November 12, 2006

November 2006, Vol. 5, Issue 11

1. Grey Haze by Paul McGuire
I freaked out when I thought I lost a baggie of hash I carried in my jacket pocket. I didn't care about the bag or the monetary cost of the lost drugs. I was worried that I'd unknowingly take it home with me and get busted at a security checkpoint or in customs while sweating my ass off like Billy Hayes in the airport raid scene from Midnight Express who had several kilos of hash duct taped to his ball sac... More

2. Dodd by Mella
It seemed strange to me to have a party for him, seeing as he was dead. But Mom wanted to. I watched from beneath the banister on the stairs as she hummed between the kitchen and living room, carrying plastic-skinned platters of pickles and deviled eggs, wiping her hands on her apple-red apron as she assessed the arrangement of food... More

3. My Own Private Paris by Craig Cunningham
A business traveler's life sounds pretty glamorous, and I'm sure it could be if one was adventurous or a linguist or outgoing. I'm none of those things, so my travels normally are airports, hotels, room service, and remote controls. Many of my international trips are hops, meaning I’m in a different city or even country each night... More

4. Roots - Part III by Doog
If there was one vice that defined Leo G, it was gambling. During his adult life, he made and lost a lot of money. That is to say, he made it by means of various (mostly) successful business ventures - some legal, most not-so-legal - and he lost it in the finest casinos the grand state of Nevada has to offer... More

5. Archetypes by Katitude
"You're not from around here, are you." At least this one had the sense to phrase it as a statement. With her long black hair, riot grrrl makeup and tattoos, it was pretty fucking apparent that she was not from this town stuck in the backwaters of middle America... More

6. Draft One by May B. Yesno
Drunks are a pain in the ass for the most part. But a dead drunk human is a short way to a hernia if you must carry one any distance by yourself, and the closest I could park was thirty yards or so. The task was eventually accomplished, with me dropping her once on the rough grasses... More

7. Malcolm in the Middle Smokes Crack by Paul McGuire
I sat next to a weird looking chick with dark curly hair and thick Lisa Loeb glasses. She drank five cups of coffee and read a book about Heidegger. She didn't turn on her free TV but occasionally glanced at my screen to see what was on. I freaked her out because after the first hour of Sportscenter, I watched four straight hours of the Vietnam War on the History Channel... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome back to another issue of Truckin'. The November issue features seven stories from two new authors, Katitude and May B. Yesno. Several returning authors including Doog, Craig Cunningham, and Mella shared some of their best work to date. Plus, I wrote two pieces this month about my recent visits to Los Angeles and Amsterdam.

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

Thanks to everyone who took a leap of faith with me this month and submitted their bloodwork. I'm extremely lucky to share the same space with talented scribes. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. You guys write for free and if I could pay you, I would. Your time and effort is worth more money than I can ever afford to pay.

Thanks again. I am grateful that you wasted your time with Truckin'. Until next time.


"The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people." - George Bernard Shaw

Grey Haze

By Paul McGuire © 2006

During my first trip to Amsterdam in the mid-1990s, I spent less than a week in the magical city as I filled up a small notebook with notes, thoughts, memories, and priceless quotes from Senor.

On my most recent trip, my notes were barely seven pages in total... not including one page that listed all the strains of marijuana I smoked, one page that itemized the majority of my daily purchases, and another that I used as a scorecard for my heads up Chinese Poker matches against Nicky. That left only four pages of actual notes that were peppered with three and four word entries like, "1:58pm... I thought I lost the hash."

Although I have a camera with video capabilities, I didn't snap a ton of photos. My focus and objective for the trip was more on living in the moment that trying to record what had been happening as I found myself in the middle of a well-welcomed phase of "Live now, write later."

My first meal of the day had been pretty much the same thing for the entire trip. Nicky and I would wake up around noon before heading over to the French bakery off the Damrak. We'd pick up baguette sandwiches and eat them while sitting on benches in Dam Square. We'd made fun of the street performers and shooed away the pigeons that swarmed at our feet as they nibbled at flakes and crumbs that fell to the stone plaza ground.

For about 9 Euros, I purchased the equivalent of a two-foot long sub, except the sandwich is an inch or two shorter on a freshly baked baguette with a couple of slices of ham, salami, and two kinds of cheese... Dutch kaas and French brie. You can order it with Dutch mayonnaise or French mustard (more of a dijonnaise). Sometimes I opted for a chocolate croissant as a dessert, which melted in your mouth. I could not think of a better combination of sweet and smooth Dutch chocolate baked into crispy croissants.

I had a hectic fifteen minute stretch at the Bulldog when I smoked too much Silver Haze as a Paris Hilton song played on the stereo. I freaked out when I thought I lost a baggie of hash I carried in my jacket pocket. I didn't care about the bag or the monetary cost of the lost drugs. I was worried that if I misplaced it then the hunk would end up in the pocket of my jeans or in a different pocket and I'd unknowingly take it home with me and get busted at a security checkpoint or in customs while sweating my ass off like Billy Hayes in the airport raid scene from Midnight Express who had several kilos of hash duct taped to his ball sac.

I finally found the Grey Area in the lower Jordaan district, tucked away on a side street. Grey Area is owned by two Americans and my brother went there a few years ago. It's a tiny tiny tiny coffee shop with a few stools and three small tables painted in a funky array of colors. There was never any space to sit because the place was always crowded no matter what time of day. The crowd was mostly Americans, but there were plenty of potheads from other countries wandering in to buy hash and bud.

The walls were splattered with various stickers from jambands like Widespread Panic and String Cheese Incident, along with a cool Phish poster plugging their gig at the Paradiso in 1996. The second time we went to the Grey Area, a sketchy looking Asian gangster guy was passed out at one of the tables. He looked like he was riding the H train and kept nodding in and out of consciousness.

Some of the best bud I smoked in Amsterdam was the Grey Haze which you can only get at the Grey Area. It wasn't the most expensive at 10 Euros per gram, but it sure was the best high. One bowl got the always-stoned Nicky super baked.

In the late afternoons after smoking tough in hashbars all day, we'd succumb to the munchies and were unable to ward off their advances. We'd find something sweet like a chocolate croissant or chocolate covered waffles to devour. There are two things of which there is an abundance in Amsterdam: chocolate and cheese. Mostly everything has either of the two food items incorporated into it. I also dug the Belgium fries or frites with mayonnaise, of which I can eat an entire serving in less than three minutes.

For dinner one night, Nicky craved Italian food and we stumbled into a random joint. She ordered tortellini with a four cheese creamy sauce while I feasted on pasta with arrabiata sauce that was so spicy that my bald spot became devastatingly drenched with sweat like the Ninth Ward in New Orleans was flooded after Katrina hit.

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.


By Mella © 2006

It seemed strange to me to have a party for him, seeing as he was dead. But Mom wanted to. I watched from beneath the banister on the stairs as she hummed between the kitchen and living room, carrying plastic-skinned platters of pickles and deviled eggs, wiping her hands on her apple-red apron as she assessed the arrangement of food. I watched from my perch on the steps as she spelled out his name in olives on the top of the potato salad, DODD – her brother, dead of a heart attack at thirty-three.

Grandma Lydia arrived first. She let herself in and stood at the foot of the steps tugging on the lip of her knee-highs. With her dress pulled up you could see the pink line where her lumpy, vein-streaked leg was being hemmed in beneath the nylon skin, like a sausage squeezed into its casing.

She wasn't really my grandmother, just an old neighbor that my mother invited to all of our family affairs. It started with the first Thanksgiving after her husband passed. She ate with us then sat quietly as we gathered in the living room and watched my uncles suck on thick brown cigars. Beside me on the sofa, she smelled of baby powder and lavender, much more pleasant than liquor and smoke, and so I leaned nearer to her. She took this as a sign of affection and said you're a nice girl while patting my thigh. She's insisted that I call her Grandma ever since.

Oh, she's just sad, Mom told me later, if calling her Grandma makes her happy, just do it.

I would've stayed hidden upstairs for the duration of the party had Grandma Lydia not noticed me when she reared upright from pulling on her pantyhose. Oh, Laura, will you be a doll and help Grandma Lydia with these pies? She looked down to the floor around her, and then shook her head. Do you mind going back next door and picking them up from my kitchen counter?

When I returned with the pies, the house was swarming with family, as though a bus had come and dumped them all in a heap at our doorstep. Dodd's widow, Ginny, sat in the corner. My aunts and uncles and cousins all wound around Mom's buffet, looking up indiscreetly from their paper plates to steal glances at Ginny, who's pale face was turned to the window and oblivious. She was the type of skinny that made you think of sickness - wispy and frail. And though her eyes had the alertness of a deer, behind their round panic they were hollow.

She and Dodd surprised everyone with their engagement two years earlier. He was not the marrying type. Yet, she clung to him, two bony hands clasped to his thick forearms as they maneuvered their way throughout their short marriage. He seemed to be the only thing keeping her standing, as though she were nothing more than a marionette, limp without his touch.

You going to eat those all yourself? Mom came from behind me and lifted the pies from my arms. She twirled on her heels back to the kitchen while I stayed still in the doorway, watching as the room watched Ginny and she the window. I thought if she had any fight in her at all, she should've run - a long time ago.

Mom came back and stood beside me. The party was her tribute to her brother and her gift to her family. Something to cheer them up, something where not everyone wears black and sniffles through boxes of Kleenex. It wasn't going as she'd planned; with Ginny staring out the window while the rest of her family gawked.

How about we have people share their memories of Dodd while we eat? A spark split across her face as the idea burst from her lips. She pushed past me, her hands up and waving, C'mon, c'mon, who's first. Something funny.

The trouble with her idea was that there wasn't much funny about Dodd. He was brutish and loud and, before he met Ginny, almost always stumbling drunk.

Mom wasn't deterred. She moved to stand beside Ginny, resting a manicured hand on her shoulder and squeezing. Startled, Ginny's puzzled face turned upward to see my mother's loud smile. Ok, I'll start...

I walked up the stairs as my mother's voice rose up and down, urging her company to be happy in the face of death - to tackle it with paprika-sprinkled appetizers and stories of childhood and familial hugs of assurance.

I sat in my room, thinking of Ginny and Dodd and death as the living room below me began to swell with laughter and voices growing louder, challenging one another, Remember when?

At the Thanksgiving when Lydia first patted my thigh and told me to call her Grandma, Uncle Dodd had made me invisible. I was seven and for however long he was there, I squeezed my eyes shut and I willed myself transparent. Not that it made any difference to him - his half-closed eyes rolled around in his head, too loose in their sockets to focus on me anyway. And so whenever the nausea swells and I find myself smelling the stink of his liquor-sweet breath on my skin, I remind myself that I wasn't really there. His rough palm wasn't sealing my lips; it wasn't me he his harsh whispers were warning not to cry. Not me. I was invisible, just the warm place in the corner he stumbled onto.

I awoke to the gentle weight of Mom's hand on my back. It was dark, the house silent. She smelled of coffee and sweat and smoke, like a woman pulled from the trenches of a crowded restaurant. Everyone missed you at the party, she said, while curling beside me on the bed. She leaned in to kiss my forehead, but, it was a hard day, I know that, she whispered. Death is hard.

I nodded, nuzzling my chin into her shoulder, thinking for a moment in the fog between sleep and wake that I could tell her - all of it. About how the hollow look in Ginny's eyes frightened me. Or how the sweet smell of liquor left me sick.

Sometimes it's just easier to be invisible, I said softly and into her collarbone. But she was already sleeping, her chest rising and falling peacefully, leaving me awake - listening to her contented breaths, wondering why we had to throw a party for him anyway.

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

My Own Private Paris

By Craig Cunningham © 2006

It could be because Paris was my final destination when I flew the British Airways flight from Phoenix to London, only to find out in the BA Business Class Lounge that the flight I was supposed to be on, TWA 800 from JFK to Paris, had fallen into the Atlantic Ocean. A cancelled business meeting in Rumford led to having a telecon rather than a meeting in Morristown, which led me to depart from my home in Phoenix instead of New York. Which meant that I was not dead as the people at American Express Travel as well as some in my company feared until I called my assistant after talking to my wife.

Maybe it was because our first born son was conceived in Paris on a cold winter night after a day at the Musee d'Orsay, looking at the Monet's and Degas' because that's all I knew I was supposed to look at and appreciate. Paris is supposed to be the most romantic city in the world, so that could be it as well, or maybe it was because Orly was the first place I'd ever landed outside of the U.S. and Canada. For whatever reason, Paris is the place that brings peace to my chaotic soul.

A business traveler's life sounds pretty glamorous, and I'm sure it could be if one was adventurous or a linguist or outgoing. I'm none of those things, so my travels normally are airports, hotels, room service, and remote controls. Many of my international trips are hops, meaning I'm in a different city or even country each night. A typical trip might be Paris on Monday, Madrid on Tuesday, Milan on Wednesday, Zurich on Thursday, then Brussels on Friday and the weekend, sneaking to Brugge before heading to Germany for a Monday meeting. Online poker has now replaced the endless stream of German soaps or Indian dance numbers or French Maury rip-offs or cricket matches, but mostly it's meetings and hotels. Mostly alone, eating alone, sleeping alone, sitting alone.

Paris is different for me. I've only been there once in the peak tourist days of summer, a three-day meeting near the Eiffel Tower during Bastille Day. I shined throughout the session as I probed market share gaps in Germany or service revenue slippage in Spain, bewildering the country managers and sales leaders with my insight on my first visit as VP of Marketing at this new company, three weeks into my tenure there. Most of the Yanks before me had been fine with, "You don't understand; we're different here in Europe."

I didn't really care too much about different, so I just plowed into the percentages and revenue deltas by product that brought light to the granularity of Europe, of the nuances of the non-answers to the questions behind the questions that I asked. You see, I figured out a secret that most Americans don't understand at all: Europe doesn't really exist. Belgium has nothing to do with England nor Spain nor Sweden when it comes to market demand, competitor strength, channels to market, or just about anything to be honest.

Paris around Bastille Day at the Eiffel Tower is a pretty intimidating place even for a seasoned traveler, as young Parisians and Algerians and gypsies reenact the French Revolution, only without the generals or stage director. The bayonets were replaced by bottle rockets, Roman candles standing in for canons. It was a whirling dervish of activity, one I had no problem eagerly avoiding. Visitors from all over the world flooded into Paris, and all I could think of was when I could escape these sweaty masses.

No, Paris for me has never been hot summer days of tourists and museum lines and rude Americans checking off their Fodor's list of sites to see. It's always been cold winter days, Christmas decorations, or autumn afternoons of wandering. In the summers, Parisians fatigue under the onslaught of Americans with their poor French and arrogance. In December, their patience and warmth have been restored, inversely proportional to the amount of waning sunshine on a typical overcast day. The people of Paris are hardly snotty or standoffish, and everyone is willing to give me a kind hint with what to order and where to go as I make no attempt to speak French nor claim to understand anything. It is these cold days that I love, with my heavy London Fog trench coat tied tightly by my black-gloved hands, my wool scarf wrapped around my neck and face. A black toboggan is pulled onto my head if the chill is too much or the rain starts to fall, which it often does.

While most people look for new and interesting places to go when they travel, I return to the familiar. Coming again and again over the years to the same places in a city allows me to pretend I'm somewhere between tourist and resident, a deliberate wanderer if you will. I take the Metro to one of the Louvre stops then stroll to Angelina's, the home of chocolate decadence. Honey and I came here to meet a dear friend of her parents, Mrs. Calder, as her husband was doing time at the mother ship of Michelin from his job at the American headquarters in Greenville. I returned a couple years after our first visit to gather all the supplies necessary to replicate the Angelina's experience for Honey: teapot, cups and saucers, and Angelina's hot chocolate mix. To come back each trip and sit facing the street, sipping hot chocolate and nibbling a sandwich, brings Honey's red cheeks and Rudolph-like nose on that first blustery afternoon. To walk past the flower shop with the rose petals scattered on the ground makes me long for her even more.

So many places are familiar now: the bridge from Notre Dame Cathedral, the pet shops down from the small hotel that burned three people alive, the ruins still smoldering the on the morning I happened upon it. A secret retreat for me is the Jardin du Luxembourg where I often sit for an afternoon after walking past the Pantheon. I've sat there for hours on end, spying on the goings-on of lovers and children and dogs and the elegant veteran with his wife. Up from there is the Hotel des Grands Hommes (a fitting place of lodging for me, not necessarily the smallest fellow), and my stroll up the big hilly street to my old hotel takes me past all the university students smoking and drinking their dreadful coffee at the small cafes fairly common in the Latin District. If I find myself for some reason on the Champs Elysees, a quick glance at the cobalt facade of the Lido takes me back to our first trip there, this upscale version of the Moulin Rouge scandalous and erotic enough for the two of us. Our extravagant night of being fancy and romantic in Paris that winter evening started at dinner and a walk along the Seine before riding the Metro and strolling toward this atypical destination for two young Presbyterians from the South via Phoenix. Ice skating on a tiny rink juxtaposed topless beauties and elephants, and I was bewildered by it all while holding Honey close to me.

Of all these special places, Paris for me is ultimately gyro et frites. Whenever I'm there, I steer clear of the great restaurants, although clients or employers pay for most any meal I could have. No, when I am in Paris, I hop on the Metro, make my way to St. Michel, emerge in the milky blue light of an overcast winter day or the unique French night sky, walk until I pass the fancy cafe (that may be famous, I'm not sure) within a stone's throw of the Seine, hang a left at the bookstore with the plastic strips hanging around outdoor stalls with cramped stacks of children's books and gardening tomes on the first floor. Down the short street and there we are, my solace, my own little Paris. The big crepe and pastry store stands guard at the end of the Y, gyro shops lining the street to my right and Greek seafood and kabob restaurants to my left. I avoid the hawkers and head right, deliberately making one pass past all of the gyro options before settling on the grand prize winner for the day.

You see, I've spent over $6,000 to fly business class and eventually fork over 35 francs (now 7 euros) for my gyro avec rouge sauce et frites and Coca-Cola Light. There is no methodology to select the dozen candidates to take my funny money; I just go with my gut. I place my order, pointedly repeating the request for rouge sauce, no tomatoes. The proprietor grabs the metal funneled lamb slice catcher in his left hand with the sharp blade in his right, his cuts swift and rhythmic as the thin pieces of lamb fall onto the metal tray. Just enough then gets stuffed into the pita bread, the pita bread that has been smeared with the special red spread with a kick that replaces the yucky white cucumber sauce treasured throughout the world. Onion and lettuce are tossed in, then the piping hot fries lightly salted and straight from the deep fryer are smashed right into the pita contraption before being handed over to me with the French Diet Coke.

You either walk away from the restaurant to eat this or sit there in the confined quarters of the shotgun joint, and I normally prefer to sit there. Walking with the gyro in one hand and Coca-Cola Light in the other is high risk for a trained grazer, with the potential of dropped fries as the worst case scenario among common walking-and-eating predicaments, so I normally just sit down and eat after unraveling all my articles of winterwear. After a quiet, calm meal, if I can handle it, I then wander to another gyro place out of eyesight from the first and repeat the ordering-and-eating process. I don't compare the two meals, as the independent owners have somehow been schooled in gyro-dom by the common Greek blood derived from Heracles or the ancestors of Onassis. They all taste the same up and down the street, the ideal alternative to the loathed burger found more and more throughout Paris.

My belly adequately stuffed, accompanied by greasy hands and salted lips, I stumble into the street to make my way back to some familiar walk that I've taken so many times to wind down from my decadent experience. This Paris where I can't remember the names of any streets, where I can't remember how to find the jam shop or how to get anywhere without a map and can't speak to anyone in their native tongue; this is my Paris. It's where I can walk invisible in my own mind yet stick out like the ugly American I am, somehow humored by these Parisians who overlook my clumsiness on a random cold winter's day in a year like any other year. And for gyro et frites down from St. Michel, I'd go out of my way to accidentally spend the night in Paris, all so that I could close my eyes and imagine holding my wife's hand or seeing her bright pink cheeks on that first cold winter's day, all those memories racing as the steaming lamb and fries reach my lips.

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.

Roots - Part III

By Doog © 2006

Editor's Note: You can find the first installment here and the second installment here.

If there was one vice that defined Leo G, it was gambling. During his adult life, he made and lost a lot of money. That is to say, he made it by means of various (mostly) successful business ventures - some legal, most not-so-legal - and he lost it in the finest casinos the grand state of Nevada has to offer.

Leo G was, by nature, a high roller. The stakes were never high enough. He would give $5 and $10 chips to his kids to play with around the house because, in his own words, "If there ain't three numbers on it, I ain't gonna play it." As the phrase du jour goes, that's just how he rolled.

The thrill of the game consumed Leo G so much that he would often disappear for weeks at a time, abandoning his wife and three sons in their Napa Valley home with nary a word of goodbye. Grandma Jan would keep some cash salted away inside the house - survival money for the inevitable 'next time.' Growing up, the three boys never realized that their father's disappearing acts were unusual - a testament both to Grandma Jan's patient character and to the frequency of the event. However, they always knew when he had returned - there was a box of field-picked strawberries sitting on the front porch.

One early fall afternoon during one of Leo G's Houdini acts, two unmarked sedans sat in the driveway when the boys got home from school. Following their mother’s terse instructions, the boys packed up a suitcase of clothing and belongings, climbed into the back seat of the cars, and pulled away their childhood home, not realizing that they would not soon return.

It seems Leo G had gotten himself into some trouble.

A couple of weeks earlier, Leo G was in Reno, leaking cash as usual, when a money lender (and his hired muscle) tracked him down and demanded payment. Of sixty thousand dollars. In full. Needless to say, Leo G did not then have, nor did he possess the means to acquire, sixty large to pay back the shark. True to form, he began to negotiate for 'a couple more days, sure, you know I'm good for it, of course, I have it, I just have to go cash out some investments', all the while figuring the quickest escape route from the city.

The shark was having none of it.

"Tell you what," he said, "You do a job for me and my partners, and we'll forget about it. The whole sixty large."

Leo G readily agreed, then received his instructions on what to do.

Two days later, Leo G hopped a plane for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. At the stipulated place and time, he met up with the woman and the boy, who were to be his 'wife' and 'son' for the next few days. Together, the newly formed family went to the designated junkyard and picked up the truck towing a motorboat on a trailer. That is to say, the motorboat with the false hull stuffed full of narcotics.

The border crossing into Texas was anticlimactic in its normalcy. Leo G dropped off the woman and the boy in Dallas, and continued through New Mexico and Arizona. Traveling westward on I-10, windows rolled down and the radio turned up, the warmth of the Arizona desert blowing through his hair, Leo G felt the entire weight of his gambling debt lifted off his shoulders. A man reborn, his imagination began running wild with plans and possibilities. After all, he realized, his planned route was just a few hours south of Vegas...

Leo G plotted. Then, brimming with self-confidence, Leo G drove into the desert, unloaded the drugs from the boat's false hull, and buried them. Deep. He then drove into Sin City and sold off the truck and the boat, fully expecting to double up within a day or two and continue on his way with a nice tidy profit, nobody being the wiser.

The best laid plans of mice and men... One bad run led to another; soon, a wild-eyed Leo G was betting his last grand against huge odds, desperately trying to get back even. His last dollar gone, shoulders slumped in defeat, Leo G stumbled out of the casino into the garish Nevada heat. Blinking his eyes clear, he ambled up and down the strip, mentally sorting out his next step.

In the end, the decision to call the feds, turn himself in, and go State's Evidence was both very easy and very difficult. It was easy because of the immunity and amnesty he would be granted by the government; it was difficult because it went against his upbringing, his fiber, his very essence. The feds were the enemy, and narcs were vermin fit only for extermination. Now, he was the rat. By choice. With trembling hands, Leo G made the phone call.

After finishing the interrogation, the feds made Leo G an offer. He would report to his 'business associates' sans truck, boat, or drugs, but instead with a body mike and a credible story. If there's one thing that Leo G was good at, it was selling a story. He passionately recounted the harrowing tale of the vicious windstorm in the Arizona desert that flipped over the boat trailer and broke open the false hull, contents spilling out. Panicked, he packed up the drugs in the truck's bed and drove into the desert, where he buried it. He left the wrecked boat on the side of the road, abandoned the truck in the next town, and made his way back to California via Greyhound, where he arrived broke and exhausted, so glad to be back with his friends.

By the end of the recounting, Leo G had his initially suspicious audience hanging on every vivid detail. Even if they didn't entirely believe the whole wild tale, it seemed plausible enough. Packing up their shovels, they journeyed in caravan to the Arizona desert. Once the drugs were found and excavated, and likely just as the bad guys were about to take care of Leo G and dump the body in the same hole, the federal agents stationed about the area swooped in with helicopters and desert vehicles and rounded up the drug ring.

Simultaneously, two unmarked cars were dispatched to Leo G's house in Napa Valley to take his family into protective custody. Later that night, local police responded to a call made from a neighboring house. They found Leo G's house broken into and thoroughly vandalized, jerrycans filled with gasoline suggesting that the police's arrival had just barely prevented the house from being burned to the ground.

For the next couple of years until the conclusion of the trial, Leo G and his family were shipped from location to location, assuming new identities, always looking over their shoulder, spooked by the slightest hint of danger. Once, the drug thugs almost caught up with the family. Two of Leo G's sons were riding their motorcycles through town when they were spotted by some familiar faces from their not-so-distant past. The villains hopped into a car and gave chase, but the boys were able to shake their pursuers on a twisty mountain road. The family left town that same night.

Once Leo G's testimony was made in court and appropriate convictions handed down, the pressure eased somewhat. The feds relocated the family with decreasing frequency, and after a while Leo G, Grandma Jan, and family permanently settled in Sacramento. Partnering with one of his sons, Leo G started a legitimate and successful air conditioning repair business. Years passed, and Leo G, by now a grandfather several times over, had softened into a caring, charismatic, humorous man. The Leo G that I knew.

In myself, I see a lot of the kinder, gentler Leo G. At times, though, the ghost of the Leo G that I never met peeks out from the shadows of my soul. It is the dark side of my soul. The inveterate gambler. The overconfident risk-taker. The fast talking con man. The calculating manipulator. The mobster within.


Doog lives in California, is married with two young children, is a complete donk of a poker player while being a kick-ass poker blogger. He's also the most modest, humble person you'll ever meet, should you have the esteemed privilege.


By Katitude © 2006

She sat alone at the end of the bar, finishing her dinner and beer. The bar had been quiet when she first came in, but three baseball teams had arrived and now the place was jammed with norms.

Fucking perfect, she thought. She could feel the glances her way, and every time she glanced in the mirror at the back of the bar, all she saw were the quick furtive movements of people who are trying not to get caught staring.

She didn't have long to wait for the inevitable question.

"You're not from around here, are you."

At least this one had the sense to phrase it as a statement. With her long black hair, riot grrrl makeup and tattoos, it was pretty fucking apparent that she was not from this town stuck in the backwaters of middle America.

She resisted the strong urge to roll her eyes as she turned on her stool to face him. A hundred sarcastic replies flew to her lips. In the end, she just sighed and said "No."

She had seen him when he'd come in with his baseball team - he was the kind of guy you noticed. He was the perfect Prince Charming archetype for a nation raised on the Disney Corporation™ version of life. He was tall, tanned and handsome in a clean-shaven, clean-cut, all-American way. Men wanted to be like him, to echo his confidence and strength. Women longed to be rescued by him with every fiber of their Barbie™ pink Cinderella™ princess beings.

She had mentally categorized him: another pretty boy; so not my type.

But she was bored, and after a few days of the drive / find motel / sleep cycle she was just a little hungry for some conversation.

She bought him a beer, then another; but refused to let him buy her one -she didn't roll that way. She could see he was intrigued. She could also see the untanned line on the third finger of his left hand, the line that meant Broken, Damaged, Recently.

The conversation started out generally enough, following the typical banal patterns closely enough that she was tempted to just get up and leave.

"Where you from?"
"Where are you going?"
"My, that's a long trip to take by yourself."

Blah, blah, blah... so boring. But the dirty looks that the women in the bar kept shooting at her when they thought she wasn't looking amused her enough to keep him talking.

So she stayed, and led him along, so skillfully that he thought he was the one leading the dance.

It amazed her just how much he divulged to her - he was recently divorced but hoping for a reconciliation with his straying wife. They had a young child, who was weathering the change well all things considered. How he had always been faithful, even though he'd had offers... lots of offers. She made the usual murmurs while thinking, "Honestly... do I even remotely resemble someone who cares?"

Apparently she did, as he stayed and talked to her the whole evening. He tried to flirt with her, but it entertained her to see his frustration when she didn't fall for his charms like so many had. She made him work for it, and he'd not worked that hard for a long time. He understood that she was dangerous and knew dangerous things, but he wanted that one walk on the wild side. Dammit, he thought, he deserved it after all he'd been through lately.

One by one, the baseball teams left, taking the wives, girlfriends and hangers-on with them. Soon, they were the only ones left and the staff was becoming increasingly noisy in their clean up.

She smiled at him.

"It looks like it's time to leave. Been nice talking to you," she said as she got up and pulled on her battered leather jacket.

He looked puzzled and asked, "Well...?"

"Well what?" She looked at him with a studied blank look.

He scrambled. "Um, your motel is a mile away. It's dark, and it's not the greatest of neighbourhoods. Let me walk you back."

She almost laughed out loud at that one - like she needed protection. She should have declined, but like a cat with a mouse, she was having far too much fun stringing this one along to give up quite yet.

She gave a sly smile, nodded and headed for the door, making him rush to gather his things. By the time he caught up with her she was already halfway across the bar's parking lot.

"You could have waited for me!" It was almost petulant. If there was one thing she couldn't abide, it was petulance in an adult.

"I could have. But I didn't want to." This response was definitely cooler than he liked.

"Oh. So it's always about what you want, is it?" The petulance was turning a bit angry.

She stopped dead which made him turn to her. She reached up quickly and grabbed his earlobe, giving it a hard twist and pulling him close. She pulled him down until he was almost on his knees. She looked down at him coldly, and put all the force of her will into one word: "Yes."

Their eyes locked, and it almost looked like he was going to challenge her.

"Do you have a problem with that?" she demanded.

A long pause, then he quietly said, "No."


She released him, and strode away, leaving him scrambling after her once more. They walked the mile to her motel in silence. When they got to the door, she turned to him.

"Thank you for walking me back. It was unnecessary, but gallant nonetheless."

"You definitely look like you could take care of yourself (so glad you noticed, she thought sarcastically), but I needed to make sure you got here."

She smiled slightly and raised a hand in farewell as she turned to go inside. He reached out and grabbed her forearm, pulling her towards him for a kiss.

It was a nice kiss. He probably went through high school being called a good kisser. A very nice kiss. But she didn't much like nice, and she bit his lip hard when she felt him relax into her.

She had to give him credit, he didn't say ow or pull away, just a groan and a slight flinch. She broke the kiss first and pulled away. He reached for her arm again, and she stepped just out of his reach. All he said was, "I want you."

"You won't like how I play. I mean it. You really won't like it."

"I know. But I want to see how far I can take it."

That angered her. He really didn't get it - it was still all about him. "What do I look like?? A goddamn teacher? Your fucking personal trainer?"

All he said was one word, and in the right tone: "Please?"

It was so tempting. For a moment she entertained the idea of it, pictured him bound and spread out before her and thought of all the deliciously bad things she could do to him before he said the safe word.

She knew she could ruin him, could show him that right combination of pleasure and pain that would spoil him for vanilla. She wondered briefly, what would be his fantasy, his weakness? She'd put her money on anal, and the thought of fucking him, of making him her bitch, made her cunt throb.

So tempting.

But alas, she too had been raised on Disney™ and was herself an archetype. She had learned the hard way that the Wicked Witch could never fuck with Prince Charming's Happily Ever After. It just wasn't done.

So she merely smiled and moved closer to the door. He could tell he had lost, but could only stand there in disbelief. Someone had denied him? HIM?!? He could not remember the last time that had happened. Goddamn it!!

By the time he had collected himself enough to try another tack, she had already gone through the door. As the door's lock clicked behind her she could hear him yell, "You fucking BITCH!"

All things considered, it was a good thing he couldn't see her wide, triumphant smile.

Katitude is a writer from Toronto, Canada.

Malcolm in the Middle Smokes Crack

By Paul McGuire © 2006

My JetBlue flight from JFK to Long Beach was delayed 15 minutes due to weather. The captain made the announcement and I sent Nicky a text message relaying her the news of the delay. I sat next to a weird looking chick with dark curly hair and thick Lisa Loeb glasses. She drank five cups of coffee and read a book about Heidegger. She didn't turn on her free TV but occasionally glanced at my screen to see what was on. I freaked her out because after the first hour of Sportscenter, I watched four straight hours of the Vietnam War on the History Channel. The hour about the battle of Hue was insane.

Somewhere over North Dakota, curly haired girl put away her Heidegger book and broke out a Hebrew 101 workbook. She told me that she's learning Hebrew because her boyfriend is Israeli.

"You were reading a book by Heidegger. Don't you know he was a Nazi sympathizer?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

The suit in the aisle across from me read the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Then he broke out a copy of Newsweek or the Economist before he opened up a book.

My flight arrived in Long Beach twenty minutes late and it took almost forty minutes from the time I deplaned until the luggage arrived. Long Beach is a small airport with four gates and I dunno what the delay was all about. I estimated the over/under on my luggage creeping in front of me would be 8 minutes. It took 11 and I realized that 50% of all domestic airline passengers have the same crappy black suitcase.

Luckily Nicky was already at the airport when I finally picked up my bags. She had some medicinal marijuana waiting for me on our ride from Long Beach to Beverly Hills. It was mid-afternoon and most of the traffic was coming the other way on the 405.

We headed to Zankou Chicken to grab a bite. For me, it was dinner time and my stomach could not stop from growling. We went to the one on Sepulveda in West LA instead of the location down on Sunset in East Hollywood. The new franchise was less crowded and much cleaner. As we walked through the parking lot of Zankou Chicken, a convertible Mercedes whizzed by us. Nicky muttered, "West LA douchebags!"

We got in line and ordered the #1 to go... a whole chicken with two pieces of pita bread and two garlic sauces. We also got some hummus. Total cost $12.74. Standing in line behind us was former Baywatch actress Traci Bingham. I had been in California less than an hour and while stoned to the gourd, I bumped into Baywatch alumni.

"Did David Hasslehoff tap that ass?" I wondered.

I knew Traci Bingham was on the fringes of the business but couldn't recall her name or where I saw her last. That's when Nicky reminded me that she was the first black lifeguard on Baywatch. I scanned my memory and remembered her as hostess of the Lingerie Bowl, the spectacle where models in underwear play football during halftime of the Super Bowl. Man, sometimes I fucking love Hollyweird. A few years ago and she appeared on a lame D-list celebrity poker show with Joe Speaker's buddy Morris Chestnut from Boyz in the Hood fame.

Anyway, I checked Traci Bingham's imdb profile. She says that she's a vegetarian, but why would she be at Zankou chicken? And what was she doing riding around with a milk and cookies looking West LA douchebag driving around in a Nazi sled?

* * * * *

If you have never been to The Grove, there's a huge parking deck that is several stories high attached to the huge outdoor shopping mall and movie theatre complex that's attached to the Farmer's Market. You have to drive down a circular pathway in the middle of the deck to leave. On our way out after a movie, Nicky said, "Is that Frankie Muniz driving behind us in a Porsche?"

It was and when you're Malcolm in the Fuckin' Middle, you get to drive around the City of Angels in a pussy magnet like a Porsche. I wonder how much tail that little dipshit has turned down in the last few years?

"Should we follow him?" Nicky asked.

I fantasized with the idea of trailing Frankie to find out he's going down to the hood near 7th and Alvarado to buy a couple hundred bucks worth of crack before he picks up a couple of strung meth addicts from the Sherman Oaks to take back to his house in the hills for a lubricated night cap.

* * * * *

I woke up early and wrote for almost two hours before I went out on a morning walk through Beverly Hills Adjacent aka the slums of Beverly Hills. I liked walking down alleys and trying to see which house would be the best to rob. I wanted to go running but I'm afraid that crazy LA drivers would kill me. The walk was nice during the cool morning (for LA standards) and I did not miss the cold, wet, and rainy weather of NYC.

After my shower, I walked into Showcase's bedroom where I could hear incessant laughter. He showed Nicky a cooking show where the host Sandra Dee dressed up like celebrities in anticipation of Halloween. She did Liza Minelli then came out as someone I had no idea who it was. They couldn't stop laughing at the impersonation and I stood utterly clueless.

"Who's that?" I asked.

"You don't know Barbara Streisand?" snapped Nicky as looks of astonishment fell onto their faces.

"Look, I'm not gay and I'm not Jewish," I said as I walked out of the room.

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.

Draft One

By May B. Yesno © 2006

A truth that holds for all does not exist, not in the world, nor in the stars, nor on the surface of the land, nor beneath the waves of the ocean. That which is exists, but those who search for truth that applies to all seek what never was and never will be. That is because truth is an image of what is, and that image is painted in the colors of the seeker's beliefs. [ . . ]

From the Basis of Order


It started, for me, on the Christmas Eve Night. And certainly it started before I came on duty; but it was not known to me, all of those beginnings. I became aware of this beginning "in the middle of the movie" one might say.

We worked rather odd rotations at that time and on this particular day. I was on duty from three-thirty through the mid-night hour as the cantonment area mobile patrol. As the various clubs on the military base were having Christmas Party's it was no great surprise I was very busy that evening being a designated driver. Though we didn't have that distinction in those days - and carried a number of tipsy folks, of both sexes, to billets. So, it was not an alarming experience when I received a trouble radio call to the NCO Club. Just one more turn at the game.

I had become very tired of party goers and all they stood for, and was looking forward to getting off duty. Tired also, having been held over because the on duty married personnel had been released for the remaining hours of this holiday. The singles had been promised the next holiday off duty - New Years Eve. Both schedule changes equaling short man power and extra activity for those of us on duty. Because of the unexpected release of the married I was being held an additional four hours on this duty day. Anyway, the call came and I responded.

It was sufficiently past the witching hour when I made contact with the NCO Club manager. He stated he was trying to close the club so that he and his men could go home. He appeared a bit up-tight. Then he showed me a single customer; a blonde female. For all the world prim and pristine, hands lightly locked atop her purse; which was placed crosswise her lap, and no hair out of place. Dead drunk and passed out.

The manager seemed to know her, though not her name, which he could not or would not give me, but added that no one would claim her. So, he said, all his patrons were gone and he didn't want her either. The manager refused to assist me in physically removing the woman from the club. And also refused to allow any employees to do so. I suppose I could have invoked authority, but of what use? So I loaded her into the back of the WWII Jeep, my patrol vehicle.

Drunks are a pain in the ass for the most part. But a dead drunk human is a short way to a hernia if you must carry one any distance by yourself, and the closest I could park was thirty yards or so. The task was eventually accomplished, with me dropping her once on the rough grasses. Because of the limber nature of the body I had difficulty getting her over the side of the vehicle and dumped her on her head in the rear seat area. From there it was a simple matter to grab her ankles and twist her around until her legs and feet extended over the back of the rear seat outside the tail end. That meant that her skirt was hiked above her panties, which fact I was in no mood to be concerned about. The panties were white and I was vaguely surprised she was wearing any.

I stuck her in the single holding cell at HQ and the desk told me to take off. My duty day was done.


Because of the nature of authority and the nature of folks subject to authority, I found myself working the modified mid-night shift over the New Years holiday, previous promises not withstanding. Worse, I was coming to work early on the eve before and scheduled to work twelve hours, carrying into nine or ten o'clock the morning of New Years Day.

I was scheduled to work the installations Main Gate. The man I was to relieve was one of the men on the desk the night I brought in the drunk blonde. As the gate was not far from HQ, I walked to my duty post.

The night was clear, crispy, calm, and as most of the parties were far from the gate, quiet. So it wasn't surprising that I could hear voices from the gate. Among them a female voice. Peeking into the gate house when I arrived, I saw the blonde from the Christmas incident. It was obvious that she was not entirely sober this time either.

The blonde recognized me, called me by name and offered her hand to shake. Reflex caused me to take the handshake and her off hand wrapped itself around my wrist, her head lowered to kiss the back of my hand.

I did not know this woman. Hell, I didn't even know her name. But the feel of her warm soft lips moving on my flesh was a delightful surprise. I was slow in attempting to withdraw my hand from her grasp though and as I tried the off hand grip on my wrist tightened. The fingers of her other hand slide smoothly around palm to palm and began to withdraw, the pads of her fingers moving slowly and caressingly across my palm. Then the nails lightly, ever so lightly teasing the palm; together, then singly; her hand moved upward, finger nails, finger pads, palm; downward, palm, finger pads, finger nails...

With head still lowered over my hand she rocked her body forward a bit; lips questing, her tongue began tracing patterns on the back of my hand. Her lips teasing the flesh there and tongue gliding over the knuckles there, circling, back across, pausing occasionally while the tongue crept between my fingers following so lightly the arc of the webs. All the while the warm moisture left by the tongue cooled in the winter air, providing rich contrast to the experience.

She rolled her hand under and twisted a bit so that my hand was palm to her palm, my fingers resting on her inner wrist and her lips described a line to my finger tips - which she nibbled a bit. Then the lips and tongue moved ever so wet and softly, gently up the fore finger, the tongue tracing the large web and then down the thumb.

The lips searching, the tongue tracing, her off hand fingers grazing my inner wrist, until her lips found the tip of my thumb; and slowly ingested it. First a nibble and lip on the extreme tip. A movement, a nibble and circle of the nail by her tongue, a pressure, an inhalation, a sucking of muscle; repeated, repeated. Repeated.

And the thumb was possessed. And the nerves tightened in my belly. Lower, the tingle and burn spread; my thighs; my knees...

And the man I was to relieve of duty called her name; and again; and again reminded her that he and she had a party to go to and he was now off duty. He refused to look at us.

She sighed, released me, and they were gone.


Soon after the turn of the month following I was told they had married.


[ . . ] Each seeks a different truth, and each claims that his is the only truth. In that the seeker is surely correct...

The Basis of Order

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