you let me stay overnight.  The line of numbers are for each of you.  Their dates correspond to the winning Texas state lottery tickets within the next three months.

Enjoy life – Rogue Botanist.

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