2:44 A.M.

Old, gray dreams.

Concrete feet,

sinking dark between oceans.

Colors but shades;

similar but different.

Grays.

 

Darker down,

absorbing sound

in cold indigo pressure

where neither sight, nor smell, nor taste, nor sound can reach.

 

Darker down,

hands fighting stiff, liquid blankets, tightly wrapped and anchored deeper in the black.

There visions emerge,

bright but only halfway whole,

like broken memories;

interrupted signals;

scratches in the disk, jumping, lurching, never closer.

Never really there.

 

Blackest depths,

feet and hands still bound and mouth still muffled.

Punches thrown and never landed,

curses of the deepest deep,

where nothing lives but that which died

and in subconscious sleeps.

Muted Sounds

We float.

Or perhaps we sink.

I suppose it all feels the same.

In dreams we are immune from these sensations,

at once cemented to our hidden fears yet free to be ourselves.

And my eyes open to yours,

looking back and forth from the pillow to where the fingers thatch themselves in permanence.

cover1

Weight of an Empire Excerpt (and a little behind-the-scenes info)

As you may know already, I published a book last fall called Weight of an Empire. I consider it my first serious work. It was the first novel I completed, and it was quite the experience. Well, I wanted to give a little insight into the process of writing the book. Also, another excerpt is below.

 

First, listen to this while you read the excerpt:

 

 

Excerpt:

I woke early that Monday morning when the light came on in my room.

“What the hell?” I mumbled, rising and holding my hand above my eyes to block the light.

“There you are,” he said. I opened my eyes and saw Riley Tiergarten standing beside my bed. I rubbed my eyes. “Nope, it ain’t a dream,” Riley said. He chuckled. It sounded like a dry cough that came from his upper chest.

“What are you doin’ in my house?” I asked.

“Nevermind that. You know you got a fine ass woman in the other room? Why the fuck are you sleepin’ in here?” He sat on the futon and tilted his head to the side as he looked at me. He had a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun across his lap. Bits of snow melted into the shoulders of his heavy old Army field jacket. It smelled like stale cigarette smoke. Riley’s nose was red and he wiped it with the back of his gloved hand and sniffled loudly while he stared at me.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“Well… I came to pick you up,” Riley said.

“For what?”

“To go for a ride.” He wore a calm, contented expression on his hairy face.

“Where?”

“Down the road a little.”

“I ain’t goin’,” I said.

Riley stood and took a breath. He pointed the shotgun at me and said, “Lucky for us you ain’t got a choice.”

“So that’s it, then.”

“That’s what?” He had a wry smile stretching across his face.

“I figured you’d come around eventually.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

He sniffed and nodded. “But you ain’t gonna sucker punch me this time,” he said. “Come on. Get up.”

I surveyed the room and rubbed my eyes. The closet was behind me, and in the closet was a small safe where I kept a little 9mm handgun. I used to sleep with it under my bed, but I always told myself I was being paranoid. So it went in the safe in the closet. I looked at the closet and then at Riley’s shotgun again. “How’d you know where I lived?”

“Ted showed me one day.”

“And where’s he at?”

“Don’t worry about that,” he said. He wagged the shotgun at me and said, “Come on.”

The longer I was awake the more I began to panic. This is really happening, I thought. I tried to stall him until I could figure a way into that closet. “How’d you get in?” I asked.

“The back door was unlocked.”

“Bullshit.”

“Not bullshittin’,” Riley said.

“I always lock it at night.”

He smiled. “Or not.”

“Son of a bitch,” I mumbled, sighing and rubbing my face.

“So come on,” Riley said, wagging the shotgun again. “Get up.”

“All right.” I nodded. “I’ll come quietly as long as I know she’s all right.”

He scoffed. “She’s still sleepin’. So is the baby. Now come on.”

I stood and scratched my head, still trying to figure a way out of it. I found a mental rut on the idea of stalling him so then I said, “Ain’t it supposed to snow?”

“It’s snowin’ already,” Riley said. “That’s why we’re gonna do this now.”

“Well, what is it?”

“You just need to come on.” He showed me the ends of the barrels again.

“Take it easy,” I said, showing him my palms. “It’s all right. I just need to get dressed real quick.” I kept my hands up and pointed at the closet with one of them.

“You’re fine like that.”

“I’m only wearin’ sweatpants.”

“You’re fine like that.” The muscles in his face relaxed and the smirk disappeared as his eyes seemed to darken. He held the gun steady and took a few slow steps to the side, angling around me until he stood between me and the closet.

“All right,” I said. “I’m fine like this then.” Helplessness twisted itself in my stomach and climbed outward with nothing better to do than spread for the sake of spreading. He stood in the center of the room and waited for me to leave first, repeatedly jerking the barrels of the shotgun toward the door.

He followed me out of the house, and I peeked down the hallway toward Allison’s room along the way. The door was open and I could see her sleeping in the bed. At least he didn’t do that, I thought. We went out the front door and into the dark and cold. The falling snow was thick and steady. It was already ankle deep. I hugged myself as I walked, bending forward against the falling snow and clenching my teeth with each frozen, barefooted step.

Teddy’s truck was parked on the shoulder of the road near the house. The engine idled quietly. The lights were off. It was barely visible through the thick haze of falling snow and hanging darkness. When we reached the truck the parking lights came on and Riley ordered me into the back seat. I paused at the back door, shivering and cradling my elbows in my hands as I pushed my shoulders to my neck. I looked at Riley. He stood at the front of the truck with the shotgun. The gun, and his sleeves and gloves were drenched in the warm glow from the parking lights on one side and empty and black on the other. The falling flakes flashed past the half-lit shotgun. The thought of running came and went, bursting up from the abyss in my stomach and then dissipating faster than the falling snow. Then, from the shadows above the ambient yellowish light a throaty voice snarled.

“Get the fuck in the truck.”

 

This scene in the book is the beginning of the end – the buildup to the climax. The song is “The Rat” by a local band called Dead Confederate.

And here’s the album featuring “The Rat”: The entire track list is excellent.

 

The significance of the music and that scene is that this whole story began with a mental image of some serious shit going seriously bad in the middle of a snow storm. From a brief mental image the story unfolded into who’s who and why’s this and all that. It consumed me for a short time while I was working another job, capturing my mind in idle night-shift hours. That was in 2009. The story evolved a bit during a three month mental obsession. I never really wrote any of it down back then, instead simply cataloging imagery and quotes in my mind for apparently no other reason than to take up brain space. One morning on the way home I drove up a rise in the land at dawn, just as a black car coming the other way entered my field of view. Something about the aesthetics of that moment clicked, and I logged that away for memory, too.

Then I went on with life, quitting one job to work another, quitting the other job to go back to school and finish my English degree. In the spring of 2013, when I was almost finished with school, this story came back. I didn’t really bring it back. It just sort of… returned. And it was different; more complex. Unusual. It meandered through my mind with its hands in its pockets, slowly telling me the story in parables and brief explosions of imagery.

So I started writing it in February of 2013. Started from the beginning – the bonfire scene. New characters arrived. Pard showed up and began narrating what was originally going to be a third-person psychological thriller – slash – tragedy about Teddy. Riley showed up then, really pushing hard against Pard’s natural ambivalence and cowardice. The whole damned thing changed. The style changed. The voice changed. Before I knew it I was over 40,000 words in. When it was all finished that May, I stepped back and read through the whole first draft one time. All that remained the same from the original 2009 idea was the mood, and then that scene in the snow at the end. But even the climax changed a little bit – the motivations were tweaked and the sequencing changed with the added characters. The way I told it changed as well, because we see it all happen as Pard saw it.

Well, anyway, while I was writing this thing I used that Dead Confederate album to get in the mood. I listened to “The Rat” every day that I wrote, sometimes several times each day. The music captured the mood perfectly. And now you know some shit you didn’t before – shit that probably doesn’t do you a lick of good in life… but maybe you’ll check out the book or help spread the word a little bit. You know, ‘cause you got insider knowledge and shit now.

Thanks for reading.

370tourney

It’s March Madness! Have You Filled Out Your National Speculation Championship Bracket Yet?

Have you seen the 24-hour coverage of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappearance? Well, apparently what we know is that we don’t know. But why not speculate anyway?

Or Maybe This happened.

Oh, we figured THIS out! Or did we?

Look, whatever. We don’t know. What I do know is that if I had a loved one on that missing plane I’d be pretty sick of the media speculation circus. This is for all those goobers on TV who can’t shut up about their great ideas for what happened to this plane, which was filled with real people.

 

Down at CNN headquarters, somebody apparently started a tournament pool:

370tourney

Over at Fox News, a breakthrough discovery was made by the hard-working folks behind the scenes:

Where's370

The History Channel has reportedly started shooting a new episode of Ancient Aliens:

ancient-aliens-david-wilcock

And MSNBC is leaning forward… until their heads are in their rectal Morpheuses:

red-pill-blue-pill

You see, while everyone else took the Red Pill, the media (yes, the whole lot of networks and bobble-headed narcissists therein) has opted for the Blue Pill.

All I’m asking is can we just give it a rest? It’s okay to not know and then hope for the best. Right?

Milgram Street

Cool air comes steady past the metal wind chimes hangin from the eave.

We can hear them from here – all the way across the empty street.

Just me and Ronnie,

And some half-lit cars and some half-lit houses

In the bronze haze of sulfur street lamps.

Just sittin.

 

Ronnie’s a cop, you know?

A good guy.

Tells himself that somebody’s gotta do it,

And then he tells me the same thing as we sit there and waft.

The beer is nice and cold.

Bottles.

 

I remember back when we was kids and Ronnie used to leave the party early.

He used to drive home drunk as fuck, too.

And I bring that up just when a car passes by,

The bass rattlin every inch of that monoxide-soaked hoopdie,

And Ronnie just scoffs and says, Man, that was a long time ago.

 

Well, that got us talkin about the law.

Had me askin, what about this, or what if they passed a law that said this?

You know.

 

And Ronnie says, Orders is orders.

That’s all he says about it – says he don’t make the laws,

Like that’s apart from my hypothetical shit, you know?

He can’t participate, you know?

Like that shit’s separate.

 

It goes on for a while, us out there talkin.

Listenin to them wind chimes go…

 

It ends with Ronnie pissed about somethin I said –

Somethin about morality or freedom or some other shit I barely understand anymore.

So then I just look at him and go, to hell with it I’m goin inside,

But before I go in the house I turn to him and say:

 

I guess you gonna need a shovel.

 

He cocks an eyebrow and leans back,

Head all tilted like a dog.

You know?

 

So then I clarify:

 

But you can’t use mine.

DeSc

Deployment Scribblings Part Fifteen

There must be some big ass breakfast chef somewhere in the universe making omelets like IHOP just opened up 100 new stores in the Pleiades. And there he is, floating like milky fog and visible only from a million light years away, with pancake batter smeared on his face and apron, and bits of egg shell fused to the backs of his busy fingers.

And he’s just there. Breaking the shit out of some eggs.

“You can’t have an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” he says.

Over and over again.

But the sci-fi fog man doesn’t exist. The egg-breakers are sitting around polished tabletops and exchanging clichéd bullshit or arguing about other people’s lives, their personal levels of hardship in life being limited to those days they had to wear a tie for twelve hours… for “charity.”

Folks who don’t know a damn thing about reality.

Folks who look at people like eggs. They don’t want the broken ones, or the ones that have been fertilized. They don’t want to spend too much on them either. Not that they cook their own eggs anyway. Hell, they don’t even buy them anymore. Nope, got other folks to do all that. Time to sit around and wait for the omelets to get made. Then, after breakfast, maybe some golf. Maybe some meetings. Got important shit to decide. Gotta figure out how to make more omelets… after golf.

Life’s a bitch. But not for them. For the eggs.

They know what’s best for you because. And you eggs – get in line and don’t be cracked or fertilized. Can’t be too old, either. Nope. Too small? Can’t use you. Wrong color? Click “delete.” We got omelets to make. You know, greater good and all that. Shit you eggs can’t understand.

So, I’m moved to purpose by something I read. I think he’s right on.

The veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are the noble savages of the day. They’re great for photo ops and all that, but boy are they scary!

Pariahs.

Be thankful but be wary. These folks don’t love the vets like they pretend they do. When they lose their appetites for omelets they will blame the eggs.

They will blame the eggs.

 

All right. Something I found in the old notebook struck me, and it’s only one little sentence scribbled on a blank page. I don’t know what the point was, or if this was a passing thought intended to be part of a bigger work or what… but I liked it. Here:

Many sins begin as whispered words.

Pretty good, huh? Wish I knew what the hell I wrote it for… or about… oh well. I’m a bad egg.

My yolk is black. Or maybe they wish it was. Got no shell left now, anyway. Laid bare. Take a bite. I hope it’s spicy.

 

I also found another poem in there. It’s simple. Nothing special about it, but that’s probably what I appreciate most. I stayed within my abilities here. Wrote what I wanted to write. A lucky one. An unbroken egg. black and empty inside. Bare, supple meat outside.

 

We sit under this night,

holding hands and thinking about life.

I look to the sky and see the reflection of your smile.

mirror

The First Rule of Crossfit

Brandsley Douggar whipped his ragtop Jeep into the parking space violently. He always liked to make the suspension go as the tires squealed into the open air and mixed with the trail of Avenged Sevenfold songs blaring from the Jeep’s speakers. Brandsley didn’t even like Avenged Sevenfold, but someone told him he looked like the singer once, so he’d been blaring it from the speakers ever since.  Plus, the music seemed to match his cool new bandana. It was black with white skulls on it.

He hopped down from the Jeep and let the soles of his red-with-gray Virbams fingershoes slap the blacktop. A gentle wind came through the lot and teased the intentionally-ripped openings in his sleeveless shirt. He stood for a moment and stared proudly at the abandoned automotive repair shop turned crossfit gymnasium before him. Then he clapped his hands together and said, “Yeah, brah!” before pumping his fists at waist level and strutting toward the tan aluminum building.

Inside the gym he found Tracy and Sloakum doing their warm-up stretches, bracing on or pulling and pushing each other like circus contortionists. They had been going steady for a while now. Their shared interests included organic almonds and multi-colored shin splint socks. Today Sloakum was wearing his favorite green and blacks; Tracy the all reds.

“Sup Brahs!” Brandsley said.

“Sup Brah!” Sloakum replied, lying on his back with his feet in the air.

Tracy waved with her wrist. She stood holding Sloakum’s ankles at her shoulders as she pushed them forward.

“That’s good,” Slaokum said with a forced contented sigh. Tracy stepped back and watched as Sloakum sprang to his feet. Then all three of them exchanged high-fives.

“Love the socks, dude!” Brandsley said to Tracy.

“Thanks, Brands!” she replied.

They high-fived again.

“So what’s your WOD, Slow-bro?” Brandsley said, crouching down and apparently stretching his groin. Or perhaps it was to hold in a poo.

“Fran!” Sloakum replied proudly. Then he and Tracy high-fived again.

“Awesome!” Brandsley said. “I just did Fran yesterday.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, Brah!”

“What was your time?”

Brandsley stood and shook out his shoulders while cracking his neck for dramatic effect. “Three twenty-two, Brah!”

“Cool.”

“Yeah.”

“Awesome!” Tracy said.

High fives.

“I did Fran last week in three seventeen,” Sloakum said.

“Awesome!” Brandsley replied.

High fives.

“I did it the other day in three ten,” Tracy said.

“Whoa!” Brandsley said. He held is hand up for a five but then pulled it back and said, “Syke! I really did it in three flat.”

“Awesome!” they said in unison.

High.

Fives.

That’s when the speakers in the gym came alive with Alice in Chain’s The Rooster. The three friends all turned their attention toward the office where the music controls were held and saw Tony coming toward them in his customary shirtless with bicycle shorts look.

“Sup Brahs!” Tony shouted. Then they all yodeled along with the opening lines of the song. Once the lyrics started they stopped singing, however. None of them knew the words.

“Love this song!” Tony said.

“Yeah!” Brandsley agreed.

“Our favorite!” the other two said together.

“What’s your WOD, Tony?” Brandsley asked.

“Oh, Brah, I’m just chillin’ today,” he replied.

“Whaa? Did you pull your groin again, Tow-Bro?” Brandsley always seemed to bring that up.

“No, no, nothing like that.”

“Well then let’s WOD, Brah!”

Tony shook his head. “I already did Grace earlier.”

“Whaa? When?”

“Before anybody got here.”

Then Tony realized they were all staring at him, confusion gripping the corners of their mouths and eyes tightly. So he shrugged and said, “What?”

Brandsley frowned and said, “Brah. You worked out by yourself?”

Tracy put out a pouty lip and said, “I’m sorry you had to do it alone.”

Tony smiled. “It’s cool. I have stuff to do later so I just got it done when I had the time.”

“Well, what was your time?” Sloakum asked.

“I don’t remember.”

They gasped.

“Dude!” Brandsley shouted.

“Check your facebook!” Tracy said. “Maybe you posted it and forgot?”

Tony shook his head.

Sloakum collapsed to the floor, gripping his chest. “I feel Brah-trayed,” he growled. Tracy consoled him there as he wept.

Brandsley put a hand on Tony’s shoulder and shook his head. “Brah, Brah, Brah… don’t you remember the first rule of crossfit?”

Tony smiled again and said, “I’m just messing with you guys! I’m doing Fran!”

Brandsley breathed a sigh of relief before falling into a fit of laughter. Sloakum sprang to his feet and pretended to punch Tony. They were all laughing and high fiving like that for an hour afterward. They eventually got around to climbing ropes or beating tires with hammers or some stupid shit like that.