January 6, 2021, A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

This past Wednesday, I saw a Confederate flag being paraded through the United States Capitol building. I’ve got to tell you, that’s something I never thought I’d see. Now, I’m not so naïve as to think people wouldn’t stoop low enough to display the flag of a failed state that made war on the United States inside a space that should sacred to all of us. I didn’t expect it because I thought the seat of our government had the kind of security apparatus that was at least on par with the razor blade case at Walgreens. Turns out, I was wrong

In case you’ve been under a rock for the past few days (like some of these folks), I’m referring to the failed coup attempt perpetrated by followers and enablers of Donald Trump, aka the worst president in American history (and that’s the last time I’ll use that word in conjunction with his name). On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, these rocket scientists stormed the Capitol Building as a joint session of Congress finalized Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ election as president and vice-president. The mob, egged on by multiple speakers at an earlier rally (that included Trump and his mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani), labored under the delusion that they could “stop the steal” with this action. They were thwarted by quick-thinking Senate aides who got the boxes containing each state’s ballots out of the building before the rioters could get there hands on them, thus preserving democracy. Like most of you, I’ve spent the last two days processing this insanity and thought I’d share what conclusions I’ve come up with.

Did he “cross the Rubicon”?

For the past few weeks, Trump sycophants followers have been urging him to heed disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s advice and “cross the Rubicon” by invoking martial law and “rerunning” the election. And, as more and more information that comes to light about Wednesday’s insurrection, it beginning to look like he did. Fiona Hill, another former national security advisor, told The Daily Beast that “The president was trying to stage a coup,” but was thwarted by lack of military involvement. She goes on to say that since he was prevented from using the military, he decided to go with the civilian option. At the rally I mentioned earlier, he told the crowd, 

“We’re going to Capitol and we’re going to try and give…our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re to try and give them the kind pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

And, Giuliani called for “trial by combat”. Now, I’m no attorney but, considering the events that followed those inflammatory words, I can’t see them as anything other than incitement to riot. Add in the fact that federal agencies (DOD, Homeland Security, etc.) were exceedingly slow to respond and neighboring states were prevented from responding for an extended time, the whole thing begins to look like an active, concerted effort by the Trump administration to overthrow the United States government. And that, my friends, is treason.

He wasn’t alone though

Amazingly, even after all of this had occurred, 6 Republican Senators and 120 Republican representatives still contested the affirmation of Joe Biden as president. Now, I just spent several paragraphs laying out how this revolt was Trump’s fault. But that’s only half true because these senators and representatives were fully on board with the attempt to throw out the votes of millions of Americans in order to allow an authoritarian thug to remain in power. I think the takeaway here is that many of them will be up for reelection in 2 years. We all need to remember how they supported a treasonous attempt to toss out a democratic tradition that forms the bedrock of our nation. And vote accordingly.

Trump responds to the insurrection… sort of

It took quite a while for 45 to finally address what was going on at the Capitol. In part, I’m guessing because aides reported that he was too busy gleefully watching it all unfold. Finally, somewhere around 2 hours into the uprising, Trump finally addressed the nation… via a pre-recorded video posted to Twitter. That’s not a joke, but video was. He spent more time pushing the election fraud garbage that led to the attack than he did condemning the violence. To make matters worse, he told them, “We love you. You’re very special. … I know how you feel.” It should be noted that he only responded after Biden came out and spoke the way we expect a president to speak. If there’s one thing the Traitor-in-chief can’t stand, it’s being one upped.

His supporters who stayed home? Not so much

In spite of the fact that their Dear Leader was personally responsible for what happened in D.C. Wednesday, his supporters who weren’t on the scene where remarkably quiet. I mean, for the longest time, we didn’t hear a peep out of a crowd that has never shied from “owning the libs” and telling us “snowflakes” to “suck it up, buttercup”. At the time, I wondered if they were still proud of him but quickly realized their silence in the face of insurrection on his behalf spoke louder than any words.

Until they didn’t anymore

That silence didn’t last, though. Before the night was out, Trump supporters— including (semi)legitimate news outlets and members of Congress were claiming that the mess in D.C. was instigated by Antifa infiltrators. This in spite of the fact that many perpetrators posted selfies and videos of themselves in the act! How do you respond to lunacy like that?

Like Rats Fleeing a Sinking Ship

Over the last couple of days, Trump staffers and cabinet members are resigning in droves and his support in Congress is drying up. Wednesday evening, Trump’s main Senate cheerleader, Lindsey Graham called it quits with Donald, saying “…count me out. Enough is enough.” I can’t speak for anyone else, but I see this as a case of “too little, too late”. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to see there’s a line these people just couldn’t cross. At the same time, I’m appalled that line turned attempting a coup by inciting violent insurrection. 


This may be the dumbest coup ever attempted but it’s still a coup. And, while these particular perpetrators are morons, there are people watching and taking notes who aren’t. We need to send a very clear, unmistakable message about what happens to people who try to overthrow our government. The best way to do that is to ensuree some tough consequences for everyone involved. And by “tough consequences”, I mean arrests, convictions, and sentences with real teeth. I’m no fan of capital punishment, but in this instance, I’m in favor of bringing back public executions for those convicted of treason. But, honestly, I don’t see that happening. At most, these idiots will get a slap on the wrist and we’ll go back to business as usual. Which, apparently, is the American way.

This is Probably Going to Piss You Off

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Posted to Facebook today:

As a rule, when I have something longer than a few sentences, I post it on my blog. Today is a little different because I know a lot of you don’t bother to click links but you will read a longer Facebook status, so here we are. And, I’m aware that this post will likely some cost me some friends but I’ve never been that concerned about being popular. Besides, if a little hard truth pushes you to cut me out of your life, I can only assume we were never really friends in the first place. That said…
A lot of y’all should be ashamed if yourselves. People you call “friend” came to their pages to celebrate a black woman’s election to the vice presidency, something they may have thought they’d never see in their lifetime, and you just couldn’t wait to shit all over it with some really nasty comments. I wish I could say I’m surprised by it all. But I’m not. I’ve heard you say this very same crap it when you think it’s “just us white folks”. Frankly, it’s disgusting and I really thought you were better than this. That it was just your fear of the coming changes doing the talking. Maybe it still is but that doesn’t make your behavior any less hateful.
 To be fair, though, you’re not the only ones who should be ashamed. I heard every awful thing you said and didn’t speak up because I still had to see a lot of you every day and speaking up would’ve made everything so uncomfortable. Hell, I should’ve said this the other day when I saw the first shitty comment. But I didn’t because old habits are hard to break. But this morning, I realized that discomfort isn’t an excuse for cowardice, so I’m calling this shit out. The bottom line is if you can’t get past your racist bullshit, at least have to decency not to throw it in my friends’ faces. 

Generation Jones

When we were old enough to sit up on our own, Mom and Pop
plopped our impressionable, young (still developing?) brains down
in front of the boob tube and we watched in rapt fascination as
the mightiest nation on earth got its ass handed to it by

little people in black pajamas and sandals made from shit we’d
thrown away, while simultaneously putting a human being on
the god damned moon. If you think that didn’t fuck us up,
I suggest you think again.

They call us Generation Jones and say we’re obsessed with keeping
up with those proverbial people, or that we’re jonesin’ for a fix of the
good life that’s always existed just outside our reach. I’m not so sure
because I can’t see we care that much about anything. How can we when

we saw our older brothers and sisters riding high on that crazy post-war
boom, expecting the same for ourselves. But our defining moment wasn’t
a war or a movement, it was the bust of that boom, leaving us with
ghost towns and gas lines as we sat, wrapped round the block, begging

to pay two or three times as much for the same old calcified carcasses
as our elders had just a few years before. Finding out the world’s a pregnant
pile of shit was tough, made tougher when we were tossed in with those
arrogant, entitled asshole Boomers. It’s fucked us up for years. Forced

to suck it up and make common cause with bastards who fucked us out of 
our birthright (without even the decency to offer us a bowl of stew in return), we tried so god damned hard to be something we knew we weren’t, hoping against hope that we’d reach that promised land.

But, it never happened. Now, some of us are finally finding a way to
say “Fuck it. I’m out” and leave behind that bullshit we were taught from
birth. that grinding it out from the cradle to the grave is the gold standard
of a grown up. We’re hitting the road in ‘Bagos made from box trucks, doing

odd jobs to get by and carving out a life we actually want to live instead
of punching a clock and making widgets until we collapse from
the sheer fucking boredom of it all. You can take your “gold” standard and shove it where the sun don’t shine ’cause Generation Jones ain’t fucking with

that shit anymore. In the words of our voidoid prophet:
we belong to the blank generation
and we can take it or leave it each time.

Who Will Survive the Zombie Apocalypse That Will Inevitably Close Out 2020?

Greetings, beloved. I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me and I apologize for that. But finishing a degree in the middle of a pandemic took a large part of my available bandwidth. Also, I’ve come up with several interesting, timely topics, only to them blown out out the water by whatever new piece of batcrap craziness 2020 decides to throw at us. Putting together a coherent blog post in this environment has been… well, let’s call it “difficult”. But, I think I’ve finally come up something that might actually survive long enough to publish. It’s my belief that, with all the insanity that we’ve dealt with this year—not to mention the way each new incident seems to ramp up the crazy by at least a magnitude of 10—a zombie apocalypse is the only way 2020 could possibly end.

Now, that statement brings up an interesting question: who will survive this dystopian hellscape that I’m so sure the world will devolve into? While I can’t say for sure, I’m betting that it won’t be any of those doomsday preppers and their underground bunkers jampacked with canned goods and an arsenal that would rival certain small countries. I mean, these numbnutted narcissists won’t even wear a mask in the middle of a pandemic – despite what the science says – because they just know it’s a tool of government mind control. I can just imagine how they’d react to the news of the walking dead.

No, the people who will survive a zombie outbreak are people like the girl in one of the classes I tutor. She is obsessive about wiping down any surface she might have to touch, always wears a mask, and seems to have an innate ability to know exactly what six feet looks like. Basically, she is the consummate social distancer, displaying the attention to detail it will take to make it through the rising of the undead.

Another person who will survive is my friend, Dave. He and his wife are part of an intentional community who share everything. Dave is a gardener and grows a ton of vegetables every spring, way more than he and Jena can eat by themselves. What they can’t eat, they can, freeze, or share with their group and their friends. Someone else in their community is a mechanic, another is a teacher, a third is an amateur plumber. When a community member has a problem, one of their neighbors steps up and takes care of it, knowing that if they have an issue in the future, someone will do the same for them. While Mr. Beans and Bullets is locked away in his bunker, eating the same, bland survival rations day after day after day, slowly going mad, Dave and his community will be living their best life, looking out for each other because humans are social animals and, as much as we hate to admit it, we need each other in the best possible way. 

I know that in the middle of a pandemic, when social distancing is the order of the day, this is going to sound counter-intuitive, but get out there (virtually if at all possible) and build those social connections. And, work at maintaining the ones you’ve already built because these alliances are crucial to your thriving, not just surviving. And, you’re going to need them when COVID-19 morphs into ZN-1 to close out this shitshow of a year.




Trump Impeachment: He’s Acquitted

Friday, the Senate voted along mostly along party lines not to hear witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. The end result was 51-49, with Mitt Romney and Susan Collins breaking ranks to side with the Democrats. And, over the past few days, I’ve seen numerous posts on social media about it. They haven’t been happy ones. Some have gone so far as to proclaim it the “death of democracy”.  Which seems a bit dramatic to me since I never expected a different result.

I mean, we had to know that this exercise was never going to turn out differently. It was a foregone conclusion from the very start. Republicans in the Senate were never going to rein in this mobster of a president, partly because they’re afraid of incurring the wrath of their constituents and facing a primary challenge and partly because Trump is giving them what they want – tax cuts,  massive deregulation of industry, and judges whose rulings enable this continued redistribution of wealth. He is the goose who lays golden eggs and will bite the shit out of you if try and stop it. From their politically warped point of view, they have literally no motivation to exert any control over the White House.

You’re disheartened, I get that. I am too. We are living in an incredibly disheartening time. But it’s only the death of democracy if we allow it to be. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to lay down just yet.

So, feel those feelings. Embrace your sadness, your fear, your anger. And then, use them. Use them to motivate you to stand up, to take to the streets and the voting booth and tell Trump and his lackeys that enough is enough. Because voting this nasty garbage monsters and his Republican boot lickers out of office has always been the only way we’re going to end this nightmare.

Sacrificed on the Altar of the Armalite

More shootings, more people murdered. More hand wringing while nothing of consequence is done. I guess this is where are now. That’s a

statement doesn’t apply to a whole lot in this country. I mean, America has always been


But we used to at least care about people. Now, even our kids are sacrificed on the Altar of the Armalite. Why? Why does a hunk of 

metal and plastic take the place of primacy over living, breathing
human beings, including the vulnerable ones who look to us for


Why are we making bulletproof backpacks or building schools with hidey-holes and metal detectors, and not enough doors in case some 

angry, twisted white boy decides to deal with his feelings of impotence by killing kids/immigrants/women when there’s a 


way to handle this? It’s because some of you want to keep these 5.56mm penis prosthetics more than you want to 

live in a country where people can go about their daily lives without fear of being mowed down 

In the street, 
In church, 
In fucking Walmart. 

Do you understand how deranged that is? No other country in the world has to deal with this shit. But we do. And, I’m here to tell you

that the vast majority of us in this nation are tired of this shit. We’re done with it all and we have one thing to say to you: 

Fuck you and fuck your

What Next From the Racist-in-Chief?

Trump supporters chant ‘send her back’ as president steps up racist attack on Ilhan Omar at rally. From Yahoo News (https://news.yahoo.com/trump-eggs-rally-supporters-chanting-034200279.html)

Writing about the current political climate isn’t an easy job these days. There are two reasons for that: 1) Under the administration of the human hairball who currently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, scandals fly by so quickly that, by the time I’ve figured out what to say about one, two others have entered the news cycle and no one’s even thinking about the one you’ve spent all that time on. And, 2) Each scandal is more shameful and tainted the last. I mean, who ever would’ve thought 45 could top “Grab ’em by the pussy”? But then, we found out about his tryst with Stormy. Talk about sleazy. I need two fingers of bourbon and hot shower just thinking about this shit. But the latest Trumpian scandal leaves all the others in the dust, though.

It all started with a tweet

Sunday morning, the Presidiot tweeted the following:

Are we really arguing about this?

That the mango-hued George Wallace wannabe would say something like is, sadly, not surprising. The man’s racist side has been on public display since at least the late 80’s when he took out a full page ad calling for the execution of the Central Park 5. What also wasn’t surprising (or at least, shouldn’t have been) was the reaction of Republicans in Congress. House Democrats brought up a motion to condemn Tangerine Hitler’s obviously racist tweet and the GOP reps got their panties all in a wad. They tied up proceedings for most of the afternoon as they (unsuccessfully) attempted to have Speaker Nancy Pelosi words stricken from the record. What did she say that upset them so? She referred to Trump’s tweets as racist. That’s right, beloved, for a lot of Republicans, saying racist shit isn’t offensive, but calling that racist shit, “racist shit” is utterly disrespectful. If you think that’s fucking surreal, you’re right.

A Klan rally without the hoods

Things took an even uglier turn Wednesday evening in Greenville, NC. Our short-fingered vulgarian of a president was on the campaign trail and held a rally there. After he accused her of supporting Al Qaeda, the crowd broken into a chant of “Send Her Back“. Normally, that’s the point at which I would say the event devolved into a Klan rally. But that assumes it didn’t start out as one.

Oh, Lindsay

Now, there are people out, including U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham saying that this “Love it or Leave it” message isn’t racist. To that, I give the words of the inimitable Wayne Campbell: ” Shyeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt!”

Now, now, let’s be fair

Let’s examine this claim. If you clicked on the link where I said Little Donnie’s tweet was “obviously racist, you know that the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says, “Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities”. They also say, “Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.” Seems pretty cut and dried to me. But some folks are visual learners, so here’s a picture to drive the point home:

I don’t know about you, but for me, if the Klan, the foremost exemplar of racism in America, decided to use this phrase in this way, that pretty much seals the deal on whether or not it’s racist.

A miscalculation? We can only hope.

It is possible that this all part of our fascist fuckwad president’s campaign strategy and he’s throwing some red meat to his base to get them charged up. If it is, I think it’s doomed to failure. Sure there is slice of Americans who love the vile shit this David Duke wannabe is spewing, but that tops out around 25=30%. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the rest of white America prefers its racism a lot less in your face than telling four women of color they should go back where they came from if they’re not happy here; it’s just so much harder to pretend like we’re living in a post-racist society when the racism is that overt. Whether it’s me or the pundits who are right, it’s going to be a long 16 months. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gonna pour me some bourbon and take a long, hot shower.

The Man in the Silver Frame

Jen was preparing dinner when her daughter, Ellie, looked up from her coloring book and said, “Mama, when is my little brother getting here?
That caught Jen off guard. “Sweetie, you don’t have a little brother.” Maybe she was playing. Ellie loved to pretend and had numerous imaginary friends.
“But I will, Mama. You have another baby growing in your tummy,” Ellie said. “And, this one’s a boy. Like those other times.”
If Ellie’s question had caught her off guard, this statement nearly floored her. How could Ellie know about her previous pregnancies? She and Rick been scrupulous in not talking about them. But what freaked her out more than Ellie’s knowledge of those earlier pregnancies was the fact that she knew both were boys. That was something they hadn’t shared with anyone, especially not their daughter. As she stood there, dumbfounded, trying to process this information, Jen realized Ellie was watching her, waiting for an answer.
“No, shug,” she replied, shaking her head. “I’m not pregnant.”
“Yes, you are. I can tell.”
“What? How can you tell?”
“I don’t know,” Ellie said. “I just can.”
“Well,” Jen said, “I’m not having another baby. I don’t think I can.”
“Why not?”
Damn. How do I explain this? “It’s complicated, but my body has trouble with that sort of thing.”
“Did you have trouble with me?
Jen smiled. “No, sweetie. You were no trouble at all.”
“But you had trouble with the other ones?”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I did.”
“Well, maybe you won’t have trouble with my brother, either.” Ellie went back to her coloring.

Two days later, Jen was waiting in a conference room at Ellie’s school because she’d gotten a call from the administrative assistant asking if she could come down, that there’d been an incident involving her daughter. She’d blown out of the office so fast she’d barely stopped to tell her supervisor where she was going. Fortunately, Karen was a mom herself and let her go without any fuss. She’d been sitting there for what felt like an hour when she saw Ellie and her teacher, Chloe Hamm, come in. The woman settled Ellie in a chair, spoke to the secretary and then stepped into the office.
“Hi Jen. Thanks for getting here so quickly,” Chloe said, sitting down across the table.
Jen raised an eyebrow at that and said, “Well, when the school tells you there was an “incident” involving your kid, you don’t mess around.”
Chloe smiled. “Yes, I guess that’s so.”
“So, is Ellie okay?”
Chloe nodded. “She’s fine.”
“Okay,” Jen said. “So, what happened?”
The other woman took a breath and said, “Bear with me, because this is kind of a long story.” Jen nodded. “When the kids were outside this morning, Ellie and Josie were doing chalk drawings on the sidewalk and Dylan Masters and a couple of other boys walked up. The girls have had a few run ins with Dylan before, but so far it’s just been words.” Jen knew that. More than once, she’d listened to Ellie complain about the boy. Chloe continued, “Josie told me Dylan made a smart remark and drug his foot across their drawing, smudging it. She got angry and stood up to confront him and he pushed her down. Then, he looked at Ellie and said, ‘Got anything to add, runt.’ She said Ellie didn’t say anything, just went back to drawing. After a couple of seconds, he said, “Well, do you?” Josie said Ellie didn’t look up, but she stopped drawing for a second. Then, she told him, ‘No, you’ll be going home in a few minutes and we won’t have to look at your stupid face anymore.’ Dylan looked at her and asked, ‘Why am I going home?’ Josie said she put the chalk down and said, ‘You’re going to fall off the jungle gym and break your arm.’ According to Josie, Dylan called her crazy and he and his friends wandered off. A little later, they were playing on the jungle gym, and Dylan fell off and broke his arm.”
Jen remembered the conversation earlier that week. No. My daughter cannot predict the future. She took a breath to gather herself as Chloe continued.
“Then, things turned a little ugly. Dylan’s friends started calling her a witch. And, several other kids joined in. By the time I got things under control, Ellie was hiding in the bushes, crying.”
Jen’s anger flashed and she almost lost control. But she realized yelling at Chloe wouldn’t fix anything. After steadied herself, she said, “So, what happens now?”
“We called the school counselor and she believes it would be best if Ellie stayed home the rest of the week. You know, let the dust settle.”
“You think that will help?”
“I don’t know,” Chloe said. “But I can’t think of anything else.”

Jen knew she needed to talk to Ellie about what had happened. But the whole thing was so weird, she didn’t know where to start. They’d been home about 30 minutes, when she decided the direct approach was best. She walked into the den where her daughter was watching Paw Patrol. “Ellie, honey?” Ellie looked up. “Are you okay, sweetie?
“Uh huh,” the girl said, never taking her eyes off the television.
“Are you sure? That was a pretty scary thing today.”
“What thing, Mama?” Ellie said, looking up at her.
Jen had thought she was feeling traumatized by what had happened, and her silence was a coping mechanism. But complete denial? That hadn’t occurred to her. “Dylan falling off the jungle gym. Don’t you remember?”
“Oh, that. Yes, I remember.” Then she said, “I’m glad Dylan got hurt. He was mean to Josie.”
Jen was shocked.  Ellie was the most gentle, loving child she’d ever seen. “Ellie! We don’t say things like that.”
“But it’s true, Mama. Dylan is mean to everyone. The man said it was time he got his comeuppsance.” Ellie paused, then said, “What’s that mean, comeuppsance?”
“It’s ‘comeuppance’ and it means a punishment that someone deserves.” Then, she realized what her daughter had just said. “Wait, what man?”
“The man that talked to me after Dylan got hurt,” Ellie said. “I think he’s how I know things are going to happen before they happen.”
“Have you seen him before?”
“I don’t think so,” Ellie said. “But he said he was my friend and he liked helping me.”
“What does he look like?” Maybe it’s a school employee.
Ellie thought for a minute. “He’s tall, with white hair, and dark eyes. And, he wears an old-fashioned suit.”
“An old-fashioned suit?” Jen asked.
“Uh huh.”
“What do you mean?”
“I drew a picture while you were talking to Ms. Hamm.” Ellie dug into her backpack. “Here.”
The man her daughter had drawn bore eerie resemblance to a photo that she had found a week earlier in an antique store that the owner said dated to 1889. She loved antiques and she just couldn’t pass up the photo with its ornate silver frame. But there was no way Ellie could have seen the portrait because she had hidden it after Rick had complained about her spending. She looked the drawing, stunned. No school employee dresses like this. Hell, no one’s dressed like that in a hundred years. Should I call Chloe? And, ask what? If anyone had seen a creepy looking guy from the 1800’s hanging around the playground? She’ll would think I’ve lost it. No, I’ll wait and talk to Rick this evening.

After putting Ellie to bed, she walked into the den where Rick was watching SportsCenter. She sat down beside him, saying, “Honey, something weird happened today.”
“What was that?” he said, muting the TV. She told him about what had happened. When she was done, he said, “Yeah, that is weird.” He shrugged. “It’s probably just a coincidence.”
“Rick, she told him exactly what was going happen. How could that be a coincidence?”
He shrugged. “Power of suggestion?”
“What do you mean, ‘power of suggestion’?”
“You know that imagination of hers. She’s always coming up with weirdly specific stuff. Maybe this time, it predisposed this Dylan kid to fall and break his arm.”
“Seriously, Rick?” she said. “Don’t you think that’s a bit of stretch?”
“More of a stretch than our 6-year-old daughter predicting the future?”
She sighed. “I know it sounds odd.”
“Odd is an understatement,” he said. “Didn’t you say she drew a picture of this guy that spoke to her?”
“Yeah,” she said, handing him the drawing of a tall man with a shock of white hair and piercing black eyes that were very unnerving.
“Jesus, this guy is creepy as hell!” Then, “How could a six year old kid come up with something like this?”
Jen nodded. “It’s worse than you think.” She got up and went to the bedroom, returning with the antique photo. “I bought this last week,” she said, placing it on the coffee table beside Ellie’s drawing.
Rick looked at the two pictures and swallowed hard. “What the fuck?” Jen just looked at him. “Is this the first time she’s done this sort of thing?” he said. “I mean, I haven’t seen anything like this, but you’re with her more than I am.”
“The picture? No. But the other day, she told me that I was going to have another baby. I thought she was pretending. But now? I’m not so sure.”
He shook his head. “Okay, let’s not get carried away. People don’t just start predicting the future. Especially not 6-year-old girls.” He paused. “Not even ones who draw creepy-ass shit like this,” he said, waving the picture.
“Rick, she knew about the miscarriages.”
Rick stared at her. “What? Did she call them ‘miscarriages’?”
Jen shook her head. “No, nothing like that. First, she asked when her baby brother would be here. When I asked what she was talking about, she said I would have another baby and it would be a boy. ‘Like the ones you lost those other times’, she said.”
“Okay, I will grant you that that’s a little freaky. But I still think there’s a logical explanation.”
“Like what, Rick? What ‘logical explanation,’” she said, her hands making air quotes, “could possibly cover this?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “But supernatural bullshit can’t be our go to answer.”
Jen just looked at him for a moment, then headed for the kitchen. “I need a drink.”

The next morning, not long after she woke up, Jen realized she felt…different. She couldn’t put her finger on why, though and she headed downstairs. When she walked into the kitchen, she could smell the coffee Rick had brewed. Normally, she loved that aroma. Not this morning, however. At the first whiff, her stomach did a little flip. She poured herself a cup, took a sip, and threw up in the sink.
“Oh my god,” she said. “I’m pregnant.”
Rick, who had walked in while she retched into the sink, said “What!?”
“I’m pregnant. This is exactly how it was all the other times.”
They both decided to stay home from work that day. In part, because they were freaked out by all that was happening. But also, because they agreed that they needed to find out just what the hell was going on. Rick got dressed and went to Walgreen’s to pick up a pregnancy test while Jen nursed some ginger ale and waited for Ellie to get up. In the interim, she took the test. Positive. Great, Jen thought. My daughter’s a psychic.

At 10 o’clock, when she still hadn’t come down, they went to her room and found her huddled in the corner. Jen knelt beside her. “Honey, what are you doing?”
The fear etched on her daughter’s face when she looked up startled Jen so much, she almost fell over. “Hiding,” Ellie whispered.
“Hiding. From what?” Ellie shook her head. Jen stroked her arm and said “Sweetie, if you don’t tell me, I can’t help you. Now, what are you hiding from?”
“I don’t wanna tell,” Ellie said. “If I do, he’ll hurt me. And, he’ll hurt you, too.”
“Who will?”
“The man,” Ellie said in a voice so low it was barely audible.
Rick sighed and Jen could almost feel his annoyance. “Is he here right now?”
“No,” the girl said. “He left when you came in.” A pause. “He doesn’t like you and Daddy. He says you might make him go away and he likes it here with me.”
Jen looked over her shoulder at Rick with an expression that asked what she should do next. He shrugged and then indicated they should go back downstairs. Jen scooped up her daughter and said, “Nobody’s going to hurt anyone around here, sweetie. Now, let’s get you some breakfast.”

  Later, while Ellie was distracted by a bowl of Froot Loops and Peppa Pig, Jen and Rick discussed what had happened.
“What are we going to do, Rick?” Jen said. “I think we’re way beyond coincidences and imagination.”
Rick shook his head. “No… well, maybe. Shit, I don’t know,” he said.
So, what are we going to do, Rick?”
“Why do we need to do anything?” he said. “You know how she is. Give her a couple of days and it’ll be some other weird thing.”
Jen stared at him. “What the hell is wrong is wrong with you? This is serious. If there’s something wrong with her, I want to know. And, I want to fix it.”
“What, like take her to the doctor or something?”
Jen sighed. “Maybe. Or a therapist.” She paused. “Or, maybe even something supernatural.”
He stood there a minute. “Okay. Whatever you decide, I’ll support.”

            After that, Jen decided she had to get out of the house for little while. She took Ellie and went to Drusilla’s. Dru was a friend from her college days and was what Jen like to call “alternative”. Rick referred to her as “that crazy hippie”. But, a visit with Dru always brightened her day and she needed that right now. Dru also had a goofy black lab that Ellie absolutely adored, and she thought a little animal therapy might be good for the girl. She and Dru sat on the patio, drinking tea and watching Ellie and Max play. “The last few days have been a little crazy,” she said.
“Oh?” said Dru. “What do you mean?”
Jen filled her in all that happened. “And, to top it all off, Rick is being so damn passive about it all. It’s fucking insane, you know?”
Dru frowned. “I do. Especially about Rick. I’m still not sure what you see in him.”
Jen sighed. “Dru, please. I don’t need this.
“Sorry.” Dru sipped her tea. “Do you know what this man looks like?”
“That’s another crazy thing. Ellie drew a picture of him, and he looks just like a man in an antique photo I bought last week,” Jen said. “But there’s no way she could have seen it because I stashed it away after Rick had a shit fit about me spending money.”
“He has a problem with how you spend the money that you earn?” Dru said.
“He kind of had a point. You know how I am with money.” Then, she said, “And, the picture cost $250.”
“So? It’s your money. You should do what you want with it.
Jen glared at her. “Dru.”
“Fine.” Dru thought for a moment. “Did any of this stuff with Ellie happen before you bought the picture?”
Jen considered the question. “No, it didn’t. Why?”
“I’m not sure. But–” Max began barking and snarling, the hackles on his back rising up.
“What the hell?” said Jen. She watched the dog, noticing that he was facing away from Ellie, moving back and forth as if to keep himself between the girl and some threat. “What is he doing?” she said, looking at Dru.
Her friend was very still, and all the color seemed to have drained out of her. It was like she was in a trance. Her lips moved slightly and then the spell was broken. She turned to Jen. “You need to get that picture out of your house. Immediately.”       
“What?” Jen asked. “What’s the photo got to do with anything?”
“I think there’s an entity attached to it. And, it’s evil,” Dru said.
Jen’s mouth hung open for a moment. “That’s crazy, Dru. There’s no such thing.” Jen was used to her friend’s peculiarities, but this was bit much. “And, how can you know it has anything to do with the picture? You haven’t even seen it.”
“Jen, you know how this works. I just know, okay?” She looked at her. “Get. Rid. Of. That. Picture.”
Just then, Ellie came running over to her, jumping in her lap and burying her face in her mother’s shoulder. Max patrolled the perimeter of the yard looking for whatever it was he had sensed just a few minutes ago.
“It was the man, Mama. He was trying get me, but Max wouldn’t let him.”         
Jen stroked her daughter’s hair and looked over at her friend. “Okay, Dru. What do I do?”

“What do you mean, ‘No’!?” Jen said. “This is my child. Your godchild.” They had moved inside to the kitchen, Jen and Ellie seated at the table while Dru brewed them some tea.
Dru held up her hands. “Exorcism isn’t my thing, Jen. I had a bad experience once and I don’t get near that kind of thing anymore.”
“A bad experience? What does that mean?”
Dru started to speak, then closed her mouth before saying, “I won’t get into specifics. Just know that people almost died. Okay?” She looked out the window for a minute. “I can give you a few things that will help, though.” She walked over to her pantry and pulled out a bundle of some herbs and a large bag of salt. “Here,” she said, setting them on the table in front of Jen. “Take this.”
“What is it?”
“Sage and salt,” Dru said. “Spirits don’t like either one. They can’t cross a line of salt and burning sage will purify the house when you’re done.”
Jen looked up at her friend. “Can you at least tell me how do this?” Dru shook her head. “Well, where the hell am I supposed to find out what to do?” she said.
Dru shrugged. “They say you can find anything on the internet.”

Rick wasn’t thrilled that she’d brought Max home, but he softened when he saw much good the animal did for Ellie.
“I’m not really a fan of Dru, but I have to admit, this dog is a pretty good idea. Ellie feels better just having him around and that’s worth the hassle.”
As they were talking, the dog came into the kitchen where they were and let them know he had to go out. “Shit,” Rick said, reaching for the leash. “Now, I have to walk the damn th–” He was cut off by Ellie screaming.

They met her on the stairs, the little girl in tears. As Jen knelt and embraced her daughter, Max tore past her to Ellie’s room, stationing himself in the doorway and barking ferociously. As Jen sat back to examine Ellie, she noticed a dark stain on the girl’s pajama top. She lifted it up and revealed three shallow, evenly spaced slashes across the child’s midriff. Rick had arrived just in time to see the injuries. Jen looked up at him. “Okay, I’m doing this. With or without you.”                 

Rick walked into the den where Jen sat with Ellie asleep in her lap. “So, what do we do?”
“We get this thing out of our house and out of our lives. Right now.”
“I get that,” Rick said. “But how do we make it happen? Is there someone we can call?”
“No,” she said. “We have to do it ourselves.”
“You heard me,” she said. “Dru couldn’t, or wouldn’t, help. But she did say there might be something on the internet. I’ll do some research and see what I can find out.”
“Are you fucking serious? The internet? I can only imagine the crazy ass shit you’ll find on there. You’ll have chanting and burning incense.” He shook his head. “No. Just… no”
Jen couldn’t believe how stubborn he was being. “Jesus, Rick!” she said. “We’re talking about our daughter. I’d think you’d want to do whatever you had to, to keep her safe.” She looked at him. “You said you’d support whatever I decided. Remember?”
“I do,” he said. “And, I will. Within reason. This? This is not reasonable. Jen, we have got to approach this rationally and with a clear head.”
“Well, Mr. Rational, you saw what happened to your daughter. What clear-headed course of action do you recommend?”
Several times, he started to say something, but nothing came out. Finally, he said, “Fuck, I don’t know.”
“That’s what I thought.” She nodded at the sleeping girl in her lap. “Take care of Ellie. I’m going to do some research.” As he headed to their bedroom, she opened her computer and got to work.

They were sitting in the living room as the sun came up, the picture on the table in front of them. Dru had taken Ellie to her house, so they were alone.
Rick looked up from the picture “So, what did you come up with?”
Jen stretched and rubbed her eyes. She had been up all night, poring over the web, looking for anything that might help. “It looks like there are two ways we can go. One, we take to an antique shop and sell it. That gets it out of our house, and we can recoup at least some of the money. Two, we destroy it.” She yawned. “But we run the risk of pissing it off and making things worse.”
Rick cut in, “Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Option One it is.”
“Hang on a minute,” she said, holding up her hand. “Do we really want to take a chance of passing this thing on to someone else?”
“Honestly? I don’t fucking care. I just want this over in the quickest, easiest way possible.”
She sighed. “Rick, I do not want to put this kind of shit on someone else. And, I don’t think you do either.”
“I’m not sure that’s even a possibility, Jen. So, why would I care?”
“After all we’ve seen,” she said, “do you really want to take that chance?”
“Shit,” he said. “I guess not. So, how do we go aout destroying this thing?”
“We’ll burn the picture and submerge the frame in holy water for a while. Then, we’ll take it to a jeweler, and have it melted down. Hopefully, that’ll take care of things.”
“One question: Where are we going to get holy water this early?”
She grinned. “I made some. Like Dru said, you can find anything on the internet.”
“Okay, I guess we’re doing this.” Jen started to get up. “Wait a second,” he said. “Didn’t you say something about maybe pissing it off?”
“Well, yeah. It is a risk,” she said. “But a calculated one.”
“What’s that mean, ‘a calculated one’?”
“It means I got the information about destroying it from a Catholic website and the stuff about it getting pissed off a ghost hunter site.” She stood up. “The Catholics have been doing this stuff for a couple of thousand years. I think I trust them over ghoststalkers.com.”
“Okay,” he said. He picked up the picture and tried to slide the back out of the frame, but it wouldn’t move. “What the hell?”
“Hang on a minute,” Jen into the kitchen and came back with a spray bottle. “Holy water,” she said and began to mist the frame. It popped out of Rick’s hand and fell to the coffee table, shaking violently. They watched for a moment before it stopped. “Maybe we should do this outside,” Rick said.
“Good idea.” Jen picked up the picture and headed toward the back door. As she did, books on the shelf to her left began vibrating as did the curios alongside them. As she took another step, they all flew off the shelf in her direction. She dodged them, but a snow globe hit Rick in the leg an almost took him down. They made it to the kitchen where the drawers and cabinets flung open and emptied their contents. The cutlery they kept in a block on the counter came flying at them. Jen dodged most of them, but a paring knife buried itself in her forearm. She pulled it out, the adrenaline in her system keeping her moving. Rick tried to open the door, but it was stuck fast. Jen took hold of the knob and together, they were able to pull it open. Out in the back yard, she ran to the picnic table where she’d arranged a metal pan and lighter to burn the picture and a bucket of holy water for the frame. The holy water she’d sprayed on the picture earlier must have worked because, when she tried to pull the back off, it slid out. She thrust the photo at Rick, yelling, “Burn it!” as she immersed the frame in the bucket. When Rick set the flame of the lighter to the photograph, a horrific scream assaulted their ears, dying away as the portrait was consumed. As an unearthly calm settled over them, they looked at each other for a moment and then embraced.

9 months later, they arrived home from the hospital. Jen had carried the pregnancy to term and though it hadn’t been as smooth as the one she’d had with Ellie, she’d made it. And, they had a beautiful baby boy as a result. Rick helped her up the steps while Dru and Ellie followed with the baby. It was a moment of pure domestic bliss.

So It Goes

My brother in his element: teaching horticultural practices.

As some of you may know, my brother, Jeff Rieves, was diagnosed with advanced metastatic melanoma a couple of months ago. Earlier this year, we began realizing something was up due to some uncharacteristic behavior and when he finally got checked out, doctors found multiple tumors throughout his brain and body. There was treatment indicated and he started it, but the cancer had too much of a head start and he passed away Monday, May 6th. Though I haven’t said much, I’ve struggled with it ever since.

Writing is one of the main ways I process things. For me, it’s like Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” That said, it feels strange to be sitting down to write about my brother’s passing two weeks after the fact. Honestly, I feel a bit callous having waited so long. I mean, sure, the last few weeks have been pretty hectic for me. I closed out the last semester of my junior year of college, my mom sold her house and we had to get her moved by the end of last week, and I had surgery this past Monday. But this is my older brother we’re talking about, someone who had a huge influence on my life, and I can’t help but think I should have taken some time work all this out before now.
It’s only in the enforced downtime that comes with recovering from surgery that I’ve slowed down and thought about it much at all.

Most of the tributes to Jeff that I’ve seen in the wake of his passing have left me feeling much like the ones I heard about my father: “Who the hell are you talking about? That is not the guy I grew up with.” But that’s normal, brothers have a kind of relationship that’s unlike any other. That’s especially true when they’re separated by more than a year or so (we were four and half years apart). It’s just one of the things that has made processing his death so difficult.

So many things written after someone dies tend to paint them as a saint. And, Jeff had many good qualities. The one that springs to my mind quickest is that he was always there any time I needed him. And, I mean any time. But my brother wasn’t a saint and he’d be the first person to tell you that. He was stubborn, a bit of a know-it-all, and had a latent mean streak – he found great fun in doing things that he knew pissed me off. But, for all of his faults, he was my brother and I loved him. It’s hard to think about a world that doesn’t include him anymore.

That’s been made a little easier due to something I read recently in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s the story of Billy Pilgrim and how he became unstuck in time and met a race of aliens known as Tralfamadorians. A few days ago, I was sitting on the porch reading and came across the following passage:

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist… When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.‘”

As I read that, I realized that this was not a world that didn’t include Jeff: He exists in all those moments before this present one, where he is in bad condition. But those other times? He is still there, teaching, laughing, and being as irritating as ever. So it goes.

I Am Not a Sports Fan

Any sport, really. But, football is the egregious offender.

It’s the Monday after the Superbowl and I’m dreading it. Why? Because I know that I’ll be peppered with questions like, “Did you see that play last night?” or “Man, ________ is GOAT, isn’t he?” And, I’m going to have dip into my bag of ambiguous responses and say “Oh, man. That was something!”, “You know it, brother,” or a few other non-answer answers because I did not, nor will I ever, watch another pro football game. You may wondering why I would say something like this, as being a sports fan is so ubiquitous in this country. It’s simple, I am not a sports fan. I hate sports and think they’re a cancer on the soul of America.

Why am I so bitter? In a nutshell, good ol’ toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity tells men and boys that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” According to the twisted logic of toxic masculinity, the greatest sin that an American could ever commit is losing, even though you learn so much more from losing than you ever do winning. Really, the worst sin is not being a sports fan, especially a football fan, because then you’re a pussy and even losers rank above pussies.

Toxic masculinity led other boys to look down on me because I’d rather read a book than play football/baseball/basketball during recess. So, I played. I didn’t want to, but we all know what happens to kids who are different. As I got older, I went out for a couple of teams in junior high. But my heart wasn’t in it and I never made it past the first cut. Honestly, it was a relief. But there was still P.E. to deal with and guess who teaches P.E. classes? That’s right, coaches. And, coaches can be preeminent purveyors of toxic masculinity. Not all, to be sure. But, with the way toxic masculinity is built into American sports culture, even those who didn’t buy in were complicit to one degree or another.

Later on, after I became a firefighter, I still had to deal with the fucked up ideas about masculinity and sports, because sports figure prominently in hyper-masculine spaces. Only this time, it was mostly watching. Strangely, watching sports in America is second only to playing sports in importance. Somehow, men get ready to watch a game like a teenage girl prepares for her prom (the right dress/favorite team’s jersey, the proper accessories/a football, a foam finger, etc, makeup done correctly/face painted in team colors, and hair/favorite players name shaven in somewhere). And, these guys thought I was effeminate for getting lost in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or “Dune”? I have never understood that. But then, no one ever said toxic masculinity made sense.

There is nothing I’d love to see more than an end to American worship at the altar of sports. But sports are so inextricably woven into the American psyche, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Until it does, I guess I’ll keep dipping into that bag of responses I mentioned earlier so I can answer all those inane sports questions and not have to deal with people wondering why I’m such a pussy. That’s why I dread the Monday after the Superbowl.