December 27, 2004

December 2004 (Vol. 3, Issue 12)

Welcome to the Vegas Special and year ending issue of Truckin'. We have four entertaining Vegas stories featuring poker bloggers, two from me and one each from Otis and BG. I'm happy to add Matt Sims to the roster with a short story called Purdue. Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. Shane and Cody by Tenzin McGrupp
"So which one of you is the bad guy?" I said as I sat down and stacked up my chips into neat columns. "You got the black hat on," as I pointed to Shane, "I'm willing to bet $1 it's you."... More

2. Strippers, Lesbians, and Fanny Packs by BG
I'm not sure if anyone's made the connection between bad strippers and underpriced seafood before, but here we are.... More

3. Ill-equipped by Otis Dart
When drinking at home, I deal in in the realm of the quick-binge. That is, I drink as much as I can in a three-hour window. That usually results in some form of what Uncle Ted likes to call, "losing time."... More

4. Saturday Morning Rockstars by Tenzin McGrupp
Before I could consider the circumstances, like Pavlov's frothing dog and in a worldly Zen moment, the edge of the glass automatically hit my lips as the nectar of the Gods struggled to make its way into my queasy stomach, into my reluctant liver, and into my starving soul... More

5. Purdue by Matt Sims
Lester, as usual, had a fifth of Beam tucked into the "secret" pocket of his coveralls. The designer of this particular style of Carhartt garb probably didn?t have whiskey stow away capacity in mind when he constructed the inner pockets, but Lester had made the proper adjustments to accommodate... More

What A Long Strange Trip Its Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Once again, I apologize for the delay in this month's Truckin'. With the holidays, the WPBT Holiday Classic in Las Vegas, and my sudden onset of the flu... I missed the deadline. The Vegas edition is better late than never, right? Elvis would still be proud.

Thanks to the poker bloggers who shared their bloodwork this month. The trip definitely gave us plenty of material and memories to draw upon. I expect more stories in the future. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. I'm happy to add Daddy to the roster. Thanks again to old friends like BG and Otis who submitted their work.

I ask the readers 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 or the monthly e-mail. 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.


"Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas." - Hunter S. Thompson

Shane and Cody

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

The National Rodeo Finals were in town and cowboys from all over America flocked to Las Vegas for a full week of drinking, gambling, and all things rodeo. Two young cowboys sandwiched me at my poker table late one night. Their names were Shane and Cody. I'm not making this up or changing it for "privacy purposes". You can ask BG if you don't believe me. He sat with them later on in the trip. Anyway, these guys were in their late 20s and had flown in from Utah. They wore cowboy boots, the most popular form of footwear of folks heading to the rodeo finals, along with blue jeans held up by belt buckles the size of CDs and plaid shirts. They had goatees and drank Budweiser. One of them was decked out in a black cowboy hat and the other a white one. That's how I was able to distinguish them from one another.

"So which one of you is the bad guy?" I said as I sat down and stacked up my chips into neat columns. "You got the black hat on," as I pointed to Shane, "I'm willing to bet $1 it's you."

"Yer, Gawd dam'd riiight!" he said as he took a huge sip. "Where are you from?"

"I'll tell you, but I don't think you've ever heard of it... it's very small town."

"Tell me."

"New York City."

It took several seconds before he got the joke and started laughing. Nice to know that cowboys from Utah operated on a seven second comedic delay. Seriously, they were hilarious. Cody was a nice fella. They both were for that matter, just two guys in town having a blast drinking and yapping at the poker table while their wives were off blowing vacation money at the slots. These guys were loose gamblers and Shane was seeing every flop. Maudie was running over the both of them before I sat down. That's when I let them know that she's my aunt.

"She's yer aunt?" Shane blurted out after he swigged the last backwash of his beer. "Shit. I'm scared of yer aunt."

"You should be, pal. She's going to pay for her trip on fishy plays from cowboys like yerself."

OK, I didn't say that. I really wanted to... that's what the wise ass New Yorker in me would say... but just smiled and kept my mouth shut. I wasn't going to blow Aunt Maudie's cover. Don't tap the glass, right?

Shane and Cody also bestowed upon me the most original nickname I ever got... New York... which they'd shout out at me when I'd see them from time to time in the poker room over the weekend.

"Hey, New York, what kind of hands to you play?" Cody seriously asked me after I bought a round of drinks for them and a Corona for myself... and by saying bought I mean that I tipped the waitress $3 for all three of us. It was a small investment but the drunker they got the better the chances we'd get even more river calls with bottom pair.

"I only play good cards."

That got a chuckle from the cowboys. Both the dealer and Maudie giggled.

"I like playing any Jack, like J-2, J-3. Are them good cards?" inquired Shane.

"Yes. Yes they are," I agreed trying to hold a straight face. That was my biggest bluff of the trip.

At some point, just when I thought I had seen it all... the monkey on the dog was shown on the big screen. Yeah, ESPN2 had full rodeo coverage all weekend long and that was the main attraction on the big screen in the poker room. When they unleashed the monkey, the entire crowd began hootin' and hollerin'. It reminded me of the insanity on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It was one of those bizarre scenes of which you completely miss the context while reading my report in your cubicle at work. But trust me, if you were shitfaced at 4 AM, floating around in a sea of loose cowboys at a poker room in Las Vegas and you saw two hundred and fifty people cheering for a monkey dressed up like a cowboy on a Collie... then maybe you too would start to think that time travel is probable, peace in the Middle East is possible and that I'm 100% pretty sure I'll catch my next gutshot draw, even if it is a one outer.

Certain moments in your life define your existence. That was one of them... a monkey in a cowboy outfit riding a dog.

That was also the only other sentence I had scribbled in my notes. So the next time someone corners me at one of those dreadful New York cocktail parties and asks me if I believe in God, I can honestly say, "I do believe that monkeys can ride dogs. I've seen it in Vegas."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Strippers, Lesbians, and Fanny Packs

By BG © 2004

1125 PM, Saturday

Do "dancers" smell like whores, or do whores smell like "dancers?" Either way, it takes a lot of mid-priced perfume to cover skank adequately.

I was downtown with my friends from Arizona, Jen and Steve, and another couple from Arizona (let's call them "Dave" and "Dave's wife") along for the ride, and somehow the neon schmaltz of Glitter Gulch was irresistable. To the women. Neither Jen nor Dave's wife had ever been in a strip club before, and they were intrigued. Part curiosity and certainly part "No Cover Charge" advertised outside. Me? Not as intrigued. There are somewhere between eleven and umpteen places to see naked women in Las Vegas, and the girls are gravitating towards the joint across from the place that's served upwards of thirty million discount shrimp cocktails.

I'm not sure if anyone's made the connection between bad strippers and underpriced seafood before, but here we are.

Far be it from me to suggest "gambling" or "gaming" as an option to the girls that were probably more "Rhino" than "Spearmint." These girls were probably gyrating uncomfortably behind chicken wire and ruing that they had skipped "Pole Trick Day" at stripper college and were forced to take what was left when the job placement people were handing out assignments. At least that's how I imagined it. Dave and Dave's wife preceded Jen, Steve, and me into the club, and were effectively lost within seconds. Jen and I made it to a table, where a waitress immediately took a drink order, and told us there was a two drink minimum, and that it'd be $35 for the two of us.

Uh, no thanks. Free boobs? Sure. $9 beers? Not a chance.

Jen followed me out of there, where Steve was still outside the front doors, watching some Galaga-themed show going on overhead. Some "experience" this Fremont Street was. Can I just play blackjack now? Jen, Steve, and I decided that we'd split up for a bit. Jen would join the Daves in the club, and Steve and I would go tackle the $5 blackjack table inside the Las Vegas Club casino next door. Neither of us had seen a dancer yet, but Jen was hoping they weren't going to be "as skanky as that waitress" we had seen. I advised her that only the dancers would be skanky. The waitresses were more likely to be skeevy. Whatever. I figured blackjack was more my speed for awhile.

Bad move. Instead of two $9 beers inside a cut-rate strip club, I was the one left feeling naked and exposed after about 45 minutes at the tables. The Twin Thai Dealers Joy and Fran were tag teaming dealing duties at our table, and were throwing the high heat. It was surreal. It's not as if I have a long history with blackjack, but I've never in my life seen a dealer throw nothing but fourteens, fifteens, and sixteens to everyone around the table on consecutive hands, turning easy twenties both times herself.

It was like this all night, and by "all night" I mean "consistently for the next forty-five minutes." I tried to combat the dealer luck by moving to two spots and increasing my bets to $10 per. No dice. I'd get an eleven, double, land a four, and be out $20. My doubling didn't work, splitting "by the book" didn't work, nothing worked. Joy and Fran just fucking kicked our asses. Down by $200 in three quarters of an hour, and I'd had enough.

By this point, Jen had arrived fresh from the Gulch, and was parked at a roulette table waiting for us to finish destroying my bank account and little Ivan's college fund. We dragged her out of there and across the street to the Golden Gate to try to make our money back from Downtown by eating some discount cafe food. Dave and Dave's wife showed up, and we managed to make it to the table without Joy or Fran taking my cab fare back to the Excalibur from me at gunpoint.

"How was the club?" Steve was interested to hear his wife's story. I think his brother, the same guy who at 32 was making out shamelessly with a seventeen year old girl at our party sophomore year of college, had taken him to enough strip clubs in his time that they weren't exactly "special" to him anymore.

"It was fun. We were sitting next to the nicest lesbians."

Ahh... lesbians have always loved Jen. She's this big, curvy, beautiful girl that has an unbelievable magnetism about her. She gets along with everybody, and even when she's having a little fun at your expense, you almost feel good that it's coming from her. Steve's a lucky guy.

"You know what I hate about lesbians?" I'm not sure, but losing $200 as quickly as I did may not have made this sound as sarcastic as maybe I wanted it to. "I hate how they're always making out and playing with each other's breasts. You know what else I hate? Those women-in-prison movies on Cinemax. I hate those."

Dave and Dave's wife exchanged a quick look of puzzlement. Steve jumped in on it too. "I just hate the mullets and the flannel. I can do without that."

Unfortunately, just at that moment, a couple of women - one semi-mulleted in a plaid shirt - were seated in the booth behind. Dave's wife had a look of horror on her face for a second, as if I was going to somehow not notice the brutish swagger on the hair helmeted woman seated nearby.

Vegas might be the best place on Earth to press your luck, but I know better than to pick a fight with a lesbian that can kick my ass. God knows what she was carrying in that fanny pack.

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


By Otis Dart © 2004

We made out way back to the bar, where my Guinness sat taking on the requisite room temperature. I took a drink and realized that I was not only ill-equipped to play cards, I was ill-equipped to do much of anything. That included drinking.

"I'm ill-equipped," I said out loud. Daddy heard me and offered some soothing words. I don't quite recall what they were, but he assured me I was going to be okay.

Several people have asked how I remember so many details from this bender. It's a legitimate question. When I'm drinking on my home turf, I am prone to blackouts that sometimes last for two or more hours, while at the same time, in Vegas I can drink for days and remember small details that should escape me.

I have only one answer. When drinking at home, I deal in in the realm of the quick-binge. That is, I drink as much as I can in a three-hour window. That usually results in some form of what Uncle Ted likes to call, "losing time."

In Vegas, however, the body conditions itself to function on one long, steady, mind-bending buzz. Losing time tends not to happen. Moreover, details tend to stick out. They burn themselves into my psyche and only by purging them here can I exorcise the demons so that they don't eat my medula oblongata for brunch.

All of that said, it was at this point that things start to get a little cloudy. Somebody said something about an Irish Car Bomb. I'm pretty sure I said, "I'm ill-equipped."

Nonetheless, Big Mike had entered some sort of high-level negotiation with the bartender and it seemed rude to turn down the offer. Within minutes, the drink was in front of me. It didn't look right. The Baileys had somehow congealed in the bottom of the whiskey. It had a sickening layered look to it.

After it was over, Daddy didn't look so good. Again, things started getting gray. I'd stopped thinking of the boys as Robin and his Merry Men. These guys were male Sirens, calling from the rocks, singing a sweet Irish ballad that I was sure to follow until the hull of my already sinking ship was wrapped around some boulder.

Somehow, I culled this moment from the morning in something I wrote for my other blog:
It's 6 AM and I've just downed a glass of Guinness. Inside it was a half-shot of Makers and half-shot of Baileys. It's breakfast, after all.

I've propped myself up by my elbows on the bar and am sitting within whispering distance of a guy I'd first met face-to-face only six or so hours before.

"Otis, you should write a book."

The sun is coming up and it's painting the guy's face with an awkward mix of natural and fake light that would drive a professional photographer batty. Somewhere, a few seats down, a guy they call Big Mike is negotiating with the bartender to whip up another batch of what we just had.

I should write a book, they say.

I take a swig from the bottle sitting in front of me, scan the room for anybody who may be listening, and say half-outloud, but more to myself...

"A book. About what?"
As my liver negoitated with my brain for a few more minutes of visiting at the bar, Mrs. Can't Hang joined us. BadBlood and G-Rob joined us. Al joined us. Others were there, but, frankly, this is where things move from cloudy to tornadic.

I talked with Iggy for a long time on life philosophies, life histories, and the like. I tried to get him to lay out his suspect list for the coup d'etat on the trademark Guinness and Poker site. It was the one thing I couldn't get him to talk about.

Mrs. Can't Hang downed a shot of 7:30 AM tequila and played video poker. I counted the hours of sleep I would get if I went to bed at that very moment.

At some point, someone there (I know who it is, but I won't say. He/She can cop to it if they want) said the funniest thing I'd heard in hours.

"This is surreal. I'm sitting at a bar at 7:30 in the morning with Patrick Swayze and Tony Siragusa."

I digested that and expressed my thanks for the summation of the morning.

At 8 AM, just two hours before the meet and greet at Sam's Town was supposed to begin, I quietly slipped away from the growing group and rode the elvators to the tenth floor of the hotel. I found a smelly room, full of people, and no bed space available.

I collapsed on the floor and wondered if I would wake up in time for the tournament.

Otis Dart is a writer from Greenville, South Carolina. He is the mind behind Rapid Eye Reality and is a contributor to Up for Poker.

Saturday Morning Rock Stars

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

It was still early in the morning for Vegas standards as we navigated through a slew of Rodeo families with small children in cowboy hats as they rambunctiously made their way to and from breakfast. I like kids, especially red neck kids. They're the cutest. However, my tolerance for little ones runs thin when I'm hungover, especially in Vegas when I have a throbbing headache similar to the feeling you'd get when you slam a car door onto your fingers. I sidestepped the wee ones like dog shit on a crowded Manhattan sidewalk. We finally made our way through the first obstacle and quickly headed towards the front door.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone stumbling through a row of nickel slot machines. Poor guy had probably stayed up all night drinking and gambling and it appeared he couldn't find his room. Just another victim of the depravity of the dark side of Vegas. I stopped for a second to get a better look at the unlucky fella. Holy shit. It was Iggy. I completely forgot he was in Vegas. Our epic meeting just nine hours earlier hadn’t been a dream, after all. In Sin City, my short term memory was as spotty as my cellphone reception.

OK, so I found an inebriated Iggy who opted for more liquor than sleep. Just as I grabbed him, I realized that the Sherwood Forest bar is packed with bloggers and King Al Cant Hang is holding court with his beautiful blonde bride... Queen EvaCanHang at his side. His merry jester BigMike kept everyone happily entertained with multiple rounds of hearty meads and ales and a smattering of his loyal soused subjects sang his praises. Iggy's liver had been hijacked by BigMike just around the time I had passed out three hours earlier. He didn't look like he was going to make it as he slumped back on a stool at the bar. Within seconds, I had a shot of SoCo in my hand. Before I could consider the circumstances, like Pavlov's frothing dog and in a worldly Zen moment, the edge of the glass automatically hit my lips as the nectar of the Gods struggled to make its way into my queasy stomach, into my reluctant liver, and into my starving soul.

It was 9:20 AM on a Saturday morning in Las Vegas. I had just inhaled a shot of SoCo with AlCantHang and BigMike before I’d even had a bite to eat or a sip of water. What a start to the day. What could I do to top that? A second shot, of course. That one went down much smoother. G-Rob was super tipsy and EvaCanHang was impressing the peanut gallery with her ability to knock back tequila at 9 AM with the same grace as Willie Mays shagging down a rope into the gap at the Polo Grounds. When Otis appeared, I thought we were going to have to call a doctor. His face was the same shade as the olive green jacket he wore.

"Otis, my man, do you need a doctor or something?" I said in my most serious tone of the entire trip.

"I thought you were one, Dr. Pauly?"

I paused and let my short term memory collect itself.

"You betcha. This doctor says you need a second opinion from Dr. Hang."

I have never lost a patient before and I would be damned if we lost Otis on the operating table. We were lingering at the bar when BigMike assured us that he was renting a stretch limo, a SUV Excursion, to whisk away to our poker tournament at Sam's Town. Ah, we were with royalty. We were hanging with rockstars. Who takes a taxi in Vegas? Peasants! That's who.

The ride was rowdy. Bad Blood had given AlCantHang a mix CD of various metal bands. The driver was blasting it for a while before I begged him to turn on the radio. Of course, he puts on a metal radio station despite Maudie’s pleas for some Frank Sinatra. At that point, when Otis looked his worst, I mentioned something to G-Rob and he admitted, "There was an 80% chance of Otis puking."

"I'll take that action!" I shouted.

I lost another side bet. Not the first and not the last. My head should be struck off with a blunt object for making foolish bets like that one. I finally caught a glimpse of Sam's Town. It looked pretty cool. As we all de-limoed, a group of young kids from a church or school group were getting onto a bus. They all stood in awe as AlCantHang exited.

"Hey what band are you in?" one of the youngsters shouted at AlCantHang.

"The AlCantHang Experience," he said as he scribbled down a few autographs. The kids thought they were meeting a rock icon.

Rockstar wasn't too much of a stretch when you’ve got long hair and stumbled out of a limo with an inebriated entourage the size of a baseball team.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.



By Daddy © 2004

I must've been somewhere between celebrating the last second touchdown on a busted flea-flicker, and getting a handjob in the parking lot from the cheerleader with the Marilyn mole when the alarm clock started buzzing. After a few roundhouse swipes at the snooze button, I realized it was my phone that was making all of the noise. The answering machine picked up before I could locate the cordless.

“Dude, are we still on for the game? Call me. I’ll be at my mom’s.”

It was Lester, and apparently he didn’t remember me telling him eleven times the night before that I’d pick him up at his mother’s at noon. Lester didn’t remember much. In fact, the morning of our high-school graduation he forgot to wear his gown. He did, however, remember the fifth of Beam, and before he was finished with it he had made his own gown out of our drama club’s stage curtain.

“Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke,” he’d always say.

Lester Charles McGraw hit the railroad immediately after high school. His entire family was a railroad family. I had decided long before graduation that I belonged in a cubicle paying monthly dues to a coffee mess, and constantly hoping for quarterly bonuses, repaved parking lots, and a new cafeteria menu.

Growing up, our fathers would always sit around the living room together on Saturdays watching the Purdue Boilermakers play football against various Big Ten opponents. Neither family was much on professional football, mostly because we attended church for the better part of the day on Sunday, so all of our weekend energy was exhausted during the Purdue games. My father taught Sunday school when I was a kid, and growing up in a God-fearing household got to be pretty tough. Especially when I’d come home smelling like corn liquor.

“Don’t become one of the rest of ‘em,” my dad would like to tell me after yanking the car keys from my trembling hands.

By “the rest of ‘em” my dad meant Lester’s family.

I received my degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University almost twelve years ago. I’m 34 years-old. I’m single. I have no children that I’m aware of. I work in a cube. I have no life.

I rolled into Lester’s mother’s driveway five minutes shy of noon. I hadn’t called beforehand but that didn’t keep Lester from sitting on the porch swing shaking with anticipation.

“Go Boilers!” I said as I crept to a stop immediately in front of him.

“Fuckin’ Aye’s Right, Go Boilers!” he shouted. “Dude, did you get my message? I called this morning just to make sure...”

“Yeah, I got your message. Don’t you remember me telling you last night that I’d be here at noon?” I said.

“Dude, you know I don’t remember shit when I get all buttered up.”

I knew the answer before I even got the question out of my mouth, but I still had to ask, “Have you started already?”

“Yeah man. It’s fucking Homecoming for fuck’s sake! You think I’m some sort of bitch?”

Maybe its just me getting old, or wise, or whatever, but the thought of thrashing the dog with it’s own hair doesn’t appeal to me much these days.

“How long before we’re tailgating?” Lester inquired.

“Two hours, give or take.”

“Well this oughta get us goin’, I reckon’.” Lester, as usual, had a fifth of Beam tucked into the “secret” pocket of his coveralls. The designer of this particular style of Carhartt garb probably didn’t have whiskey stow away capacity in mind when he constructed the inner pockets, but Lester had made the proper adjustments to accommodate. He simply cut open the bottom of the pocket so that anything that was placed into the pocket would fall into the insulated innards of the coveralls, but stop short of the legs by a cross-seam that ran around the waistline. “I can get two fifths of Beam and a ham sandwich in there on a good day,” he’d say.

The Indianapolis radio station was calling for seasonal lows that day with a brutal wind chill factor rapidly approaching absolute zero. His advice was to stay inside, and make sure to have alternate sources of heat just in case of a power failure. We were on our way to a football game. Go Boilers!

I received a new set of coveralls for Christmas from my mom a few years before, and they had quickly become a staple in my winter wardrobe. They were “Super Insulated” which probably meant that they were stuffed with some ultra-toxic, non-biodegradable, space-aged polymer, but I didn’t mind because they were the warmest piece of clothing I owned. So warm, in fact, that I usually only wore boxer shorts and a T-shirt underneath, otherwise I’d be soaked in sweat, and my multi-layered approach would slow me down considerably. I knew I’d be drinking heavily, which means pissing more often, so a lack of layers is always key when trying to fetch your dick for a “stop n’ go” piss next to the truck, or fence, or concession stand, or jailhouse.

“Want a rip?” Lester asked as he pulled the bottle out of his inner storage compartment.

“Sure. Why not? It’s fuckin’ Homecoming right?”

“Go Boilers!”

The whiskey actually felt pretty damn good going down. My body was much more receptive to the rip than I thought it would be, probably because of the soothing warmth that trickled down my tubes.

Lester suggested that we stop to get another bottle since I was now officially “on board.” We pulled into a small town liquor store about an hour south of Lafayette, and the store clerk was surprised to see anyone out.

“You must be off to the game, no?”

“Go Boilers!” Lester blurted.

“Yeah, we figured we’d need some more juice to tackle the cold.” I mentioned.

“You’ll probably need a lot more than this to keep warm. Weatherman says its s’posed to be the coldest day of the year. In fact he said sumptin’ like it ain’t been this cold since 1920. We got hand warmers, three for five bucks if you want ‘em.”

“Hand warmers are for pussies.” Lester informed the seemingly concerned clerk.

The clerk gave us the “ole well” shrug, handed us the bottle, and wished us warmth. We jumped back in the truck, and hit the final leg of the journey hard. We cleared the first fifth before reaching town, and had cracked the seal on the second bottle shortly thereafter. I pulled the truck over behind an Arby’s that was closed due to the weather, and proceeded to empty my bladder. I congratulated myself on my decision to only wear the skibbiesunderneath when I confirmed the simplicity and convenience of the act.

The moment of anticipation had finally come to a head when we arrived at the stadium.

“Dude, I bet there’s hardly anyone here cause its so fuckin’ cold out.” Lester offered. “We ain’t got nuthin’ to worry ‘bout though ‘cause we got the Beam! Wooohooo!! Go Boilers!!”

Halfway through the second half was when I realized that I was in for one helluva ride. The whiskey had set in pretty well by now (we were down to a few swallers in the second bottle), but I had noticed that my brain started to feel a little more buoyant, and my eyes started to see things a bit more vividly.

“Lester, did you put anything in the whiskey?”

“Dude, I was wondering how long it’d take you to notice. I dropped a couple gel tabs in there about an hour or so ago when you were pissing behind the concession stands. I figured it’d help with your headache, besides it’s fuckin’ Homecoming!!”

After the game we had the opportunity to hit up a post-game tailgate with a couple girls Lester ran into on one of his many “solo journeys” throughout the game. I’ve partied with girls Lester has rounded up before several times in the past, and there’s usually a story that comes of it. This time was no exception. They had beer, vodka, and orange juice. We supplied the comedy. Lester had just finished his Rodney Dangerfield routine when one of the girls asked him if he’d walk her to the “pisshouse.” Lester gave me a quick nod. This was usually code for “You get yours, I’ll get mine, meet you at the truck in thirty,” but something went awry on their journey, and they were back in less than five minutes.

“Dude, I think we should probably go.”

“What the hell happened?”

“I thought she wanted me to come into the bathroom with her, but when I did, she started flipping out like some sorta psychotic weirdo. Next thing I know there’s like six crazy bitches all yelling at me to get out of the bathroom. But, I had to piss, dude. So, I went. Probably nearly all of ‘em saw my balls, even a little girl.”

“Christ, Lester. What the fuck?”

“Let’s go hit up a bar for a few then get home before it gets too dark.”

“It’s going to be dark in about an hour, and we’ve got at least two to drive.”

“Let’s go hit up some shots somewhere at least. I’m fucking freezin’!”

My brain was still swimming in the LSD, and my knees were wobbly from the booze. I didn’t feel like driving all the way home just yet, so a quick diversion to a roadside watering hole may just set me straight.

After a few shots of bourbon Lester started to bounce his knee up and down rapidly underneath the table.

“Dude, let’s get home. I’ll drive.”

“Why on earth would I let you drive me home?”

“Dude, I know that you know that you’re way too fucked up to be driving, and I feel fine. Just gimme the keys and I’ll have you home shortly. Hell, take a nap. You deserve it.”

A nap didn’t sound that bad. I handed Lester the keys and we hit the road. I must’ve nodded off shortly after we left the bar, but was soon awaken by a severe pain in my abdomen.

“Stop the sled, Les, I think I have to shit.”

“Dude, we’ll be home in half an hour.”

“Okay, I’ll just shit myself then. No big deal for me really, in fact it’ll probably warm me up a bit, and I’ll be able to pass out again. You’ll have to deal with the smell, so if you’re cool with that, so am I.”

“Nah, fuck that, dude, I’m stoppin’.”

Lester pulled over to the side of the road, and I tried to map out a strategy as to how I was going to shit without falling down into the snow. I had to declothe, and I had to do it rather quickly as I could hear the rumblings in my intestines grow louder with each passing second. The only bad thing with coveralls is negotiating a shit. I took off the Carhartts and tossed them into the bed of the truck. I jumped back into my boots quickly, but not before soaking the bottoms of each sock with muddy road slush. I decided to take off my glasses as well because the wind was blowing so hard I was afraid they’d blow completely off of my face. When I went to set them on the dash, I noticed that Lester had passed out on the steering wheel.

“Lester. Wake up! Lester!! Okay, I’m gonna shit real quick, then I’ll be right back.”

Still, no answer.

So there I was, tromping through the snow covered cornfield about fifty yards from a brush patch with a couple trees lurching out, wearing nothing but my skivvies, an old Boilermaker T-shirt, and my trusty boots. I probably didn’t need to find a tree, or any cover of sort since there wasn’t anyone on the roads, but I wanted to be sure. One of us had already been exposed that day, and I was going to avoid it if at all possible.

I finally got to the tree cover, and decided the best approach would be to take off my skivvies and use them for toilet paper, and then just ride commando the rest of the way home. No sooner than I get my Hanes down around my ankles and taken off do I hear the truck start up, and slowly take off down the highway.

“WAIT !! Lester, you stupid motherfucker!! Get back here.!!!”

He was gone. Unbeknownst to him, I wasn’t with him anymore. The friend who drove him up to the game, and spent the entire day with him wasn’t with him anymore, yet he wasn’t concerned.

I had other issues at hand. I would need my skivvies for warmth, and I still had to shit. I decided that I could tear off the bottom half of my t-shirt and use it for toilet paper, therefore allowing me to not be bottomless. I took care of business and planned to find warmth somewhere. There was a small town with a 24-hour gas station a few miles down the road, and if I kept up a brisk pace, I may keep warm enough to survive the night.

I soon realized that I had even larger issues than keeping warm when a state police officer slowed down by my side as I was jogging down the highway. He flipped on the cherries & blueberries, and pulled in front of me in sort of a “mini road block” fashion, and then jumped out of his car with his pistol drawn.

“Stop right there!” he demanded. “What in the hell is going on here?!”

The lights were bright enough to give me a brief sense of sobriety, but I still couldn’t fend off the whiskey and acid well enough to convince him that everything was alright. Not to mention the fact that I was almost naked, it was seven below outside, and I was jogging down the highway.

“Officer, I’m so glad to see you. You see, we went to Homecoming. Go Boilers! And Lester woke up and drove off because I had to shit, and I was wearing the Chahartts, and you can’t shit in them. I’m so fucking cold right now, can I sit in your car?”

I’m not sure if he felt pity, wanted to show off this unbelievably hilarious find to his officer buddies, or what, but he put me in the back of the car. I was cuffed, but I was warm.

It took the entire ride to the police station for me to convince him that I wasn’t an escaped loon, or someone on a butane huffing binge desperately seeking attention. He seemed content with the fact that I was just very drunk, and had a bad run of unfortunate events happen.

When we got to the station the police officer said that I wouldn’t be charged with anything, but if I wanted to keep warm I’d have to wear an orange jumpsuit. He also called my parents, and told me that my father was on his way to pick me up. My father who would be teaching Sunday school in less than six hours.

I tried to ignore the chatter, but I couldn’t help but hearing some of the policemen talking about my underwear and the fact that I had what they were calling a mile long “Hershey squirt” running down the back of them. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

My dad arrived about an hour later. The look on his face was without description. I assured him that I was only wearing the jumpsuit because when I had gotten there I was almost naked, but I really don’t think that helped soothe his concerns much. We didn’t speak the entire trip home until we pulled up to my house and I started to get out.

“Son, maybe we need to talk, ya think?”

“Maybe.” I muttered. “Thanks for the ride. Tell mom I’m okay, and that I’ll see you guys soon.”

When I finally got back into my house, which I had left some sixteen hours earlier, I noticed the little red light on the answering machine flashing like a state trooper’s rooftop.

“Dude, where are you at, man? I got your truck, and your glasses are on the dash. I’m starting to worry about you.”

I’m 34 years-old. I have no life. Go Boilers.

Daddy is a gambler from Indiana.

November 30, 2004

November 2004 (Vol. 3, Issue 11)

It's national novel writing month and this is the NaNoWriMo issue featuring two novel excerpts. I included a bit of Gumbo, my latest novel. Dave Simanoff is sharing some of his novel, Good Boy. This issue also includes a few short stories. Richard Bulkeley is back with a tale about his Canadian adventures. We have two newly added staff writers; Asphnxma wrote up a South American street brawl... one of my favorite topics, and then there's Acceptance, a play written by Grubby. Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. Friends by Richard Bulkeley
The ugly lights went on at the bar, and the girl stood up. She was one of those interchangeable Canadian blondes who does their thing at bars all over this fine country... More

2. NaNo Excerpt: Gumbo by Tenzin McGrupp
In my gut I conceded that I might possibly die. But if I was going to meet my end, I'd rather die by the poor driving skills of a crazy drunk Limey with two teenaged hookers in the back seat than die a morbid prolonged death induced by nut cancer and lying in a sterilized hospital room with tubes and machines keeping me alive long enough to milk my insurance plans... More

3. NaNo Excerpt: Good Boy by Dave Simanoff
I wondered how long she could continue interjecting the word “totally” into every sentence. I counted. She said the word thirty-six times before she got to the front of the line, hung up and placed her order: some impossibly complicated coffee drink with low-fat milk and caramel... More

4. Cocoon by Asphnxma
There's no fear in the moment. In the moment, you react. Your reptile brain assumes command of the ship, ignoring the confusion and the blurred images as adrenalin courses through your system and the fight-or-flight instinct takes over... More

5. Acceptance by Grubby
When I was twelve years old
Going on thirteen,
Thirteen rising,
My parents told me I was adopted.
This was to help me because my mother,
My birth mother,
Had come looking for me
And my parents wanted to return me
Like an overdue book from the library... More

What A Long Strange Trip Its Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

I apologize for the delay in this month's Truckin'. With the holidays and taking time off to write a new novel, I didn't have a huge window of time to prepare this issue. Thanks to everyone who shared their bloodwork this month. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. I'm happy to add Grubby and Asphnxma to the roster of poker blogging writers. Thanks again to old friends like Richard and Simanoff who submitted their work. And thanks to Jessica who helped edit this issue in record time.

I ask the readers 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 or the monthly e-mail. 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.


"Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something." - Henry David Thoreau


By Richard Bulkeley © 2004

The ugly lights went on at the bar, and the girl stood up. She was one of those interchangeable Canadian blondes who does their thing at bars all over this fine country. You know the type: naturally defined facial features, accentuated by judicious plucking and make up to look that much bit sharper; shoulder length straight blonde hair, and clothing somewhere on the sexy side of normal.

Well, maybe you don't know the type, but I do. Valeries (named after the very first tall slender Canadian blonde who I fell for) are a weakness of mine. I can't help it, when I meet one, I crank up the charm. It's a futile effort in some ways. Like the cats they remind me of, they'll receive all the attention and affection you're willing to give and return as much as they want to on their own terms.

This one was called Tanya, and she pretty much epitomised the Valerie type. Sure, they might all look a little different, have taken different career paths (at the same successful speed), and even enjoy different ways of keeping fit; but really, they are the same person with different life histories. It's not a unique feature, the large muscular guys over in the corner (and pretty much any other stereotype) can be described in much the same way, I just don't care about it as much because I don't tend to fall in love with large muscular guys.

From somewhere in her mini-handbag, she produced a pen. I hadn't asked for her number, I never do, but it looked like I was going to get it anyway, I usually do. She wrote it carefully on a scrap of paper and folded it in half. She tucked the paper in my shirt pocket and kissed me on the cheek.

"Call me, we'll go out tomorrow."

With that, she was gone, and I found the boys. E-Dizzle, the Racketeer, and Big Ian - obviously these aren't their real names, but it will be less confusing if I just bring out the poker nicknames now, instead of later.

The drive home was one of those scary-funny experiences that are best faced drunk. The Racketeer was legally sober but can barely drive automatic, let alone a stick-shift. Big Ian's poor truck was revving at about 6,000 most of the way and E-Dizzle and I were being thrown around the tray by some of the jerkiest driving since Thunderbirds.

When we got in the door, there was that crucial moment of "now what?" None of us quite wanted to go to bed yet, so I suggested playing some poker. All the essentials were right there on the kitchen table - a box of chips, a deck of cards, a bong with a ziplock bag of "oregano" beside it, and a bottle of CC (that's Canadian Club - a rather fine rye whiskey).

Drunk poker, especially when you're not playing for anything more important than bragging rights (although really, what could be more important than bragging rights?), isn't really about the game, it's about the experience.

Trash was talked, chips went from player to player, and as the game wore on we each adopted our own poker personalities. E-Dizzle was the bad-ass gangster (a tough role for a skinny white kid from Newfoundland). The Racketeer was the young college punk who would have worn sunglasses if he could have negotiated the stairs to find them. Big Ian was the quietly confident, self-assured guy and I was the dealer, some-time commentator, and acknowledged "poker expert." In other words, we all became something we weren't, or at least weren't usually.

The discussion wound its way around all the usual topics, with the bullshitting candour that alcohol encourages. Naturally, women were discussed, or at least their bodies were. In man-land, that place that even the most caring guy needs to visit sometimes, women are sex-objects, or sex-subjects, or both, I can't remember the rules of grammar well enough to know which would be the more intellectual pun.

"There weren't many hotties there tonight."

"That Tanya is pretty hot, though huh?"

"Yeah, how do you know her?"

"She lived in my building first year. She's kind of a bitch though, hey?"


"We were kind of going to hook up, and then she fucked my roommate behind my back."


"Dude, that's rough."

That's about as sensitive and caring as guys can get without women present. The translation that none of us missed, and would never make explict was that E-Dizzle had had a thing for Tanya and she had broken, or at least chipped his heart. We knew this, and expressed our solidarity without any awkard display of emotion. It's the way things work.

"Yeah, she made me take her phone number, but whatever."

I pulled the bit of paper out of my pocket, and brandished it as a trophy. The air wasn't exactly thick with anything other than aromatic smoke, but there was an element of tension undercutting the sweet fog. I had approached the line.

I casually balled up the paper and tossed it into the pizza box on the floor that we were using in an attempt to centralize the assorted debris of a two hour poker game and junk food extravaganza.

Life is defined by such moments. The seemingly little decisions that are fraught with significance. The times when an appropriate orchestral score would be appreciated to hint at how we're supposed to feel. Times like this where I symbolically affirmed my commitment to my friends and my willingness to share their hardships.

The game broke up not long after that, and by the next morning most of it had coalesced into a blob of fond memories that we would discuss whenever appropriate for the next month. The only thing we remembered clearly and would never discuss was my moment of self-sacrifice. As hard as it was, I didn't have any other choice.

Somethings you just have to do because they are what you have to do, even if it means throwing away the number of a girl who is interested and interesting, attractive and attracted, and any other clever pair of nouns you can think of to describe someone who you're happy to talk to for hours. Still, I had no trouble sleeping. Beer, weed, and a 20 hour day are quite capable of riding roughshod over the insomnia of real problems, so the minor consequences of being an honourable friend aren't an issue.

I called Tanya the next afternoon, copying her number from the crumpled piece of paper I rescued from a pizza box. I might be a good friend, but I'm not an idiot.

Richard Bulkeley is a nomadic philosopher, sometime barman, and ex-genius originally from Auckland, New Zealand.


By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

On the morning of my third day in Montego Bay, I met a British ex-pat at the bar. He was unsuccessfully trying to get someone to bet him on an NBA game. Michael Jordan had returned to the Bulls after his retirement and his first home game was going to be aired that afternoon. He was looking for some action and no one at the beachside bar seemed interested.

“How about you mate? You like basketball?”

Beckett was a pale lanky fellow with very bad teeth. He had not shaved in weeks and he ran over to me when I nodded yes.

“Beckett Magruder,” as he extended his hand.

“McGrupp,” and I shook back.

“Ah, the American.”

“How did you know?”

“This is a small island and the resort is even smaller. I like the Bulls. Are you going to pick Indiana?”

“What’s the point spread?”

“You are not an amateur I see. Let’s say five points.”

“What’s the line in Vegas?”

“Ah, I've met a real gambler here.” He sipped his beer and ordered us another round. “Fifty American dollars, I’ll take the Bulls –4.”

We shook hands.

“When is the game on?”

“This afternoon. Meet me at the Pelican for an early supper. They’ll have the game on there. Satellite TV.”

“OK, where’s The Pelican?”

“Haven’t left the resort much have you? It’s on Gloucester Avenue across from Old Hospital Park.”

Beckett wandered off and I found Natasha lounging by the pool, thumbing through a new magazine. I told her about my encounter and she seemed less than enthusiastic to meet up with Beckett. She wanted to bask in her laziness and sloth. She saw no reason to leave the resort especially to watch a basketball game. I went by myself. I found Robert out front who had just dropped off two new guests.

“Mr. Tenzin, do you need any more smoke? How about Charlie?”

We shook hands and I told him I needed a ride to The Pelican. I sat in the front seat and he handed me another manila envelope.

“You like magic mushrooms Mr. Tenzin?”

“Why not?” as I popped a few and handed him a $20 bill.

The drive to The Pelican should have taken only fifteen minutes but there was a big accident and part of Gloucester Avenue was blocked by construction. I was a little late but when I arrived Beckett was sitting at the bar screaming at the television.

“God is back. How could you bet against God, mate?”

The God he was referring to was Michael Jordan.

“Even God gets a little rusty after a hiatus.”

Beckett ordered several rounds of beer and he insisted that he pay for them all. In between lulls in the game we chatted about each other’s lives. I didn’t really have too much to say especially after the mushrooms kicked in.

Beckett told me that his brother was a big time land developer and he owned the Mango Walk Villas near Paradise Pen. His brother was going to be partners with Jimmy Buffet when he opened up another chain of Margaritaville bars up the road from The Pelican.

“I know this guy who can sell me a farm for really cheap. It’s a papaya farm in Trelawny near the Martha Brae river. We should go out there tomorrow and take a look. The place is majestic. A place where you can see the mist hovering around you in the mornings. The mountains are all around and the land is fertile. All the fields are drip irrigated with adequate water from the river. All that is free too. The river runs through the largest part of the farm. There are diesel pumps and large storage tanks strategically placed throughout the property to ensure efficient irrigation at all times. The fields are planted in a staggered cycle to reach maturity and the reaping cycle in stages ensuring that production is consistently at 75% of capacity year round.”

“That sounded like a rehearsed sales pitch. How many other folks have you been trying to get to buy this place?”

“Just came into light in the last few days. I asked my brother but he’s all tied up with other investments. Besides he only likes to purchase waterfront properties. His company is buying up everything on the north coast.”

“I guess I can go check it out. But I’m not a farmer.”

“Neither am I. I really don’t enjoy papayas. But think about all the weed we could grow on the rest of the farm!”

He yelled at the screen after Michael Jordan missed a short jumper. The Bulls lost the game by six and I won $50. Beckett paid me off in Jamaican dollars and I was sure I got a less than fair exchange rate. I didn’t care too much since he had been buying me beers the entire game. I offered him some of the mushrooms. He popped two, chased them with his beer, and pounded his chest. I ate the rest and toasted to the Queen.

A couple of well dressed local women walked over to Beckett when the game ended. He took them to a table in the corner and we sat down for dinner. I figured out right away that those girls were underage hookers. They kept enticing me to spend a night with them. I decided to pass on the opportunity of contracting various mutations of syphilis.

"Once you have a Jamaican woman, you'll never dip your dick into an American girl ever again. Me? I've sworn off British women for life!" as he planted a big kiss on the lips of one of his companions.

“I’d like to. But I kinda have that girlfriend.” It was a great excuse and I avoided the disease infested prostitutes.

It was dark when we finally left The Pelican. Beckett drove me to my resort with the two hookers in the back of his jeep. I sat in the front seat while the mushrooms hit their peak. I was tripping hard and overwhelmed with one of those existentialist moments like, "How the fuck did I get here?"

He sped through more tourist traffic on Gloucester Avenue with a Pink Floyd tape blasting on his stereo and courageously avoided two accidents. In my gut I conceded that I might possibly die. But if I was going to meet my end, I'd rather die by the poor driving skills of a crazy drunk Limey with two teenaged hookers in the back seat than die a morbid prolonged death induced by nut cancer and lying in a sterilized hospital room with tubes and machines keeping me alive long enough to milk my insurance plans.

"Meet me at Royal Stocks tomorrow at noon and we’ll drive over to the farm."

I nodded.

"Oh and McGrupp. You got lucky today. God won't lose next time."

Beckett flipped me the middle finger and sped off with the hookers while I sang, "All in all, it's another brick in the wall."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City. Gumbo is his fifth novel.

Good Boy

By Dave Simanoff © 2004

At eight o’clock in the morning, the line at the Starbucks on South Howard Avenue stretches from the cash register to the door. I stood about 20 spots away from the front of the line, behind a short skinny woman who was gushing loudly about President Bush into her cell phone.

“Oh yeah, I totally agree with the President,” she said. “It should totally be in the constitution. Homosexual marriage is totally wrong. It would totally ruin the institution of marriage.”

I wondered how long she could continue interjecting the word “totally” into every sentence. I counted. She said the word thirty-six times before she got to the front of the line, hung up and placed her order: some impossibly complicated coffee drink with low-fat milk and caramel. It was finally my turn to order. I pulled up to the counter next to Totally Girl and asked for a large coffee. That caught Totally Girl’s attention.

“That’s all you’re getting?” she asked me, incredulous. I didn’t know if she seemed surprised that someone would just order plain coffee at Starbucks, or if she just didn’t know that Starbucks sold anything that didn’t end in the letters –atte or –iato.

“You totally stood in line for like an hour, and that’s all you’re
getting?” she asked.

I nodded. In fact, the line at Starbucks moved quickly, thanks to the assembly line efficiency of the staffers behind the hissing espresso machine.

“That totally seems like such a waste,” she said.

I paused for a fraction of a second, wondering if I should say anything at all. Then I responded. “Perhaps there should be a constitutional amendment banning people from buying coffee in Starbucks.”

Her face went blank momentarily. Then she focused again as her expression clicked over from confusion to comprehension.

“You were totally listening to my conversation,” she said. “That’s so totally rude.”

“You were so totally loud,” I said, drawing out “totally” into three separate words: “toe,” “tall,” “lee.”

I continued: “I mean, if you’re going to yell into your cell phone like it’s a bullhorn, don’t get surprised when everyone else in line can hear you. People at other Starbucks can hear you. People at the original Starbucks, in Seattle, can hear you.”

Totally Girl opened her mouth, indignant, and started to talk. I cut her off.

“Deaf people can hear you. Dead people can hear you,” I said. Then, very slowly, from emphasis: “Gay people can hear you. And they think you’re a fucking idiot.”

I looked around. Everyone in Starbucks was staring at us. In the back of the room, one person began clapping. Then another. Then the guy behind me in line turned to Totally Girl and said: “He’s right, you know. You’re loud and you’re stupid. That’s always a bad combination.”

Totally Girl was shocked. She huffed, tucked her head into her chest, and stormed out of Starbucks without looking at anyone. The woman behind the counter handed over my coffee. She smiled at me.

“This,” she said. “is on the house.”

Dave Simanoff is a writer from Tampa, Florida. This is an excerpt from his NaNoWriMo novel Good Boy.


By Asphnxma © 2004

There's no fear in the moment. In the moment, you react. Your reptile brain assumes command of the ship, ignoring the confusion and the blurred images as adrenalin courses through your system and the fight-or-flight instinct takes over. The fear comes afterwards, when the neocortex resumes its usual place at the helm and parses the fact that your illusion of personal safety, the little lies you tell yourself so that you can function on a daily basis, is shattered.

For me, the blurred images were an orgy of thin, brown arms and clawed, dirty hands. No faces, though. If you had asked me ten minutes later to identify any one of the swarm of people who jumped me, I wouldn't have been able to. Sure, a peripheral whisper of their collective identity sank into my frenzied consciousness -- they were five or six of them, all male, all young (probably 15 or 16 years old) and all poor -- but in the moment, none of those details mattered. None of their faces mattered, either. My fight wasn't against their faces. It was against the arm hooked around my neck that yanked me backwards off of my feet in total surprise. It was against the hands scrabbling at the summer night air, questing to empty my pockets.

Pockets. What was in my pockets? Left pocket -- disposable camera. The hell with that. Right pocket -- ID and money. The money wasn't important, obviously, but at the time the ID seemed terribly important. Both of my hands clamped over it desperately, the driftwood of my identity in the vast ocean of a foreign country whose language I didn't speak. There was a shredding sound, the sound of one of my pockets being ripped along its seam. Seconds stretched into hours as the swarm frantically tried to pry the prize from within my grasp and I thrashed on the ground under their collective weight.

Then, with a solid thud and a surprised grunt of pain, the swarm scattered and melted back into the crowd. Eric had pushed his way free of two kids that were trying to pin him off to the side and had bullcharged one of the punks standing over me. Leading with his elbow. Into the kid's back. I'll bet that kid had a bruise the size of a baseball for a few weeks. Whatever the result, it was enough to scare off the rest of them. They weren't looking for a fair fight.

Time snapped back into its normal flow as Eric helped me to my feet. "You alright?"

Good question. My adrenalin levels were still up, but they were dropping enough that I could give myself a quick assessment. No blood, no aches, no broken bones, and I'd even managed to retain my ID and cash. The right leg of my shorts was in tatters, and the disposable camera was gone, but that was the extent of the damage.

"I think so," I answered as I brushed myself off. "They got the disposable, but I'm fine."

"Fuck the camera, dude."

"Yeah." Instinctual action faded back into my subconscious as my neocortex reasserted its dominance over my mind. With it came a few wisps of fear as I replayed what had just transpired. I had been yanked backwards by the neck, laid out flat on my back, and literally swarmed by a gang of poverty-stricken Brazilian youths intent on relieving me of anything of value they could find in my possession. What would have happened if I had not had the foresight to remove my grandfather's gold cross from my neck before leaving the hotel? What would have happened if they had been armed with a knife or shank?

"You ready to head back to the hotel now?" Eric's question brought me back to the here and now, thrusting the questions aside for a later time. He seemed eager to leave.

"Definitely." The night's Carnivale merriment had been obliterated for both of us. A phalanx of semi-nude Brazilian women samba-dancing down the street, their hips gyrating to the irresistible rhythm of the dance as they begged us to join them, would not have been enough to override our desire to be anywhere else. Rio de Janeiro had revealed its sinister side to us; it was time to go.

I stared down the impossibly wide Avenida Presidente Vargas to the closest intersection, a long half-block away. There were hundreds of other people milling around, traversing a well-trafficked and well-lit route between samba parades. Many were tourists who carried maps and digital cameras and wore fanny packs around their waists, the type of people that would cause poverty-stricken youths from the slums of Rio to think that the pockets of a street-savvy New Yorker might yield similar treasures. A few of the tourists had seen me and Eric get jumped, had witnessed the swarming thugs trying to rob me, but most were blissfully unaware of the attack, their own illusions of personal safety still firmly intact.

The hell with them and their ignorance. I envied it, but even with the swarm dispersed, I could still feel that tanned arm around my neck, lingering there, violating me with its phantom presence. It's what I would remember the most about the whole attack, even more than the myriad hands that pried at me. Thirty minutes later, an hour later, two hours later, the next day -- I would still feel the arm hooked around my neck, yanking me backwards and pinning me to the ground. That sensation would feed the fear that time and rational reflection would breed, the personal safety issues that would dog the rest of the trip.

At that moment, though, I thought I could shake off the ghostly sensation. I focused on a welcoming line of black cabs that quietly idled at the distant street intersection, whispering promises of safety. They were cabs that, using an amalgam of hideously bad Portuguese and passable Spanish, Eric and I could hire to take us back to Ipanema, to our hotel, to comfort, to a night's rest that would wash away the bad taste of the evening. I was already slipping back into the cocoon of comfort I fancied I would find in the confines of one of those cabs, any of those cabs. All we had to do was flag one down.

After about three or four steps towards the intersection, the sound of something clattering across the street behind me broke my concentration and brought me to a halt. The object that greeted my sight when I turned around was amusing on one hand, but on the other shredded whatever clinging gossamers of personal safety I still retained.

The swarm had thrown the disposable camera back at me.

Asphnxma is a writer from Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of the blog: Riding the F Train.



by Grubby © 2004


Cast of Characters

Isabel: early 40s

Setting: A large room.

Time: The present.


(At Rise: Isabel alone in front of an audience.)
When I was twelve years old
Going on thirteen,
Thirteen rising,
My parents told me I was adopted.
This was to help me because my mother,
My birth mother,
Had come looking for me
And my parents wanted to return me
Like an overdue book from the library.

They needed the money.

You know when people,
I don't know, just people,
Say their lives are worth more than the family dog?
Don't people say that?
It's a saying.
Sparky was the family dog.
Sparky the wonder dog,
Whose humping the green sofa cushion
Was rewarded by a friendly whack on the ass
And a soggy dog biscuit
That smelled like mint leaves and vomit.
His multicolored doggie treats,
I ate all of them
To get even.

My parents kept Sparky and got rid of me.
I never liked that dog.

But I was glad to be out of that house.
It was a full house.

My new mom was great.
We went horseracing.
We ate cheese fries.
We gossiped about boys.
We bonded.

I had the feeling,
Women's intuition, let's say,
That my new mom just wanted a friend
Her age.
Someone to talk to.
Someone to shop with.
She didn't want to deal
With all that poopy baby stuff.
At twelve years old I could at least change my own

That was a joke.

When my son was twelve...

No, when Gregory,
My son,
Was six,
He thought everyone had a specific number of heartbeats
To play with
Before you died.
You jump up and down,
You scream,
You win a thousand dollars,
You use up more heartbeats.
The Type A people,
The road ragers in traffic,
The blue-haired old women
Straddling three slot machines
At once --
They die sooner.
And men,
They always die sooner
Because they get too excited
Because of us women.

The first Gam-Anon meeting I went to...
That's Gamblers Anonymous,
Of course.
Gam-Anon or GA.
The first Gam-Anon meeting I went to
I walk in.
I speak to the head guy
Who wants me,
I can tell.
His tag says his name is Dick.
Make your own assumption.
Dick is trying to avoid eye contact
And asks questions from a Xeroxed booklet.
Personal questions
Have I ever lost more than I can afford from gambling.
Like when can you afford to lose anything?
He ticks them off one by one
And ticks me off
And I get in.
I make it.
I'm a winner.
I'm a member.
I belong.
The first circle of hell is a roundtable of losers.

These men,
All men,
Looking me up and down,
Trying to sit next to me,
Trying to score
Without betting.

I don't know.
These programs.
They're all the same,
You know?
I forget what I'm not supposed to do.
It's a haze.
They slowly creep together into something
Like overeating alcoholics who gamble for cigarettes.

Is there a twelve-step for twelve-step programs?
I'll bet
There's an Anonymous Anonymous.
Or for sex addicts,
Is there a Fucking Anonymous?
And then would they be called
Fuckin' A?
I want to be part of that group.
Fuckin' A.

They push God on you
Even if you don't believe.
God grant me this,
God grant me that.
We're human.
We've got problems.
God created us with problems
So He could feel superior.
God as the pitboss
And the House has the advantage.
Thank you, God.

Man can make mistakes.
Women, too.
But more men.
It is okay, so sayeth the Good Book.
After all, we're only human.
Jesus died for your sins.
Well, Christ,
I was born in 1960.
He sure didn't die for my sins.

In the meetings.
In the meetings
You form a circle
At the end
You hold hands.
Clammy, sweaty, dead fish hands,
Hands of strangers,
Hands of new best friends,
And you read out loud from that stupid little book.
That book.
Their Bible.
You hug people you wouldn't hire to mow your lawn
Or babysit your son.

I've been to enough of these things
That I can recite the virtues by heart.
"God grant me the strength to --"
There's God again.
But they're just words,
They don't mean anything.
They never did.
If I said anything enough times,
I'd get it.
I think.

But don't let me talk you new people
Out of joining.

It's all about believing.
To feel
You're a part of something,
A community.
I guess.

My husband and I --
My ex-husband and I --
We came back from one of these sessions.
Not a step program,
But it might as well have been.

There was hugging.
There's always hugging
And crying
And jelly doughnuts.
Whatever anyone did,
It was okay.
It's okay.
You're human, you're coping, it's natural.

It made me feel abnormal,
Not human,
Not natural
For not fitting in with the crying freaks.

I'm not talking about you.

My husband said,
"See, Isabel?"
That's my name, Isabel.
"She ate...
That woman ate four pints of Chocolate Chip Cookie
Dough in one sitting
While watching back-to-back `Ally McBeal' reruns.
Just like you."
So it's okay.
Everything's okay.

Everything's not okay.
She has problems.
She's different.
Just because someone else is doing it
Doesn't give me the right to imitate
Or pig out
Twenty-four seven.
As Gregory,
My son,
Would say.

I'm like her.
So I'm like them.
So I'm not alone.

We kill criminals to teach them
Not to kill again.
Negative behavior

My son Gregory...
Gregory my son
Not Gregory my husband...
My Gregory,
When he was twelve,
Going on thirteen,
Thirteen rising,
He climbed up on the roof.

His version of running away from home
Was to hide in plain sight
Like Sherlock Holmes said.

We didn't know.
We didn't realize
He was gone.

And so
When it got dark,
When he got lonely,
And cold,
He came down on his own.
But his foot caught in the drainpipe
And he slipped
And fell
On the driveway
On his head.

He wasn't born with many heartbeats
To play with.

I have to think that.
That has to be true.
He was happy.
We were happy.
Why would he jump?

He was wearing Garanimals.
Remember those?
The clothes that matched
So you don't have to think,
You don't have to feel,
What goes with what.
But his clothes didn't match.
They never did.
He always wore black
With his Garanimals.

It's funny.
Is it eight, ten years now?
The things you think about
At the oddest times.
Time flies when you're...

When Gregory died,
The doctors gave my husband,
My then-husband,
One hundred capsules of Paxil, fifty capsules of Zyban,
twenty-five capsules of hypericum,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

"Just don't take more than one
More than one day in a row,"
They said.
Because they couldn't tell us
How to feel.

You lose a child
And you lose your world.
Dealer wins,
Dealer has twenty-one,
Game over.
They can't tell you
How that feels.
It's better to feel nothing.

My friends
Actually said:
"You can just get pregnant again."
"At least you have another son."

The doctors were right.
It's better to feel nothing.

I painted a smile,
Thanks for the casserole,
It was delicious.
Do you want the Tupperware back?
No, thanks.
I'm okay.
I appreciate it,
That's sweet of you,
But I'm fine.

That's what they'll tell you to say.
You're okay,
He's okay,
I'm a sack of withered flesh.
Pay no attention to the haggard woman
In the back corner
Whose face is drained of tears
Like a dried-out sponge.

She's going through a loss.

At the funeral
I couldn't stop laughing.
Thinking of Garanimals
What they're really thinking,
The people,
My friends.

What they're really thinking
Thank goodness it didn't happen to me.

And that night
And maybe the next night
I'm sure
They hugged their children a little tighter
And said a little prayer.
I hope.

So a little gambling
Or drinking
Or smoking
Here and there
To numb the pain,
To pass the time,
To take your mind off of
And you'll even win sometimes.
You will.
Playing the slots
Or the tables.
Or life.
It's okay.
It's not so bad.
You can afford it.
Better than the alternative,
Whatever that is.

But I.

I haven't done drugs,
Any kind of drugs,
Even prescribed by the doctors,
Even cold capsules,
In three months.
That's important.

I don't need to confess
Or say Hail Marys
Or pray to Saint John's Wort.

Three months.
Whatever you're here for.
It's longer than you think.
And it's a start.
I'm not sure why,
But it is.

(Isabel holds up a chip she's been clutching in
her hand. For the first time, she smiles --
fully and honestly.)

This chip is a symbol.
It's plastic.
Can't even gamble with it.

But you get more for doing nothing.

Three months.
It's worth it.

And I have to say,
It feels good.

This isn't for God
Or my family
Or Sparky the wonder dog.
It's for Gregory,
My son.
Thank you.
Thank you very much.
Fuckin' A!

(Isabel raises the chip into the air.)


Grubby is a degenerate gambler and writer from Poker Grub.

October 15, 2004

October 2004 (Vol. 3, Issue 10)

This is my favorite time of the month, when I publish another issue of my literary blog-zine. October brings us two new writers as well as stories from two of my favorite writers, both past contributors. I penned three stories; a touching tale, a Vermont story, and I'm sharing an excerpt from my fourth novel Bar Hopping with Buddha. In her first appearance in Truckin', Kristie wrote up her thoughts about 9.11. BG returns with a personal story about being a hurricane survivor. Molly Burkhart joins the staff with a story called Cannonballs. And everyone's favorite Norwegian novelist, Sigge S. Amdal submitted an interesting piece called Facing the Facts. Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. Moments in a Box by Tenzin McGrupp
"Someday, people will catch up to the way you think, and eventually figure out what you've been talking about all these years. And it'll be like we finally got the punchline to a joke," the girl with the seashell eyes used to say to me all the time in her sweet drawl... More

2. Hurricane by BG
I've never lived in Florida, and would never want to. But I did survive Hurricane Jeanne. Barely, by the skin of my teeth, with the clothes on my back, with nothing left to show but what was left of my sanity and bank accounts on the tail end... More

3. My 9/11 by Kristie
We have TVs on now and there are shots of people in New York, running through the streets in horror and in their business suits. Can't you just picture the looks on their faces? You remember, don't you? It looked like a movie... More

4. Vintage by Tenzin McGrupp
Sometimes I did not get the money I wanted and I had to beg, borrow, or steal just to scrape together enough cash to buy a couple of drinks. For some reason, bartenders don't give out free drinks anymore to wayward philosophers or jaded artists down on their luck... More

5. Cannonballs by Molly Burkhart
I hate cannonballs. Muskets, I can handle. Bayonets, I can counter. But those damn, shrapnel-filled cannonballs scare the holy hell out of me... More

6. Facing the Facts by Sigge S. Amdal
After a couple of years... I figure it can't take much longer walking from Norway to Italy... we'd get there, and the group's members would recognize me as their guarantee of real, ultimate power in this glorious land that I had given them... More

7. Walking to Coventry by Tenzin McGrupp
The Joker slung his gear on his back, ditched his rental car and walked into the campgrounds. He headed north and parked in a town called Newport, then hitched a ride halfway and hiked the rest of the way in... More

What A Long Strange Trip Its Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Thanks to everyone who shared their bloodwork this month. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. I'm happy to add Kristie and Molly to the Truckin' roster. And thanks again to Sigge and BG for returning with some of their best work to date.

I ask the readers 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 or the monthly e-mail. 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 moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself." - Henry Miller

Moments in a Box

Moments in a Box

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

"Someday, people will catch up to the way you think, and eventually figure out what you've been talking about all these years. And it'll be like we finally got the punchline to a joke," the girl with the seashell eyes used to say to me all the time in her sweet drawl.

Was she right or was she just being nice? Either way, I missed the long letters that she used to write to me. No one wrote real letters anymore and they have been replaced with the informal coldness of e-mail. Sure, with the internet you keep in touch with more people from all around the world, but the sincerity of the words has lost its stellar luster. E-mails are rarely saved and often deleted after first glance. Letters were something you kept in a box or in a drawer somewhere and stumbled upon on a rainy Saturday morning. It was a physical piece of correspondence, a tiny museum of words and ideas, hand written, of course, so you could see the emotion and the thoughtfulness of each scripted letter and each word in every sentence as they flowed back and forth to the keen eye of the reader. I missed the letters from the girl with the seashell eyes and snazzy smiling face scribbled next to her name on the back of the colorful stationary she used.

Sometimes she sent two letters a day and I always laughed and got high when my hand reached into the mailbox to pick up each one. Warm thoughts flooded my stomach when I saw the postmark. Every time I opened her letters, it felt like it was Christmas morning and I had awoken to find hundreds of presents, all for me, wrapped underneath a huge Christmas tree. Her words made me smile. Her words made me want to see her. Her letters were full of love and happiness and I imagined a huge smile seized her face while she scribbled down her thoughts to me, as a bright sun hung high in a clear Texas sky. I was impressed by the way she wrote, not because her letters were perfect, but rather because she took the time out of her busy day to write lengthy and detailed letters. Her words were true, honest, and flowed smoothly because they were not used improperly. She never wrote anything she did not genuinely feel and her words used to jump off the page and smother me with little baby kisses and I would giggle, reading them over and over before I would commit each one to memory and put them away in an old cigar box that used to hold Cuban cigars that I had smuggled in from Canada.

I used to write her long letters, too. I wrote about my dreams. My letters to her were dream journals. She often joked that she was going to save them for publication one day. I wondered why anyone would want to read about my odd dreams. Most of them made no sense. Like the one dream about the purple humpbacked whales. I would sit along side a dock and toss small pieces of dead fish chunks into the ocean. One by one, the purple whales lined up to feed. They were hungry but maintained a strict line. They each took a few minutes feeding, then swam to the back of the line. I never understood why they did that or why the bucket of dead fish parts never seemed to empty. The more and more I scooped out and threw into the water, the bigger the bucket grew. I tried to toss the entire bucket in the water, but it was too heavy for me to lift by myself.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.


By BG © 2004

I don’t know why they do it. Floridians, that is. I don’t know why they insist on living right in the paths of turbulent and destructive storms that cruise through and demolish everything in their wakes.

It just seems so easy to move to San Diego or Reno or Duluth, or just anywhere that can’t be touched by the angry winds and torrid rains of these hurricanes.
It just seems so easy.

“Easy,” somehow, is never the easy answer.

I’ve never lived in Florida, and would never want to. But I did survive Hurricane Jeanne. Barely, by the skin of my teeth, with the clothes on my back, with nothing left to show but what was left of my sanity and bank accounts on the tail end. Her winds were punishing, her downpour relentless.

And I’m here to tell you that the worst part of it all is when you’re right in the eye.

It’s a ridiculously powerless feeling to have known the rage, having fought through the initial push of the storm, and to all of a sudden be in an eerily calm period of sedentary serenity. You can still sense the uproar and turmoil all around, threatening to crush you from any side, but she’s quiet, cool, collected. Waiting for you to blink.

The screaming and wailing stops in the eye, but so do the whispers and insinuations. It’s the prolonged uncomfortable silence where she just waits for you to catch your breath before thrashing you mercilessly with everything she has left.

The calm, in and of itself, is its own form of attack. As any boxer can tell you, dealing with fury is the easy part. Put your guard up, don’t let go until she’s too tired to swing anymore. You’ll end up bruised, beaten, and bloodied, but still standing, still consciously aware of the fight that’s yet to come. When she withdraws however, you catch yourself looking over your shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop, preoccupied by the thought that there is another battle left in you, in her, and it could come at any time.

But when?

In the eye of the hurricane, it’s every man for himself. Rationale is useless against primal rage and I had few options against this storm that was either surging into her purpose and resolution, or menacing herself free of anything that could possibly have been holding her back. This is what keeps you looking back, keeping watch on the horizon behind. If she had just given a hint, a small clue of her intentions, I would have been much more able to prepare myself for the onslaught.

This is the unpredictability of nature at work. At her core, Jeanne’s uncertain course is what defined her. What initially looked like a narrow escape, a thankful pass off the wide side, instead turned directly into everything I had, everything I with which had been secure and comfortable. She decided, somewhere mid-course, to choose the path of chaos and destruction rather than to let a hard rain be a simple hard rain. And I was completely unprepared.

In retrospect, I can remember seeing the flags offshore, red flags with that ominous black square, but I continued happily unaware. Even when the rains started, and the wind moved from breezy to unstoppable, I always felt like things would calm down, that the sunshine would return, and that life could be shifted back to blissful normalcy.

It wasn’t until halfway through her first push that I started to get confused.

I was out of my element. Darkness descends quickly when the clouds are spinning and collapsing into themselves, and I was driven into retreat by the powerful bedlam crashing and gusting in every corner of my world. It’s not difficult to find a place to hide from the storm’s obvious fury, but the windows in my bedroom still rattled, and I lived in constant fear that the roof might at any time collapse under the sheer strain of her unrelenting power.

That’s how she raged, with absolute will and power. And it was in that first night, under the covers, crying uncertain tears, that I lost my power.

I closed my eyes, pulled the covers over my head, and pinched what remaining tears I hadn’t spent in the hours before out of the corners of my clenched eyes. It was dark, and I was in darkness, and there was no one by my side to reassure me that the lights would someday come back on.

The storm heaved and seized, gusting through with enough clout to topple oaks and uproot entire lives. And I lay in my room, quietly, eyes safely shut, waiting to hear something, nothing, anything other than the madness of the storm’s swath.

April 2001:

”Let’s go get tattoos.”

She was serious. There was barely a hint of a smile on her face as we drove through Saturday afternoon traffic, and I could tell she wasn’t remotely close to kidding.

“You know how I feel about needles,” I said, “I’m not getting anywhere near one of those joints.”

“But you can get my name tattooed on you, and I can get your name inside my other tattoo. I’ve been saving that space for you.” She was eager, and imploring me to reconsider.

“No. Nuh-uh. Needles freak me out, he’ll poke me once, I’ll run out of there screaming, and we’ll be out $200.”

“Why? Is it because I asked you to get my name tattooed? Is it me?” Was she panicking? I wasn’t close to being able to understand what was going on in this instant. It was as if I flipped a switch in her somewhere. Deep in her eyes, there was this inexplicable fear, or maybe it was just uncertainty. Either way, I was confused.

“I can’t... I mean I won’t do it,” I was treading lightly, I knew I was in a delicate situation, but why? “I just can’t stand the thought of being poked with a needle. You know I’m a wimp. I don’t like tattoos anyway. We could go to dinner instead...”

Instantly, she became at once furious and deeply wounded. “You NEVER want to do anything fun. You’re so fucking lame. All I want is to go get fucking tattoos, and I want to do it to show you I LOVE YOU. And you can’t even return the goddamn favor.”

She was huffing back what threatened to be more serious tears, and was staring straight out in front of the car, desperately trying to appear less hurt than she obviously was.

I drove another couple of blocks, completely bewildered at the range of emotions I had witnessed over the last three minutes. Where was this coming from?

“This isn’t about tattoos, is it?” I was trying to throw her an olive branch, trying desperately to understand what it was she was really talking about.

“It’s ABOUT the tattoos, and it’s ABOUT every other fucking thing too.” The tears were raining heavily, but still were unable to flood the spite and anger from her eyes. “It’s about you being NO FUCKING FUN anymore. Remember when you were fun? When we were fun? Well, I don’t anymore. You’re an old man Tony, an old man.”

We drove in silence for a few more moments, the tension heavy as she debated whether to play her final card.

“I don’t even fucking know why I’m still with you.”

And then the eye, calm. Dead, silent, calm. It’s as if she’s looking at you, but right through you, concentrating intently on anything but you. By this point, you’re past the point of action, well beyond any feasible solution. But still, you try to make sense of the storm. Try to understand how to ride her crest, well out in front of whatever doom she’s threatening to lay down in her next go-round. Try to divine how to buttress what was left of what might have been before irrational disaster crushes everything that remains.

Try to figure out how to get out, flee.

It’s useless. I cursed the storm, threatened the elements that had brought her into my life. I gave offerings, penance to the driving forces, trying to even her keel.
I took the extended silence she offered as hope, and began to believe she wouldn’t rage in my world again.

But all the while, I was looking over my shoulder at the horizon behind. Storm clouds were looming again, and this time I understood that promises in the light mean nothing against purpose under a veil of clouds.

August 2001:

“He’s coming. I didn’t ask him to, I swear to god.”

In the past two months, I had finally figured out what the late nights on the computer, and the refusal to come to bed at a decent hour meant. It meant that she was on the phone, or chatting over the PC with Mick.

I didn’t actually catch on fully until I put a piece of software on the computer that tracked her keystrokes. I saw a one-sided conversation between my wife and some English guy named Mick on the Instant Messenger, and I was stunned to see phrases like, “I love you,” “You’re who I’ve been waiting my whole life for,” and “You make me feel whole again.”

My wife. Mine.

I tried every angle I could when confronting her with this infidelity. I played nice, I offered my love and support, I wailed with sadness and screamed in tortured anger.

She wouldn’t blink, and she wouldn’t fight anymore. The girl I spent countless nights telling every secret I had, talking about everything and nothing to ensure I wouldn’t miss a single moment, had almost completely shut me out.

And it’s not as if there was nothing more to say. Each moment we spent silently sharing space was thick with every problem, every issue that remains to this day unspoken.

“He’s coming. I didn’t ask him to, I swear to god.”

“Who’s coming? When?” The first question was almost rhetorical.

“Mick. You know who. He’s flying into Detroit the Thursday before Halloween. I don’t even know if I want to see him.” She couldn’t have played this any better at the time. Very matter-of-fact, extending that ray of hope that I needed in order to not leave her, which was what she needed to gather time to turn her fantasies into realities.

I was tired. During those times, I was always tired. I didn’t have the strength to challenge her advances, so I faced these circumstances with quiet resignation, and always just a little bit of hope. “If you see him, I’m going to leave you.” I’m not even sure I convinced myself.

For the first time in what seemed like months, she seemed to open up and gave me the smile I had fallen in love with in the first place. “Honey, don’t say that. I don’t want to leave you, and I don’t want you to go.”

“Then I need you to cut it off with Mick. I can’t take this anymore.”

“I’ve got a lot I need to figure out, and I’m sorry about that. I asked Mick not to come, but he bought his ticket. I won’t see him if you ask me not to.” She seemed sincere, and every instinct I had told me to take the deal.

“OK, I’m asking you. Don’t see him.”

She didn’t come home the Thursday before Halloween.

Or the Friday.

She spurned every advance, every peaceful hand I tried to extend. She brought the darkness back swiftly, and drove me back behind the walls, into the blackened house, under the covers. She pounded on the doors and windows, threatened to lift the roof off and throw me out homeless into her fury. I stayed silent now, as a man who shouts into the wind is unlikely to recognize his own voice in return.

I let her punch and rumble and shake my foundation with constant pressure. It was in this darkness that I knew I could rely on no one but myself. She was going to pound every inch of my life flat if given the opportunity, but she would also blow over at some point. And it was in the genesis of that thought that I knew I could no longer live in her wake. Trapped, as it were, alone in my house, powerless, unable to bring myself to shed a single tear further, I relented.

December 2001:

“I need some time, a break... I bought the ticket today.”

She had told me she wanted to get away. At first, it was a weekend, then a “week or two,” and eventually it bubbled over into “a few weeks.”

I didn’t want her to go, but if she was going to leave, I only had one condition. Anywhere but England.

“You bought the ticket with what money exactly?” With rent and two ridiculously big car payments, we were already well behind in bills.

“I have some money due from some of my contacts.” Self-employed, I didn’t have a grasp on how little or how much. “I bought it with my business account.”

“So you bought the ticket to where? Tell me you’re going to Denver. California. Where are you going?”

“England. I’m leaving two days before Christmas, and I’ll be back in mid-February.” She paused to let that sink in. “I really want you to be here when I get back. I want to make this work.”

“If you want to make this work, don’t go to England. You can go anywhere else you want. You’ve got friends all over. Why does it have to be England?”

“I have to see... I just have to see.” She got that wistful, faraway look in her eyes, as if she was already nibbling a scone sitting on the banks of the Thames in her mind.

“Fuck you and your ‘have to see.’ If you want me here when you get back, you’re not getting on a plane to England.” After nearly eight months of living outside the center of my wife’s world, I had one simple request. Take a break if you need to, but don’t expect me to stick around if you are factoring Mick into the equation.

“Don’t you care at all about me?” Her voice was starting to rise, trying to make the emotional plea while keeping her obvious frustration couched behind. “I have to do this FOR ME. Maybe I was too young to get married, maybe we aren’t supposed to be together. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we ARE meant to be with each other forever. I don’t know any other way to find this out than to see what’s in England. I have to go, and you have to understand that.”

I wasn’t understanding.

“You need to let me find this out for myself.”

I was livid. Absolutely fucking livid. For about a month following her disappearance during Mick’s visit, she seemed to be trying. On the surface, she was doing everything I asked of her, or so I thought. I didn’t catch her talking to Mick, and I started to see glimpses of the beautiful and vibrant woman I married instead of the sullen girl that could only find her sunshine outside her spiral of depression.
She had played me for a sucker, planning her next steps in seclusion, giving me almost no time to react and plead my case along the way.

“Here’s how it’s going to work,” I started, with venom lacing each word for full effect, “you get on that plane, I pack my shit and leave. I don’t give a fuck about the rent, about the car payments, anything. If you get on that plane, everything we have here is fucking over. You understand that?”

Tears came quickly for her, and for the first time I think she understood that she was at a point of no return. “Don’t you trust me?” was the only thing she could muster.

I started crying. Lightly at first, still trying to feel more angry than anything, but then was bawling with a purpose. I took her around the waist and pulled her close. “How can I trust you with everything that you’ve done to us, everything you’ve done to me?” I was sobbing, and for the first time I really knew she was leaving.
And for the first time, I think she really knew I was leaving too.

“I’ll call you every day out there, and I won’t do anything to ruin our marriage, I promise.”

Promises, promises.

“I’m not going to take your calls. If you go, you can do whatever you want because you’re not going to find me here when you get back.”

Less than two weeks later, when her father came to take her to the airport she pleaded with me one last time to let her come back to our house, our life, and what love we might still have left together. It wasn’t the last time we would shed tears together, and certainly wasn’t truly our final separation, but that night is marked in my mind as a point of closure, the night I knew with absolute certainty that I had to be the one to leave. I didn’t have an airplane, a European destination, or anyone waiting for me on the other side. I was the one whose future was obscured by clouds, and on whose shoulders the rebuilding would ultimately begin.

I let her go, and never have regretted keeping my final promise to her.

I rode out the storm and watched her carry herself out over the ocean, surveying the damage left behind in her path. As I look over what’s left, my life was not littered with true rubble or visible scars and bruises. Where Hurricane Jeanne took her toll is in my inability to see the light. Because of her, I keep one eye always over my shoulder, looking and squinting into the horizon, doing everything I can to fashion storm clouds out of thin air. She took that away from me. The serene and quiet moments of my life are now shrouded by an irrational fear of impending doom and failure.

October 2004:

She created all of this. Jean.

Despite it all, I really do miss her badly.

BG is a blogger from Michigan whose favorite color is blue, enjoys long walks on the beach, and hopes to use this platform to promote world peace and awareness of nut cancer.