Not Long Tales … December 31st, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4475)

21.

Onederkind

by Jonathan Richard Cring

Dr. Jesse Kinrod had never done anything wrong in his life. Well, at least nothing to get him arrested by the authorities. At twenty-nine years of age, his vices were limited to failing to wash his clothes, arriving late for his shift at the hospital and allowing his scruffy, curly frock of hair to tumble down into his face.

But no one had ever placed handcuffs on his wrists, toted him away and stuffed him in a jail cell.

Tonight was the night.

Sitting in his beat-up, half-restored Camaro, revving the engine, he pointed the hood at the sheriff’s car and accelerated. They collided head-on at about thirty-five miles an hour, with the most awful screech and crunch imaginable. Shaken a bit, he stared over into the face of the shocked and befuddled peace officer, who had apparently been eating tacos at the time, with all the ingredients now strewn across his chest.

The aging sheriff sat stock-still, trying to get his bearings, then looked over at Dr. Jesse, who was patiently waiting to be nabbed and cuffed. Pulling himself out of his car, the sheriff limped over to the destroyed Camaro and screamed, “Get your goddamn hands on the dashboard, and then slowly—did you hear me?—SLOWLY reach over, open the door and get out.”

Jesse realized his brain was a bit discombobulated from the crash, and decided he should think over the instructions carefully—because the cop was pretty jittery, and had his finger on a big gun, unholstered and pointed in his direction.

Once safely out of the car, Dr. Jesse Kinrod listened carefully as he was instructed to put his hands on the hood and spread his legs. He was searched for a weapon but had none.

The sheriff, still fuzzy, stared at Jesse’s bare feet. Yet another violation.

Neither car could make the short journey to the headquarters of the Peterson County Sheriff’s Department, so a van was beckoned and the sheriff climbed in with the crazy, barefooted crasher in tow, and headed off to the jail.

Once the two men were inside, Dr. Jesse was placed in an interview room, listening to four or five policemen outside his door, whispering frantically and trying to figure out what kind of nut job they had uncovered in the middle of a dark night in the dark town in the desert.

At length, the sheriff entered the room, a bandage on his forehead. He sat down with a plop, exhausted from the ordeal.

He began. “Honest to God, boy, I hope you’re flat-out crazy—because the idea of you having a reason for what you did out there in the middle of the street in the middle of the night just scares the shit out of me.”

It was spoken with such a homespun drawl that Jesse nearly smiled, but caught himself just in time, realizing that this was no occasion for jest.

The sheriff paused, waiting for an answer. Then he probed, “Well? Are you gonna tell me why in the hell you nearly killed us both?”

Jesse drew a deep breath. “I needed to talk to you.”

The sheriff frowned. “We do have telephones, you know. We also have a front door, which opens both ways. You really don’t need to get my attention by destroying my cruiser.”

Once again, the response was so mature and congenial that Jesse nearly laughed. As the sheriff was waiting, the door to the interview room opened and the receptionist stuck her head in, asking, “Does anyone want coffee?”

They both did. She left and returned very quickly with two cups of coffee, neither man in the mood to converse.

Jesse took his first swallow. He leaned back in his chair and said, “I’m sorry. Probably there was a much better way to do this, but I didn’t know how to convey the seriousness of the situation without the drama.”

“I’m not much into drama,” said the sheriff. “I leave that to my little granddaughters, discussin’ their young boyfriends.”

Jesse ran his hands through his hair and said flatly, “I’ve got a story to tell, and I don’t think you’ll believe me. But I do need you to hear me.”

The sheriff shook his head. “Well, legally, I’m not supposed to talk to you. You’re supposed to be shipped off to the hospital, checked over…”

Jesse interrupted, laughing. “Not the hospital—that’s where I work. And I can tell you—because I’m a doctor—that I’ll probably end up with a little whiplash in the morning, but there are no broken bones or contusions.”

“You’re a doctor?” asked the sheriff suspiciously.

“Well,” said Jesse, “when I’m at work I’m a doctor. Tonight, apparently I’m playing the part of a fool.”

At that moment, a deputy barged into the door, whispering something into the sheriff’s ear. The deputy then straightened up, staring at Jesse like he expected him to turn into a werewolf.

The sheriff shooed the deputy out, and when the door was closed, he spoke slowly and clearly. “Well, they tell me you are who you say you are. So for the love of God, son, why would an educated man like yourself decide to throw his life to the wind?”

“Is that a question?” asked Jesse. “I mean, do you want me to answer?”

The sheriff paused. “Yes, I guess so. I mean, I’ve always heard this statement said in movies, but it seems appropriate tonight. This better be good…”

Jesse risked a smile. He took another drink of his coffee and leaned forward, putting his hands in the cuffs on the table. “I was in love with the most lovable woman I’ve ever met. I know that’s a strange beginning. But I want you to understand how this thing came at me…like a freight train.”

He paused. “I was so happy. Shit. I even looked forward to coming home at night and figuring out what to cook for dinner. When we made love, it was total… Well, it was art.”

The sheriff interrupted. “Jesus Christ, boy, I don’t want to hear this.”

Jesse nodded his head. “I know. I just wanted you to understand that there wasn’t any trouble on the horizon. There wasn’t trouble in the living room. And there sure weren’t any problems in the bedroom. I actually had to convince myself that this was the last woman I ever wanted to have in my life when we made love.”

The sheriff just shook his head.

Feeling the freedom to continue, Jesse took a deep breath, trying to gain some sense in his brain. “I think I was gonna ask her to marry me. But here’s where it comes in. She’s a doctor, too. Honest to God—like somebody wrote it for television. Two doctors falling in love in a small town in California.”

He squinted. “But you see, her work’s different. She’s the head of pediatrics over there at the Mercy Clinic—you know, in the middle of that huge forest stuck out there in the sand?”

The sheriff nodded. Everybody knew Mercy Clinic. It had gained national attention, being one of the only hospitals across the country that still offered late-term abortions without any questions. There had been protests and the press corps across the nation and come, asking every man, woman, child and lizard what they thought about the clinic being nearby.

Now that the hullabaloo was over, nobody ever spoke of it.

So the sheriff knew the place.

Jesse continued. “I can tell by your silence that you’re acquainted with Mercy Clinic. But honestly, sheriff, she did the work for just that reason. Mercy. She convinced me. I thought those type of abortions were evil, but she explained to me that complications can come in late in a pregnancy, or there can be dire changes through deaths, divorces, or just a final regret that produces the need for the baby to be aborted.”

He continued. “I didn’t ever believe in it, but I certainly understood her heart.”

Jesse explained, “Well, we were talkin’ about such things, because I took her to San Diego for the weekend, and I was gonna ask her to marry me. I had the damn ring and everything. She stepped out to get us some tamales that she heard were the best in North America, and I was left alone in our motel room, jazzed up, but also kind of curious. I did something I shouldn’t have done. I looked through her briefcase. She had agreed to come on the trip as long as I understood she had some work she needed to do. I thought she was talkin’ about Mercy Clinic—but when I thumbed through the papers, they were all about a man named Dr. Carmine and a place called Onederkind.”

He looked over at the sheriff. “If you’re takin’ notes, there, sheriff, it’s O-n-e-d-e-r-k-i-n-d.”

The sheriff was not scribing anything, but he grabbed a piece of paper from his pocket and a pencil lying on the table and pretended to enshrine the word for all time.

“My girlfriend,” Jesse began, “and by the way, her name is Lacy. Dr. Lacy Sanderson. She stayed away for quite a while. By the time she returned with the tamales, I had read most of the notes in her file.”

“So what did it say?” asked the sheriff, sprouting some interest.

“You see, that was the problem,” Jesse answered. “There were things I read that shocked me, but I was in no mood to be shocked, since I was just about to marry this woman, or at least propose. So I tried to brush it out of my mind. But after I finished off my third tamale, I was unable to ignore my feelings. So I asked her. Well, I didn’t really ask her. I just said the word: Onederkind.

“She stopped in the middle of her chewing, and slowly but precisely set her tamale on the plastic paper provided. Then she reached over and slapped me across the face. Well, you can imagine, sheriff…I recoiled like a spurned dog. I did not know what to expect, but the violence took me aback. She changed right before my eyes. She said, ‘You goddamn son-0f-a-bitch. How dare you go through my briefcase? How dare you go through my notes? How dare you say you love me and then intrude on my person?’”

“I was wounded but didn’t want to remain silent, so I said, ‘It’s because I love you that I want to know. Why do we have secrets? Why haven’t we talked about this?’”

“Now get this,” said Jesse. “Thinking we were gonna launch into an argument about states’ rights and all, she just looked at me coolly and replied, ‘I didn’t tell you because you’re a child and you’re so locked into the medical system that you could never comprehend anything but your charts and graphs.’”

Jesse went on. “Now, sheriff, this is why I ran into your car. For the next ten minutes, without blinking an eye, she explained to me what she really does for a living. She is united with a licensed, but renegade, doctor named Carmine. He has two missions. The first one is to provide late-term abortions for frantic, conflicted women who find themselves in need of one. But the second mission is to make sure that rather than killing those babies—crushing their skulls or whatever the hell is they do with them—that after they remove them from their mothers’ uteruses, he whisks them away and keeps them alive.”

The sheriff gasped. “Is he some sort of a pro-life freak? Or…”

Jesse interrupted. “Oh, no. No, sir. He isn’t keeping the babies alive to keep them alive. He keeps those babies alive, sheriff, for research.”

“Research,” repeated the sheriff.

“Yes,” replied Jesse. “Because it’s much easier to test medicines, chemicals and treatments on living subjects, Dr. Carmine uses these newborn babies that were going to die anyway, as test subjects for drugs, cures and vaccinations.”

The sheriff sat for a long moment. “Well, it does sound sick. But weren’t the babies gonna be dead anyway? He keeps them alive, uses them for a time…and then, does he adopt them out to families? I suppose that would be a crime.”

Jesse sat up in his chair and spoke angrily. “No. Here’s the crime, sheriff. Because it’s not legal to use human beings as rats or guinea pigs, when the babies reach one year of age—when they’re just about ready to do all their crawling, walking and talking—he gives them a shot and puts them to sleep.”

The sheriff was quiet. Jesse joined him in the silence, allowing for thought to live in the room, to give it a chance to bring meaning.

“So what you’re saying,” said the sheriff, “is that babies that were gonna be aborted are kept alive and used to test new drugs and treatments…”

Jesse interrupted. “Or to harvest their organs. Use their stem cells. Whatever Dr. Carmine feels is necessary to push along the progress of research at a pace that will bring faster results.”

The sheriff sat and shook his head.

“I know what you’re feeling,” said Dr. Jesse. “At first, I was torn—that even though it was unorthodox, or maybe even like Frankenstein, it still had a stream of good in it. But because there aren’t enough women who want third trimester abortions, Dr. Carmine was finding himself needing to advertise, if not encourage, women who were teetering in their indecision, to opt for termination.”

Jesse concluded. “You see, sheriff, there’s nothing good about it. It’s dark. The worst kind of sinister. It makes us believe it might be good.”

“So,” the sheriff asked, “what did you say when she told you all this?”

“Now it gets interesting,” Jesse answered. “While we were sitting in the motel room, suddenly there’s this knock at the door. Lacy gets up, opens it, and there’s these two big, burly fellows. One she referred to as Bruno and Bruno called his buddy Henry. Lacy quickly explained that since I knew, she was gonna have to wrap me up in tape and forbid me to leave the room until it was clear what my intentions were. In other words, what was I going to do with what I now knew?”

“Honest to God, sheriff, I always thought I would be able to protect myself if I was ever attacked, but these two guys just took me over, put me in a chair, pinned down my arms, wrapped me in duct tape, pushed me back and wrapped duct tape around my chest and the back of the chair. I wanted to struggle—but without knowing what to do—they were able to duct tape my legs to the bottom of the chair. They looked over at her when they were preparing to tape my mouth. She said, ‘Wait. Let’s give him a chance to speak, so he can ask questions.’”

“So I did. I asked her—even though it was controversial—what was wrong with working on chimpanzees to do the research. She told me, ‘They’re chimpanzees. They aren’t human.’ I asked her where her moral conflict was. Had she ever questioned it. She replied, ‘I work with pediatric AIDS patients. Do you know what it’s like to watch a little girl die of AIDS simply because she was born to a mother who’s HIV positive?’”

“Of course, I didn’t know what that was like. She continued. ‘Dr. Carmine has made progress in AIDS, childhood cancer, even paralysis. You see—’ she said, her voice turning into a scream. ‘That’s the problem. He makes great progress, but he can’t share it because he would have to reveal how he came to his conclusions. So even though the babies are helpful, and their clean, pure systems make it possible for the tests to register with great clarity, no one the hell can ever find out, because dead babies will resurrect the living babies, who are used to give life to other people…’”

“Well, I interrupted her and said, ‘Yeah, and in doing so are rewarded by losing their lives.’ She slapped me across the face again. By the way, it was at that point I decided that not to ever give her the ring. She said, ‘You’re so goddamn conventional and stupid. It wouldn’t have to be that way. If we really cared about people instead of just caring about babies so we can take pictures, Dr. Carmine could share his discoveries and hundreds—maybe thousands—of lives could be saved.’”

“’Okay,’ I screamed back at her. ‘Let’s follow your logic. So he learns all these things he can’t share while simultaneously stealing babies, which he eventually has to kill because they’re starting to want to live.’”

“Bruno stepped in at this point and asked her if she wanted him to tape my mouth. All she said was, ‘Get him out of here.’”

“And they did. I do not know how they got me down the stairs and through the lobby without somebody noticing that I was in peril, but in no time at all, I found myself in the back end of a pickup truck, just as night was falling.”

“We drove for thirty minutes—into the deepest desert that Bruno and Henry could find. They pulled over, removed the tape from my legs and hands and took off my boots. They confiscated my cell phone and gave me a small canteen of water. Finally I got the courage to ask, ‘Are you gonna leave me here?’ They laughed. ‘Yeah, dope,’ Henry said. ‘If you go east, it’s fifteen miles to a town. North, twenty. South, thirty. And West…hell, I don’t know. Whatever happens, you’re gonna be busy for a while. I would not recommend that you go back to town telling your loony stories.’ So with this final admonishment, he jumped back into the truck with Bruno and they took off, scattering sand in all directions.”

“I stood there for a moment as it grew darker and darker. The sounds of desert life filled my ears. Swishing, croaking and growling…” Jesse shuddered. “I was in trouble. I walked a mile until I found a road. I decided to walk down that road—hopefully until somebody found me.”

“They did. A fellow in a motorhome drove up, and even though he was a little frightened by my appearance I was able to convince him that I was the victim of a crime, and he let me get in and he drove me.”

The sheriff leaped in. “So you came back here, got in your car and decided to hit me so you could tell your story…”

“Well,” said Dr. Jesse Kinrod slowly. “Not exactly. Honestly, I didn’t think there was much need to come back to Fisher, since they probably had planted drugs in my apartment or something to discredit me.”

“So I found out that my friend in the motorhome was willing to drive me to the edge of the forest. You know—where the Mercy Clinic sits.”

The sheriff nodded.

“He let me out. He was willing to give me a pair of shoes, but his feet were as small as a Japanese dancer’s, so I was out of luck. I walked the mile down the driveway to the Mercy Clinic. It was a warm night, so the Clinic had its windows open. I walked around all four sides, listening to conversations floating into the night air. That is, until I heard someone call someone else Dr. Carmine. Just then a car pulled up, parked close to the door and out stepped my never-to-be fiancé, Lacy. She climbed the steps and disappeared inside. Before I ever knew it, she was in the same room with Dr. Carmine. I sat and listened to them talk, as she explained what had happened with me, intruding into her affairs and being knowledgeable of the system. Listening to Dr. Carmine, I was not more impressed with his mission. He had that lilt of superiority that often accompanies maniacs who think they’re Messiahs. Neither one of them wanted to suggest what to do with me, but it was Lacy who finally said, ‘He’s got to disappear.’”

Jesse looked over at the sheriff. “Do you get it? ‘He’ was me. So that’s when I decided to come back and, let’s say, get your attention.”

The sheriff was nearly moved to tears. He stood up and patted Jesse on the shoulder. “Son, I’m sorry. I don’t like what they’re doin’. It’s certainly immoral. It’s definitely illegal. But your testimony against them is incredible—because you just ran into a police car with your beat-up Camaro. Your story wouldn’t go anywhere. If you’re able to cover the damages on the cruiser with your insurance, why don’t we just call it a bad night? Why don’t you go home, forget that girl, and just hope that there is a God and He’ll make everything right.”

Jesse stared up at the sheriff and said, “I don’t think you understand. I’m here to turn myself in.”

The sheriff shook his head. “I told you. That’s not necessary.”

“Oh, yes, it is,” said Jesse. “What I didn’t get the chance to tell you was, before I left Mercy Clinic and hitched back into town, I went in there and stole the scalpel off his tray and killed that goddamn doctor and that bitch who lied to me.”

Dr. Jesse Kinrod raised his hands to surrender to the justice of the county.

The sheriff just shook his head over and over and over and over again.

Not Long Tales … September 17th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4170)

6.

Walt

The name “Walter” was quickly selected by two frightened young folk, who found out that his had mixed with hers, to suddenly produce an us.

Walter was the name of the uncle who had purchased her a Volkswagen Beetle the summer before she headed off to college with aspirations of becoming a marine biologist. Instead, she ended up pregnant before the first semester was done. He and she decided that “Baby Three” deserved to have a Mom and Dad instead of a live-in boyfriend or a Baby Mama.

So Walter began his life with parents who worked two jobs while trying fervently to pursue college degrees. By the time he began school, he had already discovered that his name was different than most of the young kids who frequented his personal sandbox space. As his education began, the atmosphere of “Biancas, Brians, Alicias and Brocks” left very little air for a “Walter” to breathe.

Immediately, by consensus, the first-grade class unanimously agreed that Walter was a “stupid name.”

By the third grade they began to rhyme it: Falter, Halter (as in “one who halts”).

By the fifth grade, when he insisted they call him Walt, for some reason the class clown changed it to Wait. Yes—W-A-I-T.

Then, in the seventh grade, it became a joke, as people began to poke him with phrases like “losing Wait,” or “Wait a second.” Then there was “worth the Wait…”

Well, you get the idea.

By the time Walt graduated from high school and had finished his second year in college, he decided to spend a year traveling through Europe. There he discovered that the name Walter was not worthy of persecution, which caused him to yearn stay on the continent for the rest of his life. But instead, he returned home to finish his education, still socially stunted.

So much had he missed that by the time he was twenty-five years old, he had no driver’s license.

People found this odd, and often questioned him. “How did you get to be twenty-five and have no driver’s license?”

He tried several answers, searching for one that would satisfy the questioner but make him look as good as possible. He eventually landed on a pair of possible purposes:

  1. “I never had to drive anywhere.”
  2. “I didn’t want to get a driver’s license until I could buy my own car.”

Exactly nine days after his twenty-fifth birthday, Walt took the bus over to the local DMV to take his driver’s test. It was a Tuesday morning. (One might call it a beautiful Tuesday morning if one were not frightened to overuse the word “beautiful.”)

As Walt stepped into the DMV and glanced around, he surmised that there were about thirty-five people. Sure enough when he walked up to take a paper number—his place in line—it was 37.

Walt would wait.

In the midst of the sitting and trying to make a four-year-old magazine seem interesting, a young man burst through the door, walked immediately to the front desk and began to argue with the receptionist.

This would not have been horribly unusual, but it became louder and louder. Then they began to hit each other.

When a guy in a chair nearby stood to his feet, attempting to become the knight in shining armor to rescue the damsel in the dress, the shouting dude grabbed a letter opener on the counter and thrust it to the girl’s throat.

The room was suddenly chilled in a freeze frame. No one could breathe. No one could think. Speech was absent.

Walt, on the other hand, was pissed. Walt was done.

Maybe it was the countless years of criticism over his name. Perhaps it was regretting that he hadn’t stayed in France.

All he knew for sure was that he had come to the DMV to get his license, and godamn it, he was going to leave with permission from the State of South Dakota to drive a car.

He stood to his feet and began quickly walking toward the door, as if to leave.

“What the hell are you doing?” called out one of the astonished sitters.

The holder of the letter opener screamed at him. “You sit back down!”

Walt did not listen. He kept heading for the exit.

“Where are you going?” screeched the attacker.

And then, Walt stopped dead in his tracks, pivoted toward the accoster, and spoke calmly. “Well, it’s real simple. You see, there’s a gun store just two doors down. I’m gonna go and buy myself a pistol, get some bullets, and come back here and blow your ass away.”

“Quit it! Quit it! You’re gonna make him mad!” shivered a lady directly across from the action.

“I’ll kill’er! I’ll kill’er!” shouted the boyfriend.

Walt asked, “What’s your name?”

The young man paused for a moment, then said, “None of your business.”

Walt tilted his head back, examining the ceiling. “Okay. We’ll call you Angry Boyfriend, which is too long, so you’re just A. B.”

Completely baffled, the man slowly nodded his head as if approving the name selection.

Meanwhile, Walt turned to the girlfriend. “Now,” he said. “What’s your name?”

“Mandy,” the little lamb said sheepishly.

A. B. squeezed her neck tighter. “Don’t tell him your name!”

“Why not?” she said, mousy.

This completely stalled A. B., yet not wanting to appear indecisive, he recovered quickly. “Because then they’ll know!”

While A. B. was busy arguing with Mandy, Walt had turned back toward the door, walking again, ready to make his departure.

“Wait! Wait!” pleaded the angry boyfriend.

Walt giggled a little inside at hearing the word “wait.” Brought back some memories. Still, without turning back toward A. B., he said, “I’m sorry. I’ve gotta go get my gun.”

A. B., mustering as much macho-sinister tone as possible, spat, “But I’ll kill’er.”

Walt chuckled. Yes, he did. He turned around slowly, and said, “A. B., I don’t think so. You see, what you’ve got there in your hand is a letter opener—and by the way, I didn’t even know they made’em anymore. Who’s opening letters?”

Mandy piped up. “just every once in a while, it’s nice to have one around.”

A. B. shook her. “Shut up!”

Walt continued. “Well you see, back to what I was saying. What you have is a letter opener, which is supposed to be dull, so people don’t cut themselves and bleed all over their desks.”

A. B. glanced down at the letter opener and threatened, “I’ll make it cut.”

Walt laughed. “Well, if you want my opinion, and you want to come off as really dangerous, you better go ahead and test it. You know—find a place on her arm or her leg and see if you can even puncture the skin with it.”

From way across the room, a man’s voice objected. “Don’t give him ideas!”

A. B. thought for a second, ran his finger across the blade and had to agree—it was too dull to cut anything. He changed his strategy. “Then I’ll strangle her with my arm!”

Walt couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing. This caused the whole room to gasp, fearing he was going to taunt the boyfriend into mayhem.

“Come on, A. B.,” chided Walt. “By the time you tried to strangle her, three or four of us would be all over you.”

Suddenly, in the midst of the conversation, the front door burst open, breaking glass everywhere, and in came two policemen in full riot garb, each carrying a shotgun. Walt was barely able to jump out of the way and escape the spray of glass as it flew through the entranceway.

The policeman noticed Walt standing there and turned the shotgun in his direction. Nice and easy, Walt reached over, pushed it away and said, “No, no, no. It’s not me. It’s that guy over there with the letter opener, trying to decide if he wants to be the DMV Strangler.”

The policeman, confused, just peered at Walt.

The second cop spoke up. “What’s his name?” he said, shotgun pointed at the offender.

“Good question,” said Walt. “We’ve decided to call him A. B.”

“Abee?” challenged the cop. “Is he an Arab terrorist?”

Walt shook his head. “No, no. He’s a whole lot of fussin’ from ever creating terror.”

Walt again tried to leave, but all at once, A. B. beckoned to him from his unholy stance. “You stay! I can talk to you! Don’t go! I don’t know these cops—and they already got guns! All I’ve got is a…”

Walt turned around, stepped past the policeman and interrupted. “Yeah! All you got is a letter opener!”

The first policeman leaned in and whispered to Walt. “Would you mind staying? You seem to have a calming influence.”

Walt leaned back and glanced at him. The policeman repeated his request, much more loudly. “Would you stay? I’d like you to help us talk to this fellow.”

The whole room seemed to nod in mutual agreement. Walt was needed. Walt was valuable. Walt suddenly was worth the wait.

He smiled. Never before had he been honored or appreciated for anything. But now, Walt was not only the center of attention, but his abilities were required to diffuse the danger.

Walt nodded and slowly approached A. B., one foot at a time, as he spoke. “A. B., what you’ve got here is a situation where you’re in the middle of a fox hunt. You know much about fox hunts? If you don’t, in this fox hunt, y would be the dog. It works this way—when gentlemen go out on horses over there in England, and hunt for foxes, it’s the dog that does all the work. The dog gets dirty. It is the dog that crawls through holes, gets stuck by bramble bushes, and finally corners the fox, leaving it no place to go. And then the good men of the county show up with their guns and blow the furry creature away.”

Walt stopped his walking and looked squarely into A. B.’s eyes. He reached up and scratched his head. “Now, wait a second,” he said. “Maybe I’ve got this wrong. I mean, the story’s good. But maybe you’re not the dog. Maybe you’re the fox they’re gonna blow away. It’s just so hard to tell. You know what I mean, A. B.? But either way, if you’re not careful, you’re either gonna walk out of here completely as a stinkin’ dog—or a dead fox.”

A still fell over the room while A. B. considered his dilemma. Suddenly he let his arm fall to his side, as the letter opener fell from his hand to the ground. A. B. looked out across the room and spoke to the entire gathering. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I was just trying to argue with my girlfriend.” He glanced over at Mandy. “My cheatin’ girlfriend.”

Mandy suddenly gained full voice. “I was not cheating!” she said indignantly. “You never gave me time to explain! The guy I was hugging was my older brother, who just came back from basic training. Support the troops, loser!”

A. B.’s mouth dropped open. He wanted to object, but realized her story was not only possible, but likely. He hung his head, then lifted his eyes. “Well,” he muttered, “it sure looked like cheatin’.”

At this point, the two policemen stepped over quickly, apprehended A. B. and cuffed him.

The whole roomful of DMV-waiters, greatly relieved, burst into applause. As they took the angry boyfriend (A. B.) away, and the traumatized girlfriend to the hospital, the people turned and stared at Walt.

Yes, Walter who didn’t falter.

He, on the other hand, realized it was an excellent moment to gain some turf. He held up his tiny piece of paper that read “37.”

He walked slowly around the room. Then, speaking with a firm and deliberate tone, said, “Listen,” he said. “I don’t know who has Number 1—but get this straight. Whoever you are, you’re trading with me.”

He looked around and concluded, “Today I’m going first.”

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Not Long Tales … September 10th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4163)

5.

Pocket Size

Carl couldn’t stop staring at the small, cherrywood box sitting at the front of the church. He was very still, except every once in a while he got nervous knees and started swinging his legs, which prompted his mother to give him a quick, gentle swat, as she whispered in his direction, “Don’t you be actin’ like some peckerwood.”

He did not know what she meant by that, but every time she warned him in her stern tone, which still contained just a hint of her Norwegian upbringing, he was quite certain that even though he was a young fella, subject to fits of boredom, he did not want to be classified as a peckerwood, which based upon his mother’s disgust, must absolutely be a forsaken doomed child.

Inside that cherrywood box which drew his attention was his classroom friend. Her name was Lydia. They had told Carl that she was dead, though no further details were offered. Yet just by sitting quietly and listening to the adults on the way to the funeral, he was able to learn that his friend, Lydia, had been murdered by some stranger and cut into pieces, leaving behind only her blood-soaked dress.

All these words were so cruel and foul that Carl was unable to find an image in his mind to match them.

The funeral pressed on. Song after song, speech after speech. Especially terrifying to his young heart was when he saw Lydia’s mother and father break down in tears, a howling so intense it left him shivering, his skin crawling.

So he was relieved when they left the church, got into the big, black car with four adults including his mother, and headed off to the gravesite, where there would be more songs, talking and tears. Carl felt a little bad because he was grateful for the distraction.

Recently his life at school had become nearly unbearable. Living in the rural regions of Minnesota and having the last name “Bunyan,” Carl was constantly teased by all the children, because unlike his mythical ancestor, Paul Bunyan, Carl was a boy who was very small, slight, quiet, shy and sheepish.

Although these words were associated with goodness, they were taunted as failure by the overwhelming bullies. Last week, desperate, Carl went to see his grandfather, Peter. Peter Bunyan. He explained the trouble he was having at school because he was a Bunyan but didn’t have a mighty axe and seemed to be unable to “drink an entire lake.”

His grandfather listened carefully, stroked the boy’s flyaway hair and said, “When these boys say their words, you think this to yourself. I want you to memorize it. You think, then speak: Not small, not tall, not loud, not proud, just a lad, so glad, no lies, pocket size.

Grandfather reached down and tickled his ribs to prompt a giggling closing. Then he continued, “You see, that’s what you are. You’re perfect. You’re pocket size. You can be tucked away and carried anywhere.”

Even though Carl was not greatly comforted by the counsel and the bullies were unimpressed by the little rhyme he shared, his tensions were relieved.

And then the whole school received the news that Lydia, who had been missing for a month, was dead.

Now, standing at the grave, next to the hole in the ground where the cherrywood box would be placed, he was suddenly shaken with fear and grief. Since nobody was paying much attention to him, he scooted away and walked through the cemetery, heading toward the northeast corner where the bigger and older monuments covered with moss stood, worn but tall.

As he walked among them, he paused in front of one that still had some bluish-gray stone shining through.

“Is that you, Thomas?”

The voice seemed to come from inside him—out through the top of his head and into the surrounding air. “What?” he asked, looking around in every direction for the source of the question.

“Is that you, little Thomas? You haven’t visited for so long.”

Carl held his breath. He stared at the gravesite and realized that the question was coming from within it. He couldn’t help it—he was so terrified he peed his pants. He leaped away and looked in every direction to see if there was anybody who might possibly have been addressing him.

Embarrassed by his action of urinating himself, he looked over at the surrounding grass, and noticed some dribble of his own pee on the blades. Fearing being caught and punished, he ran over, took his foot and covered up the droplets with some dirt. As he did, the voice spoke again.

“Thomas, why have you come to see me?”

It was too much. Carl turned and ran at breakneck speed, not stopping until he literally collided into his mother’s leg, almost knocking her over. Having a maternal sense beyond comprehension, she gave a sniff and inquired, “Did you wet yourself?”

Carl was astounded, but replied, “Maybe. But I don’t think so. Nah.”

When they got home, he scurried out of the car and into his room, where he immediately changed. Merely wearing underpants, he lay on his bed, thinking about what he had experienced.

He must have been dreaming. Yes, maybe he had dozed off looking at the stones. Still, there was a tug from the adventuresome part of him—which usually hid away out of propriety and for fear of criticism.

He came out to eat dinner and asked his parents when the sun would rise. They gave him a quizzical look but told him that according to the newspaper it was set to rise at six-thirty in the morning. He nodded. They waited for an explanation. Realizing he needed to come up with something, he continued nodding, and mustered, “Schoolwork.”

“But tomorrow is Saturday,” objected his father. “There’s no school.”

Nervously, Carl replied, “Yes. But there is a sunrise, right?”

Carl’s mother found this funny, laughed, and the subject disappeared into the air. But the next morning, shortly after dawn, Carl headed back toward the cemetery. He brought along a canteen, a couple of candy bars and one of the small kitchen knives, just in case he had to defend himself. Of course, if ghosts were talking to him, a knife probably wouldn’t be very helpful. But it could scare them away.

Arriving at the cemetery, a walk of about a mile-and-a-half, he made his way to the gravestone where he had heard the voice. He edged forward until he was standing directly in front of the stone.

“Is that you, Thomas?” came the voice again, sounding identical to the way it had the day before. Carl immediately had the urge to run, but tried hard to stand still, his knees knocking.

“Not many people visit. Thank you for coming,” the voice stated politely. He quickly backed away, moving to the left, and found himself in front of another stone.

“My wife is my problem,” spoke a different voice. Frightened, Carl quickly leaped back to his original position.

“Hello, again, Thomas! Did you forget something?”

Carl carefully stepped across the adjacent grave and perched in front of another stone, next to the complaining husband.

“Do you know my husband?” A woman’s voice. “He is a philanderer.”

Carl didn’t know what the word meant, but inched back to his right, facing the other grave.

“My wife is nothing but a nagging machine!” intoned the voice.

Carl smiled. He was standing in front of the graves of a husband and wife. He moved to his left.

“I didn’t want to be buried next to him,” said the wife, “but the plot had already been purchased.”

Carl stepped again to his right, in front of the husband’s plot.

“It was bad enough that I had to live with her. To have her as a next-door neighbor is completely intolerable.”

Carl was terrified—but entertained at the same time. He spent the next hour going from grave to grave, hearing pieces of conversation—mostly complaints.

He wondered if death was a place where people realized that their lives were over, but they still kept their sadness. He had not yet decided whether to talk back to the grave-speakers, so forming what he thought was a very good question, when he was in front of the lady’s grave, after he heard her latest complaint, he asked, “Why are you so unhappy? I thought heaven was a place of joy.”

There was a long pause. Maybe Carl was not allowed to offer a contribution to the conversation. Then the voice responded, speaking softly.

“Heaven is unimaginable,” came the answer. “It’s just that every once in a while, we have to come back here to remember our lives, feel again, and pray for others.”

Carl shook his head. It was all so bizarre.

He had heard of a word—they had just learned it in school. Hallucination. Maybe that was what was happening to him. With all the tension of being bullied at school and the death of his friend, maybe his mind was escaping reality by creating a new world, separate from the pain. At least, that’s what the definition in the schoolbook said.

He slipped away, careful not to disturb any more gravesites, or souls.

As he was leaving the cemetery, he remembered the grave of his friend. Young Lydia. He wondered if it was proper to bother her so soon after her passing. But his curiosity overtook him.

He eased up to her grave and stood right in front of the marker that had been left, preparing for the arrival of the stone.

Nothing but silence.

Wondering if the hallucination time was over, he stepped over to his right. There was a woman’s voice, explaining the pain she had tucked away during her life.

On the gravesite to the left of Lydia’s, there was a young man’s voice, apologizing for drinking and losing his life in a car wreck.

But whenever he stood in front of Lydia’s grave, there was only silence.

Something was wrong.

Carl walked to the edge of the cemetery. About to head to his house, he realized that the town was only about a half-mile away, so he walked, jogged and ended up running to the police station. He had no idea what he was going to say.

He walked through the door. The entire station turned to look at him. He felt surrounded, realizing there would be no way to explain what he wanted to say without appearing to be the “crazy boy,” a dumb kid pulling a crank, or worst of all, coming off like a peckerwood.

A woman detective stepped forward, sensing something amiss. She took little Carl into her office and sat him down. She bought him a root beer. He loved root beer. (Mostly it was the taste, but some of it was being able to say he was drinking a beer, even though it had a root, too.)

After several sips, he relaxed. She was so understanding that he spilled his whole story. The funeral, the gravesite and the voices. He even told her that he had wet his pants. He explained that he had come back this morning just to see if he was nutty—or maybe just to confirm that he was wacko.

She listened carefully, hanging on his every word. When he was finally done sharing, she leaned in close to his face—so near that he could smell the coffee on her breath. “You’ve just had a really, really bad week. What is your name?”

Carl swallowed hard, knowing that once he gave his name, he was opening the door to his parents finding out about his weird comings, and now, weird goings.

“Carl Bunyan,” he replied dutifully. But he could not silence himself. The sense of dread overtook him, so he continued. “I know my story sounds crazy, but what if I’m right? Would you really hate yourself, ma’am, if you helped out a little kid? Even if I’m wrong, you can always say, you know…that you’re a good police person.”

Carl could see that she was considering it. She chuckled to herself and asked, “Well, what do you want me to do?”

Carl said, “I’m telling you—Lydia is not in that grave.”

The policewoman sat back and heaved a sigh. “Of course not. They didn’t find her body. I don’t want to spook you, but we think she was chopped up by her killer, and her body parts thrown in with the hogs down at the Spencer farm.”

Carl grimaced, but after he thought for a moment, he replied, “No—I mean, you know what you’re talking about, but I still just don’t think she’s dead.”

These seemed to be the magic words—the needed phrase. The detective patted him on the head and said, “Now you’ve given me probable cause. It’s my duty to follow up on every lead.”

She asked Carl to stay in her office while she checked some things out. It didn’t take very long. About an hour-and-a-half later she returned and awoke him from one of those “do nothing, go to sleep” naps. She was shaking her head. Carl noticed that her hands were also shaking.

“Carl,” she said, “I need to tell you—we went to the mortuary to talk to the undertaker who buried Lydia. At first, he was hostile. Do you know what hostile means?”

Carl nodded.

“I was suspicious of why he was so hostile,” the detective went on, “so I pushed him, and when I told him I was thinking about digging up her body, he broke down and confessed. Now, here’s the story. Carl, Lydia’s parents ran out of money, so they decided to go over to Beckersville. That’s about thirty miles away. They found some people who owned a big farm and they sold the girl to these folks so she could work for them. They got twenty thousand dollars for her. Before they took her over there, they drew some blood from her, telling her that she was donating to the Red Cross. And they worked out a deal to give two thousand dollars to the undertaker to keep his mouth shut—and to bury just the dress they had stained with her blood. So you, sir—you were absolutely right. Lydia was not there, and now she’s headed back home, to be with her grandparents. And three very bad people are on their way to jail.”

“Peckerwoods,” said Carl.

The detective frowned but nodded her head. “Yeah,” she agreed. “I guess they’re peckerwoods.”

Although the authorities kept the story as quiet as possible, it was leaked, and young Carl became quite the hero. He never, ever went back to the cemetery. He took the deceased at their word. The folks there were busy with their concerns.

He went back to school, and the bullies left him alone. Maybe they were all a little afraid that Carl might bring a ghost down on their heads.

Carl didn’t care.

Carl wasn’t unhappy.

Carl didn’t need to be famous.

He had decided he enjoyed being pocket size.

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Sit Down Comedy … July 5th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4097)


It is not so much what as it is how.

Knowing what needs to be done may be insightful but discovering how to do it is the essence of wisdom.

In our time, the argument over what our problems are is quickly overthrown by a ferocious debate over how to address them.

I put this to the test.

While working on my latest novel, I came across a scene where two of my characters are embroiled in a disagreement. I sat down and wrote the entire passage with back-and-forth dialogue which was laced with animosity. At no time did I introduce foul language.

So the reader, after finishing this particular interchange, might well be alarmed by the severity of the debate—but certainly not frightened that the two souls involved were going to launch into anything other than aggravation.

Then I sat down and rewrote the scene, except in the midst of the fiery comments I inserted expletives, like “damn, shit, fuck and hell.”  As I moved along from line to line, I realized that the discussion had changed, and was now on the verge of violence. In other words, it would have been very easy to end with a murder.

The what was the same. The standoff was identical.

But how it was implemented changed it from a fussy situation to a dangerous dilemma.

In the pursuit of trying to get attention, gain influence and bring fame and fortune in our direction, we may be guilty of taking situations which could be handled more simply, and complicating them merely for the purpose of making ourselves look righteous.

Consider this:

Is it possible that an aging, well-seasoned politician who earned his stripes decades ago might not know to keep his hands to himself, and that instead of sexual assault, it just might be innocent ignorance?

Could it be that in trying to establish reasonable relationships with notorious dictators we could represent our willingness to sit down and prattle over the issues without jokingly referring to the two parties as being “in love?”

Might we possibly consider the myriad of problems that create gun violence rather than cursing all guns or insisting that the situation is just “the criminal mind?”

It may be admirable to know what a situation is, but it is divinely inspired to find the best way how to manage it.

I think this even goes into our relationships with government and faith.

Is it possible that what John Adams and George Washington considered to be of primary concern in 1790 might be better thought through by more educated souls in 2019?

And suffice it to say that a book that was written before Christ and some that were written after his birth might certainly do well to be mulled over and discussed in more detail before we decide on how to conduct our spirited decisions today.

Knowing what is good. But choosing how to solve it is better.

And of course, the best is knowing that the what and the how always have to be tempered by the why.


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The U Word … June 25th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4087)


THE

Related image

WORD


The U word that should never be spoken or written again is:

USELESS

I am useless

He is useless

She is useless

You are useless

They are useless

Vicious condemnation: having no use

Existing without purpose

Dangling on a thread minus value

Therefore…

Expendable

Ignorable

Pointless

Not worth shit

Damned to nothingness

Incurable

Irredeemable: disappearing

Yes, lost with no one looking

Gone, with no one caring

So…

Throw it away

Segregate it across town

Gossip about it

Plant all the nasty seeds that lend themselves to a harvest of mayhem and murder.

After all, can you really kill something that’s already vacant life?

Useless

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Cracked 5 … June 22nd, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4084)

Cracked 5

Problems that May Arise When Family Come to Visit

 

A.  Though demonic, the children can not be killed off like zombies.

 

B.  An empty toilet paper roll is not grounds for murder.

 

C.  Picky eaters don’t really ever pick.

 

D.  Lack of hot water removes your shower of blessings.

 

E.  Family never tip for services rendered but will gladly offer a poor review.

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Cracked 5 … June 15th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4077)

Cracked 5

Important Steps to Being a Good Father

A.  Don’t eat your children.

Cannibalism destroys their self-awareness.

 

B. Do wear pants to the dinner table.

The kids should enjoy their chicken instead of viewing your bird.

 

C.  Don’t murder their mother.

She smells better.

 

D.  Do pay the bills.

The little ones find it difficult to shower with Coca-Cola.

 

E.  Don’t make fun of the shape of their head.

Maybe they will grow into it.

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