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I scouted locations today.

Every year we interview business types and techies at our company’s big trade show. We make the customer testimonials.

We need a place to shoot interviews. Somewhere businessy, but hip with nice angles, city views, light, and space for moving cameras. We keep the shot dynamic like our customers.

As part of the ciné vibe, part of the the shoot, customers expose creative aspirations. They confess love for Karaoke and metal rock. They tell of expensive Stratocaster and Zildjian purchases.

They have financed and built and burned giant effigies at desert bacchanals. They desperately want us to believe they can party; they can get down: they can create.

And although they see themselves as entrepreneurs too, most can’t walk the walk, and instead pepper conversation with mumbo jumbo – disruptivenesscustomer delight, shared pools, magic quadrants, and brands.

The patois cycles every couple of years but never rises above gibberish, jargon, good uttered once, then clichéd forever. We don’t hate them though. We are We make them look good.

I find the first locale early, SOMA Gallery. The ceilings stretch up and up, so we could run a little crane to make powerful photography. We’d jib down from on high and push in when we got low for the God shot, à la Riefenstahl.

Northen light streams in honest, and although a bank of windows faces the west and a potentially violent sun, we can gel them up or lift a scrim. Our shoot’s not until October; we’re hoping for rain, clean and cold.

Lots of decent paintings here, good backdrop. The manager girl says the place goes for weddings, receptions, bar mitzvahs. She has bright blue eyes and crazy black hair.

I ask how long this exhibit will last. She says she’ll level with me; just don’t tell the boss. The paintings never change, but customers love the gimmick. Now we talk. I trust her.

She’s lived everywhere – South Africa, DC, Korea, Israel. Her father was a Rabbi, and every day she walks to work from Tenderloin Heights. She deals with the grit.

This locale will be fine, I think. I don’t imagine the Rabbi’s daughter singing Karaoke or helling around the desert.

And she would never bring up disruption.




Magdalena White Herrington praised the lucky seas who’d washed her the Klonakilty[1] ghosts.

In Spring 1965, at age 17, against her will, she’d married John Herrington II and was pregnant with his baby a month later.

All had occurred at Mother Irma White’s insistence and according to her idea of what good girls should do: confirmation, thrice weekly mass (at least), daily rosaries, and the Herrington marriage.

So, after the wedding, Madge and Jackie moved to Klonakilty. Old Man Herrington and Mother White had decided the newlyweds could look after that dairy and be alone too and had summoned a special priest from Dublin to “bless” the cottage. Although Madge supposed it connected to expectations of a grandson, Father Kerrigan’s vigorous juju and pious mojo had frightened her.

Learning of the marriage at a distance in Africa, Madge’s father, Desmond White, refused to bless the union. He’d seen Herrington’s bully and strong arm Beara neighbors and contended that Old John, the old man, would as soon force a family off its land as sneeze. Hadn’t they driven the Whites off their own place at Eskivaude with a fishy mortgage loan?

For their part, the Herrington ilk contended that Dessie’d no claim on the girl, no say in issues Madge; why, he barely knew the child, did he? Hadn’t he divorced Irma and spent months, years away on military work, soldiering for Mike Hoare and Bob Denard[2] and Sir Percy Stilltoe before the others? What kind of father was this?

Still, in Fall 1965, on a rifle shot gam, Desmond arrived home from Buta, Haut-Congo to recover and reconnect with Madge. Boa phantoms and unspeakable memories haunted him, and he confided the nightmares to Magdalena. Meanwhile, he demanded that Herrington’s treat her with the respect they’d never shown Whites in the past. And he promised to murder any of them who wronged her.

As the birth neared, Jackie spent more days with his father five miles and forty years’ progress over the Caha Mountains from Klonakilty. The treeless countryside at at Coomeen produced sweet grass and fine milk, and the old man’s cottage was warm and comfortable. On squall-plagued Kenmare Bay though, Klonakilty had never been electrified, had no running water, and no heat save its coal burning stove.

Nevertheless, Madge ran the tidy operation her mam required and tended the cows as Old Man Herrington prescribed. She’d only finished the primary grades but kept a head on her shoulders and understood wind and light and dairy. She fetched water from the deep well every morning, and she hung Jackie’s hand-laundered cow clothes outside between gales.

As for the isolation, Klonakilty simultaneously fascinated and frightened her. With its tiny protected harbor and white strand, the hamlet had hosted several generations of Egan fishermen. Madge had no idea how they’d all survived, but she’d heard how they’d ended. On Christmas 1922, a gale had blown up quick and furious off the wild Atlantic.

At sea, it cleft the great Skellig Rock then blew up Kenmare Bay to claim roofs near Blackwater Bridge and wash away the Coss Strand. Those Egans had been out to poach the yuletide salmon when the hurricane’s wrath drowned all but one of them. Afterwards, the only trace of fisher left, Billy Egan, had washed up at Klonakilty 50 yards from Madge’s kitchen window.

Unsure of his mortal condition, poor Billy had ranted three days and a half about the wreck and all those dead fishes and uncles and brothers washing about him bootless, puffy and white, tempest stripped, naked at sea.

When he was able, he and the rest of the Egans abandoned Klonakilty for some desert place in America far far from water. Old Man Herrington snapped up the property, and from then on, the only visitor was the occasional squatter, a tinker who some Herrington and the Garda eventually ran off.

One short December afternoon, a very pregnant Madge had gathered in the barely dry laundry, swept and scrubbed the upstairs bedroom, emptied the chamber pot, and oiled and polished the corner settle before finding the cows to milk. Boss, boss, boss, she’d cooed into the heavy blowing air, and the cows had come quickly. But in the milking, one after another gave near nothing and that already gone sour.

Madge checked bovine eyes and mouths, but all seemed well. She’d need tell Jackie when he got home, and he’d surely rage about the trouble. But the barometer was dropping quickly, another gale blowing in, maybe that was it. With cows in their stalls, she started down the path to the house. The rain and wind had begun by then, and with the day nearly gone, she walked gingerly.

The child felt heavy in her and kicked hard, and when Madge looked up, she noticed a yellow glow a couple hundred yards distant on the the water. Who’d be out now with this weather coming? She’d left no light in the cottage, so once inside she fired a petrol lamp. She’d go upstairs for a jumper before putting out the supper.

And so passing through the house, light hissing before her, she found the four men on her settle. Each wore a wet black slicker and storm hat pulled below his eyes. Each appeared to be naked under his coat. Each sat bootless, bare white legs and feet swollen and wet. She hoped they expected no supper, but none spoke. Madge lowered the lantern. She realized then, the visitor’s identity, and although she wanted nothing more, she could not cry out.

Silence. But then, after time enough to smell the brine in the room, Madge turned away and carefully climbed to the bedroom above, all the while dreading what she’d find. But no one and nothing occupied her room. Breathless, smothering, she gently closed and latched the door behind her. Nevertheless, a deathly cold, heavy as the sea, seeped into her until she pulled down the covers, got into bed, and gathered the blankets tight over her.

Able to scream now, she muffled her cries with a pillow, then prayed fervent rosary after rosary for her baby’s soul, for her own, and for souls of all the drowned fishermen below. Terrified of gods and demons and frigid worlds unseen, a horrible sleep did overtake her, and she did dream of tridents and poked Bantu heads and rotting salmon in the water.

No supper awaited Jackie, and Madge’s absence and clear inattention angered him. Had she even tended the cows? He looked for her and seeing light under the bedroom door, he rattled the latch. Madge finally opened up.

Groggy from the bad sleep and still terrified, she tried to explain what she’d seen. But Jackie refused to believe her. He said she’d come upstairs after the milking and put her head down and dreamt this horrible thing. In fact, she probably hadn’t even finished the milking.

He called her lazy and swore this silliness must end. His father said it was time she grow up. She’d soon need look after the cattle and Jackie and his baby boy. Come downstairs then, Jackie insisted. But Madge refused. She knew what she’d seen.

She reckoned that Jackie only worried about her as he’d worry about one of his pregnant cows, as if she were no more than breeding stock, but she’d be ignored no more, and she told him so. She said she was done with him and his father and all Herringtons forever.

With that Jackie grabbed her by the arm. She was coming with him, by God, and when Madge dug in, he struck her hard. Then he dragged her by her hair to the kitchen, the mudroom, the workshop, and the parlour.

Nothing and no one. Madge had been crying hard, but as soon as she noticed the puddles, a calm, a near contentment, overcame her. Under the settle, where the fishermen had waited, four icy splotches pooled on the floor. Jackie let her go. Madge bent and dipped a finger and tasted. Salt. Was that not enough?

But Jackie, confused for a moment, rebounded and accused her of spilling the water to trick him. That’s when Madge turned and went for the big kitchen knife. Once she’d found it, she stood motionless a beat, shifted the blade from right to left hand, from left hand to right. She paused but then slowly, coldly, dragged her own finger, the one she’d tasted for salt, under the blade’s razor edge.

Then she approached Jackie, reached out with the lacerated finger, and soothed thick hot blood onto Jackie’s cheek. She’d speak to her father tomorrow, she said, and Herringtons might expect murder in the night, that’s all. Startled now and again confused, Jackie said she must be crazy, possessed, that that damned Kerrigan’d done no good at all. He gathered his things and was gone.

Madge did contact Dessie, and that next afternoon he walked the seven miles from Allihies to Klonakilty to be with his daughter. Two weeks later, on Saint Stephen’s, Madge delivered his baby grandchild.

That night, the birth night, another stormy one, the fishermen visited Madge again. But this time they neither frightened nor chilled her. If fact, she’d first thought to name the baby Gale, but thought better and christened the the little girl, Egan.

She knew that when her mother and the Herringtons and the rest heard of the delicate translucent webs between Egan’s toes, they’d vex neither child nor mother nor grandfather nor any of the Whites or Klonakilty ghosts again.

[1] Not to be confused with Clonakilty near Bandon

[2] Hoare’s 5th Commandos conquered Buta, Congo with Denard’s mercenaries from the 1ere Choc in June, 1965 during the Congolese Civil Wars. Sir Percy Stilton conducted diamond wars for De Beers in Sierra Leone in the fifties

Gravel Road

Windsor Drp Shadow

Nineteen sixty one, my sister fell out of a 49 Chrysler Windsor on a gravel road in Iowa.

We don’t know how the door came open, but she sat in the middle of the road crying and bleeding until Dad and Uncle Howard finished their beers and noticed her gone.

Her blood had soaked Dad’s white shirt by the time we got her to Doc Felter. He stopped the bleeding and cleaned her up and picked some of the gravel out of her head. Otherwise she was OK.

Years later she worked for a plastic surgeon who finished removing the rocks from her head and, at the same time, gave her a discounted boob job.

Frank’s Sad Xmas


As told via Instant messenger.

IM Friend: Seasons Greetings. God wants to speak with you directly…expect a visit sometime this weekend!

Infidel: Very funny, but listen. His real name’s Frank, and he stops by all the time. He tries to dump that cheap Xmas candy on us.

We want to be polite, but it makes us puke, so he eats it all himself which is bad because he’s diabetic. That’s how he lost that thumb.

IM Friend: That’s just how he celebrates Christmas, the season of joy. I’m so grateful for it.

Infidel: I’ll tell him you said that. But he’s drunk most of the time, especially this time of year; he won’t remember.

IM Friend: But that would make him such a sad, sad figure of a god.

Infidel: Worse, he’s about eons old, like from the beginning of time, and he’s been drinking since he was 15 and smoking Chesterfield straights (nobody even knows where he still finds them).

He coughs up these bloody loogies all over the place, emphysema you know. They skitter around on their own and glow in the dark. Only a priest from Rome can clean them up.

But sometimes we have to wait a month for the cat to get here because he’s involved with one of the Swiss Guards, which Frank says is ok.

IM Friend: I get it. Swiss Guards are cute.

Infidel: And let’s not even get into Frank’s feet and undies, not that we see them, but you know; well not even Fabreeze and baking soda could touch that stuff.

IM Friend: OMG. You mean Frank doesn’t smell like the angels on high?

Infidel: Oh pah-leeze. He smells just like that outfit, the little cherubs and seraphim, those pissy filthy butt little bastards. They can already fly you know, just not well.

Sometimes Frank makes us get their “wingie” out of the car. It’s a harnessed contraptions to help the learners on high. But the little fuckers crash into everything and spit up constantly.

You could be watching one tangle into a ceiling fan when “splat” another bombs you with that greasy, milky, thick, whatever it is they eat. I’ve asked he keep them away, but when he’s “heralded” sometimes they have to follow.

IM Friend: But I guess a little pity’s in order. At Christmas his kid’s always a baby again, always with that other family.

Infidel: And Mary’s with Joseph. Frank says she’s naught but a ho and Jezabel and he wishes he’d never messed with her in the first place.

Sad thing is, he’s crazy in love with her, and the boy too, even now. That’s what’s driven him to the cups. The holidays are hard for him that way.

IM Friend: Well anyhow, you have a good Xmas.

Rwanda Suite: Ape Woman


I’ll shoot him now. Stupid bastard, white, but same as the rest.

Do I remember this one though? Is he that kid? From that day on the Goma frontier? When we’d wrapped Baby Boy in plastic and hauled him down in back of the combi? Sure, that’s it.

Poaching fuckers butchered him and left the body to rot on the Zairian side headless and handless. We hauled him down the Rwandan side but had to take him to Goma for examination. Should have buried him on the saddleback. I’ll murder the bastard who did it.

CP time. I’d waited and waited. Most of that Johnny fifth and a pack and a half of Luckies already gone and only 2 PM. Virunga Wildlife wasn’t showing, and the Zairois wouldn’t let me cross, and I didn’t want to hand him to the damned kaffirs anyway.

Then he and that little blonde came past. A chance meeting? No. They were nosy. Australians, I was thinking. Turns out they were Peace Corps, not Aussies, and with Zairian visas to boot. She’s had that cute girly French accent, perky little bitch.

The Zairois would pay attention though. To her they’d pay attention. These kids didn’t recognize me so I had to introduce myself, then I told the dumb ass kid, I said, go by the Bureau du Parc, and for Christ’s sake make them send someone.

No blonde with him this time, but this is the same kid all right. He’s back. Probably friends with those worthless research assistants, that Will and Mimi. Bet they’ve promised to show him a big one they’re tracking, a big male. Research, hell, I’m the only here who’s ever done anything real up here.

She’s not so bad. But he. The husband, Will. All bullshit. Thinks he’ll educate these blackamoors on what they’ve got. What they’re throwing away. Schoolchildren programs on the collective treasure, Parcs Nationaux. Forest elephants, giant apes. Wildlife tourism. Jesus.

The cretins climb the fuck up here and shoot the “natural resource” to chop off a hand or a head for a trophy room in Ghent. God damned savages. Barely an ape left and the forest all hacked out for charcoal and bananas for their beer. Fucker Leopold had it knocked. His people handled the savage.

What had those two told me, those researchers? Something about somebody at Christmas. It’s this kid. By God, that’s it. And Christmas; deck the halls. I’ll drink to that. But the season means they’ll be coming up from the embassy again. “Come in for the holidays. Get some sleep. Dry air in your lungs. Doc McLean will have a look.”

My ass. McLean wants me back on the blue pills, shipped to California to dry out. They’ll be ticking the Johnny bottle while I’m “invited.” And they’ll want the earnest talk again about ” diminishing returns up there” and “doing more harm than good.”

So I won’t be heading to Kigali. Besides who’d fend off the poachers? Not these sorry ass rangers, that’s sure. Buy them off for a quart of urwagwa. Where were they when the wogs took Baby Boy’s hands? They’re all in it together, all against me, that’s where.

And as for that lanky son of a bitch, he’s no permit, I’ll bet. So I can take action. There he is now, standing on the saddle not twenty yards away staring off at Volcan Mikeno, off at Witch Mountain.

Oh, he’s civilized enough. He doesn’t want a baby hand for an ash tray. He just wants a big silverback to charge up and scare him shitless. Just like the rest. But he’s no business up here, none of them have a business up here.

I could show him the witch. Have him in for a drink. Then he’d have something special, a story. I’d make it a fucking ghost story too. He can’t see me, but I see him right now, right down the barrel, right in the bead. I’ll squeeze a ball into his brain pan.

I’ll have a drink first though, and a smoke. But hell, now he’s gone. Next time, next time I shoot. Shoot to kill. God damn it, nothing better. I’m a dead aim, believe me.

But I bury the poaching bastards proper, yes, Christian style. Not a one left rotting or mutilated. Never. Not a one. Not yet.

Feets You Fail Me


I hate my feet. One’s bigger, so I stand on a fault.

Women worry about one breast larger than the other. Boobs are inherently good though and need not match.

Ugly feet both. Veiny with hoary nails. I understand now. San Bruno Avenue, six shops in eight blocks. Those Vietnamese ladies thrive on the pedicure trade and dope sold on the side.

Hands, feet on arms. Also ugly but at least functional. The foot does little except for Christy Brown. It should balance you but never does. Feet trip me up. I fall. A lot. You bruise up. Purply spots on your legs, contusion, damage.

I admire the deft. Think of comedic genius. Harold Lloyd teeters on the ledge above LA streetcars. An open window and Keaton survives the facade tumbling over him.

Balance and space divert calamity. So much forgiveness in the unoccupied, the empty, the void. I’m looking to what’s not there for salvation. But escape escapes me. I fall without grace.

Must be the inner ear. Vestibular abnormalities. I stand, but barely. I blame my footing. My goddamned feet.


RR F BW2 shdw

We boys shot BBs at the Rock Island Rocket.

The Chicago to Denver fast train clocked 90 MPH plus, but braked hard on the long curve through town, sparks ringing flanged wheels.

Sometimes we left pennies on the tracks for flattening. Sometimes it was big limestone rocks. We set ditch fires in the right of way too, burned creosote ties, schemed possible derailments from crowbars and tricycles left on the tracks, testing all for pandemonium.

But, on the Rocket’s approach, as we faced the lead F-Unit, amped with hope and excitement, we clenched fists as if on a subway strap, and we yanked downward hard anticipating an engineer’s mirrored pull on his horn’s cord, a toot, as he passed. And engineers did toot.

We loved deconstruction, the promise of disaster, devastation, but we loved that god damned Rocket too.

A boy’s relationship with trains is complicated.

A Good Boy


The Old Man wins. The sanctimonious can’t touch him.

I’d only brought him back to the Evangelical United Brethren because the church calmed him a little, settled the fidgeting and fear and dementia.

Used to be he couldn’t tolerate the EUBs. I couldn’t either, but Mother had made me go, and a string of attendance medals had knighted me a Sunday School warrior for Jesus Christ of Nazareth Our Load and Savior, by god. I’d hated it like the devil.

Up with them EUBs, you had the squalling choir, the rusty sopranos, the pinched women with thin brittle hair squeezed up in buns, dry. And they had their beat down farmers dragged along to witness with them. All in thick Estée Lauder haze, and baby shit, and old women stench, none of that odor right.

Immaculate conception, a father’s giving up his boy, the sole begotten mind you, the Holy Ghost, Dolores Carter, the Reverend’s wife going all weepy over Jesus Christ up in that Sunday School, up in them hot stuffy classrooms above the sanctuary, all of that was past me.

They needn’t tell me, I already knew. I’d chosen the desert and wasteland and all them unholy places, wondering and wandering, lost from all the suffering and joy. But at least the old man travelled perdition with me; he had no use for them EUBs either. He wished he could get his mind around it. Guessed it would all be funny as Hell if he could. But he couldn’t back then.

Said he couldn’t support the sick sweet flowers, or stomach Little Dean Palmer in the front row come straight from whatever sad town wife he was doing out at the HiHo on Route 90. Said the chuchies had justified all manner of deviltry and ill through the ages, and they’d probably get comeuppance some day although comeuppance probably wasn’t his place.

When he’d been whole and still a man, last time he’d crossed the holy threshold was for marrying the old lady. I reckon she’d hoped a hard dose of Calvin would immunize us from the evil visited on her before my Dad, that pregnancy and child she’d given up, illegitimate, bastard, a half sister I didn’t know. But she didn’t need religious grace. For the old man, it was bygones. We were already saved.

In the end, I got out from under her Puritan thumb and threw out my Jesus ribbons and only set foot at the EUBs when she kicked. And I never thought a thing about them holy rollers until one day after he’d lost his mind with age, and I was taking him somewhere, and we drove past their hideout, and he perked right up in his seat, mumbling and giggling.

Well, he’d wanted to try them, I guess. Now, I can’t get him to give up his slippers or ball cap, but I dress him in clean slacks and his white shirt. “‘You dolling up, you wear a white shirt,” he always said. I wedge him into the Bel Air and run him in on roads he’d driven ten thousand times, him asking “where’re we now?” and “we there yet?”

In fact, we are there most Sundays now, and with church under way and father and son in the pews, he doesn’t care if the congregation’s on its feet or not, singing or praying, he stands and sits when he damned well pleases chattering and repeating words from the sermon.

He likes the apostles and enunciates their names over and over; Simon Peter, James, and Paul, and Paul, and Paul, and Paul. But mostly, he babbles in whispers, tiny echoes from his head.

The EUBs shush him and stare and have already mentioned his “behaviors,” but they can’t kick us out. Hell, they’re Christians. When it’s over and we’re driving back to his nursing home, he laughs and tells me I’m a good boy.

And I know that somewhere deep, he knows what he’s done. And at those moments, even if only at that thin place in his being, I see him whole again.

Pick Me


Strike me down hard, bolt of pure blue, laser focus square, blast of hydrogen nuclear, knock me on my keister, blind me down, oh Lordy Lord Lord.

And that little seed, little holy fella in there, sprouting up all Jesuzzy in Snooky Lee Le Blanc, mill worker turned hydroponic salesman, Medocinio Seed and Feed, Laytonville branch, that little bud will walk the earth again, a Holy Grace.

So what if I’m a male of the species. I don’t care. And Our Father Who Art in Heaven Hallowed, you shouldn’t care either. Mary said nothing about nothing, dopey tweener, air head, too simple to keep that fool Joe from all up in her knickers. So why not me?

Georgia Pacific brought Daddy and us up from Louisiana in 1973. But since the spotted owl and that shaggy arm pit, Butterfly Hill, hugging up the redwoods and all, nothing’s been right. Planters are all that’s helped, see. If the Feds leave off with the growing raids, business will pick up at the Seed and Feed, but for now, everybody but has moved to Santa Rosa and points south.

Boozing’s what’s to do around here, and used to be could choose between Boomer’s and Red’s Recovery Room to drink. But Red’s went south, and I never liked that Boomers anyway. Billy McQueen, that mean son a bitch, pissed on me once in the can, and it was fight and get my clock cleaned, or walk away. Well, I’m no fighter, so I walked.

So there you go, your Almightyness, I am a peaceful type, like you like. Drinking’s not the best pastime anyway. You ought to be able to find something better to do. I could drive over to Fr. Bragg where the hipster lovers gush over over the scenery. They say it looks like Ireland, but I’ve never been so I can’t vouch.

I thought of becoming a mean son a bitch myself, piss on people like McQueen does or vomit on the street, but that’s not for me either. So I am presenting myself to you the Exalted on High. I will be a good spouse. Got a nice hot pasta dish I can do for you Mr. God, and can scramble up a batch of eggs and Bisquick wafflers to make your mouth water, and get you a nice cup of coffee, and keep the kitchen clean.

I’m still a virgin, if that’s what you’re worried about. But a baby’ll always have a cute smile and friendly gurgle for Snooky Lee Le Blanc. And I’m ready to be the mother of God again. I even got a name; if she’s a girl, we’ll name her Isabelle.

Come on your Everlasting Glory, shoot it on down. That’s right. There you go. Bolt of blue lightning; shake the earth; rumble the core; freight train coming. It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, oh Lord. Pick me. Pick me.