The Carrying Place

At W. Quoddy Head, Maine.

At W. Quoddy Head, Maine.

There’s a place we all take our burdens but never quite shake them off. It’s some pastoral place for me, somewhere else and far away, a mad and natural joint where noise doesn’t take over and drown out every thought, every emotion, every sense of human decency. And then I come back to the wild lands and the bucolic turns sterile like some hospital row of plastic and formed stone and the cars going blurp blurp at every traffic light that ticks and tocks like some dead man’s heart on a stick. I went from peace to the land of Prickly Pete and his army of Prick People and every set of annoyances that come with … but I saw many gray-stained cedar clapboard cottages framed by blossoms of sun and sky and moon and green peaceful lawns and periwinkle doors leading to maybe damage but most likely light – light at the back door, stepping out to the sway and yawn of the tall golden grasses just before the world dips down into some cranberry-colored bog and then sapphire-blue waters and then the road that bends and curves around the whole little village sweeps me off to cliff side and the thunder calm blue bruised straits of some American Gibraltar and I step onto the trail running off from the front yard of the candy-striped lighthouse made of the brick and blood from over 150 years ago and the cliff trail takes me along the edge at the end of the country and it’s all Sonic Ocean Water blue and peace and breeze and the quiet comfort of nothingness yet everything the way it should be and it was the carrying place of all my burdens collected like love in a bowl and I sat still in the soft grass atop one of the quiet cliffs and the world roared softly mad all around me and I looked out merely to disappear, the great blue watery window giving me a clear shot of maybe Heaven or the other side of Eden Street or Buddha’s Palace under the sun and thinking about the still standing after all the kicks in the junk and making it to the edge of the world for me it was, the edge of the world – The End of The Country – and I did it all without knowing, just stepped out to the end of the board and fell off – then the walking alternating from high cliffs to the magical forest where the sun broke in and pulled apart the curtains just a bit and shined its candlelight-like light all over the leaves and leftover night, swirling the wild blueberries like carnival rides in the green of some summer long gone now – and my soul still not melted, still walking away with burden in the heart and maybe some things can never be washed away

The cairn at W. Quoddy Head

The cairn at W. Quoddy Head

… and I built a sloppy little cairn among the others out there on the edge where a man cannot walk anymore and I sat in the golden lawn and on the flat stones trying to make sense of it all as the waves crashed in below and then lullabied the tide pools to swaying sleep and it was all a real good place to go and I felt pretty well about it all and then the calm was suddenly sullied by some loudmouths from the cities down below and I ached again a little bit and got up and walked across that golden lawn of late August in the Land of Maine and I didn’t even look back at the people puttering around like the loud fools they were; no, I didn’t even look back because I was nothing like them and they will not destroy what I can remember.

The Swordfish of New York

People gather to watch the water rage and splash up into a cloud of mist at Niagara Falls, NY.

People gather to watch the water rage and splash up into a cloud of mist at Niagara Falls, NY.

I shuffled out of Buffalo, NY, my heart kind of in a corroded tin can, burning and rattling around some, sort of like my nerves have been the past couple of days. I made a last ditch decision to turn ever farther north and go to that place of wild water, that Niagara Falls, where the Niagara River, I guess it is, cuts right through the land between Amorika and Canada and then spills down in some mad wonder splash and the people they come from all over the world to see it and the people were pressed in tight at the rails, like trigger happy sardines quick with the cameras, faces stuck in smartphones, really missing the show. The mist and the roars kicked in up high in the sky and I walked a lot, tired feet a lot, but I took it all in like any good tourist would except I didn’t buy into the paid tour scams they shovel at every port between Erie and Buffalo. I can walk on my own. A self-guided tour it was and it was fine. But after a while the mad press of people got to me and everywhere I stepped someone else was stepping too. The hotel was crawling with people. The elevators were crammed full and I could barely breathe. It was a nice place to see for sure, but there were too many damn people. It seemed like the whole lot of the world was there pounding the pavement and swelling souvenir shops with their sweat and their stink and their foreign ink. It was a good place to go but then I got out and headed deeper east through the whole of the Upstate and it was real heavy pastoral and the wheels roared and the traffic roared and I roared whenever some squat did something wrong on the road. The east has much slower speed limits than the west, but people drive faster. No one pays attention to the rules of the road. I saw one cop, two cops, three cops but no one got pulled over – people blowing by me like a circus train on crack. I saw a wreck east of Utica – four cars all to the side and smashed to hell, a semi too and pieces of tire all over the place, cops all laughing and tow trucks all pulling into the scene. Madness on wheels it is. Madness. Hurtling ourselves down long strips of pavement at deadly speeds and then mocking those that jump out of aeroplanes.    

I ate teriyaki swordfish and baby carrots in the hotel restaurant where I stopped for the night and thought about Jack DeLarge and wondering if I should pay him a surprise visit but thinking he may have escaped to the city instead. I looked around the joint and for once in a long while I was not the only one eating dinner alone. It was more of a hip business hotel with gray-haired sophistos washing down the hate of their day with a good steak and maybe a glass of gay wine. I tried to eat slow but it’s hard for me.  My whole life has been rushed and now that I have the time to slow down, relax, be super fresh … seems I just can’t do it. I’m pressed for nothing, yet I swirl like a man in a cape. Breathe. Relax. Be still. It’s so hard. It’s gulping life – gulping the life that has been force-fed to me by the ills of society. Yes, because of society. Shut up. Don’t complain. You got it made …

I let the teriyaki swordfish melt on my tongue and in the lounge they had the lousy TV on to some news channel. None of it’s good. I can’t stand to watch the news anymore. Maybe I mentioned it before, but I don’t want to hear about it. I just want to swim like a goldfish under the sun, in a real calm and peaceful world. But man, beyond the glass bowl, it’s nothing but chaos – just tonight: riots, wars, beheadings, Taylor Swift going Pop. It’s a screwed up world and it’s getting more screwed up every day. It weighs in the back of my mind and a few times I’ve told myself when filled with some self doubt: “So what? The world is going to end.”

Beard in the Buffet at Big Boy

Big Boy holds up a hamburger outside a Big Boy restaurant in the UP of Michigan.

Big Boy holds up a hamburger outside a Big Boy restaurant in the UP of Michigan.

And there he was, hoisting his hamburger high in the air right off Hwy. 2 in Manistique – Big Boy – and I don’t know if his name was Bob or Marc or Tom or Jiggle the Handle Jim – but he stood tall and proud and with a goofy grin on his plastic face and he beckoned me in with a promise of tempting treats.

The place was buzzing with waitress wazoos dressed in bright yellow tops and one dude too who was studying to be an engineer and he stuck me way in the back like they always do with the onesies, the loners, the fools who dine alone, the ones who shy away from society, and why not? It’s all pointless drivel.

I ordered a fish sandwich and a salad and I specially asked for no tomatoes but forgot to say NO ONIONS, too. But who puts chopped up onions on top of a salad? BIG BOY does! Bleh.  Strike one. I pushed the crappy onions to the edge of the plate as best I could but still ended up chewing on a few nasty bits and it pretty much turned me off the salad.

I was seated pretty close to the buffet and I took a look earlier just to see what it was all about – steaming pans of meat and fish and spuds and corn and mushy macaroni and cheese. I didn’t know how long it had been sitting there, but considering it was about 3 p.m. when I strolled in, I figured it had been a while. Strike two.

As I sat munchy wunching my fish sandwich and looking around the joint, I watched as one big bubba after another stepped up to the buffet and loaded their plates way beyond capacity. I’m talking mountains of food that made me gag. One big fella loaded one plate, set it down at his table, and then filled another with all kinds of dripping salad bar slaw and sauces. Pig people. Big, friendly pig people.

Then he came in – slovenly, skull cap and leather, dark sunglasses, a belly as big as a whale, and a bodacious beard. It was a ZZ Top beard that hung down off his face like a shower curtain. It swayed as he walked and I knew things were going to be bad, real bad, when he scooped up a plate and bent forward into the food. Yeah, they had those plastic sneeze guards up part way over the food, but it was no BEARD GUARD. It was pure entertainment watching him dip his chin down and seeing the bottom fringes of his beard glide across the messy tops of the salad dressing crocks, scrape across the toppings – like black olives, egg pieces and imitation bacon bits – and then bounce into the heaping bowl of fresh lettuce. But it was the mashed potatoes and gravy that were the worst. He got those whiskers in their real down and deep and when he came up I could see the drippings clinging to life from the ends of his masculine hair mask. Strike three, you’re out. 

When he sat down at his table the beard ends continued to dangle in his food as he ate and his hard-luck woman even pointed it out.

“You got food in your beard,” she said pretty loudly.

Some rambunctious kid of about 7 or 8, and who probably had mental problems, kept running around the joint and playing with the tongs and spoons at the buffet and his Ma and Pa kept yelling at him from across the restaurant – instead of actually getting up and going over and straightening him out. The kid suddenly caught a glimpse of the bearded gobble gobbler and went over to his table, stood at the edge of it and just stared at him.

“I like your beard,” he finally said.

“Thanks kid. I like my beard, too. Now why don’t you stop acting like a wild Indian. It’s really getting on my nerves.”

The American Sand Castle

by AR Walther

A sand castle with two American flags sits on the shore of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, Wis.

This is Chokeboygan and the child is missing here. The childhood leaves but a trace smell like burnt toast in a dead apartment. My time here is now but a small speckle of history sketched in the clouds above that do not move. Some things are the same, strong-rooted and relentless, like the tall trees and the old buildings of yellow brick or peeling painted brick. My time here has been churned with a great stick of progress or maybe more like retreat. The corporate twats have pushed in and have covered the bed of my homeland with their quilts made of mundane thread. Where once stood the backbone of American Mom and Popism, is now the cookie-cutter commercialism that litters any old ordinary place. Memories are being eroded by bulldozers and replaced by plastic and electric money machines.

But it’s not just the infrastructure that I sense change in; it’s the people too. The youth sprung forth from the loins of my childhood comrades run wild in the streets – cursing, yelling, flippant and malevolent they seem, dark bastards of the night. They ride bikes like maniacs and play with rainbow-colored Hoola-Hoops and guns mad and loud on the stage of the bandstand shell as the Hmong people push their garden goodies beneath colored canopies in the park I used to play in – running among the bums and the derelicts, chasing baseballs – and that creepy kid Barry, who looked like an eight-year-old Christopher Walken, showing the gang his Pa’s nudie magazines and explaining to us the wonders of human anatomy with a lisp.

There are plenty of beer bellies bouncing and big bottoms booming, too. As I walk the streets of Childhood Land some turn away with a scowl and say nothing. Some just nod hello. Others still utter an audible “hello” or “good morning.” Good morning Chokeboygan. I guess it is like anywhere else, some people are assholes, and others are pretty decent. Every place, it seems, becomes like anywhere else. There is the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, in all places a man walks or rides or just sits and looks out. The decay is showing at the same time the stars are raving mad in some luscious summer sky. It’s a world of love, it’s a world of hate, it’s a world of give and take.

I went into the old newsstand store today, one of the few places that hasn’t changed or gone vacant in the decades that have passed. It was the place I used to go to buy some candy and the man there that owned it had a fake hand and I can still hear the “clunk” sound it made when he set it up on the counter. He’s long gone ding-dong dead now. I went by the old place where my Pa had his very first flower shoppe joint – vacant now. I looked in the dirty windows and there he was working like a madman in the back just trying to make a buck. I used to go in and hang out once in a while. I sat on a green, wooden stool and messed around as he worked. I once punctured my finger with a stapler and it hurt like hell. The flower shoppe was right across from the funeral home and just beyond that, past the alley and a backyard or two, was the very first place I remember living in. It was a nice place, a big old house cut in two and we lived on one side and some old dude lived on the other. It had a basement and a main floor and then an upstairs. The kitchen floor was painted orange and I remember my Pa sitting at the breakfast table in a white T-shirt smoking Kent cigarettes before going off to work. Mom helped out at the shoppe once in a while but mostly stayed home and took care of the house and me and my kid brother. It’s tough thinking about how they are all dead now and here I am reminiscing and walking the paths of my younger days and thinking about how it all just goes on and on and on and you can’t just stop the bus and get off and breathe for a moment. There aren’t any brakes in this living thing and I guess we are all on a collision course with THE END …

I went to the cemetery too where my Pa’s parents and his grandparents are all tucked neatly in the ground. I walked around on top of their bones for a little while, read the gravestones and felt pretty alone. It was a real pretty day though. The sun was out and not too hot and even though I was in a great field of the one’s not alive, I felt at peace anyways and drove out of the cemetery and back down along the lake shore again where I had been earlier in the day – my morning walk before the people came up to the sun and started to move around.

It was a great walk filled with quiet, tree-lined streets and big ol’ houses booming toward the sky all quaint and majestic at the same time. I hit the high hill overlooking the water and went down and onto the beach where the seagulls gathered and planned out their day. The sand was soft and moist and brown and crushed in with footprints of the previous day’s play. The water was a great shining sheet of sparkling glass and the waves rolled in all soft and listless and the fresh sunlight streamed down through cracks in the white and periwinkle clouds. I loved the look of it all, the sound of it all, the memory of it all.

Someone had built a sand castle and stuck two little American flags in the top of it. It looked sadly hopeful sparkling in the sun like it did. It was a reminder of how quickly this American dream could be washed away. Yeah, it was fragile. It will crumble. Someone will eventually come along and kick it to pieces. What will we become? What have we become? Man, a world of wars and all the bad shit I just can’t stomach anymore when the information fires up every morning and comes in like a laundry list of the devil’s wishes. I have to turn away at some point. All the bad shit is still happening but I don’t want to look. I just want to see and do the good stuff right up to the very end. Time is running out and so I am running too, above the road, across the land, maybe one final sweep of the highway before the madmen bury it all out of greed and hate. One last raunchy romp to the other side of the American sand castle before it all washes away.

The Road Heart Named Jen

If Robin Williams can snuff it, why don’t I? The love of no ordinary woman … Jennifer is my heart. She keeps it pumping even when I do not want to move. My tears are her tears. My aches she carries. She is stronger than me. That woman is like Christ. Love knows no boundaries with her. I am in Wonderland at her touch, her heart, the way she sleeps beside me so still and caring. I miss her now, ten thousand miles away in American outer space. She sails above ten thousand heartbeats and is every breath I remember. I don’t tell her enough … love is not the right word, for it is beyond that. Gift. Future. Prophecy. Celestial intervention. Bit O Honey times one thousand plus. So sweet to touch and taste. And I am alone out here in the physical realm. But she guides me like a sail made of heart thread. She is my wife undocumented. She is the good and the strong in the places I am not. She is my memory of water, my breath undusted, my fear cradled and replaced with the sweet scent of hope upon her lips. And even now, as I am alone and unfamiliar, I go to sleep knowing her soul and touch are never more than a breathless moment away.

The Temple of Celestial Urination

I floated above the road from out of LipLock, Tejas earlier in the day and headed north, then east. I rumbled along with the roar of it all past that Tulia place again, into the belly of the Yellow city and then back out again like a screaming colon blow. There was a place further down the road there that looked like some Mormon temple minus Moroni but turned out to be a rest stop – a sort of place for celestial urination I suppose. It was a high-tech joint with sliding doors, acid-high neon and brightly buffed tiles. The walls were decorated with all sorts of Americana logos and pop posters made to look like they sprang right out from the 1950s – they were going for the whole Route 66 celebratory theme, but a toilet is still a toilet and piss is still piss. I guess it was comforting enough for weary travelers and indeed kept very clean. I saw an immigrant from Nicaragua wildly mopping the floor with mad vigor and I sort of shook my head and laughed at the fact that Texas rest stops are kept better looking than most of the towns and the cities – and I guess immigrants are fine in our country as long as they are cleaning up after us.

I stopped for the night in the town of El Torino, OK and there was a dirty steak place just down the road from my hotel and I went there for some supper, as Ms. Tinkachook says.

The hostess was a sad and desperate-looking white-skinned soul who didn’t smile much and merely mumbled. I followed her and she seated me in the section for all the lonely people who ate by themselves. The joint had been kicked around in the crotch a few times it seemed – a greasy sort of place with smudged windows and a smell more fit for a bowling alley than a restaurant. I felt the need for the animalistic Rev. Jim to be there with a big ol’ bottle of hand sanitizer to baptize me in, but like most men of Bog, he must have had his hands tied by other spiritual and cleansing emergencies.

The waitress chick was a spotted-owl kind of gal reeking of sad spirit and boredom. She strolled about the place with little sense of purpose and recited to all her tables the same rehearsed speech that lacked any sense of genuine care for her work, but I understood her malaise completely.

I ordered an 8 oz. top sirloin that looked pale and beaten but tasted good nonetheless when slathered with some sauce. I got fries too, a salad and some warm bread with cinnamon butter. The food was decent enough for what it was and anyways I was never one to complain in a restaurant. I never thought it wise to piss someone off who was handling my food. There was a table across the way from me with a couple of moms and their dirty kids plus a husband or boyfriend or two. They bitched at the waitress about their steaks not being cooked as they wanted and they passed their plates back to her and she humped off to the kitchen to turn them back in. I could imagine the cook growling and spitting on the meat or shoving it down his pants and jiggling around a bit to add some of his own spice and sizzle.

My steak was good and I scarfed it down quickly. And that’s all I said: “It’s good. Thank you. Thank you.” She smiled halfheartedly and I knew she had better problems than me.

But I had been there before too. I had my time – those days so completely overtaken by life’s strife that I could hardly move or utter a word. Those days hurt – like a hatchet buried in my skull cap and someone cranking on the handle. There is a laundry list of agonies I have endured that I really don’t want to talk about now except to say it was all about busted up hearts and people dying in real bad ways and there were plenty of times I just wanted to snuff it. Lights out like a hammer to a lightbulb. No more pawing and panting at the stars like some broken bird who felt like he would never ever fly again. Hopefully I’ve come around to the other side of those ills and I will press on, for there is nothing left to do.

Cracker Barrel on Crack

The ebb and flow of the Jesus crowd washed nostalgic candies into the streets of LipLock, Tejas on a sweltering Sunday school day gone mad. The bacon was loaded. Mosaic scrawlings of jelly looked like sparkling guts on the sourdough. Coffee was but swirling blood fueled by cream and sugar. The roar of the hungry throng was like Madagascar jungle traffic. Everyone was full of the holy spearmint and everyone was hungry for a hot breakfast at the very same time.

So we swirled through the stuffed parking lot looking for a space and I just knew it was gonna be bad. The porch swings out front cradled the starved corpses of those who had to wait too long. The list of names at the front podium was a mile high and the hostess chick was losing her mind as people moaned and bitched. We held our ground in the lobby, but it was tough. I tried to examine a sack of maple nut goodies but dames and dudes with urinary urges kept bumping into me.

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me …”

How it dinged and donged in my throbbing head. It was like riding a stream train by clinging to the under belly. Too many people. Not enough space.

And that is what it is like down here in LipLock, Texas. The infrastructure is flawed. The streets are designed to encourage collisions. It’s a great bulging bubble all steaming and hot and there’s nothing to do but eat, eat, eat … at Cracker Barrel, on a Sunday morn after worshipping super fresh Bog and all his hip angels. I had never seen a crowd like that squeezed into such a mediocre joint. How could anyone expect a fine dining experience in the midst of so much chaos? Shove them in. Take their money. Clear them out.

Our one-star waiter was a lanky and shaky fellow who could barely keep up with the maddening buzz all around him. He managed to pour a few cups of decent joe but brought us limp bacon and not enough coffee cream and no jelly for the biscuits and I felt bad for the dude as we piled more and more demands upon him, but hell, it was his job. But did he deserve to have to eke out some paltry living this way? Does anyone? It all seems so futile and petty and yet Big Biz tries to fake us out with the corporate propaganda and the sterile smiles of robotic clerkies in glossy advertisements. It’s not real. None of it’s real. Yet we buy it and we pay for it time and time and time again until our lives are completely absorbed and then wrung out by the pretty-polly machine. And it’s accepted as the social norm by the big bugged-out mass audience riding around in bumper cars, staring at smart phones, listening to factory-farmed crap music. It’s brain stew with no meat and no hearty gravy. We live in a watered-down world where the stooges flock like fire ants to pay for the privilege of emptiness in a vacuum of noise.

The pumping, screaming arteries of the static cling are unnatural. I think I would prefer to dine in the pines with only the sounds of the wind and the water and the wine, sans the flaring of the human crack pipe.

Faith and Fried Chicken

I was leaning against the car in a place called Tulia. They got a junked out gas joint full of flies and the smell of Subway cheese there. I looked around at all the people there and they were different from the beautiful and clean ones I was used to back home in Paradise, Colorado. I used the filthy restroom and pondered getting some food but then passed because it was all gross in there. Anyways, the people, especially the one guy my eyes followed as he strolled out of the joint clutching a paper box of fried chicken. I imagined the feel of the warmth of the box against his hand, the grease oiling his skin like a good lotion. He wore a shirt and apron of all black and his wayward ponytail of jet black ink fluttered in the West Texas breeze. He was a worn down soul I could tell. Different. Weighed heavy with depression, grief and the reality of a shitty job in some knocked out travel center in the middle of hot hot nowhere. He’d go home to a crippled wife and a dirty house and pull up to the table and gnaw on that chicken, that’s for sure. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw and I was indifferent and judgmental just by the looks of things.

I arrived at my destination a couple of hours later and checked into the hot joint hotel on the west side of a city called LipLock. I unloaded some bags to take in and for some filthy and ignorant reason I cannot now probe or ponder, I set my laptop bag against the tire of the car and then walked away. I left it there. In the parking lot. My laptop bag. It had my laptop in it and a wad of cash to finance my trip across the Amorika. Yeah. I left it in the parking lot. On the ground. Went inside the place and went upstairs to the suite. My laptop bag on the ground in the parking lot. I went to dinner. I scarfed shrimp and cranberry cocktails and laughed and talked with the other people there. My laptop bag full of cash on the ground in the parking lot. I was completely oblivious, until …

I returned to the hotel a couple of hours later and got a few more things out of the trunk and backseat. I suddenly froze.

“Where’s my laptop bag? Where the hell is it!?”

Frantic and in a manic panic, I dashed up to the room hoping it was there.

NO!! It wasn’t there. Panic turned to more panic and a deeper fear and the future all fucked up now because I was stupid, stupid, stupid. It was the end. Day one and my trip was already over. Done. Finished. I would need to turn around and go back home. My stomach hurt. I wanted to throw up and crap at the very same time. I was sick, sick, sick. But maybe, just maybe …

I went to the front desk of the hotel. Some dude and his kid were groveeting with the clerkie and I was like: Come on. Come on. They finally finished their biz and I stepped up and asked: Did anyone turn in a laptop bag?

“Ah, Mr. Werther. I left you a message and was about to call again. Yes. Someone found your bag in the parking lot and turned it in.”

Relief.

He opened a door behind him and retrieved the bag.

Relief.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

I went upstairs and went through the bag. I threw the money on the bed and counted it. All there.

“Kind of restores your faith in humanity, doesn’t it?” the clerkie said later when I tried to find out who turned the bag in. He wasn’t sure. I wanted to give them a reward, buy them dinner or some gas.

And as I sat in the lounge this morning munchy wunching frosted flakes of corn, the CNN was on the TV and reporting all the terrible shit going on in the world – the fighting, the killing, the Gaza- a laundry list of all the awful things people do to each other and the world around them, but yet I was thankful that there was someone out there kind enough to do the right thing, one simple little act and it turned my moment around.

We need more people in this world to do the right thing.

We need more sympathy and love.

Lives interrupted

Even now, in deep July, the air feels like autumn, the sky is the color of muddied aluminum. But it is still deep July and the windows are whirring and the fans are open and the house has a chill that nearly beckons fire. The place is like a white beach, almost pastoral in nature even though the yard is made of rock; and the motor cars, their white buds of headlight cracking the fog, stream by within inches of the fencing.

The phone rang and then rang again and then yet again, and I had to repeat to someone what they did not know.

“I’m sorry Carlos, he passed away in January.”

The real purpose of his call suddenly fades away and is replaced with sterile condolences.

The house is quiet again save for the rushing hum of the motor cars and someone somewhere is rhythmically shoveling stones.

The mist wanders around the bends of the moors like a drunken snake. The lonely heart of magic creeps in and makes me still. The dead room is empty.

Outside on the streets a little girl with brain cancer falls off her bike and skins her stick-like legs. There is a muted wail spilling from her open mouth, for the poison medicine rendered her voice box inoperable. She hobbles home. The bike is left in the middle of the street, abandoned due to pain, like her pa’s credit card I found in my wet lawn.

Lives interrupted all around. Distractions of disorder. And you never know what’s in there, when you are only looking out there.

The Tomatoes of OZ

The doorbell rang at dusk

The old woman came bearing fruit

She held three tomatoes in tired hands

One was the size of a golf ball

The other two she cradled like testicles

They came from her very own garden and she beamed with pride

I had to accept the gift, for it would be rude not to

But inside my tired mind:

“Old hag, have you not heard my decree in the dead of night?

For I loathe your foul tomatoes.”

My hand shook as I reached out to take charge of the vile fruit

The skin was orange-red and smooth

There was the tousled cap of dark green on the large one

I wanted to vomit on her canvas shoes

But I feigned delight instead

And closed the door

As the sunset roared

The Wicked Witch of the West was cackling

The fireballs delivered

And I stowed them upon the counter of cold granite

And they looked up at me

The brainless one

The heartless one

The scared one

And I looked down at them

I, the most powerful wizard was crackling with power

And I denied them gifts of love and grace

I reached for the switch and snuffed out the light

“Suffer for a while in silence and darkness,” I boomed with evil

My large onion-shaped head on fire …

And I returned later

Drunk with tiredness

Longing for my cuddle cobra

The Dorothys now rolling about and chanting a high-pitched menace

“There’s no place like salad, there’s no place like salad, there’s no place like salad …”

I quickly reached for the glinting kitchen hatchet and hoisted it high in the air and yelled out with a heart full of psychosis

“Fukison smash!!”

I stopped just short of the kill

I caught my breath

I was moist with sweat and I whispered over them

“There will be no salad. There will be no sandwich. There will be no salt and pepper. Your lives will end tonight at the bottom of a barrel.”

I scooped them up and they cried

I punched the pedal of the trash can with a socked foot

The lid flipped open and I dropped them in

There was a thud, thud, thud

And then all was peace and darkness

A real quiet, country dark

The frogs croaking gladness in the grasses near the pond.