Monthly Archives: June 2017



’Twas Mitch, the slithy tortoise man
Who did hide and plot to legislate:
All mimsy were the one per cent,
and P-Ryan used his Priebus bait.
“Beware the Cpvfefe, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Embrace the T. Cruz bird,
and hug the fabulous Goldman Sacks!”
He took his social pen in mini-hand;
Long time the Pelosi foe he sought—
So, rested he by the Mar’lago tree
And stood awhile in tweet.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Covfefe, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The congressional blade went slice-hack!
He left it dead, and with its health
He went galumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Covfefe?
Come to my arms, my Orange boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
They chortled in their joy.
’Twas Mitch, the slithy tortoise man
did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the one per cent,
And P-Ryan did for Priebus wait.

A Tale of Two Ants

A Tale
Of two Ants?

I walk the 2 ½ mile path at the site
of the old Air Force Training center
in Hobbs, New Mexico, whose claim to fame
is that Jimmy Stewart trained here—

Over the early summer mornings,
I observe the cactus, mesquite, and golf course
grass. The desert’s flora and fauna labor at reclaiming
the concrete foundations and roads. We surprise
Jackrabbits, cotton tails, and the occasional bull snake
from our circuitous path.

Several days prior to this morning’s ant,
one stole my attention, struggling with a single
French fry, as if conducting an orchestra
With the world’s largest baton. A believed an act
of monumental hubris. I thought, she’s refusing
to settle for the easy task and attempting
an epic project—for a common ant.

That was until the next morning, when I spied
one of her sisters—common workers, you may
recall—are female. Today’s ant struggled
with a feather, as if dusting her retreating path
of her slight footprints. A potato fry I can see
—edible, though surely not healthy, even for ants.

But what did this diligent creature see in a feather?
There seemed sparse meat on that bone. My
wife suggested a domestic reason—to sweep
the den, or a dreamer one: it wanted to discover
the secrets of flight?

I could not question that ant, could I? Most of us plod
day to day, to earn our daily French fry, some taking on
insurmountable odds—but there are a few of us,
who do struggle with that feather, as pointless
as that registers to others.

Some are content to return from market
with today’s groceries after the grueling day’s work
—keep the family fed—satisfy the lower quadrants
of Maslow’s Pyramid. Yet, others seem unsatiated
by that single feat, demanding to supplement
life’s struggle with art.

Or maybe, I was misinterpreting my observation.

Maybe, with my limited knowledge of ant anatomy,
I had not considered—that it might have been
the same ant both days
or wouldn’t it seem profound to think so—
to fill her nearby den’s food larder the initial trip,
only to return days later with an answer to its aesthetics.

Dark Game

                                                    Dark Game

When the door thudded three times at his San Francisco apartment, Andrew Finch wondered if opportunity knocked. He shuffled to the door. He hated late company, and the shrapnel fire of rain on the sunroof had him edgy. But it might be Jingo. His head throbbed from an ogre of a headache. Andrew cracked the door—enough to peek through. It was not opportunity, or his lawyer with news.
          Crisp zigzags of lightning backlit the returning stare. Something familiar in visage—the cheek line—the set of the weak chin. The sea-colored orbs. An odd panic gripped him, coursing up his body in capillary action and his mouth tasted of saline.
“Can—I—help you?” said Andrew, as if someone had tromped on his foot in the subway.
          “I don’t know. Wait. There is one matter you can perform for me.”
Before Andrew replied, he was staring down the chrome barrel of .45 caliber Colt. He recognized the inlaid pearl handle and the death inside its blue-black chamber was his father’s death, his father’s pistol, a family heirloom Andrew had not seen since—.
“Move over to the table and SIT DOWN!”
The man barked the order from behind the pistol while Andrew prayed for Jingo’s rotten cantaloupe of face to stare in the front door window, even blinked and prayed for the landlord to come squawking for his long overdue back rent. Anything to distract this maniac. He blinked his eyes, but the stranger still stood there.
Andrew crumpled into the signaled chair. One brags about what he would do if someone pulled a gun—Sunday Morning Quarterback stuff—but most people meekly obey and try to keep from shitting their pants. He scrutinized the figure seated across the oak table. It was the dorky boy from his senior yearbook pointing the gun, and not the boy to the left of his picture, or to the right, but himself: Andrew Finch. That is why the image seemed so familiar. How often does one study the face he shaves every morning? He stared at his younger self. If not for the gun, Andrew would have comforted the boy: his son. Instead, he stood silent.
          “You recognize who I am don’t you?” asked the man with the revolver. He set it on the table with the barrel pointed, inches from his trembling wrist. Andrew watched the prominent teeth nibble at the lower lip.
          “Todd.” Andrew stated. “What day is today…Friday?”
Andrew swallowed, glancing at the resting revolver resting with its barrel toward his chest. Ironic, an antique gun like that clinker might finish him off, if it would fire. He looked over toward the still-cracked door that revealed no news from Jingo. No settlement news from Jingo. No Jingo landlord and no eviction notice.
Todd’s eyes narrowed. “So that’s what I will look like someday.”
The tense father shifted in his chair beneath the careful gaze while outside he heard a car roar by, the sound enmeshed in a wave of rainwater. Oh, crap. Not again.
          If you let life slap you around as I did, Andrew thought, and become a loser. “Yeah, this is what you will look like in, say twenty years, when you hit thirty-eight. Except the scar.” He pointed to his cheek. “Most people resemble their fathers.” Andrew smirked. His son off on his delusion again!
          “Earned? Didn’t you trip over an orange in the supermarket? Fathers. Aren’t you a little more than that?” Andrew nodded in recognition and smiled a sterile smile. A prophet never respected in his own home. He told everyone who did not know better he bore a war wound. The younger man slapped the table near the pistol and then rubbed breadcrumbs off his hands onto his wet jeans. Grimaced.
“Damn you, pig!” The boy shook his head and proceeded. “Mother told me, when you were returning from Seoul, after the cloning, you decided to name me Todd, after herfather.” The boy’s eyes peered at him with a gambler’s concentration—one betting his last hundred—. Dark circles hung beneath the eyes and the eyebrows—HIS eyebrows pulled with intensity—accented the sea green eyes.
          “Yeah, we figured since you’d have all my DNA, at least we could name you after your mother’s side of the family. At least I brought you back something besides a crummy t-shirt. You know, the ones that say MY PARENTS WENT TO SEOUL AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY—. Todd, I’m jerking you. We’ve been through this before. You are not a clone, Moron!”
          “Shut up. Shut up. Just shut the hell up!” You aren’t George Carlin or something. You still don’t think I’m serious, do you?”
As the older man listened, the youth removed a .357 magnum pistol from beneath his ill-fitting Member’s Only coat and cocked it. It produced a definitive sound, a lock clacking in place, releasing the smell of gun oil, and Todd’s fear-sweat, and mildew. A drop of rain plunked off Todd’s wrist to the furniture. Andrew wondered if people—in real life—crapped their pants when they died. You spent all your life fighting and holding in crap and in the end—it got you. Shit happens and shit doesn’t. And a lot of times, it makes no sense. You are a victim of other’s delusions.
The namby-pamby, vegan vice-mayor hits you while she is out bicycling, saving gas or some such crap, and you feign injuries, because no one can question back injuries. Your cousin Jingo and you speculate collecting at least 45,000. Wear a back brace for a while. No one can prove back injuries. Lower lumbar. Split 60/40. Jingo gets 27,000—you 17,000—no 18,000 dollars. Good scam, but then your son comes wandering back in with his fricking bi-polar, schizophrenic nonsense to finish up your day.
          Todd slid the tabled .22 nearer to his parent. “Pick up the gun, spin the chamber, put it to your head. Anything funny, and I blow you away with this.” He nodded the barrel of the .357 (two?) and his instructions had the certainty of endless rehearsal and planning.
          “Look, I admit I deserted you and your mother, but—is this going to solve anything? You might help me, put me out of my misery. And if you’re going to murder me. At least let it be for something real. Son, you’re not cloned, dammit!”
The phone rang, startling Andrew. Loud, a lunch bell at a factory. He felt beads of sweat forming on his forehead like the ones on a cold tea glass; one salty drop slid into his right eye, blinding him. Maybe it was Jingo calling him with some settlement news. Now he would never know that either. His dumb luck. Shot by his idiot son either way he went here. Shot for one of the few decent deeds he had tried to do in life: leaving Sylvia with a baby.
“I was a lousy father, and I admit I went for the proverbial pack of cigarettes. But—” In some ways, Andrew felt relieved. He had expected this confrontation. Knowing his son, he had anticipated eventual pursuit. He peered down; he, finding it difficult to meet Todd’s eyes. Todd’s steely eyes.
“I love to think that I inherited your brains. You did go to Cal Tech, didn’t you?”
Andrew was mum. That was a lie also, as the source of the scar had been. He swallowed. One that had succeeded, or had his son edged his voice with sarcasm. You resemble me because you’re my son, numb nuts, Andrew thought. God! Science was not to blame for everything that happened.
“Well, we are going to play a little game called Russian Roulette, and this time: you, and mother, and Doctor Kwang don’t make the rules. I make the rules. Spin the freaking chamber, and the gun to your temple, now!”
The reluctant parent obeyed. He had never been good at games of chance. He spun the cylinder and gingerly positioned the steel against his throbbing temple. He smelled the oiled steel. In a way, I deserve this. Though, he would miss receiving Jingo’s news. He had promised to come by this afternoon and share any news of the settlement against vice-mayor prissy priss.
          “Let me update you, Pops. Oh, in case you want to grieve while we’re doing this, Mom died over six years ago.” Andrew swallowed dry cactus. He could not picture Sylvia dead. Maybe pale white, resembling the overexposed pictures in their wedding album. We should have gone for the Platinum Package, his mother-in-law insisted after examining the proofs. Look how faded Sylvia looks.
 “You remember, Aunt China?”
How could Andrew forget? She made Sylvia’s mother seem like Mother Teresa.
“Aunt China, that detested you. Well, she raised me from when Mom died until I moved out.”
Andrew remembered the sour smell of Aunt China’s kitchen, swallowing. Todd’s mother, Sylvia, was a troubled, but striking woman. However, they had lived three years together, before Todd. It slammed another door in Andrew’s character knowing her dead. He knew she would never have taken him back, but hearing her dead snuffed out any final candle of hope.
“I been trying to track you down for three years now, ever since, they released me from SPRINGTIME. I know you were in a crazy farm for awhile too, but I figure my problems were more than just heredity.”
          “This isn’t just about me leaving, is it?” Andrew said. “You really think you’re cloned. Believe your mother and I could afford that. Would do—to get you?”
Todd chuckled as Andrew stared. It renewed the uncomfortable reaction that found him deserting Sylvia and this child. His discomfort with himself. Face it. He disliked kids. Detested being around them. Lacked patience with them. Even detested their smell. And hating yourself left little room for others. A reverse-Buddhist form of philosophy.
          “You got that right, father. Dr. Christianson—at the institute—he tried to help me work through my problems. But then, they even have an acronym for us, don’t they: CDS, Clone Distress Syndrome. Seems some of us ‘20’s cloning projects just can’t deal with it, dear Dad. In fact, they dropped the program in ’23. But that didn’t help me, did it? Here’s the deal. Since you like playing God, me too. Life and death in my—” he stared down at his hands. “You spin the cylinder and squeeze the trigger three times. One time after each spin and if you can do that, and live, I’ll leave.”
          “This is nuts, let me go. Don’t’ flatter yourself that you were part of that program.” Pull the trigger three times! He must hate the crap out of you.
          “I just want you to suffer a little, like me. Pull. damnit! Pull.” Spittle from Todd’s mouth hit his .357. Andrew expected it to sizzle. He knew Todd was no bluff, never seen so much hatred in a face—. Andrew cocked the pistol’s hammer.
          “No funny business!”
Todd’s finger tightened on his revolver. Andrew formed a silent prayer. He could not remember any formal ones. Just a “please Lord” whisper. He considered Todd’s narrowing eyes, shut his own and bit-by-bit, squeezed the trigger. There was a— snap—from the dry fire. A dry metallic, toothless click. Andrew issued a slow relieved sigh. But would he be losing that much? He scanned the hovel he occupied over 23 hours a day. The empty take-out containers and the empty beer cans, wine bottles, cigarette packs. But who had been on the phone? He speculated how many people Curiosity had kept on this earth.
          “Well, someone’s lucky today.” Todd’s voice cracked on the “lucky” as Andrew’s sometimes did when excited. “Andrew, a thought puzzles me. Will this will earn me a place in Hell—messing with you.” Todd continued.
“You see; I don’t even believe, for sure, I have a soul.”
“That’s ridiculous. You have—” The boy glared. Andrew stopped.
“Maybe we share one; what you think? That’s something Dr. Christianson and I discussed a lot. I love to read, like you. I’ve read the Bible through three times. Don’t see anything in there about clones”
Stupid kid, Andrew thought. Clone of a moron.
“When they filched that cell from you, sucked out one of Mom’s eggs, and prepared me from your helix, what did they make? Am I even human? Or just some kind of omelet.”
          “Todd, you’re as much a man as anyone.” Andrew was addressing his college self, arguing with his past single-mindedness. You did not have to be a clone to repeat the sins of the father. “Let the theologians fret this one; just live your life.” Andrew felt loathing rising through the unease Todd triggered in him.
          For a moment, Todd did not respond.
 He resumed, “In case—you’re inter—ested, I blame Mom too, but she’s already dead. Spin it.”
          Andrew rotated the chamber and placed the cold barrel temple-ward for a second time. “Why three? What’s the poetic significance?”
          “Oh, the three of us. Did Peter deny Christ three times? It’s a magical number, isn’t it? The three years I been looking for you. Take your pick, prick.” Todd chuckled at the alliteration.
          “I’m sorry I couldn’t deal with—”
          “—Watching yourself grow old, again?” Andrew’s fingers turned white as the pearl handle of his pistol. “Pull it, dear Daddy. Almost there. You’re still getting off a lot easier than I am.”
          “Boy, think this through.” Did Andrew hear someone walking outside the building? Heard them through the crack in the entrance door. His son was too centered to notice the splashy steps.
          “Don’t say that! You, you don’t think I’ve thought this through! You should have never cooked me up. I understand other sons say that, but none with more right. Who did you people think you were?” Todd’s Adam’s apple jerked downward as he spit out the last word.
          “Sylvia wanted a child, more than anything. We couldn’t conceive. I was sterile.” Andrew studied the tabletop, almost whispering the last sentence. Again, he avoided Todd’s narrowed eyes. “But you aren’t a clone. We just—borrowed some semen from someone.”
          “Borrowed semen? Pull!” This time, Todd said it as if the word itself tasted malicious. “Pull, damn you!”
Andrew held the cocked gun. He felt the thin edge of the trigger starting its backward motion. What a sorry way to go, he whispered inside his head. On the outside, he was quiet, hesitant. Had he heard someone hesitate at the door? Had his aggressor?
          Todd’s finger tensed on the .357’s trigger the nail turning white.
          He didn’t. Andrew hesitated but no one burst in. No one yelled, “Stop, what are you doing!” Andrew pulled his trigger almost as if to prevent Jingo from entering the door.
Andrew sighed. Was he relieved? His lower bowels flowed liquid, gurgling. He would soil his pants. He clinched his butt cheeks, trying not to embarrass himself. What an odd action to worry about. Soiling his pants, when at any minute his intellect could be gravy dripping down the kitchen wall. He had lost control of this, like everything else in his life. Just once, he would like to feel in control. Even the decision to birth Todd had been Sylvia’s. He sued people. Once again, a reaction not an action on his part.
          “That’s two,” said Todd. “You’re almost home free, but no matter what happens, I’m still just a copy. Not even a mirror image. Just, the imageimage.
          “Wouldn’t you like to know who your real father was?      
“Sins of the father are passed down to the sons. I’m sorry; but I’ve never been able to get past feeling I’m just you—all over again. Morality always has trouble keeping up with science. You two weren’t giving, but selfish and you wanted me—like a prize.”
          “You are not what you think, you stupid bastard!” Andrew said, then grinned at the irony.
          “My father? You left me—with someone who treated me just like she treated you, Aunt China. Spin it. Cock the hammer. Not my father—” Todd pointed to Andrew’s forehead. “I want to see you sweat.”
“Guess you’ll never meet the truth.” Andrew spun the barrel, and then spun it again for good measure. Yet, maybe that was a mistake. Maybe he had returned it to the loaded chamber. What did it matter? “There is only one in here, right?”
          “Just one, DEAR dad. One hollow-point and five empty chambers. That bullet will make mush of your brains. I can’t blame you for leaving anymore than you can blame me for this crazy stunt. It’s genetic. We’re predisposed to this you know. Both losers.” Todd’s free hand swept to encompass the dreary room. “Our family has got its share of crazies. You…and Aunt China for instance.”
          “Aunt China.” There were several crazy people in their …his family tree. Aunt China and others like him…them.
          “One more.”
The barrel pushed a dimple into Andrew’s tender temple. He felt the pulse of his living blood against the gun barrel. He gripped the trigger. No one could be lucky enough to tug this trigger three times and not discharge that waiting chamber, even him. His index finger tightened on the trigger, and he felt it giving. But was death such a bitter pill? His head pounded from headache and stress. Up above jagged light flashed through the sunroof. The rain hit the plastic like small marbles.
          “I’m sorry. We…I was selfish. Having you…me leaving. But don’t do this. You could be the first one in this miserable family to be somebody. You’ll end up in jail over this. I’m not worth it. Aren’t you the least bit curious who your real father is?”
          “I won’t. I don’t. Who’s to say this is even a crime?”
          “Boy, we’re not puppets. No matter what you believe, God watches. He doesn’t pull your strings.” Where did that come from?
          “You make a point worth considering. You’re reallynot—” Todd did peer shortly at Andrew, debating their choices, spinning the different scenarios in his mind as Andrew spun the gun chamber. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I believe all that crap. Sophocles stated it well in Antigone, destiny, and the fates. If God can see the future, then he must already have all this planned, and I am just playing my part. Pull!” Andrew hesitated, his finger thick, as if pulling against the pressure of a vice.
          “Pull, damn it, or I’m going to plug you myself!”
          “Good. I’m glad you won’t know, everything.” Andrew curled his finger around the trigger again and tightened. Please, it couldn’t end this way. He could feel fierce tears in his eyes for both. He and his son—himself. He never made the rules. Maybe fate did have the final say. If his pull released the bullet, he would be unaware, and it would murder him so quick the world would end right there on the end of his finger. Finally, he eased the trigger back.
          The two stared at each other. No jubilation released in Andrew’s chest. What had either proven? Todd’s eyes remained hollow. Andrew’s own eyes years before, yet here, now filled with something worse than hate, pity maybe. How this mixed up person pity him? That loaded the dice for him. A hammer clicked back and then a trigger pulled a fourth time.
Luck forced to expire.
Todd missed it coming. His face…held clamped in disbelief. He hesitated, unaware what was next. Andrew was motionless. Then, he whacked against the table and Andrew exhaled. What rage had made him do that? But Andrew was in control again now and would not let anyone pity him. He plucked Todd’s .357 like fruit from the boy’s curled hand and he checked: every chamber held a bullet.
          He still had a chance to do right by himself. He searched around. Found a scrap of paper and a pen. A black pen. Had to scratch it across the paper a couple of times to make it work. He scrawled six words, smiled. Andrew noted the filthy apartment with its many empties—back at the .357, debating. He was back in charge. What now? Meticulously, he placed the thick pistol barrel in his mouth. It was cold and biting on his tongue, the hard-set of metal against his teeth. This time he wouldn’t pull timidly, but jerk the trigger back…wouldn’t he?
Up above, the fall shower had subsided while a few beads of water were afterthoughts clinging to the Plexiglas. He stared at the back of the boy’s head. There were the telltale signs of male pattern baldness appearing in the hairline on the scalp, a definite thinning, and there was blood. His eyes moved back up to where the pistol was a smoking pipe protruding from his mouth and Andrew released an exhausted breath captured in his lungs. At the same time, he relaxed his trigger finger and positioned the pistol flat on the table. Maybe fate still controlled him, or destiny.
Maybe he just lacked the guts to pull the trigger. His hands went up to stroke his temples as he released a flood of anguish in the form of hot tears and rained it down on his son’s still form. Andrew started as the door swung open. His brow creased in recognition. “Jingo.”
“Andrew. What the hell happened here? I came to talk to you about the—then—what is this. Todd? What’s he doing here?”
Andrew glanced down at the note. Jingo was still staring at Todd’s bloody head. Andrew retrieved the paper from the table where he had placed it for his cousin to find. No sense stirring up any harder feelings. Jingo’s glance was still elsewhere. “Wanted to tell you we’re getting the settlement—before—this.”
“Good,” Andrew said. He glanced at the note before crumpling it up:
Say hi! to your son, Jingo! Though he takes after me. Cloning’s getting better. You would think they would work a little on improving psychiatry.
Andrew stuck the crumpled note in his pocket while Jingo punched 911 on the phone.

Got the settlement. Damn, maybe this was his lucky day after all.