Saturday, August 29, 2020

Oaks Park, 1966: A HAPPY True Story That Happened To Me So There.

 There were a number of things on the road leading down to the river there in Sellwood.  Old wooden buildings that had held boat building works and immense empty warehouses that had once held ice cut from the frozen river in wintertime.   An old sawmill was falling to ruin on the left, and the blackberry was clawing it down into damp and rust and ruin. Here the drive split, and on a little grassy traffic island in the middle stood a small cupcake of a chapel that had been floated there from upriver, a popular  wedding venue, perfectly maintained.  To the left was the boat ramp. And finally, to the right was the entrance to a place I knew well and loved.

Oaks Park.

First you entered a huge gravelled lot, and in the center was the concrete and glass-block building that housed Radio KWJJ, topped by a tall, tall tower that was guyed to the hillside and the grounds.  It was sea green and shed roofed, a product of the nineteen forties, and was an on-again off-again outfit.  It’s last incarnation had been Country Western and news.  Now it stood empty, waiting for someone to come along and plug it back in. That might never happen, though.

 The legend ran, a dj had broken up with his girlfriend.  He went on the air and said “This one’s for you,sweetheart,” and put the record ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’. It played all night long.  Over and over.  When the morning newscaster came in, he found the dj hanging from the overhead pipes in the sound room, dead and staring.  He was still there, too, haunting the place so insistently that nobody would agree to take the night shift. That was the story. They said it’s why the station went out of business. When I was a kid I would peek in the window from our car, wanting to see a ghost.

All the way around the gravelled lot ran a white picket fence. Behind that fence were small yards, shrubs, and small hip-roofed houses, a little neighborhood set back in the trees.  It was strictly off limits.  There were No Trespassing and Do Not Disturb signs posted. At one time, it was where the park staff lived full time. Now it was overgrown and the few folks who you saw in their yards didn't look very friendly. 

Up ahead was the parking lot, and now you were facing a grove of immense oak trees.  Huge oak trees with straight trunks and broad, spreading canopies and a lawn beneath it all.  There were roses, walkways made of brick and all around the borders of that center lawn were placed little lattice niches, set into a surrounding hedge of laurel, rose and hydrangeas.  They were enchanting places.  Imagine a restaurant booth, a semicircle of a seat with a central table..  That was the general arrangement.  But these were framed, roofed and gated with lath lattice and woven withes and Victorian gingerbread ornaments, and at the back a special figure made of incredibly wrought wood.  One niche would be a rustic fantasy, all natural wood found on the riverbank, with smooth irregularities formed to join into curious shapes. Another would be a lathwork Eastern pavillion with a balloon roof capped with a little finial, like a small Taj Mahal.  The next would be a fairyland, and the ornaments would be bees, butterflies, and in back, perhaps a large, beautiful dragonfly, all picked out like lace.  One I remember was a spiders’ niche.  All the sides were made of joined small webs.  It was so very, very Victorian you could imagine the women in their morning glory dresses and piled-up hair, shirtwaists and plumed hats, the gentlemen with their bowler hats and canes, the children running and playing.  

In the central lawn among the trees were other picnic areas dotted around, full pavilions open on the sides, big enough for eight people to sit around a table.  Each one wore a different type of roof.  An onion dome, a steep, Munchkinland eight-sided peak, a round shallow cone like a Chinese hat, one that rose in a half twist, the shingles spiralling up to the central peak. 

I remember the big bandstand in the very center.  It was open on all sides.  If you’ve ever seen an Andy Hardy movie, you’ve seen this octagonal building, a raised,  roofed open space where bands would play.  Sousa had played here. So had Glen Miller.

There were bronze cast water fountains here and there that looked like stumps with vines clambering on them.  Each one had a small basin at the base so that dogs and birds could have a drink too.

And now we come to the midway.  The bally games were first, and they were amazing places - and they were all closed, silent, dark, no more.  Just peculiar fantasies and quaint lettering, faded colors and strange faces and huge glass gems and curious shapes.  Each building was finished in the same Victorian attention to silly, beautiful details, and it was all worn now, dimming, paint peeling, green shingles blowing away.

To walk through that lane of closed games was pure romance.  Pure romance.  In the evening bats would fly in and out of small gaps, wherever they could find, and it was deliciously scary, a cold draught of mystery blowing past, the rich smell of the river, the sweet smell of the blackberries.

Next came the old mechanical rides, the simp twisters, and they all belonged in a museum.  I thought they were absolutely the last word in everything creepy and mechanical, with gold leaf and scrolls and pinstriping, all hand done, all fading.  Vignettes and medallions and triumphs wherever such a thing could be painted or cast, like old circus wagons.  Each one housed vast engines and creaking metal swivels, cotters, hinges, joints, gears, chains and spars.  They rattled when the wind blew.  In motion they were all chasing lights and spinning, play-dangerous motion, graceful and swift, scary and breathtaking.  Your peculiar, ancient craft would go about swinging and bobbing, with sudden halts, fast drops, screeches of metal on metal, sudden huge bursts of steam, the enormous hiss of a valve opening, the rattle, groan, and jounce of metal on worn metal. Each ride, each engine, each one had its own canvas hose, and those hoses ran down to the river.  Steam powered carnival rides, ladies and gentlemen.  Imagine it.

One ride topped them all, and I’ve the only place I’ve ever seen anything like it was in an old, old silent movie.  This ride was called The Caterpillar. This is its’ story.

The sign that crowned the entrance to the ride showed a nicely rendered, Winsor McCay - style cartoon caterpillar with black shoes and spats. The front of him was reared up, and he wore six pairs of neat white gloves, waving to you, gesturing for you to please, come in.  He wore a starched collar, a monocle and a top hat, had a wide, friendly face, and it was all a lie.  Mr. Caterpillar was going to make sure you never forgot his caterpillar ass. 

Look at it. You have a large round track, and it takes dips and hills, some abrupt, some sweeping, some caster and some camber.  The track is made out of strips of hardwood, polished by use. It’s about as wide as a standard lane on a road.  Hanging down from that track all around the outside is, of all things, a curtain. swags of fabric, like a skirt. So you have a broad, round road with a flounced skirt on, OK?

In the center of this circle of wooden track a metal mast rose up.  It was bevelled, pinstriped, painted, turned and ornamented;  and about as round as a steel drum. Triangles of metal bar and pistons reached out from this mast, one triangle to each car of a row of twelve that rode on the track.  They were all squashed together when you got on, so that when you looked over at the pillar in the middle, all those rods running out to the cars looked like a narrow fan, a very pretty effect, with the pivot end at the pillar.

You get into a car with some strange kid you don’t know.  It’s probably just as well because you are going to make a total freak out of yourself in a minute or so.  Now as you get into your car with your assigned stranger, you notice that fastened to the inward-facing side of your car is a fan-like contraption made of metal, like the old folding hoods on baby carriages, and like a baby carriage there’s cloth attached to it.   One metal fan in the front of your car, one on the back.  You look back and it looks like all those cars have a swag of green cloth hanging from them on the inside of the circle, loop, to loop, to loop.

The ride begins, and you slowly go around the whole circle.  Slooooowly. Up and down, in and out. The wheels of the cars are rumbling on the wood deck.  You and your stranger exchange “seriously? Thi sis it?” looks.

Then comes an enormous hiss of steam, and as it’s rising up around you, the cars begin to draw apart, and that fan of spars attaching your car to the central mast spreads out and it’s parts gain definition. They are covered in shock springs and swivels, gears and belts.  

The distance between the cars begins to widen, and you begin to pick up speed. You can feel the wheels under your car chattering over the boards.  You just keep going faster until the cars have expanded to form a complete circle of equally spaced cars, two panicked children each.

Suddenly there is a vast plume of steam! ‘FASH’! 

You begin to rip around that track.  You are smashed up against your stranger, now your companion in what is probably going to be death. And you aren’t just going fast; oh no.  The cars are also tipping and tilting.  Those triangle contraptions that connect your car to the pillar are working hard, gears suddenly slipping around, belts and springs changing length and pulleys whirring.  The whole ride begins to rattle and judder like a Texas hailstorm.  The sides of the thing are jouncing.  The central pillar is jouncing. All the cars are jouncing. You can look across and see that the wheels of the cars are occasionally leaving the track.  So you are going in a circle, over hill and over dale, tipping and leaning in and out, when suddenly your car slides out right to the outside edge, and is then pulled in. This same thing is happening to all the cars, and it happens suddenly and looks random, and you are beginning to seriously freak out because you are going way too fast and too many fucked up things are happening at once.

Suddenly, from beneath the track there is an enormous screeching sound, and a steam whistle blows, one long wail, and the curtain around the base of the track suddenly -FOOMP- expands, fills up with air being pumped into it in blasts, so it looks like it’s breathing.  

Now it’s only as an onlooker that you get to appreciate that effect.  If you’re riding in one of the cars, you are thinking that something just went terribly wrong.

You are screaming.  You might be peeing too.  Whatever you do is going to be a slave to the laws of physics, and suddenly you know you are mortal and death is real.  You are ripping around at the mercy of this whirlwind beast. Sometimes the car ahead of you is far away, sometimes you bump into each other as you close together, and a rubber bumper bashes you back apart.

The Grim Reaper laughs, and pulls a lever.

At your side there is a clatter and screech.  To your horror, that swag of fabric on the inner side?  Is not a decoration.  It is a covering.  It works on the principle of a fan.  That fan unfolds, comes up and over  you, and then down onto the other side, and fastens to the side of the car with a CLACK.

You are in a green canvas tube now. It is dark, it is flapping and snapping, and all around you are the sounds of terrified small humans crying for their lives -

And then the motherfucker lifts off the goddamn track.

 You see the car in front of you go up and then it’s you and you’re going up and you have tears blowing off  the sides of your face and you are holding on and begging for everything to stop. The train of cars is rising and falling, bouncing off the track hard and then leaping up again, and your vision is actually beginning to blur because your face is being blown into weird shapes by the rushing air.

Suddenly the whole ride leaps.  The Whole Damn Ride Bucks Off The Ground! And then the whole covered tube of cars leaves the track!

You spin in midair like a record, silently whizzing around, gasping and snuffling, smashed so hard into your companion by centrifugal force that you feel like roadkill.  You orbit around in midair at 3000 miles an hour for a few silent moments, and then BAM you land on the track! FASH! goes the machinery of Hell! Steam rises and blows around you, scented with canvas and fear.  All the cars bounce and clatter and leap and bash off the bumps and cambers.  You actually leave your seat and then wham back into it with each impact, and it’s serious as a heart attack.  

Mercifully, someone puts on a brake.  Your motion slows.  Finally all the cars are riding around on the track at the same time, the canopy suddenly releases with a CHING-GK! and slooowly folds itself up and over and down to the other side, SNABAP! 

This is when you realize that you cannot see anyone who might be standing nearby because you are still going so fast that everything is a blur.  You don’t care, though.  The ride slows, but gives you a kick every now and then.  The cars separate randomly and bash back together.  One side of the circle suddenly moves out to the very edge of the track and then is yanked back in toward the center.  You hear children crying.  One of them is you.

You hear a jake brake being applied, loudly, and blasts of steam come out from underneath the ride and rise around you; then the side curtain deflates and is drawn back up into swags.  You slow, until you are just cruising around at a walk, and the rube running the ride is grinning at you as you go past with all four of his brown teeth.  Finally, finally, Thank you God, it stops with one last FASH and a plume of steam.  Abrupt cessation of motion.  It throws you forward.

And the rube goes around and unlocks the little doors of the cars, and children stagger out spattered with vomit and pee, and you wobble down the stairs, and all you want in the world after all that, all you want at that very minute, is to do it all over again.  

You were on the thing for close to ten damn minutes!  Most of that time near death, and unless you are ever in a small, open plane doing barrel rolls you will never feel that same kind of terror again.  Best damn ride in the entire world.  Hats off to whoever invented it.  It stunted my growth.

Oaks Park was part nightmare and part daydream. It was scary and wonderful,  unsafe and insane, the best amusement park that ever was.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Gotta Say No Way Jose'

 So I'm going to be telling Pet Teenager that I won't be teaching her to drive -  at least, not in Bellingham.  This is not going to be an easy thing to do, but I have to make it clear to her that someone 'on the spectrum' who does not tolerate random motion, excess, or stress, well is not the person to teach her to drive in a busy college city with streets that were laid out by pioneer crackheads.

There's a lot of things going on in this kids' life that I don't like or approve of.  I've been able to keep my nose out of it, and just be a good neighbor and a helpful adult.  That's what I'm doing now, but it's hard.  Really hard.  Doing the responsible thing is doing the right thing.  DAMMIT I WANT AN AWARD.

-So.  I just did that thing.  And she took it well.  And that's good.  In fact that's really good.  Whaddya know?  I did a socially awkward thing that went off correctly!  And I didn't even have to set anything on fire!  GO ME!!!!!!  

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Boom Shaka Wow Wow

 See, there I was gone forever and now I'm back in black and smokin' crack, telling you how much I love 'Star Trek - Enterprise'.  I am TOS4LYF and face it, be real:  NextGen sucked.  It sucked so hard that I despaired for the franchise.  Deep Space Nine was Peyton Place In Outer Space, yawn.  (Voyager? Now there we go!  Roddenberry would have been so proud! Excellent in every respect, but we didn't get it on our old tired cable while it was still new, so I only caught the occasional episode. I need to be Captain Janeway's bed bitch NOW.  I'll help Seven of Nine stay warm too. I'm having one of my dyke days, bear with me.)  The rest got lost in the shuffle when our tiny little town went through the traumatic changeover from cable to fuck you, we're taking down the receiver farm.

Now Mr. Internet is providing us with all the stuff I missed, and I am so incredibly pleased with the way that Enterprise is playing out.  Scott Bakula is every inch a Roddenberry captain.  It took T'pol three episodes to get the 'Vulcan' thing down - eps 1 and 2, she was just a snooty bitch.  By ep 3 she was In Charge and feeling nothing (but my hand on that ass.)  

The reason I take my Trek so seriously is that I had a shitty childhood. My parents didn't deserve the name, so I, like lots of kids from dysfunctional families, took on a T.V. family as my own.

I certainly didn't want what the Brady's had (except Marsha) and Mission Impossible was tuff, but there weren't any aliens or spaceships. The Prisoner was just 'sit with your mouth hanging open having your mind blown UK awesomeness.'  The Avengers was sooooooo smooth, but sadly, our Ms. Peel did end up needing to be rescued quite a bit by the always witty and resourceful Mr. Steed (I'da ridden that around the pasture!) 

In Star Trek (I was eight years old, remember, and desperate for role models) I found a place where women didn't need constant rescuing, intelligence was prized, men were compassionate, and 'doing the right thing' was explored and questioned.  Aliens could be good.  There was science, and space ships, and aliens, and kung fu, and robots, and Mr. Spock. There was Miss Uhura, who could take care of herself in a fight AND translate garbled transmissions.  There was the whole damn crew, and the way they interacted and made each other grow and change, which in the 1960's just didn't happen on television.  Rob Petrie was the same stumbling doofus he was at the end of the Dick Van Dyke Show as he was in the first episode.  It was like that then.  Lowest common denominator, with commercials. But Trek didn't do that.

I sob like a child at the end of the movie 'Star Trek: Into Darkness' because of the dedication to Mr. Nimoy.  I'm misting up now. I saw so much of what I was going through in his struggles as Mr. Spock aboard the Enterprise... different, smart, not catching social cues, belonging to two different races that didn't respect each other very much (I'm half Native and half white) and trying to find his way with each and every interaction; worrying about his responses, and then feeling guilty for worrying, and going down that emotional rabbit hole. He too had l'tak terai, my youth was one long march through Vulcan's Forge attaining kahs wan,  I too longed for kolinhar and was denied it. HE WASN'T AFRAID TO BE SMART.  He did not dumb himself down for his crewmembers.  It was incumbent upon them to understand him, not the other way around.

All that sounds dorky.  I'm a dork.  That's what we do.

Now I don't go to conventions, I'm not a superfan, I don't show up and camp out on the pavement waiting for a new movie to premier.  But I know who felt like family, and little eight-year-old me made a damn good decision, I think.  A little girl with the charge to 'go boldly where no man has gone before' is a little girl who will do just that thing.  And I did.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Hot Naked Titties and Lots of Ass

 Nah, not really.  I just figured it'd pull in the readers that have been avoiding the joint.  Did it work? Huh?  Hello?

So I have been helping Pet Teenager learn how to drive and I really wish her fuckin' father would pull his head out and get with the damn program.  I wasn't bitter about the situation until two days ago when we pulled in to their driveway at the same time Daddy got home from work, and he got out of his car holding a 4Loko. Yeah, dad likes to have a couple tasty beverages on the drive home from work.  Just awesome.

The Biker has a party planned, just a few people from work.  And that's fine, except I haven't met any of them before, ever.  After my last venture into the social arena crapped the rug, all I want to do is cover myself in Fentanyl patches and lie in the back yard.  I don't want to clean the house, I don't want to have company over, I don't want to think up light conversational topics.  I want to lie in the back yard covered in Fentanyl patches. Period.  End of sentence.

Lets see, what else. I watched 'The Haunting of Hill House' and got sick of everyone's issues and all the flashbacks.  I get it, the house is carnivorous, there's a lesbian, next.  

I watched 'Locke and Key' and got sick of that because I really didn't care what wild thing would happen next.  Wild shit is gonna happen next. Point taken.  OK then.  

Watched 'Penny Dreadful' until that jumped the shark, when poor Miss Vanessa Ives starts barfing up toothpaste foam having seizures upstairs in her sweaty old tatty uns, tied  to the bed, while the menfolk stay downstairs, dipshitting around planning to go to find the source of the frickin' Nile. A real case of 'Bitch Can't Get A Break' going on there. Eva Green is a fantastic actress and she's just wasted on this thing.  I had real high hopes for it, but too far is too far. 

It's like this:  The world is being taken over by the Chinese and plastic, the president is a giant vagina and I had to beg grass clippings off the neighbors to fill a hole in my back yard because grass clippings are free.  It's gonna work like a charm, though, gotta say.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Death and Mystery in Deepest Suburbia: A True Story That Happened To Me So There.

 It was 1968:  a great time for seeing flying saucers.  You could not go a week without there being another report in the news.  My mother saw three, and I saw one too one night after a report on the news alerted us to the fact that a mysterious green light was to be seen travelling slowly up the Willamette River Valley. 

 Out into the driveway ran my mother and I, and we saw the green light, right where it was supposed to be, moving slowly southward, while my father stood on the front porch and scoffed ‘It’s just an old airplane or something. Aw, yer fulla baloney.”

I wasn’t very impressed either.  I figured it was a light being towed behind a plane that was flying without lights, and maybe it was.  Hundreds of people saw it and everyone discussed the whole matter to no conclusion.  But Mom was one of those people who want to believe, and she did.

There were mysteries and wonders a-plenty at our house.

Now this was back when ‘What’s your sign?” was a common conversational opener.  My mother had a turn for numbers and patterns and studied astrology with great interest.  She soon became able to cast astrological charts, and manipulate all the arcana associated with that practice.  As long as I’m on the subject I should say that she was an Aquarius, my father was a Pisces, and I am a Taurus, which suits me.  

In addition to being a dab hand at astrology, my mother could read fortunes; cards, palms, and tea leaves.  She had taken a correspondence course in Graphology and had learned from that to analyze handwriting and read the psychology of the writer from the curves and slants and the way the ‘t’s were crossed and the dash of the signature.  Past lives and precognition were  matters of fact.  When Uri Geller appeared on television, my mother was so electrified she sat glued to the screen, yelling for me to go through all the drawers in the kitchen and the sideboard while she watched the television avidly, yelling “Don’t forget to check the clocks!  Check the clocks!”  Because Uri, it was widely believed, could send his peculiar powers through the television set into the homes of viewers, who would end up with bent cutlery and clocks that acted peculiar.  Fortunately, we were passed by that day.

  After that show there were some attempts at spoon bending made at our house.  She could make the spoon heat up - per her testimony - but that was it.  I couldn’t even do that much.  So after a week of holding spoons and stroking them like kittens while concentrating our mental energies, we gave up that exercise.  We just didn’t have the right stuff for spoon bending.

One day while we were watching The Addams Family, my mother told me a very peculiar thing, in passing; that when I was an infant, she would use the Ouija board next to my crib, the little bit of me her partner, to gain help in finding lost items or answering whatever question she put to The Other Side.  “Children attract the, you know, ghosts,” she informed me.

We did?

Now I knew better than to press my mother on any information she might volunteer, because she would deny it.  She did not like to feel that she had given away knowledge of herself without payment,  and she would make up a new lie every time the original story was mentioned, or simply deny that she’d said any such thing.  So I sat on the couch and listened to her tell me this, and inside I was absolutely - appalled?  Weirded out?  Set back on my heels?  We’ll go with that.

While she spoke to the spirit world, then, I assumedly laid there and blew spit bubbles while aethric forces directed the planchette around the board.  The fact that it did not strike her as odd or in any way peculiar that a person might not occasionally take up a Ouija board and sit next to their infant in its crib, using him or her as a small psychic pipeline, in order to summon the shades of the dead to help her find where she put the postage stamps, is what struck me then, and now, as extremely peculiar.

The ouija board figured regularly in my early childhood. So much so that I would be begged to join her.  “It won’t work without you,” she’d yell.

“Dad could help,” I said.

“Like hell I will,” he’d snort from his Barcalounger.

“Play by yourself then,” I’d say.  I wanted to go back outside.

“It won’t talk to one person.  Come here and do the Ouija board with me!” she’d demand.

I was probably the only kid in...miles, probably...who was ever regularly subjected to a demand like that. 

The first thing we’d do is recite The Lords’ Prayer.

I know.

Sitting facing each other, we’d balance the Ouija board on our knees, and put our fingertips lightly, lightly on the planchette.

And the thing would begin to move.

Did I say move?  It would skate. Shoot right out from under our fingertips.  We’d have to catch up with it. Once we all got into synch, then, it would travel around the board in swoops for awhile, just kind of enjoying itself, as my mother kept telling me to concentrate harder.

“Tell me what I want to know,” she would intone.

“What do you want to know?” I’d ask.


“But how can I concentrate on it if I don’t know what it is?”

“Just concentrate,” she’d say, as her cigarette burned away in the ashtray at her elbow.

I remember that it would visit “Yes” and “No” a lot.  Once she had her answer, she would write something down in shorthand on a notepad, and then it was back to the grindstone. I spent hours of my childhood at the Ouija board, concentrating.  And sighing heavily.  

 As I grew older I began to wonder how my mothers’ wholehearted belief in the extranormal fit with her wholehearted belief in Catholic dogma. 

We had a holy water stoup in our living room, and a scapular that she used as a pull for the lightbulb that hung over the washing machine.  Holy cards held the place in the T.V. Guide.  We also had a nice landscape painting over the fireplace, several street scenes and some commemorative plates hung up here and there... in addition to the pictures of Jesus and Mary exposing their flaming, thorn-bound, anatomically accurate hearts floating in midair outside their clothes at chest level, as they looked at you in a very matter-of-fact way.  Flames splurted out of a little stack at the top of their hearts, and golden rays surrounded it all while the organ hovered there, dripping blood and glowing.  It occurs to me now what an awesome t-shirt that would have made, but the little Catholic girl who still lives inside me would be too horrified to wear it.

As if this weren’t enough, there was a large portrait of the Pope in the spare bedroom.  I forget which Pope. He seemed like a nice man. One night  my husband and I did the deed on the carpet beneath his beneficent gaze to keep my parents from hearing the bed creak, and the fact that the Pope was watching didn’t add or subtract a thing from the experience.

My mom liked the gory saints. Sure, a martyr was a martyr, but a mystic who could levitate, and had bleeding stigmata, and consumed the cast flesh of lepers was right up her alley. And yes, those are all real saints. Read about St. Agatha sometime. She was one of Mom's favorites, along with the arch grossaroni-maroni, St. Catherine of Sienna. Here is the greatly amended and sanitized version of her story:

When I moved out my mother claimed my empty room as hers, and my presence there was replaced by wall to wall images of the goriest, nastiest, creepiest saints in the Catholic tradition, topped off by - this is true, every word - a five foot tall crucifix.  I have no idea where on earth you would get a five foot tall crucifix unless you robbed a church. But there it was, where once had hung posters of Elton John, complete with Christ suffering His last agonies, depicted mercilessly. Poor emaciated Jesus, like a pitiable figure from Auschwitz, bleeding copiously and realistically from multiple places, filthy, barely clad...with his eyes firmly fixed on yours.

I showed my husband during the first, and last, time that we visited.  He hadn’t believed me until that moment.  There is something about suddenly seeing a painstakingly detailed tableaux fit for the Torture Chamber in Madame Tussauds’ Wax Museum (right next to the Lebanese Hook perhaps) looking you straight in the eye when you aren’t expecting to see any such thing that will make a certain impression on a person.

‘Jesus Christ,” said my husband.

“Yup,” I said.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Quaint Vignettes From My Charming Rural Idyll!

 Any of you Canadians remember the Red Green Show?  I live close enough to the border that I'm able to pick up the Canadian stations just fine, and I sure enjoyed that Red Green Show.  And it occurred to me that summer here in the rural PNW shares a similarity with the RGS  - in the background there is always the sound of someone using a chainsaw, and lots of gunfire. I don't know why this is; it just is.  All summer long, people just running the fuck out of chainsaws and firing guns.  I guess it's easier to find things to saw on, like wood, or whatever you saw on, when it's not covered in snow or under two feet of water like it would be in the winter, so there's that.  And firing guns?  Generally it's a case of 'why the hell not?' when it comes to recreational gunfire.  And yes, I'm talking to you too, Canada.  You Canadians up around here are some gun-firing fools. I live five blocks from the border and I can hear you over there firing those guns you claim you don't have. HA.


I found the best tomato IN THE WORLD!  It is the green zebra striped tomato. Yes it's a real thing. Here's a picture:

Don't you dare puss out and not hit that link.  It is a beautiful picture of the tomato I mean.  This tomato tastes like, well, basically, it is perfect.  So there's that.


OK I'm going to go back to the 'guns in Canada' issue here, only I won't be talking about Canada.  

This last few years it's come to light:  over the world, everyone everywhere is tit deep in privately-owned guns.  Yes.  EVEN IN THE UK which, up until about seven years ago, claimed that there wasn't a single goddamn gun in the entire country. Not one.  Except for all the little passing mentions you'd hear various pundits pass off like 'the rise in gun crime' and 'the problem of gun crime' and 'people are blowing the shit out of each other with guns,' and then all of a sudden the UK's dirty little secret is out:  YOU'VE HAD GUNS LIKE MAD BASTARDS ALL ALONG, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER COUNTRY ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH, AND YOU'VE BEEN KILLING EACH OTHER WITH JOYOUS ABANDON.  USING GUNS. 

  I've been pretty pissed off about that 'holier than thou' bullshit that the UK has been putting out for years, like  'You see, dahling, we're ahhhll civilized and extraordinarily well-educated people, and we certainly do not go about doing such untoward things because we are just that superior to you Yanks.' Yeah, bite me. It was bullshit then and it's bullshit now and it always has been bullshit.  Just because your country doesn't choose to report certain stories doesn't mean that those crimes aren't being crimed.  Ah. But then you get a couple of shit Prime Ministers and your economy goes to hell,  the BBC gets underfunded, and THEN the secret comes oozing out:  your shit is and always has been entirely and comprehensively bricked up ten deep with privately owned firearms, and you're ready to blow the first chav that comes at you into little lower-clahhhss bits if they look like they're going to use their National Health benefits.


Another thing about the UK:  you literally cannot stick a shovel into the ground without hitting something of archaeological significance.  Your island is slowly becoming stopped in time, era by era, chunk by chunk, by the National Trust.  Right next to the Roman Wall is a Celtic Burial, near the Ruined Castle on the grounds of the Immense, Huge, Ridiculously Large Country Home on 500 acres, where the lawns have to be cut by people in period costume and I don't know what the shit.  What the shit? How do you even get a building permit?  You found Richard the Third under a parking lot!  You even have Historic Sewers!  Length of underground sewer that are protected by the National Trust!  Now me, I would have drawn the line at the Immense Huge Ridiculously Large Country Home on 500 Acres.  I would have sold off some of those acres and turned that IRLCH into apartments, because you go into any of those fuckin' places and the family is only living in four rooms of the joint while the rest of it is rotting away. 

Yes.  I watch a lot of BBC.  And the Antiques Roadshow UK.  I would not term myself an Anglophile per se, but back in the day my readership was overwhelmingly Brit, and that carried over into Facebook.  I don't know why.  I enjoy my UK readers a lot.  You express yourselves so well, and there is no better sarcasm on the face of the Earth than 'dry as the Sahara' UK sarcasm.  So don't think I'm ripping on you out of dislike.  I just see things, and I've had my chops busted, and busted HARD, over the years so many times by Brits because I'm American.  No, what I'm doing is, I'm just being...less than gracious now that you find yourselves in the same leaky boat as us.  

And I'm getting a HUGE kick out of it, too. HA HA!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Pet Teenager

 I have a pet teenager.  I found her when she was sixteen and I made the mistake of feeding her, and you know how that goes.  Once you feed them they keep coming around.

She lives down the block from me, and it's one of those divorced dad got stuck with custody and doesn't know what the hell he's doing situations. And that's fine.  The man is trying.  Meanwhile he ended up with a small person with more determination and ambition in her pinkie toe than I have ever had in my life.  the kid took herself out of high school and finished her education online - by herself - she got a job here in town when jobs were hard to find - by herself - she got a bank account and a credit-limited card - by herself - and now, I'm teaching her how to drive.

The kid is amazing.

The first thing she did was drive us into a big hill of blackberry bushes, but she powered out of it and there we sat in the car, way, way, way back out in the country, and the whole side of the car was covered in mooshed blackberries.  That's it.  I thought for sure we were going to go down totally sideways in the ditch that those blackberries were covering and have to be towed out, because the ditches out here also channel creeks and one small river, so they're deep.  Luckily, that didn't happen.  We decided to never mention this thing.  We flip those blackberries off whenever we go by.

Now we've worked our way up to drifting around what is jokingly referred to as 'town'.  She's getting used to kids darting out into traffic, big trucks, strange intersections where the vision is poor, parked cars suddenly turning out into traffic, people on their cells not looking both ways; but all at a small-town pace.  Her dad went online and found a set of stickers that say "Please be patient:  Student Driver" that we put on the back and sides of the car, and for the most part, people have been kind.

The good thing about learning how to drive out here is that right now, harvest is in full swing.  The corn is really tall, so all corners are blind corners.  She's learning that around any given corner in the country there might be nothing but more road, or there might be a giant freaking harvester trundling along, looking like an alien death machine, taking up both lanes, and all you can do is be patient and stay well back.  There might be a crew of workers loading and transporting raspberry flats, which is an operation that looks like an open-air mining crew, with the ore carts all in a line going along like a little train with cars, only what's in those cars are huge towers of fruit flats that tip and sway even at low speed, with men ambling out into the middle of the road and forklifts suddenly appearing in the road.  Again, you give them all the room they need, you come to a full stop and you wait for them to do what they need to do, and then everyone smiles and waves as you drift past at an idle.

Today we're going to go all over our driving territory and try a few new roads - one up a tall, sudden hill that has a switchback, and one down an unimproved county lane, just gravel and oil.  A few more days of this, and then we'll practice those parking skills in the lot behind the Adventist Church.

It's nice to be a Grandma again.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Jistanelleni Despochadalf Theron - Musically Talented, Violent, Foxy Genius

 The phone rings.  Jistanelli reaches across Serena Williams' supine form and looks at the number.

"That's China's area code," she thinks.  

Answers the call.  It's the President of China.  The man has a lot to say.  Jistanelli doesn't say a word.  She's cool.  

Gently she gets out of bed, careful not to wake Serena, and gets into her black vinyl bodysuit and stiletto heels - her hair is always perfect - loads her Uzi and grabs a few extra clips, then somersaults from the balcony into the seat of her McLaren. 

Designed and constructed to her specifications, this special edition McLaren can, in race mode, reach a speed of 250 mph in 3.7 seconds from a standing start, is submersible, and capable of flight. It's cold fusion drive was no problem to set up once she got her mind right.

She arrives in Red Square and marches up the steps of the Chinese White House.  Doesn't hesitate.  Kicks the door down.

"Girl, I cannot thank you enough," says the President of China. "That thing's been screwed up for a week and we can't get a locksmith up in here for nothing. I really appreciate it."

Jistanelleni is modest. She just smiles and props the door against the wall out of the way so nobody will trip over it.  "Aw, no problem. You want to hit Taco Bell?" she says.

See, she knows that the President of China is nuts about Taco Bell. And he agrees. And they go to Taco Bell and the President of China gets a Crunchwrap Supreme and three Party Box to go orders for his ministers and his secretary and wife and kids.

Now she's wide awake.  Drops off the President of China. They do their dap run. "Ngóh jek heidínsyùhn jòngmúhnsaai síhn" she says, their special good-bye joke, and the President of China laughs.

Cantonese. She speaks it perfectly.

Suddenly she sniffs the wind. Her finely tuned senses tell her that something isn't right.  Racks the steering wheel around and heads West. Underwater.

"Did you honestly think you'd get away with this?" she asks.  

Scene: Vernonia, Oregon.  A metal building behind the True Value Auto Shop. Vern, Doris, Chuck, his other brother Chuck, and SueAnne have been breeding Covid 19 in coffee cans and wafting it across the ocean so that China would get the blame.

"Well would have, if it hadn't have been for those darn kids," says Doris, and three kids with a box fan and a long extension cord sneak away into the forest.  

Everyone gets sent to New Mexico to stay in detention camps, and since they can't speak fluent English, the guards buy this readily. Jistanelleni, of course, has set fire to the operation, and stands there as the flames billow, hands on her hips, glorious.  But extreme heat and vinyl don't mix, so she does this just long enough for everyone to get a picture on their Smartphones, and then off she goes. 

Headed East. Flying just over the waves. Sees some whales. "Hey, whales," she says.  

She has time to kill, and China is a beautiful place.  So is the rest of Europe.  She loves that Autobahn, man.  Passing cars right and left.

Jistanelleni tells OnStar to order a dozen red roses and have them delivered to her penthouse, so they'll be the first thing Serena sees when she wakes up. "Put "J'taime" on the card," she says. 

 French. She speaks it fluently.

"There she goes," says a French dude in his striped shirt and beret a she goes cruising past in her badass McLaren. "La belle fantastique."

"That was nice of you to say," she replies, because she's polite. He picks a single rose and tosses it to her, one hand over his heart.

On her way across America, taking some backroads, she runs into a protest in North Carolina.  "Of course it would be North Carolina," she thinks.  

There on one side of the street is the Westboro Baptist Church, the Klan and a fair scattering of anti vaxxers, Pro Lifers, Maga Hatters and general fools all screaming themselves silly.  On the other side of the street is a Vietnamese psychiatrist sitting at a bus stop.  She seems puzzled.

Now Jistanelleni sees this poor woman waiting to get on the bus and she knows that anything is liable to set this mob off and make things difficult and tie up traffic, so Jistanelleni does the smart thing.  She goes to the nearest grocery store and buys a lot of hot dogs and then drives past the noisy group in her flashy car very slowly, with the good smell of all those hot dogs wafting out over the crowd.  

Our gal J hands out all the hot dogs those people can eat, and they all get the protein yawns and go home to take a nap.  

She drives the psychiatrist to her office.  They eat hot dogs on the way.  She's generous. Everybody enjoys a good hot dog.  She didn't cheap out, either - went with the Hebrew National Beef Franks.

On the way back home she stops to demolish the Westboro Baptist Church as long as it's just sitting there empty.  Does that thing Run Run Shaw style.  Kicks that place apart. Bam! Smash!  She's slinging bricks through windows and throwing pews around like matchsticks.  All the neighbors gather 'round and cheer her efforts.

"You're too kind," she says.  "Thank you." And she is so touched by their gratitude that she composes a musical tribute on the spot.  Reaches into the back of the McLaren, gets out her double-necked Fender, plugs it into the sound system and rocks the neighborhood so hard that everyone becomes friends, and they rock out for eight hours. All the lawns turn from brown to green. The police show up, and they get rocked so hard that they join in.  They even sing backup while the mayor takes the lead during the finale, a dazzling and innovative re-imagining of 'The Ghost Of Tom Joad'. 

"My work here is done," she thinks.  As she drives away, everyone is singing 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. 

"Damn," says the chief of police of Westboro.  "She was one foxy woman."

"That was Jistanelleni Despochadalf  Theron - Musically Talented, Violent, Foxy Genius," the mayor says.  "She can't help it.  I patterned my personal foxy on her foxy."

"It shows," says the chief of police, and they hold hands.

By the time Jistanelleni gets back to her lavish penthouse Serena is awake, putting the roses into a breathtakingly beautiful mid-century Finnish art glass vase. "It was so sweet of you to let me sleep in," she says.

"I brought you Starbucks," says Jistanelleni.  "Americano, light crema."  Hands it to Serena, who is completely charmed by this thoughtful gesture.

Needless to say, after the coffee is gone, and after a shower, and a nap, they spend the rest of the day making acrobatic, insane, funky love and  fall asleep in each other's arms.

Just another day in the life of Jistanelleni Despochadalf  Theron - Musically Talented, Violent, Foxy Genius.


Friday, August 7, 2020

I woke up in a Soho doorway, a policeman knew my name... tell me who the fuck are YOU? 

Mistress Maddie got me thinking about actors that have made me see something of myself in them.  I had to give that a lot of thought.  I can recall a lot of roles that have made me think 'Yeah, I'd love to be like that in real life,' but that's admiration, not recognition.

Truthfully, I come up with Jack Nicholson, Bea Arthur and a comic strip character from National Lampoon - Bonnie, from Trots and Bonnie.  I always did love that 1920's - 1940's thing Bonnie had going on.  

 Jack Nicholson.  He's smart, and he's exhausting. I express myself in an animated fashion and if I'm on a tangent, you'll have a front seat to an exhaustive, colorful, manic tirade.  The facial expressions, the tones of voice, the sarcasm, the fucked-up sense of humor...yeah.  I've never come through a door with a fire axe after Shelley Duvall, but I could. I have a fire axe.

Bea Arthur is a given.  I am a much stumpier Bea Arthur.  Snide?  Attitude?  Wears long vests? Yup.

Now.  Who would I like to be?

1. Jimi Page - Stanley Clarke.  I would like to look like Nichelle Nichols, and I would like to sing like Joni Mitchell.  I would settle for a direct talent transplant from Les Claypool because God knows I don't want to look like the dude.

2.   Deadpool minus cancer - Mr. Spock - Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux - Gandalf.  Kind of a warrior mage thing going on, heavy on the kung fu.  Actually... 

3. Make that Mr. Spock - Gandalf.  I would have the Order of Vulcan and be The Servant of the Secret Flame of Anor.

4. Or wait.  Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road - Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux.  One has a robot arm (SO STINKIN' COOL) can drive a semi, and will kick your ass;  and one has EXTREME FASHION, mad Kung Fu skills, a friend with hands for feet, and will kick your ass.

So let's reduce this stock.  What you get is a foxy, musically talented, violent genius. (Not quite Buckaroo Banzai, but you wouldn't have to put up with Jeff Goldblum either.)  We will name this perfect creature Jistanelleni Despochadalf  Theron.  

Well then, let's get ready!  Coming up next:   Jistanelleni Despochadalf  Theron - Musically Talented, Violent, Foxy Genius  

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

FELONY FLATS: A True Story That Happened To Me So There.

NOTE:  This is LONG.  So if you're one of those 'Only got enough attention for Twitter' busy-busy indispensable people with no time to read....well, I was gonna give you a TL;DR, but screw ya.

I landed back in Felony Flats when I left my boyfriend for good.  I called an old party buddy and he said 'Sure, you can stay with me for awhile,' and before I knew it, there I was again, right back where I’d promised myself I'd never, ever live again.  I felt like such a loser.

It wasn’t such bad place though, despite being called Felony Flats. Over the years, separate suburbs had grown together and become miles and miles of duplexes, dead yards, apartment blocks, bad streets, overgrown trees, poor planning and no regard for the future - intermingled with junkyards and corner stores. There were only two supermarkets serving that huge, huge area, and not much police presence. So like I said, not such a bad place.

“You gonna be OK here by yourself?” Mike asked me.

I hadn’t slept in 48 hours.  Mike had been good enough to sit with me and talk, and drink some.  Just when I thought I could get some rest, the shivers would hit me again.  “I’m fine.  I know I am.  My body doesn’t believe it yet.”

“Well, you think about it. I can call it off if I have to.  They’ll still have a party without me, just not as good,” he said, smiling.

“Where you going?”  I asked.

“The Red Ace,” he said.  Mike had a light and sound set-up,  and he made pretty good money at it, gypsying around, working for bands and venues and private parties. “Remember that place? I took you there years ago.”

“Holy shit, Mike, be careful,” I said.

“I will do no such thing,” he grinned. “OK then, I’ll let you go, and just...well, this is going to be weird.”  He sighed, looking embarrassed. “But has to be like this because of my mom. So, just, don’t turn on any lights, or the radio, or the T.V.  I’m sorry, I know it's weird.  Don’t make any noise, and don't go outside.  Gawd. If my mother thought there was a woman out here she’d spit up blood.”

I laughed. “She’s protecting your virginity, dude!”   He rolled his eyes.

Mikes mother and I were not each others favorite person. Back in high school I’d dated her baby boy for about a year, on and off.  I had no idea what her damn problem was. I'd been perfectly nice to the woman, but she had evidently decided not to like me and that was the end of it.

Mike was lucky enough to live in a nice little mother-in-law cottage on the same lot his parents owned, 1950’s all the way, with two bedrooms.  His rent was practically nothing.  I kind of hoped that Mikes’ family would let me stay in that second bedroom, which was dumb, but you never know.  I could pay a few months rent up front.  They didn't have to like me.

Around nine in the evening I was lying on the couch reading a Rolling Stone by the light of a candle, with a bourbon and branch water nearby, when someone knocked on the door. I could see through the net curtains enough to make out some huge dude standing there under the porch light, and that it was not Mike’s dad.  I just laid there and read.

“Mike!” said an insistent voice.  “For Heavens sake!  Mike!  Let me in!”  the voice said pettishly.

Aw fuck I knew this guy!  But Mike wasn’t home, and I wasn’t supposed to be here, so I continued to page through the magazine.

The knocking and nonsense went on for another five solid minutes. I was glancing up at the clock in the dinette, watching the minutes tick by.  He just would not stop.  When five minutes looked like it was going to turn into ten, I went and stood next to the door.  “You better get in here fast as soon as I open  this door,” I said loudly.  “I mean fast like a magic trick.”

To his credit he did, and I closed the door behind him quickly.

“Well! Royce? Hello! I haven’t seen you in awhile,” he said.

“Man, you look exactly the same. I love it, ya fuckin' hippie! Rainbow suspenders, you still got the ponytail and the octagon glasses and moustache and jungle creepers and everything! Wow, Jim! I haven’t seen you since 1970 something!  Are you still up on Harrison?”

He sat in one of the side chairs. “No, because my idiot of a father decided to tear the place completely apart and remodel it.  It's a disaster. He has no idea whatsoever how to go about it.  It’s a disgrace.  It’s a wreck.  Melvin and I were doing just fine there. We had jobs, we were keeping the place up, and then he got this bee up his butt.  It’s a complete fiasco up there now,” he said. “An utter and complete fiasco.”

Now Jim was in possession of a beautiful speaking voice, and he had an expository, enunciated way of expressing himself. Even when he was talking pure hippie horseshit, it was fascinating. It drew you in,  and you listened.

“So where are you now?” I asked.

“Back home,” he sneered.  “Ho ho, but not in the same house. No.  I put my foot down on that.  I built a place in the back yard and that’s where I stay.  I absolutely refuse to sleep in the same house as those people.  Of course Melvin is back in his old room.  He’s glad to be back, naturally.  It’s repulsive.”

 Melvin's bedroom had been the garage since shortly after he’d gone through puberty, because puberty had caused Melvin to sneak around the house at night being gross.  The way his father solved that problem was to close the roll-down door of the garage, nail it shut, and lay down some indoor-outdoor; and so what had once been an attached garage, laundry and half-bath became Melvin's special domain, and to make sure it stayed that way, his parents actually locked the connecting kitchen door every night so he couldn’t ‘accidentally wander’ into the main house. Whenever it rained, worms crawled in underneath the rubber thing on the bottom of the garage door and died on the sodden carpet, which squished all winter. In between the Playboy centerfolds, black mold climbed the walls.

But no pity was due. Melvin fit right in. This was his ecosystem. Melvin was everything his unfortunate name promised and so much more. I wouldn’t sit next to him in the car, on a sofa, in a restaurant booth, on the porch, anywhere within reach. And as almost goes without saying, he worked nights as a janitor in a grade school.  Just because it’s a stereotype doesn’t mean it never happens that way.

“I was looking for Mike,” Jim said.  “Where’s Mike?”

“He has a thing in town.”


After a few moments it was clear that Jim was not going to pick up the conversational ball, and that he was not going anywhere.  And I couldn’t make him go anywhere either because he was the size of a Buick.

“Hey," I said.  "I should tell you, please don’t let on to anybody that I’m here.  I had to leave Portland in a hurry and I’m kind of hiding out here.  Seriously, Jim. Nobody.”

His eyes got big.  “Seriously! Well my goodness, of course.  What happened?”

“My boyfriend.  You know.”  I really didn’t want to talk about it.

“Well what happened?” he repeated.

“I really don’t want to talk about it,” I said.

“You should talk about it.”

“I’d rather not.”

“Are you pregnant?” he asked.

I was about to go off when I recalled that Jim, although older than Melvin, had been raised by the same people.

“Good Christ no,” I replied.

“That's a relief,” he said.

“I agree one hundred percent, dude.  So.  Hm. Where are you working?”

He snorted.  “At 431 Harrison Avenue,” he said with courtly indignance. “My father the imbecile pulled me off my job at Molalla Cold Storage to help him with his idiotic remodel project. I get room and board and that’s it.  It’s positively feudal. An absolute disgrace.”

“Woooow,” I said.

It was a wow with many levels.  Jim towered over his father.  I had seen Jim lift and carry an engine block like it was nothing.  He was 23 years old, and very possibly a genius.  And yet his father had pulled him off the job?  I could only wonder how that went down.  Did the old guy march in wearing his Darigold whites and little peaked cap and demand his son be brought to him?  It was possible. Entirely possible. Mr. Fields was a very freaky little fat man without a shred of shame, or sense.

“Well I came over to see if Mike wanted to come up to the house and give me a hand,” Jim said.  “I suppose it can wait until tomorrow.  My idiot of a father put his big stupid foot through the ceiling when he was up in the attic walking around on the rafters.”

I snorted and grabbed a pillow to laugh into.  “Shh, shh,” I gasped.  “Oh my God!  Oh that is not funny!  I’m sorry!”

“It is too funny,” Jim grinned.  “He’s at home now with an ice pack on his nads.  He landed like a fork, bam! full weight on the rafter, bag first.  The thing’s swelled up like a grapefruit.”

I was sliding down off the couch laughing into my pillow.  “No!” I said gleefully.

“It’s lucky he did or we’d have a bigger hole in the ceiling,” Jim said.

When I’d gotten control of my self I found that I was still stuck with how to deal with this man.

“Well, I don’t think there’s any food or I’d offer you something,” I said.  “So-”

“Oh don’t bother, I’ll take a look,” he said, and off he went.  I looked after him and then just sat back down with my Rolling Stone.

After clattering around for a few minutes he came back out with a sandwich and a coffee cup. He sat and proceeded to go through his snack like a buzz saw, and then put the dish and the cup on the floor. “Well, I’ll be getting along.  You should come by one day and see my cactus.  I’ve got some peyote capped up too, and I’m holding if you’re interested.”  And with that he was out the door and gone.

I picked up the dishes and went into the kitchen. The bread was lying open on the counter and I put that away.  I turned back to grab the cutting board, and then I saw the open jar of mustard, scraped dry, and the empty bottle of worcestershire sauce.

“He didn’t,” I said.

“He did,” Mike said later that night. “I’m lucky there’s anything left in here at all. Him and Mel both do this shit. They’re like locusts. Just help themselves. Of course if I had to put up with what their mother throws at them I’d eat mustard sandwiches too.”

“Never met the woman,” I said. “Met the dad a couple times.  He was a damn treat. I can only imagine what he married.”

“No you can’t,” Mike said, and gave me a look.

It was around two in the morning. Mike opened up the hideabed for me.  “Oh!  I forgot to mention.  If you have to, you know, have your ex beat up, that can happen,” he said with an eager smile.

Every time I thought of the guy I’d left, a hot rush of terror would go through me. But that was more because of the drastic step I’d taken, and the fact that my life had changed so profoundly in such a short time.

 “You are awesome," I said, and I hugged him.  "But nah. Don't worry about it.  Believe me, Dan’s the worst possible thing that could happen to himself. But the fewer people who know about me, you know, being here, and not with him? the better. The way my luck has been running, my parents would get wind of me, and that would be worst, worst thing that could happen at this point.”

“Oh my God.  But your parents just live down the way,” Mike said, and put his hand on my knee.  “You didn’t say anything to them?  I wondered why you called me.  What’s wrong?”

“This shit would make their whole day, man.  They would gloat and scream and yell and call everyone and tell them what a whore I am and how I came dragging my tail home, and I don’t need that shit,” I bitterly replied.  “They were nice in front of you, of course; you were company.  But you weren’t their kid.”

“They’ve got to be worried,”  he said skeptically.

“No. You don’t know what it was like. Eighteen solid years, every day.”

“I kinda figured there was something uptight happening when you kept telling me yeah, wear your cowboy boots, wear the Wranglers, yeah, wear the pearl button shirt, talk about guns,” he smiled.  “I thought ‘Well that’s strange.’  You always made such a big deal about it every time I was going to come by.”

“Hey, they liked you,” I said.  “You're a good guy. And that shitkicker getup really tied the bow on top. Man, my dad was sold. He kept hinting about 'Whatever happened to that nice fella that worked at that Ardenwald Cowboy Show?”

“So you didn’t tell them I suck dick,” Mike said.

“I promise you I didn’t tell them you suck dick,” I laughed.  "Just about the Cowboy Show."

“Because I thought that was an issue at first, but then you’d be up on the dance floor with the boys being all cute and and adorable.”

“I have never been cute and adorable,” I said.  “I was dignified and classy.  Like when I'd take off my shirt and dance bare titty with all the guys in their assless chaps and harnesses.  Shit, that was in the Kachina Lounge.”  I mused for a moment on the passage of time.

Mike was still taking it in.  “I mean I could tell your dad was a drunk.  I mean no question about that, Gawd.  You could smell it on him all the time, and then there were the gin blossoms and shit.  Your mom seemed nice though.  She was a little on the religious side, but she was OK...” he shrugged.

“That nice shit would not have lasted, trust me,” I replied. “Mike, my mom is  not a little religious.  She has a mental problem.  OK this is messed up but listen, it's the truth, OK? She turned my old bedroom into a shrine to the Crucifixion. Sound crazy?  It is, dude. But I've seen that shit.  I am not lying to you. There is a whole lot I didn’t tell you because it was so messed up and weird and embarrassing.  I didn't tell anybody."

Mike shook his head.  “I knew something was up though. You weren’t a very happy person back then.”

“Well fuck it,” I sighed. “That’s done now.  I put it behind me and it’s going to stay behind me.”

I went into Portland and applied for unemployment insurance, and then I bought a copy of the paper and started looking for work.  Just keeping an eye on what was going on, not seriously. And this is why:   I had a little money saved, and I was going to squeeze all I could out of my unemployment checks for awhile, because after the last two years I’d gone through? my ass deserved to take a fuckin’ holiday on the state.  Your tax dollars at work.

I woke up the next morning to another knock on the door.  I ran back and woke Mike up. He wandered out in his birthday suit and took a peek through the eyehole. “Oh Jesus it’s Jim,” he whispered.  “I’m gonna go take a shower.”

“Should I let him in?”

“You better, or he’ll stand right there and pound on the door for hours,” Mike sighed, and ambled off.

I was still wearing the clothes I’d been wearing for the past two days, and my hair was a wreck, but it was Jim;  so I opened the door.  As he entered, Melvin suddenly appeared and came in right on his brothers' heels.

“My goodness, look at you,” Jim said.  "You're a  mess."

“Thanks, Jim.  Hey, go ahead and set down you guys.  Mike’s in the shower, he’ll be out soon.  Hi Mel!  Been awhile, huh?”

“Do you have any coffee?” he asked.

"Nope, we just rolled out when you knocked.”

Melvin snickered at that.  It was a dirty, creepy snicker, too. Suddenly, time past stepped out of the way and there was the Melvin I remembered, still trailing slime, all clumsy, creepy, dirty-minded insinuation.

I turned my back to them deliberately and began making up the hideabed.

If there was one thing I was good at, it was making beds.  I’d been working as a maid for three years by then, and if you needed something cleaned, I was your girl. I’d seen some shit too, let me tell you. And having seen some shit I was all the more aware that I was in a very small room with a very large weirdo and a smaller, weirder weirdo. And I was pissed off because I was still sleepy so I took my time pulling the sheets and blankets tight and making all the corners extra neat.

“I could make coffee,” Melvin said.  “I’ll just go look for the, you know, the stuff.”

“Hang on.  Mike’s going to be out of the shower soon.”

“But I want a cup of coffee,” he whined.

“I’d like one too,” Jim declared.

“Well just hang on,” I said, and slowed up a little more.

“I just got home from work.  This is my after hours,” Melvin announced. “I saw the door open and I thought, I thought well, he won’t mind, and wow.  Yeah, I work nights...yeah, I work all during the night, for the school district, did you now that?  Make eight dollars an hour, union wages,” he said proudly.

“No you most certainly do not.  After they take out the taxes and other fees you make a little less than seven dollars an hour,” his brother said, lordly and detached.

“Well...well, I still make eight dollars an hour, that still counts, I just, I’m a working man. I make eight dollars an hour."

"Total, not net," Jim said.

“’re an asshole.”

“Yes I am,” Jim said. “I’m an asshole.”

“Yes you are.  You’re a fucking asshole.”

“And I agreed.  I heard you the first time.”

"Fuck you, ya asshole."

"Yes. Fuck me. I'm an asshole."

"Well, well fuck you."

It was traumatic.

As I was slowly folding the couch Mike came out with a towel around his hips. “Well look at the crowd in here,” he said.

“Go make some coffee, huh?” Melvin said.

“I had to stop drinking coffee.  I have a bleeding ulcer,”  Mike sighed.

“I’ve got an Ayurvedic cleanse you could use,” said Jim.

“I didn’t realize it until just lately,” Mike explained. He looked back at me and crossed his eyes.

Just then someone else knocked on the door.  “Oh now what,” Mike sighed.  He looked out the peep-hole, and then turned to us and grinned.  “It’s the Jehovahs you guys,” he whispered.  “Shh.  Now don’t freak out.”

He opened the door wide, and all of us looked at both of them, two young men in suits and ties, holding Bibles. “Good morning,” said the taller one.  “We were wondering if you’d ever thought about why the world is so troubled and what you can do about it.”

“Sure have,” said Mike, and dropped the towel.  “Come on in.”

They didn’t.

“OH GOD!” shouted Melvin, and his brother gave him an elbow, hard.

“Shut up your imbecile,”said Jim.

“Well I just, I just saw a mans dork there!” Melvin was halfway turned around in his chair, cringing and flapping his hands. “I wasn’t expecting to see a big old hairy, old, you know, dick and balls in my face, you know!  That was disgusting! Disgusting!”

“It was fuckin’ hilarious,” I gasped, laughing into my pillow.  “Oh my God did you see the look on their faces?  I thought I was gonna die!”

“Never say that,” Jim told me.  “If you call on Death, he hears you.”

“I’m just gonna go.  I'm gonna go then, and, and get some rest. I work all night.  I need my rest,” Melvin announced, and away he stomped.

“Never invoke the name of Death in vain,” Jim said.  I wanted to tell him that he’d just done it twice, but I really didn’t want to encourage that line of conversation.

Mike finally came back out, fully dressed, and sat on the end of the sofa.  "So what’s up?”

“The old man put his stupid foot through the ceiling and he’s laid up,” Jim said.  “I need someone to help me patch the plaster.  All you’d have to do is spot me.  If I fall off the ladder up there alone nobody will notice I’m missing for hours.”

“Well….” Mike said.  “Hang on.”  He went into the kitchen and looked out the window.  Then he returned.  “OK my parents are gone.  You’re invited, Royce! Come on with us,” he said, very pointedly.  I got the hint.

“Sure!” I chirped.

The last time I’d been in the house on Harrison Street had been while I was still in High School, and it had been an amazing home, stopped in time. You could tell that the last time someone had bought anything new had been around 1940.

There had been actual Maxfield Parrish prints framed in gold that hung on long heavy silk cords from the picture mouldings.  There had been oriental fringed rugs, a tiled fireplace with poppies and acanthus leaves, a quartersawn oak hardwood floor and beautiful Mission light fixtures and details.

This had been back when Mike and I had been dating.  He’d stop by and get a little weed for the evening, and while he did business  I wandered around and looked at it all, avoiding the Fields brothers as much as I could because you could just feel the weirdness emanating from them.

Until the evening I found the spare bedroom door opened.

I’d never seen anything like it.  From floor to ceiling, the room was entirely lined with paperback science fiction and fantasy books. I read the titles and was absolutely impressed.  My resolve broke down.  After that, whenever we visited, Jim and I would fall to discussing the Grey Lensmen and H.P. Lovecraft, and the Burroughs Mars versus the Ray Bradbury Mars and other crucial subjects like that, just getting along like a house afire, while Melvin interjected “I don’t read that garbage. That stuff is just, it's just garbage. I don’t read garbage.”

One evening, Jim paused and shot Melvin a look.  “I found all the porn you stole from Dad in the garage,” he said loftily.  “All his Foto Fillies*.  I’d say it’s apparent that you'd rather not read at all.”

Melvin kind of spidered in upon himself like Gollum and pouted and glowered.

That was the first time Mike and I had ever shared what we came to call the ‘Fields Response,’ which was a secret glance you exchanged; and your eyebrows were way up by your hairline.

Now that beautiful house was empty. All the fixtures and appliances were gone. All the windows had been taken out and laid against the walls.  All the oak mouldings and other beautiful features had been removed.

“What the fuuuuuuck?” I said as I entered, looking around.

“My father decided to modernize.  Can you imagine it. Aunt Audies beautiful house. He just threw out all those beautiful old Mission touches, the pictures on the walls, the built-in glass bookcases that were here, the furniture and everything, straight to the dump. It’s a disgrace. An absolute disgrace. It was perfectly sound the way it was.  But no!  I was so angry.”

 “So where’s the hole?” Mike asked.

Jim lead him into the kitchen and told him the story, which had Mike whooping and gasping for breath, which got me started laughing again.

“It’s the best thing that’s happened to this house since this entire stupid project started,” Jim declared.  “I might be able to get a few things done now that he’s laid up.”

Fixing the ceiling turned out to be a fairly quick job.  Jim just climbed the ladder and poked the lath back up into place; and then splodged some sheet rock filler over it.

“Is that going to work?” I asked doubtfully.  It was already beginning to sag.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Jim said airily.  “If my father is intent on turning this into a dump, then far be it from me to deviate from the standard.”

“Oh hey! Pat’s back from Spokane,” Mike said.  “I saw her last night pulling in.”

“Oh good!” Jim said.  “I'll go over and see her!”

“Well, no, wait now Jim. Let her sleep, geeze. You know, she got in about the same time I was crawling home,” Mike said.

“Oh she won’t mind,” Jim declared. “I’ll take the truck.”

“O…..K then. Royce and I are going to go hit the Seven Eleven,” Mike said, and pulled me out the back kitchen door after him, hurrying right along.

We walked quickly up the street and then Mike took the next left.  “Whats this about?” I asked.  “We can’t just walk straight up Harrison to 42nd?  The shortest distance between two points?”

“I don’t want him to see us and ask if we want a ride,” Mike said. “Gawd I wish I'd kept my mouth shut.  Poor Pat.  OK, this isn’t going to make sense, but just...Jim thinks that it impresses Pat that he owns his own vehicle. I’m serious.  She lives two blocks from that house and he takes the truck to see her. And if he sees us he’ll slow down, right in traffic, and pace us while he insists we jump in. This has happened to me! A lot! Quit laughing and listen, this is serious!  There's no way I'll ever get into the the inside of that thing .  That’s enough to make a buzzard puke.”

“It looked OK to me,” I said.   The truck was just an old five-window. Nothing spectacular.

“It’s had Fields all over the seats,” Mike said.  “Particularly Mrs Fields, oh my God in Heaven no.  And Old Man Fields. Forget Melvin. And Jim? Gawd no. It’s full of Concentrated Fields butt.”

 “Wait. Explain the part about owning his vehicle. He thinks the truck is going to...?”  I didn’t finish the thought. These were Jim Fields’ motives I was about to question.  There would be no rational answer.  “What the fuck is up with these people?”

We were walking past the little church where my father had been baptized, a small brown building with a steeple set in amongst a graveyard overgrown with lilac, and surrounded by a white picket fence in need of some attention.

“Hell, who knows?  They just appeared like mushrooms. OK.  I’ll tell you a story, and you have to promise you won’t spread it around.”

“Not a problem,” I said.  “C’mon.”

“Well.  When I was in grade school, mom had a - oh look, apples!  Those are Green Transparents!  I want to pick some."

We tucked in our t-shirts and stepped close to the fence, picking the apples and dropping them down the neck-holes of our shirts.

“Now this was years ago.  My moms hosted a Rena Ware party, which is the same basic thing as  a Tupperware party, only it was this whole set of steel cookware.  And the Fields had just moved in, and being neighborly, you know, cordial, my mother invited Mrs. Fields to attend. Now imagine for a second how our front room is set up, how everything opens off the front room.  Got it?”

I nodded.

“OK. Well the poor lady has her stuff all set up on the coffee table, and she's showing the stuff off and going through her spiel. All the ladies are in nice dresses and they have their jewelry on and they’re all drinking coffee, and it’s, you know, a nice, proper afternoon do, sitting on the couch with the side chairs pulled up close. Well. Mrs. Fields got up in the middle of it.  Didn’t say excuse me, just barged straight through the middle of this poor lady showing off her cookware -  and she went into the bathroom.  Yeah.  The one right off the living room. The one the couch faces.  And she left the door open!  So she could hear!”

“Oh my Goooooood…..” I said, horrified.  That bathroom was right there on the opposite wall!  It would have been like a stage.  I could imagine how that must have gone over, and I started to laugh again.

“No wait, now.  She sat there on the toilet, yanked up her dress around her waist, and, and, shut up now you’re making me laugh too. She sat there and she took a dump!  Yes!  She took a dump! No holds barred! And then she just stood up and wiped her ass. Right...there! Framed! Like a work of art!”  He gestured, squaring his hands so we could enjoy the framed view.  “And then just swanned back in!”

We were sitting on the curb laughing.  “Did she flush?”  I asked.

Mike gave me a look.  “Guess.”

When Mikes' parents got home, we were summoned into the Presence.

 Mikes’ father was the kind of man who let the old lady deal with the heat.  Nice guy, just not into conflict.  He was in the kitchen rattling around.

Mikes' mother was what the Victorians used to call ‘a formidable matron’; and she regarded me without the least bit of interest whatsoever as Mike and I stood in the living room.

I was crisply informed that I could not sleep in the rental cottage.  That did not look right.  But she understood I was in a difficult situation.  They had another place where I could sleep, but only for a couple of weeks until I found an apartment.

And that is how I, with no more shits to give, ended up living in a metal garden shed on the back of the Sherholz’ property.

We got me all situated, and then Mike handed me a Schlage combination lock, and told me to use it on the inside of the doors whenever I was sleeping there.  He had even drilled holes into the handles to put the shackle through.

“Are you real? This used to be such a nice place,” I complained.

“You didn’t grow up one door down from the Fieldses,” Mike said.  “The only one of them you can trust is Jim, and who knows what he’s going to do next. At least he’s just weird, not gross. The rest of them, NO.  Melvin and his father, no.  No no no.  And for Gods sake do not let that woman anywhere near you.  She’s, I don’t know what. Augh.”  He shook his hands off, like he was shaking off something disgusting that had splashed onto them.

I learned pretty quickly that the one you had to watch out for was Melvin.  He was a snoop, a sneak, a creep and a shit-stirrer.  It’s how I ended up in a metal tool shed instead of the nice little cottage - he’d run home angry because he didn’t get his coffee and told his mommy, and mommy had told daddy, and daddy had called Mike’s father and let him know that his son had a ‘Shack Job’ living in his rental.

Now this being the late Seventies, I’d been called a lot of things by a lot of men and boys.  But the old guys, the ones who served during WWII, that fuckin' generation, the ones that grew up being beaten with splits of firewood and walking 15 miles to school uphill both ways in the snow, seemed to  be unanimous in their choice of ‘Shack Job’ when it came to calling me out of my name.  I was not a slutty person.  I knew a few things about what was going on during the war years.  Being called a Shack Job failed to have any effect on me whatsoever, but it spoke volumes about the old men who used the term. You could practically hear their salivary glands working.

So here I was in a metal garden shed, forbidden to go into the cottage where Mike lived without permission, forbidden to go into the main house without permission and someone from the family standing right there with me, and me?  

I was OK with that.

The last straw with Dan was still fresh in my memory. He’d suddenly jumped up from the couch and come at me with a corkscrew.  I don’t remember what the issue was.  We didn’t even drink wine, so I don’t know where the corkscrew came from.  But one minute he was sitting on the couch, and the next moment I remember that corkscrew coming toward me fast. I stepped aside as he lunged; and he caught the coffee table across the shins, slid across the top and landed flat on his face on the floor.

Frozen with shock isn’t just an expression.  For a moment I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, I went cold as ice.

Then I gave him a once over and decided that since he seemed to be breathing, I’d let him rest where he was.  I stepped over him, took the corkscrew out of his hand, out the window that went, and I started calling people.

A couple of hours later he suddenly started heaving himself up from the floor. He may not even have been conscious.  I watched as he crawled into the hallway.  He fumbled at the doorknob and went staggering out into the street.  He’d be gone for a couple of days.  It’d happened before.

Three hours later me and a garbage bag full of clothes and small possessions were on the #36 bus, headed back to Milwaukie, Felony Flats South. God bless you, Mike Scherholz, and all who sail in you.

So yeah.  Compared to that, my metal garden shed was a step up in the world.

With the front and back doors wide open and all the curtains drawn aside so that any formidable matrons watching could see that Mike was not canoodling with the Shack Job, I was sitting at the kitchen table cutting up the apples while Mike made pie dough.  “So was he drunk or what?” Mike asked.

‘Or what,” I said.  “I had no idea what Dan was into.  He just got worse and worse.  Like, I found out that he’d quit his job two months after he’d quit, for starters...yeah.  He’d been pretending to go to work every morning.  Didn’t say a word to me.  I have no idea what he was doing all day.  He’d come back home in the evening with his restaurant clothes on, get high, watch television…”  I shrugged.  “I just watched him change all that second year. Out of nowhere he’d come up really, really intense and out of it. And mean. And violent.”

“You should have called sooner,” Mike said, turning to me, looking upset.

“No, I made the decision to try and stick it out.  It’s true what they say.  You blame yourself and you think that if you just behave a certain way it’ll fix it.  I gave it a year.  It didn’t get fixed. I left.  Anyway,” I continued, carrying the bowl of cubed apples over to the counter, “I’m going to have to find someplace else to live before November.  And it’s going to have to be in closer to Portland City Center than here if I’m going to get work.  I’m bussing it now.”

“Oh TriMet, what would we do without you,” Mike said.  “Hey listen, though. Do NOT. Do. Not. Let Melvin or Jim think that transpo is a big deal for you, or they’ll be all over you offering you rides.  I mean, if it's an emergency you can ride in the back of Jim's pickup, but never, promise me now, never ever get into the car alone with Melvin.”

He put a stick of butter into a saucepan and let it heat on the stove.  “I hate to tell you this, but since you’ve been here I’ve caught Melvin in our back yard twice.  First time I said “Hey there Mel, you OK?” and he freaked out and said he was looking for their cat. Mm, maybe.  But twice?  No.  Now pussy…”

I threw a piece of apple at Mike. “Don’t be gross.”

“You make sure you use the God damn lock, " he replied. “Melvin used to sit under Jeanette’s window at night and jack off."

My expression set him off laughing.

"Oh yes, really.  She caught him!  Oh, it was great,’ he chuckled. “She snuck out of her room and went in and told Dad, and he came and checked and sure enough, there’s Mel whacking away in the ferns. So Dad snuck out the back door and turned the fuckin' hose on him!”

After we finished laughing, Mike turned back to the stove.  "He's lucky I didn't kick the shit out of him that night. Dad wouldn't let me."

“Hey, where is Jeanette lately?” I asked. Mikes' sister hadn’t been my favorite person, but she was tolerable.

“Oh, Jeanette did good.  She found herself an oil sheikhlet and he’s got her set up in an apartment downtown in the Portland Towers,” Mike replied, stirring the butter, apples and sugar, sprinkling in a little cinnamon, a little vanilla a little nutmeg.  “She got into the disco thing and it paid off.  I mean she had those guys buying her diamond jewelry, watches, giving her money, coke, offering to buy her cars?  It was crazy!  She ran out of hiding places! I was hiding a lot of that stuff over here! Well, Mom ran across a diamond lighter and asked a few questions, and that night Jeanette decided it was time to move out. So while mom and dad were at work she just wrote a note, grabbed the valuables, left all her clothes, shoes, everything, and boogied. She’ll do OK,” he said.  “Here, you stir for awhile.  Don’t let it stick.”

“Why don’t I have luck like that?” I asked.

“Because you aren’t a disco slut,” he said.  “Neither am I.  But I’m going to keep on plugging away ‘til I get it right.”

That night I was awakened by a horrible bellowing, ululating noise. It sounded as if a flock of flying monkeys were perched in one of the nearby fir trees.  Screams, groans, keening, warbling, howling and yapping - and close!  Way too close!  What in the everlasting fuck!  There hadn’t been any flying monkeys in Milwaukie when I was a kid!

I said screw it,  locked the shed behind me and ran like a motherfucker over to Mike’s house and knocked on the back door.

“Isn’t it the worst?” Mike said, and came in with two plates of apple pie. He set them on the coffee table next to the bourbon and we picked up our forks.

“What the fuck is that?” I said, just terrified.

“Oh, you mean Bigfoot?” Mike said.  “Yeah, that’s Bigfoot.  Calling his mate.”

“I wish the bastard would use the phone,” I said.  “I sat up before I was all the way awake and hit my head on the metal thing that goes across.  Check and see,” I said, and Mike looked.

“No blood.  You’re lucky.  Bigfoot is attracted by the smell of human blood.”

“Well there you go.  I am taking no chances.”

Whatever it was started up again. I sat there looking around in amazement and fear.  What if it was a person?  A crazy person who went around screaming at night?  There was a rest home a few blocks down.  Maybe someone had gotten loose and was out there, whooping and screeching out under the stars in his hospital johnny.

“Is that a person?” I asked. “Seriously, that sounds like a person, Mike.  Quit fucking around with me.”

“I told you,” Mike grinned, eating a bite of pie.

The Beast With No Name cut loose again, and I was the only person in the room who gave a damn.  “Come on.  Tell me what it is!”

“It’s Brendel.  The Fields’ dog.  Isn’t it horrible?” Mike laughed.  “You never know what’s going to set him off.  He’ll do that for hours.”

“THAT’S A FUCKIN' DOG?” I exclaimed. “What the hell!  What the hell!  What kind of dog sounds like that? No dog sounds like that! Is it sick? Should we go look?”

“Nope.  Go and see if you don’t believe it,” laughed Mike.  “He’s sitting right out back on the porch thing on Jim’s little shed there.  You can see it from my bedroom window.”

I ran back and sure enough, I could see through the forsythia and money plant, over the wire fence and into the Fields back yard, which sat somewhat uphill from Mike’s cottage.  There on the corner of the small deck was an animal.  It did not move.  Its outline was sort of like a dog. About terrier sized. Stock still.

And then both front paws came up off the decking and the small animal let loose a quavering yell, a howl occasionally marked by sudden drastic changes of note. After having performed that aria, the noise trailed off in yodels, and then the dog went silent, and once again sat still as stone.  I clambered off the bed and met the gaze of Mike, who was leaning in the doorway shaking his head.

“As if they weren’t fucked up enough, right?” Mike sighed.  “Wait till you get a load of their cat.”

Mike and I did a little partying in Portland when I went to his gigs.  But once I was back in Felony Flats, that day to day doing nothing shit was making me nuts, so I mustered up my front and I went from door to door down the street and asked if anyone needed help with anything.  You could still do that then. I loaded stuff into pickup trucks, mowed a lot of lawns, helped dig up a septic tank and did a lot of painting over the next few weeks.  If I could have made any kind of a living doing that I would have been perfectly satisfied.  I liked meeting the people in the neighborhood. I liked the labor, and doing something necessary. As it was I  collected a few bucks, and the names and numbers of people who would vouch for my ability to work like a medieval peasant.

I managed to steer clear of all things Fields, too. This was not easy, and made for a lot of ducking and diving, which was ridiculous.  I learned what their cars looked like and who was on what schedule.  That was a good part of the battle won, but as I learned for myself one night, with only a thin sheet of metal between us, Melvin did in fact lurk around the neighborhood under cover of darkness and spank his monkey.

 And then one day Mike told me that Mr. and Mrs. Fields had invited me to dinner, which I wanted to do like I wanted a peck in the head with a sharp rock.  I had no idea what was up with that, so I  just took that information and tossed it.  Fuck'em.

I did actually go to a few job interviews.  Of course, nobody in Milwaukie was hiring, which didn’t surprise me, so I was hitting the Portland market, riding the bus to and from.
I would get out of this town again.  I would.

Mikes parents had the whole suburban dream going - an outdoor Tiki bar, a covered lawn swing and four swivel chairs around a table on their back deck, all roofed with corrugated fiberglass; and an above-ground pool further back in the yard that hid my little tin hideaway from view.  Once Mom and Dad Scherholtz went to work, Mike and I would hop in the pool for awhile, and then kick back with a drink, passing a joint.  “What's the deal with your parents being OK about Jeanette...oh lets face it, she’s in business. Why is that OK?  She’s seventeen for fucks sake, but I’m the sleaze?”

“Mom was noooooo different,” Mike said, tapping his cheek to make smoke rings.  “She married dad when she was sixteen and I came along seven months later,” he grinned.  “Of course back then it was different. My aunt told me. See, back then it was all about property, not romance.  Milwaukie was still a little rural town then and it was still old-timey here. If you didn’t come from a well-off family, you were sort of encouraged to go around to all the guys who stood to inherit big and marry the one who knocked you up.  Everyone just looked the other way.”  He nodded.

“Oh.  But now Big Mama’s like butter wouldn’t melt,” I observed.  “Notice how that happens? People have kids and suddenly everything was perfect back in the good old days?  Damn that bullshit pisses me off! People need to tell their kids what real life is going to be like.  You know,” I took a drag and held it “the first time that Dan hit me I was, I dunno, shocked out of being able to know better, so I called my mom and told her what happened.  She laughed and said ‘Oh, that comes with the territory.’ "

“The more I hear about these people the more I want to paint a swastika on the side of their house or something,” Mike said. “Gawd. My parents were not that way.  I mean yeah, they're all about keep up with the Joneses, but they’re not assholes. Shit. I hate to think of what would happen if anyone tried something on Jeanette.  We’d be hustling her across the Mexican Border,” he laughed.

We both heard the crashing at the same time. Quickly we drained our glasses and hid them under the table as Jim and a weary looking Melvin came around the side of the house.

“We knocked on the front door for a half an hour until we decided to check the back yard.  Your parents really need to get out and trim all that brush back,” Jim said.

“I just got off work,” Melvin announced.  “Eight hours. Whew.”

Jim stood looking down at me.  “Well. Royce, my idiotic parents have been trying to get you to come over and have dinner with us, and frankly I just got tired of the subject and came over here to deliver the message in person.  If mom’s too damn lazy to get off her fat old butt and waddle over and knock on the door, well fine.”  Jim pushed his glasses up and crossed his arms.

I had been served notice.  Was I was gonna ignore that shit?  Yes I was.

“Boy, I just got off work about forty-five minutes ago,” Melvin reminded us. “I want a sandwich.  I’m gonna go make myself a, you know, a-”

Mike sighed.  “You know how my mother feels about that.”

“Well, well, then, just don’t tell the bitch!” Melvin said.  “She doesn’t have to know!  All I want, you know, is a darn peanut butter sandwich!  That’s nothing!  You wont, you won’t starve to death if I have a darn peanut sandwich!”

“I’d like one too,” Jim said.  “I’ll go look.”

“No. Guys, we’ve been through this,” Mike said. “You don’t get to barge in and help yourselves, and Mom and Dad aren’t home.  By the way you owe me a bottle of Worcestershire sauce,” he said pointedly, looking at Jim.

“Well I am sorry!” Jim said in a lordly manner.  “ I didn’t think you’d get upset over Worcestershire sauce.”

“You drank the Worcestershire sauce.  I’m letting the mustard fly,” Mike said.

Mikes' dog Barney clambered out of the pool and went galumphing around happily, just for the sheer sake of galumphing.  He was a great Dane, and you knew it the instant you knocked on the front door. He had a huge, deep-chested WOOF that made the panes of the windows rattle.  But if you were there with one of the family he was fine with that, a happy doofus snoofling at bees on dandelions, jumping up on trees to see the squirrels chattering at him, rolling around on his back.

“Boy, I’d like to have a dick like that, huh?” Melvin said, gazing in avid admiration at Barneys’ family jewels waggling about.  “I mean look at that thing!  That dog has a bigger dick than, than people!”

“And you had a cardiac infarction when Mike dropped his towel?” Jim said.

“Well I sure don’t, I don’t want what he’s got!” Melvin said, getting red and hectic. “That’d be faggy! I’m not a faggot! I'm not faggy!  I have a girlfriend!”

“That you see once every two months.  When her parents let you,” Jim pointed out loftily.  “That’s not exactly a girlfriend if you ask me.  That’s more of an acquaintance.”

“Nuh uh!  We fuck,” Melvin retorted, and I put my forehead in my hand.  Mike was laughing hysterically, which did not help.  “That’s enough,” I said, and headed straight into the house.

Now I was not allowed to be in the house, but I was in no way obliged to tolerate Creeple dee and Creeple dumb demanding sandwiches and talking about dog wieners either.  I compromised by locking the door and sitting against it in case they tried to break it down in a peanut butter - starved frenzy.

A half an hour later they were still out there, and I said fuck this.  I was going to walk right out the front door and go...somewhere.  Let all the neighbors see Slutzillah.  Let the rumors fly.  Let the phone lines burn with scandal.

Then I saw the big tilt-out cabinet next to their fireplace.

Well whaddya know.

I pulled it open and it gave me a little bit of a fight, and then popped.  Nothing inside the big triangular space but a paper bag at the bottom.  I looked in the paper bag and saw a bundle of twenties and a tennis bracelet, and I put back the paper bag and closed the door and stepped away.

Now I thought really hard about this one.  Technically it would have been stealing, but it was stealing from Jeannette, who’d already moved out officially, which made it abandoned goods.  And the dumb twat had put her stash into a tilting cabinet so that when it was closed on the inside of the house, it was wide open in the garage, waiting to be filled with firewood.

Screw it.  I knew it was there. So in order to preserve the Sherholz Family reputation, I let myself out  into the garage via the tilt-out, and left the money where it was.  I snuck out the side door of the garage and out into the brush, unseen, a shadow, the night, then cut up the hillside.

But I put a piece of firewood on top of the bag, juuuust because.

So I was musing the way you do when your life has gone to shit and you’re sitting in a church playground watching all the happy little kids eat dirt and stepping in dog crap and stuff.

I had no place to live and I’d just wasted two years on an addict.

Less than a mile from where I was sitting,  my parents laid in wait, slavering for the opportunity to crow over my misery, shove my face in my faults and and throw me into a pongee pit filled with shame;  and the people next door were mutant toilet monkeys.  I had no idea what my future would be.

I felt pretty good, truth be told.

I had a library card, I had a bus pass,  I had a whole new wardrobe, thanks to Jeannette - although I needed to get some bras; Jeannette sat on her assets.  I had savings, I had two months worth of unemployment checks left, I was old enough to buy hard liquor, and it was the end of August in Oregon during a time when the entire state economy rested on the sale of marijuana.

Yup, I felt pretty damn good. Time to party!

It was a fine evening, just beginning to shade yellow, the light coming sideways and making long shadows. The garage smelled good, dirt floor and gasoline, and the swallows flew in and out in loops over our heads. I was sitting on an old milk crate holding a beer, talking to Pat and her friends, laughing, watching the cars go by.

Pat was a woman I’d met through Mike, and I’d hung out with her a lot.  She was good people.

She worked as a nurse at Dwyer Memorial Hospital.  Of course that didn’t pay nearly enough to make ends meet, and so she, like most of the other nurses, was accepting Food Stamps.  Her husband was currently out of the picture, but his parents were being good about paying support, cash in hand, and so Pat and her son were able to stay in their little house on Harrison Street and not worry about where their next meal was coming from.

All of her husbands’ motorcycle stuff surrounded us, hanging from the rafters, leaning on the walls, up on chains and sitting on shelves.  He rode with the Gypsy Jokers when he wasn’t in stir.  He’d been running a chop shop, in fact.  Had he been riding solo, no patch, Pat could have made a good chunk of cash selling all that junk off, but as things stood those parts were spoken for by some bad boys.  The GJ were known for knife fights and lsd, which is never a good combination.

One of the ol’ ladies was getting a tattoo, lying on a card table with her arm outstretched over the artists’ lap, the tattoo gun buzzing away.  Pat had her stereo speakers set up in the open windows of her house, and Pink Floyd were on the Dark Side Of The Moon.  Mike was inside talking intently with someone about something.  Pats' son Nick was ambling around drinking sneaky sips out of everyone's beer.

“So you gonna go next?” asked the tattooist. Carling, his name was.

“I can’t decide if I want a tattoo or not,” I said.

“You aren’t drunk enough is why,” said Pat.  “So wow, Dan, huh?  I used to buy so much weed from him.”

“Everybody did,” I replied. “That’s how I met him, shit.”

“His loss was felt,” laughed Carling.

“You know, his dad’s the one who got him into it. Yeah. When his dad was interning up at Damasch he ripped off the hardcore pharmaceuticals and passed those around too.”

This was news to me.  I’d never asked Dan about his business, because I couldn’t tell the police what I didn’t know.

“You knew his dad?” I asked.

“Oh yeah!  When he was a last year medical student.  Yeah, I used to run into him all the time up at OHSU, man.  He was passing around a lot of pharms even then.  God, everybody up there was doing them. The doctors and the interns and nurses and everybody. It was so easy.  You’d just note that such and so patient had a prescription signed for by whoever doctor.  Dan’s dad could fake all the doctors’ names, whadya call, forge them? So he did.  Wrote out scrip, hit the dispensary, and walked away with whatever he wanted.  It was a trip.”

“God, if I’d known,” I said thoughtfully.

“Well shit, love is blind, right?  At least you had one good year. Hang on.”  She went inside to take a bong hit.  That seems absurd now, but it was how you did then.

“Hey, did you want to see my beer can collection?” Pats' son Nick asked me.

I looked down at him, utterly at a loss. He was six years old for fucks’ sake. Beer can collection?

“You should see it. Come on, I’ve got a ton of them.  Come on.” He took me by the hand and pulled.

What the hell. I paused to take a look in passing at Carling’s work, and I was even less convinced that I wanted to get a tattoo than I had been previously.  

Nick opened the door to his room proudly. Everywhere you looked, there were beer cans. The entire room was lined in beer cans. Floor to ceiling and...  “This is...a lot,” I said wonderingly.

“Go in,” he urged me.

He had beer cans glued to the headboard and foot board of his bed, like trees on a mountain range.  He had beer cans glued to his ceiling.  “Where do you keep your clothes?” I asked.

“In the chestadraws, duh.  I got over three hundred beer cans and none of them are the same,” he said proudly. “Lookit up.  I put them on the ceiling with SuperGlue so the labels would show.  Isn’t it cool?”

“Well, it sure is something,” I said.  “I didn’t even know there were this many types of beer.”

“Mom’s friends always bring them, and sometimes I find them in the garbage.  Like up by Derringers a lot."

“Honey, don’t tell me you’re digging through the trash for beer cans!”  I said, horrified.  “No!  Don’t do that!  Ever!  Do you know what kind of diseases are in there?  People put really gross things in those garbage cans.  You could get very, very sick, sweetheart.  Don’t ever, ever do that!”

“Well how am I gonna get beer cans then?  I can’t jank them outta the Seven ‘leven anymore because they 86’d me,” he said.  I just looked at him for a moment.

“Does your mom know?”

“Yeah. She went up and yelled at them.”

“Wow.  That’  Well, this is pretty impressive…”

“Hey, I got a list of ones I don’t got.  So if you like go out, could you get Henry's Private Reserve Light, Sapporo Silver, Labatts - “

“I tell you what, I can remember Sapporo Silver.  I’ll bring you one of those, OK?”

“Awesome!” he cried, and punched the air happily.  “Thank you thank you thank you!  I have a place that I left so the Sapporo can would fit!  You’re cool!”

“Yeah, I was born that way,” I laughed. “C’mon lets get outta here.”  We walked down the hallway together, him dangling off my hand so I’d lift him up every giant step.  “I bet you’re the coolest kid in the neighborhood,” I said.

“Yeah, I’m pretty cool,” he allowed.

We came swinging and bounding into the front room, which was draped in leather clad men all guffawing and talking in loud voices. Pony-tailed women wandered through in bounce a dime tight Levi’s and crop tops that did their midsections no favors. I went into the kitchen and found Pat talking to Mike, and I passed Nathaniel off to his mom.

“Did you see the museum of beer?” Pat asked.

“She’s gonna get me a Sapporo Silver!” Nate said happily.

“Well good for you!  Go out and talk to the guys.  I bet some of them brought you a surprise,” Pat said, and Nate went cheerfully out into the sea of testosterone and horsehide.

“Guess who showed up,” said Mike.  “For thirty seconds.”  He and Pat laughed.  “Melvin! If you wander around I bet you can still smell his aftershave, too.”

“God, it made my eyes burn!” Pat declared.  “He had on this leather coat, like almost a suit coat looking style, and he took one look around, stood there, and then voop, walked right back out. And the whole room went Shhh.  The smell just came rolling in with him like a big wave, man, like someone exploded an aftershave bomb.”

“What I don’t get is what on Earth made him come into the house in the first place,” Mike said.  “There’s about twenty Harleys parked along the curb.”

“Does he get fucked up after work?” I asked. “That would do it.”

Pat and Mike burst into laughter.  “Oh man, there's no amount of drugs would be enough to make Melvin mix with guys like these. When the boys come out to play, Georgie Porgy runs away,” Mike laughed, which set Pat off anew, and she leaned over the sink and just whooped.  This news did not surprise me.

“Hey, you got to get on out there and mingle, lady.  There’s a lot of USDA prime walking around the joint,” Mike said.

“Oh no.  No no,” I replied, erasing that statement from the slate. “I’d head straight for the most messed up one and it would be love at first sight.”

“Oh! You got my taste in men too, huh?” Pat laughed.  “Isn’t it weird?  Nate’s dad was so good lookin’, and like, I thought man, I am so lucky because this guy is way out of my league, and then shit changed, boy.”

“He robbed the Far West Federal down in Milwaukie, down the hill from here?” Mike explained.  “Fucked up all to hell on about a weeks worth of acid. In a bathrobe.”

“I’m still pissed off about that!  It was my bathrobe!  The police won’t give it back to me!” laughed Pat.  “At least I was able to get on Medicaid once he went away, so I got Food Stamps and free medical now.  Yeah, he’s up at Rocky Butte.  No lie.”

“Wow.  Do you go visit him?” I asked.

Before she could answer there was a clamor of voices outside, and everyone got up to go out and see what was happening.  All that leather creaking and limbering up at the same time made it sound like there was a sailing ship under full sheets leaving the house.

There was Jim’s truck parked at the curb, and Jim standing in front of the hood, arms crossed, talking to someone who was just as immense as he was.  “No it is not for sale and no you may not look under the hood,” Jim declared in a lordly manner, his voice gaining an octave from annoyance.  “Go away.”

“Come on, bro, just lift the hood,” said the huge man.

Mike put his hand over his mouth.  “My God that’s Lonnie Baker,” he murmured. “That’s the fuckin’ prez. We’re going to see a murder.”

Baker was flying colors, and since he was the prez that meant everyone was flying colors.  No cut-offs. The top rocker read ‘Gypsy Jokers’, the insignia was a skull in a jester’s cap, and the bottom rocker read ‘Nomad’.   I looked at Pat and whispered “How does a whole chapter run under ‘nomad’?”

“They work with Lepetomane Shows. They're carnies, dude.”

“Jesus Christ.  That’s a combination,” I marvelled.

Outside everyone's attention was on Baker and Jim.

 “Man, be cool,” said Baker, and he set one hand down on the hood of the truck, way into Jim's personal space.  And there they stood, as everyone went absolutely quiet.  “Lemme look at the fuckin’ engine, man.”

Jim was pallid and bristling with righteous indignation,  looking at the guy straight on.  “You take your hand off my truck right now,” he demanded in his library lady voice.  “Right. Now.”

“Oh fuck this,” said Pat.  She went back inside, where all the pony-tailed ladies had replaced the men and were having a wonderful time, kind of taking up from where their boyfriends had left off.  You couldn’t have torn Mike and I away with a prybar.

There stood Jim, hair in a braid, covered in sheetrock dust, with his rainbow suspenders and his gold rimmed octagon glasses, his jungle creepers and his outrage.  And I’ll be damned if Baker didn’t shake his head and say “Oh man, you’re too much,” and walk away disgustedly.

“If you had asked nicely I would have been happy to oblige,” said Jim.

“Oh my God you idiot shut up,” I whispered.

“Never a dull moment,” Mike whispered back.

Just like that, it was done.  People continued their conversations. Lit up smokes.  Went to go look at a motorcycle or to grab a beer.

I slipped inside, and Mike came with me.  “Is he going to hang around now?” I asked.

“Yup,” said Mike.  “And he’s going to say that he controlled Baker with his mind.”

That was exactly what happened.

Jim explained to Mike and I how he’d aligned his chakras and brought his energy up into his third eye and then projected his will and overcome Baker, who then had to do his bidding; and because Jim was perfectly focused, Baker had no chance to deny that intent, because his chi had been reversed by Jim's whatevermahippieshit.  It was a good thing that Jim had been training his ability to project intention by meditating and taking San Pedro, like Don Juan Castaneda.  His chi was balanced and unblocked.

 I had never heard someone say something so flaky with such utter sincerity. It was unsettling.

After having filled us in, and telling us to avoid touching copper for the rest of the day because it would suck our vital energy, he went in to talk to Pat.

“You’re coming to the movies with me,” Jim said to an indifferent Pat.  Nate ran through, pulled Jim’s handkerchief out of his back pocket and ran off laughing.  “You little animal,” Jim called after him indignantly.  “Pat, this is absolutely unacceptable.  Now get your purse. We’re going to the movies.”

“No we aren’t,” Pat sighed.  She pushed past him to go to the refrigerator, opened it, took out a beer and closed it again.  Jim opened the door of the refrigerator and she pushed it back shut.  All this had such a practiced look to it that I felt bad for Pat.  She lived two blocks down from the remodel, and when she was home this kind of thing could happen literally at any time of the day or night, from what Mike told me.

“I want a beer too,” Jim said.  “That was very rude.”

“Just go,” Pat said.

“I can’t leave you here with all these people!  They’re barbarians!” he said indignantly.

“This is my house, dude.  I invited them,” she said tiredly.

“Well you have terrible taste in friends.  These people are nothing but a bunch of bloody criminals,” Jim stated.

Mike and I looked at one another.  ‘Bloody?’

“Jim, go home,” Pat said.

 Nate ran back past and smacked Jim across the back of the head with a folded copy of The Enquirer, laughing gleefully as he zoomed down the hall.  Jim reached back and checked his braid.

“That child deserves a spanking,”  Jim said sternly.  “Go get your purse.”

“No, Jim,” Pat said wearily.

“Oh God,” Mike sighed. “I have to go help her. You go out to the garage and have fun.”

“You knight in shining armour you,” I said gratefully.

“Don’t touch any copper,” he replied.


There were nights that I cried so hard that I’d start gasping for air uncontrollably.  There was one night that I cried so hard I threw up.  I was beating myself up for something that hadn’t been my fault, but knowing that didn’t stop the tears or the horrible guilt and the feeling of loss.  I doled it out night by night, until I fell asleep.  The next day began and I got up bright and early, put on my clothes and walked up to the Derringers to buy a newspaper and a day old sub.

 I’d sit in the little cafe area and watch as Melvin came driving up to the intersection and stopped; and then waited until he was well gone down the road awhile before I went back to my pied’ a terre.

 I was getting almighty sick of living my life around those people.

I’d spend an hour sitting there, combing the paper for jobs and cheap rentals. Then I’d hustle back down to the cottage and sit outside with the phone and make calls. Thank God Barney had come to accept me as a regular.  All I had to do to keep him happy was throw his ball into the underbrush, and he’d happily crash around in there, pretending he couldn’t find it, and have himself a wonderful time.

One morning I was sitting there at the picnic table, marking off the calls I’d made, with Barney gooning around.  “Hey ya dumbshit,” I said fondly, and he came over and laid his huge cinderblock head on my shoulder as I petted him.  “Us unemployed people have to stick together, huh?  Yeah, you’re a good boy.  Yes you are.  You’re my best boyfriend, huh.”

“Yoo Hoo!” sang a voice.  “Hello - oooh!”

Barney was suddenly gone.

I looked to the side to see a stout middle-aged woman smiling maniacally at me and waving. This, I realized, was the dreaded Mrs. Fields.  She was carrying something under her arm, and when I gathered myself for a closer look, that object turned out to be roadkill.

Please God no.

“Well I just thought I'd come on over for a sec and say howdy neighbor!" she said, and with that she hiked up her dress and raised one doughy leg to try.

I instantly shoved that memory into a dark, hidden place.

“Hi,” I said.

“Do you know that I’ve been trying to get you to come to dinner for the longest ol' time? Just to say welcome!” she twinkled.  “Now don't you turn me down, missy!  We’re face to face so you just can’t say no now, can you!  See you tonight!  Six o’clock!” she said, and then she turned away, petting the deceased...object...she was carrying. “There there there,” I could hear her singing to it. “Yes yes yes!”


“Mike, she bushwhacked me.  She tried to climb the wire fence, Mike.  She pulled her dress up and there, boy,  and she tried to come over the fence, and she was carrying a dead animal. A dead animal.  I’m fucked. I am fucked. I don’t want to go into their house!”

“Well if you don’t it’ll just get worse, Royce. She'll follow you around and kick up all kinds of shit. Honey, I know.  But she’ll get all bent out of shape about it and you do not want that.  She’s not rational.  At all.  About anything.”

“I truly understand that.  Really I do,” I replied.

“OK. OK. Make it short and sweet.  I’ll wait about twenty minutes after you go in, and then come knock and say that you have a phone call.  Yeah, a call back from a job. Gosh, you say, I’m sorry, but  you have to go take this call!  OK, that’s good. That’s good. Now listen to me.  As soon as I knock, you stand up and start straight for that door.  Just say goodbye on the way and out you go.  Don’t stop.  They're grabby.”

I’d been inside their house a couple of times years before and I had a good idea of how it was laid out.  It stood out in my mind because they had a huge, live-edge coffee table in the front room, a cross section cut from a log of camphor wood, covered in pots of dying plants.  The entire place smelled like Tiger Balm, which smells like elderly people farts, which is something you remember.

“Don’t eat anything that she’s had her fingers in,” Mike continued.  “Well that shouldn't be hard because everything they eat comes out of a can.  And don’t use the bathrooms, or if you have to, use the main one, not the one in the laundry room. That’s the Melvin bathroom and the Melvin doorknob. No. No no no.”

I was on their step at the tick of six, and it was Mr. Fields who answered the door.

“Oh hiiiiiiiiiiii,” he said with a creepy ‘Hey there hot momma’ tone, gritting his teeth at me through his overgrown moustache.  “Come on iiiiiin.”

I glanced around. Nothing had changed. I could do this.  There was a free clinic nearby.

The table was already laid, and after a little milling around not knowing what to say we all drifted thataway.

“Don’t worry,” Jim whispered as he took a seat next to me. “I’ll keep them under my control.”

Melvin jumped into the chair on my other side.  Mrs. Fields came in around the kitchen island with an immense bowl and set it down in the center of the table, all smiles.  “Hope you like tuna and green bean casserole!” she sang.

“I do, thank you,” I lied.

As I was telling that lie, Melvin, Jim and Mr. Fields dove for the bowl and started shoveling the stuff out, scraping it over the edge of the bowl and letting it slurp onto their plates.  Plates filled, they sat back and set to immediately, like desperate beavers.

Mrs. Fields was still up, so I helped myself quickly.  “Oh!  Why, I would have done that for you!  You’re our guest!” she sang. Then she sat down,  took the giant bowl by the handles and set it onto her plate.  The whole, huge bowl. On her plate.  And began to eat out of it.

“Hey! Now we won’t have any, seem of those, those good leftovers, why’dja have to go and do that for, slobber in there?” asked Mr. Fields,  at the same time he was answering the question ‘Where did Melvin's speech patterns originate?’

“Oh, you just shut the fuck up, you,” chirped Mrs. Fields.

To my credit I just kept on chewing.

“Yes.  Why don’t you shut up, Dad,” said Jim, and nudged me as if to say “I got this.”  “You eat all day long on that truck as it is.  You aren’t fooling anybody with your pot gut.”

“Well I’m not tryinta.”  He turned to me. “See, I’m a milkman, see.  I work, you know. I work for that Darigold. Darigold Products. Been working there for twenty two years, see.  Yep.  I’m the one that delivers the milk. All night.  Restaurants, bars, schools, office buildings, cafeterias…”  and on and on he went.  I nodded, looked interested, and kept chewing steadily.  As casseroles go, this one wasn’t the worst I’d ever had.  Doing good so far.

“You should’ve changed out of your ol' sweaty ol' whites, Mr. Stinky,” said Mrs. Fields.  “You’re out of spares.”

“Well, well how the hell didja let that happen?  You just don’t lift a finger!  You’re lazy, is what you are,” Melvin said.

Melvin said?

“Now you just take that back, mister,” said Mrs. Fields cheerfully.

“Fuck off, ya bitch” Melvin mumbled venomously.  Kept on eating though.

“You know, he used to have four sets of whites until two years ago,” said Mrs. Fields to me.  “Then he ruined the one and now he’s down to three.  Isn’t that terrible?”

I didn’t know if it was terrible or not.  “What happened?” I asked.

Mr. Fields had cleaned his plate, that quick.  He got up and took it around the counter to the kitchen sink and rinsed it off.  “I had ta get an operation,” he explained.

“Oh, that was so awful,” laughed Mrs. Fields.  “It was just pure ol' dirtiness on your part, is why that happened.”

“Aw, just, you just shut up,” he groused, and hitched into the living room, where he laid on the sofa.  One down.

“No it wasn’t, mother,” Jim said loftily.  “The doctor said that it happens quite commonly.”

“It was awful,” laughed Mrs. Fields. “Oh my, he put up the biggest fuss about it too. It was just stupid!  What a big ol’ fussy-fusser!”

“Well, you get, you just get your ass operated on, right next to your a-hole like that, you’ll fuss about it I guess,” Melvin sulked.

…..oh.  My.

“He had a great big ol’ pimple on his behind,” said Mrs Fields.  “I popped it a couple of times and then I said no thank you, no siree bub!  And he wouldn’t stop fooling with it! He always had his hand down the back of his pants fooling with it, just playing with it and playing with it!  It just got huge.  Like a golf ball!”

“It did," Jim said to me earnestly.  "You could see it sticking up under his uniform slacks, and that's heavy cotton twill.  And of course at that point it was seeping, and so he always had a yellow stain on his whites.”

“Yeah, but it went away, though, for a long time, didn't it?” Melvin asked

“We thought it did, but it didn't! It just went from the outside of his hairy ol' hind end all the way through to his ol’ brownie butthole,” Mrs Fields explained to me merrily.  “It was something to do with a pore.”

“An infected scent gland,” Jim said.

“Anal fistula,” Mr. Fields called from the couch.

How I continued to eat after that is a mystery.  I blame my upbringing.

 “You see, humans have scent glands in the tissue around the anus. It’s a leftover from prehistoric times when we would smell each other like dogs do to determine identity, health, condition, and things like that.  Nowadays they’re vestigial.  More of a nuisance than anything.  The skin healed over, but the pustule had never been properly drained and cleaned, so there was a pocket full of bacteria and dead matter. The bacteria kept feeding and dividing and excreting, as you’d expect.”

“Oh, sure,” I said quietly.

“It formed an actual channel, like a sausage casing, as the infection tunneled through the muscle tissue.  Finally it reached an anal gland, full of bacteria;  which given the location is perfectly natural, and it ate it’s way through the wall of the gland.  Just a minute opening, but enough to feed all that  bacteria a regular meal of fecal matter every time he strained on the pot,  and it simply continued to grow.”

“Like blowin’ up a balloon,” said Mr. Fields.

“And you never even knew it, didja Dad,” Melvin asked fondly.

“Nope.  Never knew it.”

“Well you certainly found out, didn’t you,” said Jim, acid dripping from his voice.

“OOOO!  Did he ever!” Mrs. Fields laughed merrily.  She got up and carried the casserole bowl into the kitchen and stood there scraping it out with her finger and then licking it off, staring straight at me all the while.  I was right across the room from this exhibition, and it did nothing to alleviate my horror.

“I went to jump up into my truck, see, that spring seat they have in those trucks, you know, with the open side,  I jumped up and the goddamn thing exploded! They tell me I hit that sprung seat, see, and shot straight up and hit my head on the windshield and knocked myself out,” said Mr. Fields.  “Guess I fell out of the truck screaming and, and broke my arm and got myself a concussion. Yeah.”

Cue fond laughter all the way ‘round.

“And now you got to tell her what Jimmy had to do, now,” said Mrs. Fields, gaily insinuating.  “I wouldn’t do it. Nope.  Nothin’ to do with it.”

“That’s ‘cause, that’s ‘cause you don’t love him,” said Melvin heatedly.

“Oh poo!” she replied, and waved him off.

“Boy, he screamed,” Melvin grinned. “He sure screamed!”

“You would too,” Mr. Fields replied. “ I tore myself a new asshole, ya idiot.”

Jim explained.  “I actually had to take all our leather belts and hook them together. It went all the way under and around the  bed. He’d lie face down on his fat gut and I’d kneel on his legs and tighten the belt as tight as I could around his hips.  Then I had to pry his cheeks apart half the time because the idiot would fight me,” Jim continued, scraping his plate over and over again with the side of his fork.  "I'd take out all the old packing, yards and yards of the stuff, and then I had to poke a tube of antiseptic cream into the cavity and fill it - and then re-pack it all with clean gauze.  It was revolting."

Mr. Fields was chuckling. “Ya didn't get it in the right hole half the time either, so boy, I'd give it right on back to ya! Right in the kisser!" Mr. Fields laughed.  " I’d be lying there, see, and that old packing, that's out, and I can feel that infected stuff just trickling all down, this green and yellow stuff, and that would run out all over the sheets and make a big pool. Same thing would happen when I was squeezin’ out a turd.”

“I would take a huge pot out of the kitchen and I’d fill it up to the brim with the old packing.  Imagine it. To the brim,”  Jim said.

 I looked over at Mrs. Fields holding the casserole bowl, scraping and licking.

 “And you simply would not believe the smell.  At first there were long strands of necrotized tissue coming out with the packing, all green and yellow, and gelatinized masses of -”

Someone knocked on the door.

“I’ve got it,” I said, and popped up.  “I’m expecting a call!”

I strode through a sea of arms outstretched, trying to restrain me, and reached the door before I was even finished with the sentence.

“Well what’s, what’s the big rush?  What’s that supposed to mean?”  asked Mr. Fields, starting off the couch.  Mrs Fields was hurrying toward me, followed by Melvin and Jim.

Thank God it was Mike.  “Well hey there, sorry to disturb you guys!  Hi everyone!”

Everyone froze in place.  “Huh,” said Mr. Fields.

“Hello, Michael,” said the Mrs, and not cheerfully at all.

“Did my call, did they call me? Did they call me back? The job?  I’m expecting a call, sorry,” I said.  “Thank you for the dinner.  Bye.  I gotta go and take this job call.  They called me back. Bye now!  Thank you!”

“See you later!” Mike said.  “Wish her luck, you guys!”

Mike caught up to me halfway to the corner store. “Hey, hey, hey, now what happened?” he said.

“I am going to buy a bottle of tequila,” I said.

He put his arm across my shoulders.  “Oh hey. Come on.  I’ll chip in if you let me help you drink it.”

Around about one in the morning I was starting to feel normal again.  We’d come close to killing the fifth, and we didn’t use glasses.

So there I was.  This was my life.  I was sitting on a cot in a metal garden shed drinking tequila out of the bottle at one in the morning, and I’d just heard a story about an anal fistula that I could not un-hear, ever.

We both heard Melvin at the same time, rustling around the side of the shed.

He tried the door.

Then he crept away.

Mike looked at me, and the white was showing all the way around his eyes, he was so shocked.  “Did that really just happen?” he breathed. “Oh my God, Royce.  We have to get you out of here.”

“No shit, Mike,” I said wearily.

I was sitting at the picnic table the next day when I got an idea.  I had three years of good, solid job experience.   Not a one of my former supervisors would say a bad word about me. How do you sell something?  You get the word out. I was already phone-calling like a sonofabitch and bussing to interviews, even doing walk-ins.  Well?  Up the firepower.  I’d make a resume, copy it off, and send it to every establishment I felt like I wanted to work for.  Worst they could do is throw it in the trash.

I was up at the corner store putting my letters into the mailbox out front when I remembered that I owed Nicholas a can of Sapporo Silver, so I picked that up, along with a half rack of Budweiser, and walked over to Pat’s house.

Pat was happy to see me.  Nick was ecstatic when he saw his age-inappropriate gift.  I poured two glasses full of beer out of that one can, and left him to wash it out.

“I think the can is the main attraction,” Pat said after one sip of the stuff.  “This tastes like baby pee.”

“Yeah it does.  Good thing I brought the Bud.  Listen, Pat, I wanted to ask you a question.  Could you sublet a room to me?  Or can I camp out in the back yard or something?  I can pay rent.  As soon as I’ve got a job I’m outta here.”

“I don’t know.  I’m in kind of a shaky situation lately.  The neighbors went bitching to the guy who owns this house because they say I have too many parties and there’s people coming and going at all hours.  I mean, yeah, it’s true, but it’s not like we’re loud or destroying things or anything. I think they're pissed about their parking spaces, really.”

“Well, do you mind if I hang out here during the day?  I basically just need someplace with a telephone during the day.  I’ll leave and go back down to the Sherholz’s and sleep there.”

“Well sure, I don’t mind that, if you don’t mind  babysitting,” she said.  “No, that’s fine.  Is it about the Fieldses?”

“Mostly.  Them and Mikes’ mom the hate queen. I’m sick of being looked down on.  She can shove that up her ass.”

“She’s such a bitch,” Pat agreed.  “She hates everyone Mike dates.  When I was going out with him she’d make me wait out on the front porch.”

Oh my God thank you,” I said sincerely. “Man, you have no idea how big a favor you’re doing for me.  I feel like a moving target down there. I have never met such a fucked up bunch of people.”

“You shoulda met their aunt.  The one who used to live down the way here, at the remodel?  She was something else.  She would talk in a French accent and she wasn’t even French.  All she ate was sugar out of the bag and raw hamburger.  I stood behind her many a time at Derringers and saw her buy that.  Yup.”

 “No way.”

“Oh, way way. Back when she lived there, the place was all overgrown like a cave. She used to walk to the store and yell at cars, you know what I mean?  Have imaginary arguments with the air?”

I put  my head down on the table. “Oh my God.  What planet are these people from?”

“The planet where your mom plays the accordion at your birthday party and you’re sixteen,” she said.  “I think that’s why Melvin is the way he is.”

“That would go a long way towards making a Melvin,” I agreed.

“You kind of get used to Jim.  If you’re here you’ll have to put up with him like coming over all the time, but he’s harmless.  He’s actually really super smart.  He was just raised by wild animals,” she laughed.  “OK, yeah. Yeah!  You get to run interference if he stops by during the day, OK?  You do that, then that’s a deal.  You got a deal.”

This situation worked really well.  Pat had a party house, I was meeting people, I was having fun, and half the time I’d sack out in her back yard.  No rent.  Nine dollars for the telephone bill.  

The man next door to Pat came by one day saying he needed someone to cut his apple trees, and if there was one thing I’d learned to do as a kid it was mess with apple trees - my grandmother had a whole orchard. This guy was pretty good about it and he had the tools, and I was happy to clamber around in the trees doing something productive.

I made fifty bucks doing that.  Fifty bucks was pretty good money for a couple of days’ worth of unskilled homeless labor then.  That went into the bank.  When you’re living on day old subs, vitamins and beer, you learn the true meaning of the phrase “Poverty sucks.”

I was carrying the ladder back to his garage one evening when who should pull into the driveway like Mario Andretti but Melvin in the Melvinmobile, a seafoam green Rambler with a plaid interior.  I stopped and stood there, holding the ladder in front of me.  Try and sex me down through this, was my thinking.

The instant he opened the door a smell hit me - something like Jovan Musk for Men and filthy socks.

“Hey!  I saw you!” he announced.  “Uh, you need some help?”  He got out of the car slowly, grinning, and finally there stood the Jacket of Doom, wearing Melvin like a cheap suit.

Every seam was stained with a dark irregular brown something. The rest was a nice roan color.  It hadn’t been cheap, at one time; not at all.  He took a couple of steps toward me and then opened the sides suddenly, like a flasher, and I winced.

“So whaddya think of my this, huh?” he said, smiling.

“Wow. That must have cost you an arm and a leg, I bet,” I said cheerfully from behind my ladder.

He took a step closer, still holding the jacket open.  “Yeah, I saved up for this.  I call this my ‘Pussy-Gettin’ jacket.  Yeaaah.”  And he stood there, pallid, shapeless and rumpled, wearing what was once a magnificent leather sport jacket, just looking at me with a smile.  “Ya wanna know why?” he asked after a minute had gone by.

“Huh,” I replied.

“Ya ever read Penthouse?” he asked, and his smile got thin and sleazy.  “Huh?  There’s ads in the back.  For sex stuff.  I saw the one for Andron and ordered it.  You ever, well maybe not.  You ever, you know what that Andron is?”

I did.
Oh my God I did.
And it was all I could do to keep a straight face as what he’d done dawned on me.  Oh Melvin.

“Boy, that stuff is something.  It’s real!  I took and, I kind of dabbed that stuff on with a q-tip you know, on all the seams here, of this jacket.  I look good in this jacket too.  It’s an expensive, it’s a good jacket.  Everyone notices right off.  It’s got fermons, whaddyacallit, stuff from human sex-sweat mixed in with the, the other ingredients.  Yeaaaah.  Women,they, boy they just always turn around and look when I’m walking by in this,” he continued, and gave the sides a smart shake.  “They always ask “Wow, what is that?”

“It’s really nice,” I said. “Do a spin for me. I want to see it.”

He happily obliged me.  And it did fit him well.  Of course he’d ruined it for good, and it showed in irregular, oily, spreading patches.

“Looking good!” I said. “Well, bye now!”  And I went into the garage and shut the door and locked it.  Then I leaned against it and laughed  as I listened to his car pull out of the driveway, kicking up gravel, and screech away.

Pat and I were watching hanging out on the couch, and Nick was out playing in the street or sticking tableware into light sockets or something.  When Jim knocked on the door she looked up in despair.  “Oh God that’s him,” she whispered.  “Please please please tell him that I’m asleep, OK?” Down the hall she went to her room and quietly shut and locked the door behind her.

I answered the door.  “Well hello!  What are you doing here?” Jim said.  “I stopped by to see if Pat needs anything.”

“Not that I know of.  She’s got a mild case of food poisoning or something so she’s in bed asleep now.  I guess she had a pretty rough night so I’m here with Nick.”

Jim headed straight to the kitchen and I followed him. “Nope.  House rules,” I said in a cheerful teasing tone.  “I am the official guardian of the refrigerated foods.”

“That’s fine. I’ll just check the cupboards,” he grinned.  As he was reaching I took the flyswatter off the hook and whapped him on the hand with it.

“I’m the official guardian of all the food.  Sorry.  I shoulda told you. I take my job seriously.”

“Well I suppose that’s admirable,” he said. “I want a sandwich.”

“I’ll give you a beer and keep you company, how about that,” I said.  I grabbed a couple of warm beers out of the rack on the counter and gave one to him.  “Now out out out. You go on ahead of me. I don’t trust you.  I have a fly swatter and it’s loaded.”

“Well!”  he said, and helped himself to a seat on the couch. “I certainly wish I were.  What are we watching?”

“It was the news,” I said.  “I don’t know what this is here.  Tell the truth I don’t pay a lot of attention to television.”

“Neither do I.  I’ll watch the news of course, but the rest is drivel.  I’d really rather read.”

“I would too.”

“I can’t stand people who won’t read.  It’s not that hard.  Once you have the basics down,  why, it’s like sitting back and watching your own private mental movie.”

“Yeah! Have you read Dandelion Wine?  There’s a mental movie for you. I love that book.”

“Oh certainly! Ray Bradbury.  I love his stuff.  Well now of course you know that, we talked about that, didn’t we.  You know, all those books went into the trash.  Every single one.  Dad waited ‘till I was at work and he threw every single one of them into the back of the truck.  He just backed it right up to the bedroom window.”

I wondered how it would be to live his life then.  If he hadn’t grown up with those people, what would Jim be like? How would he have turned out?  I already knew how awful it was over there.  I mean, if that’s how they acted in front of guests, I hated to think what they were like on an everyday basis.  I couldn’t imagine being a child in that house.  Gawd, what a nightmare that must have been.

“The guy I lived with pulled that on me.” I remembered how lost and horrified I'd felt.  “He loaded all my books up in boxes and threw them down the garbage chute in our building.”

“What a cad!” said Jim, with some heat. “What an absolute cad.  You don’t do that to people’s books.  Books are valuable.  It’s like setting someones’ life on fire and watching it burn.”

“That’s what it felt like,” I said.

“Yes, it certainly was,” he said.  “It certainly was.”

It struck me then that he and I were in the same boat.

 I’d been able to leave.  He hadn’t.

When I was promoted to parlor maid, I was given a no-nonsense uniform - a grey button up dress with a lace collar and cuffs.  I wore my hair up in a bun, and my job was to travel the building all day, doing a little porter work, helping stock carts, and keeping the public areas clean and dusted. I gave directions.  I ran errands for the customers - getting a pack of cigarettes from the lobby or a newspaper, things like that.

“We don’t usually get resumes for entry-level positions,” the HR said, “but I like what I see.  We can promote you faster than most because you’ve already got the experience under your belt. We’re hurting for front personnel.  I hope you work out. I think you will.”

And I had.  I was pulling in anywhere from seventy five dollars to a hundred and fifty in tips per shift, and it was all mine. I didn’t jack my customers.  People who stay in hotels a lot know all the games that go on, and they showed their appreciation of my honesty in cash - not as much as I could have gotten if I’d been the kind of con artist that usually worked the front; and call me a patsy; but I was satisfied with what I got, plus minimum wage.

I also had a room in a cool old house just across the river in Southeast, right off the Ross Island bridge, so it was a ten minute bus trip to and from work, depending on the shift.  I was finding out that I really enjoyed living by myself.  Whatever the clinging need was that had kept me with Dan had disappeared.

I still went back to Milwaukie on my days off.  I’d spend the night at Pat’s, and I’d always have a new beer can from one of the many bars in the hotel to bring Nick, who had run out of space and was now covering the hallway ceiling.

I always made time for Mike, who had stepped up and been generous when he must have known it would come back on him.  I'm sure Conrad Hilton didn't miss the bottles of bourbon that came back full on the bellmans' trays.  God bless the wealthy and stupid; Mike had a home bar that rivalled the Playboy Mansions, and I was happy to have played a part.

“Hey, you stepped up for me,” he said.  We were sitting at Pat’s kitchen table after a long night.  “Mom and Dad were about ready to kick me out.  Of course I was coming home after hours every night smelling like amyl nitrate and Lagerfeld.”

“Hey, not a problem.  I wanted to go out with you!  We had a blast together!” I replied.  I finished off my beer and put the can aside.  “We always went on the best dates.”

He laughed. “Oh! I get it now, sure!  You went one way and I went another!  Gosh, thanks!”

“No, do not start.  I do thank you truly; and we didn’t always ditch and dash, come on.  You and I went to a lot of places together. God, I loved the bars and the clubs and Hamburger Mary’s and Darcelles and all those places.  Just being downtown. Man,  I would have never had any kind of a life if you hadn’t decided that I made a plausible-looking girlfriend,” I grinned.

“Have you run into what’s his fuck?”

I looked out the window.  There was a pale light shining on the wet leaves of the apple trees in the next yard.  “He disappeared.  I did find out what he was doing though.  He’d been hanging out with this group of homeless people down in the Fountains, in that area there by the river?  They were all runaways and you know, mostly younger people.  And yeah, he was into pcp.  He got section elevened too. He might be on the secure ward in Southeast now.  I haven't checked.  I can believe it, but I can’t at the same time.”

“You know the Fields still ask about you,” he grinned.  “You lucky girl.”

“I’ll tell you what, I never intend to set to set foot in their house ever, ever, ever, ever again.”  I cracked another beer.  “But you know what?  They invited me in to dinner, which was sure in the fuck more than your mom ever did.  I mean there it is.  For whatever fucked up reason. I’m still working on the whole 'Mrs. Fields carrying around a dead animal' thing, but it being Mrs. Fields....”

“Oh that.  Oh no no no.  That was Brendel!  She was taking him for a walk.”    Mike nodded.  “Hey see if there’s any more bourbon, wouldja?  Yeah, she carries him around the yard and then plops him down somewhere and he does whatever he does.”

I was making him another bourbon rocks at the counter.  “You are wrong, Grasshopper. I saw that animal.  It was a dead animal.  I’m absolutely sure it was. Here, drink your drink, bossy.”

“Fine.  I dare you to come down there with me and I’ll prove it.” He stretched out his arm and gave the table a smart tap with his pointer finger. "Right now."

Being drunk, it seemed like a perfectly good idea, by God.

It was an hour of the day when nobody was home.  Mrs. Fields was off to work, Melvin and his father were still at work, and Jim had found a divorcee and was happily screwing the hell out of her somewhere in Oak Grove, which I thought was awesome.  Jim Fields, by God, was a kept man.  Good for him.

We went in through the side yard, and Mike stopped and pointed.  “There he is.”

“That is no way no real dog,” I whispered.  What I was looking at looked like one of those slag metal sculptures, the kind that people trying to be cool in the Sixties liked.

“That mos' certainly is,” grinned Mike.  “That’s Brendel the Zombie Dog.  He looked like that the day they moved in, too.  An' that was back in 1966.  Thirteen years ago.”

I crept closer.  It didn’t move. “Is it gonna leap out at me?” I asked, having thought of that a little late in the game.

“He probably doesn’ even know you’re them,” Mike said.  “I’ll come wit’cha.”  Together we staggered over and took a good long look at the thing.

“Mike, 'is ribs aren’t even moving,” I whispered, aghast.

If you took a terrier, set it on fire, replaced it’s eyes with white marbles and gave it chicken claws, then ran over it with a truck and set it on fire again and sent it off to a taxidermist, what he’d give you back was Brendel.  

“Good God Almighty,” I breathed. “This is, this was, this thing was what was making that noise that one night?  This?”

“Shh shh.  Yeah.  Trippy huh.”

“And the cat’s supposeda be worse?”

“Depens on your taste.  I think it’s worse. It has some sort of disease tha' made all is hair fall out and it’s teeth fall out, so it’s orange and looks pissed off all the time.”

Just then the subject of our conversation came strolling out from under the deck.

“No,” I said. “Oh fuck no.”

Years later I would see the work of Gunter Hagen on exhibition and think of that cat.

“Oh fuck no,” I repeated.  “We need to leave. I’m leaving now.”  And I did.  Mike kept stumbling all the way back, he was laughing so hard.  I’d start laughing too, and then the picture of that cat would reappear and kill the impulse.

This was the second time that I had come away from chez Fields speechless and needing tequila. I had to make do with bourbon and a couple hours of sleep.

I caught the bus back into Portland at six, standing out in front of the old Rexall drug store the way I used to when I still lived in Milwaukie.  All the old displays were still in place in the windows, the Maja senorita, the Yardley deb, the selection of pipes, lighters, penknives and hair combs.  Nothing had changed.

The bus pulled away from the curb. I found a Basil Wolverton religious tract in the window latch, and I smiled as I paged through it.  I loved the way his bizarre illustrations played against the serious message.
Before I reached home, I folded it up and put it back in the latch where it belonged.

*”Foto Fillies” was a skin mag that had no text, just pictures.  Thought you’d like to know.