October 22, 2005

October 2005, Vol. 4, Issue 10

1. Baby and Winky Reprise by Tenzin McGrupp
Baby wiped away the remainder of her tears and slid the gun underneath the passenger's seat. Just a few minutes earlier she had stood barefoot on a cold linoleum kitchen floor and kept firing... More

2. Langston Alone by BG
I let her go with everything I had left, which is to say, it took next-to-nothing to let her go. It was a moment that was dry, devoid of subtext and utterly clinical - at least on my end... More

3. Toy Box by Gary Moore
This toy box would only hold his best toys, the ones he wanted to take special care of. Anything he wanted to protect, anything he wanted to save, anything he wanted to keep from being destroyed, would go in this box... More

4. The Miracle John by T-Money
Problem was is that I was on a stretch of 131N where there is nothing. No gas stations off the side of the road. No party store. Hell, not even a fruit stand... More

5. Message in a Bottle by HighonPoker
Nine to five in an office environment is supposed to be hell for a cubicle monkey. But I'm not a cubicle monkey. I'm a junior executive. I should know better. And somehow, I do... More

6. The Chase by Vinnie the Fish
I wanted to thank you once again for helping us put a criminal in jail," were the parting remarks from the police officer before we ended our conversation... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Thanks for returning back for another issue of my literary blogzine. This issue features several new writers (HighonPoker, T-Money, Vinnie the Fish, and Gary Moore) who are readers and fans of Truckin'. Let's hope they will all return sometime in the future. BG is back with another installment of his Langston Saga. And I return with a story about some of my favorite characters... Baby and Winky.

Thanks to everyone who shared their bloodwork this month. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. You guys write for free and if I could pay you, I would. Your time and effort is worth more money than I can ever afford to pay.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again. I am grateful that you wasted your time with my site. Until next time.


"The ordinary man is involved in action, the hero acts. An immense difference." - Henry Miller

Baby & Winky Reprise

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2005

Baby sat in the front seat of the car and trembled as she sobbed uncontrollably. Winky's dull windshield wiper blades barely cleared away the late afternoon Seattle rain as he sped off onto the Alaskan Highway with a faintly audible Neil Young song fading in and out on the radio.

"What the fuck you crying about?" Winky shouted.

"I shot," she whimpered for a few moments before she completed her sentence. "I-I-I shot Moses' dog!"

"Good!" Winky screamed. "Fuck Moses and his stupid dog!"

"You're not angry?" Baby timidly asked.

"Of course not, Baby," he said as he brushed away a tear from her cheek. "That prick had it coming. And you know how much I hate pets. Especially those chic hybrid dogs. Who the fuck cross-breeds pugs with beagles anyway? Moses' fuckin' dog was the ugliest mutt I've ever seen! You did this world a justice by ridding it of another ugly hipster pet."

Baby wiped away the remainder of her tears and slid the gun underneath the passenger's seat. Just a few minutes earlier she had stood barefoot on a cold linoleum kitchen floor and kept firing until Moses' dog stopped moving. Seven bullets later, one found its way into the door of the refrigerator while six were lodged in the body of the poor dog.

A simple drug deal gone bad had ended up in a case of canine homicide. Moses had tried to sell Baby and Winky a sheet of bad acid the month before. They didn't know it was bunk and had sold the entire sheet to a group of aging hippies making their way to Burning Man in a renovated school bus that looked like a giant banana. Upon their return, the hippies demanded all their money back.

Winky was pissed. That wasn't the first time Moses had fucked them over. He’d screwed them on a Canadian marijuana deal after crossing over the border in a kayak and smuggling in three pounds of British Columbia Super Skunk. Moses had shorted them several ounces and he still owed them. Moses had also stolen a pair of Baby's dirty underwear at one of their parties and held them for ransom. He said he would give it back for $200 and only if Baby and Winky would let him watch them have sex while he jerked off and sniffed Baby's armpit.

Winky tracked Moses down at his Mother's house and confronted him while he sat in the kitchen in his boxer shorts, eating a bowl of Froot Loops. Moses pulled a small pen-knife on Winky and Baby pulled out the gun. She pointed it at Moses' barking dog.

"Drop the knife or I shoot your dog!" Baby yelled.

Moses hesitated for a moment and then he heard the first shot. He quickly dropped the knife into his cereal. By the fifth shot, his dog had stopped barking and Moses began screaming. Winky grabbed the only thing of value he could find nearby -- a brand new Ron Popeil Showtime Rotisserie. He almost went for the juicer, but settled upon the Rotisserie because he always wanted to cook his own chicken.

The two dashed out the back door as Moses looked at the pool of blood collecting on his Mother's linoleum floor and screamed, "You killed my dog, Baby! Now Moses is gonna kill you!"

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Langston Alone

By BG © 2005

I let her go with everything I had left, which is to say, it took next-to-nothing to let her go. It was a moment that was dry, devoid of subtext and utterly clinical - at least on my end.

It's ridiculous in a way to use two simple letters, "IT," to refer to the singular moment of my adult life when everything stopped swinging, spinning, or twisting itself up in my head, but there it was. I had known for months that she had been cheating on me, I even knew with whom it was happening, not that I knew the guy. It was enough to know, and if I wasn't retreating from her steadily before that point, it was happening then. Steadily.

I had even broken through from "I miss you" to "I'll remember you" weeks before I told her I was leaving. As a matter of fact, the exact words I used the day I left were, "I'm leaving now." I spoke them calmly, softly, and without adornment. She returned to me a look which at that instant I couldn't read. In her eyes was some mixture of puzzlement, understanding, relief, sadness, and joy, the quantities of which were fluctuating by the second. Despite my confusion, she had never before been so nakedly honest with herself in front of me, which should have depressed me even further.

"I'm leaving now."

"I know... What do you know?" It was a legitimate question. I knew about Scott, knew about the cover stories her friends were providing, knew about the emails and the instant messaging. I knew he professed to love her, that she was steeling herself for the moment she felt right about leaving, and that for six months and probably longer she thought I was oblivious. I knew she had misread my seeming ambivalence.

"Enough. Scott. Everything, I guess. I can't keep this going." I wasn't taunting her with the knowledge, and actually I never did. I was resigned, accepting. Every ounce of vitriol I’d had six months ago when I overheard something I shouldn't have--"I'll tell him I'm out with Kim"--had either been spent or buried, totally alone.

"What exactly do you know about Scott?" She was looking for a fight, one I wasn't about to give her. I was done, I knew enough that I wouldn't trust her again, and knew it was time to go.

"I know enough. Look, I signed a lease on a place and..."

"You what!?! What the fuck Langston?" She was boiling, which was completely in character for her. She wanted to be the one to have things set, to walk away first. It wasn't in my machinations to trump her on that effort, it was simply the point where time and depression had passed the point of silent resignation and had moved me mentally straight into avoidance.

I sighed. I was tired. "I've been moving in slowly over the past couple of weeks, and..."

"Couple of weeks? Goddammit Langston, I knew I couldn't trust you." Another phrase, just trying to bait me into the middle. That was Filet Mignon on a string, but I wasn't hungry.

"I've got what I need, you obviously haven't missed what I've taken so far, and I loaded up the rest tonight. Our lease here runs out end of next month. Rent's paid, and I've left you a check made out to Two Men and a Truck to help you move. It should be plenty. Everything left in here is yours." She was searching me quietly, trying to find something to build on. I could see her run through the options, seeing if she could taunt me into an argument, cry me into shared tears, or run the guilt-trip from her old Catholic school playbook.

"Fuck you Langston."

"Good luck Marnie, I'm sorry this didn't work out." I turned for the door, stopping to grab the duffel bag at the end of the couch.

"Fucking pussy. Yeah, run away! You're no man! Why the fuck do you think I've been fucking Scott for almost a year now? You couldn't give me..." I never turned around, shut the door behind me, and climbed into my car feeling just horrifyingly empty.

Should I be crying? Pounding the dashboard with my fists cursing the fucking slut that ruined my life? I didn't know where people found those moments in their life, where passion was the only motivating factor driving their actions. I remember my grandfather's funeral, Italian, from "The Old Country." I sat stoically next to Marnie as she dabbed tears from her eyes. I saw my great-aunts, enormously sturdy women built for the men of the iron mines they loved and outlasted, throw themselves on the mercy of God with insurmountable rage in one instant, only to be shaken to their foundation, knocked prone with their weeping jags of sorrow in the next. I used to tease my grandfather about his mob ties, an absurd notion considering his three decades hauling iron ore from the depths of the earth in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. My dad, his son, had passed when I was young, so unofficially I became his son by proxy. We talked every week, I brought him down for holidays, and he quickly became the only relative of mine Marnie could stand.

I loved my grandfather, and felt guilty I wasn't sobbing and trembling, screaming and cursing, something to show I loved him like his sisters did. That I always would.

I never found that inside of me, and I wasn't crying now. I pulled out of the driveway of the duplex my wife and I had shared, and never again came within two blocks of the place I once called home.

BG is a writer from a small hamlet in Western Michigan.

Toy Box

By Gary Moore © 2005

The Toy Box was blue and white and sat patiently in the corner of Leonard's bedroom. Starting at the floor, it came up to the waist of ten-year old Leonard. It was half as wide as Leonard was tall and was as deep as his arm, bigger than a sailor's steamer trunk. The sides were bright ocean blue, fresh with a new coat of paint. The front was white, also with the faint smell of fresh paint. The white top had hinges on the back so that Leonard could lift it up and put anything inside. Toys, though, was the intention. A place for everything and everything in its place, Leonard's mother would say. This box was a place for toys because on the front, painted in the same ocean blue set against the white paint, were the words "TOY BOX." Between the words was a sailboat done by hand and with great detail.

It was quite a toy box.

Leonard wondered what to put in it. This toy box would only hold his best toys, the ones he wanted to take special care of. Anything he wanted to protect, anything he wanted to save, anything he wanted to keep from being destroyed, would go in this box.

He didn't have many toys. He had wooden cars lined up on his shelf waiting for someone to drop the flag so they could race. On the shelf below was a squadron of army men complete with tank and airborne units. His books and comics were on the dresser. On his bed sat his stuffed bear.

His mother called him for school, time for him to leave.

The walk to school started quietly and slowly turned worse as it went on. The closer he got to school, the more kids came around. The more kids that came around and joined the daily school pilgrimage, the more risk that Leonard's taunting would begin. Leonard would shuffle quickly, kicking up dirt with his worn out shoes. His over-extended ears holding up over-sized glasses. Dust settling into his shaggy, unkempt hair or falling onto his shirt, which was likely to be the same one he wore the day before.

In class he would do his work and take his lessons and try desperately to disappear and not do anything to draw attention to himself. The ridicule from his peers would soon follow with jokes about the clothes or the glasses or the gap in his teeth. Other kids had nice clothes or looked better but Leonard didn't care so why should they?

"Leonard, you ain't stupid so why do you look stupid?" they would ask.

"Leonard, get away, you'll scare off other kids."

"Leonard, quit hanging around us."

"Leonard, you freak."

Leonard loved the walk home. Gradually, the kids would peel off to their houses and take with them the hurt. Leonard would finish the walk as it began in the morning, alone.

That changed in a week, though. Leonard's sister, Margaret, three years his senior, would join him for his walk. Margaret had to sit out the first week of the new school year on doctor's orders. She had weak lungs, the doctor said. She can't be running around like other thirteen year old children do. She needs bed rest. She needs quiet. But she was like Leonard's shield. Every boy in school wanted to talk to Margaret. She was every bit as pretty as Leonard was awkward and ugly. As the other kids joined their walk to school, Margaret's book sack was always taken care of by another boy. Margaret always had someone to talk to. He friends waited for her at the door of the school. Leonard loved it. Sometimes he pretended they were waiting for him, too.

On the playground at recess or after school, Margaret was like a guardian angel for Leonard. Nobody picked on him because then Margaret would come down on them. She would march up to a boy and grab his collar. Gritting through her teeth she'd say: Stay away from my brother, you hear? And they would, because everyone liked Margaret and if she didn't like you, then nobody did. Such was the power of Leonard's beautiful older sister.

On days when Margaret's lungs got weak Leonard would run home to see her and tell her about school and bring her the work from her teachers. She'd ask how his day was (fine) and who he talked to (not much of anyone talks to me). For Leonard, she was the only reason to come home.

One Friday, the trip home from school was especially brutal. Leonard arrived back in his room crying. Two older kids had roughed him up, bent his glasses when they’d knocked them off his face. His ears were swollen and red from being pulled from his head. His hair, nice and neat part long gone, hung in his face, caught in his tears.

It was then he decided to put his Toy Box to use. One squad of Army Men went into the box, ten of them. They would go. They would go into the box and wait for orders. Leonard opened the box and put them inside. The box was laughably huge for this small task, able to hold thousands upon thousands of plastic men. But, these ten were the first. Leonard closed to top and traced the sail boat with his fingers. Sailboats can go anywhere.

Mom called him for supper. Dad was home and he wanted to eat.

Dad worked at the bottling plant. Every morning he took the bus. He left before Leonard was up and got home after Leonard's walk from school. Every day, Dad would say, I'm up before any of you even think about getting up. I work hard for this family. I get treated worse at home than I do at my job. That's when things would get bad. A bad day at the plant meant a bad day for Leonard. A bottling plant where men drank beers straight off the line meant a bad night for families. If luck was watching, Dad would pass out listening to the ball game on the radio. If Leonard were really quiet in bed, he would hear his father snore in the kitchen as if giving off an all clear signal. No beating tonight, the signal said.

Sometimes, luck took the night off. That’s when Leonard got the switch, or the belt, or the stick. Once it was for schoolwork, once it was for disrespecting Mom, once it was for having bent his glasses.

Margaret never got it. Leonard was happy enough to take the brunt of it for her. Take it to save her breath. Mom usually stayed in bed.

The following Friday before school, Leonard went to retrieve his rogue squadron of Army Men and found them missing. The Toy Box was empty, as cavernous as it had began. Leonard was sure the men had been in there. He lined them up standing in formation before closing the lid, sealing them in darkness. He lifted the box looking for a false bottom or a knothole or something. There was nothing. The bottom was as strong as oak. He left for school with his Army Men missing in action. Dad must have taken them as punishment for something. Maybe Margaret was playing a joke.

On the walk home from school Margaret told him she wouldn't joke about his toys and take them just for fun. She didn't think dad would take them, either. Mom might have thought he had too many toys and took some. When he asked Mom, she said she didn't know where they went.

Margaret was missing more and more school which meant Leonard faced winter with more lonely walks. He found a new route to take where he saw fewer kids. At recess the kids would make fun of the hole he had worn in the toe of his shoe or the way his glasses sat crooked on his face. The glasses didn't even help him see very well anymore.

Margaret was in bed more now, too. Her breathing strained sometimes. She still did her work and took care of her chores around the house. She even took care of many of Mom's chores, like cleaning up from supper or sweeping the porch. Leonard could tell she was getting worse, though. With what, he didn't know.

For Christmas, Santa brought Leonard two large trucks to push around the floor and ram into things. Without thinking, the trucks went into his Toy Box, which hadn't hosted any toys since the Army Men had gone missing. New trucks for the new box, Leonard said.

And so he was nearly devastated when he went to play with his trucks the next day and found them, too, gone. The box was as empty as the day it was made. Leonard slammed the lid shut and pulled the box away from the wall looking for the trucks. Nothing behind the box. Obviously nothing was underneath the box. They were gone. Someone was up to tricks and playing him as a fool. Leonard's tears splashed down on the white top.

His father couldn't have taken the trucks. He wasn't even home at Christmas. He slapped mom and took off into the night, drunk. No time for truck stealing. His mom was crying in the den. Margaret listened to the radio and fell asleep, not before kissing Leonard good night though.

One night during the following month, an experiment was put forth. The subject would be Leonard's fearless teddy bear. At night, with his mother in bed, Margaret in her room and dad stationed by the radio drinking beers and listening to the ball game. Leonard gave his fearless teddy bear a hug and put him in the box just as he had the Army Men and the shiny new trucks. He shut the lid, then went into the hallway and waited. He sat against the wall, listening to his father snore over the ball game announcer. Faintly, he could hear Margaret's wheezing in her sleep, with each breath, her lungs weaker than the last. Through the crack of his mom's room, he could see her asleep. Leonard sat on the floor, staring at his bedroom door.

This would prove nothing was wrong. When he crept back into his room and took his bear back out of the box, it would at least ensure that someone in the house was taking his toys. There was a thud in the kitchen, followed quickly by a larger, deeper thud. His father, passed out, had fallen to the floor.

Leonard pushed open his bedroom door and flipped the light switch. The Toy Box, looking shiny and bright as the day it was painted, sat waiting in the corner. Leonard's teddy, no doubt, was waiting inside. Leonard didn't know why he was creeping up on the box. He was fooling himself, thinking the bear would be gone. Margaret wheezing in bed, Mom in her bed, Dad on the kitchen floor, and all the time Leonard was watching the door. Nobody was in or out. Nothing changed.

Leonard lifted the lid and looked inside. His teddy bear was gone. There was only darkness inside the Toy Box. Leonard turned out the light and went to bed, completely frightened of whatever was taking his toys. From his bed, he could see the sailboat on the Toy Box, just barely lit up by a streetlight faintly shining through his window. Sailboats can go anywhere, Leonard.

Margaret was hardly coming to school anymore at all. With each day she missed, the gumption increased in Leonard's classmates. Every day was met with pushing, headlocks, visits to the Principal, spitting, kicking, biting. Leonard didn't fight back. Leonard wanted to hide. He wanted to get sick like Margaret, lie in bed all day and discover where his toys were going. In between taking work to and from his ailing sister, getting taunted and bullied at school, getting taunted and beaten by his father, Leonard managed to lose half the toys he had.

The slot racers disappeared into the box. The entire crew of Army Men, followed by their equipment, tank, and plane on separate occasions, all disappeared into the Toy Box. Two of Leonard's books were gone. He made the mistake of trying his History assignment in there, hoping that whatever was taking his toys would, for some reason, finish his homework and leave it for him. No such luck for Leonard, and his homework was tardy.

Leonard's last light went out when Margaret's young lungs gave up. In her bed while Leonard was off at school, Margaret slipped away from the living. Leonard was pulled out of Math class and sent home, making the long walk by himself. The Principal didn't say it, but Leonard knew what was wrong. He had taken his last walk home with Margaret. She was dead. From now on, every walk would be alone. His classmates would probably leave off for a week, then slowly forget and the ridicule would resume.

It was the slowest walk home Leonard had ever taken.

At the house, his mom was in the rocking chair weeping. Two doctors were in Margaret's room. Leonard peeked in to look at her. She looked like she was still asleep. Leonard wanted to wake her up and get her the school assignments from her teachers. He wanted to cry to her about the kids at school. He wanted to cry to her about dad. Instead, he watched as they carried her out of the house.

Leonard stopped going to school. He would leave and come home, but spend the day camped under a bridge reading comics or skipping stones along the creek. There was no more use of going to school. Leonard's glasses were cracked in addition to being crooked. He could barely tune into the teachers over the constant stream of taunts and violence.

When the school called home and his parents found out, his father gave him the worst beating he had ever gotten. The belt to the back, the screaming to the ears, the terror, and a beer bottle to the head. Leonard's dad sent him to his room to think about school and how good he had it. Leonard's dad said he would be in to finish with him after the game. The last thing he said was not to come out at all that night.

Leonard passed his mother's room on the way to his. He could see her sleeping inside. He tiptoed in and kissed her cheek. He shuffled off to his room, passing Margaret's room, left the same as the day she was carried out of it. Her pillow still was shaped to her head.

Inside his room, covered in darkness, sitting on the bed and looking at the sailboat on the Toy Box, Leonard missed Margaret's wheezing. He missed his toys. He missed not understanding why anything was.

Leonard lifted the lid and looked inside the Toy Box. The trickle of light from the streetlight ended at the floor. Inside the Toy Box was pitch black. An entire universe could be in there. Anything could be in there.

Leonard quietly set one foot inside the box. He felt floor. Scared, he put the other foot in. It would be cramped, but he could fit. Did that even matter? He sat, and then curled up in lay on the bottom of the box. As he lowered the lid, the streetlight outside his window went out.

Gary Moore is a writer from Virginia. He owes library fines for late books to every county library system in Northen Virginia.

Message in a Bottle

By HighonPoker © 2005

As I sit at my desk, I stare blankly at the paper in my hands. My mind wanders to my recent pursuits of subterfuge. It's all I can do to stop from screaming at the top of my lungs. Nine to five in an office environment is supposed to be hell for a cubicle monkey. But I'm not a cubicle monkey. I'm a junior executive. I should know better. And somehow, I do.

It all started about eight months ago. I was filling out an interoffice envelope. You see, these envelopes, they have a bunch of lines. You fill out who the contents go to with their floor number, drop it in the basket and wait for the mail room guy to deliver it to Suzie Secretary one floor down. It might get to her in 30 minutes. It might bet to her in four hours. If I walk it down, it'll be there in five minutes. But that's not how things are done in the Office. Then Suzie Secretary needs to send a document to Annie Accounting, so she crosses out her name, and writes Annie’s name and floor number on the next line. And the process repeats.

So I'm looking at the manila interoffice envelope and I see that there was a space left blank, between Suzie and Oscar the Office Manager. I see this and the blue Bic in my hand starts moving on its own. "B. Clinton, Floor 50." My keen sense of intrigue crosses out the Prez with a red Paper Mate, and suddenly President Clinton is just another person in the chain of interoffice mail. This is my one minute vacation from the doldrums of the Office. That's where it started. But it's not where it ended.

Future envelopes were sent to K. Annan, 49. T. Wood, 43. A. Kournikova, 69. Soon, interoffice mail was received by "This Place Sucks, 24, 7," "The Revolution is Coming, 11pm," "Watch Out for the Thought Police, 0." These one minute vacations. My own personal benefits program.

It's nothing really. No one notices anyway. No one notices anything. When I discovered that the Office got the new Zip gel-tip pens, no one noticed when the first five pens went missing. The pens were the most obvious item to take. Blue, black, red. Green when I got the chance, as they were gone the quickest. When I finally timed out the stock room guy's visits, they went even faster. Three boxes of green pens stashed in my bag. Twelve boxes of green pens stashed in my desk at home. Thirty-six boxes of green pens piled on the floor in my bedroom. I don't even write in green.

I have staplers and heavy duty staplers. I have more stenographer pads than I can count. I have enough office paper to cover the walls of my apartment and every other apartment in my 17-story building. White, pink, yellow AND pale blue. Then Sal the Supply Guy complains, half to himself, about how these people eat up all the supplies. It isn't me, I reply. What is wrong with people, I ask. He nods in acknowledgement. People are crazy.

I realized I could compound the damage by moving outside of the supply room. Bob Bigwig brings his morning paper into the john every day at 9:45 AM after his leisurely breakfast. Imagine how he felt the first time when there was no toilet paper. Imagine how he felt when there was no toilet seat. I heard his yelp as I washed my hands. I don't usually wash my hands when I'm done with my business, but I didn't want to miss the show. People are crazy.

The copier was the hardest. I had to come in after hours with a rolling suitcase. One of those silver hard shell ones. The doorman to the building didn't seem to notice. No one notices anything. Just another attorney or stock broker stopping by the office before a red-eye flight to his next business meeting. My power drill was able to reduce the machine enough to fit it into the shell. My hammer took care of the stubborn parts. I rolled the shell out, with a grunt as I passed the doorman. He didn't hear me through his iPod. He didn't see me through my suit. The copier/printer sits in a pile in the corner of my "home office". It's still in pieces, like its own category of deconstructive office art. All part of my own personal benefits plan.

After a while, I knew I didn't need any more of the supplies. I kept taking, sure. But I needed something else. Some more time. I took it. Time sheets are easy to fake. As long as you are billing, accounting doesn't care. As long as sheets are on time, the office manager doesn't care. As long as they get paid, the partners don't care. Five hours on filing documents is no problem when the client is paying $875 for the task. Reviewing documents for eight hours isn't a problem for $1400. But what I am really doing is filing NEW documents. One reads, "Help. I'm in the storage closet. They won't let me out." Another reads, "By the time you read this, I will be gone." Still another reads, "If you want to live, get out now." The new message in a bottle. They should come to shore in months. Meanwhile, I’ll be filing.

When messages got dull, I took strolls in the nearby park. Or $1750 for "meeting preparation," while I'm at the mega-bookstore, reading a book and drinking an overpriced iced tea. The tea, my cover charge for the five hours that the bookstore becomes my own personal reading room. Need time off. Take it. Its all part of my own personal benefits plan.

This is what I do. I waste time. I waste supplies. I waste money. I am the embodiment of corporate greed, corporate waste and corporate apathy all rolled into one ball of human flesh. Otherwise, I'd be something much worse. A cog in a machine. A bomb ready to go off. When they realize that its me, when they realize that all of the supplies disappeared in my direction, or that my timesheets are filled with inanities, when they realize this, I know what will happen. But that is fine too. Because there are thousand other companies just like this one in the city. There are tens of thousands in the state. There are millions across the globe. All waiting for my waste. And this company, this one right here. They'll offer me a glowing recommendation, because this is big business baby. This is making money by avoiding lawsuits. This is fear of libel or slander, fraud and litigation. This is protecting company secrets, like that clients are billed for work not done, or that a quarter of the secretaries sleep with a half of the partners, all of whom are married. This is my personal benefits program. My one man golden parachute. Anarchy in the Office. Bedlam in the Workplace.

I sit at my desk and stare blankly at the sheet of paper in my hand. The interoffice envelope from which it came reads "I have found you, 1" in blue felt tip, crossed out with black ballpoint, all above my name and floor . The sheet of paper enclosed therein, a filed document: "We will be free." It's all I can do to stop from screaming. The revolution is coming. The troops are amassing. I'm closed off in my office, door shut, lights out. The sunlight peaking between the blades of the blinds behind me. I have been found. We will be free. Our own private benefits package. Our own golden parachute. I'm ready to jump.

HighonPoker is a New York City attorney by day, and low limit poker player by night.

The Miracle "John"

By T-Money © 2005

It was a sunny Monday morning as I was driving to the Northern Michigan area near Traverse City to do some technical work at one of our offices. The trip itself is about a three-hour drive. I travel quite often so three hours is usually nothing.

This morning would be different. I was recovering from a weekend of drinking at a bachelor party. I believe my diet over the weekend had consisted of 90 percent beer and 10 percent wings and pizza. So I was definitely feeling the effects Monday morning.

It started off okay. After an hour I stopped to fuel up and grabbed a 20oz bottle of Aquafina (I believe to be the official water for post drinking) and a 16oz of coffee with cream and sugar, of course. My head was pounding but I was doing okay until something in my stomach shifted and a sound emerged from the center of my gut. Oh yes, it was time to purge!

Problem was is that I was on a stretch of 131N where there is nothing. No gas stations off the side of the road. No party store. Hell, not even a fruit stand. So I'm starting to feel the pressure. I have my ass half off the seat and my legs are straight as a board as to maximize the clenching effect. After a few minutes, sweat starts rolling off of my forehead. I start putting plans into place on what I will do after I shit my pants.

"Where will I buy clothes?"

"How will I get in a store to purchase clothing covered in my shit?"

After a few minutes longer I realize time is short. I know the area well and I figure I have about 15 more minutes of drive time left before I get to my destination. By this time my legs are shaking from keeping them completely tense and I am drenched in sweat. "It's time to speed."

I step on the gas and before I can accelerate to "I have to shit" speed, I come up on a car. That car is a police car.

"You have to be shitting me!" I exclaimed to myself.

I ease back and decide on Plan B. Plan B came to me quickly: pull over and drop trou.

I pick the first road I see and turn off. It is a dirt road with an old baseball field on my right side. Looks as if it hasn't been used in years. I make another turn and head towards the field. I pull along side the field where there is also a small light blue building. I stopped the car beside the building and just around the corner a small miracle appears. A door that says "MEN."

Un-freaking-believable! I swear a light from the heavens came down over that door as angels were singing.

I ease out of the door. Any sudden movement now, a cough, a sneeze, could trigger my colon, the contents of which I have worked so hard to keep in. I've come too far and I am too close for that to happen now. As I gradually walk to the door the thought occurs that this door could be locked!

"Oh please, Oh please do not be locked."

I make it to the door and grab the handle and pull it down and push. The door swings open like the pearly gates. From the time I get through the door and to the toilet, a mere second has passed at the most, I'm sure. I do remember the site of the toilet before I set my ass down. The porcelain was completely stained in an obvious crap color. Plus there was no water.

As I sit down I release the hounds. My ass explodes as large amounts of watery shit shoots out my ass into the toilet. I am now dripping with sweat. It must be about 90 degrees in here. My shirt is literally drenched and my legs are still shaking. The smell is horrific. But I am relieved. I sit there in a moment of clarity stepping through in my mind the series of events that lead me to this point. Then another small miracle happens. I notice a roll of toilet paper sitting on the handle used for handicapped people to hang onto when doing their business. Again, Angels singing and bright soft light.

I am ready to try and clean my ass up as much as I can when I stand up and the sound from my gut comes again. I immediately sit down and proceed to another round of shit shooting from my ass. When this rounds finishes I am drained. Completely soaked and still shaking I can only laugh to myself. I begin to think, what if this had happened in the car, and laugh out loud.

The second try was the charm and I was able to clean up. The toilet however was now destroyed. I attempted to flush but the handle only fell loosely. Shit covered the back of the toilet and had made quite a pile at the bottom. You know when you used to play at the beach and make sand castles? Remember taking wet sand and letting it slowly seep from your hand into a pile? This is the image I’m faced with. "Is that a mushroom?"

The smell was really bad at this point and I did not even attempt to wash my hands.

I started thinking to myself how lucky I was as I started towards the exit and stepped out into the sunshine. Ahhhh... fresh air. I turn the corner towards my car and practically run into a police officer. Yes! A police officer. I can only imagine what he was thinking seeing me come out of bathroom looking like I did.

"What are you doing here?" the police officer asked.

"Uhhhhh, I had to use the bathroom, sir," I say.

"Do you know this is private property?" police officer says.

"No," I mumble.

"Well it is. I was in front of you when I saw you pull off this road. I knew there was nothing but this abandoned field," the police officer says.

I had nothing to say. Still in shock. He then walks to my car and looks through the windows, checking out the inside of the car. We then have a short discussion about where I am going and what I do.

I thought I was off the hook until he starts walking towards the bathroom. "What the fuck!" I'm thinking. The officer walks in and before the door is even closed I hear "Holy Shit!"

No kidding, I'm thinking, and I start laughing. I couldn't stop the laughter. The officer was yelling something else but I don't remember what it was. He exits the bathroom and I am nearly in tears because I can only imagine him walking in and seeing that un-godly site of a toilet and what I had done to it.

"It doesn't flush," I say through my laughter.

"No shit it doesn't flush, it's abandoned," he replies.

I then went on to explain the entire situation with the bachelor party that weekend and my stomach... etc.. Believe it or not he actually begins to laugh and proceeds to tell me a story about a cop buddy of his who shit himself while on patrol.

I was able to leave and that was that!

T-Money is a traveler from the Midwest.

The Chase

By Vinnie the Fish © 2005

"I wanted to thank you once again for helping us put a criminal in jail," were the parting remarks from the police officer before we ended our conversation.

It was Friday, September 23, 2005 and the alarm clock radio read 8:03am. Elizabeth and I had had a conversation the night before as to how we should start getting up early before work to get at least 30 minutes of cardio in to start getting back into shape. I crawled out of bed, found my running shoes, threw on my clothes half awake and set out towards the Starbucks that Elizabeth manages on foot which is a good hour power walk away. The morning started out just like any other Friday: grande iced coffee no classic with two pumps of white mocha from Starbucks, run some errands, quick trip to the DMV, then back to the apartment before we head out for the day.

As we arrived at the apartment, a 20-something guy walks towards us wearing a black t-shirt and pajama bottoms looking visibly distraught and clutching his cell phone. He asked us if we live in the building and begins to tell us of the events of his morning that have already put him on Tilt. He lives two floors above us on the 3rd floor and arrived home around 6:30 this morning after working the graveyard shift. While he was at home asleep, someone had broken into this apartment and stolen his laptop before he chased the burglar out of his apartment. He asked if we saw anyone running around the complex and to keep an eye out. Oddly enough we'd heard from one of the apartment complex employees that there had been several car thefts and burglaries in the complex within the past few months. The management had also sent out a disturbing memo to all residents concerning safety precautions when entering/exiting cars and apartments.

Worried that we, too, may have been burglarized, we searched our apartment for any signs of a break in, if anything seemed missing or out of place. To our relief nothing was different from how we'd left the apartment that morning. While in mid-conversation with Elizabeth, I happened to be looking out the window towards the parking lot that separates our building from the next. I saw a man running at full speed away from the complex entrances in between one of the buildings carrying a black laptop bag or messenger bag with him. Before I had a chance to speak I made a mad dash for the door and ran out after the guy thinking that this odd behavior made him the guy who had broken into my neighbor's apartment.

As I ran into the street parking lot, I saw a maintenance guy on a golf cart on his walkie talkie with a body expression that could only mean that he was trying to locate the guy who just ran past him at the end of the block. I yelled out asking him if he was looking for a guy running this way as he replied yes. I told him I saw him run this way toward building J and he relayed the message to the other workers. As we circled the buildings in that general direction at the back of the complex, the number of people searching for this guy grew to six maintenance employees and five Pleasanton police officers on foot and in squad cars along with me. When one of the officers approached me in his squad car I told him I had seen the suspect run past my apartment window in the direction of building J and gave him a very detailed description of what the guy looked like: white male, 5'7" - 5'10", spiked light brown hair, 160-180 lbs wearing a grey t-shirt with a large red design on the back, light or tan colored denim jeans and carrying a black laptop bag or messenger bag. I also told him I had spoken to the guy whose apartment had been broken into and that's why I reacted so quickly after the suspect.

After circling the building three times I noticed that the maintenance workers began stationing themselves in places around the buildings to keep an eye out for the suspect. I looked behind a few bushes and dumpsters for any sort of hiding place that this guy may have either stashed the laptop bag or may have holed himself up. As a cleaning van approached for an industrial vacuuming company who contracts work for the complex I noticed something moving on the second story balcony which leads to the front door of an apartment in building J some 20 yards away. The suspect was hunched over looking at the van when I noticed the grey t-shirt he was wearing with the red designed logo on the back. I yelled out to the other maintenance workers and police that this is the guy right here, "He's over here! I see him, he's over here!"

Worried that he had been identified, he started to walk down the balcony stairs, saying that he’s the not the guy, and that he has no idea what I'm talking about. I noticed he was wearing red basketball shorts t and was without the black bag; however he was still wearing the easily identifiable grey t-shirt with the big red logo on his back. I started to walk towards the guy as he broke out into a run further into the complex away from the posse now approaching him yelling to just stay put, not to run. When he began running at full speed I had no doubt that this was the guy everyone was searching for, but I could not ascertain if he had any weapons on him like a knife or gun.

Feeling the best that I could do without putting myself in harm's way was to chase after him, point out his location to the police and flush him out of hiding, much like a hunting dog working the brush for birds on a hunt. Given the fact that he had a five-second head start on me, I was able to catch up to him as he turned the corner of the next building deeper into the complex. When I turned the corner after him, now 15 feet away, our eyes met as he tried to hide within one of the apartment balconies on the first floor. Knowing that this hiding place wasn't good, he fumbled back over into the street as I yelled to the squad car at the end of the row, "He's over here!" He once again yelled to me that he's not the guy and that he didn’t do anything as he tried to run in between the buildings. What he didn't see around the corner was one of the maintenance workers named Juan heading towards us down that corridor in the direction he was running. I yelled out, "He's coming your way! He's coming right at you!"

Before the suspect knew what happened he ran face first into Juan who tried reluctantly to get the guy to stop running and stay where he was. As the suspect began to struggle I knew that I had to act fast, or else Juan was going to be in a world of hurt if the suspect had a weapon. As Juan tried to block the suspect from running past him he tried to grab him around the arm and body while protecting himself from harm. As the suspect began to stumble over his own feet, I ran in to assist Juan with apprehending the suspect by jamming my knee into the guy's body, tackling him and laying on top of him holding his arms down so he could not get away. Juan was then able to get the guy into a head lock with his right arm now securely around the suspect's neck from behind as I pinned him down with my entire body weight. In the back of my mind I could hear my mom’s voice warning me to be careful that this guy could be a drug user and have a hypodermic needle in his pocket, but for some reason the need to subdue him was far greater than my own need for self preservation.

The suspect began to yell for help and plead that he didn't do anything and that he was having trouble breathing, hoping for some way to escape. A few short minutes later a Pleasanton police officer was on scene where I handed him the suspect's left arm as he performed the standard arm twist to subdue him and snap on the handcuffs. As both Juan and I released the suspect to the police officer, the maintenance staff and I exchanged high fives that we had caught the burglar. Shortly after, I pulled one of the police officers away and told him the details of which I was aware. I lead the officer to the second story balcony where I had seen the suspect hiding in building J and the ground floor balcony that he tried to hide in when I was chasing him. I also mentioned that I thought I saw him drop or toss something thinking that he may have been ditching drugs.

On the balcony we found a green jacket stuffed on top of a pair of tan denim jeans and a black back pack underneath the clothes with white lettering that said “Hurley” on the front. This was similar to the pants I had seen him wearing and the bag he was carrying as he passed by my window. The officer decided to leave the evidence in place and allow the other officers to continue the evidence gathering for the events that had unfolded. Feeling confident that the police had everything they needed, I told one of the maintenance workers my apartment number and to come get me if they needed anything else. I headed back to my apartment and told Elizabeth the story in complete disbelief of events on what had started out as such an ordinary day.

With the adrenaline pumping through my veins like a freight train, I decided that I couldn’t sit still in the apartment and that I had to work it off as I cleaned out the back of my car with this new found initiative. Having put this off for several weeks, it seemed like the only thing that I could do to help calm myself down without driving Elizabeth crazy with my anxiety. While cleaning the car I noticed a fire truck and an ambulance heading towards the direction in which we had apprehended the suspect in the back of the complex. I also saw the cute blonde in my building, whom I later learned was named Ashley, walk out with a Pleasanton police officer to his squad car and drive away most likely to identify the suspect. Shortly afterwards one of the maintenance guys came by the apartment as Elizabeth and I were outside talking and said the police wanted to get my information at building J.

I headed back to the balcony where I saw a detective holding a digital camera, taking photos of the evidence spread out on the ground. I gave my information and statement to the officers going into great detail about the events that had unfolded that day as calmly and clearly as I could. I specifically mentioned that I had seen the suspect wearing the jeans that had been found on the ground, carrying a black bag and the easily identifiable t-shirt run past my window before I ran after him. I also mentioned that I flushed the guy from his hiding place and thought I saw him ditch some sort of object, maybe drugs, a wallet or some sort of evidence, as he tried to scale the small balcony wall when I turned the corner chasing him. When I concluded my testimony to the police officers I noticed the officer to whom I had given my initial description of the suspect in the squad car was walking up the stairs with Ashley to identify the evidence. The officer approached me with a big smile on his face and shook my hand calling me "Deputy" which I thought was very amusing.

Just as I was leaving, I overheard Ashley say to the three officers on the balcony in complete disbelief that the now dirty backpack being photographed was her backpack and inside was her laptop which appeared to be undamaged. A sense of relief seemed to fall over her as she now had everything that was stolen from her returned... well almost everything. Sensing that the stressful situation was over in an otherwise uncommon happy ending I joked with one of the officers, "I guess it's a good thing I had my running shoes on."

The one thing that can never be replaced in these situations is the sense of protection or security that signifies home to each and every one of us. This sense of security was taken away from every resident in the complex upon hearing that there had been a series of thefts in our small community. Although the items taken could easily be replaced, that sense of security is something that leaves a lasting impression for years to come. Looking back now at the split second reaction on my part as I saw the out of place stranger running through the complex, the decision to chase after him was fueled by an internal need to fight back against the faceless burglar(s) who had stolen this sense of security and fight back against the fear knowing that I had the ability to do something right here, right now with this situation.

Later that day I ran into one of my neighbors who works at the front desk of the apartment complex. He summed this experience most appropriately, "Congratulations, but that was really stupid of both you and Juan."

I replied, "I know... trust me I know. As an IT Guy I spend my entire day thinking about everything that could go wrong and planning for each one. However, if I had it to do over again, I would make the same decisions in a heart beat. That's just who I am."

Vinnie The Fish is a bass fisherman from Pleasanton, California.