November 08, 2007

November 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 11

And we're back...

1. Existentialist Conversations with Strippers: The Afternoon Shift by Paul McGuire
The club was just the type of seedy place where you might find William Kennedy Smith or any other soused heirs to the Kennedy name, knocking back cheap scotch at 3 pm while aggressively fondling the sketchy girls with visible c-section scars and multiple fresh bruises all over their cracked-out bodies.... More

2. Lonesome Cowboy Bill by AlCantHang
My comfort zone is a dive rock club where I can chain smoke, power drink, and have my head assaulted with decibels equivalent to a jumbo jet taking off. The next step down the ladder would be the pubs and bars the exist for sole purpose of its patrons getting blitzed on various hardcore drinks. Then comes the sports bars, strip clubs, snooty yuppie bars, and hotel watering holes. Near the very bottom would generally be any place that plays country music... More

3. Seven Minutes with Olga by Change100
Olga led me all the way to the back and sat me down. She took her top off and grabbed my hands, placing them on her very soft, very real breasts... More

4. The Sleep Deprived Memoirs of I by Sigge S. Amdal
I might as well go to sleep, I thought. And I thought about sleeping forever, the eternal sleep, and how it could feel – was it cold or was it cozy – had it not been for facts contesting life after death in terms of subjectively sensory experience... More

5. Their Father's Love by Sean A. Donahue
Tying to explain the differences and the complaints of a failed marriage is too complicated for a four-year old to understand. I think I heard the phrase, "But why daddy?" more than I ever thought I could. But it wasn't my kids' fault... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome to the November issue Truckin' which contain 60% Key West themed short stories. I lead off the issue with another Key West installment of Existentialist Conversations with Strippers. AlCantHang is in the lineup this month with his own soused tale of debauchery during our sojourn to Key West. And don't forget to read Change100's piece where she described a wild night at one of the Key West strip clubs. Everyone's favorite Norwegian writer, Sigge S. Amdal, is back with another stellar submission and Sean A. Donahue returns with a tender piece about family and distance.

If you like these stories, then please tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along Truckin'. The 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 to all of the writers who exposed their souls to the world, and did it for free. All of you inspire me and I'm admire your bravery and taking that leap of faith with me.

Thanks again to everyone for wasting your precious time month after month with Truckin' and for your continuous support. Until next time.


"Being a writer is like being a psychoanalyst, but you don't get any patients." - Al Alvarez

Existentialist Conversations with Strippers: The Afternoon Shift

By Paul McGuire © 2007

"Never underestimate the afternoon shift!!" Lewey shouted at the top of his lungs as everyone it Sloppy Joes stopped what they were doing and turned their heads to investigate the commotion.

The weather was the culprit as it usually is in Key West. The gang originally wanted breakfast at a French crepe place, however, the owners were away on holiday and the place was closed. They walked down Duval Street in search of alternative options and ended up at Sloppy Joes, where Hemingway used to get bombed back in his Key West days. After sampling every specialty drink on the menu, Lewey lost his volume control. I couldn't blame him. The drinks were delicious. The Key West Lemonade is by far the best of their house drinks. You can barely taste the vodka thanks to the sour mix, which is why Lewey and company drank eight in a two hour span.

It always rains at random times in Key West during the wet season. Sometimes it pours for five minutes, then stops. In that instance, the rain kept coming. And coming. Most of Duval Street quickly flooded within minutes. The boys were stuck at Sloppy Joes and weathered out the storm by drinking heavily. AlCantHang and I were stuck at the house he had rented. We eventually decided to make a run for Sloppy Joes during a brief break in the rain.

The skies opened up as soon as we set foot on Duval Street. We were quickly drenched and found shelter under an awning of a jewelry shop to escape the pelting rain. We grew anxious after a couple of minutes. AlCnatHang wanted a drink. I just wanted to be inside somewhere. We eventually said, "Fuck it!" and sprinted the last two blocks through the rain as we jumped over tremendous puddles that collected at various spots. We rushed inside Sloppy Joes completely drenched. My entire shirt was soaked. I waled next door to the souvenir shop and bought a dry one Sloppy Joes t-shirt with Hemingway's Face plastered on the back.

Lewey had lost all forms of volume control by the time we arrived. He was beyond drunk and fired up. The other tables radiated curious and odd glances as they tried their best to decipher the drunkenese that spewed out of Lewey's mouth. AlCantHang and I quickly ordered drinks to catch up.

"You're way behind," said Alice, our waitress.

Alice was in her late 40s with leathery tanned skin. She wasn't fazed by Lewey's antics and seemed more amused than anything else. She was a veteran waitress in Key West and had grown used to the inebriated tourists. For almost two decades she handled drunks ten times as worse and ten times as large.

The only thing that could calm Lewey down was The Classy Joint. It was not even 3 pm on a Monday. Most of the people I knew were still at work. But we were on a mission and courageously ran down Duval Street zig-zagging through the raindrops like we were GIs storming Omaha Beach on D-Day dodging bullets from Nazi machine gun nests. We scaled the slippery flight of wooden stairs and reached our main objective. We burst into the strip club, ready to shower the strippers on the afternoon shift with small bills.

"Never underestimate the afternoon shift," Lewey repeatedly told me as we found a seat at the stage.

I had ventured into new territory. The afternoon shift. Sort of the Bermuda Triangle for strippers. It had been several years since I had visited a strip club during the day. There were random exceptions like stumbling out of strip club at 6 am or 7 am after a bender in Las Vegas playing poker all night with Grubby. But for the most part, my illustrious Wall Street days where the last time I ventured inside a club during normal working hours. Sometimes the stress from trading bonds was so immense, you needed to escape from reality with a lap dance from an exotic dancer drenched in cheap perfume. I'm going to hell for enjoying every moment of my Dionysian existence.

When I lived in Atlanta as a college student, my friends and I were frequent patrons of the crappy Sunday morning breakfast buffet at the Pink Pony strip joint, located behind a Denny's parking lot. I was stuck behind enemy lines in the middle of the bible belt and instead of attending church services on Sunday mornings like a pious Christian, I smoked dope with Jewish frat boys and ogled strippers.

There's a definite difference between the girls who work on weeknights vs. weekends and a major difference girls who work the afternoon shift vs. the evening shift. I was fascinated and intrigued by the reasons that drove a woman to dance the Monday afternoon shift at a Key West strip club during the off season. A foul odor of desperation lingered around strip clubs during the day. And since there's a more natural light that appeared every time the front door opened, the establishment never looks as sultry as the middle of the night.

It's also a frame of mind. If I was as shitfaced as I was the night(think Dudley Moore drunk) when I stumbled into The Classy Joint for the first time, I might not have picked up on the subtle differences. Like the dozen or so geriatric patrons checking out the afternoon shift. AlCantHang's crew made up 50% of the total number of customers in the club. The rest of the clientele were in their 70s. Retired guys on death's doorstep waiting to die as they slowly sipped rum cocktails and got their jollies off during a three minute lap dance. No one every said you could get your face slapped with a pair of boobs while on heaven's waiting list.

The Classy Joint lost a tinge of class during the afternoon hours. It seemed seedier. I felt dirty just being in there. The club was just the type of dingy place where you might find William Kennedy Smith or any other soused heirs to the Kennedy name, knocking back cheap scotch at 3 pm while aggressively fondling the sketchy girls with visible c-section scars and multiple fresh bruises all over their cracked-out bodies.

We didn't have much talent to choose from. There were three mediocre dancers at the time... the angry Latina, the voluptuous Jennifer Hudson look-a-like, and the pale foreign girl from an Eastern-Bloc country who wandered over and asked, "Do you vant a dansh?"

The foreign girl barely looked 18 with long brown hair and crooked teeth. She was fresh off the boat, evident from her lack of suntan and less than graceful moves on stage. You have to start somewhere, right? She was working her way up the stripper food chain. She was cute enough to dance at The Classy Joint, but lacked the experience on proper pole dancing and more importantly, the act of stage seduction. She needed practice. Hence, the afternoon shift.

A giant green tattoo on her stomach read Milano in a Gothic font. She didn't look Italian and her accent was more Eastern European. I wondered what the word Milano meant. Lewey saw the same thing and we quickly discussed the origins of her tattoo. I tried to talk in hushed tones, but Lewey continued to scream at the top of his lungs.

"What's that tattoo all about?" he shouted.

"I guess that's her favorite city," I said. "Or her favorite brand of Pepperidge farm cookies."

"Or her favorite actress," said Lewey as he shoved three singles in between her breasts.

She looked over at us and asked, "Do you vant a dansh?"

The Latina with the c-section scar took the stage next. She was about twice the age of the foreign girl and appeared pissed off at something. Despite her angry demeanor, she had the best technique out of the bunch. She performed a weird trick on the pole where she'd shake her ass and it would vibrate faster than a hummingbird could flap its wings. Lewey almost had his nose dislocated when he got too close.

The last entertainer on the afternoon shift was a black woman in her 40s who called her self Kat. She purred and seductively moved along the stage like a cat. Unlike the rest of the strippers I encountered, she didn't shave her snatch. She had a bad boob job and you could see the multiple scars underneath her armpits. That's what happens when you go to the equivalent of Dr. Nick from The Simpsons to get your breasts enhanced in the back of his trailer.

I was not drunk and therefore not turned on by any of the women working the afternoon shift. An inebriated Lewey had a blast with a stack of singles which sat in front of him next to his cocktail. For about fifteen seconds Kat would come over and swallow up his head between her humongous breasts. Lewey would emerge with a gigantic smile.

"The girls on the afternoon shift pay more attention to you. Yes, they're not as good looking, but they work harder for the money. You're getting more bang for the buck," explained Lewey. "Plus were helping out the locals."

His drunken ramblings almost made sense to me. We were doing them a favor and helping save an endangered species.

As Landow put it best, "Save the afternoon shift. Save the world."

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.

Seven Minutes with Olga

By Change100 © 2007

"Need a taxi?" said the bearded man with the leathery skin. He wore shorts and rubber sandals and looked like he spent his days out on a fishing boat rather than inside a cab.

It had been less than two minutes since I'd walked down the stairs from the puddle-jumper to the tarmac at Key West International Airport, the soggy humidity filling my parched lungs after nearly six hours of trans-continental travel at 30,000 feet. Red lettering welcoming me to the "Conch Republic" was perched above the doorway to the tiny terminal, and after crossing a fifteen-foot wide swath of gray carpeting inside, I was back out the door into the sticky heat, looking for a taxi to take me to Duval Street. I don't know if it was the way the cabbie approached me-- emerging from a shadowy corner where he'd been leaning against the wall smoking a cigarette rather than pulling up in a yellow-hued sedan and efficiently hauling my luggage into the trunk-- but it struck a sketchy note. As I followed him to his vehicle (which looked more like a dog-catcher's van) I thought there was a significant chance that I was headed for a scene straight out of The Bone Collector.

I gave the cabbie the address of our hotel and flipped open my phone to call Pauly. There was a lot of bar noise in the background and from the sharp volume and lackadaisical timbre of his voice, I easily deduced that he was in a rowdy drinking establishment and had been there, or a place like it, for some time. He said he'd meet me in ten minutes in front of the hotel.

When I hung up, we were driving along a poorly-lit road next to a military base. Was this where he was taking me? Could I jump out of the cab and make a run for it if necessary?

"Man, I sure was glad that flight of yours was on time. It's almost always late and it's the last one of the day," he said. As he approached a stop sign, he fiddled with a laptop computer that was set up on the dashboard (telling his superiors that he had "the package?")

"This your first time in Key West?"


"Where'd you fly in from?"

"California" (best to be as vague as possible with potential serial-killer cabbies).

"Y'all have that Nancy Pelosi out there, right?" (oh, God he's going political)


"Did she ever get her plane?"


"Her plane. The big one to fly her home on weekends."

"Oh... I don't know. I don't think so."

"Pretty stupid thing to ask for."

It was about then that I noticed the sleeping child laying across the front seat. She couldn't have been more than five. She had a Disney-themed coloring book tucked underneath her arm as she slept. Crayons were scattered across the floor. I guess I wasn't in danger after all.

As promised, Pauly met me in front of the Southern Cross Hotel. I stowed my backpack in the room and we headed across the street to Wendy's so I could get a quick bite to eat. I always order the same thing at Wendy's-- the Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

The man in front of us in line was so fucked up he could hardly stand. He had the same leathery skin as the cabbie did, was barefoot, and had his shirt halfway open.

"I'm soooo wasted!" he said to Pauly as we tried not to stare.

Once he got up to the register, he slumped onto the counter and looked as if he might vomit all over the young Jamaican cashier as he slurred his order.

Welcome to Thursday night in Key West.

After wolfing down the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and washing it down with Diet Coke, Pauly and I walked over to Irish Kevin's, one of Al Can't Hang's favorite Duval Street watering holes and joined up with the gang. Most had been drinking all day. I met Al's Philly crew-- Landow, Lewey, Big Mike, and JDub-- whom I had read so much about over the years. Gracie and Sweet Sweet Pablo were there. So were Derek, BG, Bacon Bikini Mary and StB. JDub bought me a White Russian. So I drank that. Then Derek bought me a double Soco. So I drank that. Then I bought myself a Stella. And I drank that too. Add a quick trip down the block with Gracie, Pablo, and Derek to smoke a bowl and I was pretty shitty by the time we left Irish Kevin's for the strip club.

I'd been hearing about these two strip clubs ever since Pauly had landed on the island five days earlier. There was "The Classy Joint" which was larger, semi-well maintained, and had decent looking dancers. Then there was "The Dive" which was described to me as "where strippers go to die in Key West." We were going to The Classy Joint, thank God.

Though there were a couple of lap dance virgins on our outing that night, I was not one of them. I vividly remember my first. It was at The Body Shop on Sunset Blvd. during my first or second year in Hollywood. Showcase and I took our friend Seth out for birthday drinks at the Standard Hotel and later adjourned to the strip club for a few dances. Showcase and I each bought Seth a dance and he said I wasn't leaving until I got one myself. I tried waving him off with a laugh, but five minutes later, a curvaceous, raven-haired stripper came up to me and pulled me into the back room where the private dance booths were set up.

"This is from Seth," she cooed into my ear as she ground her crotch into my thigh. Hey, this isn't so bad.

I was hooked. Lap dances were fun. I'd get several more in the years that followed-- from one at Cheetah's where a coked-up blonde poured a shot into my mouth and proceeded to stir it with her tongue, to Showcase's 25th birthday party at Crazy Horse Too when I saw him get a 45 minute lap dance from a six-foot tall black woman with the biggest tits I've ever seen, to that fateful night at Scores when Pauly, Grubby, Benny Hiroshima and I sat in a horseshoe formation, all with breasts both fake and real stuffed into our faces at one point or another, all four of us departing with our nipples burning after being twisted into unnatural formations by these ladies of the pole.

Compared to Vegas strip joints, the Classy Joint was small and really not that classy, which made me wonder just how sketchy "The Dive" was if this was classy. Pauly instantly got a waitress to take care of everyone and we took over three tables in the back corner. Al and Friends were already instant celebrities in these parts and we were treated very well. Many double Socos were consumed and at midnight, AlCantHang turned 40 amidst clinking glasses and a dozen of his friends.

Al had brought a $50 brick of singles with him and by the end of the night all of them ended up in the garters of the panty-less dancers that took the stage. Yes, panty-less. These chicks went the Full Monty. Pablo, StB, Pauly and I rotated in and out of two seats next to the stage. During my turn, I put a couple of the singles in my cleavage and the girls skillfully removed them by mouth.

After another Double Soco, I was approached by a strikingly tall Russian girl. Her name was Olga and she was 6'4” in her Lucite heels. She couldn't have been more than 20 or 21 and had ice-blue eyes, long chestnut hair and a surprisingly innocent face, like she could be the girl who sells you a croissant and a coffee in the morning at some random European cafe.

"Come with me. I give you two dance from him." She pointed at Pauly, who waved at me with a goofy drunken grin before Olga took my hand and led me into the private dance room.

The private room was long, narrow, and mirrored, with a black leather banquette lining the walls on all sides. Six or seven girls were in there, some bottomless, grinding atop sunburnt tourists in t-shirts and cargo shorts. Olga led me all the way to the back and sat me down. She took her top off and grabbed my hands, placing them on her very soft, very real breasts.

"34B..." I thought as she started grinding away.

Midway through my second dance, AlCantHang entered the room with a dark-haired stripper. As Olga gnawed on my nipples through my padded satin Victoria's Secret bra, Al and I gave each other "the nod." That strip-club nod that's like "hey, here we are, being all debauched with dirty dirty paid-for girls at are going to do naughty naughty things to us and well, we're doing it in the same room, and that's a little weird, but we're just going to roll with it, OK?"

After my seven or so minutes with Olga, I emerged from the back room with a cat-who-ate-the-canary grin. I could have used a cigarette. Or maybe a shower.

"Oh my God, look at your hair!" laughed Pablo.

I racked focus toward the mirror behind our table and sure enough, it was all over the place. Sticking up, to the side, tangled and frizzy from where Olga had repeatedly run her hands through it.

"So, did you like your dance?" said Pauly, grinning ear to ear as he smoothed out my hair.

"I did. She was very dirty."

"And tall!"

"Dude, I barely came up to her tits."

"Do you want another one?"

"No, I think that's all I can take for one night."

Maybe an hour later we stumbled back to the hotel and passed out. Seven hours later I woke up tasting stale liquor in my mouth as a rooster screamed from the tree outside our window.

And I smelled like stripper.

Change100 is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.

Lonesome Cowboy Bill

By AlCantHang © 2007

It was five o'clock in the morning and there was a knock at the door. I was sitting at the bar drinking with the owner and I was caught red handed. A couple friends were looking through the glass door, we all knew my night was over, it was the end of my Key West vacation. If you had given odds at the beginning of the week that I would spend my last few hours and have my last drink at a country bar someone would have been very rich.

I am most definitely not a country boy. I may have the hair of a hippie but that shouldn't confuse you when it comes to my musical appetite. My tastes lean towards loud, heavy, and fast in that order. My comfort zone is a dive rock club where I can chain smoke, power drink, and have my head assaulted with decibels equivalent to a jumbo jet taking off. The next step down the ladder would be the pubs and bars the exist for sole purpose of its patrons getting blitzed on various hardcore drinks. Then comes the sports bars, strip clubs, snooty yuppie bars, and hotel watering holes. Near the very bottom would generally be any place that plays country music. If there were such a thing as opera bars they would be the only thing ranking lower. Practically god's own miracle that after seven days in Key West I found my most comfortable spot on the planet ponied up to a self-described honky tonk.

This wasn't my first trip to the tiny two-by-four mile island with intentions of drinking to excess while groping various forms off female flesh in the name of sanity reclamation. There are the standard bar options each trip down, the menu consists of four or five bars and two strip clubs to finish off each night. You would most likely find me sitting in front of a band or staring blankly at a random sporting event while chasing away my sobriety. This time around I found my elbow leaning in a painted plywood bar watching the country music channel.

It was all because of the people. When I am on the road, I like to find bars where I don't feel like a mark for the locals, dead tourist money waiting to be sucked from my wallet. In Key West I have the normal options but found myself being talked into trying out a place called Cowboys Bill's. Several blocks away from where we were hanging out and miles away from where I would normally go. But I can be talked into just about anything by anyone of the opposite sex that looks good in a mini-skirt.

I let it slide when the doorman proudly announced PBR tallboys on special and turned a blind eye at the mechanical bull sitting idle in the middle of the outside bar. I was looking for shots, maybe a football game, and something to make we want to come back. The barstaff was the deciding factor. By the end of that first night I was placing friendly wagers at the pool table with locals, telling classic bar bullshit stories with the bartender/bouncer, and actually planning my next trip back to their bar. The extremely generous size of their shots and the blind eye towards my barely existent bar tab had only a little to do with this decision.

Two nights later I found myself sitting at the same spot at the bar drinking with the same results. I had been promised a fantastic show that evening. Nekkid girls riding the bull. I barely even noticed that we were forced to suffer listening to a hillbilly band live on stage while waiting for the festivities to kick off. The rest of my crew had their spirits broken by the band but I was sticking around. Not for the bull riding.

After the surprise of the first night's enjoyment, I received my second on my next trip back when I was introduced to the owner of the bar. She remembered me from her previous employment at another bar where I'd spent too much time and too many dollar bills. She personally welcomed me to her bar with promises of good times, endless drinks, and as much fun as I could handle. Still skeptical but I was loosening up. I was given the tour and introduced to the lovely ladies of Cowboy Bill's. I still don't think you could predict how the week was going to end but the foundation was set. Still couldn't stand the music though.

I spent the rest of the week either starting my night or ending it sitting in Cowboy Bill's drinking myself deaf. I never once felt like an outsider or a walking ATM machine. I was bought as many drinks as I dished out. I met other members of the staff and I started to feel like I was two blocks from home instead of 1,000 miles. Even at times when I should have been at home in bed getting ready for a 6 am fishing charter, I found myself shooting another game of pool two hours before I was due to step up dockside.

The final piece of evidence that I had found my new Key West playground came on my final day in town. I found a bartender who liked to drink and tell bar stories as much as anyone I knew down there. She wasn't too tough on the eyes either. I stopped into the bar before the final big night on the town to fill my stomach and empty my wallet. She wished me a good time but made me promise to come back before the end of the night when her shift ended. That way we could have one last drink before hopping the flight home.

I hit the bars with my friends like alcohol was being banned the next day. The bars led to the strip clubs which led me to the only downside of the weekend. Everyone was lined up getting their final lap teases and trying to forget they only had a few hours left in paradise. And I lost track of time. Far too late I realized that I was past the time my new favorite bartender was scheduled to be cut from the business side of the bar.

It's tough to convince a dancer in a strip club that you need to cut short the lap dance because you are late to be somewhere else. Proving my comfort and confidence in a good time at Cowboy Bill's, I intentionally left a bar full of girls looking to satisfy my carnal desires if the price was right. I left the strip club to go back to a country bar to drink with someone I barely knew. I had somehow because immune to the horrid music in response to the feeling that I was sitting in my home bar.

Unfortunately the story does not have a happy ending. I had spent way too much time at the strip club and the bar was too far away. The owner told me I missed her by mere minutes but would I like a drink to put out the flames. Beer after beer I took turns telling and listening to stories from the past. I was trying to drink away the disappointment and realization that mere hours from then I would be winging my way home.

Not long before the sun was to rise, that knock came at the door. My friends were staring in at me in the wee hours of the morning sitting comfortably with a beer in my hand in a country bar. I could almost pretend for a moment that I didn't mind the music at all. I had accomplished my mission though, I found my comfort zone in the most unlikely of places with the most unlikely people.

AlCantHang is a seasoned Socologist from Phoenixville, PA.

The Sleep Deprived Memoirs of I

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2007

I might as well go to sleep, I thought. And I thought about sleeping forever, the eternal sleep, and how it could feel – was it cold or was it cozy – had it not been for facts contesting life after death in terms of subjectively sensory experience.

I went to the bathroom to take a leak. While I was going I watched a summer fly rub its forelegs on the bathroom wall. It had been trapped there for days. I wondered why it didn't die and why it didn't leave the bathroom when the door was open. But the bathroom was probably a better place. It was warm and moist, like a rotting womb, just like the undergrowth of tall forests. All you find is pine cones and mushrooms, 'cause nothing else can grow in the darkness. I flushed.

I poured another glass of water, being that there was no beer in the fridge.

No, the eternal sleep was a Freudian dream, a hope or a lie. To all living things death is nothing but a process, and when my turn comes around I won't feel anything any longer. I didn't want to die, I wasn't suicidal, just a little tired. But I knew that if I'd gone to bed right then I would not have been able to sleep.

Instead I would've filled my mind with lies of love affairs, things that should never be but still could happen; and after I had rested in these arms, I would turn my sense towards me, and piece apart the same dreams with hostile scrutiny until I was back to being troubled again. And still wide awake.

I took a sip of my water and looked out the window. I was back in the bedroom, sitting in the black leather chair that I had stolen from the basement, listening to night sounds as they played their parts on stage in my forehead. A door slammed further down the street.

I couldn't see, so I guessed. Was it trouble, a marriage gone sour, a boy girl fight or a customer returning to his loved ones? The taxis drove endlessly with the sound of distant rivers coming and going as the tires rolled on the asphalt, coming to a halt when the driver stopped before a turn.

A waitress walked by. I knew her from her work, and I knew her entire back and arms were coloured in black and blue tattoos that would smudge out over the years and kill her with cancer in the end. She went inside.

A voice called from further down the street. I tried to pick up whether it was terror or amazement, but decided for the latter. Either they would cry out and get away or get knifed, or they would take it obediently with impending trauma, shame and guilt to come tomorrow. Three serial rapists had walked the same streets outside my window just before the summer. And I still frown at women when they run across the street at the sight of me. That's too bad, really.

The sound had been amazement and not a rape. I ignored everything from my window but the sounds and the imagery thereby proposed. I sat up when my neck began to hurt. I could really use a massage, but at this late hour of night the girls in the parlors wouldn't know how, 'cause they were there to fill simpler needs. Another cab, another cigarette, I opened the window again to let the smoke out. A door buzzed a block down.

My previous neighbour sold pot out the window at nighttime. I am not so inclined personally, but I don't mind what others do to themselves. And I must admit he had a different fit girl in there every other week throughout the calendar and then he left. A fully educated, unemployed economist selling pot out the window into the wee hours of the night.

A pedestrian looked inside my window; a pale, young student ready to get robbed. I always hope that some sleepless night a lady will come by and look in, and ask me for company. But I know that it'll never happen in this town.

Anyway. Those white earplugs have come to remind me of her, because she once showed me hers. I can't remember her favourite band, except she thinks that country music's underrated and she plays the piano. She played Tom Waits in her grandmother's funeral. Honestly, that's enough to make some of us consider marriage. She's gone now, and I'm still here. I hope she made it into university.

Another cab drives off into the unseen horizon, and what must be a dog locked in an apartment somewhere barks at a dog on the street. With the eternal one confidently ruled out I think about going to sleep. Maybe it will work this time.

The good, wholesome sleep that keeps you in bed without gnawing on the energy you will need for another pointless day before the weekend. And when the weekend's here? I will be too excited to consider sleep an option. And thus the wheel turns until the rubber's out, the spikes are worn down and nothing's left but the empty donut hole in the center, which is what weight you lose when your last breath leaves its vessel.

Yes. It is a nice idea about eternal sleep. And even though it isn't true, and I know it isn't true, it still feels better to believe in it on nights like this.

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

Their Father's Love

By Sean A. Donahue © 2007

It wasn't my kids' fault. My ex-wife and I had troubles after she had given birth to our son Ryan. We were going in different directions, me up the corporate ladder and her, a mile and a half down the road from her parents. Unfortunately her parents live 1,145 miles away in Indiana. My children, Shelby now six and Ryan now three, didn't understand the problems and the disagreements. All they understood was that they were going to live eighteen hours away in Indiana with their grandparents while their "Daddoo" lived in Texas.

“Why did you and mommy's marriage get canceled?" said Shelby.

"Sometimes things just don't work out princess, Mommy is not happy and I want her to be happy and you to smile," I tried to explain.

But trying to explain the differences and the complaints of a failed marriage is too complicated for a four-year old to understand. I think I heard the phrase, "But why daddy?" more than I ever thought I could. But it wasn't my kids' fault.

October 19, 2002, I watched from down the road in my car as my life drove away in a U-Haul truck. The night before I tucked them into bed and gave them a kiss and each time before I send them back with their mother I tuck them in and kiss them goodnight. It is too tough a moment to watch them leave every time. I thought that I was a tough man, nothing could hurt me, but I was wrong. Watching them leave that October morning was the hardest thing I ever thought I could do. Watching them cry for their Dad and watching them drive away tore my heart in two. No amount of counseling could fix this rift, no amount of "I'm sorry" would ever do. Just watching the truck drive away in my mind still hurts to think about. But I move on, to have my heart hurt every time I kiss them goodnight, the night before they leave.

Many times after I first pick them up I watch them sleep the first night. Such innocence and peacefulness, such a holy sight to see. My children, whom I love so much, are just watched that first night. The night before they go back with their mom I usually spend with my mom and dad in Bedford at their house. It's a closer drive for Angela (my ex) and it's great to have my family support me when I am at my emotional lowest. I usually kiss them goodnight and then after they are asleep drive back to Lubbock. It is hard to see them say goodbye, for I tried once to do it. I watched the tears fall from both Ryan and Shelby that would break the hardest of men. I promised myself that after that moment of weakness, that I would never watch them leave again. I want to see the joy of them running to me in the airport yelling "Daddy!" at the tops of their lungs, I want to see them laughing and crying at their greatest successes and failures. I just don't want to see them leave.

People ask me if I love them so much and it hurts so much why don't I move up to Indiana? Tough question. Good Question. Not an easy answer. The best explanation is that with my business that it would be tougher to find a position in Indiana than it is for me to keep the job I have here. I've been working for NextMedia for close to ten years and I have family in Texas. It is a hard thing to pick up all your roots, all your friendships everything and start over. There is a part of me that says after each time the kids leave, I should move up there. But then does Angela win? Do the kids win? With me closer I could be used as a pawn by my kids to bounce like other friends I know that bounced between Father and Mother during their childhood to see which one "loved them more." I don't think I could play that game. As I told a friend recently, I think that I couldn't change the way my kids think about me in forty days a year in comparison to the 325 days that my ex has them. Leaving would be tough, but it is closer in my mind every day.

I love Lubbock, and everything about this city. It is big enough that you can hide without people (most of the time) knowing all your business, but small enough that if you do great things and help people that your achievements will be recognized. It is a town of great want, great need and great desire. It's my town.

Being a father than 1,100 miles away is tough. I rarely get pictures of the kids at their T-ball or Soccer games and if I want a picture I have to take it myself. Most of the time when I do get to talk to the kids on the phone they are playing with either their "leapster" or "game-boy" and it is quite frustrating. I want them to miss me, talk to me and fill that conversation with what they did that day, how they hurt their knee or what they learned at school. But unfortunately the communication is reduced to "I miss you dad, can we talk later I wanna watch my movie."

There are sometimes I want to drive to Indiana put their toys in their toy box and say "I'm here, talk to me, tell me what I've missed, tell me about your loose tooth, tell me about the boy you hit in the face, Shelby." But then I realize that being six and three that I will have to wait till they need me. God knows I need them now.

It's frustrating being a long distance dad. It's more frustrating than dating again ( a subject for yet another time). I feel worst about missing all the firsts with my son and daughter and resenting my ex-wife for taking them away from me. But then I realize, it wasn't my kids' fault. It was partly mine and I will have to live every day with the hope that both my daughter and son know that their dad always shows their pictures to anyone and everyone (it's a great date killer, by the way).

I live with the hope that they know that the first thought in the morning is that I hope that they aren't hurt that day and that they grow and learn and discover. I live with the hope that they know that the last thought every day is a prayer for their continued safety and a prayer of unconditional love being sent 1,145.21 miles from their dad every day. I live with hope that they know of their father's love.

Sean A. Donahue is a freelance writer, radio personality and poker player. He is the author of Instant Tragedy which looks at his life and those who he has touched and been touched by. He is divorced with two children and lives in Lubbock, Texas.