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Have Most of You Reached a Verdict?

I read a news story recently that disturbed me. It was about a man in Oregon who was freed after serving his first year of a 50-year sentence for molesting an underage girl. I don’t know how underage she was. Given the stiffness of the sentence, my guess is plenty. Or maybe he had priors. I have no idea.

The man was convicted by a non-unanimous jury. He may or may not have been innocent. One thing is certain. The girl was lying her ass off.

The story was centered around a dog (no, the dog did not fuck the underage girl). According to the girl’s testimony, the man threatened to shoot her animals if she went to the cops. To demonstrate he was serious, he gunned down her pet Labrador Lucy. It was a vile act of villainy. It also never happened.

While the man languished in prison, the Oregon Innocence Project was hard at work trying to clear his name. They managed to enlist the help of the prosecutor, who was both admirable and uncommon for holding justice in higher regard than his conviction rate. Through their concerted efforts, they found Lucy very much alive and living with another family. The prosecution’s case relied  heavily on the girl’s. testimony. With that testimony now proven to be false, the conviction was overturned.

There are unanswered questions here. Was the man innocent? Quite possibly. The girl’s credibility was blown so unless you’re willing to cherry pick what parts of testimony to believe, you have to dismiss her as a liar. And what about her family?  They apparently believed her when she said the man molested her. Fair enough. But believing her story about the man killing the same family dog that they later put up for adoption? That’s a tough sell. Then again, trying to convince the world that you’re not a kid fucker is also a tough sell. Accusations of that sort come with an assumption of guilt.

However, the wrong conviction is not what bothered me about this news story. For one thing, I cannot see it happening to me. Creepy as I am, no one is ever going to accuse me of molesting children because I think they are gross and I can’t stand being anywhere near them. “Susie, can you point to the part of the doll that the man wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole?” See how ridiculous that sounds?

No, my issue was with what I see as the backward idea of non-unanimous juries handing down guilty verdicts. I did not even know that such things existed in this country. It turns out they do in two states: Oregon and Louisiana. Louisiana I can kind of understand. It’s not like it’s part of the civilized world. But Portlandia-progressive Oregon with its legal weed and an openly bisexual governor? That just doesn’t seem right.

With 12 Angry Men and countless lesser efforts, we are acquainted with the hoary trope of the lone, holdout juror preventing a gross miscarriage of justice. This rarely happens in practice of course. Most jurors want to be done with it as soon as possible. If that means convicting someone who only probably committed the crime, so be it.

I can see their point. I have been summoned for jury duty several times, but have never been selected to serve. Even though I’ve been lucky so far, each time is a period of dread.

The prospect is not that bad now as I work for a company that pays for the first four weeks of jury duty. Back when I was contracting, there would have been a sizable loss of income. You can be excused for severe financial hardship, but you’re at the mercy of the judge for that. Judges are not known for their merciful nature.

Despite the dent that jury duty can put in your finances, there are people who take its civic-duty element way too seriously. One time, I was in a bar griping about a recent summons and some guy admonished me with “your country asks so little of you.” He happened to be a career officer in the US Army, an organization that routinely asks people to die, so I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

Still, I’m willing to do what I can to avoid sitting on a jury. One way is to call my impartiality into question. I don’t outright lie, but I strategically give parts of the truth top billing. There was this one personal-injury case where I pulled out my opinion on tort reform and wore it like a codpiece. The judge was unimpressed by this dodge, but the plaintiff’s attorney saw it differently. Being on that jury was going to cost me money, but it was going to cost thatlawyer a whole lot more. He quickly asked that I be excused.

There may come a time when I may be forced to sit on a jury and if it’s a criminal case, I have one last card to play. I’ll be the holdout juror, but motivated by spite instead of justice. I’ll hang that jury like it’s Anthony Bourdain and there’s not a goddamn thing anybody can do about it. I figure there’s a list of known assholes who should never be summoned again and if they put me on it, they will never have to worry about me again.

All that goes out the window once I move to Oregon. Unless it’s a first-degree murder case, they don’t need a unanimous verdict. I won’t be able to cause any mistrials up there and that is a sobering thought. Fortunately, sobriety is a treatable condition.

 

 

 

2 in 1

I been very tempted,
To grab it from the till,
I been very hungry,
But not enough to kill.
-The Clash

Somebody took a dump in the urinal at work. It was not the kind of thing I expected to see, not in the restroom of a Silicon Valley tech giant. Since this was not my doing, I can only conjecture as to its when, how, or why.

Of these three questions, when it happened is the least up in the air. Barring any “Future Poo” scenario, I do know for a fact the defecation occurred prior to August 15, 2018 at 8:16 am. I know this because I took a picture and that was the tinestamp.

“Fight the power” was the caption when I sent the pic to Becca via Facebook Messenger.

“Whoever did this, urinal lot of trouble,” I later mused.

Lacking forensic expertise, I cannot be sure if it occurred late in the day of August 14 or in the wee hours of August 15. That’s a big time window and I am curious who else knew about it. Let’s see. There’s me, the perp, and the poor bastard who had to clean it up. Who else? Was it ever reported and if so, is the Poo Division of HR conducting some kind of investigation? If requested, I would be more than willing to cooperate. I would also be willing to speak to the media as an eyewitness.

“It was like a movie,” I would say.

The how is not without its mystery either. The mechanics of taking a shit are pretty straightforward and the urinal is at a height to allow any non-dwarf to accomplish the task with relative ease. The question is not how it was done, but rather how it was done without detection.

The restroom sits between two parallel walkways with an entrance on either side. To pull off this urinal pooping without someone walking in on you, you need to get in, pinch clean, and get out with Ocean’s Eleven precision. I managed to get away with pisser shitting when I was 10, but that was at summer camp with the other kids and counselors gathered around a campfire singing insipid songs.

Now comes the biggest question: why? What would possess someone to do such a thing? Anger and frustration seems the most likely answer. After all, large corporations do create their own dystopias and although you’re technically free to leave anytime you like, financial realities dictate otherwise. So you hold it all in for as long as you can. Some people eventually snap. If you have no regard for other people’s lives, you show up to work with a gun and start blasting away. If you’re less murderous, but have no qualms about ruining a toilet cleaner’s day, you shit in the urinal.

Of course, there could be any number of other reasons. It’s not like the person left a note. I can only guess what would have motivated me if I were at my worst (i.e. what I was like around 30 years ago). These days, there is little appeal to joining the dumpenproletariat with such a garbage move.

So yeah, a job can be infuriating. I get that. I just don’t want to take it out on someone who had nothing to do with souring my mood. If I want to incorporate poo into coping with the prison of the workplace, I’ll stick to elective turtling on the toilet, enjoying an intimate moment with my cellmate Mister Bran.

What the Fuck for Under a Buck

I hit the publish button for Hot Flashes eight days ago. It was a big moment for me. I could now call myself a professional writer since anyone who wanted to read my eBook had to cough up 99 cents to do it. So far, 12 people have.

Technically, it isn’t the first time I made any money through my writing. Back in the 1980s, I interned at a weekly paper in Santa Barbara and was paid 10 bucks a pop for a couple of fluff pieces I contributed. Perhaps somebody scanned them and they’re still out there, gathering dust in a digital archive somewhere. I wouldn’t bother trying to find them though. If memory serves, they weren’t very good.

That was over three decades ago so I figure there’s some kind of statute of limitations in effect. Besides, it’s not about the money. I already have a job to keep a drink in my hand and a roof over my head. I just wanted to have a showcase for my stuff other than my blog and since I doubt any legitimate publisher would have anything to do with me, Amazon KDP seemed like the best bet.

The idea for this eBook has been in my head for at least five years. I was inspired by Etgar Keret, whose fiction tends to be very short and twisted. Hey, I told myself, I write very short and twisted stories. Never mind that my work lacks both the literary value and underlying human decency of Keret’s stuff.

I decided to put out a collection of flash fiction. To make sure I was doing it right, I looked up flash fiction on Wikipedia (which had already become my go-to to learn about anything). To paraphrase, flash fiction is a story with a length of 1000 words or less.

I pulled the fiction posts off my blog to use as future eBook fodder. Stories short enough to be flash fiction would be candidates for Hot Flashes. The rest would perhaps be included down the road in a collection of longer pieces.

It soon became obvious that as is, my eBook would be no longer than a pamphlet. I looked at my other work to see if any of it could be trimmed down enough to qualify. Some stories needed tightening and fit right in. Other stuff was legitimately bulky or morbidly obese. In either case, there was nothing to be gained from trying to editorially shoehorn it into a pair of skinny jeans.

In the end, I still needed more material so I set about churning out new stuff. Over the next year, I wrote 14 stories to flesh out the collection to an even 30.  A lot of attempts along the way were discarded, either for being appallingly bad in their own right or just an inferior rehash of stories I had written before.

Nearing completion, I secured permission to use a photo I liked for the book cover. All that remained was a little cleanup before I unleashed it upon the world.

Then I walked away.

Four years passed without my giving the project more than a passing thought. Then one day a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing my cloud backup out of boredom and came upon those writings. They weren’t bad and some of them actually made me feel proud of myself.

I spent the next week polishing these 30 little turds and handed them to Becca to give it a proofread. On the night of August 13, I submitted them to the Amazon Kindle Store then Becca and I went out for a celebratory drink.

One of the buyers of my eBook was an old, dear friend who dutifully sent me screenshots of typos. There weren’t many, but enough for me have another look at the manuscript. I found some more. I asked Rebecca to have another look. She found a lot more.

It was a learning experience. One lesson was that I can’t proof my own work for shit. Maybe it’s because they’re my own words, they look all right to me even when they are wrong. The other lesson is that checking for errors takes time. Becca did a rush job at my urging. Stuff got missed on the first go and that’s on me.

Last night, I submitted the updated work and it became available for download at around six this morning. I’m sure there were a few errors that went undetected. Even major publishers churn out books with a blemish or two. It is better now though thanks in large part to Becca’s diligence and patience.

As for the 12 of you who bought damaged goods,  sorry about that. Try to think of it as a collector’s item like a postage stamp with an airplane flying upside down. Typos or no, I hope my debut effort can still manage to offend you in the best possible way.

Hershey Highway Revisited

There was no shortage of bloodshed in 1991. American warplanes carpet-bombed Iraqi forces. Civil war broke out in Sierra Leone. Ethnic cleansing began in the Balkans. I was bleeding from my anus.

I’m going to talk about the latter.

There was only a little blood at first so I decided to ignore it. Maybe it wasn’t blood at all. Maybe it was ketchup and my body had forgotten how to digest it. I contented myself with this bit of denial until I let loose with an absolute gusher.

Yep, I was bleeding all right so I made an appointment to see a doctor. I had insurance, but I was only 28 so I didn’t see the need for a PCP. The doctor’s office nearest my work was a clinic located in the International Terminal at SFO. I went in to have my asshole checked out during my lunch hour.

“Young man, I’m Dr. S-,” the man said. He was older, well into his sixties, and he had a large index finger. I was unaware of this latter detail upon meeting him, but found out in short order when he had me bent over on a piece of medical furniture made for anal probing. As he rooted around inside me, I tried my best to mentally detach from the situation while I waited for it all to be over. #metoo

After he was finished, another doctor came in and said he wanted to have a look inside me with a video thingy that looked a little like the stalk on the Martian ships in War of the Worlds. I was given a shot to numb my rectum before it went to town on me.

I liked this doctor better for both his demeanor and his technique. I didn’t want to disparage the other doctor in front of him though. For one thing, that would have been rude. Also, I did not know how I would have reacted if he said “What other doctor? I’m the only one working here.”

I got an anatomy lesson that day. Apparently, there’s this ridge up inside our assholes that’s prone to laceration. It can nicked by brick-like turds or perhaps a toilet-paper-wrapped finger that ventures up farther than is necessary to get the job done (don’t judge). It seems like a design flaw given the heavy traffic through that part of the body.

Anyway, a nicked rectum ridge was what happened to me. The blood that came out was bright red, which meant there was little need for alarm. It’s the brown blood from farther up that’s indicative of colitis or cancer. I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was that I was bleeding down there. I had a college friend who did that. He wound up shitting in a bag and eventually blew his brains out. It was better to be safe than sorry, but once I got a clear bill of health, future butt periods merited little more than a shrug.

There was one misconception from that day that stayed with me for over 20 years: I thought I had undergone a colonoscopy. A probe did go up my ass and what it found did get displayed on a video screen. The difference was that it didn’t go up very far so the procedure, I later learned, was a sigmoidoscopy. I still don’t know what the prefix sigmoid- means. I’m guessing it’s a contraction of “Sigmund Freud.” I’ll have to get back to you on that.

If I paid more attention to Katie Couric, I would have learned the distinction. She had her colonoscopy broadcast on nationwide television back in 2000. Her husband had died of colon cancer two years earlier, and she wanted to raise awareness and inspire others to get checked. I’m sure she had some measure of success, but I can’t help but wonder how many of her viewers were sad men, white-knuckling their puds as they watched because that was as close they were ever going to get to the inside of her pooper.

Even if I had watched the show, I doubt it would have inspired me to run out and get a colonoscopy of my own. My scare was years behind me and at 37, I was 13 years away from needing to get one. Couric’s husband was only 42 when he died, but he was especially unlucky.

Despite my predilection for abusing alcohol et al, I managed to make it to 50 more or less intact. Within a year and a half, I went in for a physical for the first time in over a decade. I also planned to get checked for barnacles in the torpedo tube, speed bumps on the old dirt road, whatever you want to call them. The time had come.

After the doctor advised me cut down on my drinking (three drinks a night was cutting down; I thought I had made that point clear), she gave me two options for getting my bunghole checked. One was a colonoscopy. The other was sending a poop sample to a lab to have it tested for blood.

I would gone the colonoscopy route except that would have required that someone come with me and take me home afterward because unlike a mere sigmoidoscopy, serious anesthesia would be involved. All my close friends at the time were bar people. Don’t get me wrong, they’re wonderful people, but our commitment to helping one another only lasted until closing time.

So my only option was to mail off my poo. The lab didn’t want the whole thing, just a dab sealed in a container and placed in a biohazard envelope. There was a proper way of going about it. You couldn’t take the plastic sampler and go spearfishing in the toilet water. The poo had to sit high and dry so to ensure a beach landing, I leaned to one side while powering it out. Since the toilet had an autoflush, I had to be at the ready and stab fast before the water whisked it away, leaving nothing but a useless skidmark.

I was victorious.

It’s worth noting that I did this at work and because I was already scheduled for a layoff, I took perverse pleasure in leaving the envelope on my desk for the rest of the day. However, I resisted the temptation to be even more disgusting. It was just after Halloween so a lot of excess candy was brought in and up for grabs. I considered handling the envelope with the leavings of Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on my fingers, but decided against it. That was a brief moment of maturity on my part and I regret it to this day.

Unlike a colonoscopy, which is good for ten years, the Shitman’s Sampler is an annual event. I did a couple more rounds, but then my diligence flagged. This year, my current doctor suggested I go in for a colonoscopy and get it out of the way, Since there’s someone I could trust to fetch me afterward (thank you Becca!), I readily agreed.

I made the appointment and as the day approached, I began to wonder what would be found. Given past life choices, lung, liver, or esophageal cancer seemed the most likely causes of death, but one can never tell about these things. It had been a couple of years since my last poop test, ample time to sprout a polyp or two.

And if it was a game-over scenario, what then? I guess I’d have to start for the moment on a level I had by ever tried before. I wouldn’t go on a killing spree because that would bring me no pleasure, ditto rape, but I would damn sure take up smoking again and start doing a fuckton of drugs.

Planning for this contingency brought me peace of mind. I did not relish the prospect of having my golden years taken away, but being high as a kite during my fleeting final months was not such a bad consolation prize.

The procedure was scheduled for 2 pm with a 12:45 arrival. I took a sick day, a first at my current job. I wasn’t concerned about what the doctor would find. I just wanted it to be over so I could eat again.

I had been on a clear-liquid diet since noon the previous day and had nothing, including water, since eight that morning. It was like Ramadan, but with liquishits. To reduce the murk in my bowels, I had to take two doses of a high-powered laxative, one at 7 am, and the other at six the previous evening. By the time Becca and I left for the endoscopy clinic, my decks were clear from bow to stern.

After filling out forms and answering several health-related questions, I waited for about an hour before being led into the back and asked the same questions again.

They gave me a patient gown to wear (open in the back, natch) as well as no-skid socks and something that looked like a shower cap. I was covered with an electric blanket even though it wasn’t cold in the room. They put an IV in the back of my hand. It was attached to a saline drip and had a little attachment where additional injections could be administered. Minus the saline, it reminded me of the thing sticking out of Kitty’s paw when she got euthanized.

Lying on a rolling bed, I was wheeled into the examination room. It was a short trip, but I made it a point to enjoy the fluorescent lights passing overhead like I was in a real hospital drama. When I arrived, they asked me to roll on my side and the anesthesia was injected into my IV. They dimmed the lights and I stared at the railing on the side of the bed, wondering how long it would take for the drugs to kick in.

“You’re all done,” was the next thing I heard. I was back in the other room, being told there were no polyps so I wouldn’t have to do this again for another ten years.  It looked like I have a lot of years left in me after all. My big blowout party is just going to have to wait.

In Praise of False Equivalence

I often turn to Facebook when life isn’t irritating enough. All it takes is a quick scroll down my timeline and I’ll find something to energize my misanthropy.

An old friend from college had put up a new spin on WWJD with the letters evidently standing for “Whom Would Jesus Deport.” It was a meme stating that heaven has both a wall and strict entrance requirements while hell is welcoming of everybody.

It’s a specious argument even if you a)believe in heaven and hell, and b)believe it should be a model for our immigration policy. The first part I’m not going to touch. Faith, by its nature, is impervious to debate. However, the anti-immigration folks might not want to follow this celestial example too close. Otherwise, they’d have to allow anyone into America who accepted Uncle Sam as their personal savior.

I doubt my friend who posted the meme was being serious. He’s a conservative Republican so he probably has a stricter view on immigration than I have. However, he is not a Christian so I doubt he puts much stock in this decidedly Christian view of the afterlife. My guess is that he thought it would be fun to shoot a hornet’s nest with a slingshot and watch the ensuing chaos from a safe distance.

If that was his intent, he succeeded admirably. An evangelical chimed in with hell being a place you choose by not accepting Christ. Another person of a differing faith replied that the evangelical was being hateful and hurtful. I took the bait as well, asserting my atheism as we atheists are so fond of doing. Not to be outdone, those with a firm grasp of the obvious were quick to point out that the USA has separation of church and state.

Then it got ugly. And stupid. One guy, a friend of the meme poster, objected to the idea of this separation, going so far as to call it “a lie perpetuated by those who want to destroy America.” He might have even written it in all caps.

That was some serious American Taliban shit right there. As an enlightened San Francisco liberal, my gut reaction was to sneer and feel superior to this benighted troglodyte. He deserved no better, but it made me feel a little dirty. Contempt against those you disagree with is easy. It’s a little too easy and often the go-to reaction for most. Liberals are smart and conservatives are idiots. See how simple that is?

If only it were, or failing that, if only I were better at making myself believe it were so. My conservative friend who posted the meme, likely for mischievous fun, is anything but stupid. We agree on next to nothing, but I don’t dismiss his opinions out of hand. For example, he is opposed to the legalization of recreational cannabis because stoned drivers are a goddamn menace. I favor legalization even though I don’t like to smoke the stuff. However, I can see his point as I once drove off the road on my moped while high as a kite. My overall position has not changed, but I’d be amenable to measures to discourage people from smoking a bowl and getting behind the wheel.

So maybe he’s the exception, a lone thinking conservative standing head and shoulders above the knuckle draggers. Liberals, on the other hand, are thinking individuals and we care more. Face it. We’re just better.

Fortunately, I have a friend who keeps me from falling for that line of thinking. That isn’t his intention, but he does it all the same. Not long ago, he posted a meme that claimed to quote the US Constitution. It said:

Article II Section 4: If the president is impeached for treason, the vice president and all civil officers shall be removed.

I was skeptical for a couple of reasons. First, it just didn’t sound right. When Clinton was impeached, there was no mention of Gore losing his job as well if the president was convicted. I went and looked it up. Sure enough, Article II Section 4 said:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

In other words, people in any of these positions can be removed from office if impeached and convicted of the aforementioned crimes. That’s a very different thing from a total purge of the executive branch.

Also, my friend has posted untrue things in the past. One particularly egregious example was the how Daisy, the 9/11 Wonder Dog. Daisy led people to safety after planes hit the twin towers. She went back in and led more people to safety. She kept going back in and ended up saving close to a thousand lives. Thank you, Daisy. Good Girl!

“What a wonderful story!” he added as a caption when sharing this unlikely tale of canine heroism.

I let that one go. It was bullshit, but it was harmless bullshit. Misquoting the constitution like this is different. Neither my credulous friend nor I want Pence taking over if Trump gets booted. The difference is that I’m not going to buy into some wishful-thinking lie to avoid that possibility.

So I pointed out his error in a comment to the meme he shared. I was nice. I did not use the R-word even though I felt it in my heart. “Please check your facts” I wrote along with a Snopes link.

“Oops, my bad,” or words to that effect would have been a reasonable response. Instead, his reply was that his interpretation of the words was valid, even if that meant changing the words themselves.

Alternative facts, it seems, are alive and well on both sides of the aisle.

Mr. Dahl

John Dahl found himself wrapped in a soft, white blanket. There were voices nearby, either in the room or down the hall. He was not sure where they were because the blanket was wrapped around his head as well, but guessed they were not very close because he could not make out what they were saying.

He thought back to the last thing that happened before he ended up here, trying to put together some causal link between then and now. There was none. How could there be? The last thing Dahl remembered was dying.

Maybe this was the afterlife, but it was not like any that he had imagined. Heaven and Hell were supposed to be harps and pitchforks. Nowhere did Dante mention being swaddled and mumbled at. Or maybe he had. Dahl had never read any of Dante’s work, but he did have his preconceptions and assumed they were in accordance with the accepted authority on such matters.

For a fleeting moment, Dahl considered the possibility that he did not die at all. He quickly dismissed the notion. That bullet definitely entered his brain via his eyeball and he did have that brief, semi-lucid moment realizing what happened to him as he lay on the ground before everything went black.

Why did the cop shoot him? People who are white and unarmed are usually taken into custody. Dahl wasn’t even making any sudden moves. The policeman probably reacted emotionally and if so, it would have been most unprofessional.  Perhaps he had a daughter of his own at home, someone like Susie. But it wasn’t this Susie so in Dahl’s mind, the cop was way out of line.

How many Susies had there been? Dahl knew early on that he couldn’t keep track so decided to count in reverse. As a result, the latest became number one. The rest were unimportant. He had no recollection how many of them were named Susie, if any. He just liked the way it sounded and considering all that was forced upon them, a name change was small potatoes.

Over the years, Dahl had managed to go through life leaving a vapor trail of AMBER Alerts. It was quite a streak of success and Dahl owed much of it to his approach.

The conventional wisdom was to make his move under the guise of familiarity. “My name’s John. I’m a friend of your mother’s. Get in the car.” That sort of thing.  The problem is that most kids have learned to see through that ruse.

So instead, Dahl would play the authority card. He would introduce himself as “Mr. Dahl,” tell the kid she was in a lot of trouble, and that she had better do what he said if she knew what was good for her. That tactic proved to be highly effective and as a bonus, it established the fear dynamic. This dynamic would be instrumental for what would transpire later on.

What did transpire varied little from Susie to Susie. Anything about a particular girl was unimportant. He did not care much about what she looked like. Hair color, eye color, and facial features were all superfluous details. All that mattered was she was nine years old (or near enough) and that she was terrified. For the rest, the Susie du jour was just, pardon the expression, along for the ride. Dahl then did what needed to be done, to use words he would later tell himself.

With the important business concluded, all that was left was a sobbing, frightened loose end. Sealing the girl’s fate by using his own name was merely a formality for Dahl. Her fear that made her so pliable (as well as so much fun) would wane once she was away from him.

This latest Susie was no different. She would tattle because that is what children do. The only way to silence her was to do it permanently. The problem was that Dahl did not see himself as a killer. For him, strangling the girl with a ligature or plunging a knife into her little heart was as much an anathema as dating a legal adult.

Fortunately for him, he had Mother Earth to do his dirty work. He also had a shovel. So in a rehash of events played out countless times before, he ordered the girl to lay still while he dug a shallow grave. Dahl worked up a sweat as he dug. He thought about making the girl dig the hole herself, but decided that would be unnecessarily cruel. She was also too small and weak to be any good at it.

Dahl stopped when the hole was three feet deep.

“Get in,” he said.

Susie complied.

She continued to sob as he put shovelful after shovelful of dirt on top of her. Dahl was not completely heartless. He could see the sadness in the tragic events taking place and to make himself feel better, he decided to believe in reincarnation.

Dahl convinced himself that Susie and all the Susies before her would come back and lead charmed lives, devoid of this sort of unpleasantness. Of course, there was a small chance that all future lives would be an endless stream of sex and death coming way too early.

What kind of God would allow that, Dahl asked himself as he emptied the last of the unearthed soil to the hole and smoothed it flush with the ground around it. It was a deep philosophical question and Dahl promised himself to ponder it when the next Susie came along.

That moment would never come. A hiker witnessed Dahl and Susie walking into the woods, thought it suspicious, and called the police. The cops arrived, but as is often the case, a little too late.

While one officer held Dahl at gunpoint, the other frantically dug up the girl. She was unresponsive. He tried reviving her with mouth to mouth, but to no avail. Seeing this made Dahl smile, as he recalled doing something that looked like this just 20 minutes before.

“Does this amuse you, you sick fuck?” said the cop who was holding the gun on him.

Dahl thought it prudent to try to calm the police officer. He knew getting caught would eventually happen. When it did, it behooved him to come off not as a monster, but as a man who genuinely loved children. And who better than Mister Rogers? Dahl had spent years practicing the late Fred Rogers’ grin in front of the mirror and now it was time to put it to use.

The impression was spot on. Maybe that’s why the policeman shot him. Dahl died before any explanation was given.

So here he was now, wrapped in a blanket, and neither shot nor in any afterlife that he had ever heard of. Perhaps he had been reincarnated, just as he hoped Susie would be. It seemed as likely an explanation as any.

Hands large enough to cover most of Dahl’s torso surrounded him and carried him away. The blanket kept him from seeing anything, but the echo of heels on floor tiles made it sound like he was being taken down a long hallway.

He heard a door open.  A few moments later, the blanket came off and he was staring into the face of a girl who looked to be about nine.

“OK,” a woman’s voice said. “I want you to meet a friend of mine. His name is Mister Doll. He is your friend as well. He’s going to help me know things that you may not want to talk about. All you need to do is point out the part on his body where the man touched you.”

The girl reached out and touched a spot between Dahl’s legs. Her hand was trembling. There were tears in her eyes.

She was just his type.

Acoustic Kitty 2001-2018

“To think, I killed a cat” -Sid Vicious 

I woke up shortly after midnight on June 13. The cat was on the bed with us and I thought I had rolled over on top of her. I had read a tragic news story about a father who had killed his infant child in this manner and while this might have been a good move for him in a financial sense, it must have been emotionally devastating.

I checked the cat to see if she was still alive. There was no response to my gentle prods. This did not necessarily mean she was dead. She was dying, but had been for some time. I grabbed my phone from the bedside table and turned on its flashlight. Kitty squinted a bit from the light and I could see that she was breathing normally.

That was a relief. Becca and I had already decided that we were going to take her to the vet to be put down, but I did not want my fat ass to move up the timetable. We both knew the risks of having her sleep on the bed with us, but we did not want her last night to be spent on the floor alone. There was not much we could do for her at that point, but at least we could do that.

Confident that I had not clumsily bumped off the cat, I put the phone back on the cordless charger. I keep this on the bottom shelf of the bedside table because the charger’s pulsing light, barely noticeable in a well-lit room, is annoyingly bright when the light is off. With the pulsing glow largely eclipsed by the edge of the bed, the effect was almost soothing. I stared at Kitty next to me. Every so often, her legs would twitch or her head would briefly raise. For the most part, she was motionless. She was not really asleep because her eyes were partially open.  She was not really awake either because she seemed mostly oblivious of everything around her, including me.

I watched the cat fade in and out with the charger’s light and thought about the night we met for the first time.

Acoustic Kitty was born nameless and feral sometime in the middle months of 2001. When she was a kitten, she, her mother, and other members of the litter would sit on the deck outside the sliding-glass door to the kitchen, hoping to get some food. Both Laura (my wife at the time) and I were softhearted when it came to cute animals so their endeavor was almost always fruitful.

As months passed, the litter began to shrink in size. It would be nice if Kitty’s siblings were adopted by loving residents in the network of backyards. This was doubtful, doubly so as it was more infirm-looking kittens who disappeared first. It was far more likely that they fell victim to raccoons, disease, or young serial killers in training.

After a while, only Kitty and her mother were left.  They eventually went their separate ways. Neither Laura nor I were interested in adopting a cat at first, but Laura did arrange with the SPCA so the mother and daughter could be spayed. Captivity lasted only long enough for surgery to heal and then they were set loose.

That November, Laura traveled to Bolivia to visit friends who were living there. Meanwhile, I spent my days working at a startup that was circling the drain.  Nights were spent in a bar, drinking until I half believed that I might still become one of those dot-com millionaires after all.

One of these nights, I staggered home and decided to conduct a little experiment. Instead of setting the food dish outside, I would plop both it and myself on the kitchen floor. I sat cross legged and tried to remain motionless. Kitty, being feral, was hesitant at she moved behind me, rubbing her body against my back as she passed. She eventually let me pet her. By the time my wife returned, we had ourselves a cat.

Six months later, Laura left for reasons that had nothing to do with the cat. Kitty stayed on for another 16 years. I learned to adore her quirks and mannerisms, and perhaps she did mine as well.

Her habit early on of attacking my toes when they poked from under the comforter was less than ideal, but for the rest she was utterly charming. I loved how talkative she was, her affectionate head butts, and how she was a total attention whore. I didn’t even mind the prezzies she gave me from her hunting expeditions. They were gruesome, but her heart was in the right place so I made it a point to let her down easy.

“Thank you for the eviscerated mouse, but after this burrito I don’t think I could manage another bite,” I would say.

By the time Becca first visited in 2013, Kitty’s days of hunting mice (and toes) were behind her. She was just as affectionate as ever, perhaps even more so as her feral instincts began to mellow with age. It was not long before Becca was in love with the cat as much as I was.

In recent months, Kitty began to decline. She lost weight, grew more listless, and peed wherever it suited her. Multiple trips to the vet turned up evidence that her kidneys were failing and a few suggestions to improve her health. Nothing really worked. She was old and dying. Becca and I resigned ourselves to that and figured all we could do was keep her as comfortable as possible for the time she had left.

Neither of us were in any hurry to have her put down. She did not seem to be in any pain and still purred when given scritches. As long as she could enjoy her existence at all, that was good enough.

On Tuesday evening, that all changed. When we were giving her subcutaneous fluids, we noticed a raw spot on one of her hind legs. Her walking skills were not great and she must have been dragging herself around while we were at work. She also looked miserable.

That was it. She was clearly suffering and we could no longer in keep her around in good conscience. I would call the vet in the morning to have her euthanized. I didn’t want to do it. I had hoped that Kitty would check out on her own schedule, peacefully and painlessly. But just as living can be a messy business, dying can be as well.

I had a hard time getting back to sleep after I awoke that night. I watched Kitty in the pulsing light, breathing rhythmically. She seemed OK for the moment, or at least as OK as she was going to get. I figured that if there was a perfect time for her to exit the world, this would be it. Instead, she just kept breathing, neither awake nor asleep, somewhere between dead and alive.

Looking back, I’m glad she held on until morning. Dying on her own might have been painful, and neither Becca nor I wanted that. I called Mission Pet Hospital and made an appointment for 11 am. The vet was very nice and gave us a few moments alone to say our goodbyes and shed a few tears,

There were a lot of tears.

Chiming In

Consider this a placeholder, an acknowledgement to my few but treasured readers, a fart to blast away the dust that has been gathering on this blog for the past two and a half weeks. I’ve been trying to regain focus, both in writing and in life in general.

There has been some progress on both fronts, but nothing to brag about. As for writing, I have the beginnings of a story. It’ll take some time to turn that into something that doesn’t suck so you won’t be able to read it for a while.

As for life in general, I don’t see anything too horrible on the horizon except for the imminent death of Acoustic Kitty. I don’t know when that’ll be. I just want her to be as comfortable as possible between now and checkout time. I would prefer that to happen on her timetable rather than having a vet expedite the process. That may not happen though. If she gets any worse, I may not have a choice.

I’ll probably hit the bar tonight, the first time since we got back from Portland. I want to treat myself to a moment of booze clarity,  that moment when I have just enough liquor in my system to stifle the noise so I can make sense of a little piece of my existence. It won’t last. Even if I stop drinking right then, the alcohol in my stomach will snuff out that wisdom after it enters the bloodstream.

That’s all for now. Have a lovely weekend.

 

 

The Chicken Crosses the Road

I kicked the cat last night. I didn’t mean to do it. I was asleep and dreaming about something that made my legs flail about. The cat was apparently down by my feet.

I woke up to Becca telling me, “You’re kicking the cat. Stop it!” When my eyes opened, she had gotten the cat out of harm’s way and was turned away from me holding the animal and shielding her from further assault.

If I were a truly decent person, my reaction would have been something like Holy shit, I hope the cat is OK. Instead, it was Great, so now I have to endure the shame of being a cat kicker. As a result, the delay I had getting back to sleep was not caused by worry for the cat. I was more preoccupied with coming up with a way to demonstrate how sorry I was. Skulking away to sleep on the couch was one option that popped into my head. Committing suicide was another. Ultimately, I did neither.

This is familiar territory when I fuck up somehow. The idea is if I punish myself sufficiently, then maybe no one else will. Admittedly, it isn’t healthy. Then again, neither am I.

The cat isn’t healthy either though I can’t expect her to be. She is 17, which is pretty old by cat standards. Her white-cell count is up and she has kidney disease. She probably has more stuff wrong with her that the recent blood test and ultrasound can only hint at.

In the morning, she gets her daily dose of antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, and an appetite stimulator. In the evening, she gets a needle jabbed into the loose skin in her shoulder and has 100ml of water drain into her from a plastic bottle that hangs from a lamp near the couch. Becca does the needle jabbing. I hold the cat in my lap and tell her what a good girl she is for putting up with our shit.

I believe the cat will die this year. I have no expertise in these matters, but I do know she is old and sick, and that old, sick things have a way of dying.

Her death, when it does come, will make me sad. I know she’s just a cat, but she’s my cat and she has been part of my life longer than most humans.

I try not not to think about it too much. Like most unpleasant occurrences in life, I’ll pretend it’s not happening while it’s happening and try to make sense of it later.

In the meantime, I go through the motions. Motions are put there for us to go through. No good has ever come from asking what the point is. Just stick to the script and play part I was given. It sucks, but it could be a lot worse for me.

I could be the cat.

Murray the Moray Cures Cancer

Murray was not an average moray eel. For one thing, he was much bigger. Remember that moray in The Deep who ate Lou Gossett’s head? Murray was perhaps even bigger than that.

Unlike many morays, Murray did not make his home in a coral reef. Who can blame him? The reefs are in a state of decline. The Great Barrier Reef, which may have to change its name soon, has lost half of its living coral. As is the case with most ecological disasters, humans are to blame. Some of the damage is up close and personal, caused by divers who are souvenir hunters or just plain clumsy. The pieces of coral broken off by these inconsiderate clods in a matter of seconds can take years to grow back.

Some might argue that it was Murray’s moral obligation to defend the reef, to bite the intruders’ heads like so many Lou Gossetts. While satisfying perhaps, this course of action would not be terribly effective. The bulk of the damage done is not from divers, but by climate change and pollution.

Instead, Murray has chosen to make a portable toilet on a city street his lair. In pure Darwinist terms, this was a smart move. For one thing, this habitat was not threatened. Human influence has been proven to increase, rather than diminish, the prevalence of public toilets. Also, the water is bluer than in any ocean.

So it was there Murray lurked and waited, his mouth opening and closing in a manner consistent with a moray eel. He was hungry, but he was also patient, and it was not long before a suitable meal came along.

Casanova Joe needed to poop. All the businesses up and down the street had signs in their windows saying that their restrooms were for customers only. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem. He would duck into a cafe, order a coffee, make a trip to the toilet, and be on his merry way. Today was different. He was late to work. Even if we wasn’t, he had no money because he left his wallet at that woman’s house.

Was her name Marion or Marianne? He couldn’t remember. She was a sales rep for some cheese company. His wallet must have fallen out of his pocket when he was hurriedly taking his pants off. As was often the case when hooked up, he was in an equal rush to put his pants back on so he could slip out of her apartment unnoticed. There wasn’t anything wrong with the woman other than that she was really into cheese and made him sample it before she agreed to have sex with him. The sex was not bad. Neither was the cheese, but he sampled so much of it that it sat in his gut like a brick.

Joe spotted a portable toilet on the sidewalk. Thankfully, it was not padlocked. He went in, latched the door, dropped his pants, and sat down. He grunted. He was looking forward to ridding himself of this cheese log, but it did have one benefit. It took his mind off the dull ache in his testicles. He had an unusually high sex drive, which earned him the moniker “Casanova Joe,” and was prone to painful bouts of blue balls if he went too long without release. He thought he was experiencing that again now even though neither masturbation nor sexual intercourse could make it go away.

Meanwhile, Murray the Moray waited in the dark blue water below, poised to strike.

The fact was that Joe did not have blue balls at all. What he had was testicular cancer. It started to hurt when it hit stage three and like Murray, it was ready to make its move. Any lymph node would do, telegraphing the malignancy to a spot where it might kill him.

Murray was unaware of the tumor as well. What he saw was a juicy morsel, his for the taking. He was not about to let the opportunity slip by. He sprang forward and clamped his jaws tightly on the scrotum.

Casanova Joe shrieked in pain and tried to stand up, but could not. The mouth on his testicles refused to release its grip. Joe’s bowel movement fetched loose in the melee and poked halfway out of his anus, firm as a baguette. Perhaps if Murray had bitten down on his penis as well, the feces would have come out the rest of the way. The professional literature in this area of medicine has yet to take a stand on this issue.

Murray thrashed about in the toilet water while Joe struggled in vain to get to his feet. In this tug of war, something had to give and the weakest link was the flesh of Joe’s scrotum. When it it tore, Murray fell back with a mouth full of testicles and tumor, which he soon swallowed.

Joe burst out of the portable toilet. The half-birthed cheese turd sticking out of him wagged like a dog’s tail, but that did not mean he was happy.  He could not walk very well because his pants were around his ankles. He could not walk very well because his balls had been bitten off.

He could, however, scream perfectly well so he did a lot of that. “Snapping turtle!” he shouted over and and over as blood gushed from his crotch. He wasn’t sure that it was a snapping turtle, but it was the first thing to pop into his head and he was in no mental condition to come up with other options. A passerby took Joe at his word and called the Department of Animal Control.

When Animal Control arrived, they expected to find a snapping turtle in the water. They did not expect to find a creature like Murray the Moray. Murray was no ordinary moray eel. He was not only much larger, he had arms, legs, and a wife and kid at home.