jimagain

Rants & ramblings of the disaffected

Archive for the category “relationships”

But Write I Must…

It was all sad and funny, yet pathetic. It was all those things at once.

Sitting in my underwear writing; typing away at the keyboard, watching the letters collect across the screen. I felt compelled to write as I dawdled away the day, frivolously squandering what little time I had left. But write I must. Other things impatiently clamored for my attention but I managed to suppress them. Action demanded I do something. Yet here I sat. As I wrote, a sense of doom pervading permeated my thoughts lurked in the back of my mind poised to leap at me like some dread beast. I felt as if my fate stalked me, coiling for the final pounce.

The clock in the den struck on the hour, striking me out of my stupor. Time was running out. It was all happening now. I knew it. But I had to finish this, before the deadline came. And so I wrote, feverishly. I wrestled with the words as I typed them, carefully choosing each of them, arranging them; crafting them to say what I desperately need them to say, before it was too late.

I looked up. The minute hand announced the next event with somber efficiency as the ticks of fleeting time counted down. Any moment now.

And then, as if on cue, the door to my room swung suddenly open. My wife barged in. She cast her eyes at me. In one glance, her expression went from hurt to scorn.
“Are you going to sit around the house all day in your underwear,” she scolded me! “What’s gotten into you?”
I sat sullen, silent. There was nothing I could say. How could I explain this to her?
She paused before storming off. I knew what would happen next. Like a script in my mind, I heard the angry clack of heels across a wooden floor followed by the slam of a door. The dog sprawled out on the floor as a silent spectator lazily picked his head up to look my way before giving a sigh and slumping back to the floor, limp. Moments later I heard the distinctive sound of a car engine turn over, of wheels crunching in the gravel, and the spin of tires accelerating on the asphalt road; and then…silence. A deafening silence.

I loved her. I desperately did so. It hurt to see her leave. Her absence stung at me like salt in a wound. I so wanted to run after her, to tell her how I felt. But we were about to go our separate ways from here. The time to say I love you, as too often is, that time was past.

Desperate thoughts tugged at me as I resumed to write. I should do something, I thought. But what? What could I do to avert the impending visit? Could I run? Hide? Was there a place of refuge I could resort to? Nay. Was there some one I could call? Again, nay. No, the script was cast in stone. And yet the pathos somehow fed my desire to write, to record my fate as some detached but dreary undertaker going about his morbid task in the mortuary we call life.

I had sensed for days this sense of impending fate but felt unable to change the course of events. Postponing, deferring, prolonging the agony creeping over me, I braced for the next turn. I knew what would happen next.

And yet the pathos somehow fed my desire to write, to record my fate as some detached but dreary undertaker going about his morbid task in the mortuary we call life. I rehearsed in my mind the events as I supposed them to unfold, as if I were somehow performing my own autopsy. Grim duties of the writer, recording my life in the third person. It seemed I had chronicled my own demise, one sentence at a time.

And then the inevitable came. A knock at my door. I answered with reluctance. It was him. I knew he was coming, I was never sure when but now he stood at my door. I didn’t want to answer, I desperately wanted to deny he was there on my stoop but there are some appointments you cannot ignore. This was one of those.

This time I ceased to write. I trudged with trepidation toward the door. Into the maw I go.

The visitor called me by name. Are you he?
“You know who I am,” I stammered. A brief pause and then in quivering voice, “Have you come to do your business?”
He nodded.
A lump formed in my throat. And then silence prevailed. There was nothing more to say.

The eirie thing is two days ago, this turn of events was only a story I had written. A simple work of fiction written by my own hands that quickly became a snare of my own making. And now I found myself caught in the undertow of my own writing. I was becoming a victim of my own narrative. If only I had written this differently.

Perhaps you should also be careful how you write your own biography.

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Imiscible Pairs

Theirs was a peculiar blend of two incompatible extremes, a relationship built on seemingly disparate incongruencies. Less a union than a tense treaty between adversaries at war; hostile yet tolerant, incompatible yet inseparable.

Their mutually exclusive traits somehow melded and fused in some curious anomaly. As far as relationships go, it was more an amalgum of dissimilar entities forged in the furnace of conflict. Each disparity carefully mated to its antithetical counterpart in a reciprocal love-hate state of perpetual disharmony. Together they were a mutinous mismatch of matrimonial dysfunction, immiscible parts paired in a mismatch of irreconcilable differences. To the unfortunate spectator, they must have presented an apparent contradiction of reason, two colliding antagonists, perpetual sparring partners, preferring agitation to resolution.

At first glance, they appear normal but beneath a thin veneer of civility, hostile acts of war prevailed like the constant ebb and flow of the unceasing tide, broken only by a brief interlude between acts of aggression.

No one who knew them pretended to understand the delicate balance that kept them teetering rather than plunging over the brink and into the abyss of self-annihilation. But what is a woman without a man or love without hate? Can order exist without chaos; or logic without reason? Two opposing forces that cant coexist or survive without the other, incompatible yet incomplete without its antithesis. What should have torn them asunder instead held them together, mixed in a curious mortar of mutual repulsion.

Don’t ask me to explain this conundrum of social interaction. Perhaps one seeks to find equilibrium with the other? Perhaps this is why opposites attract, why the most unlikely of partners seek their counterpart?

On the Banks of the River of Passion

It all had happened innocently enough.

We had first stood on the bank of the river enjoying the view. It was a scenic view of its virgin territories untouched and undisturbed. At first we just stood and looked and admired, gawking at the beauty at which we gazed upon. Neither of us spoke.

The view was a breathtaking.

The longer we looked, the more we desired to abandon our reservations and dive into the tempting waters together. It was a long time before one of us made the first move, hesitant to exceed our partners’ inhibitions. We cautiously waded into the inviting stream, probing carefully lest we get in too deep, waiting for the other to respond, to take that next step. The waters caressed our skin, invigorating our senses. It was a new experience for both of us. We resolved to not go too far.

And yet each step only enticed us to take another. Before we knew it we had cast caution to the wind, discarding our hesitations as rapidly as our clothing. The beauty we beheld, the sensations the river we are immersed in only enticed and seduced us to go farther that we both intended. How far? To the edge of the forbidden, beyond the safety of restraint. Without realizing it we had both waded out too far from the shore, perhaps too far to go back. The current tugged at us, pulling us out deeper into the turbulent unknown. Knowing that each of us had gone farther than we should, only added to the thrill. It stimulated us. The fearfulness of our precarious situation heightened the exhilaration that was sweeping us away.

Now the current dictates our actions as we’re no longer able to direct ourselves. Groping and thrashing with flailing arms and legs, yet clinging tightly to each other. It’s just the two of us out here, together alone in the river. Now we are in too deep and it’s too late to turn back, to return to where we were. Gasping for our breaths before we succumb, no longer able to resist the inevitable. All is silence as we give in. The struggle ceases, we become still, motionless.

Sometime later, I’m not sure when, we regain consciousness. Laying side by side on the bank, unmoving. We waken, slowly. Raising ourselves simultaneously to our elbows to stare into each others eye with panic. At first we struggle to remember, or perhaps to forget, what happened. How did we get here? The events come flooding back into our consciousness. Did we …?

How easy it was to get swept away in the current., there on the banks of the river of passion.

Soul Stare

Their eyes met. No words were exchanged but it’s not what they said; it’s what they didn’t have to say. It seems words are too often less a means of communication than objects which we mask our true feelings.

Two souls lost in a crowd, each searching for the other, neither acknowledging their bond. They mingle about aimlessly, milling amongst the throng. He searches for her. She scans to see him. They pass in their orbits yet never intercept. Their paths cross yet neither speaks. Their apparent indifference is a complete fabrication driven by desperation.

– – – – – – – –

As we pass in close proximity to the other, we both feel it, some inexplicable force of attraction drawing us together. Neither of us turn our heads to look but we both cut our eyes as we pass straining to see if the other is looking.

We pass by indifferent to the other, painfully aware of how others might portray it if they were to recognize the raw affection we feel; afraid to look into each others eyes lest or expressions give us away. both afraid the others reaction if they should suspect the amorous interest, preferring to sulk under the cloak of denial, hidden in the shadows of anonymity.

But our souls know. They kiss. In one fleeting glance they connect. clutching, grasping, clinging desperately to the fleeting moment. Some seminal seed that passed between them in the moment, making each the unexpressed compliment of the other, conjoined yet incomplete. Barely perceptible, they pass from him to her. He propositions, she accepting, receiving, forever mated after. Something has conceived within her, growing until the time to arrive.

It was an absurd experience should one think about, one that never transpired except in our imagination …or was it?

It was an experience neither dared yet both yearned for. Logic and reason denies what their hearts affirm. Our minds tell us it won’t work; we can’t be together but our souls know differently. On some subliminal level we both know we are destined to be satisfied together or miserable apart. Lovers, intimates, partners -two separates merged into one; at the moment bound only by their mutual hope.

Me: I saw her about, too many times for coincidence, here and there about as we both flitted about from one group to the next. Roaming, wandering yet not belonging. She seemed ill-fitted and out of place wherever I saw her. She seemed an unattached peripheral among the crowd, a non-participant. It seemed to me as if she were looking for someone. Could that someone be me, I wondered?

Our path crossed, our eyes met but neither spoke a word. We were frequently adjacent and never connecting. And then it happened. Inadvertently our eyes met. And if the eyes are indeed the windows of the soul, then in that moment our souls communicated. What we both felt but were afraid to express, our souls lacked no such restraint, straight to the point with no guile or secrecy. Suddenly these two lonely souls impatient on their keepers to bridle their hesitations, cast aside the restraints and and acted without fear. in a moment they transacted their business. No negotiations or compromise but a raw naked exchange between them. No terms given, none required. Two lost souls in a sea of people, floating about in the crowd.

Our souls met. Our eyes fastened on each other. In one single imperceptible glance we expressed our latent desires. No words exchanged but none were needed. Nothing was said. Words weren’t needed. In that brief glance lasting less than a millisecond, our souls connected. The conversation you could not hear…

Suddenly time slows. The moment is frozen as the crowd stills. The background fades away revealing two souls to linger.

“Hey.”
“Hey.”
“I’ve been missing you.”
“Me too. Do you still love me?”
“Yes. Yes, I do. I want us to be together.”
“Yes. I too. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“One day you will be mine; we will be together.”
“I know. I can’t wait…” A pause.
“I’ve been looking for you.”
“I’ve been watching you.”

They talk and touch and laugh. clutching, grasping, clinging together tightly.

She: “I’m so tired of the charades, hiding behind a facade. When can we tell each other how we feel?”
He: “I wish I knew. One day.”
“Do you think they will ever figure it out?”
“Eventually.”
They kiss.
“One day surely they will figure it out and no logic or reason will be able to keep us apart any longer. I feel it.”
“I feel it, too.”
“One they will discover what our hearts already know.” Embracing. “Won’t they be surprised?”
“To say the least. All those who would laugh at the prospect of us together; aren’t they in for a shock!”
“Maybe not as much as we will be,” she says!

They laugh

“I think on some level of consciousness we both know it…our minds tell us we can’t be together. Too many reasons, too many obstacles; the difference between our ages, our families, our own fear of rejection.
As they start to look away, “Don’t leave me again,” she pleads.
“I can never leave you. You’re in all my waking thoughts.”
“One millisecond,” she complains. “Is that all they can give us? Look at them! Are they so afraid to admit to themselves how they feel?”
“I guess so,” he smiles.
“See you around.”

One last embrace, one last lingering kiss. And then they separate. Time resumes. The surroundings begin to fade back in.

We break the glance, our eyes look away. We both part company, pretending nothing happened between us.

Dejected, I turn away resisting the urge to stare back at her. As I walk away, I can’t resist the urge to reach out and tug at her purse as she stands there with her back to me. Not looking back I keep going, reaching up to wave my hand back at her; as she turns to see who nudged her.

“Hey.” She calls my name.

“Hey,” I reply over my shoulder without looking back.
She smiles at me. I smile back at her without turning as I walk away. Suddenly she’s taken with a capricious urge to run after me and chat like an eight year old girl. She stops herself. “What would he think?” She hesitates, then looks down realizing the moment is lost.

It’s not enough …but it’s enough for now.

I sigh loudly to myself. She hears me. And that’s the end of that …until our eyes meet again.

A Shoebox Stuffed With Memories

Somebody said once, “Always know where you’re from because you might not always know where you are going.” The older I get, the more sense that makes. I haven’t always been sure of my direction in life so it’s been an anchor of stability to me knowing where I’m from. I can’t imagine not being part of a family and having an identity. That would be like having a tree without the roots. I was fortunate to grow up in a small town, mine just happened to be in the north central part of Missouri. I and my two younger brothers grew up among all the trappings of an idyllic childhood. We went fishing, we rode bikes and horses, climbed trees and fell out of them, and caught frogs. I liked to draw, Andy played the piano, and Tom read books. Dad built us a club house in between working, mom also worked full time…at home resolving crises. I remember many things about growing up, most of them pleasant but all of them a vital part of the thread that gives our lives continuity. shoebox2

Memories are sort of like all those old photos arranged in disarray in a shoebox. You probably have one too in your home, stuffed full of old photos with frayed edges, probably sitting on the top shelf in the closet. Pulling that cardboard repository of black & white pictures down is much like taking a trip into the past in a time machine. Often we forget we have a box like this until we happen to run across it. Each picture is special and evokes warm memories as they’re pulled out one by one in no particular order to examine them. It’s a part of your life that you almost forget was there tucked away deep in the subconscious of your mind, buried beneath the demands of everyday life.

You don’t realize just how much time has passed until you stop and look back. Then you can only wonder where time went because life, like a river, is always flowing, almost imperceptibly but never static. Drifting along lazily, carried by the currents of time, we fail to realize that the landmarks are constantly changing around us as we drift on until one day we notice that the scenery on the bank has changed. Nothing appears as it used to be.

            Here are just a few of the snapshots in the shoebox of my recollections, presented in no certain order, just like you would find them.

You might say that my hometown was on the small side. Small but not insignificant, there is a difference. There are probably more people wandering around aimlessly in the mall closest to you than lived in my entire town. Population of 623, unless of course, you were approaching from the other side of town, then it swelled to 656. Everything in town was accessible by walking. We walked everywhere, to school, to the grocery store. There is something about the place that you grow up in that transcends geography. Dad taught history at the high school, which is how we came from southern Missouri to reside in the North central part of the state.

Memories from an early age remain, like living in the upstairs apartment above Miller’s Hardware on Main Street. Or the time my younger brother, Andy locked mom and I in the storage room. Main Street ran one block straight through downtown and was the epicenter of enterprise in the community. I recall the hardware store, a little cafe, a post office, and at one time we had two grocery stores, one across from the other. They were wonderful affairs with ceiling fans and the smell and creaking sound of wooden floors walked on. One store even had a walk in cooler for the perishable items; a popular place in the summer time. There was a doctor’s office, too. And who could forget Mr. Ware’s barbershop. This was the information exchange center of the metropolis. You could find out the latest news on anything going on in the town. Not always completely factual but certainly more interesting. I think they call it, “artistic license.” All the town notaries made periodic appearances, holding court to their fellow acquaintances. Dignitaries like “Tinker,” an affable and energetic gentleman, or “uncle” Jesse, the eccentric old man who was the unofficial town talebearer. He didn’t just tell the news, he pollinated it, much like a bee going from one flower to another, injecting his own flavor into it. Current events were disseminated along with tidbits from the past, archived from his memory, and retold for every one’s benefit. He was the self appointed chronicler of town history.

Our town had no shortage of memorable characters, one of which lived down the street. We called him the Fire Chief. I suppose he was that before he retired since I never actually saw him put out a fire. Mostly all he did was hunt or fish. Or entertain three wide eyed visitors with his stories. I can’t attest to their validity but they sounded authentic to us. No one would argue that I lacked discernment, but even I, gullible as I was, could detect that he was a bit eccentric. He did seem larger than life in our little mundane world. He was large and brash. Looking back now, he seemed like a caricature of Teddy Roosevelt. Some things added to his mystique. He often wore a handgun in public. He seemed to be an authority on anything you could ask. Or maybe your question was an admission of your ignorance, which meant that he knew more about it than you did or you wouldn’t have asked him in the first place. He certainly had an opinion on everything. He was undeniably an oddity, even professing to be fond of turtle soup. Yep. Our town had no shortage of characters.

Santa’s sleigh was actually an old Plymouth. I know this because I’ve seen Santa, or at least I think it was him. You see, Santa looked a lot like Tirey Patterson. In secret I surmised it really was him. He probably only wore the costume during Christmas so all the kids wouldn’t know who he was and pester him all year for toys. Now the North Pole really wasn’t so far away. Come to think about it, I never saw a polar bear or a penguin there but make no mistake I had been there on more than one occasion. In fact, I have made several pilgrimages. It was in the North though; north of our little town, about ten miles north to be exact. We called it Moberly. Moberly was a huge metropolitan area with a massive population of over 13,000 people. Once a year, about a week before Christmas, Dad would get Tirey to drive us there in his car. Before we ever got to the toy stores, we saw an awesome display of Christmas lights and decorations that only hyped us into a frenzy of Yuletide greed. We went from one department store to the next on our route. We didn’t shop, we plundered. Blackbeard and all his pirate crew never conceived such treasure.

It is a sad fact of life that before you are old enough to appreciate someone, too often they are already gone before you can express it. I can’t remember ever telling him thank you but I think he knew.

A lot has transpired since those days, most of which occurred while I sort of drifted along, propelled by the current of circumstance and chance. While I never could really decide about my future, I have to say that I’m fortunate to have a past.

Many other memories remain and new ones are being made every day. I’m a lot older now but when I go back to that old shoebox, I’m a kid all over again. The one thing I do know is that time is slipping away from right now, whether we realize it or not.

While it’s true that you can’t live in the past, you would be foolish to forget it.

RV Shopping Again?

Me and my buddy got to talkin’ the other day between shifts at the fertilizer plant.
Me: “I’m beginning to wonder what my wife is up to?”

My buddy scratched his head. “What’cha mean? You think she’s been cheating on you?”

“No, worse!” He leaned forward to whisper, “My wife’s been RV shopping again, I found sales brochures and. . .the salesman called the second time this week. I’m starting to get suspicious. I’m gonna’ reduce my death benefit just in case she’s thinking about knocking me off for the money.”

You might ought to cancel your policy. Now that you mention it, the girls have been acting a mite suspicious. My wife’s picking out flowers and a suit for my funeral. Can you believe it? Me? In a suit?!! I wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit. Well, I guess if I was already dead…but you know what I meant.” He was more upset at the prospect of being laid to rest in a suit than the fact that his wife may have been scheming on collecting on his insurance money.

“So…are we overreacting?”

“Surely they wouldn’t be plotting to bump us off for the insurance money just to have a good time and travel?”

“Nah!” – chuckle.

“Not the girls!” – nervous laughs.

Awkward pause…

The other day at the house, she asked me. What you up to now on your life insurance,  honey?”

“Oh, I’m worth about $200 now,” I say.

That’s still more than I can  get for you at the stock yard,” she retorted smart-like back at me.

“Hah,” I told her! “What you gonna get for $200 dollars.”

My buddy dug his elbow into my rib cage. “You outta’ your head?!! Dresses go half-price at Wal-mart this week. Heard ’em talking about it earlier.”

It’s comments like that makes me suspicious ’bout my wife?

I heard she’d already picking out your pall bearers?”

“That doesn’t bother me. My wife plans everything. She even plans when she gonna get sick, based no small part on the disease-of-the-week movie.”

Silent pause…

“Men…we dont plan nothing, do we? We just show up and wing it. That’s how we roll.”

Like last week…fade to a prior conversation;

“D’joo hear? Old Burt kicked the bucket at the feed store this morning. Some pretty young thing walked by and his wore-out old ticker couldn’t keep up with his pacemaker.”

We remove our hats and pause in a moment of silence.

“Burt don’t have no burial insurance?”

“Nope.”

“What happened to all that alimony money his ex-wife got?”

“I think she spent it all on liposuction…and that plastic surgeon she ran off with on that cruise.”

“That don’t surprise me none. Not saying she’s a floosie but her dress was as high as the price of gas.”

“We can’t just leave ol’ Burt laying out on the dock like that.”

I scratch my chin. “S’pose your right. Reckon they got an old feed sack or a cardboard box in the back they’d let us have?”

“Could be. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I got a roll of duct tape and a shovel in the truck.”

“Then it’s all settled. All that’s left to figure out is where we gonna eat afterward?”

“Dunno? I got a hankering for some catfish.”

“We ate catfish yesterday.”

“So?”

“Catfish  it is.”

So we were just minding our own business, ‘conversating’ in the truck going through the drive-thru: “Can you believe what them guys at the funeral home wanted to charge us for Burt’s final expenses?” The girl at the drive-thru window perked up at our conversation.

“I hear ya. Burt didn’t make that much in a month. Burying him at his favorite food plot was a way better idea, plus we get to pay our respects twice a week.” Neither one of noticed her roll her eyes as she handed us our hushpuppies and coleslaw.

“Alright! High fives.”

Her mouth dropped wide open, her eyes got huge!

Later. “Can you believe that lady in the drive thru?”

“I hear ya’. All that hollering and making a commotion wasn’t necessary.”

He whacked his buddy with his hat! “No wonder, ya idiot! She saw old Burt stretched out in the back of your pick up truck and she freaked out. I told ya’ we should have buried him before we went through the drive-thru.”

“It was on the way,” he defended himself. “She shoulda’ minded her own business instead of calling the law.”

“It coulda’ been worse. We got off lucky; talked the deputy down to a ticket for ol’ Burt not being in a seat belt.”

He guffawed and snorted. “I know! That made about as much sense as taking your mother-in-law on your honeymoon.” Bud got real quiet. Awkward pause. Things suddenly got as tense as the last chicken leg at the buffet. He glances over at Bud, looking sullen, who shoots him back an accusing look.

“Oh, sorry Bud. I wasnt makin’ fun of you.”

“Wasnt my idea,” He said testily. “My old lady made me bring her along.”

Back to the present.

“What you reckon your wife is holding against you?”

“I dunno.” Pause…

“Well, I did made her mother ride in the back of my truck once.” pause…

“What’s so bad about that?” Another awkward pause. “Tell me you didn’t…not in the dog box? You made you mother-in-law ride in the dog box?!!”

“What was I supposed to do. She was barking and howling and acting all crazy…nearly bit old man Preston on the leg.”

“That woman does go off her rocker when she forgets to take her meds.” Pause…

“What else you aint telling me?”

“The bad part was…my wife found her still there the next morning.”

Is that’s all?!!”

Shrugged. “Who knows. Just like a woman to hold a grudge over nothing.

“What’choo reckon they’d do if’n we both bought the big one?”

“You mean, if we both kicked the bucket…at the same time?!! Wouldn’t that be a coincidence? Ha! I figure the first thing would be they’d get some major body work done then they’d both be off on a year-long cross-country trek. Sort of like Thelma and Louise, only in an RV.”

“Body work? What for? Why don’t they just buy a brand new RV with the insurance money?”

“Not for the RV, ya dolt. I’m talking about the girls getting body work done on themselves.”

“I don’t know so much if I like the idea of them having all that fun after we’re gone?”

“Probably sell your guns after you’re gone,” he paused, “and give your old dog away, too.”

“That brazen little hussy!”

“Better get a will.”

“A will?!! What for? My old hound dog can’t read?”

“They’re up to something. I can feel it.”

“I got a nervous chill…like somebody just walked over my grave.”

“Hey Bud? Reckon we both gonna’ make it through to hunting season?”

A Guide To The Perils Of The Multiverse

Beneath the cloak of the mundane and the routine, I have discovered a multiverse of incomprehensible multiplicity filled with the arcane and the obscure, inhabited by aberrant and anomalous phenomenon. What I have stumbled upon is no less than a bizarre underworld beneath our very noses lurking inside our own homes. Some will no doubt call me crazy, others will scoff, and a select enlightened few will grasp the significance of what I’m about to tell.

Read at your own risk. I fear you may never be the same. This is not for the squeamish; go and never return! Do your laundry, mow your grass, watch re-runs of Family Feud; go back to the comfort of your boring and mundane lives while you still can!

Not since the days when ships routinely sailed off the edge of a flat earth has something so ominous, so nefarious been revealed. In a time before recorded history, when ancient aliens visited our suspicious prehistoric progenitors, when knights fought off fire-breathing dragons indiscriminately ravaging entire villages, these tales all pale in comparison.

Malicious, foreboding, menacing…

Brace yourself!

Many bizarre discoveries have been discovered at great peril to the intrepid or the inadvertent…journey to the center of the earth, lost in space, becoming stranded in a parallel earth frequented by giant insects and voracious dinosaurs roaming vast unexplored jungles locked inside a hidden valley – in most cases I would be the guy that gets chased by the tyrannosaurus and eaten.

How can this be? The typical home contains a multiverse of the irrational and the inexplicable. Anomalies abound, such as hauntings, the lone missing sock, the empty sink mysteriously filled with dirty dishes, the un-ending laundry basket, the car keys that are never where you left them, children mysteriously teleporting in and out of your home…how else can you explain your children’s behavior when they suddenly turn into – gasp – teenagers…need I go on?!!

I speak of a dark and sinister place, an alternate reality, a parallel universe that exists inside my own house…and perhaps yours as well.

Dread discoveries, inconspicuous phenomenon occur routinely around us . . .you may not be aware your attic might be occupied with goonies – did I just hear a thud in the attic followed by giggling??? Maybe aliens have burnt yet another crop circle in your unmown lawn . . .perhaps a grotesque wrinkled old troll lives under your footbridge…excuse me. Honey?!! I found your Aunt Ethylene – pause – under the bridge in the backyard on her walker. Sorry for the interruption. Now where was I? Oh yes! It all happened innocently enough, going about the mundane affairs of life when….wait! Is that Twilight Zone theme music I hear in the background???

Under the bed is a parallel universe…

It’s a dark place, where ‘dark matter’ of the universe fills, a veritable black hole that sucks objects and small pets into its clutches, never to be seen again.

“My sandals are under there,” she tells me.

And she expects me to reach my hand under the bed? Fear of being pulled under never to be seen crosses my mind or – gasp – draw back a nub of once what used to be my arm. Is that the theme music from Jaws I hear???

“Oh, sure,” I say “let me be the sacrificial offering.” Suddenly I feel so…expendable. not only can she survive without me, she would be much happier than she is…and I’m not sure I like the prospect of her being so happy after my terrible and gory demise.

“Wuss,” she calls me.

Nope. I’m not falling for that one either. They always resort to tactics of coercion to overrule your common sense. That’s how they prod the curious but reluctant kid to stick his head inside a crashed alien space ship, right before the aliens snatch him. Not me.

Suddenly I remember all those irrational fears of monsters lurking beneath my bed, the ones that came out at night, when the lights were turned off which is why for many years I refused to sleep without a night-light or my stuffed monkey to protect me. Finally my wife scolded me for being an overgrown ninny.

Whatever you do, don’t look under the bed!

“Uh, uh,” I say. I’ve seen this before in most intros into horror movies; they start off with innocent endeavors by unsuspecting persons in peril unknown to them while the rest of the movie audience screams & squirms in their seats, hoping to catch grody scenes of gory dismemberment between tightly clutched eyelids.

“Oh, sure! Something horrible happens to me and you collect the life insurance. You stick your arm under there.”

Anybody got a broom handle?

Still don’t take me seriously? You’re talking to a budding astrophysicist here. I watched too many episodes of Star Trek to be unaware of the perils. Thanks to great scientific minds like Spock, Data,, and the grand guru of future knowledge, Gene Roddenberry. “What?!! You were thinking Carl Sagan? Isaac Asimov?!! How many episodes of Star trek did they write? See my point?”

Have you noticed that Kirk, Mc Coy, Spock…never get vaporized by the alien. It’s always those unnamed security guys they beam down with them. They must have worn the shirts that said, “Disintegrate me, I’m the underling!” In every episode, when they beamed down a couple of security guys on some alien planet, I immediately knew some terrible thing would happen to them and they wouldn’t be returning to the Enterprise. It was some immutable law of sci-fi plot writing.

I was not a wuss. I’m wary.

Once a crazy unsubstantiated theory that rapidly gained credibility after initially being rejected by disbelieving scientists; dark matter is now an accepted fact despite that it sounds like some ‘corny’ phrase invented from the fertile imagination of a 1920’s sci-fi comic book writer.

Dark matter exists in the universe. We know this because it neither absorbs nor emits light and therefore is not detectable by normal scientific means available. The inescapable evidence is that there is no evidence to explain the discrepancy, when the relationship between the mass versus the rotational speeds from galaxies light years away is calculated. Theories make convenient bridges to gap the unknown with plausible speculation. If this makes absolutely no sense to you, it’s because you aren’t intelligent enough to believe in something you can’t prove, therefore you can’t be an astrophysicist.

Everybody knows that black holes suck light in, never to escape, which explains why my flashlight never works. Think about it. The batteries are always dead because the black hole sucks the light right out of it as soon as I turn it on. Battery manufacturers know this but don’t tell you so you will keep buying their products.

And what about black holes? Rotating gravitational vortexes of indescribable density, compressed elements so heavy they implode upon themselves until all the normal empty space in atoms has been expelled, leaving incredibly dense matter with exponentially strong gravitational forces to suck you in…and you want me to stick my hand under there?

If the 83 per cent of the universe is filled with dark matter, you can’t tell me there’s not some of it lurking under my bed!

“There is nothing you can say that will make me do it.”

“Fine.” She threatens. “I’ll go buy me a new pair at the…” I interrupt. “Grab me by my feet,” I tell her. “I’m going in.”

Shoe stores are another black hole of the universe, sucking all the money out of my wallet She goes just to look and returns with twelve more pair of shoes that don’t fit. And every time women go there, something happens. The same person never comes back from those places; they exchange personalities with a myriad of denizens of feminine persona that inhabit those places. Think of it like an ectoplasmic bus stop, a busy terminal for incorporeal  passengers in transit. It’s an alien body snatching, murrain-seizing portal where roaming spirits randomly quantum leap from one estrogen inhabited corporeal habitat to another…which explains why you end up with a different wife every time she returns from shoe shopping. I’ve been married twenty-eight years to the same woman, whom I barely know. Her identity has quantum-leaped into so many alternate personas, every time I think I know her, she changes.

So what is a woman’s fascination with new shoes? Allow me to explain. Remember the cartoon where Elmer Fudd’s personality changed whenever his hat changed? That’s what happens when women change shoes. Don’t laugh. Those Looney Tunes cartoons were a carefully encrypted encyclopedia of female psychology delivered to mankind by a sympathetic alien culture that visited us in eons past. Left to mankind to help us decode the enigma of the estrogen-impaired gender. Watch these episodes often, let its wisdom sink into your soul. As you observe how the other side of the gene pool think and behave, you too may become enlightened.

Don’t call me a coward. Call me wary! The multiverse is no place for the squeamish or the naive.

To Purgatory And Back In A Shopping Cart

It’s every husbands’ nightmare…my wife sends me out to the grocery store late at night to get item x…which may be something so innocuous as milk or bread, or something so sinister as feminine hygiene products of which I will refrain from elaborating as it evokes painful recollections I would sooner suppress. The latter object being the true test of love only the brave of heart dutifully endure this gauntlet of public shame with all the enthusiasm of a trip to the gallows.

Grocery stores suck the life out of me, with their dreary inner decor. The moment I enter those double glass doors that separates two dissimilar worlds, the ‘whooshing’ sound of the doors seems to extract my soul from me, like some kind of vacuum cleaner of the ectoplasmic sort. Suddenly I’m transported to another reality, a dreary place where time becomes indistinct. Maybe it’s the garish fluorescent lights that gives it its surreal quality? Maybe it’s the mind-numbing muzak piped in to mask the pervading ambience of apathy.

Lifelessly shuffling along in various states of diminished capacity as inmates of an asylum, the paltry assemblage of soulless humanity ebbs and flows along cluttered aisles amongst a peppering of dull apathetic drones they pretentiously call the employees. Meandering along endless aisles of sundry products, a cardboard and styrofoam universe of redundancy, we carefully avoid eye contact as we pass. Intrusive forms of interaction are forbidden, lest we disturb the fabric of our meager subsistence.

Weaving in and out of traffic in a shopping cart with one bad wheel that clatters and bangs along, the pursuit begins. Clank, clank, clank…my shopping cart and I wobble and clatter along, like Jacob Marley’s chains being drug behind him. Catching my reflection, I see a grotesque caricature of my former self staring back at me, minus the soul. The din of noise prevails, a cacophony of discordant noises clashing about my ears like the tide crashing the shore.

Frequently traffic is blocked by a double-wide booty obstructing a single-booty wide aisle. Carts routinely clog congested aisles as shoppers meticulously contemplate the merits of brand x, oblivious to the impasse they cause. I narrowly avoid a five-cart pile-up on aisle three.

Finally locating the sole article of my late-night quest, I reluctantly navigate to the check out to find winding lines of unimaginative patrons staring ahead blankly, waiting to advance. It’s a macabre scene not unlike the walking dead locked in a holding pattern. Racks of tasteless magazines with ludicrous titles vie for attention for a clientele suspiciously void of cerebral activity, flat-liners on an EEG. For a moment, I briefly contemplate the prospect of mugging someone as they exit the store for any product that remotely resembles the object of my quest; then tossing money at them as I sprint away with an overweight security guard in hot pursuit, dough-nut in hand.

Sir….sir?!!! the voice repeats. Numbly I manage to shred my stupor long enough to see a clerk speaking at me. It takes several attempts to breach the catatonic state I’m in. He’s saying something…his lips are moving.  “All you have is one item? Go through the business lane at the office window”. Slowly the sound begins to come in range, but the words are out of sync with his lips, like an old movie voice-over. I stare ahead blankly.

“It’s OK,” he assures me. Clank, clank, clank…my shopping cart and I wobble and clatter unceremoniously towards the direction he pointed. “Can it be true,” I ask myself? “Have I just been released from this mercantile purgatory?” Moments later I exit those double glass doors with the resultant whooshing noise, I suddenly feel my soul re-invigorating the corporeal remains of my former self.

And now you know why I cringe when asked to go to the grocery store!

The Man-code, Explained

What am I talking about? The unwritten Man-code  that resides within the male subconscious, it dictates our behavior and permeates our being.

The Man-code is why men behave like men. If it was disseminated in a course like other subjects at school, like math, we’d sit there and stare out the window. Fortunately for those of us of the male species, it is indelibly inscribed in the male psyche. If it had to be passed from generation to generation by cerebral effort, most of us on the male spectrum would be left without our inner male compass.

The Man-code has been hard-wired genetically into the DNA of the entire male species; of which membership is determined by whether or not the individual in question is unable to pee into a semicircular opening without randomly distributing bodily fluids all over the toilet seat. I suspect a teenage boy who can hit a three-point jumper with deadly accuracy from ranges greater than 30 foot, would suddenly be unable to hit the same shot if the basketball rim suddenly resembled a toilet seat. Think about it. All the shots would bounce of the rim or fall short of the intended target.

Simply stated, the man-code is the unwritten rule of conduct for the male species that governs how men react toward other men. It expressly forbids men to exhibit gushing or effusive displays of affection to members of the same species. This apparently confuses women greatly who become extremely agitated why men don’t sob and boo-hoo all over each other when we have those special moments. It also explains why men don’t pry into other men’s personal matters or really even care how other men ‘feel’.

Simulated conversation:

She: That’s so awful about his mother-in-law getting struck by that falling satellite. How’s Bob feeling?

Guy: What? I didn’t know Bob was married?

She: You remember. We ate out with them last night. She wore the yellow dress that was too short with too much mascara. You remember? The blonde with the dark roots? Her dress was too tight and she wore that  gaudy toenail polish. And those shoes…where in earth did she get those terrible shoes at? The  salvage store? I thought I’d gag over her perfume!

Guy: Bob is married?

She: rolls her eyes – So is Bob OK?

Guy: Is he in the hospital? Jail? Is there a missing person’s report out on him? Heart attack? Has he been abducted by aliens?

She: No….

Guy: Then he’s fine.

She: But…don’t you care how he feels?

Guy: I didn’t ask.

She: increasingly agitated – You’ve known Bob since first grade. He married your sister!!!

Guy: I thought she looked familiar!

She: You didn’t ask? (estrogen disconnect) Don’t you care what’s going on in his mind?

Guy: He didn’t mention it to me?

She: exasperated – Youre supposed to find out!!

Guy: You mean, pry into his personal life, meddle, extract information he doesn’t want to share? Use emotional extortion tactics. Force him to open up and share embarassing things about his intimate personal life?

She: Yes! Yes! Yes! You moron! That’s exactly what I meant. Sigh! I don’t understand men!

Guy: silence. Staring blankly at a TV screen, pretending she’s not there.

She: glaring – You’re not fooling me. That TV hasn’t worked in two years.

Sadly, most men have just had this discussion ten minutes ago or less with their wives.See why it is so difficult for men and women to communicate? We lack the technology to interpret the differences between male and female-speak. Same language, different channels. And we also know that any moment in the conversation they’re going to demand we take the trash out or ask questions, like, “Does this dress make my butt look huge?”

Note: The only men who pry into other’s men’s business fall under the category of either lawyers or journalists, neither of whom I suspect could successfully pee into the rim of a toilet seat (see definition above) which would technically disqualify them from actually being a subset of the male species.

Girls, I know you can’t decipher this so let me just point out this is precisely why most men refrain from getting into protracted discussions with those on other side of the gene pool. I see no need to encrypt this sensitive information. If a woman were to attempt to engage in counter-espionage, they could read my little blurb without understanding a word I said. Filtered through the female mind without the benefit of being deciphered via the man-code, it would sound and look something like this, “Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah? Blah blah blah!!!” I call it the estrogen barrier; a veritable impenetrable wall that underscores the irreconcialiable differences between the two versions of our species. The estrogen barrier is why we can’t communicate with women. They filter everything we say, which is why things we say get turned around to have an alternate darker, sinister meaning. Throw out the dictionary, the words don’t mean the same thing once they percolate through the estrogen barrier.

Back to the man-code. This is why men don’t sit around in their underwear painting each other’s toes, and discussing the inherent failure to commit of the male psyche. It also explains why men have no use for jewelry, baubles, or other ornaments but spend hours silently perusing the same aisle of power tools we did last week; most of which we already have two or three of.

The man-code must be rigidly observed. For instance, you’re driving home from work and pass your best friend; his car is on the side of the road….burning. A 500 pound gorilla has him in a headlock, pummeling him senseless; a large crocodile with a nasty disposition is clamped around his leg: how should you react? If you’re a guy, you automatically know. The man-code forbids you to meddle or ask intrusive questions, like, “Need help?” or Should I call 9-1-1?” Instead the code dictates you pull up slowly beside him, observe a moment, roll down your window, then nonchalantly ask, “How you doin?” Do not point out the obvious. Do not offer assistance or advice. If he wants to tell you he needs help, he will explicitly say so. No subtle hints or innuendos. No deciphering obscure body languages or other gesticulations. And whatever you do, do not ask, “Bob, how are you feeling about all this?” Both the gorilla and the crocodile will leave Bob to assault you for violating the man-code. And Bob will probably join them.

Men eat, pass gas, or play sports; we don’t digest and regurgitate 100 page articles from Cosmopolitan about feelings. It’s why we watch two men in a ring pound each other into bloody stumps but would rather have our fingernails pulled out one by one than be forced to sit through one episode of Oprah.

So ladies, now you know why men stare blankly at the TV when you want to have a conversation. Except, you can’t understand anything I just said.

We’re not being difficult, it’s just the man-code.

Things To Do At The Mall…while shopping with your wife!

The Men’s Survival Guide for the Mall!


Black Friday. The mall. You know the scenario. It’s an ugly scene, certainly not one for the timid or the meek. I see it every year, things that cause grown men to cringe in abject fear, that make brave men cower.

What am I talking about? The crowds? The sales? The pandemonium? I refer instead to the victims. I see them when I’m dragged to the mall….husbands wandering around aimlessly as their wives shop; staring at their watches, bored out of their skulls, wandering like listless zombies. Most are mere novices, rank amateurs untrained to protect themselves from flagrant abuse as this; snatched from the comfort of their recliners and HDTV’s to be thrust out into the harsh realities of the mall. Men have ways of broadcasting their plight that are only obvious to other men; you can call them Universal Distress Signals…signs include but are not limited to, fidgeting nervously, shifting from foot to foot, dragging their feet, dawdling along behind their spouse, loss of interest, moderate to severe depression, numbness, the thousand-yard-stare, to name a few.

Men, I feel your pain…therefore, as a public service, I’m going to divulge some of my survival tactics to get you through the crisis while she digs through the clothes rack yet again…or forages for another pair of shoes that don’t fit. Please pay attention, your sanity may depend on how well you employ these skills.

I must however warn you, these tactics must be closely guarded and may not at any time be allowed to fall into the hands of…the enemy. If you think she is starting to catch onto your ploy, immediately employ a diversionary tactic, such as…point and scream, “Oh, look! 75% off!” When she turns, dive beneath a clothes rack and remain motionless until danger passes. Another diversion may be, while feigning rage; “I can’t believe she’s wearing your outfit!” If nothing else, just ramble incoherently in your best Forest Gump imitation in an attempt to evoke empathy.

Let’s face it, the mall is no place for pansies when it comes to male survival skills. It’s a topsy-turvy world of estrogen-gone-amok; where women routinely pay exorbitant prices for tasteless articles of clothing designed by men with names you cannot pronounce. These items will be worn once, occupy space in her closet for a year, then given away in a garage sale for pennies on the dollar. I conjecture, rather than articles of clothing, these are the equivalent of…trophies; much like men proudly display severed heads of recently deceased deer on their walls. The dangers are abundant…navigating a veritable minefield fraught with peril: there’s manicures, perfumes, and hand lotions, testing out new perfumes on you, making you carry her purse in public, protracted public conversations with other wives about PMS. They may even attempt to engage you in a conversation about relationships. Beware! These are usually condensed from a one-hundred point article they digest line by line from magazines like Cosmopolitan on how to have a meaningful relationship. Do not underestimate your opponent! The girls train all year long for this…getting together to analyze and dissect these articles like an ESPN sports analyst. They do this, much like a bear sharpens its claws, so they can dissect you. It’s the psychoanalytical equivalent of a rectal exam by a sociopathic proctologist.

My advice is to avoid conversations at all costs! Do not be suckered in so easily…she is trying to draw you into a conflict. They do this frequently like the inevitable question, “Does this make my butt look huge?” That’s the verbal equivalent of her taking a sucker-punch at you! Or the dreaded, “my mother is spending the week…” announcement. My theory is they feel compelled to punish you for not sitting around the house in your undergarments with them, watching LIfetime Network and painting each other’s toe-nails while sharing details about their period; like they used to do with their girlfriends.

Do not be alarmed…women have been dragging their husbands along on protracted shopping excursions since the consummate temple of consumer greed, the mall, was first devised as an instrument of marital torture. You see, this is no mere ‘procure, purchase, and go-home’ venture but a secret female ritual closely guarded by women for centuries. If you manage to endure one of these hazings without inflicting permanent damage to your delicate male psyche and somehow return home with your sanity intact, you are a survivor of no small measure.

Men, let me put this to you bluntly…they are testing us. Many men have cracked under lesser forms of torture; some run off screaming, a few lose their masculinity, others crack under the stress and become delusional – -thinking they enjoy shopping with their wives, and some…never return at all.

One coping technique employed by men is ‘age-regression’, an integral part of the male psyche: it’s our inherent male construct, the primal state of mind of the male psyche; being able to revert back to that annoying ‘four-year old in church’ state of mind that has served us well when bored.

Until they wise up and institute a ‘Day-care for Husbands’ service at the mall, complete with ESPN, HDTV, junk food, and recliners, we must be prepared to resort to alternate methods of pain management. Steele yourselves! Desperate times call for desperate measures. This is where we separate the men from the boys! The scenario…you’re tired, six hours later she shows no signs of relenting…suddenly she’s got coupons! How do you entertain yourself? Reach deep within to find your inner child!

Fake loud protracted imaginary conversations with yourself on your cell phone as you meander along from aisle to aisle.
One of my favorites, “No Mr. President! I don’t advise nuclear destruction as a first option…have you tried diplomacy yet? Maybe a tomahawk missile or two? Fine then, but if we get nuked, I am not bailing you out! What?!! What do you mean, someone accidentally pushed ‘the button’!!!”

Another one goes like this, “You tell George Clooney to get himself another agent if he won’t pay. No! Not a cent less than my usual 40 per cent or I walk!”

Or, “That’s right! I said, buy this mall!” (occasionally make eye contact with startled patrons). “What do you mean, it’s not for sale! Offer them another 40 million or you can find yourself a new job!”

As a matter of note, purchasing a pair of thick-rimmed glasses at the novelty store makes a great prop, if you really want to sell the part, pick out a loud sweater vest and throw in some fake ‘bling’ to play the part of the agent!

Play Hide & Seek with the guy wearing those neon yellow pants.
There’s always one guy at the mall wearing some hideous pants that normal men wouldn’t be caught dead in. He’s probably the one whose mother used to dress him, you remember the effeminate guy that always liked math. Every time you see him or get remotely close; scream and run the other way to hide. After he leaves, pop up out from behind a mannequin and scream, “Ollie, Ollie, All in Free!”

Tag, You’re It!!
There are plenty of other bored husbands around so you can chase each other around the mall like kids at recess. Pretending to be a ninja is optional. Nerf guns inject a feeling of realism into the game!

and, if all else fails…

Play paparazzi.
You’ve got a cell phone with a camera, right? Pursue random people: start out with stalking your designated victim and take pictures as they flee. Pop out from behind kiosks and clothes racks to take candid shots of ‘imaginary’ celebrity-look-a-likes. The key is to be really annoying and obnoxious. Post them to Facebook. If the mall cops don’t throw you out, you will have loads of fun. Getting pepper-sprayed in the process is bonus points!

Try no to be too painfully obvious that you’re bored…there will probably be repurcussions later. Be prepared to sleep on the couch tonight…and don’t expect to see her any time soon sporting that hot new Victoria’s’ Secret negligee she bought this afternoon.

Well, that’s it. You’re pretty much on your own from here. I think I’ve done all I can do!

Black Friday….
Seriously. I had never thought of shopping as a full-contact sport before. TWEEEEET! UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS IN THE CHECKOUT LINE!

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