Friday, September 21, 2018

SHORT STORY: A Bag of Rocks

I could see even from the other end of the street that the man’s gait was unsteady and slow. I imagined that he had been walking for some time. I thought I might help him get to his destination. Maybe get some karma points or whatever. I could probably use a few.
I had time. And I had seen him before. I pulled up next to him just as he reached the intersection. He was a smaller fellow, clad in a navy hoodie and cargo pants, worn backpack slung behind one shoulder. Older than me, but not old.
“Good morning,” I said as the passenger side window slid down.
He turned my way slowly and looked at me blankly, not slowing his gait a bit.
“‘Morning,” he said with a curt nod.
“Can I give you a lift somewhere?” I glanced down the street to see if any traffic was coming.
He stopped walking. “A lift?” It was as if the entire concept was foreign.
“Yeah, a lift,” I said as I came to a stop. “I can give you a ride. I can take you to wherever you’re going.”
Again with the blank look. “I… I’m not going anywhere.”
“You’re walking,” I pointed out. “You must be going somewhere.”
“I’m just walking. That’s all.”
He slid the backpack off his shoulder. It hit the sidewalk with a resounding thump. The man massaged his shoulder. Whatever he was carrying was apparently quite heavy.
“So, um…” I looked in my rear-view mirror. Another SUV was approaching. “You… you don’t need a ride anywhere.”
The man shook his head. “Just out walking.”
“I see. Okay.”
The SUV pulled up behind. I heard the bleat of the horn. Time to move on.
“Alright, well…” I offered a perfunctory wave. “Have a good day, sir.”
I saw as I drove off that he offered his own wave.

I made it to the office early, about twenty minutes before my scheduled time. I made a pot of coffee. I poured my own cup, adding a dash of cream and more than a dash of sugar. I checked my email and perused Facebook. Upon punching in, I continued coding the mobile app that I had been working on. I was still struggling with how to integrate our database with e-commerce functionality so that customers could order parts directly from the app. Properly calculating shipping and handling, then adding that to the subtotal, was getting a bit messy.
I would probably figure it out, though. I usually did.

I chose to head straight home, rather than stop at the grocery store on the way. I had a couple of microwave meals in the freezer. I would just go tomorrow.
I turned down my street and saw a phalanx of emergency vehicles, lights flashing, as well as a group of onlookers nearby. I pulled into my driveway and as I got out of my vehicle saw a neighbor kid walk by, heading away from the crowd.
“Hey,” I called out. “What happened?”
“Some dude got hit by a car, I guess. They drove off. Cops are looking for witnesses.”
I nodded a curt thank you and headed towards the crowd. Patty, from two doors down, saw me approach.
“It’s terrible,” she said. “Just terrible. That poor man…”
“Was it someone from the neighborhood?” I asked her, but she was too overcome to speak.
I maneuvered my way into the center of the crowd. I saw a police officer and an EMS guy crouched over a still figure on the ground. A pool of blood issued from the left side of his head.
“I heard the car just tear down the street,” my next door neighbor, Albert, said to another officer, a younger guy who I imagined was a rookie. The Rookie hurriedly scribbled notes as Albert spoke. “I heard a screech and then a thump and that’s when I looked out my front window.”
“Did you see the vehicle?” the officer asked.
“I did,” Albert said. “A black Camaro. I think a 2016. I know my cars. I used to work in the service department at--”
“Did you get a plate number?”
“No,” Albert said softly. “Sorry.”
The EMS stood and I looked down to see the face of the walking man from this morning, the side of his head drenched in blood, his jaw askew.
Somehow I knew it would be him.
Yet another police officer, a big, beefy fellow with a booming voice, addressed the crowd. “Does anyone here know this man? Does he…” A pause. “Did he live in this neighborhood?”
His question was met only with murmured nos. I decided to speak up.
“I don’t know him,” I said. “Not really. I offered him a ride this morning. He said no. He said he was just walking around.”
Patty spoke up. “I’ve seen him, a couple times. Walking around. I never offered him a ride, though.” She took a deep breath. “That poor man. That poor, poor man.”
The Rookie stepped over and joined our circle.
“No ID on him,” he said to the other officer. “No wallet. Nothing. But I did find this.”
He hefted a backpack. The heavy backpack from this morning.
“What’s in it?” the other officer said.
The Rookie pulled it open and they peered inside.
“The hell is this?” the officer said. He reached into the bag and pulled out a rock. Then another. He looked at the Rookie quizzically.
The Rookie shook his head. “I thought maybe… amateur geologist or something? But half of this is just gravel. Dude was carrying around a bag of rocks. A nutjob, I guess, huh?”
No immediate reply told the Rookie that perhaps he misspoke.
“Well, he has to have some family somewhere,” the officer finally said.
The Rookie nodded slightly and stood there, silent, holding a bag of rocks.

I went home after a few minutes and popped a spaghetti and meatballs frozen dinner into the microwave. I looked at Facebook on my phone while I waited the four minutes and thirty seconds it took to heat it up. I saw that Beth was in Cozumel-- AGAIN-- with that rich asshole. They had posted some pictures. She still looked good. He still looked like a rich asshole.

The next day, I didn’t get to work too early… just a couple of minutes before start time. Somebody had already made coffee. I told Keith about the guy and the bag of rocks.
“Weird,” he muttered and turned back to his screen. He was coding a new page for the company website. Easy work if you can get it, I thought.
I was still on the shipping and handling issue with the app. I could finally get it to show up on screen, but now the drop down for the different shipping options didn’t work.
I would probably figure it out, though.
I usually did.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Please enjoy this story I wrote

The one voice sounded like hundreds.
Some yelling in anger.
Some screaming in pain or fright.
Some with unbearable grief caught in their throats.
Some with a soft lilt.
you are well and truly fucked. you understand this, right?
I took a step back. Another. Another. I was against the wall.
you understand this, do you not?
The voice wanted an answer.
More insistent: do you understand me?
I drew a long, slow, and deep breath. I hesitated. I needed to sound strong, and not squeak out a reply.
“No,” I finally said. “No.”
I crossed and uncrossed my arms. “No.”
The voice surrounded me.
The voice enveloped me.
And it rose, glowing in anger, casting a blood red glow about my living room. I slid right as his eyes tracked me. Perhaps I could make it to a window and make an escape.
A tendril, somehow glowing in a sleek obsidian, shot forth. I dodged. It struck the wall next to my head, missing by mere inches.
you will stay
Another black tendril. This one had apparently slid across the floor, unbeknownst to me, and slid up my back to wrap around my neck and lift me off the floor.
you will stay
My breath came only in short, ragged gasps. I grabbed the tendril with both hands and tried to pull it away from my neck.
you will STAY
My feet dangled a nearly a meter from the floor. I had no breath left. The world began to fade.
I held my daughter for the first time. Her eyes flickered open and locked with mine.
Her eyes locked with mine.
“You’re a hypocrite, Dad,” she shouted, her cheeks stained by cheers. “A hypocrite!”
I balled my fist and slammed it into
the mirror. I held the refracted, fractured gaze of my doppelganger. I glanced down at my bloodied fist and ever so gingerly pulled the shard of glass from my knuckle. I looked up again at the sad, broken face before me and
and said
enough of this
With nothing left in me, I still managed to grab the tendril and
I pulled. I pulled
with one shrill voice it said: no stop
I pulled harder than I thought possible
I suddenly found myself a heap on the floor. The tendril haphazardly waved about above me.
Slowly, I managed to stand.
Though all I could muster was a hoarse whisper: “Enough.”
The red glow became purple then blue and finally began to fade back into the dark. I braced myself against the wall. I looked out the window, spotted with rain.


Thursday, August 30, 2018


I no longer have a vehicle.
It’s a long story (and one that I am in no mood to rehash), but much of it has to do with the fact that the repairs that I would have had to make would have cost more than the car was worth. This isn’t as much of a tragedy as it may sound. I had owned the car for a good number of years and it was… well, let’s just say that it was somewhat past its prime.
Where I am fortunate is that I don’t live terribly far from my workplace. Prior to my car’s untimely death, my usual commute time was around five minutes, if that. Once I began walking to and from the office, my daily commute became about thirty minutes each way.
It’s not a bad commute, really. When walking, it takes a bit under ten minutes to make my way through my neighborhood, after which I cross a busy street. I walk past the local botanical center until I cross a pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi River. Eventually, I cross what is known as the Arsenal Bridge (aka the Government Bridge). The Arsenal Bridge is quite interesting, in that it is one of the few swing span bridges in the United States. A portion of the bridge actually swings open to allow barge traffic through. All vehicular, pedestrian, and train traffic must stop to allow a barge through. It’s quite a sight to stand close as the bridge turns on its axis to be open to water traffic, then swing back into position.
The only downside to my walks were some exceptionally cold winter mornings. There is a great deal to be said for properly bundling up. Between good gloves, a headwrap, a stocking cap, and a good scarf I managed to brave those cold, dark mornings. Just as important as the aforementioned: footwear. I had managed to acquire a very good pair of boots. A well-made and well-insulated pair of boots is a walker’s best friend, especially in winter months.
Walking every day has a few benefits, the most obvious being physical fitness. A solid hour of vigorous walking burns a lot of calories and has some cardiovascular benefits as well. Just as important has been the uninterrupted time with myself. I have had a lot of time to just think. Sometimes that thinking was about myself and the trajectory of my life. Other times, I would work out the details of creative projects. I might set some goals, work through how to best deal with a challenge, or simply dispense with whatever might be bothering me on that particular day. Just as my physical fitness benefitted, my mental fitness did as well.
One thing that did not lend itself to a pedestrian commute was going to the grocery store. Imagine lugging a week’s worth of groceries home over a twenty or so minute walk. No bueno. Fortunately, one of my three sons now has his driver’s license and has been taking me to the store once a week. We have somehow managed to turn the weekly grocery-getting ritual into something of an enjoyable experience. Better yet, he will be an experienced and savvy shopper when it comes time for him to do so for himself.

Once the snow fully melted away, I noticed the large amount of trash underfoot.
  • Beer cans.
  • Soda cups.
  • Water bottles.
  • Fast food containers. (somebody in my neighborhood goes to Checkers quite often)
  • Liquor bottles (somebody in my neighborhood REALLY likes Cinnamon Fireball Whiskey).

I began to bring plastic bags with me each morning. I would pick up trash along the way. It was a great way to give my commute a sense of mission and meaning. I was helping the environment and making my neighborhood a nicer place. I actually posted on Facebook a couple of times about my new “hobby” and was really pleased with the positive response. A few people even stated that they would start picking up trash in their own neighborhoods. The only downside of this has been my new hyper-awareness of trash everywhere.
(and really, people… I think we can all do better in this regard)
It’s especially gratifying that so much good (pretty much all of the above) issued from a crappy event (that being, of course, the death of my vehicle).

I have acquired a bicycle a couple of months ago, which has cut my commute down to somewhere in the ten to fifteen-minute realm. I will probably get another car before too long (I imagine before winter sets in). I will still walk or bike at least some of the time, though. I really think that I would miss it if I didn’t.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hi Everybody

It's been quite some time since I have posted here.
I had been plotting a BIG NEW WEBSITE that would also serve as a platform for my blogging. I have put those plans aside, at least for the short and medium-term.
Expect some new words in this place soon.