Saturday, November 14, 2015

Get Thee Behind Me, Satan

“Be careful, lest in casting out your demons you exorcise the best things in you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Many years ago, I worked for a very small restaurant chain in Florida that was known for offering half-price appetizers during their happy hour. This promotion was loathed by all of the employees and it would attract all of the really cheap and completely broke assholes for miles around and it would basically result in the front of the house staff working twice as hard, for half the money. These entitled motherfuckers would come in, spend their five or ten dollars and they would then proceed to treat you rudely, run your ass off, complain about everything and leave you a shitty tip, if they bothered to tip you at all. It was complete bullshit.

There were always a few gems hidden amongst the throngs of losers that came in for their half-price food; a few decent people that made all of the bullshit worthwhile. On certain nights, we would get a large church crowd in addition to everyone else that would show up for the late night appetizer trough; large and small groups of pleasant and polite folks that were members of a local church; a somewhat strange Christian sect that no one seemed to know much about. All in all, the adults were pretty decent folks who treated you with genuine courtesy, tipped well and were relatively easy to take care of; they just had a few small peculiararities, that's all. Well...

I did make a few observations about those people. I'm not judging mind you, even though we all know damn well that I am, so let's just pretend that I'm not, okay?

There seemed to be some question as to the nature of the religious identity and belief system of these people. Many of my co-workers believed them to be Mennonites, but being familiar with Mennonites and their beliefs and having lived in areas with large Mennonite populations, I can tell you that this just wasn't the case. The men from this church had no facial hair and the women wore no bonnets, whereas Mennonite men grow beards and the women wear a head covering. Mennonites are basically Amish people that choose to live in the modern world.

I never learned the name of the church that they attended, but they would always come in after services, which were always on odd days and at strange times, but it seemed as if their main services would end fairly late in the evening. I guess that everyone worked up quite an appetite, dancing with snakes and speaking in tongues and after the expense of tithing, all they could afford to eat was the shit that we served. They would arrive after ten o'clock and entire families of them would start queuing up at the front door, all wearing their Sunday best; the men and boys dressed in suits, while the girls and women all wore dresses and sported matching beehive hairdos. These were some seriously super stylish dresses. Imagine the Sound of Music seriously super stylish dresses, homespun and everything. It really did look as if the women's clothing was cut from curtains and it sometimes made me wonder if the carpet matched the drapes. Either that, or the damn things were cut from the upholstery of some hideously ugly couch; some castoff relic from a bad 60's acid trip art session,. These were some seriously ugly fucking dresses, let me fucking tell you. Gaudy floral dresses are an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. It was quite a contrast to see the men in their store bought suits compared to the ladies that were stuck wearing curtains and sheets. It seemed as if the men got to ride up in first class, while the women had to travel coach.

Apparently, their church had some mighty strange rules when it came to the respective roles of each sex and to the mixing thereof. I've always thought of those people as being a part of the  Quiverfull movement, where the men rule the roost and the women are completely subservient to their husbands. Stepford women whose assigned roles were evidently that of dutiful wives, nurturing mothers and baby making machines, as the families were all quite large.

All unmarried females over a certain age were completely segregated from the main groups. These spinsters would usually sit together, because an unmarried woman was not allowed to speak to a man unless the man spoke to her first. To me, this seemed more about power and control, rather than traditional gender roles, but what the fuck do I know? I think that any religion that keeps a woman subservient to a man and under his control should cause someone to re-examine their values and beliefs and yet it just doesn't happen. It's amazing how quickly some people will abdicate all responsibility for themselves in order to not have to deal with the more difficult aspects of life, or any part of life, for that matter. People are such willing slaves and happiness is slavery, I guess.

As for the children, the girls were sweet, meek and polite, if dumb, while the boys had to have been among the most obnoxious, ill bred and entitled little shits that I have ever come across. The words "please" and "thank you" never seemed to figure into their vocabularies and the little tyrants would just make demand after demand, trying to run your ass off. Those boys were sadly lacking in social skills, treating everyone that was not a member of their tribe with a smug sense of superiority and moral disdain. Those horrible little heathens certainly could have used a lesson in manners and civility, a lesson involving a belt and an awful lot of humility. Speaking of lessons, the children were all home schooled and it was quite evident that religious indoctrination took precedence over any form of secular education. Basically, these kids were the most ignorant litttle fuckers that I've ever come across. Hell, they made my little bastards seem downright angelic and articulate.

One particularly busy Friday night, we were getting our asses handed to us and I guess that services had ended and church had emptied out; each family making their way over to the restaurant and that half-price food. Thankfully, with the section that I was in that night, I didn't have any tables that could accomodate large parties, so I was saved from having to run my ass off and from having to make nine hundred and forty-three freaking Strawberry Mountain Dews and Mango Fucking Pepsi's. Seriously. Who the fuck drinks shit like that? Worse, what kind of fucking parent lets their kids drink shit like that at eleven o'clock at night? With multiple refills, no less. Even worse, I used to throw in extra shots of sugary syrup just to make the kids even more hyper and to punish the parents, because fuck that and those little bastards drank it up, becoming more and more hyper as time went on. Fuck, even I can't ingest that kind of caffeine and sugar and I live on that shit. It's no wonder that they would spend hours in the parking lot after we closed, letting the kids run around like little maniacs, all hopped up on soda and Jesus.

I only had one table open in my section and the host dropped off a single, older lady in her bright and gaudy finest. She wasn't really older, being somewhat around my age, but her dress, hair and demeanor made her seem about ten years older than she probably was. Plus, I'm old as fuck, so you get what I mean.

I idly admired the print of the curtains that she was wearing and wondered how long ago that particular floral pattern had been hanging in the window of some abandoned home somewhere. As I was about to make my way over to the table and get her drink order (I don't always introduce myself, you don't have a right to know my name and I mostly all of the time wear a fucking name tag, so if you can't fucking read, it's on you, bitch), my manager walked up to me and told me that the woman seated at my table was a regular customer, that she came in by herself every Friday night and always ordered the salmon and that I was to make sure that she was well taken care of and that I needed to make her feel special. I assured my boss that I was up to the task and that I'd take care of it. No worries.

"Steve," she said in a warning tone, "Be nice."

"No worries," I said. "I can pretend to be anything."

I smiled. My boss had a panic stricken expression on her face that I found amusing. I laughed as I turned around and walked off, realized that I was headed the wrong way, turned around again and acted like I knew where I was going.

As I approached the table, I turned on the charm, such as it was, The only thing that this meant was that I was able to hide my normal, "Why don't you go fuck yourself" attitude while I pretended to be a normal and pleasant human being. People actually fall for that shit. People are fucking stupid and easily fooled.

"What the fuck is this?" I remember thinking.

The woman had shielded her face with her hand and averted her gaze, looking away from the rest of the restaurant and staring intently at the menu. I'm shooting in the dark here, but I'm guessing that she did this in order not to inflame the passions in the loins of any nearby men, which is a totally good thing, but she really didn't need to worry about inflaming anything. Trust me. Oh, dear Jesus, trust me.

I actually introduced myself, pretending to be all nice and shit. She fell for it. The moment that I spoke to her, the hand dropped and she turned her face to me. Her master's voice, She introduced herself to me and told me that she came in all of the time. I told her that I noticed that she came in every Friday night (I'd never seen her before) and mentioned that she always got the salmon. She blushed.

"I didn't think that anyone ever noticed me," she said. She was beaming.

Oh, shit. Was she flirting with me? I briefly wondered if there was a possibility of turning her into a pot smoking, alcohol guzzling, gutter slut and stifled an evil cackle that others might have interpreted as a giggle or a laugh. I dialed back the charm a little and got down to business, asking what she'd like to drink. She ordered a "sample" of peach iced tea and a glass of water. I smiled and made my escape.

A sample of peach tea? I call bullshit. She wasn't going to sample the tea and buy one, she just wanted a free drink and this was all about getting something for free, but whatthefuckever and I went off to get the drinks. Every motherfucker wants shit for free.

I returned to the table with her drinks and she spoke to me some more, craving conversation and flirting awkwardly. Most of what she had to say centered around how much she loved our salmon and the artichoke spread that it was prepared with, but then she complained that the salmon was too dry on her last visit and asked me to make sure that it was prepared properly. I apologized for the poor quality of our food and joked about having been fishing that morning and that the salmon was nice and fresh, which it certainly never was. Surprisingly, she ordered the salmon.

I excused myself and headed over to the computer to place her order and I saw that my boss was standing there, waiting for me. I quickly wondered what I was in trouble for and how I was going to spin it, but I needn't have worried.

"You sure were there a long time," boss lady said. "I was starting to wonder if you were going to convert. What the hell were you talking to her about?"

"She was complaining about the salmon that she had last week. She said the fish was drier than her snatch, but she sure does love that artichoke spread. I was thinking about recreating the sex scene from Hot Shots with her."

It's kind of hard to describe the look on my manager's face at that moment. Her face had turned kind of reddish purple, she seemed to be having difficulty speaking and she also seemed to be on the verge of having a stroke or a seizure or something.

"Calm down," I said, "I'm just fucking with you, but she did say it was too dry. The salmon, I mean, not her snatch, although I'm sure it's like Death Valley in there."

The look of relief on her face was palpable, but then she laughed.

"There's really something wrong with you," she said.

"Yeah, no shit. There's really something wrong with you if you've just now figured that out," I replied. I smiled.

She let out a nervous little laugh, turned and quickly walked away. People do that a lot when I smile; I've never understood why.

I finished placing the order and I went off to do some waiter shit, prostituting myself for a few measly dollars here and there, when I noticed that my boss was visiting the chuch lady at her table and she was trapped in conversation. I smirked and kept on waitering.

When the salmon was ready, I brought it to the table, where the church lady was busily carving up a very large Portabella mushromm cap that was overflowing with artichoke spread. It looked disgusting.

"That looks good," I lied. "Where did that come from?"

"Your manager brought it to me," the church lady said. She was smiling from ear to ear. She suddenly picked up the plate and fast as a whip, she thrust it at me. I involuntarily took a step back, nearly jumping out of my skin.

"It's too much for me," she said. "Share it with me."


Where's Sexual Harassment Panda when you really need him?

I thanked her for her kind offer, but went on to explain that I couldn't, that I had Celiac Disease and that I couldn't eat anything with wheat or gluten and that I avoided eating in the restaurant, because it always made me sick.

And that's when it happened, In a flash, she dropped the plate with the mushroom cap and it clattered on the table and her hand shot out, palm first and stopped in front of my stomach and and in a clear, shrill voice, she shouted to the heavens.

"Dear Lord Jesus, cast those demons out of this poor man and heal him in your name, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior."

Wait. What? What the fuck just happened?

Holy fucking shit, did she really just try to cast out my demons? Get. The. Fuck. Out. This couldn't be fucking happening. Didn't this crazy bitch know who she was dealing with? Satan studied under ME, fer fuck's sake.

I was completely taken aback; stunned. I didn't know what to say. Had she really cast out my demons? Would the voices stop? I hoped not, they had some really cool fucking ideas. If my demons were gone, I wouldn't have any friends. What the fuck? Who was I supposed to snuggle with? I wanted to fucking cry. I might have. Who knows? I'm a sensitive motherfucker.

As an atheist, I was very offended. Who did this woman think she was, to presume that she could just force her religion upon me and pray over me? I felt preyed upon.

A silence had descended over my part of the dining room; people were staring. They were staring at me. I was fucking mortified, let me tell you. I had just been "faith healed" in front of an entire restaurant. In my mind, I stabbed the bitch in the eye with a fork, but in reality, I smiled at that fucking lunatic and I graciously thanked her for her efforts. And here you fuckers thought that I didn't have any class. I don't, really, but I can fake it when necessary. Kind of like what women do to me when we have sex and we both pretend that she had a good time.

She looked up at me and she said, "What you really need is to come home to a good woman and a home cooked meal every night."

The fuck I did. Make me a sandwich and get the fuck out, maybe, but this was almost like a fucking marriage proposal.

I made my escape from the table and avoided her until it was time to clear the table and present the check. Unfortunately, she decided to stay and have dessert. I casually mentioned that there was a very nice Baskin & Robins down the street, but I don't think that she got that ever so subtle hint. Shame.

The final blow came when I dropped off the check; that was when she invited me to go to church with her, that brazen hussy. Like on a date, but to church. And then what? Half-price appetizers and a hummer in the back seat? Let me think about that for a second. Nightmarish visions of gaudy floral print, homespun lingerie floated through my head. I shivered. I thought about that whole gutter slut thing again and dismissed it as a thoroughy bad idea, which was pretty surprising, because I'm usually all about bad decisions, but no. Hell no. No fucking way. I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a fork.

I politely declined, explaining that I worked two jobs and seven days a week. She looked as if I'd just crushed all of her hopes and dreams and that, at least really brightened my spirits.

I didn't say another word, I just ran like hell, only coming back to pick up payment. I was strictly business, saying as little as possible.

Later on, my manager asked me how things went and I told her what happened. She got that panicked and I'm about to have a fucking stroke look on her face again and she asked me what I did. I told her that I was totally cool about it and I think her blood pressure went down several hundred points. I didn't mention that whole eye stabbing thing with the fork. Some things are best left unspoken.

If you believe, that's fine with me, I respect that and you're welcome to believe as you like, but your rights end where mine begin and I expect you to have the same respect for my beliefs and rights as I do for yours. While prayer might make you feel better, it really doesn't do anything for me and it's unfair of anyone, not to mention unseemly, to force their belief system upon someone else, no matter how good their intentions may be. I'm proud of my penis, but I don't show it off and try to shove it down everyone else's throat, even if I do think the whole world can suck my dick. Think about that.

If you enjoyed this rant, give this one a chance:

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

All Along the Watchtower

When I was a teenager, I ran with a pretty rough crowd; I was a rocker and a stoner who loved to chase girls and mastermind mischief. Our group never had anything in the way of a leader, but some of us could always be counted on to come up with brilliant ideas to occupy our time. At least they seemed like brilliant ideas at the time, but that's probably because we were young and stupid. Seriously stupid. Most of these brilliant ideas seemed to center around a common theme like, "Hey, let's go find some pussy," or "Hey, let's get fucked up," both of which are, of course, absolutely brilliant ideas, but my personal favorite one was, "Hey, let's get fucked up and find some pussy!"  Unfortunately, the reality of it was that we would rarely find any girls or only some of us did and if you didn't get a girl, you were stuck going Han Solo, but even if we did or we didn't get a girl, you could always count on getting wasted. Some things are just reliable like that and just as reliably, I still can't get a girl...

Occasionally, I would put forth some sort of minimal thought and effort into my critical thinking and come up with some brilliant ideas of my own; a master plan, if you will. Let me give you a tiny tidbit of advice here. If you ever hear me say the words, "I have a plan," run. Just fucking run. Don't look back, just keep running. Trust me, it's for the best, not to mention your own safety. More importantly, if my mention of said plan is followed by the words, "What could possibly go wrong?" forget running, you should probably Duck and Cover.

On second thought, you should probably just go ahead and bend over, stick your head between your legs and kiss your sweet fucking ass goodbye. Yeah, it's that bad.

It was late one Halloween night, when I was a wee lad of just sixteen, or so. We'd been busy scaring trick or treaters, punting pumpkins and festively decorating homes with eggs and toilet paper tinsel ('twas the season and all that shit). The hour had grown late, the streets were deserted and the town was dark, One of us had a brilliant idea which had something to do with getting wasted (it was a pretty popular theme). We had managed to accumulate mass quantities of beer, several bottles of Jack Daniels and a large bag of some very low quality weed. We were drunk, stoned, bored and stupid; a recipe for disaster if ever there was one. Idle hands and minds being the devil's playground and all that shit. We had the will and the means, what we didn't have was common sense and a place to chill. We were trying to figure out where we could go to guzzle down our favorite alcoholic beverages and smoke our wacky weed unmolested. 

There were eight of us, my car and a trunkful of party favors.

That was when it happened; like a bolt out of the blue, I had a sudden epiphany. It seemed as if the heavens opened up and a solitary moonbeam shone upon me like a halo. It was like a lightbulb turning on over my head' Unfortunately, the lightbulb popped and no one noticed.

"Let's go to the water tower," I blurted out.

"And do what?" my friend Dave asked.

"Climb it, dipshit," I responded. "Climb that bitch and get fucked up."

Heads nodded and glory was imagined in the alcoholic fog of our underperforming brains. Everyone agreed that it was indeed a brilliant idea. I honestly believe that we were so messed up that if I had suggested playing tag in traffic, everyone would have agreed that it was a brilliant idea too. Morons. They had the power, they could have stopped the insanity at any time, but nooooo... they just had to listen to me. Who in their right mind listens to me? Sweet jumping baby Jesus.

Dave called shotgun, I closed the trunk and we all piled into my car. I miss that car, it was such a sweet ride. A 1972 LeMans with a big ass 350 and it was cherry as shit.

Dave, Doug and I were in the front seat and when I turned my head, I saw the other five guys were crammed into the back seat like some sort of sausage factory. If that last sentence didn't contain any overtly homoerotic overtones, I don't know what the hell would, but it just wasn't like that, okay? Fuck. I'll tell you when to put your mind in the gutter and it's not going to be in this story.

I cranked up the stereo and we peeled out of the parking lot; nitwits on wheels. It took maybe three minutes of breaking various traffic laws and possibly a misdemeanor or two as we weaved our way to our destination. Miraculously, we arrived at our destination unscathed and without harming anyone else. Property damage was pretty minimal, depending upon your definition of minimal. Your definition, mine and that of law enforcement may tend to differ somewhat. Remember kids, it's only illegal if you get caught.

I hopped out of the car and I watched as the sausage unlinked itself from the back seat and exited the vehicle. Yeah, I know that was a really bad pun. They can't be fucking zingers every fucking time. Work with me here, people.

I walked around to the back of the car and I popped the trunk. I turned around to see all of my friends staring up at the water tower with their mouths hanging open. Idiots. This is why I'm the evil genius.

"Are we really going to climb that?" Doug asked.

"Of course we are,"  I answered.

"B-but what if someone falls or gets hurt?" he stammered.

I looked at Doug as if he were a particularly slow member of Congress and I said, "D-don't be such a pussy. We're going to climb it, we're going to hang out and we're going to get wasted. Grab some beer and get going."

"How are we supposed to get the beer up there?" Dave asked me.

Fucking assholes and their obvious asshole questions get obvious answers from other fucking assholes. Now say that shit three times fast.

"We're going to carry it. How the fuck did you think we we're going to get it up there? It's not like your mom's here and we could use her pussy. Hell, we'd even have room to spare."

"Fuck you, dickhead," Dave shot back.

A witty retort if ever I've heard one. The sting of butthurt was strong in his tone.

"What I meant was," he contined, "How are we supposed to carry everything up there? I know we have to carry it up there, I'm not fucking stupid."

"Yes, you are," I told him. "You're just in denial about it."

Sometimes, it's tough being an evil genius. Like a demented fucking Einstein on meth or crack, or meth and crack, or crack, meth and just a little bit of heroin thrown into the mix for fun (whatthefuckever, you get the picture), I laid out my carefully crafted plan.

"I have a backpack and a gym bag in my car. We can fill them both up with beer. We can stuff more bottles in our pockets, along with the booze and we can just climb on up."

Everyone agreed that it was a brilliant idea and it was. That's why I'm the fucking mastermind, bitches.

We packed up the beer and I went to lift the backpack. Holy shit, it was heavy, but I didn't dare look like a wuss; the pack would atack any weakness. I picked up the backpack and put it on my shoulders, adjusting the straps. The bottles of beer clinked together, making a cheerful little sound. I liked that sound, but I'm a very easily amused idiot.

I was just about to start climbing the ladder when Dave's voice stopped me.

"Wait," he said, "How am I supposed to carry this gym bag up there? I can't climb the ladder with just one hand."

I turned around and I looked at Dave as if he were something that I had just scraped off of the bottom of my shoe.

"Do I have to think of everything for you?" I asked him. "Take off your belt and loop it through the handles of the gym bag, Buckle it up and wrap it around your neck while you're climbing up. That should solve everything."

"I can't do that." Dave squealed like a little girl. "I'll break my neck."

"I know," I said and then I smiled.

I'm such a dick.

"Look, dude. Throw the belt over your shoulder and climb up. The weight will be fine and you shouldn't have any problems."

And there you have it, yet another brilliant idea from yours truly. It's not always easy being an evil genius. It's sort of like a curse, really, You know, like the kind of curse that a really pissed off, batshit crazy Gypsy lady would put on you. I did that once, you know. I actually pissed off and I mean really pissed off, a batshit crazy old Gypsy woman. She actually cursed me, too. I laughed at her. I thought she was going to have a stroke. She was wild-eyed and the spittle was flying. Her voice grew louder and more shrill as she continued to curse me and all my future generations (sorry, boys). Or, maybe she was just asking me if I liked pizza. I don't know, I couldn't understand a single fucking word she said. I'll tell you this, though, I'm still here and she's long dead. Who's the one that's laughing now, bitch? And I'll still be laughing, all the way to Hell.


Gypsies, tramps and thieves, At least that's what all the people in the town would call them.

Look, this was a fairly simple and easy to accomplish plan. It only had two steps.

Step 1 - Climb the water tower.

Step 2- Get wasted.

How fucking hard could it be? Why did these knuckleheads have to keep trying to screw up the execution of my painstakingly crafted master plan?

I looked up at the water tower. The top of it seemed to be a long, long way off. I took a deep breath, released a long sigh and I started to climb the ladder. The backpack full of beer pulled at my shoulders, weighing me down and making my climb an arduous one, but I was determined to reach the top and I was damn sure going to do it. I can be one stubborn son of a bitch when the mood strikes me.

We were all strangely quiet as we started our ascent, but we were soon back to our normal rapport of insults and stories about the dubious virtue of our mothers. I was about halfway up when I heard a shouted, "Oh, fuck!" followed by a loud crash. The sound of breaking glass shattered the stillness of the night.

"I dropped the beer," Dave yelled.

Well, no shit, Sherlock. Thank you, Captain Fucking Obvious.

"It slipped. It wasn't my fault."

The fuck it wasn't. Everyone yelled obscenities at Dave, but we continued our climb. By my reckoning, we still had well over a case of beer with us, plus the whiskey and the weed, It would have to do. I told everyone to be quiet and to stop making so much noise. I hoped that no one had heard us and called the cops. We'd be shit out of luck and trapped if they showed up.

After what seemed like forever, I made it to the top, which was a good thing because my arms felt so numb, I thought I was going to fall off. I pushed open the grate and I climbed onto the catwalk, with the other guys following shortly thereafter. It had been a hell of a climb and my arms hurt like a bitch, but I acted as is it had been nothing. I cracked open a beer and chugged it down. Nectar of the gods. I think it was Bud, or Mickey's, or some other nasty shit like that. It's not my fault; I didn't know better, I was young and stupid. Now, I'm older and just as stupid, if not more, but at least I know what good beer is and it sure as shit wasn't the swill that we drank that night or any other, to be honest. You know what, though? It worked; it did the trick, it brought the buzz and in the end, that was all that really mattered. Besides, without any girls around, there was no need to go all out and spend our beer money on fancy pants high-brow crap like wine coolers or Boone's Farm Berry Hill. Sometimes, quantity has a quality all its own.

We looked out over the town and beyond, to the bay; it was a beautiful sight and then it was over and done. Time to party.

We had just finished our first round of beer when one of the guys lost his fucking mind and chucked his empty bottle over the railing, where it then followed the laws of gravity by landing below in an explosion of glass. This was quickly followed by several more bottles and subsequent explosions before I was able to put a halt to this particular brand of madness.

"Stop that shit, you fucking imbeciles!" I hissed "People will hear it, if they haven't already, get pissed off, if they aren't already and call the fucking cops, if they haven't already. I really don't feel like getting busted right now, so please stop throwing the bottles and calling attention to us, you stupid fucks,"

Sometimes, it's like I'm The Brain and everyone else around me is a fucking Pinky.

It seems that in the land of the fuckheads, any imbecile can be king. You know what? It's good to be king.

We drank and we smoked, we laughed and we joked; trading gossip and insults and telling stories about all of the girls that we weren't having sex with. We had a really great time for all of about the next twenty minutes, or so.

That's when the first cop showed up. We watched as he got out of his car and looked up at us. He shook his head, walked back to his car, turned his spotlight on and shined the light at us. The light was blinding.

Personally, I thought it was pretty rude. Fucking inconsiderate, if you ask me.

The cop looked back up at us and then he yelled, "What in the hell are you boys doing up there? Get your asses down here, right now!"

Crickets. We didn't say a word.

"I ain't fuckin' wit' you boys," the cop yelled. "I said to get down here right now and I meant every goddamn word."

"No! Fuck you!" my buddy Mike yelled back. "I ain't coming down until I finish my beer."

You know, that might not have been the best thing for him to say, you know, given our current situation and all.

The cop yelled again, "I'm gonna' kick yer ass when I get my hands on you, boy,"

The cop then picked up his radio and called in the situation just as a second squad car pulled up. About a minute later, they were joined by a supervisor,

We were pretty fucked.

Whose brilliant fucking idea was this, anyway? It really wasn't my idea that was at fault, though, it was the  fault of the idiots who botched the execution of my perfect plan that were at fault. So.... not it.

We quietly discussed our options and we didn't have too many. Okay, we only had one. We were trapped and we knew it, but we didnt think that the cops would climb the water tower to come after us. In for a penny, in for a pound, we decide to stay up there and party until we finished off all of our consumables. Since we were getting busted, we might as well go out with a bang and Fuck The Police! Damn, I'm so fucking gangsta.

Two more spotlights were now trained on us, joining the first. More squad cars arrived. The shit that we were in was getting deeper by the moment.

The police continued to order us to come down and we continued to ignore them. We kept our eyes on the prize, which was becoming incoherently intoxicated and we were winning. Burnouts 1, Cops 0. We kept drinking our beer and passing the bottle of Jack Daniels back and forth, while snoking bowl after bowl of whatever that nasty shit was that was trying to pass itself off as marijuana.

I should have expected it, but I wasn't all that long before empty bottles started sailing over the railing again. For some reason, that seemed to really get the cops all agitated and shit. We heard the squelch of a PA.

"You boys probably think that you're pretty funny right about now and y'all probably think that you're pretty screwed. Let's all be reasonable here. You'd best do the smart thing. the wise thing and climb on down, right now. We'll get this all sorted out and talk it over some. Y'all be home before the night is over. Do the right thing, fellas and come on down." said the artificially amplified Voice of Reason and Authority.

This completely reasonable offer was met with a ragged chorus of, "Fuck yous." I must confess that the harmonizing wasn't all that it could have been, but we were a tad tipsy, so I blame the alcohol for our lackluster acapella performance.

Doug suddenly stood up, said, "I have to pee," walked over to the railing, whipped it out and just let it fly. Literally. Doug was treating the cops to a golden shower. 

I really hoped that the police appreciated a little kink. I mean, they're cops, after all and what cop doesn't appreciate a little kink? Pleas, pleas and please, do not leave any stories about kinky cops in the comments section. On second thought, if you have kinky cop stories, go ahead and leave them in the comments section. I really want to read that shit. Btw, I didn't misspell please, it's pleas, as in pleading or begging, so who's smirking now, you smug motherfucker?

Doug was pissing on the cops. Holy fuck! We were doomed. We were fucked. We were doomfucked. I couldn't go to jail, I was way too pretty for prison. It was weird, but a strange sort of calm descended over us and one by one we all stood up and walked over to the railing, where we all joined Doug in showing our appreciation for the boys in blue. Our eight gun salute did not go unnoticed. We watched and laughed as the cops scattered like cockroaches, panicking and running about. You'd have thought we were hitting them with mortars, for fuck's sake.

We didn't actually hit any of the cops, but we did clean the dust off of a couple of their cruisers. Needless to say, they weren't very appreciative of our efforts. Honestly, common courtesy just seems to have gone by the wayside. We then hunkered back down, ignoring the police and their blah, blah, blah chatter over the PA. We finished off the alcohol and the pot, talking about what we were going to do once we got out of jail and wondering if we would be able to escape from the country before our parents could catch us and kill us. Our prospects weren't looking very good. We knew we'd have to come down eventually and as soon as we sobered up enough, we would make the long climb down to face the axeman. Do be careful with that axe, Eugene.

After we had sobered up some, we did manage to climb back down without losing anyone; I wasn't able to get close enough to my target, which is a good thing. I guess. Que sera, sera.

When we hit the ground, the cops roughed us up a little bit, before tossing us into squad cars and taking us down to the police station. We weren't handcuffed or anything, just thrown into the back of the police cars with a 'thump'. 


"Watch your head."

When we arrived at the police station, we were bitched at, yelled at, screamed at (spittle flying from the mouth and everything) and alternately, we were pushed, shoved, tripped, slapped and smacked upside our respective heads. I remember a couple of those hits had me seeing stars. Talk about a fucking buzzkill.

In the end, nothing serious happened to us. The police called our parents and allowed them to decide our fate, They did this with a particular relish in my case, as most of the police officers involved knew my father personally and they knew exactly what he would do to me, once I was released. I would have been safer in jail. The police knew as well as I did that my father would be angry that I had embarassed my family and pissed off the cops. He thanked the officers for their discretion and shook hands with each of them, assuring them that I would get what was coming to me. The cops laughed and told me to have a good time when I got home. Fuckers.

And it really sucked when I got home. My father kicked my ass ten ways from Sunday and my mother cheered him on, wading in every now and then to smack me with her wooden spoon. If you're Italian, you know exactly what I'm talking about. They're a staple in every Italian household except mine, I hate the fucking things. I got to play with one of those more than any other toy during my childhood. The fun factor really sucks.

At the end of the day, I considered it a learning experience; indeed, I learned a valuable lesson, that night.

Always have an escape route.

Thanks for stopping by. If you enjoyed this story, please check out this one:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Every Picture Tells A Story

Some truths are just unequivocal.

A child will love their parents unconditionally, even if that love isn't returned. Even when that child is mocked and ridiculed, or told that they're less than nothing and worthless. The words we use; the things we say. The words of a parent hold such great power and great power must be brandished with great care.

My parents were firm believers in the art of ridicule and they used it to great effect. To them, I was stupid, I was never good enough, I was weak and I would never amount to anything.

Well, I was a straight A student all through school, with a steady 4.0 gpa, I was considered a leader at school (one of them, anyway), I was a big kid and I excelled at sports such as football, track, basketball and soccer. I also got into a lot of fights, I won the majority of them, mostly through luck and picking my battles wisely. I haven't really amounted to a whole hell of a lot, though, but hey, three out of four ain't bad. If it counts for anything, I've got three amazing children. I'm not convinced that I deserve points for my ability to procreate, though.

Still, no matter what I did, no matter what I accomplished, medals, trophies or scholastic excellence and recognition, nothing that I did was ever good enough for them. Nothing. I was shy and withdrawn as a child; socially awkward, as children with overbearing parents usually are.

After a while, you get used to it. After a while, you start to believe it. It's easier that way, it hurts less. Holding on to that belief scars your heart and your mind; yes, you get used to it, but you never get over it. It takes a toll and you either give in completely or you learn to stand up and fight for yourself. Thankfully, in later years, I found the courage to do the latter.

Outwardly my family was the perfect Potemkin village, but behind the facade that was presented to the world was a family that was torn apart by strife and dominated by cruelty; mental, emotional and physical cruelty. I'm not going to catalog a history of abuse, nor am I looking for any sympathy, I just wanted to give you a little bit of history about two of the people who will end up being featured in quite a few of my stories.

When I was eight years old, my parents took me on a two week long Caribbean cruise for Christmas and New Year's. I had a great time, even though they had mostly abandoned me during the trip and I was left to my own devices for the majority of the cruise. I was only expected to take meals with my parents; an accessory. Other than that, I didn't see them much. It was as if I were invisible.

During the course of the cruise there were many activities planned for the children and we were kept occupied and out of the way for some of the time. The activities director had scheduled a talent show for the kids and I immediately signed up and began working on a comedy routine. I begged my parents to come, I begged them to watch my performance. I so very desperately wanted them to be proud of me. They agreed to come. I was so excited.

I worked on my act all week long, rehearsing over and over. I knew my routine by heart and I was ready to go. The big night came and I waited backstage, bouncing up and down with excitement, waiting for my turn to come. I peeked through the curtain, scanning the audience, trying to spot my parents, but I couldn't find them; the only thing I saw were a bunch of parents, families and a scattering of old people that had nothing better to do. I peeked through the curtain again,but I still couldn't see them, but I knew they were out there, somewhere and I so very desperately wanted to make them proud of me. My name was announced and I walked onstage to polite applause. I tried to look for my parents once more, but I was blinded by the glare of the lights. I stood there in my cheesy clown makeup and performed my little act, telling a handful of lame jokes that elicited polite laughter, followed up by something that was much more risque; a little story of how I had been watching a cartoon about car racing and had seen a banner that read 'Grand Prix', Well, when I asked my mother what a Grand Pricks was, my horrified mother grabbed me by the ear and dragged me to the bathroom where she proceeded to wash my mouth out with soap over a slight mispronunciation of  an innocent French word. The audience roared with laughter and gave me a nice round of applause. My turn was over and it was time for the next kid to perform. As I walked offstage, I was congratulated by the other kids and and some of the cruise ship staff. I was stoked, as I walked out into the audience, searching for my parents. I walked up and down the aisles looking for them, but didn't see them anywhere. Thinking I must have missed them, I checked again, stopping at each row and checking carefully. Nothing. Frustrated, I checked one more time and then I gave up. I went over to sit with the other children whose parents hadn't bothered to show up.

A few other children performed. Some tried to sing and others tried to dance; some were just down right strange. The last act finished and the emcee took to the stage to announce whom the "judges" had chosen to be the winners of the talent show. The third place winner was announced and then the second place winner. The buildup of tension that followed was incredible and I thought that my heart was going to explode, because I had been holding my breath for so long.

The first place winner was announced.

It took me a moment to realize that they had called my name. I had won! I had really won! I couldn't believe it; it wasn't possible. My parents would be so proud of me when I told them that I won. I stood stunned for a moment and then one of the other kids pushed me forward, back toward the stage to accept my award and prize.

My smile was ear to ear.

The emcee shook my hand, and the audience applauded once more as he handed me a blue ribbon and a small, gift wrapped box. I shyly thanked everyone and practically ran offstage and out of the theater. I stopped in the hallway outside of the theater and I looked at the box. I shredded the gift wrap in my haste to open it and see my prize. I looked at my treasure and to my delight, it was an AGFA ISO - PAC 126 camera and two film cartridges.

It was perfect and something that I really wanted. I loved looking at great photography and now I would be able to create my own.

I ran off in search of my parents, with the voices of various crew members yelling at me to slow down, receding in the distance.

I caught up to my parents in the casino, where they had been since shortly after dinner. My mother looked at me, aghast. She stood there in her finest dress, baubles and fur, while I dared to show up and embarass her because I was covered in clown makeup. I tried to tell her about the talent show, but she would have none of it, cutting me off and sending me back to my stateroom to shower and get ready for bed. I was crushed, but did as I was ordered. You didn't cross my mother; not if you knew what was good for you.

The next morning, the ship docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico and my parents went ashore right after breakfast. I went down to the duty free shop and bought two more rolls of film and then I went ashore, as well. There was a really cool old fort that I wanted to see and I would be able to try out my new camera. I walked to the fort and I started taking pictures of everything. I remember that the view from the top of the wall was inspiring and it filled my little heart with joy. I had a great time, even if I was by myself and I used up all of my film.

It was starting to get late and I knew that I couldn't be too long, because the ship was pulling out around dinnertime. I asked an adult for the time and it was much later than I thought. There was no way that I could walk back to the ship in time and it was going to leave without me. My parents were going to kill me. They had already warned me about what would happen if I missed the ship and I really didn't want to endure the punishments that they had promised would await me, because if I understood them correctly, Satan would be building an entire new circle of Hell, just for me. I ran out the front of the fort and I saw that there was a taxi stand outside. I had money, so at least that wasn't an issue. I ran up to the first cab and I asked the driver how much it would cost to take me down to the harbor. He told me that it would cost me five dollars. I had two. Dejected, I turned around and started to walk away, but he called me back and asked me which ship I needed to get to. I told him and he said that it was leaving soon. I nodded and he told me to hurry up and get into the cab; he would take me to the ship, but we had to hurry. I jumped in the front seat and we took off. He asked me how much money I had and I told him two dollars. He nodded and said that would be enough. He told me that he had a son about my age and that if his son ever needed a little help, he hoped that someone would show him kindness. That thought has always stayed with me.

He drove as quickly as he dared, ignoring traffic laws and one way streets, while dodging chickens and pedestrians. Unfortunately, traffic came to a grinding halt, about two blocks from the harbor.

"Go, amigo, go!" shouted the taxi driver. "Run, amigo! You should make it there, just in time."

I paid the driver his money and thanked him for his kindness as I darted out of the door and started sprinting for the pier and the ship, weaving in and out of the crowds and evading more than a few startled goats. I was out of breath when I arrived at the gangplank, and luckily, just as they were about to pull it up and make way. I had barely made it, but I'd get to live at least another day and thankfully, my parents would never find out and I wouldn't be punished for almost missing the boat.

I ran back to my stateroom, accompanied by a chorus of "Slow downs!" Boy, the crew sure did like to yell a lot. I arrived at my room, hopped in the shower and got dressed for dinner. We had been invited to eat at the captain's table and I knew to keep my mouth shut and be on my best behavior.. My parents came to collect me, knocked on the door and came into the cabin. My mother straightened my bow tie and fixed my tuxedo, making certain that I looked presentable, but then she noticed the camera that was sitting on my bunk.

"What's that?" she asked, "And where did you get it?"

I started to explain about the talent contest, but my mother cut me off once more.

"Where did you take this from?" she demanded.

I was confused.

"I didn't take it from anywhere," I explained. "I won it in the talent contest that you promised that you were going to come to!"

My accusation hung in the air, an almost physical presence.

"Shut your damn mouth and get your ass to dinner," my father told me in a cold and warning tone.

"Yes, sir," I replied and I marched out the door and down the hall.

We rode the elevator in silence. Other than being congratulated by the captain for winning the talent show, dinner for me was nothing but silence. I tuned out the adults and their conversation. The waiter took pity on me and hooked me up with some extra desserts.

After dinner, I went and did the planned activities and it was movie night for the kids. I was told to go to bed right after the movie, but I snuck out and went to the casino to play on the slot machines. I won a few dollars and left, my pockets full of quarters. I went back to my cabin and went to bed.

Well, I guess that my parents must have eventually felt a little guilty over the whole talent show thing and the accusations over the camera and they tried to buy their way out of it as they always did, by throwing money at the problem, thinking that would make things better. They accomplished this by taking me back to the duty free shop and buying me twelve rolls of film, explaining to me that I could shoot all of the pictures that I wanted, but that they would only pay for one roll a month to be developed. They asked me if I understood and I said yes.

That night was New Year's Eve and I was allowed to stay up late, a long as I was with the other children and participating in the planned activities for kids. We ran around, played games and watched movies; it was a lot of fun, but the night, like all good things, came to an end. There wasn't much time left on the cruise and the ship was headed back to Miami. I snapped a few more pictures, but not all that many. I wanted to save the rest of my film for when I got home.

A few days after we arrived home, I was up with the sunrise. I grabbed my camera and hopped on my bike and rode down to the Intracoastal Waterway, just a few blocks behind our house. There were scattered storm clouds and a brilliant sunrise, a radiant backdrop to a stand of hibiscus that was in bloom. It was perfect. I raised my camera and I snapped away, frame after frame. It was a high that I just can't give words to; it was the beginning of my love affair with photography.

I finished off my roll of film and I headed home, ready to run down to the drug store and drop off the film for processing. I burst through the door of the house, a blur of energy and loudly informed the house that I was ready to drop off my film. The only problem with that was that I was the only one home. According to the note that I found, my parents had gone to breakfast and then they would be taking the boat out. I made myself a bowl of cereal and sat down to watch Saturday morning cartoons. After the cartoons were over, I packed myself a sandwich and spent the rest of the day fishing with some friends, topped off with a swim in the pool when I got back home.

The next day, my father and I dropped the film off at the pharmacy and the clerk told us that it would take at least one week to process the film, possibly two. They did offer a twenty-four hour service, but my father refused to pay the extra money for it.

Even though I knew it was going to be at least a week before I saw my photographs, that didn't keep me from stopping at the pharmacy every day, on my way home from school and harassing whichever unlucky soul happened to be behind the counter that day. Rather than be annoyed by my exuberance, the clerks were wonderful and they humored me by checking the incoming orders, every day. Being avid amateur photographers themselves, they also encouraged me and gave me photography tips.

After a full year of seven whole days of losing my eight year old mind with practiced impatience, my father and I went back to the pharmacy to see if the film had come in and as luck would have it, the film had just arrived.

The clerk handed me the envelope, but my father snatched it out of her hand and tore it open straight away.

"I need to make sure that they're the right pictures," my father said. It wouldn't be the first time they've gone and mixed things up."

My father had never seen my photographs. How was he supposed to know if they were the right ones or not? I was confused.''

"Where's the kid's pictures?" my father demanded. "These aren't the kids pictures. Where are his pictures?"

What? Not my pictures? It couldn't be! Then again, how could he know?

"Let me see," I said as I pulled at the envelope in my father's hand and it fell, the photographs scattering across the floor.

My father cuffed me hard, on the side of my head. I saw stars.

"Pick that crap up," he said and then he turned back to the clerk and demanded once more, "Where are his pictures?"

The clerk started to stammer out an apology while I knelt down to pick up the photographs from the floor. I recognized the images instantly; they were the ones that I had taken.

"Dad," I said.

He ignored me and glared at the clerk. She looked terrified.

"Dad." I said again, a bit louder.

He shifted his gaze and that angry glare settled on me. It was terrifying. I knew there was an explosion of violence that was close to being released upon me. I had to watch my step.

"Don't interrupt me again, if you know what's good for you."

I was scared, but I stood my ground.

"Dad," I said once more, quite loudly. "It's okay, these are the pictures that I took. These are the right ones."

"You didn't take those pictures. Don't you lie to me, you little shit," my father accused.

"I'm not lying. I took those; they're mine."

By this time, quite a few people had stopped to watch what was going on and the store manager was approaching the counter. My father was aware of their scrutiny, but I think that only made him angrier. The manager walked up to my father and asked if there was something that he could help my father with.

"You people messed up and gave my kid the wrong pictures. I'm not paying for these," my father said. The anger was evident in his voice and the set of his jaw.

"Sir," the manager replied, "Your son claims that the photographs in question are indeed his and in light of that claim, I'm afraid that I must insist that you do indeed pay for the photographs."

My father gave me a look that chilled the blood in my veins. I knew that look all too well; I had pushed my father too far and I knew that once we got home, things weren't going to be pleasant for me. I didn't care. I took those photos; they were mine and nothing was going to take them away from me. Unfortunately, I always seem  to pick the wrong time to be more brave than smart, After all, discretion truly is the better part of valor.

My father was silent, never a good sign, as he reached into his wallet and grudgingly paid for the photographs. He scooped them out of my hand and put them back into the envelope that they came in, turned, grabbed me by the neck and pushed me out the door, face first. I can still hear the smack that my face made as it hit the cool glass of the door. With his meaty paw on the back of my neck, my father guided me to the car, opened the door and threw me in like a sack of potatoes. I knew I was really in for it, this time. You could see my father's anger in the firm set of his jaw; you could see his rage in the pulsing of the vein in his neck. I was dead meat and I knew it.

My father and I drove home in silence. Before the car had even come to a stop in the driveway, I had bolted out the door and headed for safety. My father wouldn't chase me, I was much faster than he was and we both knew it. I was in the clear, for now, but I'd have to go home at some point. It wasn't an escape by any means, more like a stay of execution.

After a few hours of hiding out at a friend's house, I'd hoped that my father might have calmed down a bit and I headed home, mostly because it was almot dinner time and I was getting hungry.

Big mistake.

Moments after I walked in the door, my father grabbed me by the arm and spun me around until I faced him and he started yelling at me, calling me a liar and informing me that I was going to get what I deserved as he started taking off his belt.

The next part wasn't very much fun.

My mother watched.

And smirked.

When my father was finished with me, I could barely stand. My mother broke her silence and told me that I was to apologize to my father for embarassing him, I was to admit that I did not take the photographs and that I would have to pay for the film processing, because I had lied about taking the photos in the first place. I might have been able to stomach all of that, but there were two more things; the photographs would be destroyed and my camera would be taken away. That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I refused. I wasn't going to apologize for anything; I took those photographs, they were mine and I wasn't going to give up without a fight. I tried to explain.

Bad move.

My mother started screaming at me as my father lashed out again, this time with his fists. I was given another chance to recant and once again, I refused. My mother then invoked her favorite puishment and I was locked in the closet. I can't even begin to tell you how much I hated that. As I stood there, in that pitch black closet, shaking with fear, frustration and rage, my heart shattered into a million pieces.  That was the moment when I lost all respect, faith and confidence in my parents; our relationship had fundamentally changed

After my release from the closet, my parents followed through on their threats. Over the next few days my camera was taken away, I was forced to pay for the film processing and I was told that the photographs were destroyed. I never apologized. After a few more days, things went back to normal and my parents shifted their attention back to themselves, once more. Eventually, my camera was returned. My parents may have decided to forget all about it, but I never did. Memories can smolder.

Twenty-eight years later...

In the summer of 2001, my ex-wife Medusa and I threw our infant son in the car and drove up to Atlantic City, NJ, to visit my mother for the weekend. My father had passed away in 1986 and not too long after that I became estranged from my family for over a decade, only reconciling with them shortly before my marriage and at my ex-wife's urging. We had a rather pleasant visit that weekend; my mother was head over heels in love with her grandson, who was named after her husband. My son had a very soothing effect on my mother; he kept her calm and rational, which was a good thing. Trust me on this.

We were all sitting in my mother's living room, cooling off, after a hot day at the beach. My mother was playing with the baby and Medusa and I were talking, when she noticed my mother's collection of photo albums. Intrigued, Medusa asked if we could look through the photographs. She had met less than a handful of my family and she wanted to learn more about them. We started leafing through the albums and I explained who everyone was and told her stories about them.

We were about halfway through the second or third book when she turned the page and I saw something that I hadn't seen for many years. I froze. Medusa looked at me and she asked me what was wrong. I asked her if she remembered the story that I told her about my first camera and she said that she did.

"These are the photos," I said.

Medusa looked about as confused as I felt. My mother was oblivious to what was transpiring; she was too busy cooing at the baby. She was about to get a rude awakening.

"Hey, Mom," I called to her.

She turned her head and looked at me. I held up the photo album.

"Aren't these the first photos that I took?" I asked.

My mother looked a little shocked. She knew that she was busted.

"Yes," my mother answered.

"You and Dad accused me of lying about taking these and yet you saved them?"

"We always knew you took them, that's why we saved them," said my mother.

"You belittled me and punished me. You took away my camera. You locked me in the goddamn closet! Why? Why would you do this? What the hell is wrong with you?" I demanded.

"When your father and I realized that you did take the photographs, we didn't want to give you false hope. We thought you were talented but didn't want to see you try to chase some crazy dream; we wanted you to have success and security, not foolishness. You've always been a very talented photographer and you take beautiful photographs, but it wasn't something that we wanted for you."

"So you just thought it would be best to crush every dream that I ever had?"

"And what have your dreams ever gotten you?" my mother asked me.

I pointed at my wife and son and I said, "Love. That's what they've gotten me. Love. But I guess that's something that you just can't understand. Your loss."

I looked at my ex-wife and I said, " We'd better start loading up the car. It's getting late and we have a long drive home."

I'm not sure that my mother got the message.

Medusa and I packed our bags and our baby and we loaded everything and everyone into the car. We said our goodbyes and we headed home. My mother had damaged our relationship once again; I don't know why I ever expected anything else. It took a while before I was able to speak to my mother again. My anger sat on simmer for quite some time, but my son deserved to kmow his family and so I put my anger behind me. At least I hope I did.

If your child has a talent or a dream, your job as a parent is to provide encouragement, not ridicule. This encouragement should be tempered with common sense and the need for a back up plan, along with an education, because sometimes the real world isn't  always friendly to talent and dreams. Our children do not exist to live our dreams by proxy, nor should they. Love your kids, nourish their hearts and minds. More than anything else, teach them to dream big and dream along with them.

Once again, a special thank you to Lisa and Kristina for their time and their help with proofreading and editing, My fumble fingers sure do like their typos.

Thanks to you, as well, for stopping by and reading.

If you enjoyed this story, why not another?

Want something to make you laugh, nstead?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mad Skillz

One day at work, my boss (who was female) popped into my office and asked me for some information about a project that I was working on. The information that she needed didn't pertain to the part of the project that I was working on and I didn't know the answers to her questions off the top of my head. To make matters worse, I didn't have immediate access to the information that she needed. I sheepishly told her that I would have to research her questions and get back to her in a few minutes with the information that she needed.

"Remind me again why you still work here?" she asked me. "What do I pay you for? What use are you to me, this office and this organization?"

Now, those were questions that I could answer, honestly and with confidence. I rattled off a list of my accomplishments. I smiled the smile of a hunter about to bag his prey.

Remember kids, if you can't dazzle the with your brilliance, be sure to baffle them with your bullshit.

"I kill spiders and other bugs," I said. "I'm the only one who can get the network printer to function properly, I carry all of the heavy stuff and I'm the only one who can reach things on the top shelves. Plus, I sure did plunge the shit out of the toilet the other day."

"You're a man of many talents," the boss lady said."I guess you earn your keep, after all."

"I can open jars, too!" I exclaimed, you know, because I'm a complete fucktard.

"Okay, now you're just bragging," she said with a laugh. And with that, she just turned around and walked away, probably to harass some other poor slacker that wasn't pulling his weight.

I never did get her that information that she wanted. Sometimes, it's all about misdirection.


Many years ago, when I was still married and living in West Virginia, my ex-wife and I owned two Dalmatians, Caesar and Cleo. I've written about Caesar previously in the stories "Hosed" and in "Who's the Boss?", but I've never written anything about Cleo.

While I've mentioned Caesar's casual insanity and the fact that he was just the worst dog ever (still loved him, though), Cleo had a heart of pure gold. Caesar was aggressive, hyperactive and just plain dumb, whereas Cleo was his complete opposite. She was sweet, gentle, intelligent and extremely well behaved.

We'd had Caesar for about a month and his behavior was making us crazy. As a possible solution, Medusa and I had talked about getting another puppy as a companion for Caesar and we hoped that having a friend might have somewhat of a calming influence on him. By the time we had finished our discussion, we had decided that we would get another Dalmatian, a female this time and I would be the one that would pick out the puppy that we would be bringing home. We also talked about the possibility of breeding the dogs, in the future.

We scoured the local newspaper, looking for local breeders that had a current litter and we found one right away. Even better, the puppies were weaned and ready to take home. I called the number and made an appointment to look at the puppies. Medusa and I were both in high spirits when the day of the appointment arrived. It's always tons of fun playing with a pack of puppies.

We drove out to the breeder's home, where we were greeted by a mother and her two very young children, a boy and a girl. We introduced ourselves and she asked the children to show us where the puppies were. The children led us over to an old car, explaining that they had just corralled the puppies so that we could look at them. We walked up to the car and the boy, who was around four, opened the rear door of the car. We were immediately assaulted by a gaggle of hyperactive puppies, the majority of which soon ran off to whatever mischief they could find to get into. Only one puppy remained and it had been sleeping on the back seat. The tiny white bundle of fur cocked its head, looked at us and yawned.

My kind of dog.

Medusa and I looked at each other and we both said, "We'll take that one."

"You don't want that one," the little girl said, "All she does is lie around all of the time. She's no fun."

"Oh, no," I said, "That's exactly what we want,"

I reached in and I picked up the puppy. I held her close to my face, so that I could take a good look at her. I gave her a good once over and I looked deeply into her eyes, searching for something that can't really be quantified, but I recognized it when I saw it and it was sweetness and gentleness and love. She licked the tip of my nose and wagged her tail. I was smitten; it was love at first sight.

We paid for the dog and Medusa drove us home, while I snuggled with my new puppy. I was as happy as could be and the little one and I became fast friends as I held her in my arms and tried to play with her. Since I had naming rights for the puppy, I decided to name her Cleopatra, because every Emperor needs an Empress to love.

When we arrived home, I set Cleo down to explore, but she wouldn't leave my side; she followed me everywhere. We had hidden Caesar away in our bedroom and he must have known that something was up, because he was chafing at the bit and scratching at the bedroom door like the maniac that he was, trying to escape and find out what was going on. Medusa released him from his puppy prison and he was out the door and down the hall in a flash, scampering downstairs in a little blur of black and white, just as fast as his little legs could carry him. He spotted Cleo and ran toward her. We held our breath, unsure of Caesar's reaction to the new puppy invading his territory, but we needn't have worried, because tails were wagging, butts were sniffed and a great love affair had begun. A love to last the ages.

The puppies ran around and played with each other until they were both exhausted and on the verge of collapsing. Caesar just stopped where he was and pretty much fell over, fast asleep. I was playing on my computer when I noticed that Cleo had decided to use my feet as a makeshift puppy bed. I reached down and picked her up, placing her on my lap, where she promptly fell asleep. She was so stinking cute.

We almost lost Cleo as a puppy, but after a long, determined and emotional roller coaster of a battle, and some very expensive treatment, we saved our girl. It only made us love her more.

Time passed by, the way it always does, and always much too fast. Our puppies grew up before we knew it.

When the dogs were both two years old, we decided to mate them and have a litter of puppies. We thought it would be a great experience and we also thought that we might be able to make a little extra money by selling the puppies. It really was a great, if vexing experience and to be honest, we didn't really make all that much money. Cleo had nine puppies in her first litter, which was just in time for Christmas and as expected, Cleo was the perfect mother for her babies, who all seemed to have the extreme ADHD that is so typical of the Dalmatian breed. Poor Cleo! Surprisingly, Caesar turned out to be a great dad, but we were always nervous whenever he was around the puppies and I think that Cleo was a bit nervous too, but everything went smoothly. Having a houseful of puppies was a lot of fun, but it was also exhausting and cleaning up after them wasn't exactly a barrel full of monkeys, either. Nine puppies make piles and piles of puppy poop and cleaning up after them could be pretty gross. Trying to navigate their basement den when I got home was literally like playing hopscotch in a minefield, as I jumped around the little piles, trying to get the floor cleaned up.

After the last puppy had left, life went back to what passed for normal. Medusa and I discussed the possibility of Cleo having another litter and we were pretty unsure of putting all of us through the ordeal again. We decided that if we were going to let the dogs mate again, we would wait at least a year, in order for Cleo's body to have time to recover and that as soon as practical after her seconed litter, we would have Cleo spayed. We separated the dogs when necessary and all was going well. We revisited the topic of mating the dogs again and decided not to. We made a Cleo a veterinary appointment, to get her spayed.

Well, one day  before the appointment, Medusa and I went to a nearby wine festival and we didn't want to leave the dogs in the backyard, because they would always escape, get picked up by animal control and then I would have to go bail them out of the dog house. We decided to leave them out on our second floor balcony, which was spacious, sheltered, shaded and just as importantly, easy to clean, if the dogs had an accident. We left the dogs plenty of food and fresh water and we went off on our way.

The wine festival was a lot of fun. We sampled everything that we could, bought a few bottles of Blueberry Mead, Honey Mead and a Cabernet Sauvignon/Riesling blend from a winery in Virginia that was surprisingly excellent. We also bought a few baubles, listened to a little jazz, which wasn't very good, but we were glowing from the wine and so it was good enough. A little dancing and some food to top off a beautiful, early summer day and it was time to head back home to take care of our furry kids.

When we arrived home, Medusa and I went upstairs to let the dogs out. When Medusa opened the door, she and I found two exhausted dogs that could barely stand and both of them were literally quivering. Caesar and Cleo staggered inside the house, both wandering off and both immediately going to sleep. This behavior was so unlike the two of them, that I was slightly concerned and confused as to what was going on, but after a nap, the dogs were back to their usual selves, so we dismissed this aberration in their behavior.

After the dogs woke up from their nap, we quickly came to the sobering realization that Cleo was in heat and that the reason both dogs had been so exhausted was because they had evidently been going at it the entire time that we were at the wine festival, and as the days and weeks went by, Cleo started to sport a baby bump.


Once again we prepped our basement for a puppy invasion as we awaited the oh, so joyous day and when it came, we were ready. So we thought. Cleo started to deliver at a little after six o'clock in the morning. Medusa had the day off, but I had to be at work in just a few hours. Based upon our previous experience, I thought that everything would be over soon enough and that I would be able to get to work on time with no problem.

As we attended the birth, we counted the arrival of each puppy with excitement. "Another boy! Another girl!" I would announce. She hit nine puppies and kept going, surpassing her previous litter. Ten, eleven, twelve. It looked like Cleo was finally finished delivering her puppies. The poor dog was completely exhausted, but to our surprise, she wasn't finished just yet. A thirteenth puppy appeared and then a fourteenth, the runt; a tiny little patch puppy that could barely move and was less than half the size of the other puppies. The patch covered more than half of the puppy's head. It was so cute! It squealed. Cleo pushed it away. I pushed it closer. Cleo pushed it away again. The puppy struggled, seeking warmth and food. I picked it up,wrapping my hands around it to give it some warmth and I brought its mouth up to one of Cleo's nipple to nurse and I put it down on her belly. The puppy couldn't nurse, it was too weak. Cleo pushed it away again. I asked Medusa to get on the phone with the vet, so that we could get or do whatever it was that we needed to do to save this puppy.

Medusa ran upstairs to get the phone. I picked the puppy back up and held her in my hands to keep her warm. Medusa came back into the basement with the cordless phone. We were both frantic, the scene was chaotic and emotionally charged.

Medusa was saying something about getting the puppy to the vet and puppy formula and I remember saying, "Let's go!" I decided to take one last shot at getting the puppy to nurse from Cleo. I opened my hands, the puppy took a breath, shuddered and stopped breathing.

Oh, no! No, no, no, no, no. Not on my watch.

What I did next was instinctive. I leaned down over the puppy and I brought my mouth to hers. It was covered in viscera, but I didn't care and I very, very gently blew into her mouth, inflating her lungs. I did it again. And again. Finally, the breath of life and the puppy started breathing on her own again. I let out a sigh of relief as I reached for the towel that Medusa was handing to me. I wanted to get the puppy wrapped up and as warm as possible for her trip to the vet.

She stopped breathing again before I could wrap her up. Once more, I gave my breath to her. Over and over. I felt her tiny little chest and there was no discernible heartbeat, but I wasn't ready to give up just yet. I gently rubbed her chest and then I breathed for her again. I repeated these actions a few more times until finally, the puppy responded, breathing on her own again. I wrapped her up and we headed for the stairs.

"Medusa. " I said, "I know that we agreed that we weren't going to keep any of these puppies, but if this one lives, we're keeping it, because you'll never get it away from me."

I was too emotionally invested to give up on that puppy. If I managed to help save her, I would never let her go.

Before I could even make it to the first step, she stopped breathing for the third and final time. I shared my breath with her, I rubbed her chest, I wouldn't let up, wouldn't give in, couldn't give up. I tried and I tried and I tried and I cried and I cried and I cried. Tears of sadness. Tears of frustration; frustration at my inability to save the life of this beautiful little creature and I felt broken for it.

Medusa had to pull me away. Even old stone face had tears in her eyes.

I looked at the pathetic and sad little bundle in my hands and I cradled her to my chest, leaned over and gently kissed the top of her head.

"Rest easy, little one," I remember saying, as I walked out of the basement door with my head bowed and I stepped into the backyard. I placed my sad little bundle into the warm rays of the sun and I walked back inside of the basement, grabbed a small box and a shovel. I walked over to the back corner of the yard and I began to dig. When the hole was deep enough to accomodate the box, I placed the puppy inside and buried her deepy enough so that her sleep would be undisturbed. I then built a small stone cairn on top, to mark her resting place.

After I buried the puppy, Medusa and I held each other and we cried for a bit, letting our grief wash over us. Everything had been so emotionally overwhelming and the two of us needed the release. It helped. For the briefest of time, that puppy had become the center of our universe and we had both fallen in love with her and we had done everything in our power to try and save her, but it just wasn't meant to be.

I didn't go to work that day, I couldn't. My heart was broken, I was emotionally spent and I looked afright, covered in blood and other nasty things. I headed for the shower.

In retrospect, I realize that Cleo instinctively knew better than I did and she was right, when she pushed the puppy away, but I had to try to save her; I was compelled to, you see, because every life is important to me. All lives matter, even that of a runt puppy. I'd have been less of a man and much less of a human being had I never tried. We do what's right and we do it simply because it's the right thing to do.

Life is such a beautiful and tragic thing.

Thanks for stopping by!

A very special thank you for my new editors, Kristina and Lisa!

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