June 21, 2006

June 2006, Vol. 5, Issue 6

Hey, it's the fourth anniversary of Truckin'! I can't believe that we lasted four years. Here were are with the 4th Birthday issue, which happens to be the 49th issue of Truckin' and one of my favorites with Sigge, Joe Speaker, and Daddy returning, along with three writers making their Truckin' debut.

1. Late Night Donuts by Tenzin McGrupp
"You're ruining my life!" Nicky screamed at the old man in the Lexus who cut her off. "Fucking douche bag!"... More

2. Milk by Mella
It's been years now, since the accident, since the anniversary. But she still carries it. Her little scarlet letter, tucked in her purse; meaningless to everyone but our family. Occasionally, while she listens to her lists or while recording the ingredients for the salad she wants with dinner, people will ask her what she's doing... More

3. Letter Home by Mitchell B. Ivey
I thought I should take the time to finally get in touch with you, and let you know how I have been. The move was rough, going from one place I call home to a new place that is so vastly different... More

4. [cohabitant->roommate] by Sigge S. Amdal
I could always hear her late at night, turning in bed or sleeping and sighing dreamfully, when I could not. I just knew she was a virgin... More

5. My First Lynching by Craig Cunningham
I was doing a girl named Sherry when I saw my first lynching. It was 1953 in Morrisville, Mississippi, and I was 26... More

6. Crop Dusting by Daddy
Her name was Lori, and I think she's from Brookville. I do know she ate Mexican food with her cousin before the party, and that ended up being the demise to my New Year's... More

7. Truffles by Joe Speaker
The place looked posh, sconces and scarlet lighting pointing toward a trim, demure blonde awaiting our cover charge. She smiled as she took our money... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Thanks for returning back to another issue of Truckin'. The special birthday issue is loaded with some of the best writing I've seen in months including gems from Joe Speaker, Norwegian philosopher and writer Sigge S. Amdal. And don't forget about redneck philosopher Daddy. Mitchell B. Ivey, Mella, and Craig Cunningham added their unique voices to the mix as newcommers. And I wrote something up about my time in Hollyweird earlier this year.

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

Here's where I ask you, the reader, for a huge favor... if you like these stories, then please tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. The other writers 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.


"If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up." - Hunter Thompson

Late Night Donuts

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2006

"Oh my God, I can't feel my lips," Nicky screamed as we drove past the Laurel Canyon Country Store. "That's some awesome blow."

Good thing she drove up through the hills as Beck blasted on her iPod. We safely navigated the winding Mulholland Drive and drove over to Lake Hollywood. Yeah, there's an actual lake in L.A., the one that was featured in the film Chinatown.

As we drove close to the infamous Hollywood sign landmark, an old hippie woman hitch hiked as she struggled up the hill.

"Gonna stop?" I said.

I goaded Nicky into picking up the sketchy woman who stuck out her thumb out. She wore a purple dress and had on too much Native American jewelry.

"Hell no. She'd probably carjack us and smoke all our weed."

Nicky took me to Kings Road Cafe for brunch. Most of the places you'd eat lunch in L.A. are super crowded and not by people on their lunch hour. Instead, lunches are populated with well-off slackers, trophy wives, out of work actors, and troubled writers. Those are the people who are actually free to sit out on the sidewalk and bullshit about nothing for two hours as they get served overpriced food and semi-decent coffee.

A woman who sat down next to us on the patio looked like Diane Lane. In Hollyweird, you have to check twice because that person who looks like some famous more often than not is someone famous. That instance, it wasn't her. Diane Lane never would had carried around a fake Hermes handbag. After a closer examination of the stitching, Nicky determined it was a knock-off. The real deal goes for $8,000. The Diane Lane look-a-like sipped on passion fruit iced tea and kept a close watch on her fake designer bag.

The meals I had been eating in L.A. were not substantial. Even eating $200 worth of sushi wasn't filling. I've been craving a big meal. They are hard to come by out here. A bagel, a slice of good pizza. Anything.

* * * * *

"You're ruining my life!" Nicky screamed at the old man in the Lexus who cut her off. "Fucking douche bag!"

She did her best to calm down, but it wasn't working. In between puffs of a bowl she continued to berate the horrible L.A. drivers. The funny thing is that she lived in L.A. most of her life and she still grew angry by retarded SUV drivers on cell phones.

We met Joe Speaker and his cousin at 14 Below in Santa Monica, a typical dive bar that featured bands and smelled like spilled beer and patchouli. Despite the trashiness of 14 Below, they booked solid bands from time to time like Leo Nocentilli and Tea Leaf Green. Most of the trendoids in the joint were there to see Supercreep at Midnight. We had to endure the atrocious sounds from two terrible bands before they took the stage. We sat at the bar drinking heavily and watched Joe Speaker teeter between bouts of self-loathing and sheer excitement that he was out in a bar in L.A. and only steps away from sexually lascivious sixteen year olds, who were holding a private party next door.

"Oh my fuckin' God! I went to college with the singer in that band!"

A blonde in a pair of $200 jeans broke into a horrible cover of AC/DC's Shook Me All Night Long as Nicky shook her head. The second band was awful. Their lead singer wore a pink cowboy hat and was at least 45 years old. She looked like Roseanne Barr on trucker's speed and wore spandex pants. They were an 80s cover band and kept playing random songs from Journey. After each song ended, I'd scream, "Play more Journey!"

The Irish bartender was not amused with my cat calls.

"Please don't encourage them," he said with a stern look ready to kick my ass.

Even he'd had enough of their awful renditions of Journey songs. They played two U2 covers, too. Joe Speaker was piss drunk and would shout out curses about his soon-to-be ex-wife.

"She's a fucking liar!" he shrieked at one point drowning out the melodies of the Journey cover band.

The place had a decent amount of female talent. There's always a small percentage of jaw-dropping hotness in the women that populate L.A. Joe Speaker was enamored with one woman sitting at the end of the bar. She looked like Jennifer Connelly and I had to walk up over to her to make sure it wasn't. The rest of the bar was packed with an interesting mix of music industry hipster types and pothead friends of the bands that were playing. One fucktard wore a plaid blazer, designer jeans, and a pair of $400 aviator sunglasses inside while he sipped on a vodka and Red Bull. I wanted to punch him out on principle alone.

Nicky and I swapped turns all night long hitting up the bathroom for a toot or two as we fought through the crowd to get to the bathroom. I was too drunk to drive home, so Nicky took the wheel after we waited ten minutes for valet to bring us the car. On our inebriated drive back home to Beverly Hills, we continued ripping gaggers while Wu Tang Clan's Shame on a Nigga echoed from her car speakers.

"Let's get donuts," I muttered.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.


By Mella © 2006

Things aren't as clear cut as they used to be. I'm not talking about life or how things were in the old days when people knew more clearly the difference between right and wrong, or anything like that. I'm talking about the lines on the pavement outside Miller's Convenience store. They used to be clearer cut.

Miller's shares a parking lot with a gas station and a Cracker Barrel, just after the bend on Pond Road. There were yellow lines dividing where to enter and where to exit, up until the summer when they repaved the lot. It was thicker and blacker. It looked hot and fresh for weeks, like you could sink into it if you stood still for too long. And it smelled like tar. But they didn't repaint the yellow lines. They weren't there the night Kevin went to Miller's at supper time to pick up what Mom forgot. The milk.

By the time my sisters and I got there, it had all been cleaned up. Shattered bits of glass shimmered in the grassy edge of the lot. A few shards of orange and red plastic settled in with the bits of tar and gravel along where the grass pressed against the tar. But we didn't see it. We didn't see the two hulks of gnarled metal mashed into one grinding mass of sharp glass corners and bumpers torn in two.

Only Mom and Dad were there to smell the smoky residue of airbags exploded and gasoline and tar. They were the only ones to hear the droning car alarms and the ambulance wail as it screeched into the parking lot. Only they saw the line of his body, the long bumps of his arms and legs, the round hump of his head pressing up against the white blood-speckled sheet, strapped on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.

At the wake we were all numb and felt heavy, like we were wading through water. He was the baby of the family, just home from college for the summer; and there he was, wearing his best suit and lying peacefully with a make-up caked face and his hands folded on his chest. They had to work hard to fix him up for the casket. Not only had he been mangled, but his hair had flecks of oil paint in it from his summer job. It was under his nails too. His skin had been worn to leather from the sun on the ladders, painting.

After the funeral, my uncles and father carried him out. Mom and my sisters and I lead the procession, staring through watery eyes at the shining black box. It didn't seem possible that it contained my brother. How can that simple thing hold him? How can it hold any of us?

* * * * *

One year later, we all gathered for dinner, standing nervously around the table trying to not make the tension as obvious as it was. Krista, my youngest sister, was the first to mention it.

"Are we expecting someone else?" She rubbed her elbow while watching Mom closely for a reaction. There was a place setting at Kevin's seat. Dad eyed her from across the table, shaking his head slowly.

Mom ignored the comment and sighed, smoothing her hand over her apron. She surveyed the table, inspecting each steaming serving dish. Corn. Potatoes. Meatloaf.

"Oh, I forgot the gravy!" Her hand flew to her forehead and she turned back to the kitchen, calling back to us, "sit, sit! I'll bring it right out."

We sat, listening to the hum of the air conditioner. She returned with the gravy boat. It looked like a topless porcelain genie bottle with a thick drip of brown running down the spout. She placed it carefully between the potatoes and the meat. And then she sat beside Dad, the dull thud of a tape recorder echoed as she set it beside her plate.

"Oh, for God sake, Katherine, not tonight." Dad slapped the table, knocking the recorder on its back and wobbling the wine in our glasses.

"Every night." She stared blankly ahead. "You'll bury me with it."

"This is ridiculous, I mean, really." His head shook vigorously. His eyes implored us around the table: help.

She had bought the tape recorder two days after the accident, convinced that if she had remembered to pick up milk on her way home from the work that evening, her son would still be alive. She recorded everything she might need throughout the day. So that she wouldn't forget.

At first, she slid the plastic strap around her wrist and clutched the body of it in her palm throughout the day. Later, she found it more practical to have it attached to her somehow, so she couldn't lose it. She fashioned a clasp and clipped it securely inside her purse, easily accessible for her. She rambled to herself in the car. She talked to it in her cubicle at work. At the market, she replayed her lists. Potatoes. Chicken thighs. Cheese. Milk. She would never let her self forget.

"Mom," I said weakly, but stopped short at her eyes. They were steel gray with a relentless gaze locked on the wall behind my father's head. She wasn't listening.

"I'm sorry, girls," Dad stood from the table, picking up his glass. Red wine sloshed over the lip and splattered on his shirt. He didn't stop moving, "I thought having you here tonight would help." He walked to the living room, still muttering, but only to himself.

We all stared in different directions. At Mom. At the recorder. At the porcelain serving dishes from which we had scooped some of our happiest memories. Sweet potato mousse, dense bread stuffing, shiny succotash and beef stew, chicken and rice. Now they sat, full of food made by the same hands, but somehow empty.

Dad was right about the recorder. It was a presence at the table. It wasn't Kevin presence. It was hers: her all consuming guilt.

* * * * *

It's been years now, since the accident, since the anniversary. But she still carries it. Her little scarlet letter, tucked in her purse; meaningless to everyone but our family. Occasionally, while she listens to her lists or while recording the ingredients for the salad she wants with dinner, people will ask her what she's doing.

What an odd idea, they say.

"I just want to make sure I remember," she always responds politely.

"Remember what?"

She pauses before answering, quietly letting the night wash over her; remembering everything. The ear piercing drone of the alarm, the smell of tar and smoke. The flashing lights, the white bloodstained sheet wheeling past her, his paint stained fingertips peeking from beneath it.

"Important things." Her polite smile fades as she looks at them through sad gray eyes, "like milk."

Mella is a full-time grad student and over tired mama, staving off insanity by writing.


By Sigge S. Amdal © 2006

I wasn't moving very far, just three blocks up from where I used to live. They only took half the rent there, because it was quite a long time since anyone had done anything to keep the place acceptable.

I shared the kitchen and the bathroom with two girls and another boy. I also shared meeting them in the hall early in the morning, waiting in line for the WC, and I shared the soundscape with all three of them.

One of the girls and the boy were usually out of town, so I didn't see or hear much from them. The last girl, however, was a young student, and she spent most of her time at home.

Incidentally, her room was the one closest to mine, and the wall between was thin as paper. If it hadn't been for the traffic moving steadily outside, I bet I would even have heard her breathe.

She was my favourite roommate. She was young the way only an eighteen-year-old looking–fifteen-years-old can be. She had a beautiful smile, and she would laugh at my innocent jokes if we ever met.

Studying and working hard, and me working hard was not very often. But I could always hear her late at night, turning in bed or sleeping and sighing dreamfully, when I could not.

I just knew she was a virgin.

After a while we grew into quite an item. We were not going out or anything, she preferred watching television when she wasn't studying, which was fine with me. I grew deeper and deeper into the nagging passion of feeling her touch, and she would let me touch her without pulling away. But somewhere deep down I knew she didn't understand what I was brewing on. And I couldn't tell her, since, after all, I was going to have to live with it every day. The thought of facing past failure every day did its best to keep me off, and just be friends.

When I think of it now, I know I was never in love, but I would never deny that I wanted her. She appealed to me as a challenge, a conquest in wait. Because I never did anything, I would grow irritated and be rash with her, not accepting of her company.

So our so-called friendship fell apart, signaling my illusion that I was in love.

It was imaginary by definition. I wanted to possess her, to master her, to demand and loyally receive admiration, adoration and recognition. It is hard to see that, though, when you are sleep-walking bewildered in the middle of it.

One devastating night I woke up to the sound of her coming home from work. She worked late every other Friday. My body froze and every shred of focus was shifted to my ears; was she not alone? I was shocked speechless hearing a male voice talking softly, but reassuring to her in her room. I couldn't hear words although my mind was rushing to piece together what I could catch. She knew too about the thin walls, and I could hear the sshshhh, silencing what verbal tokens I should never hear.

I heard fabric slowly collapsing to a pile on the floor, and the sound came from where I knew her bed was standing. My eyes were not as open as my ears; I heard the kissing, the moans and the suppressed hushing. I heard her gasp when he entered her, taking what I had longed so for. The cockroaches kept quiet throughout the long, long night, and I couldn't let it go.

I could not close my ears for this.

Listening, but weeping inside, I mastered my tears and breath as dominantly I could, not to make a sound. Why had she not picked me? The voice should have been mine! I longed to be the one to comfort her, still her sorrows and fill her wounds with passion!

I wanted to rush up and call out my anguish, my desperation and my loss, but I did not dare to move. This was also my doing in abandoning her company, but loving her in the next room, and I could never let her know that I was listening.

Early the next morning I left before they, and she had gotten up. All I wanted was to leave. To never see anyone of them again. I wanted not to hear any more of it. No living person could sustain such torture willingly. I decided to move out right away.

I managed to cut my three months notice down to three days, since I found someone who would take my room immediately. I collected my furniture, books, and everything in a single day at an hour she was working. Then I left, and never saw her again.

It was about half a year after this, when I had forgotten all about it, that I learned how the mentally retarded janitor working there had surprised some girl in the entrance, drugged her with chloroform, locked himself into her room and raped her in her own bed.

Sigge S. Amadal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.

Letter Home

By Mitchell B. Ivey © 2006

Dear Momma,

I thought I should take the time to finally get in touch with you, and let you know how I have been. The move was rough, going from one place I call home to a new place that is so vastly different, and oh so far away, took more out of me than I imagined it would. The drive across the country was long and tedious but thankfully uneventful. You know better than anyone momma how I hate to drive long distances. From now on, I'll be able to fly back and forth to visit, but I don't see myself coming anytime soon. I miss you and love you, and no distance will ever change that.

The new job is going well, I am well thought of and respected by my peers. In fact, I am already up for a small promotion now. My supervisor says that she has never seen anyone with such a knack for troubleshooting. We know the real truth though don't we? What better person to solve problems, besides someone who grew up always getting in and out of trouble. I've grown up a lot since I got out of college. My wild streak seems to have faded out, and I enjoy a far more relaxed life now. It has really become necessary, my job takes so much of my time that everything else seems to have become secondary. I have quit drinking and staying out late, I do enjoy going out once in a while, but only with co-workers. I haven't had time to make new friends here momma. I regret that, but I have been so busy. I guess that when things slow down, I ought to get out and pick up where I left off with some of my old interests. Can you believe that I haven't read a book in over 3 months? Doesn't sound like your son the bookworm that you had to kick outside when he was younger does it?

I wish you could see my new house momma, it is really lovely, very provincial you might say. It is ranch style, just like the first house we all lived in in town. It is not as big, but it suits my needs. It has a huge backyard, white shutters on the windows, a two car garage, and beautiful garden in the front that I keep full of roses. The flowers remind me of you. Roses were always your favorite. I remember their sweet smell in the kitchen after you had gone out and cut some to brighten up the house. I used to look forward to spring, not because I liked the roses, but because I remember how happy you were to have roses again. I have roses every now and then in my house, but it doesn't seem the same. Even after all this time, it just doesn't feel like home. I don't know what's missing besides the family, but it just doesn't feel right. Of course momma no place could be home without you, but the roses seem to help.

Overall I guess all is well, and nothing is really worth reporting outside of the above mentioned items. Life has been pretty routine. I'm sorry if this letter is so short, but you know me momma. I lead a boring life. It is due to snow tonight momma. Remember how I always looked forward to the snow. We get plenty up here. I'll build you a snowman just like I used to. I think I'll close now and send this off and hope it gets to you ... no, I can't end it here momma. It would be a lie beyond all forgiveness. I never could lie to you momma.

Everything is not well. Sure, work is great and the house is great, but everything else has fallen down around me momma. I need your advice, I need you to hug me like you did when I would skin my knee on the sidewalk outside and tell me that everything was all right. I need you to be close by so I can talk to you face to face. Your son is lost momma, and I don't know if he will ever be found.

Foremost on my mind is poppa's death. The image of his collapse in the living room on his way to the table for dinner still haunts me. I know it was not my fault momma, I tried everything I knew to save him, but God called him home, right before my eyes momma. You used to brag to all your friends that I was the strongest one in the family in how I reacted to poppa's death like a man. Never letting my feelings show, not crying, standing up straight and meeting everyone's gaze eye to eye. It was just like poppa told me, never back down from someone's gaze, if you do you've done been whipped. I appeared strong for you momma, I know what that man meant to you, and I knew you needed an anchor. I was more than willing to be that anchor, but I paid a terrible price.

My real feelings festered inside me, swelling like a wound. I had no outlet momma. How could I ever let you see me cry again. I was afraid if I faltered, then so would you, and I could not bear to lose you both. I stayed strong outside for you, but inside part of me died. It was almost a repeat when Stevie died in that farming accident while I was off at school. I have felt guilty ever since. Momma I have to this day felt that if I had stayed home and farmed instead of running off chasing my own dreams, Steve would still be alive. I could have been out helping him, watching his back. Instead I was at school sitting around all day listening to professors spout theory after theory that had never been given practical application. It wasn't like yours and poppa's teachings. If either of you told me something, by god, that was how it was, no ifs, ands or buts. I probably doubted your sanity at times with some of your directions on the farm, but you always knew what you were talking about. I learned never to doubt you again.

I guess persistence does pay off. I graduated, and I can still see the gleam in your eyes as I walked over to you after the ceremony holding my diploma out to show you. All you said to me was "your father would have been proud."

No other words were spoken at that moment in time momma, but your eyes said it all. It was a message a mother could pass to her children without words. Words could not have done justice to the feelings that were in your eyes. I have to wonder if it is not the same look a newborn baby receives the first time it is laid into its mother's arms. No words are spoken, but undeniable emotion is transmitted from mother to baby. It is a look that no child will ever consciously remember until something like graduation or marriage occurs, then when the look appears, to the child, no matter how old he or she is, it is recognized as a familiar friend from the old days. Oh what I wouldn't give to see that look in your eyes one more time momma.

I really must apologize momma for not having gotten married yet. I know it has always been your dream to see your grandkids while you were still able to enjoy them, but that is not how it appears it will work out. I have to wonder if you ever thought something was wrong with me. I never brought any girls home to meet you. I was always afraid that I would meet someone I really liked, only to have you disapprove of her for some reason. I know that is silly, I know now that you only wanted me to be happy. I remember some advice you once gave me. You told me that not getting married and starting a family was an acceptable choice to make in life, but it was an awful lonely one, and one that would cause you to miss a lot of life. I used to see myself not getting married, I felt that it would only hamper my career.

All that changed one day momma. I wished you had been there. I was running in the park and somehow ended up meeting a nice young lady who was also out exercising. We talked for a while and I got her phone number. We went out several times. We had so much in common momma, our backgrounds were almost similar. We always had so much to talk about. We understood each other’s feelings. I fell in love with her momma, and it scared me so. I had never opened myself up so much to anyone since poppa died. I couldn't tell you about the situation without you finding out about how I had felt since his death. So late in your life, I didn't want to do anything to hurt you so I kept quiet. I always believed that the situation would work itself out. I was afraid of commitment, but I wanted to be with her more than anything. Momma, she was so beautiful that sometimes just looking at her made me want to cry from sheer joy. I can still remember each and every little look she could bring to her face at any given moment.

Momma, do you remember how everyone always called me Scrooge at Christmas? I never seemed to be able to enjoy the holiday as much as everyone else. I always believed that Christmas was a magical time, but the magic faded each year you got older. For Christmas I gave this girl a small trinket, it wasn't much, but it was all I could afford. It was a music box that I found at a second hand store and had refurbished using everything poppa had ever taught me about woodworking. When I got finished with it, it was hardly recognizable. I gave it to her one night, and the look on her face as she wound it up and heard it for the first time was that of a six year old having just found her stocking that Santa had filled. The magic was back for a brief moment. I fell even further in love with her in that special moment.

Months passed, and we continued going out, but I could not bring myself to commit to the long term. She moved in with me, and I thought that eventually I would be able to ask her to marry me, and I thought she was patient enough to wait, but I came home one night and she was gone. All of her stuff was gone from the apartment. Her letter said that she had to go on with her life, she couldn't waste her life watching me waste mine. Two months later I saw in the paper that she was getting married. That was right before I came home the last time. She was the real reason I returned momma, not the job interview excuse that I gave you. I just felt like coming home again. No matter where I go, your house, the one I grew up in is the only place in the whole world that I feel safe anymore. I try to feel secure where I am, but for some reason, it seems my troubles can't get to me when I'm at home. I miss the big spooky house. I miss the forest in the back, and the little river that flowed behind our house.

I miss you momma.

Did I ever tell you that things got so bad that I tried to kill myself momma? I have never felt more shame than I do right now at having admitted that to you. I know how disappointed you would have been if I had done it. It wasn't really something I planned momma, circumstances were right and I almost ended my life.

I came home drunk one night, and just happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the hall. For a brief moment I thought I was looking at a stranger. The hollow eyed weakling in the mirror was no one I recognized. All of the problems I had came crashing down on me right then, and I went to find my sleeping pills. With the amount of alcohol in my system, the pills would have done their job quickly and painlessly. As I started to open the bottle I looked into the mirror again, and for just a moment, a quick flickering I saw poppa again. He was standing there shaking his head at me, disappointment filled his eyes. Growing up, whenever I had done something wrong, I always hoped I would be getting a whipping for my trouble, because no beating ever hurt more than poppa looking at me with those disappointed eyes. I threw the pills across the room and sank to my knees and wept the remainder of the evening. The next day I quit drinking and sought out counseling. I hope poppa is not disappointed in me momma, I couldn't stand the thought of his pain at my shortcomings. Are you disappointed momma? Have I been a failure? I hope not, but sometimes it sure feels like I am.

There is much of my life you never knew momma. Even calling it a life is a joke momma. I have been beaten, cheated, had things I love stolen from me, and never, ever, not once asked for one thing in return. Sometimes I felt personally slighted, God has a sense of humor and good ole me is the butt of the whole cosmic joke. Some may chalk it up to ego momma, and you may agree.

That is how I feel momma. Your darling little boy grew up in his lifetime to be bitter, and hard, and afraid. I sometimes really wish poppa had not stopped me that night. It would have saved me a lot of trouble momma. It would have saved me a lot of pain. I spend a great deal of time cursing the darkness and this life I have been cursed with. How come you did not warn me about the real world momma? I seek my own happiness, but it is hard to find it. It doesn't seem fair that some one's happiness should depend on another person's feelings. When I feel really humiliated, and hurt and believing that I can't go on any more I remember one thing. I remember the look in that girl's eyes when she saw the music box I rebuilt for her and a sudden thought comes to mind. All the hurt and anger is a small price to pay to see that look in someone's eyes. I would endure any amount of heartache to see the softness in the eyes that reveal all emotion in a single glance that lasts a lifetime. To feel a soft touch of someone who cares makes up for a lot of trouble. A hug can restore faith and hope in a world of grief. I would walk to Hell to see a moment's happiness on your face, or anyone else that is close to me. Some people live their whole life in pain, but just one simple moment of sheer joy can make it all worthwhile. Some people live their whole lives for that one moment. I realize in my darkest hours momma, that you were right as always. I am strong momma, but I will never be as strong as you. You were my anchor all along.

I want to come and visit again momma, but my schedule is way too full right now. Soon I hope I can get things under control and then I'll fly out and see you. I hope you are being taken care of, you and poppa deserve the best. I know you are right where you have always wanted to be. You belong next to poppa but part of you will always belong to me. The last year has been hard since you left me too. Who will chase away the monsters under my bed, or fix my skinned knee? Where will I get a hug that makes everything all better? I guess I'm a big boy now and can take care of myself, but for some reason it just doesn't make me feel as secure as when you were around. You will never read this letter but I think you understand everything I feel. I still feel you and poppa with me, you both raised me, and thus gave me the strength to endure. We come from a tough family, our ancestors pioneered this country. You both taught me the valuable lesson of believing in yourself and never quitting. These are debts I can never repay momma. My love was all you asked for, but in my mind that is not enough.

I always wanted to say thank you momma, but words never seemed to be enough to describe the feeling I felt. I asked one of the groundsmen that look after you to make sure you get fresh roses on your birthday every year. Its not much I know, not when compared to all the love and happiness we had as a family. I really wish I could be the one to give them to you year after year. But I realize that in that is the final lesson you taught me. Accept your limitations and do whatever you can to surmount them. Once you have done your best then there is nothing more to do. You lived your life by this rule momma, and I will never be able to thank you enough for all the lessons you have taught me through the years. But I hope the roses help.

Love Always,
Your Son.

Mitchell B. Ivey is an avid reader, an occasional writer, and sometimes he does arithmetic in his job at a John Deere construction equipment dealer. He dreams of Hollywood buying one of his story ideas one day so he doesn't have to deal with traffic on a daily basis. He is married with two children and lives in The Woodlands, Texas area.

My First Lynching

By Craig Cunningham © 2006

I was doing a girl named Sherry when I saw my first lynching.

It was 1953 in Morrisville, Mississippi, and I was 26. I been back from Chicago for about four months. I was a woodsmith, or so I liked to think I was. The men in our family had all worked with wood, all the way back to slave times. Folks would come from miles around for our chester drawers and chiffarobes. I hadn't learned as much as I should have, what with my daddy going off to the war and never coming back. My momma and I raised my four sisters, but my skills just were never up to what we'd been known for. So I became just another colored hand, just a little more skilled than most.

In Chicago I mainly did roofing jobs in the colored part of town, up and down Lake Street. I made it through three winters there and figured I was making a fine life for myself. I had a roof over my head, a wool wrap and matching suit, a pair of crocodile boots I'd won in a card game, and always enough money in my pocket for weekends. Attended Providence Baptist every Sunday. I was peculiar for the time as I didn't drink or women all my paycheck away. Guess that's what scraping for my sisters taught me, which put me ahead of most.

I came back to Morrisville in April after Momma wrenched her knee. Momma was a cook for Mr. Benjamin Rubenstein's house. I'd known the Stein boys since I was eight. Sammy was a year behind me. You'd have thought he was the runt of the litter as he was always smaller than most, bespectacled, always had his nose in a book. He was never good in any sports, always short of breath. Now Eli. Eli was something different. He had a fire that burned white hot, like he was ready to shoe twenty stallions.

He was Nellie's age. My sister Nellie was born in 1930, which always made it easy for me to figure her age. Mr Ben and Miss Ruth were strange folks. They always let Nellie and me play with the boys back of the old canning shed. Ben would teach me to read and study, how to figure things good. I was always trying to help Sammy hit a ball or catch, something to keep him from just being a bookworm knucklehead. Nellie and Eli were always making up stories. They'd act out from books like Huck Finn or Moses or they'd just make up their own. Some would make me bust out laughing, once I peed on myself from it. They had this one where they were two mules whose tails were tied together. Well, I can't remember much of it, but it was a sight to see.

The house had fallen apart when I came back. There was two leaks in the kitchen and the floor in the parlor was warped. Nellie still lived there as the oldest girl, Boo was 16 and about to get married, Harriet was 13, and little Joline was 11. Joline came nine months after my Daddy shipped off for the Navy, so I always could figure that out too. Boo and Harriet had dropped out of school to help keep the house going and food on the table. Nellie worked sewing for Hillman's, which only had the fanciest clothes you could find south of Memphis and north of Jackson. Girls became ladies after putting on their first Hillman's dress. Nellie worked in the back of the back, with Mr. Hillman having Nellie work on his best customers. Boo was a maid for Dr. Walker and his wife, Isabelle. Miss Isabelle had come from Italy after the war, so she added difference to Morrisville. Boo had it pretty easy as Dr. Walker's little girl Sophia was quiet as a church mouse, always reading or playing the piano.

Boo was about to marry a butcher by the name of Whittaker Dobsen. Wit was a good fellow who helped the whole family. He was a widower but not too much older than me. My momma approved, and there wasn't much I could do anyways even if I had a mind to, which I didn't. People talk about spoiling babies in the family, and Jo definitely was cared for more than most. He was the last link to our Daddy, and I don't think there was a day that went by that my Momma or me didn’t say something about it.

I found some odd jobs around town, fixing tables or cabinets and such. A handyman most would call it, but I looked at it as getting me ready for more. There was a juke joint, a hole-in-the-wall named Pappy Pit, that folks would go to most Friday nights, and this certain Friday night I'd had a good week. Most folks would pay me even on a Friday cause I would still come back on a Monday. I left the house and went down to Pappy's after dark, after I'd had a good meal with the girls and Momma and Wit. Wit had cooked up some week-old ribs that he'd squirreled away, and they were some kind of good. Boo had tried to show off, making greens and peas and some chicken necks and cornbread. Boo messed up the cornbread something fierce, so I got some white bread and butter to finish everything off.

I got to Pappy's with the place jumping. I was probably the only one there who was good with RC Cola's instead of something stiff, but they mainly left me alone. I'd had my eye on Sherry, a string bean of a girl, for a few weeks. We'd danced a bit the last week, but I didn't have too much time on my hands so it didn't amount to much. To tell you the truth, I have pretty much forgotten anything we said that night. I just remember her stroking my arm and pressing her knee into my leg and knowing what would come that night.

Sherry and I had snuck back of the old Jew school out across from the feed store. She had brought an old quilt, and I wasn't about to argue. She pulled me down under an old oak, wisteria hanging down like one of those big jungle snakes. The bugs weren't too bad, course I wouldn't have noticed anyways. Sherry was skin and bones except from the shadow, where her chest looked out of sorts with the rest of her. I'd found that girls with something wrong them made up for it when they did it. Sherry had pulled me behind her before I could get my pants off, so I just got after it with my belt still flapping against my behind.

I heard the truck skid on the rocks, and I stopped like I was Goliath. I stared in Sherry's eyes, took her jaw in my hand, and tightened my grip. We knew trouble had made it's way out there, as nobody went to the Jew school since it had burned down. It was bad luck to most.

There was three boys who piled out of the truck bed, with the fourth coming out from the truck. The three pulled a fellow out of the truck, and he tumbled to the ground. His hands were behind him, but he popped up like a rabbit who'd just been nicked. The driver had a two by four and hit that boy back of the head like some Yankee ballplayer would. It was then that I saw the yellow shirt in the moonlight, and I knew I was watching Wit get killed.

We colored folk knew how it went, and Sherry better than most. Her uncle had got lynched for pushing back on a white boy in Mendenhall. I knew they had Wit cause of the lemon-colored blouse he wore to supper. It was his finest shirt, and he put it on at the end of each Friday to see Boo. I held my hand firm on Sherry's mouth, my manhood still hard on her bare leg. I could tell she had shut her eyes, but I sat there and watched Wit get hung. I'd heard of all the different ways they could hang a fella, this crew made a mess of things. I could make some of it out in the moonlight, how they threw the rope over the big limb, how they all pulled Wit up. It took all four of them to pull him, with two of them dropping him the first try. His legs were running like you would run home to supper after hearing the bell. I heard a few shouts, but mostly I heard the blood pounding in my ears. The crew climbed back into their truck after a bit, and they rode off.

I held onto Sherry for another few minutes as you never know when folks might come back. Soon as I let her go, she snatched her drawers and the quilt and just started running. She still might be running to this day, and I can tell you that girl looked like a skeleton running in the moonlight. I went up to Wit, sneaking down on all fours like we did when we'd play war. I'd hoped that he had a breath in him, but he was probably finished before his legs quit on him. He had brains down the back of his head where the board had split it open. His lemon shirt looked crimson, just like you'd see those Tuscaloosa boys wearing in the fall. Wit's eyes were wide open, with one popped and bulging. I'd heard of the smell when this happens, but I can tell you Wit didn't smell no worse than a day done at the butchers. He looked a lot like a side of beef hanging in the smoking room. He was as thick as a bull, and he looked more than a man dangling there.

If I'd known his people, I might have cut him down, but doing so would have been taking my life in my own hands. I didn't, so I didn't. I got back to the house after midnight that night. I let Boo sleep, but I stayed up on the porch that night, my shotgun tightly between my legs. And I had some old pork and coffee before I told Boo that her love had been hung during the night.

Craig Cunningham is a married father of three boys living in the suburbs of Atlanta. His career often takes him throughout Asia and Europe and he's lived in New Jersey, Detroit, and Phoenix, but there remains in him remnants of the small town in Mississippi where he was raised.

Crop Dusting

By Daddy © 2006

"Happy New Year, man. Sorry I didn't stick around."

"Bro, no shit. We were all wondering where you went. I'm assuming you had a productive night with whatever her name was, eh?"

"Shit. Worst New Year's ever. Easily."

"Yikes, man. Didn't land any of that ass then, I take it?"

"Nah, I got the ass."

"Well, fuck. What are you bitching about? My wife passed out at midnight, and wouldn't budge."

"Well, her name was Lori, and I think she's from Brookville. I do know she ate Mexican food with her cousin before the party, and that ended up being the demise to my New Year's."

"What did she have?"

"How the fuck am I supposed to know? Probably enchiladas. That's not the point though. All I know is whatever it was it fucked her up pretty good."

"Did she puke everywhere?"

"Not that I know of. She was just fine at the bar when we left you guys. Her cousin lives in town, and she got the keys to her place. She drove us over and as soon as we got there she had a bottle of wine cracked, and put some Usher on the stereo."


"I think. That's who she said it was anyway. That's not the point though. She was all over me, dude. I had zero doubts that I was gonna rail that ass."

"Is Usher the name of the band, or just the guy?"

"Fuck if I know. I couldn't even hear the shit by the time we made it into her cousin's bedroom. We were practically naked by the time we fell onto the bed. This girl was apeshit crazy too. Kept asking me to call her names and shit. I had her doggied for about fifteen minutes or so, and was pretty close to losing my shit when she told me to roll over so she could ride me."

"That rules, bro."

"Well, she starts to ride me, and it's hot as fuck in this room, so we're both sweating like Patrick Ewing in a sauna, when all of a sudden she just stops. I ask her if she's okay, and she looks at me and says, 'I don't feel so good.'

"Had you blown yet?"

"Fuck no. I was damn close, but that's not the point. She cropdusted me, dude."


"Yeah, she farted and sprayed a mist all over my balls. As soon as she'd realized what she'd done, she started crying and ran into the bathroom. I could hear her crying, but just barely over the sounds that were coming out of her ass."

"Let me get this straight. She shit on your balls? That's a bad beat, dude."

"Yes. It was basically a wet misty fart, but still not cool, bro. And it stunk too. Real fuckin' bad. So, the way I saw it, I only had one thing left to do."

"Did you whip that bitch's ass?"

"Nah, man. I finished the job she couldn't. I sat on the side of the bed and rubbed that fucker out. I was so pissed off I just let it fly too. Got it all over the curtains. The best part though was wiping off my hog on her cousin's teddy bear. I wiped my shitsoaked bag off on that little bear too."

"Man, it sounds like that fucking bear got the worst of it."

"Yeah, I got the fuck outta there quickly. She was still crying and shitting when I left. I didn't even say good-bye."

"Sweet. Yeah, fuck her anyway. Who does she think she is shitting on your sack?"

"I had to walk five blocks just to catch a cab. When I finally got back to my place I could still smell her enchiladas on my balls."

"That's sick, bro."

"Yeah, I took a long shower. My guess is that I ushered in the New Year scrubbing my grundle with a test tube brush and a gallon of bleach."

"Is Usher considered rap or R&B?"

"Fuck if I know, that's not the point. The point is, this was the worst New Year's ever. I've only told you half the story. As soon as I got out of the shower, I fired up PokerStars. I wanted to sit at a Deep Stacks tourney, but they didn't have any running. After the enchilada ordeal, it's safe to say I was on mega-tilt, so I did what everyone else would've done it that situation."


"Nah. I took my entire bankroll to a no limit table. I only had about four grand left after I bought Candice the engagement ring, but I wanted action."

"Well, since you've already said it was the worst night ever, I'm assuming you lost your roll?"

"First fucking hand, and I'm dealt 'Jimmy Walker'."

"What's 'Jimmy Walker'?"

"Jack of clubs, Jack of spades. If it holds up you have to type 'DYNOMITE!!' into the chat box."

"Sweet, bro. That's hilarious."

"Anyway, I raise it up 3 big blinds from early position and there's one caller. The flop comes: Jack of hearts, Seven of spades, Three of clubs."

"No way you lost here, man. Did he hit quads?"

"I check, obviously. He bets the pot. I ponder for a bit, and I raised. I ask him 'Did you hit your Jacks?' He types in the chatbox, 'Yes,' and pushes his entire stack which has me covered. I call, obviously, and he shows the Ten of clubs, and the 4 of clubs."

"Fucking sick! Dead to runner runner clubs, and hit?"

"Nah, he turned the eight, and fifth brought the nine. Runner-runner-double-gut down to the felt. I was devastated, bro."

"No shit. Too bad you didn't have a teddy bear."

Daddy is a donkey fucker from Hilljack, Indiana.


By Joe Speaker © 2006

"You'd better go up first," said River.


"'Cause you're dressed nice. They won't let just anybody in."

"Great," I thought to myself. "I'm a continent and an ocean away from Los Angeles and I still can't escape the velvet rope."

Sure enough, the bouncer - sporting the requisite black clothes, bald head and condescending sneer - looked us up and down before waving us in.

We had come from a tapas bar, which was preceded by a little poker at a Glasgow club. Okay, it was a lot of poker. Five hours worth that took us past our dinner reservation. Damn short stacks wouldn't die. I was the honored, but not honorable, guest of House who introduced me and my 40 pounds to his fellow Scottish degenerates. Their easy manner and mocking table talk made me feel right at home. River took most of my money, and everyone else's, with his undeniable skill at spiking a card right at the last.

Razz had mysteriously gotten us a table right away at the packed tapas bar, the Big Man striding in as if he were a majority investor and directing the waitress to fill the table with a wide array of culinary enticement: anchovies in olive oil, charred kabobs of pork, meatballs dripping with tomatillo sauce. We fought like famished cavemen over the small plates, arms criss-crossing the table like a cat's cradle. I washed it all down with Sangria, dusky, fruity, perfect.

"Let's go to Truffles," somebody said and all agreed with eager nods and knowing smiles. Being the guest here, I acceded to the local knowledge.

Granted passage into Truffles by our bald judge of acceptable appearance, I ascended a couple flights of stairs with the anticipation of a man facing an unknown adventure. The place looked posh, sconces and scarlet lighting pointing toward a trim, demure blonde awaiting our cover charge. She smiled as she took our money, the same smile I'd just seen on the faces of my guides. Shrugging off the coincidence, I headed for the double doors with nary a glance back to see if the rest followed.

I could hear the rhythmic pulse and as I opened the doors, I saw the lights, haze and ambiance of the nightclub I expected. Except it was only a quarter full and darker than the types of spots I'm used to, all black corners and shaded glances. I turned around, the realization dawning, and my new Scottish friends stood there in a pack, knowing smiles finally blooming into hearty laughter. Another bouncer force-led us to a round table. And the strippers followed.

Chloe was first, joining our circle while Tank, on my right, ordered a round of drinks. She sat between me and House, smelling of jacaranda. She aimlessly draped a languid arm around my shoulder, bathing me in her scent, her hot breath on my neck. She seemed fresh, a polar opposite to the few hard-ridden dancers I've encountered in the City of Angels, who emit an odor of cynical boredom.

Soon Chloe was leading me across the room, expertly dodging barely discernable chairs, toward a black shroud I hadn't previously noticed. She pulled back the curtain and helped me into a leather chair. I could sense activity around me, but I held my eyes on hers, gauging her commitment to this erotic facade. People don't like being looked at, not in the eyes. Even these exhibitionist entrepreneurs would prefer you ogle their curves, proven by their overt - and often impossible - positions. She whipped her brown hair at me, stretched this leg and that one, running her own hands along the gentle swale of her hip, peering at me over her shoulder. Her eyes never betrayed a hint of deception, never pulled from mine when I held them a few beats past comfortable. Her eyes said nothing but the simple fact that she wanted to be there, in that moment.

She was good, that Chloe. Damn good.

I sauntered back to the table, a little rubbery. The others watched me intently, without comment. I noticed they had ordered champagne and began to laugh at the image of the five of us sitting there, sipping from flutes, five veterans of the pub and club wars - guys with names like Tank and River and Razz - enjoying a refined beverage in a titty bar. Before I had a chance to scoff, however, House leaned in for details on Chloe.

"Did you re-buy?" he said.

"That I did," I said, nodding and holding up one finger.

"One re-buy!" he announced to the table, which erupted in back-slaps and applause.

Jazzmyne had a lot to live up to when she sat down, her open smile in the lead, her wild black hair flying out in dozens of directions. She, too, had an alluring smell about her, hints of cocoa and honey, sweet and brazen. She was Asian, born in Malaysia of Chinese descent she said, studying her way toward a Finance degree at the local university, working her way through balance sheets and income statements in a black thong. I kept her in conversation, veering elsewhere when she asked if I wanted a dance. I did, but I wanted her to hang out some more, keep laughing, even if was only at me, the silly Yank.

By this time, the table had become a revolving cast of dancers and disappearing Scots and even a few strangers. There wasn't much of a crowd any more and we pretty much had a 2-1 dancer ratio in our favor. Tank came back from a dance with a statuesque black woman, a spent grin plastered on his mug. "I asked her name," he said. "She said, 'We don't need names.'"

House and River took turns with Chloe, leaving Razz a little flustered.

"I couldn't beat 'em into the pot," he complained.

The time had come for me to head off with Jazzmyne and she didn't disappoint. Where Chloe was all light brushes and enticement, Jazzmyne knew just where and when to apply the right kind of pressure. She curled around me like a serpent, her tanned limbs nimble and active, her hair lingering on my chest. I penetrated her almond-shaped eyes, larger than a typical Chinese and set wide apart. Again, nothing but pleasure there, no trace of dissemblance. Maybe these strippers got some sort of training. From a hypnotist, or a poker player. She punctuated the dance with a kiss on my cheek.

I was hot. No-doubt-about-it worked up. Back at the table, I fidgeted as House asked me how it was in the curtained room.

"I limped in," I said. "But I was soon raised."

I bought a round of lagers, enough of this prissy sparkling wine shit, and the night began to wind down. We were satisfied, leaned back in our comfortable chairs, pints raised permanently to our lips. I took another turn with Jazzmyne, because I had to. The final night cap.

We stumbled/skipped down the stairs and into the early morning Glasgow streets. I got an ambling drunk to take a picture of us in front of the club. In a perfect bit of symbolism, the photo is totally out of focus, our faces blurred as they most certainly were to our entertainers on the evening. Just anonymous customers in an endless queue to them, but I see their faces clearly; Chloe, Jazzmyne, even the nameless black girl.

We walked off, back-slaps and brotherhood. I turned to River and said, "I still think it's weird that we had to pass some kind of dress code to get into a strip club."

"It's a classy place, mate," he said. "It's a classy place."

I nodded, flashed him a knowing smile, and brushed the glitter from my shirt.

Joe Speaker is a writer from Los Angeles.