Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Freeways and Highways.

I design things from old wash cloths,
from cars on freeways.
The clouds spin solidly through space.
Being polite is the way to being polite.
This is not the part of being polite that annoys me,
the part of leaving me out is the thing that annoys me.
Writers are a lot like readers, and they cleanse
themselves of words-from shopping, to making clothes,
to playing video games, and playing outdoors.

I throw a tennis ball on the freeway,
and the tennis ball comes back to me-
people are a little too polite to me,
and dance in their reverie.
I like to think for myself.
I like the words that threaten other words.

This is the art of being polite, of molding things
out of paper-of paper mache,
and rhythm and rhymes.
He said he is not angry, but he is angry.
He said he is not ashamed, but he is ashamed.
There are ghosts in your words,
and we speak like ghosts and hosts.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Dance of Demons.


The book glowed in the bookstore window. It was actually a pawn shop, and sold books along with everything else-furniture; lamps; jewelry; and old toys. Sarah Whittier stood with her face pressed to the glass. She was looking at a glass figurine of a rocking horse, next to the window. It was silver and had diamonds for eyes, but she didn’t think they were real diamonds, nobody would put real diamonds in a glass horse. It was very beautiful. She also saw a porcelain ballerina. She went inside. No one was around. She went up to the ballerina, and touched it. It was smooth as glass. She shook her head, and bit her lip. The porcelain rocking horse cost twenty-five dollars; she had twenty dollars on her, for buying Christmas presents. She wanted the glass figurine. She couldn't stop thinking about it.
"May I help you?" a pleasant voice asked.
She turned to look at an elderly woman standing in the middle of the shop. She wore a flowered dress. Her hair was long and gray. She looked like a picture in a book, one of those Fairy Godmothers. She smiled. "I was about to leave," she mumbled at the floor.
"Why don't you stay awhile?" she asked. "See what you can see." Her face was very pleasant. Sarah's mother died from tuberculosis last month. She was still mourning. She wore a black washcloth over her face at dinner, she didn't know why, it made her feel better. She thought.
"I wish I could," she said.
"Your grandmother died recently, didn't she?" the woman asked her.
She stopped cold. She stared at the woman. "How did you know that?" she whispered.
"Your eyes," she explained. "Your eyes told me."
She didn't offer any other information, other information about what was going on behind those gray-green eyes that stared straight at Sarah's soul. She shivered. She wasn't cold. She went out into the night.
It was bedtime, she was in her bed, thinking about the glass figurine. Her thoughts succumbed her. She could think of little else. She smiled. Her hair was brushed, and shone, and the light from the hallway nightlight lit up the room. It was very bright.
"Mother?" she said the next morning.
"Yes, dear?" she asked.
"What do you know about glass figurines?"
She laughed cheerfully. "Not much, I'm afraid. Some of them are very old. Some of them have just been made, but they are crafted with loving care."
"Oh." Sarah wasn't sure she understood the answer. She looked around the kitchen. It was nice and cozy. She wanted to take a nap, but her mother was making breakfast, and she wanted to go exploring.

“I want something to do.”
Jack Crenshaw was eleven-years-old at the time. He turned and scowled at his mother. She was ironing, near the stove. It was winter, and it was very cold, and the wind howled and shook the windows of the old house. He shivered. Hits boots quaked.
“Are you cold, dear?” she asked. “Here, have a biscuit.” She handed him a biscuit, and he wandered away, down the drafty hallway, to the bedroom, chewing it slowly. It got earlier in the winter in Alaska. Earlier, and colder. It was going to snow. The forecast predicted it.
He sighed and bit his lip. The hallway made him afraid. He didn’t want to walk down it. He wanted to stay in the nice, warm kitchen with his mother. He shook his head. Some people had told him the old place was haunted. He never believed it. He didn’t believe in much, nowadays, except for school and Mrs. Sharpton and going to the bathroom and lunch, and the collie-he was out back, sniffing the yard. He giggled. She loved to sniff the ground-he wasn't sure what was under the snow in Alaska, but it was probably something nice. Once, she found an old baseball cap.
He went into the bedroom, dropped onto the bed, and put his head in his hands.
Sometime during the night, something moaned from the attic upstairs.
The wind cried and moaned, a sad, lonely sound.
* * *
“What are you doing here, Jack?” the succubus glared at him with glowing, wild eyes. Red as the sands of Mars, red as an apple.
“How did you know my name?” he asked nervously. He was looking for a way out. He shouldn’t have come for the book-the book could fall off the face of the earth, for all he cared.
“I know everything.” The succubus laughed.
“I’d…heard you escaped from the book.”
“I didn’t escape. I was released. We succubus are slaves of our trade. The trade of evilness, of darkness.”
“Who let you out?”
She moved closer, towards him. His mind screamed inside of him. There weren’t any thoughts. Just a shallow, cold pool. “You did!” she rasped, her voice like moving October wind.
He threw his hands up and covered his eyes with his face. He swallowed hard, and the darkness overtook him, and he couldn’t remember. Anything.
* * *
The darkness swirled around him-Jack Crenshaw was in a cemetery on Halloween night. It was dark. He clutched a flashlight in his hand, and he looked around him, and swallowed hard. Tears came out of his eyes, and he couldn’t see two feet in front of him-he thought he could, but the seeing was tough, and he wanted to scream, to run away, but he couldn’t. He had to find the ghost of Lenore. It was a stupid thought, but the thought stuck in his mind, and he couldn’t make it go away. It was the stupid story. The stupid story drove him out here, in the middle of the night, in his blue pants soaked with water, and his white shirt, and his hair was wet, too, like he’d just taken a shower, but nobody was here except him, and he could feel the eyes on the back of his neck-
The whisper of wind was beside him and he screamed and he clutched at his heart, his heart thumped loudly in his chest and he couldn’t think of what to do. He had left his cell phone-where? Something bulged in his back pocket.
The raw pain of breath was in his throat. He clawed at his throat, trying to reach in the back of his throat to get it out, but he couldn’t. His eyes smarted. His nose was running. He thought he had a cold, but he wasn’t sure. He ran through the forest, tripping and falling over roots, his wind in his hair. It was cold. Everything about the night was cold, and he was feeling down, down in the dumps. He’d had the dream, the dream about the weird creature who looked human.
“Get out of my crypt!”
“I’m not in your crypt! This is just a stupid old house!”
Jack Crenshaw had the dream again-the dream of floating in space.
It wasn’t space, really, it was more like floating in nothing, and the nothing was his life. The nothingness shook him up and he awoke, panting and sweating, his face turned towards the pavement, and the flashing lights made his head spin. He blinked once. Twice. His eyes adjusted to the sudden change in brightness, and another face was in front of him, and sweat poured from his forehead. “Hi,” he croaked out, and the face smiled down at him-at first, he thought it was the face of Death, and Death had come to take him. He realized it was a man, and the man was a police officer. How could he have thought Death was a police officer? It was almost laughable. He shook his head and his vision cleared, and he could see again, and the outline of the police officer was closer to him, asking if he was all right. Jack wanted to say, “No, he wasn’t all right, his head ached and his butt ached and his face was cold from being on the pavement, and he wanted something nice and hot down his throat, he wanted to eat, but he couldn‘t quite get the words out.
The police officer’s name was Drew Arlens. “What are you doing here?” he asked him.
Jack looked around him stupidly. His mind was deaf and dumb. Nothing around him except darkness and the flashing lights of the police cars, and the moon, bright and full, and his wet jeans-he was not a happy camper.
A voice whispered in the darkness-the swirling darkness, calling his name, or maybe they were calling another Jack, from another time and place, from some place far away. It was dim in his mind. It was dim, and he was seeing, and he looked around and he blinked once, twice, and the darkness was still there-he couldn’t see anything, except himself, and himself was not awake.
This was no ballpark.
There wasn’t anything here.
He woke. A nurse’s face floated in front of him and he jerked and nearly knocked over the food tray in her hand. “Get out!” he rasped. His entire body shook. “Who the hell are you?”
“My name is Jenkins,” she chirped, smiling down at him with a wide smile. Her teeth was like gigantic slabs of white bread. “Jenkins, Amanda.” She laughed heartily. “More like, Amanda Jenkins-Jenkins being my last name. I’m married.” She tossed her blonde hair, the lipstick was bright red.
“I don’t care. May I have some water?”
“Why, aren’t you a polite young man!” she exclaimed. She scurried out of the room, and a doctor showed up.
“Well,” he chirped. “It looks like you had another spell.”
“Another spell? What do you mean?”
“You had a stroke, young man-well, your status is leukemia, it says on your charts.”
He propped his elbow up on the large hospital pillow and stared at him with bulging eyes. “What do you mean, leukemia? I’m perfectly normal-perfectly healthy.” He sputtered out the words.
“We ran some tests while you were asleep-”
“While I was asleep? What kind of hospital is this? I didn’t give you any consent to do that!”
“You didn’t have to. Your wife did.” His voice clipped out the words, one by one, like stones falling in a pool of cold water. Water always reflected the sky-life was a lot like that, a reflection of one thing turned into something else.
“I’m not married.”
The doctor glanced at his hand. “I can see your ring is gone, but a police officer found it at the scene. He was kind enough to bring it in for you.”
“Oh. Thanks. I guess.”
“What do you remember?”
“Nothing. Not really.”
“What do you mean, nothing?”
“I don’t remember anything about myself. I don’t even know why I’m here. Nothing hurts.” He frowned. He was confused about something, just something, not really anything, or maybe he was and he didn’t see it, couldn’t see the plain thing in front of his face, the something that made up his life and-the last of the thoughts flitted from his mind, and he couldn’t think. He was dumb again. That was the last thought he’d had before she spoke again.
“You broke your arm and your collar bone. You almost died. Your stomach was practically in knots, not to mention the leukemia. You’re lucky to be alive.”
His eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, lucky? I don’t remember my own name.”
“Your name is Jack Crenshaw.”
Something jarred his thoughts-something in the back of his mind. A stirring, final note. His mouth twisted in a grimace. It wasn’t even a smile.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Still Life, lyrics.

Still Life.

This is my spirit.
This is the way I’m going to show,
All of these fields of flowers, to the water
This is what I hold in the midnight sky,
And these tears I shed I want to cry.
The words I pour from my pages,
And cry these tears,
And we’ve been gone for all these years.
My life is at a stand-still, and still you’ve gone,
All these messages I am alone.
I stand on the mountain and look into my grave,
I’ve been out of the picture for a long while it seems.
You thought you could mess with me, and turn
Me into what I am-
Now I’m cold and I’m broken and I can barely stand.
You think I’m a liar I saw you bleed on the page.
You don’t know anything about the forces of rage.
This is my spirit this is my war cry,
Like the wind and the rain and the shelters we deny.
My heart is on a page.
I am homeless and broken and I cry your name,
The sky is above us, and we are here to receive,
These tears are our sorrows and on the pages it bleeds.

The Real Misery, lyrics

The Real Misery, lyrics

Don’t judge me about what I can be,
The rhythm of my life is not a matrimony-
You think you know everything,
But you don’t know me,
All you give me is misery.

You take my heart and squeeze, squeeze it,
You think you are my rock, but I’d rather freeze it.
You talked to me in school, but you didn’t know my name,
All you gave me was years of pain.

You told me you loved me, but you never knew,
About what I was going through.
You thought I was a leader, but you never know,
Why these years of being down, are yours to fix now.

Don’t judge me about what I can be,
The rhythm of my life is not in harmony-
It’s all your fault, we can’t do anything about it,
We don’t have enough tools in the world to fix it.

Who I Am, story.

It worried me. I was Death, and Death wasn’t supposed to feel pain-Death was above pain. Above hatred. Above mankind. A fallen angel, like.

My name was Death, and I am the bringer of Death.

I found the cloak in the middle of the road late one night, and it was so dark I couldn’t see three feet in front of me. I had just stopped at a coffee house two blocks from the rock quarry, and my mind spewed hatred in every direction, in all directions I couldn’t see. I thought to myself: “You almost got hit by a truck.”

The inner demon inside me almost laughed out loud, and as painful as it was, I had to stop at a hospital. It worried me, the pain in my right shoulder was very sharp, and I laughed loudly again, because I was getting hungry. I had bags of money back at my hotel room, for they were left behind by unsuspecting victims, somebody I didn’t know. I didn’t know anyone, now, no one would befriend Death.

* * *

It was the void that disturbed me, in the sullness and the darkness, that void that called to me in a song-that I was by myself, that I was blessed with the death of a song. I was the song. The car accident changed me in a way that was both temperamental and hard to transcribe, indeed, on the back door of a song, my life was dramatically changed. I became the singer, and the sinner was estranged, and the heart of my life was broken, unfeeling, like the wings of an angel. I thought about death and dying and everything in between and the miracle of being alive, of being temporary insane, since I could see what I could see at that very instant the car struck me, ahead of me, sort of to the right-almost as if I wanted it to strike me down, dead. My mind felt a sharp, intense pain, a hatred that defined me, and the wholeness of hatred was what refused to succumb me to the succubus that was my life. The succubus of the self, the innermost hatred of being dead, then being flesh, and an escape from death.

I walked from the car accident without a scratch-except there was a small one on my right arm, a jagged, scratch that went almost up to my elbow. I thought bitterly of jumping off the jagged rocks into the highway below, that there wasn’t anything worth living for. My daughter, Gloria, was dead, had died from tuberculosis when she was three, and the mortician said she’d hadn’t suffered. It wasn’t very important, this small transgression, the part of me that was the great unknown, being devoid of life, the unknowing of the self, the temper of the self that was within me. I was not a guardian. I was not a god. I simply co-existed, floating through time and space, thinking about my own death, and then there were three bright lights and I woke and a man stared down at me, bug-eyed and looking placated.

“What are you doing here?” he screeched down at me. “You’re going on the highway too fast, you were going to break your neck!”

I tried to talk, to speak to this angel that was my life, my shining star, the glimmer of hope in the distance. It was night, and the darkness was around me, through me, in me, swirling and swirling forever in a void. I was the void. I couldn’t remember anything about my life.

The med shielded my driver’s license from me. “What are you doing here?” he screeched once again.

“I’m death,” I answered, and laughed, and he looked down at me and narrowed his eyes, and I thought he was probably insane. He probably thought the same about me.

“Can’t you get up?” he asked me. “All you got is a scratch-an old one, from the looks of it.”

“It’s an old scratch,” I agreed. “I was hunting two weeks ago, in Braum Park.”

“Good,” he replied. “Why don’t you get up?”

I scrambled to my feet, and looked left and to the right of me, and the police swarmed around me and started jotting things down. I insisted I couldn’t remember my name.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mixed-Up World.

All these drugs don’t got me mixed in with this feeling
I’m living on a dream I’m reeling
in the scene this is the miracle
I’ve been waiting for you’re my angel

you drop-kick me out the door,
I loved you with my all, my heart was beating for you,
my love is a rhythm and it beats true.

I look out the door and you’re standing
in the rain, my love burns like
fire and I swear I’m going insane, I‘m going insane.

No one is looking out for me, I’m here on my own, my heart thrums like a meadow, and locks in the pain.
Don’t tell me you need me, don’t tell
me goodbye, my heart is on fire, I don’t ask you why.

You’re a world’s away
from my heart, and it was all my fault,
I let you down, let you down, let you down…
no one can dry these tears away.
I’m gone again, but your love will stay.

Friday, December 17, 2010

reflection of quiet.

My advice is this: stay on the outside, looking in-
don't forget to think about the past.
Look about the words that are inside of books,
and try to shelter us, when we speak about dinosaurs,
and Egyptology, and find ghosts in old buildings.

They think they are sensitive. They don't know anything
about words, and how they are spread on pages-
they don't know anything about geniuses, what they think
and why, because they can't think, they can't bleed
like open flowers-

some things are left unsaid, and the nastiness, the badness
that is inside most people has been quieted, and the old man
who is my teacher has risen from the ground, from the distant
grave, the silent that is his name-

The Out of Water Metaphor.

The surgeon who saved my life walks inside a subway,
not the subway that sells subs, but the subway in New
York, a train that takes him from one station to
the next. Not one place to the next, one station,
these are the nouns that reside outside of nouns,
words hidden inside one another-

the hospital on the end of the street rises like
a sleepy animal at night, and the windows stare
at me like eyes.
I walk every day past it, look this way and that,
trying to find shelter out of the storm,
the crying and howling of being a nurse.
My surgeon saved me first, when I was two,
and my love saved me second-not the love of a man,
but the love of my calico cat, my one red slipper,
and my pink umbrella, which I carry during a storm.

I think about my surgeon, and his family-his family in
Pakistan, Canada, Tokyo, the place that is bright with
lights and the Chinese who bid on jobs back in China.
There are places with bright lights, but I have to walk
by the hospital, the old hospital that sleeps and bleeds
a bed of worms,
and I think of my surgeon, and what he eats for breakfast,
and what he might do after that-
the words come, and my mouth opens and shuts like a fish
out of water.


The fruit sits on the table-my boyfriend, the guitar,
sits on the chair at the other end of the table-
his eyes are like steel pools of cold, blackness.

He thinks to himself he is not gone for good,
that he is not a radio, a star, a piece of fruit-
the fruit that is on the table, in the middle of himself.

He is not myself. He is not a hole inside myself.
He is the world, and the world is growing large-
large inside my belly, that feeds another world.

He sits in the green chair, all by himself, and molds
tomorrow out of clay-clay that melts between my fingers-
and sings out a world.

My heart is in my hands. In between dreams, thoughts are
things, and everyone is ecstatic about the fruit of trees.
People mold, and life continues-but not for disease.

For people with disease, life ends, bitterly, and it is the
end of all worlds-the worlds that spin between time and space,
and the stories we make real.

Friday, November 19, 2010

John's Advice.

“What'll it be, mister?” the skinny eleven-year-old boy asked him. He wore a baseball cap and torn jeans.
“It'll be three trout, son,” he answered, smiling.
“Why don't you go fishin'?” he asked.
“I don't think I'd rather like fishin,” he answered, using the southern, outlandish drawl of New Orleans. He missed the state and wanted to go back.
“What do you mean?”
He leaned across the counter. The boy looked nervous-and he should. No one knew he had been in jail when he was nineteen, for stealing a television set from Mr. Rawls. Mr. Rawls was big and fat.
John Blanchard was a short, stout man and had a bumbling mustache. He walked with a limp and his forehead was wide as the sea to the left of him. The smell of the ocean drifted to his nostrils and he looked small against the backdrop of the water behind him and it sparkled like a mirror. He glanced behind him and the water shifted and folded over itself, and everything about it was close to him and he could touch it with his bare hands, touch the sparkling diamonds.
“I don't go fishin' because my hands don't work so good,” he replied.
“How come they don't?”
“I was in the war, boy. The one in the Persian Gulf.”
“That wasn't such a long time ago,” he scoffed. “You must be jokin.' We never lost that war.”
“No, sir, but some people did.” He straightened his shoulders, and smiled at the bratty boy. He picked up his purchases and left.
John felt awkward, going into places like that. Most people didn't talk to him, and it was no wonder. He was small and swift like a bird and had a hard time going, especially in the winter and his bones creaked and he realized the creaking of his bones was the passage of time, in between the reluctance of time. John didn't understand the concept of time, and never wanted to. Time was nothing more than an hour glass folded in on itself. He thought of all his favorite authors, how they died and how they lived and how he would like to live like that, as swift and barren as the folds of clothing after it was dried. John didn't think it was a good idea to think about it. He went home and made himself dinner in his small, quiet apartment and he heard the screams of the traffic outside. John never did get his license, and never bothered to care. He didn't know why. It seemed like too much trouble, trouble was something he could do without. He went home and put the trout on the cupboard and washed it and skinned it and delicately took out the bones and threw them in the trash. A dog barked outside, startling him. He loved to read in the summer and it made him think of all those special days his mother brought home a book or magazine and let him read it and then she would walk back to the five and ten and she would bring back some more. More happier times occurred before John's father died, faded away like a flower rooted from the ashes-faded away in the midnight sky and left them alone, alone in the sea of blackness and stillness below them. John remembered at nine years old, sitting on the porch at night and looking out at the pond in the yard that shimmered like a mirror and everything was grander than it was. John's innocence left him the next year, after Morgan McFad socked him in the stomach for no reason at all and John punched him in the back of the head and was sent to the principal's office. That was the summer he realized people were different, and when they started talking about the Holocaust.
He didn't know anything about the Holocaust, only that it had something to do with some Jewish people who were killed a long time ago before they were Jewish. John didn't know they had ways of finding things out that happened a long time ago, after Jesus was crucified on the cross, or before the French and Indian war or the American Revolution or World War II or all the other wars that happened in the world, maybe the universe. John didn't think about the universe much. He was more concerned with baseball.
His most favorite baseball player of all time was Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth was one of the most famous baseball players of them all, and a poster used to adorn his walls, back at the old house before Mom died. Mom had gotten cancer and his grandmother came to take care of him. She died and then his mother died and he was left alone, and he had nothing to eat and stole food from his neighbors and in town. One day, they caught him and took him to the sheriff and the sheriff didn't throw him in jail, but he gave him a spanking. John scowled at the man and rubbed his behind and ran home, hopping and then skipping and jumping. He was alone, but he was himself, and that was the best part, the only part that ever made sense to him.
Babe Ruth had become a valuable part of his life and it got him through some many rough times. He didn't realize things were that bad until his mother passed away and he was left alone for almost a year before Social Services came and carted him away in a blue Volkswagon and he was left at a local government agency until the social service's woman came back and told him he had a new family, the Spurts. They sounded like really nasty people and it turned out, they really were. They locked him in his room and fed him once a month, and the kids made fun of him at school and poked and laughed at him. John did exceedingly well in math and dreamt of being an engineer, but his dreams were shattered by so many difficult things in life, the dreams of suffering, and the dreams of food, and the dream of shelter and a loving family.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Your Dialogue has turned its back on God-

On my heart of creation, your dialogue has turned
Its back on God-
The life is not worth living, in the eyes of man.
You take out the life and watch it strand by strand,
Like I really need you to let go, and burst into song.

You think you know the color of the wind,
The cool lips of trees that kiss and reverse the heart of
wind songs.
You think you know the cool wind in dark trees,
The times of spaces,
The times of beginnings-you steal my dialogue,
And toss it into the unknown.

The stars are bright tonight, here is Jupiter,
Kissing the moon-
Go ahead and kiss the planet,
She won’t be back, she won’t return like yellow
Daisies in a field of broken flowers.

She won’t return, on the back of creation-
You think you are the sinner, the sinner
Is the speaker.
You reap what you sow.
I am not a farmer, I do not bend over in the bright sunshine,
I do not eat anything.

You think you have respect, respect is in the giver,
The giver of the planets, who steal my dialogue.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I am lost,
And you are gone-
The night is over and done.
The sunlight fades with the sun;
I am here, and you are gone.

Tomorrow is not what it is today.
Darling, I don’t know what to do or say.
My heart soars when we are in flight-
I see your eyes on this starless night.

Don’t forget where you came from;
Don’t forget where you will go.
Listen to the water as it recedes,
And darkness will be reborn below.

Darkness will be reborn,
And the sky is tempted on a dewless morn.
My heart is not aching tonight,
The bird soars when we are in flight.

Diamonds fall into the river,
And my soul is aching-it goes on forever.
This isn’t what we remember,
You cross the endless tide my love will abide
On this endless river.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


“You got some smokes?” Manuel Rodriquez’s voice drifted from the cold stillness that autumn morning. I was getting my newspaper on the front porch-the paper boy had come earlier and collected his funds for the newspaper, and I looked out and saw my friend pleading with a white guy wearing a red bandanna. His chest bulged. His eyes bulged, and were hollowed out. They hung from his sockets and he looked half-dead. I don’t know anything about him. I didn’t know where he was sleeping. It bothered me. A lot of things bothered me.
“Manuel,” I said sharply. “You know better than to talk to them.” He was seventeen. “Come inside, brother, I will feed you.” His clothes smelled like smoke. He had been buying cigarettes instead of spending it on food. He was an idiot. I knew a lot of those.
“No, Mama,” he said, and shook his head. “I don’t take nothing from women.”
“Nothing?” I raised my eyebrow. “How long you been skipping school, Manuel?” I glared at him. He deserved better than what he got. He didn’t really have anything. No parents, no other family, no siblings. Well, a half-brother in Detroit, who wouldn’t speak a word to him. Everyone was afraid. Everyone was offensive. It would never change. Like this was the way to be polite. I shook my head sympathetically.
“Years,” he answered. “You got a problem with that?”
I nodded. “I do. You need to be learning to read, Manuel.”
“No time for books,” he scoffed. “Making money from drugs-that’s where it is at.” He nodded as if he knew all about living in the streets. I’d been living from day to day, barely surviving on rent enough as it was. No one was polite anymore. Perhaps we didn’t know how to be.
He left. I went to work. It was a slow day. Only sold two dozen socks; and we were getting a workload of baby hats this week. It was getting to be cold. The wind was blowing.
Halloween was around the corner.
I thought about Manuel often. Once, a cat came up to my steps and I patted him and offered him a glass of milk. He skirted away, yowling down the street. Manuel was a lot like the cat-afraid of everything, too afraid to admit to the fear.
I had enough money for rent and I was happy. I wouldn’t be pushed out of the apartment like the Robertson family was upstairs. I could hear them yelling as they packed. The oldest son, Bartholomew, was graduating from high school and was getting a job at the deli down the street. He had black hair and pointed ears.
I saw Manuel the next night. He was smoking with his buddies-it wasn’t cigarettes, it was pot. That was the kind of thing that made me afraid, made me wonder what the government had gotten us into. It was like no one had a will of their own, that they couldn’t think for themselves. The human race had been flopping for a long time. We didn’t know how to stop.
It wasn’t the fact that Manuel did drugs that bothered me-it was the fact that he didn’t have a college degree that really irked my tomatoes.
I ran a small business shop that sold baby socks online; and had been for seven years now.
I lived in a small, but moderately furnished, apartment on the West Side of Missouri, and had a boyfriend named Maxwell who had an obsession with music. He dreamt of becoming a superstar one day, but as he became older and balder and fatter, he realized his dreams were to be smashed into a tiny million pieces by the big name businesses of the Upper East Side. I didn’t have a best friend, or any kind of friend. I used to have one, a long time ago, named Margo Westley, but she had become too interested in potheads to be of anymore use to me. I didn’t want to give her anymore money. I didn’t want to become a part of something I was trying to fix-the inability to overanalyze current situations. The current situation was my money problem. I borrowed money from my grandmother and from the bank; I stopped eating fast-food.
No one understood my need to sell socks, but it was there, quick and sure, and undetermined in its realizations.
I didn’t know what it was that I couldn’t know, but the score had to be settled between me and the Big Bad Government. My uncle is said to have died in Vietnam, and later it turns out he turned up in Vegas, always on the slots. I didn’t like gambling. It didn’t suit me.
Everyone had a problem with my need to be good-this was in ‘87, and I had a lot of thinking to do.
In the far back corner of my mind, I remembered school. I remembered nasty Nathan Holligan; I remembered the elementary school principal; his fake mustache and eyes like glass.
He was interested in cars, they were his favorite thing to talk about and he mentioned them to the students as much as he could. Being a principal copped some bad mojo.
The teachers and students and everyone shunned him, but he had his gang of friends and his business outside of school. I loved business and wanted to own a major corporation one day.
Manuel did drugs. He smoked pot and sometimes I saw him at the Pizza Train outside of the apartment building late at nights, pleading for drugs, trying to sell his cocaine. I asked him multiple times where he got the cocaine, but all he could do was stare bug-eyed at me, his Adam’s apple bobbing and a strangling sound protruded from him. He wanted me to buy his drugs.
I said no way, no thanks. He vanished a month later, probably found some gangbangers to cling to. He had no parents.
His mother abandoned him when he was three. His father was a druggie. All the teachers ignored him, and he was a whiz at math. He tried taking a college course but failed because he had panic attacks and they wouldn’t give him SSI. His main job was selling drugs. I offered him a job, but he refused to take it, saying he didn’t want to intervene in friendships. I guess I saw it from his standpoint. I guess I saw it from his point of view.
Politics were getting worse. They were far worse than they ever had been, in the fall of ‘89. Nothing was good as it should be. George Bush was president. I didn’t pay attention to that bullshit, but then again, I didn’t have a television set.
“Manuel,” I said. I saw him again that afternoon. He had bought a suit; his hair was slicked back till it shone. “What you doing? Where are you going?”
“I’m leaving the state,” he answered, smiling at me. “Leaving the state, finding a new job-one without drugs.” He nodded happily. “I’m getting a job, you’ll be proud of me. You’ll see.”
“What about your family? They could help you.”
“No,” he answered. “I’m going to live with my cousin. She had a baby when she was fifteen and she’s real happy. I’m going to live with her. She’s going to help me. Thanks a lot, thanks a whole lot.”
He stuffed his hands into the pocket of his jeans, and went off down the street, whistling a tune I hadn’t heard before.
A door swung open and the whole street was quiet again.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Toilet Paper And...

Toilet Paper and Palm Trees

I sit on the palm of my hand. My mother said that
Days and nights are like forgetting-that we are afraid of
Being who we have become. I haven’t becoming anything
Other than a lighthouse on the ocean,
And the waves bend with the veils of time-
Time is translucent, and coverts over itself and everyone
Seems to think they are forgetting, forgotten.

Sometimes, my young collie dog looks at me as if to say,
“I wish you could speak to me, I wish you could say hello
In doggy talk.” The writer down the street says he can
Speak in Doggytalk, that is the language of men-
The rhythm is the bowing of the trees, and the young man,
My lover, plays drums on Saturday nights in the depths of
The night, the depths of everything…

I am more afraid of losing my poetry. The words in which
I speak to the sky, the ground, the trees, the wind.
The wind moans my name-
I call to it and it will not answer me.
I sing to it and it will not speak.
I am wasting paper. I am wasting the flowers of the paper.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Sun Dog.

Rash Sightings was not an ordinary being. He had a consistency of being in trouble, and although he tried very hard to be normal, everyone could see that he clearly wasn’t. His overzealous need to succeed, was undefined, and other people thought he was stupid and cocky. His mere presence drove women to tears; sometimes, when they cried, their tears turned to diamonds and fell, shattering, to the ground. He collected a lot of the diamonds and sold them on the black market and bought a bicycle with the money. On the planet of Ellin, where he was born, it was always cold-the coldness was in his bones, for he was a cold-blooded creature, and his people crash-landed on the planet several millenia ago, back when the dinoplads still lived on the planet. The people were simplistic in nature, and did not have any craft except for submarines and bicycles. Most people lived in trees, for their arms were long, like spiders, and their mouths were thin. The trees were long, thin, gray, and had crooked branches, and the shadows from the trees fell upon the ground every sunset. Unlike Earth, the sun was very close to the planet, and many of the people were lazy and rude and did not want to work. They complained every single day about their jobs, and some often quit, without warning, and disappeared forever. They were enticed by adventure, and went to go on vacation in submarines and ended up dying because they didn’t bring enough provisions. They were stupid creatures, stupid and needy and relied on technology instead of their own brains. It grew so tiring, that the President of Ellin, a human being, wanted to end his life. His name was Maruc Kerin Andon, and he was fifty-three years old. He had brown eyes and brown hair and he lived in the Embassy, because human beings could not live in the domed cities with the Ellinians-it was against Ellinian law. All human beings on the planet were criminals; being human was their only crime, because that was the cheapest law they could put into practice. The building was very large, and made entirely out of gold, for they had sent satellites to distant planets and brought back different chemical components and turned them into something useful, like a television set, a car, and a broken radio. They did not understand the ways of human beings, and copied some of their ideas, but they were used in ways that did not help them progress to where they needed to be. They had sent satellites to Earth and had seen the images of human beings at work. One of the scientists built a teleportal, which allowed beings to travel from one place to the next. The President of Ellin ordered several human beings to be kidnapped, and after they arrived safely on the planet, the teleportal was destroyed, and the scientist disappeared.
Maruc’s real problem was his bald head. He wanted to have long hair, like the other Eillinians, and he had many surgeries to fix the problem and the hair always fell out. Most of the time, he spent his days at the office looking at himself in a holographic mirror that could shape his face into any way he wanted. Sometimes, he chose to have blue eyes; one time, he made his nose so big he looked like a horntensheik. He called many businesses and asked them if they had real wigs; they always called back, and shouted they didn’t. Businesses on Ellin always shouted at each other, because they thought that was how things were supposed to be. The businessmen usually only worked until lunchtime, and then they went home to be with their partners.
Maruc received a call from the smartest man in the world. His name was Ariel Chance, and he had blonde, curly hair, and pointed ears. He was two hundred years old. He said they had found a planet that was made entirely out of an ocean, and did they want to inhabit it. He replied, “No, we don’t,” for he represented all the beings on Ellinian. He was chosen by a group of beings called Elected Representatives. Maruc did not like Ariel, and thought he was a busybody-he was always calling about something or other, and it drove him crazy. He paced back and forth in his office, stroking his beard, and looked out the window. He wished he could get off the planet, but there was no way out. The man who invented the teleportal was missing. Maybe he went to another planet; maybe he was dead. Maruc decided to find out. He called his secretary, and asked her to find the information he needed, and she called back and gave him the address where the scientist lived. Maruc put the piece of paper in his pocket, took his bicycle-he got one with rockets on either end-and pedaled down the street, happy to finally have found something to do.

Monday, June 28, 2010

In the Doorway.

Time is in what we tell,
and it waits, floating above shadows above,
in a doorway, on wingless arms,
reaching to the still winds of grace,
the sadness of forgotten and mine.
In the wasteland, the old man toils,
and turns and mutters in his house.
The stories are forgotten in minnows;
and the places are mapped out on walls.
The seeds are for granted.
We are not what we do.
No mistaken is for the shadow,
the place beyond the grass-grown walls,
and the temple that overflows.
Ask them, and ye shall receive.
People waking and people sleep.
We wake and we dream and the dreamer's
shadows mask rinds of time,
space is continual as a drum.
A drumbeat of yours and mine,
continuous in its tomb.
We use imagination as a quarter,
and our face is veiled in the midst.
We use no forms of communication.
We drill holes in West Virginia,
and Fox Mulder pops out,
quick as a rabbit.
We have not given into ourselves.
The rest mock dangerous exits,
and swift movements are mistaken.
We go and we come.
We exit and we leave.
I am not educated. I am not the working.
I am not the dumb and the worried.
I am the heart that is the heart.
I am the door that is left unopen,
the place between sunlight and the daisies,
that rise out of the darkness of nothing,
into the midnight sun.
It is like being something and nothing.
It is like being an orphan when no one speaks.
The sadness is in the silence.
Our hearts and thoughts are quick as lightning bugs.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It's About Conceiving.

The darkness itself is not my friend-
my house is my only haven.
I am trapped in the barbs of wire,
lost on winds of time.
I keep myself isolated.
Trying to permeate through the fences of
I have become a master at the art of being alone.

Alone. Everyone wants me to be alone-
from bakers to Irishmen,
who turn and toil in their moss beds.
The wind moans quietly.
Some people are angry because I eat.
Some people are angry because they tell lies.
Some people are homeless-dead, and

My friends drink. Everyone drinks every single day,
and don't know what is happening to their bodies.
Only the fools know.
The rest conceive.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Nature and Nothing Else.

The long drawn out marches,
bridges on solid grounds.
A black cat in white mounds.
A tree on blue birches.

A finch sits on a warm rock,
and tweets to the wind-
the sound of the rhythm,
is in each crack and bend.

The grass waves in the wind.
It weaves around the trees.
Everything we seek, is sheltered in the breeze.
Nothing else is what we seek, and in what we find.

A finch warms itself on a rock.
Everything around it is empty and lonely,
and the houses at night are botched-
everything in the dark is a phony.

A sparrow flies and sits on a rock.
It dances and moves in a graceful arch.
He is a brother to the finch; you don't want to pick up the block,
and put it down and on you march.

I sing chorus to the wind.
And in your naked eyes.
You weave and you bend,
and tell permanent lies.

Nothing else is broken; nothing else is the same.
We took the lies out of distant cries,
and in the end its in the name-
we say our last goodbyes.
The wind moans its own name.

You told me you wouldn't find the trail
of the sparrow-
that you wouldn't let on, you wouldn't wail,
and you would see me again, tomorrow.
I guess I tried to let it fail.
You hear the naked demons wail.

That's what they call finches and sparrows.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tears of Magic, Tears of Bone, beginning.

Prince Edward had wild brown hair and blue eyes. They were fixated on his father this time, and his mouth was twisted downward in a frown. He didn't like the way things were going at this current point in time, and was defiant in all ways possible. He thought he would show it by cursing at his mother, his grandmother, and the doctor who came to call upon him. “What are you doing in my room!” he snarled. “I beg of you to be gone!”
The man loomed over him threateningly. “You know you are not to curse at your mother! How many times do I have to tell you that!” He shook his head. “I have a half-mind to send you to a boarding school, you no-nonsense, egotistical boy!”
“I'm not a boy.” He straightened his shoulders. “I'm nine.”
“Nevertheless, you are my son,” he replied. “I must protect you from the bad things that are out in the wild, in the world, in the great vast unknown that permeates this land. The kingdom is becoming more and more civilized. The next time you act out in public, may be your last.” His eyes gazed down on him, and the boy shivered. “Mark my words.”
He turned and left the room, slamming the door behind him.
The boy jumped up on his bed and howled at the night. Outside, a wolf howled along with him.
In the morning, the king's messenger pigeon was found dead on the ground, buried by a snowdrift. He didn't think a wolf had something to do with the pigeon's death, but wolf tracks were around the bird and he had plucked away some of the feathers before skirting into the night. The wind moaned. The sky was dark and cloudy above them, and everything looked surreal in the fallen winter light. It was mid-morning, and the archers were getting ready for practice. Prince Edward was not ready. He was eating a piece of baked bread in the kitchen, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. The butcher had gone to the vegetable patch and had gotten a pumpkin and brought it to the cook, Mildred. She was an overly large woman, and had large, glassy eyes and a wide, smiling mouth. Her nose was long and crooked and she had been hit in the face with a ball when she was seven-years-old.
“Hello, youngin',” she said pleasantly. “Whatever are you doing, eating that bread, for? Your archery class is about to start.”
“I don't want to play right now,” he replied.
“But the king...”
“The king is my father,” he said firmly. “I do not have to listen to what he says all the time. Unlike some people.” He sniffed, and shook his head. “Really, Mildred, I think you ought to have more sense, listening to my father like that.”
“He does pay me,” she reminded him with the tiny hint of a smile.
He shrugged his bony shoulders. He was small for his age. Most of the boys in his class at school were heavier, and had bonier features. “I'll pay you from now on!” he vowed.
She couldn't help it. She burst into peals of laughter. Tears squeezed from her eyes and she wiped them away with her apron. “You know, you are a bright lad, but you don't have much sense!” she gasped, doubling over in pain. “You go on now. Go outside. You don't have to play archery, but I have to make dinner for the soldiers coming tonight. They are going to be a hungry lot.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I never knew you to follow the rules, but all right.” He picked a cookie off the plate and scurried out of the door. It slammed shut behind him. A gust of wind nearly blew her over.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Forgotten Bedroom.

The anger was a rotten fruit.
Caught in a spiral of forgotten things,
That dreamt of lowly spirals and soft movements.
She said she wouldn’t come. That she should never stay.
Her thoughts were distant and parched as dreams.
Her mind would gently sway.
Back and forth, she left on the perched top of
Branches and trees,
The freedom of thought is a circumference of images,
And things bending in the mile.
The sea turtles have come out to play-
Waving softly their green hands.
It is my month, and I am picking grapes. The sun has come out
To play and the spirals of golden centipedes
Are free of thought and my hunger isn’t aching,
It is aching and homely and my thoughts twirl downward.
The anger is in everything. The anger has sheltered
Great wisdom and my face is not gently scorched nor showered.
And the wanting takes me and shakes me and I am diseased.
The disease is of the mind.
I am forced to make choices between myself and the bed,
Between my eyes and my head.
You are the trees that sway in the wind. I am forgotten.
I am a dream that is dead.
We are cotton candy clouds.
We are things that cannot be seen.
We are a table in a bedroom.

Monday, May 31, 2010


The man in the tavern had a balding head and eyes like glass. It was a nice night. He tripped on the front stoop as he entered the tavern. A man glanced him up and down, by the front door. His mouth twisted downward, in a frown. He did not like to frown. He had nothing to smile about. Everything was going good in his life, except, everything was not. Such was the ways of the world. Such was the ways of nothing, and things that were shaped. The frown was brighter than the night outside. To say, it wasn’t much of anything. “You’re good enough,” he said gruffly, and beckoned him to a shadowy corner in the tavern. The building was cracked. Old. Had been riddled with use of wear and tear. He ordered the man a drink and ordered him to look at the moon and the stars through the barred window. He touched the window. The window was cold, just like the moon was cold.
“Who are you?” he asked. He gasped. His eyes bulged like a fish. His skin was parched. Dry. The smell of cigar smoke hung deathly in the air, and the air swirled, and was warm. His skin was tanned. He had been tanning in the sun, and everything about him was colorful, careful, carefree. The words hung steadily in the air and things were tarnished, and the wooden table was bronzed. He could see his face in it.
“My name is Hash,” he answered. “That’s all you need to know.”
He grunted. Drank a swish of scotch; poured it on the floor. The waitress gasped, and fainted. A woman waved her face with a fan. She looked half-dead. Maybe starved. She was one of the Falcons, the Peoples who gave Freemen a second chance. The Others were called Robots. They were the second ones, the ones who bred robot dogs and robot houses. The houses were the ones in the middle, set in the middle of the great, wide, place, in stone. The houses were colder than the sun.
The sun blazed heavily above them. It was not going to be long now, the reports said. They said everything was going to blow up. They were going to become obliterated. The scientists were not prophets. They were stating educated guesses. Degrees in facts. Mankind was dying. Strangely enough, the animals were thriving. An extinct peacock was found in a flower bed in Mexico. Pigeons and blue jays were becoming extinct. Man had lost his way. It was the end of time. The end of all times.
He yawned. He was getting sleepy. He had been drinking a lot. The man gave him three beers-imagine that! Three beers for nothing. It didn’t even taste funny. It tasted normal. The strangeness was not in him. He had not returned himself somewhere deep within himself, to the unhappiness found there. Unhappiness found at the bottom of a broken bottle. The bottle glistened and gleamed in the sun.
The hardships were nothing more than a simple trampling of fact. Of figures and nature and bygones. The simple fact of it. The human race was not simple.
The man swiveled in his chair in the command center of the ship. He was balding; rather fat; and had intense blue eyes and a long, pointed nose. His ears were rounded at the tip, and his face was flushed pink. He was not a kind man. He was not one to get along with. It was said he used to stowaway Prime Soldiers who didn’t get along with the whole lot; and his anger stemmed from the loss of his daughter, Eliza, at the age of five in a tragic house fire on the planet called Earth. Earth was far away, a distant memory, something as dim and dark as a dream. The universe was colder than anything and nothing more was dispersed than the shadows of night that stretched over an Eternity of Blackness. His meanness didn’t stop there. He was supposed to update his Logs every day, and send it to the Galaxy Council for inspection. The ship was his only home. He didn’t like anybody. He never liked himself. He was a man on a mission: to obliterate each and every solar system that contained Soid Bugs. They were ugly, crawling things that lived in distant suns, and created them to explode. They were intelligent. Conniving. Hideous creatures. Had nothing to hide, and everything to gain.
Eiffel Horner was not a man. He was an Earthling. It was written in the Chronicles of the Biosphere-the place where planes came and went-that the universe created at the beginning was that none other than the planet called Earth. Eiffel was not born on Earth. He was born on Jupiter 4.3434th, which meant there were ten thousand other Jupiters that bore the same name. The first Jupiter was in the galaxy, Sol, that was a neighbor of the first Earth. Now, the planet tripled in quadripillions. The Chronicles contained a summary of the planet Earth, and it said thus: “A planet.” It was a vague description, at best, caught between a truth and a lie, for Earth is not said to have existed or if it was just a myth. There was never really one scientist to look up to, but a zillion of them. These planets were the ones that were so old they were hard to track.
Eiffel was a Logger. His job was to Log his experiences, and report them back to the Chronicles-that was all. The Biosphere consisted of a man named Chronicle, for he was born and bred by a Strange Race that were never seen, and were only shadow images of beings once called “Earthlings.” Perhaps they were from the planet of Earth. Eiffel would ask them if he had a chance. He would never have a chance. The Chronicles told him where to go. He would never find his way back home.
He had a vague memory of some distant place that started with an “E” or an “H.” He could see it in his mind, in the far back corner, where nothing lived, except the consciousness. His mind was not whole. He was not well. That was why he had no job to do. His ancestor, a man named Biggs, was sick; he knew this from a dream he had, and was inspected by the prophecy council and it was dubbed legit. The next week, he got a rash. No being had ever gotten a rash, or a sickness. The human brain was always well. As well as could be expected.
The starship went deeper and further into the universe. It zoomed on its own course. It was robotic. Nothing could deter it from its intended destination-which was Earth, in actuality. The council programmed the planet into its system, hoping to help heal Eiffel and make him well. It was a silly dream, and one he would try to uphold.
Now, back to Biggs. Eiffel got the feeling he was from Earth-he was broad-shouldered, good-looking, and had a goofy grin and large, gray eyes. He could not think very well. He thought about “McDonald’s,” “Mara,” “sickness,” “home.” That was all he thought about, and nothing else. Eiffel thought the man was very stupid, very stupid indeed.
Eiffel was very heavy. He worked out in the exercise room once every other Cycle-a cycle lasted 27 hours. He sweated a lot. He was not used to sweating. He was not used to much. He was hungry. He got up from the exercise bike, and mopped his brow, and went down the hall to the kitchen and sat on a stool and asked the oven for a baked potato. The oven gave a strange, gurgled sound, and jumped and heaved and produced a hot, steaming, baked potato in seconds.
“Sour cream?” it asked.
He laughed a little. It was all a little too crazy. “Yeah,” he answered. “I guess.” He smiled at the oven, and the oven chuckled again, and sour cream appeared on the baked potato and it was thrust to him on a plate. He picked it up and found a fork in the drawer and scrounged around, looking for it.

Friday, May 28, 2010


My mother loved to scrapbook. She had drawers full of scrapbooks, and they were all filled with pictures of cakes. It was funny because we never ate a lot of sweets. My mother said it was bad for our health, and she made us eat vegetables instead-usually boiled or chopped, whatever she preferred. We lived in a small apartment above a laundry mat, and we were lucky, because most apartments in those days didn’t have laundry mats. We lived in a small city in Kentucky, and a lot of cities back in those days were dirt poor. My mother dreamt of owning a garden. A garden or a farm, whatever we could afford. We couldn’t afford much. We got buy on bread and cabbage water and lettuce. We got by on little or nothing at all. We couldn’t find our way through the dirt-lined streets, the slowly crumbling democracy. The politicians didn’t have a clue. We listened to them on a radio. The radio was the only means of communication we had at the time. We didn’t even have a phone. We were far too poor for that. My mother said Johnathan was going to go through college, and that was final. My mother said lots of things. Lots of things didn’t matter. Johnathan-or John for short-got in trouble, sometimes. Usually, it was about a girl. He got in line with the bad guys and spent his days smoking behind bleachers at the high school, and getting chased away by the principal or Mr. McGreggar.
My mother was a superb cook. She subscribed to all the latest cooking magazines and happily watched all the cooking shows. She was a fanatic about cooking. She loved Starbuck’s. It was her favorite place to eat. We ate mostly brownies and cakes and cookies, and of course coffee. I was working nine to five at my job in San Fernando, and it was hard to go out and see my mother and hear her heartbreak about how no one came to see her. She said the magazines kept her busy. She was sixty-five and used to be a schoolteacher and now got Social Security.
To my intense horror, I found out she had a new boyfriend.
His name was Sam Simmons and he worked at a catering company out in Alcapolco Drive.
I met him and we didn’t hit it off right away; he suggested we go fishing together. I asked him what kind of fishing, and he said salmon. He loved salmon. It was his favorite fish. He had silver hair and blue eyes. They were bright as the sea, maybe even brighter, and my mother enjoyed talking to him, she said. His son died in Vietnam and he was lonely. He was fifty-nine and they hit it off very well. I wasn’t sure I liked it. I wasn’t sure about anything at that point. In the summer of ’89, my father bought a boat. Things were going smoothly in the marriage. My oldest brother, Johnathan, loved fishing and my father won five thousand dollars from the lottery. Mom was outraged he bought a fishing boat with the money and he told her to relax. That was the last straw. Mom kicked him out and he was left on the porch, with one suitcase, the fishing boat, and the car. Johnathan went to help Mom. I went to help Dad. That was the summer of ’89. I wasn’t born, yet. In ’91, I packed up my stuff and moved to Columbus, Ohio. My mother threw a fit. She whined and cried and had a big meltdown. Dad didn’t bother to care. He had a new girlfriend and was living in a trailer out in Saline, Michigan. He said he didn’t want to go back to her. They still had the boat and went out on it every day and watched the sun go down over the trees and he said he was real happy, for the very first time.
Dad said Mom liked his cakes too much and should shove them up he knew where. I thought Mom should open up a bakery. She insisted she wouldn’t be able to borrow the money; that the banks had a quarrel with her and refused to lend her money. When I asked her about it, she refused to tell me why. She was living off of Social Security, too. She said she couldn’t work because her back hurts. She said some people talked about her behind her back where she used to work at the peanut factory and they said they always had a job for her. She insisted the boss secretly hated her and refused to go back. I never knew why. I didn’t really know what she was talking about and nodded and smiled in all the right places. I lived in a nice little house. The house was white and had white trimmings and the grass was taller near the front door. I had a little car, a Volvo. It was blue. I got it for my graduation present from graduating from Stanford. I got a degree in law and child education-of course I chose neither. I don’t really know why I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Most lawyers were, at best, a mixed blessing, and nothing good could come of that. It was nearing Thanksgiving and Mom said it was about time I met Sam, her beau. He was an avid golfer and a tennis player and the apartment he lived in had a tennis court and a volleyball court.
Most of the apartments were empty; they built them in the early 90s and Sam said they were going to add on to them.
Mom said she was getting along with his daughter-her name was Amanda and she had blonde hair and blue eyes and a daughter named Arabelle.
Arabelle was bright-eyed and loved jokes.
Her mother got one of those joke books from the mall and was telling jokes to everyone she met-even people on the streets. Amanda said she had to make Arabelle stop telling jokes.
“I think we should all have dinner one day,” Mom said one morning, her face breaking into a smile. I had come over to help fix her garbage disposal. It was always on the fritz. It had just rained and a nice shimmer of rain was on the grass. The grass was green and it was spring and they were growing.
I quirked an eyebrow at her. “With who?” I echoed. “Some rock star pop group?”
She giggled and blushed. Mom put her hair up in a bun and puttered about in her garden. The wind blew. It was cold for spring. She hadn’t had time to garden in awhile; she let Mother Nature seed the grain; seed the wind; the lightning and the rain. “Sam and his family, of course,” she said, smiling. “I’d love for you to meet them.”
I shrugged. “I guess,” I replied casually. I didn’t really care. I was too busy thinking about Mom and Dad being separate-it was hard to wrap my mind around. I wanted to dig my heels into the carpet. I wanted to ball my fists and shout, “No! No! No!” I couldn’t do anything. I stood there, feeling numb. I didn’t feel anything at all. “Don’t we have to talk about politics? You know how avid you get about politics.”
She made a face at me. “The president is such a coot!” she declared, and shook her head. “I don’t know what Americans see in him.”
“We voted for him fair and square.”
“Don’t be silly, you never vote.”
“Right. Didn’t think about that one.” I snorted, and shook my head.
I had a hard time keeping up with my mother. I agreed to come to dinner, and brought my wife with me. Her name was Anna. We met in our freshman year of college. She got a degree in biology and was a biologist at the local aquarium. She made sure the fish were fed. And the algae was kept at bay.
Sam came over to the house the next week.
He brought Amanda, his daughter, and her daughter, his granddaughter; Arabelle was only five. She had some bubble toys and was blowing bubbles with the bubble blower. I didn’t know what those things were called. I took the toy away from her. She laughed. That was odd. Most babies cried when I took their toys away. Good for Arabelle. Don’t listen to what everyone else says. I set her in the high chair and she blew bubbles in my face and giggled and laughed and squirmed, trying to get out of her high chair. Her mother gave her a cup of pudding and she laughed and banged her spoon on the tray. I forgot to mention, Johnathan was here, too. My brother. I forgot if he was still married. I was going to have to check on that. Maybe he wasn’t. He was getting bald and fat and his art store was going under. I bought a rocking chair from him last year because I felt sorry for him.
“Charming child,” I muttered, and made a face at her.
She abruptly burst into tears.
“Isn’t she, though?” Johnathan banged me on the back and hacked another cough. Yeah, my brother was good with children.
Good smells wafted from the kitchen. My brother didn’t bother consoling the child. He assured me she was fine, and plopped on the old brown couch in the living room and turned on the television set. Yeah, right. That’s my brother, Mr. Sensitive.
I loved the smell of food. The smell of hamburger frying on the stove; of mashed potatoes being fried in a sauce pan.
Sam was watching football in the bed room-Johnathan was watching golf.
The smells were intriguing, and the heaviness of the smells filled inside everything. The food was ready and all at once, everything was put on the table-the mashed potatoes; the roast beef; the baked beans; and, the lemon cake. My mom’s famous lemon cake. Everything smelled delicious, and I told her as much. She beamed at me and patted my head. I didn’t like.
My head. Being. Patted.
We started to eat dinner. Salad. She said it wasn’t the only thing she was serving. She wanted to prepare us for the meal.
Conversation was light at first; Johnathan mumbled to Sam about politics around a mouthful of mashed potatoes; my mother talked about the quilt she was sewing. Normal family conversation, except we weren’t really a normal family. Not yet. She and Sam weren’t married, and we weren’t really getting along that well. It would change, I was sure. We would do better.
Johnathan tried to smile at me. Well, that was a first. My big brother never offered me a kind word. A consolidation. Or even eye contact.
Arabelle babbled about Aladdin and the princess. Her mother talked to me about cheese, but I wasn’t listening. Finally, my mother broke the silence.
“Nathan,” she scolded me.
I looked up from my mashed potatoes, a weird expression on my face. I wanted to be anywhere but there, no offense to my family. I felt left out. Misplaced. Used up like an old car at a lot. “Yeah?” I said, trying not to wince.
“Don’t you have something to say?” she asked gently.
I looked startled. I looked back at her, incredulously. “What do you mean?” I asked her. I was an adult. I didn’t have to be talked to like a child.
“You’ve been quiet all evening,” she said, her mouth turned downward. “You’ve been frosty towards Sam, and his daughter and granddaughter. I think you owe them an apology.”
Sam waved it away. “Nonsense, we were having an engaging conversation.”
“No!” she insisted. “I don’t like how things are between you two. I want it to stop. Now.” She put down her fork and glared at me. Boy, when she wanted to, she could glare a whole ocean. Whatever.
I wasn’t sure how long I could stand these people another minute. Sam was okay if he didn’t talk. His daughter was okay if I didn’t see her. And his granddaughter was just a crazy nut. She was five. What did I expect from a five-year-old?
“I’m sorry,” I sighed.
“Guess what else I’m serving!” Mom exclaimed, her cheeks a bright pink.
She came in and put a big plate full of hamburgers on the table. She used her expensive china for the event.
I frowned. “I thought we were eating salad,” I said, frowning.
She laughed. “That’s not the main course.”
Since when did we start eating main courses? Oh yeah, since Sam. I remember now. That guy.
Arabelle burst into tears and threw her spoon onto the floor. It made a loud racket; her mother laughed and patted her on the head. I didn’t think she liked being patted on the head. Her mother thought she did.
Dinner was a terror. Arabelle cried the whole time. Johnathan argued with me about politics. I was surprised he even came to the dinner-he usually spent time with his girlfriend, or at work. He didn’t have time for the family. Anna was quiet through dinner, I patted her hand and she smiled at me and said later she didn’t feel like talking, that Arabelle seemed to do it for her. My girlfriend was a real sweetheart. She took care of the kid through most of the meal. Mom was impressed, afterwards.
Johnathan said Ross Perot should never have been elected; all I asked was for him to pass me the ketchup. Mom said I shouldn’t waste the ketchup, and wondered how she could make her own. I didn’t think you could make ketchup at home. It wasn’t the kind of thing you could make. Mom brought out a store bought cake and Sam threw a fit. “You mean you didn’t make it yourself?” he asked. He sounded disappointed, and maybe a little annoyed. Someone annoyed by Mom’s desserts, I couldn’t handle it. Mom made excellent baked goods. She was really good at it, too. She loved to cook. It was her favorite thing to do, besides scrapbooking. I was surprised she was still with
I stared at him incredulously.
I couldn’t believe he would say such a thing to my mother. It was very rude and insensitive. She thought it wasn’t a bother. She let him say whatever he wanted, it seemed. I didn’t know if I liked it or not.
Johnathan said I was being insensitive about Mother’s needs and wishes, when I told him that. I wanted to punch him in the face. Big brother.
“I would have,” she said sadly. “But, my favorite recipe is gone. It’s the only kind of cake I like to make by hand.” She sniffed and looked down at her hands. They were faded; worn; very smooth and almost pearly white. She used to be a carpenter. Those years had faded, too, leaving nothing behind but memories. She wanted to pack everything up, start a new life. I could see it in her eyes. It hurt, but it was the truth.
He looked startled. That really changed his tune. He didn’t like it when my mother was sad. “Recipe?” he asked, leaning forward. “You have your own recipe? That’s great!”
She made a face at him. “Yes, sweetheart,” she said in exasperation. “Don’t you remember how we met at the cookie bake-off and my cookies won third place? I had a whole stack of recipes. I don’t go anywhere without them. The only cake I make for my family is bun cake. Everything was going fine. Poof. Then, I lost my cake recipe.”
“This changes everything,” he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “We’re going to have to move heaven and earth to find it.” He glanced with me. “You with me on this, chubs?” He laughed and clapped me on the back. I wanted to punch him in the face-no one had called me chubs since high school.
* * *

“Well,” Mom said, and yawned. She stretched her head over her shoulders, signifying her tiredness. “That’s it. We called all the people we know-no one has seen my recipe.” It was the next day. Johnathan had gone home to Brunswick. I lived right near her and could come over whenever I wanted-a son’s dream come true.
“Tony seemed weirded out by your call,” I pointed out. “He hung up the phone after you mentioned bun cakes.”
She winced. “Actually, he was giggling the whole time. Tony’s gay.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh? What does that mean?”
“Gay means unusually happy,” she explained, wincing. I snorted. It wasn’t what I meant, but I’ll take it.
“Do you remember anything about the night your recipe disappeared?”
She frowned, thinking hard. “I’d just gotten home from a date with Sam-” I ignored the comment, it was the jealousy in me this time-“and I was watching television in the living room. The telephone rang, and I went to pick it up. It was Anna. She was talking about her tax return; she said they didn’t give her nearly enough.”
“That’s my Anna,” I said fondly, and reveled in wonderment. “Always thinking about others. She wants to be Mayor one day.”
“That’s not what I said at all!” Mom snapped, glaring at me.
I shook my head. “I was just joking!” I scowled. “Go on.”
She continued to stare at me. We sat cross-legged on the floor in the living room of my apartment, looking through her scrapbooks. I felt like such a sissy, looking at pictures of cakes. I was intensely disturbed. I shouldn’t be scrapbooking. It was a woman’s thing. I should be out hiking, or bike riding, although bike riding was not a man’s sport, at least it was a sport of some kind. Geez.
She hunched her shoulders. “I don’t want to,” she muttered. “There’s nothing else to say. I talked to Elisa, hung up the phone, and looked for the recipe in my scrapbook. It was gone.” She spread her arms, looking sullen. She looked like she was ready to fly away.
“Really,” I said.
She nodded. “Yes, really,” she said. She rose to her feet; a piece of paper fluttered out of the scrapbook she held in her arms. “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to make dinner.” As an afterthought, she added: “At home, I guess.” She patted my head. “Sorry, son, but your kitchen just doesn’t do the trick.” She laughed. It was an interesting sound, like a tickle at the back of the throat.
I reached for the piece of paper and picked it up eagerly. I studied it eagerly, hoping for clues about the whereabouts of Mom’s missing recipe. The clue gave me nothing-it wasn’t the recipe, anyway.
It looked like somebody’s grocery list, either Mom’s or Sam’s.
The handwriting looked like my mother’s, but I hadn’t seen Sam’s yet, and assumed it was Mom’s. I tucked it into my pocket and helped Mom pick up the scrapbooks and shelve them in the bookcase. I smiled. I was getting hungry, myself. She made raisin muffins-it wasn’t homemade, she told me she didn’t have time to get the ingredients. That was odd in itself. Mom always had time to go grocery shopping. It was one of her favorite things to do. The only thing she did, nowadays. I was comforted by Mom’s routine.
Comforted, but not put out. I ran a hand through my hair and looked around the living room. It was small, but comfortable.
Dad got a lot of money after he was in the army. He’d had a hard time getting a job, and got a house, instead. Mom got the house; Dad got the boat; and the car. Sam had his own car, a silver ’93 Oldsmobile. They weren’t married, that I knew of. Mom had the tenacity to do things outside of the norm, because it was fun to do, and she would have told me if they were going to elope. She didn’t know anything else besides routine.
Her father was a businessman, and an artist-he was known for his eccentricity and had sold quite a few pieces to local museums. Nothing big, not really.
“Mom,” I said. I got up to look at her. “What do you think happened to the recipe?” Her face was worn and had wrinkles. Her eyes were a piercing blue, and had a depthness to it that was like the bowels of the ocean. That reminded me, I hadn’t gone fishing with Dad in awhile.
She frowned and looked at me. “I must have thrown it out by accident,” she answered. “That’s the only thing that makes sense, I guess. It doesn’t sound like me, but you never know. It’s not a big deal.” She stretched and yawned. I was upset by our loss of my mother’s famous recipe. I wanted to get it back for her. I vowed to search the end’s of the earth for her recipe, and return it to her. I guess it could be her Mother’s Day gift.
I watched her waddle out the door and get into her car. The engine started. She drove away. I stumbled to my feet and decided to give Anna a call. She was never reluctant to talk to me-it was one of the reasons why I was attracted to her. We were both talkers. We talked about everything. Things that didn’t make sense to other people made sense to us.
“That’s sad,” I muttered.
I picked up the phone and called Alan D. Patterson (he liked to use his middle name), my lifelong friend. We met in elementary school. I moved in high school, and turned out his parents moved him to the same city as I had moved to. It was the perfect coincidence. “Alan,” I said.
“Yeah, buddy?” He had a thick Hispanic accent. He was from New Jersey.
“What do you think about helping me with something?” I asked. I thought he would laugh when I told him about Mom’s missing recipe, but he didn’t laugh. He was right on board with the entire thing. “I’m not trying to give you something to do. I have an actual problem.”
“Which is?” He sounded interested. Good. I was glad he was interested in helping me. I knew I could count on Alan. Alan had been my friend since college-we lost touch off and on, but we always managed to find our way back.
“My mother lost her recipe,” I replied. “I think we’re going to have to go her house and look for it. You game?”
He thought about it for a minute. “I have to make sure the neighbor’s dog stays out of my garden,” he began. “We’ve been having trouble with him again. He just won’t stay out. Leaves muddy paw prints all over my driveway. It’s a heinous crime. Such a tragedy.”
I rolled my eyes. “We have bigger things to worry about,” I assured him. “You can come over and we’ll go in the same car.”
“Your car?” he asked me suspiciously. “Don’t you have a clunker?” My car had been totaled three times in the past seven years. It had to get fixed five times. It was my baby, next to Anna. Anna and I were planning a date later in the evening. We were going to play golf. We were going to go to Starbuck’s on the weekend, after she got out of work.
I nodded. “Yeah, the very same.”
He hung up the phone, and a few minutes later, Alan’s beat-up truck pulled into my driveway. He stumbled out. He had red hair and a stubble of a beard. He knocked on my door and we got into my car and drove to my mother’s house. I knocked on the door. It took a few minutes, and she finally answered. She wore a pink shirt and blue pants. She smelled like dough.
She smiled at me. “Hello, dear,” she said absently. A wisp of hair curled around her ear. She didn’t bother to push it back. “I see you’ve brought a friend. I haven’t seen you in ten years, or more.” She chuckled. “Come in, come in. We already ate. No leftovers.”
“Where’s Sam?” Sam, her boyfriend, had moved in three months prior. He was probably at work, or out with his granddaughter.
“Nice place you got here,” Alan remarked.
Mom chuckled, and patted his hand. “Thanks, dear,” she said, smiling. “We’ve worked on it for quite a long time. Haven’t we?”
“Mother.” I cocked my head to look at her. She wasn’t listening. She continued to knead the dough-her hands were covered in the stuff. She wiped her hands on her apron and smiled at me.
“Yes, dear?” she asked, smiling.
“Are you sure nothing else happened on the day the recipe disappeared?” I was trying not to sound too impatient. Alan looked bored. He wandered over to her cookie cutter and started picking at the dough. I looked at him and blinked, wondering what he was doing here. It wasn’t for show, that was for sure.
Mom hit his hand. “Stop that!” she scolded, and made a face at him.
Alan chuckled. “Just hungry.”
She glanced at him, raised her eyebrows, and started kneading the dough again. “Why didn’t you say so?” she demanded, scowling. “We have cold chicken in the fridge. Had chicken salad last night. You can make a sandwich or eat it plain. Sam eats it plan.”
“Mom,” I urged gently. I put my hand on her shoulders.
“What? Oh, right. The day the recipe disappeared.” She put her hand to her temples. A smudge of dough stuck to the skin. She frowned. “I was making brownies, I remember. I put them in the oven and then wrapped them in the fridge. They were nice and cold in a couple of hours. I love cold brownies. They aren’t the same as my bun cake recipe, though. I add cinnamon and spice to make it extra good.” She pursed her lips. “I went into the living room because the telephone rang. I picked it up. It was Elisa Johnson, my very best friend. I turned back and the recipe was gone. The window was open-funny, I thought it was closed.” She shook her head. “You’d think I’d remember that. I thought I would.” She put her head in her hands and sniffed. “I didn’t think I would lose my recipe. I’m always so careful.” She wiped her face with her apron. Tears sparkled her eyes. It was a stupid thing to cry over. She couldn’t help it. She missed the recipe. It was in her mother’s handwriting. Her mother, long gone. She missed her mother, I could see it in her eyes.
“Sorry, Mom,” I said. “We’ll find the recipe.”
She looked up at me, her eyes bright with tears. She rubbed her eyes with her apron. “It’s okay, honey,” she babbled. “We can always get a new recipe. It’s not a big deal.”
I vowed to find the recipe. She was happy about it, and was glad I was going to try, but she warned me not to hold my breath. It was an unsolvable case.
“It’s a mystery,” I told Jacob Simmons later that afternoon. I was talking on the cell phone, and paced the brightly-lit kitchen. A clock hung above the oven, and ticked softly. The ticking of the clock. How quaint. The ticking of the hour upon the hour, and the hour was at hand. Jacob Mospry was my other best friend, next to Alan. Jacob and Alan had never met. I would like to see that. It would be interesting, no doubt. Probably more interesting than first thought.
“Neighborhood Watch is tonight,” Jacob said. We sat on the sofa in my living room, watching ESPN. I don’t know why I watched the shit. I didn’t particularly enjoy sports of any kind.
“Why are you telling me that?” I demanded.
“Because of your mother,” he explained. He shifted his gaze to the television and wouldn’t dare look at me. He knew the talk of the bun cake recipe was very sensitive for me. I didn’t want to talk about it. I looked down at my knuckles. They were turning white. I unclenched them.
Realization dawned on me. “You mean, maybe they saw something the day the bun cake recipe disappeared?” I asked hopefully.
Jacob nodded seriously. “It’s not a sure-fire answer,” he explained, “but, it’ll do. We could check it out tonight.”
“What time is it?” I asked quickly.
“Eleven-oh-clock, at Peter Warhall’s house. Do you know where his house is?”
“Yeah, it’s down the street. It’s right near my mother’s house! Maybe they did see something. I wonder why they didn’t say anything.”
“Maybe they only saw somebody,” he corrected me.
“How long do we have to wait?”
“About three hours.”
I hunched my shoulders. “Okay. Wanna play Parcheeze until then?”
“Yeah, I guess. Unless you wanna get some icecream,” he said.
“I may never eat dessert again.” I couldn’t believe it. Bun cake was my favorite. We would find the recipe. Soon. I made the promise to myself. My mother was devastated without it. It was her pride and joy. Her baby. I pulled out the board game and placed it on the floor. Jacob scooted over and we played Parcheeze for about two hours and watched tv again. Mom called once. I didn’t tell her we were going to Neighborhood Watch. Everyone in the neighborhood was invited. Most of the time, I didn’t go. I thought it was boring. Everybody else said they understood. I hung up the phone and we put on our jackets and headed outside to Peter’s house. It was getting chilly, and it was spring. I rubbed my hands. We were supposed to get spring storms. A lot of them, from the looks of the sky. We walked up the driveway to Peter Warhall’s house and knocked on the door. The house was small and pink and lilacs burst in the corners of the yard. An elderly old man opened the door-I was surprised he was so old. He had dentures and messed up hair. He looked like he had been sleeping, but I peered around his shoulder and realized the living room was full of people. I swallowed hard. I didn’t expect an audience.
“Howdy,” I began, and blinked.
“Howdy,” he returned. He glanced up at the sky and back down at me.
Peter Warhall was chewing his gum, and popped it. He looked at me up and down. Studied me expectantly. I noticed his wide forehead, piercing eyes. His ears were round like saucers.
“We wanna know somethin’,” Jacob said.
He quirked his eyebrow. “You’ve come to join Neighborhood Watch?” His voice was gruff. He ran a hand through his thick, dark hair. He looked mean, but he wasn’t. He was from Ohio.
I shook my head and laughed. “Too much work for me. My joints aren’t what they used to be.” I pointed at my kneecap to prove a point.
He frowned.
Jacob leaned around the man’s shoulders and looked into the living room. He didn’t recognize anyone.
The man out of place wore a black hat-he thought it was strange. It wasn’t a baseball cap. It was a hunter’s cap. He frowned. “Anyway, we were wonderin’ if you heard anything weird about two weeks ago. Some strange man come by? Or my friend’s mother’s house?”
“Why?” He used the gruff voice again.
“Her bun cake recipe is missing,” I explained.
We both watched his expression. It was an exclamation of surprise.
“You don’t say!” he exclaimed. He took off his hat and wiped his forehead, then put it back on again. “I’ve had it before. It tastes delicious.” He smacked his lips to prove a point.
He scratched his chin and shook his head, and frowned. “Can’t think of a thing.”
“Oh,” Jacob said. “Sorry to have bothered you.” We turned around to go.
“Wait!” he said.
We turned back around. I raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“We did hear somethin’ around six at your mom’s house two weeks ago, on Tuesday, the sixteenth,” he answered. “I forgot about it because somebody’s car alarm went off. We’ve been having trouble with the horses on Hoarch’s ranch-somehow, they keep getting out of their stalls. We’ve been trying to figure out how to keep them in their stalls.”
“Leashes,” Jacob muttered.
I nudged him in the ribs and told him to hush.
“Anyway, I looked outside and saw somethin’ in your mother’s front yard. I thought it was the shadow of a tree, turned out, there was a tree right near the window. It looked like a person to me. Tall, and long.” He shrugged. “Dunno if there are any footprints. I didn’t look. Might be. I hope she finds her recipe-let me know if you need help.”
He shut the door.
I turned to look at Jacob in excitement. “You hear that? Something did happen around the time her bun cake went missing!” I said, doing a dance in the driveway. “Let’s go see if there are footprints.” We left Peter’s house and hurried down the street. I waved at Peter’s neighbor, Jenni Morgan. She was planting lilacs in her garden. She waved back and blew a kiss.
Jacob said she had a crush on me. I doubted it. She was being nice. We walked across the road in the dark. The lights in the street lamps were on. Shadows stretched long down the road. We went up to Mom’s house and didn’t knock on the door. She wouldn’t care what we were doing-she and Sam were at bingo night, anyway, and I knew where the extra key was. I wasn’t looking for no darn key. I was looking for evidence.
Jacob squatted next to a begonia, and squinted his eyes. “What are we lookin’ for?” he asked casually. He had a thick, Southern accent, a smooth drawl. I liked it.
I shrugged. “Clues.”
The man didn’t know how to shut up and think for a bit. He was always yappin’ about somethin’ or other, about stuff that wasn’t important.
“You think somebody let the horses out?” he asked me.
I shrugged. “I think it’s just a coincidence,” I replied, shaking my head. “Don’t make no sense.”
“You’re right.” He nodded and looked at the sky, then back down at the ground. “We need to look around before night comes out.”
We walked further, closer towards Mom’s window. It was right next to the kitchen counter. Someone could have easily snatched it. I peered into the window. The house was dark. She was still gone, even though I already knew the car wasn’t in the driveway. Sometimes, she lets Sam borrow her car. Don’t ask me why. He has an old clunker. Probably for that reason.
“Look!” Jacob exclaimed. He squatted below the window, frowning. I bent close to him. His clothes smelled like cologne. I was surprised. He didn’t seem to be the type.
“What are we looking at?”
“Fresh footprints,” he replied.
“I never saw those before. I’ve been here the whole time.”
“I know.”
“What kinda shoes are they?”
“How the heck should I know?” He threw his arms up in exasperation. “I’d say they’re sneakers. We can’t tell who it is by the shoes. They don’t look like a woman’s. Not your mom’s. A stranger.”
“It could be anybody.” I rubbed my face. I was tired. Very tired. “Maybe my mom misplaced her recipe.”
“Could be.” He frowned. “It just don’t seem right,” he began.
“What don’t seem right?” We were talking like fools. I snorted. I hated being foolish. Didn’t seem to have any point to it. We could get her another bun cake recipe. The Internet was full of them. Did I mention I had Internet access? A real laptop.
Jacob answered my question. “That she would misplace somethin’ that important to her. I never lost my most favorite baseball card of all time, and I got it when I was in ninth grade.” He scratched his head. He was gonna get a bald spot with all that scratchin.’ I decided not to comment. It was for the best. Sometimes, when I really wanted to talk, I could be mean-not intentional. Just on accident.
I shook my head. “You must know my mom better than me,” I said musingly. “I never would have thought of that. We’ll add the footprints to our list of clues.”
“Okay,” Jacob said. He was looking tired and stressed and I sent him home. Jacob had diabetes, and it meant his blood sugar don’t work right. I felt bad for him. He was hungry all the time, and couldn’t eat sugar, not even my mother’s bun cake. She vowed to find a sugar free bun cake, and was looking for one online. Hadn’t found the right one, poor girl. Didn’t need to.
We were gonna find that recipe and have it in her hands by the end of the month-I hoped.
“What are you doing, Jacob?” I asked him the next day. Did I forget to mention? He lived across the street from me. Mom lived down the street. Sam lived downtown. Anna was in Brooksville. Everything was going real fine, except for the missing recipe. We were doing our best. Trying to help people and find somethin’ important all at the same time.
“Nothin’,” he answered. “Thinkin.’”
I looked around. “I don’t see your truck nowhere.”
“I sold it to two men who came to town this mornin’,” he explained. “I didn’t want to. I had to.”
“Why did you have to?” Jacob asked, scratching his head.
His lip trembled. He wiped a tear from his eye. “I’m behind on my house payments. I thought I could afford it. I thought I could get over this nonsense from college. I paid back my college loan. I’m a car mechanic on the side, don’t got no good business.” He sniffed.
“I don’t even have a car,” I said, still staring at him. “Otherwise, I would pay you to fix it. I walk everywhere. Take the bus. Got me a bus card.”
He patted my hand. “I know you don’t. I know you don’t.” He was having trouble seeing through the tears in his eyes. He wiped it away.
I patted his hand. “We’ll fix things,” I told him. “We’ll be okay. We’ll find the recipe and we’ll find you another job. You’ll see. You wanna get some dinner out?”
He shrugged and nodded, ran a hand through his shoulder-length brown hair. He was one of those men who let his hair grow out. We piled into my car and we drove downtown and got out at Paula’s Diner. The place was jumping. I spotted Carla Robbins, my old beau. She was looking fine in a pink sweater and blue pants. She smiled at me. I pretended I didn’t see her. I didn’t want to start anything. I grabbed a menu from the waitress and stalked to a table and sat down. We ate dinner and went back home. The next day was the same-and, the one after that. Not a lot was happenin.’ We talked to Peter again. No more news. Someone stole somebody’s car, no one we knew, a William Somebody. The sheriff took care of that sort of thing.
One early day in May, something happened.
Peter banged on my door. “We caught him!” he crowed.
“What?” I was startled and pulled open the door. I was taking a nap. I wanted to make an apple pie. Mom had gotten herself a new recipe-an apple pie, instead of a bun cake. It made me sad to think about it. It couldn’t be helped.
“We caught him,” he repeated. “He confessed to the whole thing! We got her recipe back. It was on the ground behind a man’s shack. We found footprints and followed them and caught him.”
I stared at him. “A man was living in a shack in Hope Springs?” I asked him. “That’s weird. I’ve never heard of that before. Take me to him.” I peered at the man standing in the driveway. “Who’s that?” I asked him.
“Todd Simmons,” he answered. “He saw you at the Neighborhood Watch the other day.” He looked apologetic. “I was so excited, I accidently told him what was going on.”
I frowned. “It’s okay, I guess. Just don’t let it happen again. Let me call Jacob and the sheriff.” The sheriff’s name was Biff, and he was real nice. All Southern.
He waited inside my living room for Jacob and Biff to come. Biff came first, in his rumbling old truck; Jacob hurried over. He led us to his house. It was a small shack, in between two fields. It had one little room and a toilet. The toilet was old, cracked. A cot was in the corner. A man in a hunter’s hat sat on the cot, his head in his hands. We stood in front of him, real quiet. I had my arms over my chest. I looked down at him, my face stern. He needed a talking to. “Well,” I said.
“I didn’t mean it,” he said.
“What’s your name?” Todd Simmons asked quietly. He was a part of the Neighborhood Watch and asked to come to the shack. The sheriff begrudgingly obliged.
“Harper Roe,” he answered.
“I ain’t ever seen you before, Harper Roe,” Jacob said, cocking his head to look at him. “You new in town?” He was suspicious. Jacob decided to come along. I figured it was okay. Jacob was not too bright in the brains department, but he did all right. He was quick enough, anyway. Could draw a gun faster than I had ever seen a man.
“Yeah,” he answered, a smile flickered across his face. “I bought the Towner ranch.”
I glanced at Jacob. If he bought the ranch, what was he livin’ in a dumb old shack for?
“You did?” My eyes were wide. I shook my head. I couldn’t believe they actually sold the thing. The ranch was a million years old-at least three hundred years old. Somethin’ of the sort. I wasn’t paying attention when the sheriff told me. It was a big house. Gray and had forest green shudders. “Why’d you come all the way over here? Just to bother my mother?”
He ducked his head. “Actually, I guess I was. I wasn’t thinkin’ straight. My wife left me and I wanted a new recipe. I’m really a cook and wantin’ to open a restaurant.” He looked down at his large, brown hands. A tear squeezed out of the corner of his eye. “You know, I think maybe I did a bad thing. My last restaurant closed. I lost my house. My father died and I bought the old house. It was my first piece of good luck since gettin’ the money.” He sniffed and wiped his eyes. “Sorry, partners. No harm done?”
The sheriff frowned. “You stole a recipe,” he scolded, shaking his head like he couldn’t believe someone would do such a crazy thing. “That’s first degree theft, on my account.” Biff McBride put his hands on his holster. He wasn’t going to use it. I knew the sheriff well. He liked to scare criminals into doing the right thing. It wasn’t always right, but it was his way. Some people had their way, and the sheriff had his way.
I stood up. “Let’s leave this up to my mother, Biff. She was the one who thought it was lost-in a way, it was lost. If you look at it closely. He didn’t do no real harm. Didn’t hurt nobody.” I glanced at him. “Right?”
“No, sir,” he answered, shaking his head. “At least I got that much sense.”
“Where’s that recipe?”
The man pulled it from his pocket and handed it to him. “Here you go,” he said. “I gave it to you before, but you dropped it.”
Biff had clumsy hands, from arthritis. He called them clumsy fingers.
Jacob took it from his outstretched hand. I was afraid to touch it. Afraid it wasn’t real. As strange as it sounded. “It’s her handwriting,” he reported.
I nodded, pleased. “Good. He can’t be too bad of a lot. Smart and quick, that’s for sure.”
“Not to mention dumb as a brick,” Peter muttered, shaking his head.
I stared at him in surprise. I forgot he had come with us-after all, he was President of the Neighborhood Watch’s Association. Catching somebody was a big deal for him. Making criminals pay was even a bigger deal. I clapped him on the back. “Be nice,” he warned.
Peter nodded. “Sure as heck will,” he said cheerfully.
Biff stared at him. He wasn’t totally convinced. Neither was I. He was going to chew the man out as soon as he got to my mom’s house. “You should be a sheriff,” he said to Peter.
He shrugged. “I was thinkin’ about it. Thinkin’ about it real hard.”
“And?” Biff asked. The sheriff scratched his head. He was bald around the ears. His ears were bright pink. His eyes a pure green.
“What else?” His voice echoed. “Nothin’ else but the truth. And to take the recipe back to the woman. She was missin’ it.” He looked around the shack. “She needs it back.”
“Why can’t she just get a new recipe?” Harper asked.
I glared at him. “You’ve done enough damage!” I scolded him. “You shush. We’ll do the talking. Maybe we can get you out of prison time.”
“How much would that be, five years?” His voice was sarcastic. I had the urge to punch him. I massaged my knuckles. I didn’t want things to go down like that. Especially not when my mother was concerned-nobody hurt my mother. Especially not me.
I smiled brightly. Or tried to. “Let’s go,” I said. “Mom’s house isn’t far. We don’t want to be talkin’ in this creepy shack all night. It smells like piss.”
Harper couldn’t help it. He chuckled.
“I’ve been there,” Biff replied, smiling. “Had her apple pie.”
“It’s good, isn’t it?” Jacob asked.
He nodded in agreement.
We trooped out of the shack, one by one, and the door swung shut. That was the last time I’d be in the shack. The last time I’d be anywhere near it. It smelled and it was probably most likely haunted.
* * *
All four of us went to my mother’s house. It was a ten minute walk, and the sky was bright and full of stars. The stars were big and beautiful and the wind was loud and haunted. Jacob knocked on the front door. Mom opened it, wearing a flannel pink shirt and blue pants. She looked surprised to see us. “What are you doing here?” she exclaimed. Her cheeks flushed. She was pleased.
“We’ve found your recipe, Mom,” I said. I held it out to her. “It’s for you.”
“You found it!” she exclaimed. “That’s wonderful.” She took it from my outstretched hand, and examined it. “That’s the recipe all right-sugar-molasses-flour.” She ran her hand over her mother’s handwriting. “That’s my mother’s handwriting. The very same recipe. I copied it a dozen times.”
I looked surprised. “I thought that was your handwriting.”
She blushed. “No, I have copies. This is the original-the one she made up on June 9th, 1987.”
“Why didn’t you tell us this before?” Jacob asked in exasperation.
We went outside. Harper stood motionless on the front stoop. Sweat dripped from his forehead. Good. He should be sweating. He was with Peter. The sheriff had gone back to the station to get the papers ready.
“What on earth could you possibly do with my mother’s recipe?” I asked Harper Roe, looking incredulously at his balding head and shining eyes inside his spectacles.
He smiled primly. “To sell, of course,” he answered. He paused for a second, withdrew his handkerchief, and patted his forehead with it. “I was having trouble making money for awhile. I went from bank to bank, friend to friend, until finally I just had it. I was able to get unemployment for awhile. I was able to scrap by, but not enough. I got skinny. I was eating little or not at all. It was hard. I saw your mother’s recipe through the window. She was talking on the phone to somebody. I saw the perfect opportunity. I climbed in through the window, snagged the recipe, and quickly left again.” He smiled, and chuckled. “It was the perfect crime.”
I wanted to slap him. I didn’t. I clenched and unclenched my fists. My knuckles were turning white. I looked up. “Here comes Biff,” I said excitedly. A police cruiser turned into the driveway and the police officer-Biff was in the passenger seat-turned off the engine and stepped out of the car.
“It was just a recipe,” Harper protested. His cheeks were pink. He was just like me, and yet, he had stolen something important from someone I cared about. It was a two-way street. Be kind, or get the hell out of here.
The police officer, whose name was William Jones, looked at him. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s not a major crime. You won’t even have to go to trial.”
His eyes bulged. He gagged. “Trial?” The words came out in a strangled squeak.
After the police ushered Harper to the police cruiser, Jacob and I went into the house. Mom sat on the couch, hands folded in her lap. “I didn’t go out with you,” she said. “I didn’t want to see him.”
“It’s okay,” I assured her. “He’s not a bad guy, once you get to know him.”
“Thank you for finding my bun cake recipe,” she told me.
“It wasn’t me. It was Jacob.”
“Oh, that changes everything,” she said. She looked at Jacob. “Thank you for finding my bun cake recipe,” she told him. “It was such a sweet thing to do.”
He blushed and looked down at the floor, scuffing his toe. “Tweren’t nothin’, ma’m,” he muttered, blushing. “You would have done the same thing for me.”
She chuckled. “A little old lady like me?” she asked him. “Hardly.” She smiled with her eyes. The smell of bun cake filled the entire house. I was glad to smell that smell again. It filled my nose. My entire being. I felt all warm and teary-eyed and Jacob was looking at me like I was crazy. Maybe I had somethin’ in my eye. I pretended to wipe it away. Jacob grinned at me. He was startled; he had never seen me cry before. “Tell you what. I wanna do somethin’ for you, since you’ve been so kind to me and my boy,” she said.
“Mom!” She didn’t need to get all sappy on me or somethin’. It wasn’t what I was lookin’ for. I didn’t know what I was lookin’ for, but it wasn’t that.
“I was thinking of gathering up all my recipes and opening a bakery with the inheritance money,” she began. “I got a call from Uncle John’s lawyer. He died in his sleep last week. He gave me twenty thousand dollars.” A smile fell on her lips. “I was thinkin’ of runnin’ it myself, but I’m a little old lady. I’m tired. I need to rest. To hang out with Sam and his granddaughter. I wanna do that more than anything in the world.” She wrung her hands nervously. They were covered in dough. She had been different since the lawyer called and told her about the inheritance money. Not better, just different-I kind of liked it. I got up and hugged her around the middle. I kissed the tip of her nose. It was cold.
“It’s okay, Mama,” I said. I rested a hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to say anything.”
She pushed me away. “Yes, I do,” she insisted. “I want something to be done with the money. Something good. Opening the bakery will help. I’ve heard of Jacob’s money troubles and I want to give it to him. I’m tired of seein’ him sad.” She glanced at me. “With your permission, sweetheart.”
I was surprised. I didn’t know what to say. I got all teary-eyed and tried to wipe the tears away. Oh hell, I let them fall anyway.