Dark Night

Change is inevitable. Only a fool would try to fight it.

This was the conclusion at which Dracula had arrived. He’d long ago lost track of his age in years, but was certain he was nearing a 1,000 – at least that’s how it felt. And Dracula had seen a lot of change in that millennium.

Dracula was there during the Dark Ages of Europe, feasting on the peasants without remorse. It was easy to justify his killing in those days because so much of the population preferred death to life. If not for Dracula’s tender bite – a quick and near-painless drain of the precious fluid that grants us life – it would have been the plague, or pneumonia, or marauding warlords that brought death’s release to those poor, wretched beings.

Certainly, the act of birthing a child in that time took far more lives than Dracula ever could, and it was doubly cruel in that it brought new life into the cold, unforgiving world. Dracula’s murder, at least, came with a modicum of mercy.

He was there for the renaissance, as well. It’s true that in this time Dracula was responsible for robbing humanity of more than a few of its greatest minds. The taste of an intellectual, a poet, a philosopher, or even a surgeon brought him an unparalleled satisfaction. Sadly, it was a short-lived phase, all things considered.

By the 19th century Dracula had lost his taste for even the most refined fare. He relocated to the United States, lured by the dual promises of a new challenge and a change in scenery. But by then, he’d seen so much change in the world that feelings of despondence had already taken root – whether he was aware of it or not.

Watching the world’s greatest monarchies rise to soaring heights, only to come crashing down under the tow of democracy forced Dracula to contemplate his own purpose in a way he never had before. Meanwhile, technological advances like electricity, the telegraph, and the automobile, gave simple people powers that rivaled his own, making him feel obsolete.

They erected street lights that kept him from sneaking up on his prey. They used an elaborate system of wires to communicate his potential presence in given areas. And they made quick passage out to the more remote regions of the country to track him.

More and more, the supernatural abilities that had once given him so much pride and set him so far above humanity made him feel useless and antiquated. As many of the world’s farmers turned to factory work, as many of the great hunters ran out of game to hunt, and as many of the world’s great explorers ran out of new land to trek, Dracula had seen his time come and go. He had as much place in the 20th century as Blackbeard or Billy the Kid.

By 1950, popular culture made him more of a joke than a boogeyman. Kids dressed in his garb and bad actors mocked his accent. The memory of World War II was still fresh in everyone’s mind, and even Dracula had to admit that Hitler was guilty of crimes against humanity that made Vlad the Impaler look absolutely amateur.

As the 20th century drew to a close, Dracula finally got access to the Internet, and was forced to admit to the cable representative who installed it that he had no idea how to use it. The cable man rolled his eyes and patiently walked him through the process. As the man was leaving, Dracula beckoned him from his van once more to help him rid an error message that had popped up on his screen.

The man obliged and as soon as he’d turned to leave a second time Dracula bit his neck and drank his blood.

Something was wrong, though. It brought him no satisfaction. He felt just as empty as he had when he woke up that morning – as he had the weeks, months, years, no, decades before.

He dropped the lifeless corpse of the Comcast technician and staggered back into his dark, dusty mansion – a dilapidated gothic-style Victorian home, which had once been located in a treacherous and remote region of the Pacific Northwest, but was now in plain view of Route 5.

Looking in the mirror that cold, lonely night, Dracula could not see his own reflection, but his outdated clothing stared him right back in his face.

“My God, is that a cape?” he asked himself out loud. “And am I honestly the last person on earth who goes by the title Count?”

Dracula had hit bottom. He was overcome with self-loathing. He slept in his coffin for weeks, even months, at a time. His already pale skin reached the ghostly white translucence of Casper. His narrow, effeminate frame grew even more sickly and gaunt.  He tried to cry, but couldn’t.

Then, after years of depression had beaten him down, Dracula decided it was time for a new approach. Rather than live off of humanity like a barnacle on a whale, he would join it. He would seek out a new purpose, perhaps even companionship.

Determined to commit to the most dramatic of all possible lifestyle changes, he used his recently installed high-speed modem to find a dentist. Then, early in the morning on a cloudy, overcast day, he put on a trench coat, hat, and sunglasses. He grabbed an umbrella, pulled up his collar, took a deep breath, and made the trip to the office of one Dr. Larry Finklestein. It was he who had the privilege of removing Dracula’s fangs and replacing them with two run-of-the-mill, composite incizers.

Dracula, the Lord of Darkness, returned home feeling thoroughly emasculated. But he knew that was the price of fresh start. He got a job as a nighttime porter at a hospital. There, he would sneak into the blood bank at night and pilfer bags of the precious fluid. Sometimes he’d poke them with a straw and suck them down like a Capri Sun, other times he would pour them into a goblet like Box of Wine. It never felt quite right, but at least it felt different. At least it felt somewhat human.

Then, one night, as Dracula mopped the floors of Skagit Valley Hospital, he overheard some nurses discussing a newly admitted patient.

“Sarah,” one said. “She’s only 15.”

“My God,” said another. “Does anyone know why she did it?”

“No, she won’t talk to anyone.”

Dracula pressed on with his mop and bucket.  That is, until he reached room 305, where the chart by the door read “Sarah Lynn Taylor.” He was curious so he went inside.

The room was dimly lit but he could make out the girl’s jet black hair. Her face was pale like his, but her high cheekbones were stroked with a bit of rose coloring. She wore the requisite gown and her forearms were wrapped in bandages.

He marveled at her. She looked so remarkably like him, at once pale and dark. Her heart monitor, by emitting a slow, perfunctory noise, confirmed she was living, but to the naked eye she looked to be dead. Indeed, she, like Dracula, was the living embodiment of death itself.

Suddenly, Dracula heard some activity in the hall and he rushed immediately back to his bucket and mop. Some doctors passed by without noticing him and he went about his standard business for the rest of the night – ensuring that the hospital was in no condition short of pristine.

When he returned home and settled down with his nightly bag of blood, he felt different than he did most nights. He thought back to that young girl in room 305 and he felt extraordinary. He couldn’t place his cold, pointy finger on it, but something was different. And as the sun came up, he retired to his coffin eager to greet the next night.

Dracula woke from his slumber the following evening and reported to work at 10:00pm sharp. He made quick work of the first two floors of the hospital and casually happened by the front desk to see if there was any word on the young patient in 305. There was none.

He waited until around 2:30am and then made his way to the third floor. He put up the pretense a little while longer and then quickly ducked into Sarah’s room. She looked a little healthier but still thin and very pale. Dracula watched her for a minute or two. Then he inched closer to her bed. Then closer, and even closer, until he almost brushed the side rail. His heart beat a little faster. And soon without even thinking about it, he took his cold jagged finger and slowly brushed some hair from her face.

Her eyes opened – halfway at first, then extremely wide. Dracula startled and jumped back. And with that leap backwards the menacing corpse-like countenance that moments ago hovered inches above Sarah’s face became a shadowy figure backlit against the light from the hallway.

Sarah opened her mouth as if to scream but no sound came out. Her jaw flapped up and down loosely, emitting only the faintest imitation of a voice. Then finally, after what seemed like hours, she spoke.

“Who are you? What are you doing?”

“Vuhhhh…I’m… I’m va doctor.”

“Then why are you dressed like a janitor?”

“Oh. Ves. I’m a janitor. I’m very sarry. I thought I svaw something on ver face. I vas vorried.”

“What are you German or something?”

“No. I’m vrom Romania. Transylvania, actually.”

“Like Dracula?”

“Vuhh, yes… Like Dracula,” he sighed.

“Cool.”

“Cool?”

“Yeah. Have you ever been there? Like to the castle?”

“Of course, I lived there… or close to it I mean. I verked there… as a guide.”

“That’s so cool.”

“Veally?”

“Yeah Vampires are totally cool.”

“Veally, vy?”

“I don’t know. They’re dark and menacing. They’re mysterious. It’s macabre, you know, like Edgar Allen Poe, or those true crime stories you see on television.”

“Oh. Vell… I used to have vangs, you know…”

“No way! That’s awesome.”

“Yes vay. I vas born vith them.”

“Why don’t you have them now?”

“They scare people.”

“Right, but isn’t that the point? To scare people and freak them out?”

“Vell yes but it gets lonely.”

“Well it doesn’t have to be. You just have to find other people like you. You’re not the only person who has fangs you know. Other people have them, too.”

“There are other vampires?”

“What? No. Not vampires, just people that have fangs put in. You know, like piercings and tattoos. I saw a guy on TV that had these, like, horns in his head. And another guy had his tongue forked.”

Dracula couldn’t help but snicker a bit.

“Va va va,” he chuckled. “That sounds vidiculous.”

“Well, maybe, but that’s just who they are. You should always be yourself. If other people can’t deal, fuck’em.”

“Is that veally how you live?”

Sarah thought about the question.

“Maybe not,” she said, looking down at her bandages.

“Vut happened to ver arms?”

Sarah remained quiet, and was sullen, like she’d just been reminded of something terrible. And she was.

“I… I cut myself,” she said sniffling.

“Vy?” Dracula asked.

“I don’t know, I guess, I’m not real happy with myself either.”

“But vu vould take ver own life?”

“I guess, I don’t know,” she said, now crying. “It’s not just me, you know? My stepdad hits me a lot and my mom is a total bitch. I hate them both. And then I go to school and they make fun of me there for being punk or goth or whatever. Just because I don’t fit into any of their nice little groups.”

“Vat’s terrible. I’m sarry to hear such tings.”

Sara sat crying. Dracula stepped closer to her bed and pushed the tissue box towards her.”

“Thanks,” she said looking down at his hand. “Wow, you’re kinda goth yourself aren’t you?”

“Goth?”

“Yeah, you know, like with the paleness, and those rings on your fingers.”

“Oh, ves. Goth. I’m very… punk.”

“Did you get picked on a lot when you were a kid?”

“I… I don’t vemember.”

“You’re lucky. Tommy Donovan, this kid at school, he picks on me all the time. He spread this rumor that we had sex in a bathroom stall and that he put my head in the toilet bowl. Now people call me Septic Slut. They say and do awful things to me all the time. They throw things at me. They hid my stuff.”

“Ugh, vat’s terrible.”

“I have no friends,” Sara said, again breaking into a wet, sniffly sob.

Dracula sat down on the bed and comforted her.

“I don’t have any friends either,” he said.

“You’re so cold.”

“I know. I’m sarry.”

Then the light came on and there was an orderly standing in the doorway.

“What are you doing in here? You’re not a doctor.”

“It’s okay,” said Sara. “He’s my friend.”

“Well, he can’t be here. Visiting hours are over. Besides he has work to do. Now if you don’t mind.”

“Of course,” said Dracula getting up and moving toward the door. He looked back at Sara, who with tears in her eyes managed a smile.

Dracula retrieved his bucket and mop and made his way toward the elevator with the orderly watching. Then he went down to the lobby and left the building without finishing his shift. Dracula returned to his mansion with a new sense of purpose. He called Dr. Finklestein’s office and left a message saying he’d be in the next day. Then he used the online directory to look up all of the Taylors in the area.

About one week later, Sarah returned home. She lay down in her bed, fell asleep and had a strange dream. She was in a graveyard but she wasn’t scared. The janitor from the hospital was digging a grave but it wasn’t hers. He looked up from his work and flashed her a sinister smile. She could see on his hand the gold ruby ring he’d worn at the hospital. She woke to the sound of something hitting her window.  She got up to inspect it and saw something on the window sill outside. She opened the window and picked it up. It was the same glittering gold band and blood red ruby she’d seen in the dream. Then she gasped and looked up to see the shape of a bat flying off into the distance.

The bat flapped its wings gracefully and faded out of sight. It flew with purpose to another house not very far from Sarah’s. About the same time a young man was returning home drunk from a party. He lifted his keys to unlock the front door but he dropped them. He bent over to pick them up and as he rose he came face to face with a dark shadowy figure wearing a cape and sporting a pair of fangs.

“Var you Tommy Donovan?” the figure asked.

“Yeah. Who the fuck are you?”

 

Netflix Instant Classic: Thelma and Louise

Genre: Early 90s Action

What’s it about?  Two women with no real responsibility prove that they deserve no real responsibility by setting out on a vacation that quickly devolves into a crime spree.

Who’s in it? Shooter McGavin, Dottie “Queen of Diamonds” Hinson,  Susan Sarandon, The psycho from Reservoir Dogs, and Brad Pitt’s abs.

You’ll like it if… You like domineering/submissive women, old cars, big sunglasses, and random early-90s actor cameos. Or if you hate men, rationality, and consistent plotlines.

I know that you know what Thelma and Louise is.

Even if you haven’t seen it, we all know how it ends.

But there are 128 more minutes in this film, and I do think they’re worth exploring.

So here it goes…

First off, my favorite character in the film wasn’t Thelma or Louise. It was Darryl, Thelma’s brutish, misogynist, philandering, deadbeat husband.

He’s a scumbag, no doubt, but he’s played by Christopher McDonald, who we all know better as Shooter McGavin.

If you’ve seen Happy Gilmore you know how much McDonald excels at playing a douchebag. Well, in this movie, he takes his schtick from the country club to the country – small-town Arkansas to be precise.

Darryl has the look and charm of Kenny Powers and the small-town Regional Manager-pride of Michael Scott.  He drives Camaro with a T-top that just screams “You’re fuckin out!”

Christopher-McDonald-Thelma-and-Louise

That McDonald is fun to watch makes up for the fact that his character exists only to engender sympathy for wife Thelma, when she finally flips her shit.

Sure, she could just leave him or file for a divorce, but she’s the submissive type. She’ll put up with any amount of shit from anyone.

And so enters Louise.

It’s kind of funny that Louise is clearly supposed to be the force that liberates Thelma from her overbearing husband, but in actuality, she’s just as domineering as Darryl is.

Louise bosses Thelma around throughout the movie, eventually making her an accessory to murder, and by the end, costing her her life.

That’s the kind of friend Louise is, a psychotic one (though it is Thelma who puts the hand gun her purse as the two prepare for their “fishing” trip).

And so these two powder kegs pile their shit into a convertible, take a polaroid selfie, and speed off.

Of course, they get hungry and have to stop off for a bite to eat. For a reason only God knows, that means swinging into some honky-tonk, country-trucker rube-fest with a band fronted by (I shit you not ) Matt Dillon with a two foot long pony tail.

(Editor’s Note: Since I wrote this review four years ago people Googling “Is Matt Dillon in Thelma and Louise?” have accounted for maybe 90% of my tiny little blog’s traffic. If you’re looking for an answer to that question, the truth is I don’t know for sure but I’ve freeze framed it multiple times and I don’t think that’s him. Sorry.)

It’s here where we meet Harlan – the second sleezebag man to manipulate Thelma.

He’s trying to get it and Thelma is trying to have a good time. And so, after some alcohol and line dancing we find ourselves in the parking lot, where Harlan attempts to rape Thelma.

He almost succeeds, but Louise shows up with Thelma’s gun.

Now, shooting Harlan for trying to rape Thelma would have been fine in my book, or even if he’d made an aggressive move to assault Louise, making a justifiable case for self-defense.

That’s not what happens, though.

Harlan’s busted and he stops. All Thelma and Louise have to do is walk away. But then Harlan makes the fatal mistake of calling Louise a bitch and saying a few other unsavory things.

That’s when she shoots him. It’s a dumb but necessary plot twist. Obviously, if it were a clear-cut case of self-defense, Thelma and Louise have nothing to do but call the cops and wait. End of movie.

But the fact that Louise blows Harlan away in cold blood means they have to book it, which is what they do.

Thelma immediately suggests they go to the cops, and Louise tells her to shut up. In fact, Louise even tries to pin the blame on Thelma for getting caught up with Harlan in the first place.

This is what I mean about Louise being just as bad as Darryl, and it really undermines the whole notion of liberation and sisterhood.

The fact is, Louise really is a bitch. We find out later that she, herself, was the victim of sexual assault years earlier. But that doesn’t justify her hostility towards men or towards Thelma.

Still, that doesn’t make it a bad movie. It’s okay. It moves along well enough and the carousel of celebrity cameos keeps things somewhat interesting.

I was just surprised to learn this movie won an Oscar for best original screenplay.

Especially with lines like: “I may be the outlaw but you’re the one stealin’ my heart,” which comes courtesy of Brad Pitt.

05 THELMA E LOUISE

The acting isn’t bad though. Both McDonald and Pitt have a lot of fun with two detestable characters, and both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were nominated for Oscars. (They lost to Jodie Foster who won for Silence of the Lambs.)

Taken lightly, it has plenty of camp value, and its place in pop culture pretty much demands at least one viewing.

If I was a little disappointed it’s because I expected to see two women pushed over the edge by an oppressive patriarchy; what I got was two brats on a poorly planned (albeit entertaining) crime spree.

Great Escape

“Do you want some water?”

I paused to think about the answer like I was on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and Craig was Regis Philbin, like it was a trick question. I considered using a lifeline or opening the car door, jumping out at the next light, and making a break for it.

Could I really trust Craig? He was my roommate sure, but the kid is shady.  I had to play it coy and get some more information out of him.

“Maybe,” I said.

The ball was in his court.

He half chuckled, put the bottle between us and said, “Well, it’s here if you need it.”

Now certain of his indifference as to whether or not I took a drink, I did. If he was really up to something he would have been more persistent. Or would he? I second guessed myself as I brought the bottle to my mouth, but it was too late. Once I felt the wet plastic on my lips and the refreshing fluid within touch my tongue, I didn’t care anymore.  I even forgot what I was wondering about in the first place.

The water reintroduced the sensation of moisture to my parched, disgustingly dry mouth, washing the taste of smoke out, as it cooled its way down my throat.  I needed that.  My eyes were dried out too, probably bloodshot, but that didn’t bother me so much. It’s not like I was going to have to talk to my parents or the police or anything.

It was 2:00am on a Wednesday, technically Thursday I guess, and it was just me and Craig cruising down I-95 at just under 80mph. We wanted to get to the University and back as quickly and efficiently as we could.  After all, we had class the next morning and this wasn’t exactly conducive to the process of higher education.  We were going there to buy drugs, large quantities of them, with the intent to then sell.  Now, don’t get the wrong idea about us, we’re not drug dealers. We’re just college kids with alcohol fines and no money to pay them with.

It just so happened that Craig’s brother knew a kid at the University who would front Craig an ounce of weed, which he could divide into eighths, or grams, or whatever other denomination people wanted to buy it in, and then sell. Once this was done, he would have to return, give our source his share of the profit, and pick up the next batch. It was a flawless system.

Where do I come in?

Well, he’s my friend, and I guess trafficking drugs across state lines is what I get for being the only friend of his with a car. Plus, I had sex with his sister, and I guess I felt kind of bad about it. This made us even.

“Now my helmet’s on, you can’t tell me I’m not in space
With the National Guard United States Enterprise
Diplomat of swing with aliens at my feet
Comin’ down the rampart through beam on the street
Obsolete computes, compounds, and dead sounds
As I locate intricately independent
Economic rhymer got savory store food
In Capsule D my program is ability
For a reaction and response to a no-one
Identification Code: Unidentified
I got cosmophonic, pressed a button, changed my face
You recognized, so what? I turned invisible
Made myself clear, reappeared to you visual
Disappear again, zapped like a android
Face the fact, I fly on planets every day
My nucleus friend, prepare, I return again
My 7XL is not yet invented”

That’s Dr. Octagon, our music of choice when taking part in this kind of activity. It may not look like much to you, but it made a hell of a lot of sense to me at the time. I consider Dr. Octagon part of my college education, perhaps even one of my professors – though I don’t think he really has a doctorate. If he did though, it would be in the same field I’m majoring in, Perceptual Experimentation and Perpetual Escape, I call it.

That is, drugs have always been a way for me to escape. Escape from my petty problems, anxiety, and even society as a whole. I don’t get along particularly well with any of those things, and while I know that drugs aren’t a solution to those particular ailments (if such a thing even exists), what they do give me is a freedom from them – albeit a temporary one.

Now, I don’t know Dr. Octagon personally.  I don’t know what kind of drugs he does or what kind of world he’s escaping into, but it sure sounds like he’s having a hell of a time, and that’s something I can relate to.

We got to the university somewhere around 2:45… I think. I am frequently reminded of just how nice my own college’s dorms are when I visit other schools. I wouldn’t say they were like tenements, because that kind of irresponsible hyperbole would exaggerate the claim unnecessarily. But at the very least, I was glad to not be living in them.

The building most resembled an old run down hotel. In fact, it resembled one so much I thought it might actually be one. The carpet in the hallway was red with a kind of pedestrian series of green and gold tessellations. The walls were off-white, and by “off-white” I mean had at one point actually been white, but were now layered with filth and dirt. It was eerie, and not just because we were there to tend to such shady business, but because it was the kind of dirty and quiet atmosphere that make cop movies so suspenseful.

There were pipes running along the ceiling exposed, and thick doors on all the rooms.  I felt like had I approached any one of them and executed the secret knock, I would have been let into a room with sordid men betting cocaine, alcohol, and underage sex slaves in poker games.  Like there would be a gauntlet of crack whores guarding the door, each one missing a different tooth, and haggling over who could give me fellatio for a cheaper rate. You may think this an exaggeration, but I’d be willing to bet that something to that effect was going on in at least one of the rooms. It had to be.

We went to the room our connection called home.  He opened the door and led us to the back. He looked pretty average, but not like a kid I’d fuck with. Just imagine an average sized 21 year-old with a shaved head, moderate build, and a tattoo. It doesn’t matter what kind of tattoo. I don’t remember what his was, but it was more likely generic and typical, rather than, say, an angry red demon riding a raging bull with bloody horns dragging the souls of the damned behind them on a leash.  I would have remembered if it was something like that.

There seemed to be a lot going on in the main room. At the same time, though, there was nothing much going on at all. There were maybe eight to ten people in there, most sitting on couches looking pretty high. They were all drinking what was likely the cheapest beer on the market, but none of them really seemed to be having that good of a time.

We were led into the bedroom that was decorated with posters fully endorsing marijuana as a way of life. One depicted a group of happy elves merrily collecting cannabis in wheel barrows and sacks they had slung over their shoulders, like trick-or-treaters on a particularly prosperous Halloween night.  All of their eyes were red and bloodshot like mine probably were. I had trouble imagining how a bunch of elves, blessed with such a fruitful bounty of weed and clearly high all of the time, could summon the initiative to harvest it so diligently. I wondered if they actually tended to the plants, but I got the impression that they were growing organically, without the intervention of elves.

A kid I hadn’t seen when I came in, interrupted my thought process by coming into the room, making sure to close the door behind him. He was holding a can of whipped cream.

“You guys wanna do some whip-its?” he asked.

By whip-its, he meant put our mouths on the nozzle (Yes, the same nozzle everyone else had obviously used) tilt our heads back and inhale the gas propelled by the aerosol can. That explained the glazed over, catatonic expressions on everyone’s face when Craig and I walked in, as well as their indifference to our presence. In seven minutes they wouldn’t have any recollection of us whatsoever. We politely declined, and the guy left to rejoin his friends.  They, unlike the elves, were not being productive during the course of their highness.

We made the transaction pretty quickly. Often when marijuana is purchased it’s customary to smoke some of it as an expression of good faith and gratitude. This, however, was understood to be a business transaction – one which was to be done with haste and just as quickly forgotten about. Craig and I would smoke on the ride home. It had been an hour and a half of highway driving since we last got lit and it was damn near time to re-up during the long drive home. Craig packed a small bowl while navigating me back to the highway.

Back on I-95 I got in the right lane, set the car on cruise control, and held the wheel with my knees while I smoked, constantly glancing up to make sure I wasn’t going to rear-end anyone and that I was at least somewhere between the lines. I was getting a nice buzz going. I didn’t even notice the cop car pull up behind me, not until he put his lights on, anyway. Then I took notice.

It’s tough to explain how I felt at that moment, high, driving a car full of weed, and now being pulled over by the police. All I could see was my entire life spiraling out of control. I was mortified by the idea of my car being impounded, having to somehow explain all of this to my parents, and the end of my life as I knew it. I couldn’t breathe, but somehow this situation needed to be dealt with. I quickly tried to reassure and compose myself. The last thing I could do was look scared or guilty; cops can smell fear.

I slowed down so the officer would think I was immediately complying but I wasn’t even thinking about stopping yet. Craig quickly stashed our pipe in my center console. Luckily, I had had the window cracked, I don’t like to bake out my car for a variety of reasons, this being one of them.  Craig and I both put our windows down all the way. We were lucky it was spring and having our windows down was legitimate. Had it been winter, we really would have been fucked.

Still slowly decreasing my speed, I coasted off to the shoulder of the road. Now it was time to put my game face on.

He took a few minutes, probably running my plates through the computer, and then he began the walk up to my window. I could do nothing but bear witness to the slow approach of my imminent doom through my side view mirror.

“Alright, I need your license, registration and insurance, please.”

I know it sounds cliché but that’s really what cops say.  I had the documents ready for him, and he examined them with his flashlight, then a black light, and then his flashlight again. Then he shined his light on me and I winced, closing my eyes as if I had just seen a solar flare. “What are you guys doing out this late?”

“Honeymoon,” I said. It was bold, and slightly aggressive, but tactical. I’d rather the officer think me an asshole than high or drunk.  Also, my experience has led me to believe that police aren’t robots, no matter how much they want you to think they are, and most all of them are insecure. That’s why they took the job in the first place. If you make a bold move it can throw them off balance. And it did, but he was hardly amused. I hesitated and then smirked, as a strategic retreat, then I gave him the real answer as a truce. “We were visiting some friends at the University of Delaware.” He said something like “Alright,” and went back to his car, leaving Craig and I to writhe in agony and contemplate the pending tailspin our lives were sure to take.

The officer came back.

“Have you been drinking tonight?”

“God no.” I said it with authority and conviction. Like the concept was ludicrous. That would be crazy. What kind of lunatic would drive under the influence, putting people at such unnecessary risk? And really it was true. I hadn’t been drinking.

He accepted my response. “Well you were going 75.”

That was when I realized that this was about me speeding, not, strangely enough, about me smoking weed while driving with my legs. If I handled this calmly I could escape with a fine.

“Well it’s just that it’s late and we have class tomorrow. I just kind of set the cruise control. It’s late you know, no one else is really on the road.”

I was starting to talk too much, but I didn’t mind looking guilty… guilty of speeding. I could put myself at his mercy and maybe get some sympathy.  Yeah officer, you got me. I broke the law.

“Alright that’s fine,” he said. “Just slow down and don’t let me catch you out here again.” I put the car in drive and he watched me take off. And that was the end of it.

Craig and I were shocked. We didn’t laugh, we didn’t speak, we didn’t make a sound. We just finished the drive in complete and utter silence.

I was talking earlier about escape, and in my opinion this was certainly a daring one. We were two kids who took a chance doing something dangerous and got away with it. In the end, there was no penalty and I have the luxury of looking back on an interesting experience that bore no unwanted consequences.

I won’t forget that there may have been though. Just like I won’t forget the difference between being home free and getting caught.  I might say that smoking a bowl while speeding down a highway with my best friend is as close a thing to free as I’ll ever feel.  I just hope I don’t get caught, not by the police, but by the idea of freedom being defined as doing whip-its in my drug dealer’s dingy apartment. At least after a while, the police let you go.

 

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

To be perfectly blunt, when I heard adult men were watching this show, I immediately suspected it was a sexual identity thing.

But having seen it, I no longer believe that’s the case.

I think it’s a suspended adolescence thing.

That is, what I saw in the 22 minutes I spent watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was a cartoon intended for children… but not necessarily little girls.

In all honesty, I didn’t see anything in this show that was inherently feminine.

Yes, the six main characters are female, but they’re not gender specific stereotypes.

They’re gender-neutral stereotypes.

One’s kind of a brain – self righteous and responsible. Another is wild and rebellious. One is kind of ditzy. Another is rural and industrious. One has ADHD, I think… Whatever. The point is, these are all traits that could just as easily be applied to boys.

And as far as the plot is concerned, these girls don’t spend their time doing stereo-typically girly things. They don’t sit around braiding each other’s tails or shopping for horseshoes. In fact, two are rather tomboyish.

What they do is explore the different aspects, and limitations, of what it means to be a friend .

It’s not exactly what I’d call sophisticated, but there’s enough to it to keep things interesting, entertaining, and even educational.

That’s a lot more than I can say for SpongeBob SquarePants, which is far less coherent.

In the episode I watched, one pony offered to make the other ponies dresses. They took her up on it. But then they were super critical of the designs and made her redo them over and over until they were abominations. Then they all embarrassed themselves at a fashion show where the Tim Gunn of the pony world shamed the shit out of them.

Moral of the story: Don’t be a dick. Or… Wait for it… Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.

Also, “Sometimes when you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one – including yourself.”

…That’s what the dress-making pony learned.

And it may have been a harsh lesson, but it’s one she learned in style.

There was not one, but two catchy musical numbers in this show…

I’m gonna be straight with you: I love cartoons.

I grew up watching them and I’ve continued watching them well into my adulthood.

Looney Toons, Animaniacs, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Venture Bros., Archer, Bob’s Burgers, Home Movies, The Critic… I watch them all. (Not anime though. Not my thing.)

And the art behind MLP holds up as well, if not better, than any other cartoon I’ve ever seen.

It has its own distinct style that’s bright and colorful, and it uses a lot of creative imagery.

The pony world is literally full of magic, and the artists take advantage of that freedom with whimsicality  and theatrics. The scenes sweep across the screen with flourishes, sparkles and vapor trails. And they’re interspersed with crisp transitional images.

Basically this is exactly the kind of show I would recommend watching while high.

That’s what I did. And I don’t regret it. The animation and music were definitely stimulating and the plot line was easy to follow. It was like taking a magic carpet ride through Candyland or a Mario Party or something.

It’s about ponies that happen to be girls… So what? Should girls not watch Breaking Bad because it features a bunch of men killing each other? Hell no! Everyone should watch Breaking Bad.

Does that mean it’s deserving of cosplay?

No, I probably wouldn’t go that far.

But if society can accept a grown man dressed up as Darth Vader or Batman, then we can certainly accept a guy who just wants to get his Rainbow Dash on.

Of course, I will say that I haven’t watched any more than the one episode, and I don’t plan on revisiting Equestria anytime soon.

But that’s not because it’s a bad show. It’s not because it’s a kid’s show. And it’s definitely not because it’s girl’s show.

It’s because I don’t have any more weed.

The Hunt

When I was just eleven years old my daddy taught me how to shoot. The gun was heavy but I could aim it. The sound was loud but I liked the way it shattered the sky. And the smell of gunpowder didn’t make me cough, it brought me home.

I learned to still my breathing and my body. It’s like being an Indian, he said. You lay perfectly still, one with the earth. Feel each leaf under your belly. Watch everything. See the way that tree bends…the way that branch bows… that leaf skips across the ground… that crow flies… that buck steps closer… and closer…. and drops. Drops before it even hears the round being fired.

I did see it. I did feel it.  You can feel a buck coming long before you can hear, see, or smell it. You can feel it pacing its last steps, and it doesn’t even know you’re there. Nothing knows you’re there.

Sometimes I hid so well my father couldn’t even find me. He’d look for me, to check up and make sure I was okay, but I let him walk right past – just because I could. If I could deceive him, nothing could find me. My father knew everything about me. He knew when I’d done wrong and when I’d done right. He knew when I was lying and when I was telling the truth. If I could hide from him I could hide from anybody, anything.

One time I was hiding down in a ravine, just up on the crest with my feet dangling a little off the edge. I was part way under a tree stump. I’d mired myself in dirt and leaves and thicket. I could see my father off in the distance. He could feel it in the air, just like I could but he was going the wrong way. The buck wasn’t near, but it would be. So I waited.

I watched. Just the way Daddy’d taught me. I watched the leaves, the termites, the birds, and the clouds. Then I heard it just like I knew I would. And it was close, so very close I could hear it breathe. I could see the steam billow from its snout. I could feel its muscles flexing through the ground. But I waited, and waited, and waited… still.

It was so close, that when I shot it, I heard blood spatter onto the leaves. I heard its fur flatten into the soil. I scared myself.

I jumped up so high so fast I almost ran. Why was it so different this time? Why did I want to run? Why wasn’t I happy? It was such a big creature, my daddy was gonna be so proud. Why did I want to run?

I walked slowly while my heart raced ahead. And I heard it fighting to breathe. I heard it kicking… gasping… struggling… surviving and wondering why. I was so close to it and it was alive and it was asking me why. I wanted to shoot it again but it looked so scared. What if I shot it again and it still lived? Then I wouldn’t just be a murderer I’d be a monster.

Die! I pleaded. Why won’t you die? Please just die. Fucking die…

I turned my head crying.  After a few more minutes it finally stopped. I ran off as far and fast as I could. And I hid. I hid in another ravine – in another pile of bramble and bark and leaves and dirt. I hid for what felt like hours. I hid until I heard it again.

I heard the light footsteps. The breathing. I wiped the tears from my face, I stilled my breathing, and I stood up straight as an arrow with my gun in hand.

“I don’t wanna hunt anymore Daddy,” I said.

“We haven’t been out here that long,” he said, “Shouldn’t we wait until we catch something?”

“No, there’s no game to be had. We’ll try again next time.”

My daddy knew that I was lying.

“I’m cold,” I said.

Daddy knew I was telling the truth.

Unhappy Meal

I ran out of the McDonald’s with clumps of rubbery purple foam dangling from my shirt and lodged under my fingernails. I had just emerged from the fight of my life. There was blood dripping from a cut above my left eye and scrapes on my elbows and knees, but you should have seen Grimace.

I don’t know where that rotund purple wannabe comes from, or what his precise affiliation with the McDonald’s corporation or Ronald himself is, but I’m sure I knocked that smug little smile right off of his face. Maybe the physical bruises will blend in with his purple color, but the bruising I levied upon his ego will be perfectly evident for quite some time. It’s not going to be the same happy go lucky, self-confident purple powerhouse heading home to Mrs. Grimace, but a broken, embarrassed, shell of a Grimace who – like a Vietnam vet suffering from post traumatic stress disorder – won’t ever be quite the same. There’s no doubt he’ll be forced to take a few personal days before returning back to his little promotional tour.

You see, knowing Grimace, the Hamburgler, and Mayor McCheese would be at my local McDonald’s distributing free cheeseburgers and pencil sharpeners as part of a promotional marketing blitz, I showed up to the restaurant right at noon, when the giveaway would allegedly take place. I had only intended to pick up a free cheeseburger on my lunch break, but when I found out that Ronald-shaped McDonald’s pencil sharpeners were part of the deal, I was all the happier.

There were some kids already in line at the restaurant and I was willing to wait my turn. I waited for a number of minutes but Grimace, the closest representative to me, refused to provide me with the cheeseburger and pencil sharpener I well deserved. Maybe he thought one of the little brats crowded around my body actually belonged to me. I could accept this misunderstanding as plausible.  After all, how could Grimace know that I was mistakenly given a vasectomy by a negligent doctor who was supposed to perform a vesicotomy to remove a cyst from my bladder that had been causing me a great deal of trouble when it came to urinating.

Then again, how could I have known that the doctor I had been referred to by a “friend” that I used to buy my weed from would be capable of such oversight. Yes, the doctor blindfold me before leading me to his “operating room,” which looked strangely like the kitchen in which I had just been served pita bread and tequila. Yes, the doctor’s credentials looked highly suspect, in that his diploma was a piece of framed cardboard with “Harverd” written in magic marker.  And yes, I was anesthetized with a warm glass of rum garnished with a syringe still lingering around the rim, but his rates were affordable and I was uninsured. This is what you get when the Democrats are in office.

Regardless, after 10-15 minutes Grimace was still ignoring my repeated pleas for what was promised to all of those who arrived at McDonald’s between the hours of twelve and one o’clock pm on this particular Friday.  My patience with this giant purple gumdrop-shaped calamity was beginning to wear thin.

Several times, when he would go to distribute gifts to the smaller children navigating around me, I would make a quick reach to try and snatch them before the children could, but Grimace was quick to withdraw the offer, dodging my attempt and pressing the cheeseburgers and pencil sharpeners directly into the children’s arms and chests. More than a few times he turned to me and shook his whole body back and forth, each time with surmounting urgency. However, his fixed expression prevented me from knowing whether he was shaking to indicate anger, disappointment, or even pity. Or maybe Grimace was just trying to maintain his center of gravity which was surely tested by his awkward and cumbersome shape.

As twenty minutes, then close to a half hour passed, my frustration turned to outrage.  What did Grimace think? That I got my jollies by going to McDonald’s restaurants across the country on the off chance that there might be a promotional giveaway and I would be blessed with the opportunity to stand amid a swarm of small children whining and clamoring and carrying on, their parents looking on at me with disgust in their eyes? As if I was enjoying their little nuisances prattling around my hips, legs, and rear.

Well to set the record straight for Grimace and anyone else wondering, I’m no pervert. I just happen to believe in the American dream. An American dream that says we’re all entitled to the bounty of free corporate giveaways, I even more so than these little trolls.  After all, it was their parents who paid for their free McDonald’s binges. But the money for my Happy Meals and McNuggets comes right from my own pocket. This was blatant age discrimination and if Grimace would be party to it perhaps other McDonald’s icons would represent the corporation more fairly.

Having realized that Grimace, likely a communist pedophile and ageist, was not going to accommodate me, I moved on to who I thought would be a more open minded McDonald’s representative in Mayor McCheese. Surely, the product of a democratic election would better represent the ideals of this great nation and understand my plight.

As mayor, Mayor McCheese would certainly have the authority to right the wrongs rendered unto me by the evil Grimace. So I made my way through the mob of children, working myself up close enough to the good Mayor that I might make my plea.

“Mayor, excuse me Mr. Mayor,” I said, “I’ve been trying to get a cheeseburger and pencil sharpener for a half hour, but Grimace wouldn’t give them to me. He’s prejudiced and maybe a communist pedophile. Please could you hand me a cheeseburger and sharpener so I can get back to the work?”

But my appeal fell on deaf ears, if Mayor McCheese did in fact have ears, which it didn’t appear he did.

“Mr. Mayor, please, I really have to get back to work, and if you won’t give me the cheeseburger and pencil sharpener who will? I don’t trust the Hamburgler, he’s a criminal for God’s sake. He and Grimace are probably in cahoots.”

Still nothing. Sorely disappointed, I decided my next, and perhaps only, option was to bluff Grimace. I moved back across the floor towards him, the crowd of children beginning to dwindle.

“Look Grimace, I just talked to Mayor McCheese and he says that this promotional giveaway is for everyone not just those you judge as being worthy. He says if you don’t give me a cheeseburger and pencil sharpener, he’s going to revoke your right to participate in McDonald’s marketing campaigns. His authority comes right from the clown himself, and I’m sure he’s the one that stuffed the ballot boxes, so you better listen.”

Grimace continued to ignore me. It was now a quarter ‘til one and I was still without burger and sharpener. Soon I’d have to get back to work and I was hungry. This was unacceptable. I stood waiting for Grimace to make the right decision, but he didn’t.  That’s when it happened.

A child I had seen served, a child whose cheeseburger and pencil sharpener I had attempted to intercept, returned to Grimace who presented him with yet another cheeseburger – and furthermore a gentle pat on the head. He would go the extra mile to touch the kid. That was all I could take.

“Alright Grimace, you win I’ll just go to Burger King or Arby’s, somewhere middle aged divorcees with dead end jobs are appreciated.”

I turned my back and began walking away, towards the door, as if I were really giving up. Well, guess what I’m no quitter! I turned around and ran full sprint at Grimace. I buried my shoulder into his chest and took him hard into the counter, igniting an eruption of cheeseburgers and plastic pencil sharpeners. Grimace and I hit the ground, and next thing I knew the Hamburgler and McCheese were trying to restrain me.  I never intended this to be their fight but the turnstiles had been struck down and I was ready to take on all comers.

The Mayor put his arm under mine and tried to pry me off of Grimace. I threw an elbow back and connected with his giant hamburger head, turning it ninety degrees to the left. Sensing he was at a disadvantage, I kicked at his legs until he tripped and careened into the nearby trashcans. The print on the cans said “Thank You.”

“No need to thank me,” I thought to myself coolly. “That deposit is on the house.”

The Hamburgler took a step back, slightly startled by the thrashing his friends were receiving. But like the last generic ninja left in a Steven Segal fight scene, he had no choice but to step up and take his beating like a man. Slightly out of breath and my blood coursing with adrenaline, I said, “Bring it on jailbird.”

I got to my feet and he came at me trying to grab, but I pulled his hat down in front of his face to disorient him. Then I brought my knee into his abdomen. He doubled over in pain and gasped for air. I pushed him towards an empty booth, which he clumsily toppled into. I’d expected more from a guy who’d spent time in the clink.

Then I saw the looks of horror on the faces of all the children, parents, and McDonald’s employees, and I began to realize the magnitude of the altercation.

“I… I’m sorry,” I said.

I was about to explain that I had just wanted a cheeseburger and a pencil sharpener to keep in my desk at work when I felt two large purple arms grab me from behind.  Grimace had gotten up off the floor and had me in a bear hug with his fat mitts tightly squeezing my chest. I struggled, but his grip was strong and I couldn’t pry myself loose. I saw Mayor McCheese regaining his composure. The Hamburgler sat up. They were rallying.

Grimace held fast while McCheese lowered his head like a bull and took aim to charge me.  He stomped his loafer-clad feet and took off full speed towards me with his hamburger head poised for a direct hit into my sternum. The Hamburgler was looking on with a sense of satisfaction as he witnessed the assault from his booth. He was grinning with delight as he watched the momentum of the fight turn against me, his eyes glittering with anticipation. But I clinched and pulled at Grimace with all my might, tearing tufts of purple foam as I pried his arms from around my waist. I dropped to the floor just seconds before Mayor McCheese collided with him. Both toppled over the counter, taking one of the registers with them.

On the floor I grabbed two cheeseburgers, got up, and bolted for the door. The Hamburgler rose and tried to stop me, but he couldn’t get a handle as I stormed by pelting him in the face with one of the cheeseburgers before flying through the doors and making my exit. I didn’t run to my car. If the police came they’d be looking for it. There were too many witnesses. I’d have to hide out and return later.

I ran across the street, cars screeching to a stop, their horns blaring though my brain. I ducked into a nearby Burger King knowing no McDonald’s spokesman would be warmly received there and that I would be sheltered from any further attacks by my assailants. I’d be granted asylum for sure, possibly even praised as a hero and knighted by the Burger King himself. But not yet.

I rushed into the bathroom as quickly as I could. I had to regain my composure, clean the foam out from under my fingernails, and scoff down a hard-earned cheeseburger. But more than anything else, I had to take a piss. My bladder was killing me.

Netflix Instant Classic: Wayne’s World

Sometimes people ask me what my favorite movie is…

I just about always answer Wayne’s World.

Most people just laugh. And they should.

But I’m also dead serious.

Here’s why…

First off, Mike Myers is an extremely underrated comedic talent. He’s more famous for Austin Powers, which is understandable but also kind of a shame.  Because  (while insanely funny)  Austin Powers was a parody – and one that wore out its welcome, at that.

Myers would have been smart to stop after the second movie. And he would have been even smarter to not pursue The Love Guru at all.

The latter abomination notwithstanding, Austin Powers overshadowed Myers work on Saturday Night Live. I loved watching early 90s SNL growing up. The cast was fantastic and Mike Myers was one of the highlights with characters like Simon, Lothar, and of course, Wayne Campbell.

If you’re not a member of Generation X – which I’m not, either – then you’ve probably forgotten how popular Wayne’s World was. It debuted at No. 1 at the box office and grossed over $121 million, which was huge at that time. It also spawned a sequel and even a video game for SNES.

Everyone tells those “That’s what she said…” jokes with Michael Scott in mind… But it was Wayne Campbell that got there first.

There were other one-line wonders and catchphrases too, like the less durable “Schwing” and “Not!” and the more subtle and better-aged “Excellent,” “Party on,” and “Game on.”

It’s not just those flippant phrases I crack up at when I watch the movie, though.

I think my favorite scene is early on, when Wayne’s ex-girlfriend gets him a gun rack for a present.

He says: “Stacy, I don’t even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.”

That was the first time I ever heard the word “necessitate”and it was because Wayne Campbell was smart enough to use it.

You see, while on the surface they seemed to embody the Gen-X slacker mentality of the time, Wayne and Garth were intelligent, polite and industrious.

Which brings me to the heart of the movie…

The reason I love Wayne’s World so much is because it’s almost a fairy tale re-imagining of the grunge era.

Characters wear grungy clothes but they still look relatively clean. We see background actors drinking, but we almost never see the main characters imbibe (Just once when Wayne shares a rooftop Champagne with Benjamin).

Obviously, there’s no heroin, either, despite its prevalence at the time, particularly among grunge-era musicians.

Indeed, it would have been easy to set this movie in Seattle, where grittier grunge cliches were running amok, but they didn’t.

Wayne and Garth are suburbanites from Aurora, Illinois. They more or less revolve around the cultural epicenter of Chicago, without being absorbed into it.

As a result, they’re the product  of a cleaner, safer environment, where they’re insulated from the dangers of the city and that era.

But whereas Beavis and Butthead spent their slow suburban nights on the couch watching TV, Wayne and Garth spent their time on the couch making TV.

And good TV at that. If Wayne’s World were a real show, I’d watch it every week. Everyone would. It was funny, absolutely, but also joyous and sincere. And its production represents another cultural meme of the time – anti-corp., grass roots, do-it-yourself artistic expression.

The grunge era was all about not selling out and there Wayne and Garth were every Saturday night on public access.

They do of course, sell out in the movie, but only for the chance to make their hobby and passion their full-time job. And when the sponsor attempts to force change on the show, sapping it of its integrity, Wayne walks out.

That’s grunge.

And that’s Wayne’s World.

There’s escapism, naivete, and earnestness in what Wayne and Garth do. They love music and they love entertaining. They embody all of the child-like ethos of the era, and none of the grim alienation or cynicism.

They go to grunge clubs and loft parties, sure.  But most of the time, you can find them munching on donuts at Stan Makita’s, playing hockey in the street, or just lying on the hood of Garth’s car watching planes take off at the airport.

And that’s really what makes me wish Wayne’s World was my world, too.

Netflix Instant Classic: The Station Agent

Genre: Arthouse, Independent.

What’s it about? A recluse who loves trains.

Who’s In It? Peter Dinklage and some other people (notably Michelle Williams and Bobby Cannavale aka Gyp Rosetti)

You’ll like it if… You can’t get enough Tyrion Lannister…

I had seen Peter Dinklage in a number of small roles. In 30 Rock, for instance, where he played the love interest Liz Lemon mistook for a little boy.

He was always THAT character actor. I could hear Hollywood casting agents going: “We need a midget. Get Dinklage on the phone.”

Except I didn’t know his name.

Then Game of Thrones happened. And I found that a very small man can indeed cast a very large shadow.

Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister is transcendent… Fucking Transcendent.

I needed more of this actor in my life. So I prayed to the old gods and the new.

They came through with this New York Times profile.

This is where I learned of the Station Agent.

The basic plot of which is this…

Dinklage plays Finbar McBride, a ferroequinologist (someone who fucking loves trains). Guy works in a model train store when his one, and presumably only, friend hits the heavenly rails, bequeathing to Tyrion a small dilapidated train depot in New Jersey.

And that’s just perfect.

You see, Finbar is a dwarf, which is something of a novelty to just about everyone he meets. As you might expect, this makes him something of an outcast. He’s so used to being snickered at and not taken seriously that he’s devolved into this disaffected hermit who just wants to be left the fuck alone.

He finds solace only in his train hobby, which is pretty cool as far as hobbies go.

So an abandoned train depot is pretty much the perfect spot for him to dwell.

Yet, in an ironic twist, the place to which Finbar retreats seeking solitude turns out to be  the very place he ends up finding friends. Not total acceptance, mind you. There are plenty of simple-minded townies that give him shit for being a dwarf.

But there are also people that are even crazier and more fucked up than Finbar. It’s sort of like the land of misfit toys.

No doubt, the movie can be a bit dark, but ultimately it’s buoyed by a dry humor that permeates throughout and, of course, Dinklage’s performance.

In this movie, he’s not just a train enthusiast, he IS the train. It’s his performance that carries you along for the ride.

Murdoch’s Tale

I never had a proper name.

The Old Man, the farmer that took me, he called me Murdoch. I never liked it all that much.  I always fancied myself as something more traditional, like Blue or Jake.  It could be worse though, that’s what my friend Pickles says.

The old man, he did okay I suppose. He kept me fed alright, gave me plenty of time to myself so long as I kept crows and no good folks away. All and all he wasn’t half bad, neither was the Missus, she was just fine.  It’s just a shame what happened is all.  I’ll tell you about it.  I’ll tell you because I know no one will believe you, just like no one believes me. But it’s the truth, the honest to God truth.

It all started years ago, two or three I’d say, but keep in mind that’s somewhere between fourteen and twenty years for me. The old man wasn’t so bad back then.

Those days were most normal, I just kept to myself like a good dog should. Things tend to blend together a bit, more and more as I get older, but I remember one particular day when things began to change.  I remember the old man took me into town that morning.  I got to put my head out the side of the truck. It sure felt good the wind blowin’ through my fur. When it got cold I brought it in, and the Old Man scratched me behind the ears the way I liked.  He could be a good man when he wanted to.

When we got back, the Old Man went inside the house and I stayed outside to go look for crows.  I hate crows and I was beginning to suspect they hated me as it had been a while since I’d seen any around.  At some point, word probably got out amongst the crow community that a crow should stay away from the McNamara place on account of old Murdoch. Anyhow, that’s when I noticed one of those fancy city cars pull up.

I know that’s what it was now but I was just a pup back then, so I took to barkin’ at it, as I‘d never to my knowledge seen one before.  A man in a suit got out.  I was more energetic in those days, and boy did I give him a scare.  I was never gonna hurt him none, but he jumped back against the car and held his suitcase up in front of him like I was gonna try to tear at his throat or somethin’ like. I didn’t though, I just barked.  I barked until the old man came out of the house with his shotgun.  That’s when I believe the city fellow nearly marked his own trousers.  The Old Man, he yelled at me.

“Murdoch! Murdoch, down!”

I left the fella alone for the time being. It wouldn’t do me no good to not listen when the Old Man spoke.

“Mr. McNamara,” he said, “I’m from the bank, I need a moment of your time.”

“Alright, but you better be quick about it,” the Old Man shouted.  “That’s enough Murdoch. You sit down now.”

The old man went back inside, so I kept an eye on the city fellow.  When I saw him relax and drop his suitcase to his side I gave him a look and growled, but I stayed sitting, just like the old man told me.  I set right there in place ‘til The Old Man came back, without his shotgun.

“He’s not going to bite me, is he,” the fellow asked.

“Nah, ole Murdoch wouldn’t hurt a fly, would you boy?”

“Well, if it’s all the same sir, I think we should go inside,” the city fellow said to the old man.

The rotting wood steps rattled as the two men stepped up to the porch and went into the farmhouse.  I followed them the whole way, sniffing at the stranger’s heels. He smelled like perfume.  The Old Man and the City Fellow let the screen door close behind them but I pawed it back open and slid through.

When I got inside they were all sitting around the coffee table in front of the furnace, and the Missus was servin’ up some coffee.  We rarely got visitors, and the old man seemed a bit agitated.  I’m not too sure he much enjoyed company.

The Missus brought me a steak bone just like I was part of the family. The Missus was real nice like that. Sometimes she’d give me some bacon or sausage from the breakfast table when the Old Man wasn’t lookin’. He wouldn’t have liked me getting food off the table like that.

I nestled down in front of the Old Man’s chair right by his feet, where I could watch over things.  Sometimes he’d scratch me a bit on the head if I lay there real still, but he was a bit distracted. He and the City Fellow had some important issues to discuss, I suppose.  I overheard but didn’t quite understand them.  I am, after all, just a simple country dog, not one of those fancy, pure bred, collared city dogs.

“Mr. McNamara, you know why I’m here,” the city fellow started. “You’ve had problems with your loan.  Now, we at the bank have been very patient with you, and we understand the circumstances of your situation, but the fact is you simply haven’t been able to keep up with your payments.  To be frank sir, we can no longer let this continue.  If you do not assemble $20,000 dollars by the end of the month, the bank will have no choice but to foreclose on your farm.”

The old man, took quite a look.

“What? You know I can’t possibly get that much money in a month.  We’re just simple country folk out here, we ain’t got that kinda money just lyin around.  You… you city folk are all the same.  You don’t care about us simple folk out here trying to make a living.  You just care about your dollars and cents, and that’s all. Well, this ain’t right. This ain’t right and you gotta know it. You just don’t care is all. Mister you gotta give me more time. I just need more time.”

“I’m sorry Mr. McNamara, but the bank is out of time,” the fellow said standing up. “Thank you for the coffee Mrs. McNamara, and good luck to the both of you. I’ll be going now.”

The old man just stood right there starin’ at the city fellow, didn’t move at all.  I thought he might be fixin’ to go get his shotgun again, but he didn’t.  The Missus saw the city fellow to the door.  They both retired to their room and left me all alone.  After I was done chewin’ on my bone, I went outside to look for some crows.

I didn’t see neither the Old Man or the Missus for quite some while.  With me spending so much time outside I guess I just missed ’em, but they were upstairs an awful lot and I wasn’t allowed up there.

Then one night, I was all curled up on the rug as it had gotten a good deal colder out recently, and I heard the Old Man goin’ out.  It’d been a while since he’d gone out at night.  I thought it was strange, not just the Old Man leaving, but he usually took me along wherever he was goin.’  It bothered me a bit, I would have liked to go for a ride.  It had been too long since my ears had had a good scratchin. I didn’t pay no mind though, I just went to sleep under the chair where I liked.

When I woke up a little while later, I had business to tend to.  So I went outside to lay claim to some of the land as they say.  I came back up to the porch and drank some water from my bowl.  It was plenty late in the night now.  That’s when I saw the Old Man’s truck coming down the road.  It didn’t seem quite right though, how it kept speeding up and slowin’ down and slidin’ back and forth all over the road, kicking up clouds of dust.

Funny thing was, though, he didn’t park in the driveway.  He drove his truck right up on the lawn. First it slowed down, then it stopped right in between two tall oak trees.   I thought it a bit unusual, but I suppose it proved to be a bit more practical for what he was fixin’ to do.

The door swung open kinda wildly and hit one of them oaks directly.  That’s when I saw the Old Man squeeze himself out and stagger towards another tree.  I reckon the he was fixin’ to lay claim to some of the land too.  Didn’t bother me none, so long as he stayed away from my spot.  When he was finished, I walked over and met him half way.  He didn’t smell like himself, like dirt or leaves at all.  He smelled bitter and pungent. I drew back a little from the smell and took a step back, that’s when he said something.

“What? You don’t want to say hello and help your master to the door? Some dog you are.  Man’s best friend my ass.”

He took a step towards me, lost his balance, and leaned against the truck.

“You think this is funny? You don’t know what it’s like. You don’t know anything.  You’re just a dumb dog.”

Then he lunged forward and struck me clean across the face.  I yelped and tried to turn away but the grass was wet and I stumbled.  I got back to my feet as quick as I could and I saw the Old Man coming toward me. He raised his fist like he was going to bring it down on my nose.  Then I felt a hard kick into my chest.  I turned again and backed further away.  I’d always known the Old Man had something of a temper, but never anything like this.  I turned and ran across the lawn to the trees.  He started to look for me, but then I heard the screen door on the porch swing open. I could always hear those rusty hinges no matter where I was.

“Shamus,” I heard the Missus yell from the house.  “Is that you out there doing all that yelling?”

The Old Man gave one last look in my direction and began to make his way towards the house.

“Yeah, it’s me you shrew! Who in the hell else would it be?”  The Old Man’s voice trailed off.  I followed him slowly through the trees and caught up to him and the Missus by the porch.

“Well, what on earth are you doing out so late,” the Missus asked.

“You know damn well where I was and what I been doing,” the Old Man replied.

“You promised you’d stop drinking, Shamus, ever since that night you hit me.  I told you I wasn’t going to stick around here for that.  I still won’t. I don’t care how long we’ve been together.  I told you then, that if you ever came home like this again I’d leave,” she said.

The Old Man looked at her.

“Well what do you expect?  We’re losing everything.  We’re not going to have a pot to piss in when this is all over.  You heard the… the banker.  We don’t have anything.”

“We have each other,” the Missus said, tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

“And a hell of a lot of good that does us,” the Old Man replied quickly.  “I’m going to bed.  Don’t even bother to wake me up tomorrow.”

The Old Man walked by the Missus without even lookin’ at her and disappeared into the house.  The Missus on the other hand, she just stood there.  I never seen anyone look so bad.  The Missus looked vacant, like she was dead inside, like the last petal had withered from a flower leaving only the stem.  I myself didn’t want to go back inside either, so I just settled down to sleep out in the bushes and trees.

I woke up and brought the paper in the next morning. I’m not sure why, habit I guess.  But when I got inside, I didn’t smell any bacon, egg, sausage, or even any toast.  I didn’t hear any clamoring in the kitchen at all.  I thought maybe the Missus had taken to sleepin’ in, or maybe she’d become distracted elsewhere.  Whatever the case I decided to go upstairs and look, but the Missus wasn’t there either, it was just the Old Man.  He was sitting on his bed, and boy did he seem out of sorts.  He had the same look the Missus did the night before, like some awful spell had come over him.   It looked as though he’d seen a ghost.  I walked over to him and put my head up on his lap.  Sometimes, scratching my head the way I liked was good for the both of us, but he didn’t want any part of that.  He just pushed me off and said, “Get out of here mut! You know you’re not supposed to be up here.”  The Old Man had a desperate look in his eye, and I didn’t quite trust him after the events of the night previous, so I just left.

I reckon I chased a lot of crows that day, just trying to keep my distance from the Old Man.  He’s not a man to tamper with, not when he’s put afoul like he was.  I spent a lot of time outside from that point on.  Every now and then, I’d hear the Old Man’s truck start up and pull away, that’s when I’d go up on the porch to look and see if there was any food in my bowl. There never was though.

I’d get mighty hungry, so I’d have to eat whatever I could scrounge up out in the woods or there in the house.  It seemed like every day there was less and less food around.  Less food, but more trash, more bottles.  Bottles were everywhere, inside the house, outside the house, in on the porch, out in the woods, they’d even fall out of the Old Man’s truck when he opened the door.  Bottles may satisfy an old man but they don’t do much for a poor country dog like me.

If I was hungry enough, which I often was, I would nose through the Old Man’s trash in the kitchen.  There was never much food in there, but every now and then there’d be some table scraps or something close enough to edible.  I’d made something of a habit of this and I reckon the Old Man was starting to get sore about having to clean up all the trash I’d rummaged through.  I’d always hear his truck coming though, and I’d be sure to get out of there as fast as I could.  Naturally, I worried about what the Old Man might do if he ever caught me, but I didn’t have much of a choice really.

The fact is though, that one day he did catch me.  I don’t remember hearing his truck, maybe I was too busy making a mess of everything, or maybe I did hear it and I was just too darned hungry to stop what I was doing.  No matter the reason, the Old Man caught me, and I took a beating.  You’ll have to forgive my not going into detail but I’d much rather not discuss the specifics.  It’s plenty to say I took quite a beating, and I wasn’t sure that it’d ever stop.  I stayed out in the woods for quite a while after that.  I didn’t move an inch out there, no matter how hungry I was.  It was lying out there in the bushes and trees that I realized things couldn’t go on this way, they just couldn’t.  That’s when I had a funny notion.

I was tired, I was sore, I was starving, and I was certainly afraid, the young pup that I was, but I went back to the house and waited by the driveway.  I waited by the trees for the Old Man.  I listened for his truck, and when I heard him climb inside and start it up, I went back inside the house and I made an awful mess of things.  I tore through the garbage, I gnawed on the Old Man’s chair, I even went upstairs and laid my own particular claim to his bed.  That’s about when I heard the Old Man’s truck pull back into the driveway.  As soon as I heard it, I trotted on over into the Old Man’s closet and hid myself as best I could.  I heard the screen door swing open and slam shut.  Then I listened as the Old Man saw all that I had done.  He was God awful mad, and he started screamin.’

“That damn dog has crossed me for the last time! I’m going to put an end to this right now,” he said.

Then I heard him coming up the stairs, just as I expected him to.  That old man didn’t often stray from routine, neither do I myself, ‘cept when I’m starvin’.

He went towards his bed, and I heard him grow even angrier when he seen what I done.  Then the Old Man picked up his shotgun, and loaded both barrels, and he started towards the doorway at quite a pace.  Just as soon as he had left the room, I climbed out of the closet as fast as I could, and I ran towards the Old Man.  He was just beginning to take his first step down the stairs.  That’s when I jumped up and threw all of my weight into him.  I fell back down and landed hard on my ribs, which were all but bare due to my lack of nourishment, and yelped as it hurt quite a bit.  The Old Man, he fell down the steps.  I heard him strike each one as he rolled and tumbled awkwardly down all the way to the bottom.  Then I heard a loud blast from the shotgun.

It was awfully loud, ’specially indoors the way we were.  I pulled myself as best I could to the edge of the steps and I saw him lying there lifeless, bones broken from the fall, and flesh torn from the shotgun blast.  It was a terrible mess we were in.

I musta fallen asleep right there, cause next thing I know, I felt like flying.  Then I felt a hand on my head. I opened my eyes, and I was moving.  It felt like the Old Man’s truck, but it wasn’t.  It was softer, roomier, and smelled like perfume.

“Hey boy, you coming around now? Don’t worry I’ll get you to a vet in no time.  Just sit tight, and don’t try to bite me.”

It was the City Fellow.

“It’s a shame what happened,” he said, “I guess you two were planning on going out hunting and the old guy took a spill huh? Is that it boy?  Well, no matter, I’ll take care of you.”

I couldn’t have bitten him if I wanted to, I was too darn exhausted. No, I just laid there and fell back asleep as the City Fellow scratched me behind my ears the way I like.

It’s like I said, the Old Man, he was alright, even with the beatings.  He just got stuck in a rut is all.  I suppose I did love him. But sometimes, even though it hurts, the most humane thing to do is what’s best for everyone, to just put’em down.

Drinks On Me