April 04, 2009

April 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 4

A new season, a new issue of Truckin'...

1. Brownstone by Paul McGuire
Nothing existed for her before 1944. She was very vague with that part of her life during the war in Europe. She left behind something so incredibly horrifying that she wanted to erase those connections to that past. The vastness of the Atlantic ocean was far enough distance for her to feel safe enough to establish roots and start over a new life in Brooklyn... More

2. An Essay . . . Or A White Paper To Depravity by May B. Yesno
I watched Sister for some period, observing the color ebb and flow through her throat and those portions of her face I could see, as she bent over the papers. I knew she was just from the showers and spending time with Mother, and could imagine the warm glow burning in her veins. My pulse sped slightly... More

3. Grassy Knoll by Milton T. Burton
Oswald's third shot came about a half second before mine did, but he missed. It was then that I realized what I'd been hearing wasn't no motorcycle. Those two shots coming that close together are what screwed up the investigation and caused all that damn fool crap about the echoes and the acoustics in Dealey Plaza. It was my shot that got him, though... More

4. Red No. 5 by Betty Underground
It had been close to 6 years since he had pulled that custom made emerald ring of the pocket of his jeans, picked the lint off it and woke me from the dead of sleep to ask me if I would promise to spend a big piece of forever with him. A non conventional proposal but they were the exact words I wanted to hear. Forever was something neither of us believed in, but we both knew that we wanted to look at each other's faces over the newspaper for a ton of Sundays... More

5. The Sandstorm Scholarships by Johnny Hughes
When Henry was eleven, his father wanted him to spend time with Jiggs Monroe, the 90-year-old former foreman of the Foster Ranch. Jiggs insisted on sitting outside the ranch house on folding chairs in a raging sandstorm. Henry's two older cousins fled to the house. Jiggs said, "You can judge a man by a sandstorm. We'd watch a young cowboy, and see how he acted. We'd see if he complained. You don't complain. You are tough."... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome back to another edition of Truckin' featuring selections from five veteran scribes. Milton T. Burton shared a conspiracy tale, while May B. Yesno penned a sultry story, and Betty Underground returned with the first part of a series of stories about... colors and other things. And what's Truckin' without a story from the legendary Johnny Hughes? His topic, this time? Sandstorms. Oh, and I almost forgot about a short story that I penned about Brooklyn.

Please spread the word about Truckin' by any means necessary. You will increase your karma tenfold by telling your friends and family about your favorite stories. The writers write for free so they only compensation they get is the knowledge that people are digging their blood work.

And as always, please let me know if anyone is interested in being added to the mailing list or perhaps you are interested in writing for a future issue.

Before I go, I have to sincerely thank the writers for exposing the soul to the world. Thanks for taking this leap of faith with me.

Be good,

"It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. - Joseph Campbell

The Brownstone

By Paul McGuire © 2009

In the summer of 2001, I crashed with my grandmother in Brooklyn for a couple of weeks after my wife kicked me out.

My grandmother was a very small yet feisty woman somewhere from the Benelux countries. We never really figured out where. She spoke English with a Flemish accent and was fluent in French, Dutch, and even German. Grandma never discussed her past, nor displayed a picture of anyone from her previous life. Not a word or a peep.

Nothing existed for her before 1944. She was very vague with that part of her life during the war in Europe. She left behind something so incredibly horrifying that she wanted to erase those connections to that past. The vastness of the Atlantic ocean was far enough distance for her to feel safe enough to establish roots and start over a new life in Brooklyn, where she met my grandfather. By the end of their first date, he asked her to marry him. They were married on their second date.

Grandma lived in a brownstone in Carroll Gardens on an idyllic block around the corner from an old Jewish bakery. On some mornings, the aroma of rolls and pastries could be smelled as far away as the subway five blocks away. My grandma lived on that street for as long as I could remember. One of my earliest childhood memories involved running down the tree-lined street towards Grandma's brownstone.

When I was a kid, I used to think that my grandparents owned the building. It turned out that my grandfather was like every other working class stiff.... humping a shitty job down in docks to pay rent to a shyster slumlord from Flatbush who bitched and moaned when you asked him to fix a leaky pipe.

My grandfather died in his fifties after a nasty heart attack. Despite the loss, grandma carved out a lively life for over two decades before her first stroke. Her health deteriorated and everyone in the family took turns looking after her. My sister Peg lived nearby in Park Slope and Peg ended up as the primary caregiver, something that she annoying reminded me every time we spoke. When my wife kicked me out after the credit card fraud incident, my sister suggested Brooklyn as the proper place to regroup. At the same time, she wanted me to watch after grandma while she went on vacation to Disney World with her husband and kids. I really didn't have a place to go and Peg's manipulation job worked. She successfully guilt tripped me into moving into the Brownstone for the summer.

* * * * *

I like dogs, but I hated Venus.

"Venus! Down! Now!" she screamed.

Venus is a feminine name suited for a loving lap cat that curled up on you and purred when you stroked its back. Yet in my world, Venus was an angry mutt that tried to bite my hand and/or cock off every time he was within a half a block of me. That dog had to piss more times than a bunch of sorority girls at nickel beer nights, and the owners constantly walked Venus.

The ornery canine belonged to the old hippie couple who lived in the brownstone next door to grandma. The husband was some sort of semi-famous horn player. He often gave after school lessons to students. Whenever I stopped by grandma's after school, we could hear the wailing sounds of kids who desperately needed more practice. He offered me a 50% discount on any sort of wind lessons; sax, trumpet, flute, and even tuba. I wanted to play guitar, all I ever wanted to play, but he did not offer up those lessons so turned him down.

My grandfather never liked the horn player too much. The old guy was a bit of a racist and used to complain about the loud late night parties when the horn player and his musician buddies would hang out in the backyard and drink and smoke and joke around.

"Those damn negroes are smokin' reefer again!" he used to shout out the window according to my mom.

My uncle Dom used to randomly blurt that out during family functions and everyone would burst out in laughter. It was our twisted family's way of remembering our beloved racist grandfather.

Venus was a mean dog and I always peeked out the front door to make sure he wasn't taking a whiz or a dump before I left the brownstone. I had stooped to a new low. I was 34 years old and afraid a dog while living with my grandmother who smelled like Ben Gay as sat on her couch and watched reruns of Dallas and Family Feud.

Grandma lived in the top two floors of a three-story brownstone. A 40-something guy lived in the basement apartment. He seemed like a nice guy. Quiet. Kept to himself. Perfect serial killer material. He always avoided eye contact and wore heavy jackets... even in the summer. Judging by his garbage, he ate a lot of pizza and I gauged that he was a NY Post reader by all the old copies that tossed out. He accumulated a week's worth of newspapers before he threw them out. The whiskey bottles? Empties appeared every third day. Her preferred Jack Daniels, and on the rare occasion, a bottle of cheap white wine. He kept odd hours but usually during the afternoon hours, I heard the echos of a typewriter. Old school. He was a writer of some sort and never quite figured out what.

My grandmother had a habit of going through his garbage... with his permission of course. The guy in the basement read a lot of magazines, or at least, he subscribed to a bunch. He always left them out for my grandma. Of course, grandma horded all of them yet barely read them. The three biggest arguments that I had with her involved throwing out the magazines. She insisted that she keep them because you never knew when someone else might need to do a school paper so something.

"That's what the internet if for Grandma," I said. "What are you really going to do with Esquire anyway? And do you actually read the Economist?"

During my morning dumps, I grabbed a stack of magazines and headed into the bathroom. During those twenty minutes, I thumbed through old magazines. Sometimes he had a couple of suspicious items like hunting gear catalogues, International Male magazines, and copies of the Christian Science Monitor.

Grandma put him on her "queer suspect list" like my cousin Frankie. She said that she had never seen him with a woman, so she had to suspect the obvious. A couple of nights before July 4th, I caught him with a call girl. My cell phone worked the best up on the roof and it was also the best place to smoke a blunt. I climbed up to the roof one evening admiring a batch of fireworks that a group of kids shot off. A black town car pulled up in front of the brownstone. A petite Asian woman stepped out and rang his doorbell. The car pulled off and twenty minutes later, it reappeared. The Asian woman walked out of the brownstone and hopped back into the car. My grandma's neighbor had a penchant for Asian Delights in-call service.

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.

An Essay . . . Or A White Paper To Depravity

By May B. Yesno © 2009

Although the steps were light, I tried to reach the door of the bedroom without alerting anyone, my mother stood at the entrance to her bed chamber, waiting.


"Greetings, Mother."

"You wish something?"

"I have not seen you this morning, nor as often in recent days."

"I know, I have been intentionally avoiding you. I have been thinking of ways to improve our relationship."

"What sort of success have you had?" I inquired as I eased further into the room, toward the bed.

"There are several... possibilities, but it is too early to determine if you would accept them. You will be first to know. That I can assure you."

Soft laughter.

"Have you discovered what happened with Sheila, near her home?" I asked, as I removed my shoes.

"Without you, she is returning to hunting male companionship, Son. She cannot seem to settle on one, and bounces around, much to her mothers despair." Her robe slides to the floor.

"And her sister?" I stand to loosen my belt.

"Little has changed with that family. Little will, it seems." This time the soft laughter is more throaty, as she assists with the belt. "Then, little has changed there in generations, I would believe."

"You think someone will supplant my influence?" My trousers now slipping free.

"It is possible, but it will change Shelia not at all. Whoever she selects will remain a captive in her imagination." Her fingers caress my neck.

"You are far more critical these days, Mother." I trace light patterns along her sides and beneath the outer curve of breasts.

"I would term it... realistic, Son." Her hands now moving to shirt buttons.

"I suppose one could call it that." I respond, moving thumbs gently across swollen nipples, eliciting a soft sharp intake of breath. "What have you determined of your Ralph?"

"He has left town and passed through your aunt's town, on his way to his home town. It would appear he has, umm, detractors here, and around the area, but they failed to move quickly enough." My shirt glides over my finger tips to plop softly on the floor.

"Whatever happens, it will not affect us," I replied, gently lifting the straps of the sheer night gown for her to shrug them free.

"That is true." She running hands beneath waist band of my shorts; cupping, fingers caressing.

"You no longer seem that concerned about Sheila's sister. Are you still opposed to her coming here?" I tenderly lift the bodice of the night gown over her breasts, bending to tongue areola. The gown gliding down slim hips, to pool about her feet.

"I have reconsidered, Son. As you had said much earlier, it may be for the best that she comes here. The very best." We sink upon the bed, turning toward each other, moving closer.

I nod. "I'm glad to hear that."

"That way," as we meet, and I penetrate, her folding warmly about me, "you can judge for yourself whether she represents a danger or an opportunity for both of us."

"And what if she is both?" Beginning the slow, soft rhythms toward the explosive relief, her hands stroking the small of my back.

"You are the male," Mother gasps in delight. "You must decide, as always."


I eased through the door into the private bedroom, closing it behind me, and smiling at Grandmother, who looked up from the desk and the sheet on which she had been writing.

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

"As I ever have, Dear Grandson." She sipped from the goblet and replaced it to the desk. "You have that thoughtful look."

"I would like you to read this." I said, handing my Lover Grandmother two sheets of paper and a series of photos.

She took them and read, frowning well before she had finished. "She is making herself look older than she is? Or new, bad, habits taking her place? Deliberate? How has it taken so long to discover this?"

"There were miss-directions and evasions... and we had not watched as closely as we should."

"I like this not. Are you certain this is Sheila?"

"Of that I am certain. I have known her a long time. Her features have not changed, nor her voice. Not her manner of speaking."

"Then she has turned loose of her core, and changes." Grandmother's laugh was sharp, almost bitter. "You exerted a powerful influence."

"Are you sure you are all right, Dearest Grandmother?"

"I am not so well suited to my thoughts as we had hoped. I find myself chill with forbidding. Perhaps you did not pick so well."

I slipped behind her chair, then bent and placing my arms about her, gently. "I prefer the woman I now hold, and nothing will change that."

"I'm glad." Relaxing for a time, resting her head back against me. "There is more."

"There is. She has changed her perception of her Sister coming here. She now seems to encourage the possibility. She also appears excited for the event... and has cultivated new friends - in enforcement, where before she was suspicious."

"Suspicious? As I remember, she was continually angry and spoke abruptly of them." Grandmother tried to conceal the enjoyment she felt slowly running her hand up, along my leg. "Would that she had returned to her old life."

"That could come, they say."

Grandmother shook her head. "A most terrible word play, Grandson." She stroked the area she had been seeking. "Do you think it a mistake that you invited the Sister here."

"I think not. But long-held views are not changed without reason."

"Views, long-held or otherwise seldom change. That is why I ask if these photos of Sheila are really Sheila."

"I would swear it is Sheila."

"Could it be they have turned her?"

"There is no record of that event, and I have searched very well for such."

"Has she acquired one that devotes time to her alone?"

"She is the only one we have invited in, since inception." I sighed. "And now I must be concerned with every word and action."

"As you must with everyone."

"Except with you, for which I am most grateful." I watched her hand move to the zipper of my trousers, and her head turn into the firmness she had been stroking near her cheek.


A light breeze through the open windows billowed the curtains of the dinning room, that Friday afternoon breeze cooler than the warm days of the prior week, but not intemperate. Despite the high clouds, there was no rain, and I didn't think there would given the wind direction. I stood across the dinning table from Sister, looking at the papers which had arrived moments earlier. Sister held another such set.

I watched Sister for some period, observing the color ebb and flow through her throat and those portions of her face I could see, as she bent over the papers. I knew she was just from the showers and spending time with Mother, and could imagine the warm glow burning in her veins. My pulse sped slightly.

As if in response, Sister's head raised, cheeks slightly flushed, on observing my gaze, and the light of promise began to glow deep within her eyes. She spoke, "You haven’t read the message yet, my Dearest man." Half question, half statement.

I held her eyes for a time and lowered my focus to the message.
Dear Mr.____,

This informs you of the confirmed death of your Grandmother. The body was interred in the prison facilities as # _________, state penitentiary. The remains may be exhumed at the families expense at a future date, at the families request. See attachment ___, and ___, for the necessary guides.


State Penitentiary, _____
It had been almost three years since last talking with Grandmother in her bedroom. Much had happened in that time.

Sheila had died at Grandmother's hand. Surprisingly, Grandmother had chosen a public forum, with many witnesses and had made no attempt to conceal herself or escape. She had been taken into custody immediately, waiving all aids to her defense, talking to no one, not even family when we visited at the various facilities.

For many months, her eyes glowed, just as do Sister's now, when Grandmother would see me enter for our bi-weekly visits. Generally speaking, the prison authorities allowed a Grandmother and Grandson the privacy of the conjugal visiting rooms.

When the final waiver of rights to sustain her life were submitted was when the lights failed to appear in Grandmother's eyes.

That was also the day Mother and I moved Sister into the house and our lives. It was a glorious day - we were all at our most fit and the trios lasted well through the night.

Which was why Mother and I missed the scheduled execution.


May B. Yesno is a writer from Fresno, CA.

Grassy Knoll

By Milton T. Burton © 2009

It took me ten years to find him. And the funny thing is, I was never a conspiracy theorist. Even before I read Posner's "Case Closed," I was almost completely sure Oswald had acted alone. But...

The Zapruder film was the fly in my ointment.

Anyone who's had as much experience with firearms as I have is aware that the Zapruder film proves the final shot came from the front. Or at least it does to my satisfaction.

Never mind how I found the old guy. Never mind why a redneck Klansman born eight decades earlier in a little town outside Birmingham, Alabama, was dying of pancreatic cancer in a nursing home in Stovington, Vermont. None of that matters. What does matter is that he talked.

"Why not?" he said. "I'll be dead in six weeks, anyway."

"You were the grassy knoll gunman, weren't you? The guy behind the stockade fence?"

"Damn right I was. And I can tell you exactly what happened, but it won't give you any satisfaction. Nobody is ever going to believe you because the truth isn't complicated enough to satisfy people."

"Why did you do it?"

The old man sighed and moved his wasted frame around a little on the bed trying to get more comfortable. "It damn sure wasn't notoriety, I promise you that. I wasn't trying to make a big splash and go down in history. I really wanted the man dead."

"It was race, wasn't it? The civil rights movement?"

"Hell yes!" he said. "I've been a white supremacist all my life, and I still am. I joined the Klan when I was just sixteen and took part in three church bombings and one lynching. And everybody knew Kennedy was trying to ram the niggers down our throats. I'd just had enough."

"Go on," I said.

"I felt like it needed to be done, and in my own estimation I was the perfect man for the job. I had a highly skilled trade. In a year's time I made about twice what a school teacher made back then. I was divorced and didn't have to pay any child support because we'd never had kids. That meant I had no family obligations and no wife to snoop in my business. I also had enough money to take a couple of weeks off. So I got me a black market Winchester Model 70 in .257 Roberts caliber and fitted out with a Weaver four-power scope. I'd done some work in Dallas, and I was familiar with the downtown area. I drove over there and checked into a motel. I cased the place a few days early and picked my spot. I changed motels a couple of times, ate some good meals, saw a movie or two. Then not long before noon on the morning of the 22nd I drove to that alleyway behind the knoll and parked my car. It was a white Chevy sedan--"

"There were people who saw it," I said, interrupting him.

"Why, hell yes there were. One woman saw me get out of the car with my rifle wrapped up in an old blanket. She told the cops, but they never followed up on it because they had Oswald, and that was enough to suit them. I got hunkered down behind that fence and smoked a couple of cigarettes while I waited. They found the cigarette butts, too, but they explained them away just like they did everything else. Then I heard a lot of cheering, and before I knew it the motorcade was coming. Oswald's first two shots didn't surprise me a bit. Like everybody else, I thought they were a motorcycle backfiring. But I didn't pay any attention to them or anything else but the job at hand. One thing I can say about myself is that I can concentrate even when things are going to pieces all around me. Oswald's third shot came about a half second before mine did, but he missed. It was then that I realized what I'd been hearing wasn't no motorcycle. Those two shots coming that close together are what screwed up the investigation and caused all that damn fool crap about the echoes and the acoustics in Dealey Plaza. It was my shot that got him, though."

"What did you do then?"

"I rolled the rifle back up in the blanket, threw it in the trunk of the car, and drove off. Nobody gave me a second look. After dark that night, I stopped on the Interstate 35 bridge over Lake Dallas and threw the gun in the drink. I spent the night in Texarkana and then drove on back to Little Rock the next morning. And that was that. I just went back to work and kept my mouth shut."

"I see," I said. "Any regrets?"

"Ha!" he said. "But I learned something."

"What was that?"

"You can't fight history. You can't slow it down, either. In fact, I think I may have speeded it up a little."

"How's that?"

"Lyndon Johnson come in and he was better at getting things through Congress than Kennedy ever thought about being. He rode on that big wave of sympathy and guilt over Kennedy's death and got all those civil rights bills passed a lot sooner than it would have if I'd just left well enough alone."

"So do you see yourself as an instrument of history?"

"Hell, no. I see myself as an old man dying far from home among strangers. How did you find me, anyway? I never said a word to anybody about what I'd done."

"There were always rumors that the Klan was involved. I did a lot of research, that's all. Some of your Klan buddies had put two and two together way back then and had a pretty good idea you had something to do with it. They talked to me."

"The Klan," he said contemptuously. "A bunch of nobodies doing nothing. I wish I'd never gotten tangled up with them."

"What was your connection with Oswald?" I asked.

He looked at me like I'd grown a second head. "Ain't you heard nothing I've said? There wasn't any connection. You're bound to have read as much about that poor fool as I have. A man would have been a complete idiot to have conspired with him to rob a candy store, let alone kill the President of the United States. Hell, he couldn't even drive a damn car."

"Then how--"

"There wasn't no 'how' to it. It just happened that way. Coincidence. Just a couple of guys in the same place at the same time trying to do the same thing."

"You mean?. . ."

"That's right, sonny. Now you know the truth, but nobody will ever believe you. Not in a million years. Two lone nuts!"

The expression on my face must have really been something. He began to laugh. He laughed and laughed and laughed. I turned away in disgust and went through the door. As I walked down the corridor away from his room, I could still hear his mocking laughter ringing in my ears.

Milton T. Burton was born and raised in East Texas. He has been variously, a college history teacher, a political consultant, and a cattleman. He have published two crime novels with St. Martin's Press, NY titled "The Rogues' Game" and "The Sweet and The Dead."

Red No. 5

By Betty Underground © 2008

We had been fighting for weeks. Finances, forgetting to put gas in the car, not hanging up a towel. You name it we were fighting about it. Years of togetherness and long extended separations had us uncertain about the future. I had a case of the "mean reds". Carcinogenic, like Red No.5. Tugging and pulling at our relationship.

It had been close to 6 years since he had pulled that custom made emerald ring of the pocket of his jeans, picked the lint off it and woke me from the dead of sleep to ask me if I would promise to spend a big piece of forever with him. A non conventional proposal but they were the exact words I wanted to hear. Forever was something neither of us believed in, but we both knew that we wanted to look at each other's faces over the newspaper for a ton of Sundays.

After so many years, his mother was getting squirrelly about us not finally marrying. Didn't make her look good at the country club to have her only son living in such sinful quarters. We had decided to make it official but dilly-dallied around getting plans in place. I bought a dress. He bought black socks. That was about it.

The coke trips no longer engaged us. They were driving me to fits of rage over him withdrawing during the trips. My left nasal passage so over used I couldn't snort air through it, let alone crystalized dust. My right passage was clear. The line slid up through my nose. The cold pain tightening around the bridge of my nose. My eyeball, then the front of my head. Like brain freeze, 7-11 slurpy style. By the time the drip started I was already high. A mix of clarity and creativity not matched by any other drug. The slide down stopped quickly in it's tracks with another snort. My head only slightly light. My thoughts grounded in conviction and conversation flowing uninhibited.

Words nailing his ego to the wall. Grinding his love for me down to a bloody stump. I was relentless. Trying to uncover a reason, any reason to end the relationship. It had run it's course. Nearly 10 years and I was ready to be free of it. His mother breathing down my neck. Pissing on my ideals and trying to morph me into the daughter-in-law she wanted. Not accepting me for who I am.

He hated it even more than me. Her judging him for being a writer rather than the lawyer she had asked for. For dating a woman in combat boots, rather than a priss in pearls. Tattoos on us both. Scratching our way out of her perfect vision of our life.

We could not fight her. We fought with one another. The anger infested our home. Cockroaches laying eggs and scattering around in the night. In the words on his pages. In the darkness in my mind. I was afraid. Afraid of being caught in this world that was not mine. We sucked the life out of each other towards the end. Our love wrung out. Dried stiff in the sun of the Southern California, like a Chamois Cloth.

The drugs covered up the inevitable. We needed help. We needed to find a way to talk to each other again. To resolve our fears, our pain, our anger. We were stuck. In quicksand. Slowly drowning in our own human shit.

One night I raised the catalyst for change high over my head. Gripped tightly in my fist as he sat silently at the kitchen table. Unresponsive to my ranting. I was literally out of my mind and body. My soul standing next to me on the Spanish tile floor watching my actions unfold. Not stopping me. Watching me. Allowing me to put an end to it.

He glanced up from the nothing on the paper in front of him. No thoughts. No words. Silence in the room and on that paper. I remember him raising to his feet in utter slow motion. His eyes fixed on mine, forcing me into stillness with his pure will. He pulled down on my left wrist and peeled my white fingers from the wooden handle. Laying the blade on the kitchen table. Then taking both my wrists and placing them at my sides. Wrapping his arms around me and flooding the room with his breath. Breathing warmth into my ear. Into my heart. Into my soul.

Breathing love back into us.

Betty Underground is a writer from Northern California.

The Sandstorm Scholarships

By Johnny Hughes © 2009
Way out here they have a name for wind and rain and fire
The rain is Tess , the fire’s Joe, and they call the wind Mariah
Henry Foster awoke to euphoria for him: the howls, sighs, whimpers, and groans of a full-scale, West Texas sandstorm. Gusts to seventy miles-per- hour changed the tones and sounds that danced up and down the musical scale. He opened the drapes to welcome the orange-gold glow of the sand in the air. The trees in his back yard were swaying like Stevie Wonder. Henry was known for the millions in oil revenue the Foster Ranch generated, but also for what mean, gossipy folks called his "sandstorm fetish."

This was the day Henry would march through the sand to the English Department to answer questions about the $100,000 dollars a year in scholarships he promised to donate for the "best writing about sandstorms: fiction or nonfiction." This was the fifth year. Three times Henry had given four awards of $40,000, $30,000, $20,000, and $10,000 for short stories, folklore, literature reviews, and what he had called, "personal life experience philosophies." One anorexic, sorority reject made wind chimes a character in a short story and wrote about spousal abuse. She got $30,000 for her first short story, which made absolutely no sense. Last year, Henry had to travel for Sufi dancing lessons in Taos, and gave 13 awards of $10,000 each. Everyone that entered won. He didn't really read all the entries.

The old-Department-Chairman-out-of-power and his bitter gang of four had filed urgent "emails of concern" with the Second Interim Assistant to the Interim Vice Deputy to the Provost about how the vague guidelines for the so-called Sandstorm Scholarships broke many university rules. They realized there were three hundred and twelve administrators between this clown and the Provost, all afraid of donors, even the legendary Henry Foster. The grad students called him "the Sand Man."

Having a rare, hard sandstorm on the day he was to appear at the English Department seemed like a giant omen to Henry, but most things did. Given to magical thinking, he had spent nine years as an undergraduate in the English Department, during a time of spiritual retreats in many states. He studied channeling, self-awareness, aroma therapy, and crystal healing in Santa Fe, fasting, Jungian hynosis, walking backwards, and bowel cleansing in Sedona. He lived in a silent, vegan, sexless, all-meditation Ashram in South Austin, until boredom overcame him. And Henry believed strongly that all this made him a better man, recluse, weirdo, and talk of the town.

Henry had four suits tailor made in Dallas that were sand-colored silk, and fit like O.J.s glove. He always wore one in a sandstorm, with a matching cashmere neck scarf, and some really ugly, bright-orange swimming goggles, and matching soft, foam ear plugs. Henry was very good looking. An eye witness would mistake him for George Clooney's younger brother. Henry had been engaged three times to women who could not bring themselves to believe that God was about to say something really profound, even for God, to Henry at any given moment.

English Department grad students drank Friday afternoons at Cricket's Grill across from campus. A few times, Henry had wandered in, paid all tabs, ordered more hors dourves than anyone wanted, and answered questions in a monosyllable that hung there in the air. Shyness was mistaken for aloofness. One drunken Doctoral candidate's wife cornered Henry for her Oprah-size tale of woe, with her father out of work and facing foreclosure on his house. Later, she put an Alka-Selzer in Henry's white wine.

When Henry was eleven, his father wanted him to spend time with Jiggs Monroe, the 90-year-old former foreman of the Foster Ranch. Jiggs insisted on sitting outside the ranch house on folding chairs in a raging sandstorm. Henry's two older cousins fled to the house. Jiggs said, "You can judge a man by a sandstorm. We'd watch a young cowboy, and see how he acted. We'd see if he complained. You don't complain. You are tough."

Henry believed that and believed in that and had told about a thousand sensitivity group members, life-style coaches, other overweight counselors, and self-appointed Gurus about that in seven states and Cancun, Mexico. When it was his turn to talk, he trotted out Jiggs-on-sandstorms every single time, like patting for a dance.

Corky Hargrove III was a third because his granddaddy, a bootlegger, was called Corky and named his son Corky, also a bootlegger. They lived in Dickens County, near Spur, Texas, and delivered beer and spirits across three sparsely populated counties and about 3000 square miles. The laws all knew about the Hargroves, and knew they were righteous, ethical bootleggers with regular clients that needed them. They barely scraped by. Three generations of Corkys had made the unprofitable 130 mile round trip to take Widow Jennings her quart of cheap Vodka once a month, and now more often, for twenty-seven years.

Corky III's momma ran off with the government man taking the U.S. Census in 1990, when he was four. Corky II has a rabid hatred for the government and vents on talk radio several mornings a week. He is an ill-read conspiracy theorist that sees the loss of his cheating-heart, Thelma Jean, as connected to many things, including the current economic problems. He eats St. John's Wort like it is popcorn.

When Corky III went to college, he changed his name to James and sailed through the business school, but could not land a job in the aftermath of Cheney/Bush. He was waiting tables at Cricket's when Darlene Jeffers put the Alka-Selzer in Henry Foster's drink. James heard all the student gossip about Henry, and the money they were chasing. James aka Corky went to the English Department to read what he could of the old Sandstorm Scholarship entries. Most were very negative about sandstorms, often plagiarizing the driven-crazy-by-sandstorms theme.

James Hargrove enrolled as an English major in Grad school and started writing. He wrote truthfully about the men in Spur gathering at Dink's Texaco and Domino Parlor when the weather was too bad to work outdoors to swap stories, often about the wild West Texas weather. He wrote of the wisdom of the oldest cowboys from the Pitchfork ranch, and their tales of the worst sandstorms of the depression. He included J. Frank Dobie's story about folks finding a hat in a sand dune. They started digging, only to find a man under the hat. The man said, "Keep digging boys, there is a good horse under me." James wrote of St. Elmo's fire, the bluish, static electricity that could be seen on the horns of cattle during a storm.

James told of the long drives with his father, who had a bad right knee from his early rodeo misadventures. He'd drive with his left leg. They liked to run loads of whiskey on full-moon nights with their lights out, but he cut that out. They knew all the back roads. Their 1988 Ford Pickup was always in top shape, with good tires. James wrote about the eccentric, regular customers that lived alone in isolated areas, often on what was left of their old family place. James told about meeting the Pitchfork Ranch cowboys at the fence line with a tornado headed their way.

However, James wrote all of this without mentioning bootlegging. He knew it didn't make any sense, three generations of them driving all over this big ol' near-empty chunk of Texas. He began to search sandstorms on the Internet. He was consumed. He wrote several drafts, confident that Henry Foster liked sandstorms. Most natives didn't really mind or too much notice the sandstorms, compared to the Yankee imports on the English Department faculty, whose whining had given Henry the idea for the scholarships in the first place.

James lost sleep and didn't eat properly. His mind was in a frenzied, manic fog. He couldn't get sandstorms out of what was left of his mind. He wrote poems, songs, essays, and a short story set in Spur, Texas in 1933. Finally, James wrote his final lead, "My daddy and granddaddy are bootleggers, and damn proud of it. I am a bootlegger too." He said he loved sandstorms because the men would gather at Dink's Texaco and Domino Parlor for the philosophy and oral history that guided small town life. He wrote about how glad the thirsty customers were to see them come driving through a sandstorm when the visibility was so low you couldn't see the hood ornament on the pickup, which they lovingly called, Spot.

The very night the English Department T.A. delivered all the entries to Henry Foster, he saw a 1953 movie entitled, The Naked Spur, with James Stewart, Janet Leigh, and Robert Ryan. James Hargrove's entry was on the top. When Henry saw the words, Spur, Texas, he took it as an omen. He decided to give the whole $100,000 to Corky III. He most especially liked the fact they were bootleggers.

The old-Department-Chairman-out-of-power and his bitter gang of four wrote angry letters to varied administrators and co-signed a letter of protest to The Daily Toreador. A rude reporter called Henry to ask his reasons for giving the whole award to a self-confessed bootlegger. Henry announced he was doubling the award to James Hargrove.

The attention Corky III got made him uncomfortable, until the nubile coeds starting acting really friendly. He bought his daddy a 2006 Ford pickup, and the bootlegging route stayed exactly the same. Henry Foster showed up to ride with the bootleggers in the worst sandstorm. He loved it, although he didn't know what Corky II was talking about with A.I.G., Fannie Mae, Thelma Jean, and Freddie Mac. They made friends for life.

Everybody's happy except the old-Department-Chairman-out-of-power and his bitter gang of four.

Johnny Hughes is the author of Texas Poker Wisdom, a novel.