May 06, 2008

May 2008, Vol. 7, Issue 5

Welcome to our 72nd issue of Truckin'!

1. Sundays by Paul McGuire
I held four crappy jobs and had to work on Sundays at an art museum. Most of the time, I got baked in the parking lot and just stood around making sure the post-church and post-brunch crowd kept their grubby mitts off the paintings... More

2. Prison Justice by Dr. Chako
Hateem's crime must have been grave. They broke his ankles and elbows, of course. What happened next is beyond human understanding. At least five executioners must be involved. After the arms and legs, you'd think Hateem's spirit would be broken, but you'd be wrong. They must be swift. From the time the gag comes out, the screaming must be intolerable... More

3. Egotistical: Three Examples by Sean Lovelace
The radio was playing angry girl bands. I love and have always loved angry girl bands. They have what I call fuck you. Also I was waiting on a girl. A cute bra-less girl who would soon leap off a balcony... More

4. High School Reunion by Johnny Hughes
He kept asking me if I remembered people which I didn't, but he told me all about them anyway. No one would ever forget Bobby, especially me. Now the most mellow guy in West Texas had a license to carry a hand gun... More

5. Ode to.... by Dusty Rhodes
Death is natural. We will all die and we will all have friends and family that die. It is a hard thing to deal with but it has to be done. People cry, people act strong, people try to empathize but can't truly understand what it is that you are going through. Our experiences are all different but I can't imagine anyone who likes dealing with these things... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome back to your favorite literary blogzine. This issue has several diverse stories including contributions from Johnny Hughes, Sean Lovelace, and Dusty Rhodes - who is making his debut. I had a story about Sundays while Dr. Chako is back from his tour in Iraq and shares has a harsh but real tale of his experiences.

Please tell your friends and family about your favorite stories. It takes only a few seconds to pass along Truckin'. The writers certainly appreciate your support.

Also, feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again to everyone for wasting your precious time month after month with Truckin'. And many thanks to the writers who exposed their souls to the world and spilled blood to make art. And, they did it for free. Thanks for inspiring me and taking that leap of faith with me.

Be good,

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


By Paul McGuire © 2008

When I was seven or eight years old, I hated Sunday mornings because my father dragged me to church. I pretended to be asleep but that didn't deter him from turning on all the lights and shaking me out of bed. I'd reluctantly gotten up but came up with a dozen excuses why I didn't want to go to 9:30 am mass. My mother never went to church and I used to cite that as a reason why I did not have to go. My father vaguely explained that she had to stay at home and watch my brother, but that excuse grew paper thin as my brother got older.

My mother has never been a religious person and avoided church. She often said that the ones sitting in the first rows were often the biggest sinners in the parish and that they were only going to church to keep up appearances. Years later, my politically ambitious uncle would be among the hypocrites sitting in the front row. The rest of the family grew more and more disenchanted with the Catholic church and we started sitting farther and farther away, until we all stopped attending services.

In the fourth grade I became an altar boy and my stance on church changed drastically. All of a sudden I looked forward to Sunday mornings. For a while, I'd get up early and serve the 8 am mass so I could enjoy the rest of my Sunday, which involved reading the papers and watching Abbot and Costello movies on TV.

The late 1970s and early 1980s were the dark ages with regard to computers and the internet. An affordable home computer was still several years away from development, so my only link with the outside world was through the Sunday papers. The local paper, the Daily News, came with the Sunday comics. While I made my way through the funnies, my father slowly sifted through the massive pile of newsprint called The New York Times. The older I got, the more sections I read as my interests were expanded to include the arts, business, international current events, and the NY Times Sunday magazine. Little did I know that an innocuous Sunday tradition were the origins of the first steps I took to becoming a writer, as I read about complicated subjects such as the fall of the Shah in Iran or the looming energy crisis.

When I lived in Atlanta during college in the mid-1990s, NBC broadcasted doubleheader NBA games. That was back during the NY Knicks halcyon years with Pat Riley at the helm. The Knicks always played the noon game. Jerry and I were among the smattering Knicks fans in our fraternity house, which seemed to be dominated by Bulls and Sixers fans. We had a routine where we'd watch the games in Jerry's room. Sometimes he'd get a big crowd and it would be standing room only. And of course, the peanut gallery, almost always the majority, rooted against the Knicks.

My favorite part of Sundays in college was our pre-game ritual. Either Rib or Jerry would wake me up at 11 am. I'd be wicked hungover and they'd drive me to McDonalds, where you could eat like a king for $3. We’d quickly devour our fast food before tip off, which was followed by a heavy flow of cheap beer and continuous bong hits.

When I lived in Seattle, I held four crappy jobs and had to work on Sundays at an art museum. Most of the time, I got baked in the parking lot and just stood around making sure the post-church and post-brunch crowd kept their grubby mitts off the paintings. Sunday nights were the fun times because friends and/or housemates gathered in my room for bingers and a back-to-back viewing of The Simpsons and the X-Files.

When I lived in New York City at the beginning of the 21st century, I had a Sunday routine with my brother during the autumn months where we religiously watched Jets games. I arrived at his apartment at noon with bagels, just in time to watch the pre-game NFL shows. We'd then make last minute adjustments to our fantasy football rosters, or change a pick in our football pools, or get a bet in just before the 1 pm games kicked off. Although we might have heard the faint chiming of bells in echoing in the background, going to church on a Sunday was the last thing on our minds. Chris Berman’s sermon had more relevance than anything a priest could regurgitate.

I guess it was my angst-ridden twenties or the fact that every Gen-Xer rejected their parents’ religion, but I couldn't even handle cafeteria Catholicism. During my stint on the West Coast, I encountered new age hippies and several of my friends dabbled into various Eastern religions. I spent many rainy afternoons reading books on Zen Buddhism. After several years of personal reflection and self-discovery, I eventually became interested in maintaining a personal spirituality which incorporated aspects of both Christianity and Buddhism. I avoided organized religions because I felt that their leaders were often hijacked by power-grubbing snake oil salesmen instead of being a true leader of faith.

For almost a decade, the only time I stepped foot in a church was for a wedding. In my 20s, most of my friends were caught up in a wedding frenzy and for a while I was going to a weeding every other weekend. The church weddings abruptly ended and a morose trend began with a slew of empty coffin 9.11 funerals. Since that dark day, it seems that the only times I step inside a church is for a funeral.

I had a suit which I nicknamed The Grim Reaper Suit. That was during a period of my life when I did not hold an office job that required a suit and tie, so I only wore that particular suit to funerals and weddings. And at the five weddings I wore the suit (between 1998 and 2001), only one marriage lasted. That's an 80% failure rate. I'm afraid to wear that suit to anything but a funeral.

I should figure out how to make some good money off The Grim Reaper suit and threaten couples with impending nuptials. I’ll show up at the wedding wearing the jinxed suit unless they paid me off. Although technically blackmail is a crime, it can be quite profitable if I don’t get caught.

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.

Prison Justice

By Dr. Chako © 2008
"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons" - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Hateem (not his real name) wants to die. Looking at him you can understand why. If ever an individual personified misery, it's him. He sits quietly in his wheelchair being ferried from place to place, occasionally lifting his head as if to speak. But he will not speak.

Taking care of the health needs of Iraqi prisoners is interesting business. We look the same on the inside. We get the same diseases. We both get killed when shot with a rifle or exploded with a grenade. If we don't die, we get taken to a hospital and get the same surgeries and the same antibiotics. Assessing the numbers of the blown-up-but-not-dead, I can only assume there are plenty of dead left out there on the field. I'm amazed there are any insurgents left, to be honest.

I do not know his crime. I never do. He is clearly guilty of something, at least in someone's eye. Hateem was up against two distinct enemies. If he ever thought we would be the worst, he clearly has changed his mind now. Gangland warfare in America's prisons is nothing compared to this.

The makeshift tribunal must be a large group – probably 20 or so - with one elder and his close advisors, all prisoners themselves. The affront must be grave, but the elder is not without a sense of propriety. When he passes sentence, he must also decide on the level of punishment. Most of the guilty get away with something simple. It probably takes three big men to mete out justice. With a nod from the elder, these men will wrestle the guilty man to the ground. One will sit on his back. The second man will grab his wrist, straighten his arm and hold it high. Perhaps he puts it on a box or stool. Executioner number three, with one swift downward thrust, stomps on the back of the exposed elbow. The snapping sound must be horrific; the angle severe. Broken bones always look strange, especially if a joint is involved. I wonder if there is a sense of satisfaction for a job well done on the part of the stomper.

"A good clean break," he might think. "The last one broke high in the arm. I'm glad I remembered to stomp lower this time or the elder would have been most displeased."

I wonder if it has ever taken more than one stomp. I also wonder how they control the screaming as the broken arm is lowered, only to move to the other side in order to repeat the process. It's always both elbows.

As Hateem moves his head about wordlessly in his wheelchair, I look on him with pity. We all do – the gathered health care team. Only afterwards does it occur to us that he may have been captured while attempting to bomb Americans. It's also possible he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and would have been released back to his family if he was found innocent by the Coalition. This happens all the time. The prison tribunal; however, had other ideas.

The elbows are the lowest form of punishment. For the next level, they get the elbows and ankles. I'm confused about the ankles, though. It looks for all the world like they get kicked, but I doubt the victim would be complicit in this action. Someone has to be holding him, but I really don't know how. The fibula, which is the smaller of the two leg bones, breaks evenly, just above the ankle. It's a non-weight bearing bone, and often doesn't need anything but an external splint. This is different than the elbow which requires an extensive operation.

Hateem's crime must have been grave. They broke his ankles and elbows, of course. What happened next is beyond human understanding. At least five executioners must be involved. After the arms and legs, you'd think Hateem's spirit would be broken, but you'd be wrong. They must be swift. From the time the gag comes out, the screaming must be intolerable. Why don't the guards hear? At least two men pry open his jaw and a third grabs his tongue with a rag or towel. They don't have much that would pass for a knife, and the bloody stump in his mouth confirms this. It's my belief that the elder handles this himself, although I've never seen it. No one outside of these tribunals ever has, and the jury isn't talking. Neither is the victim.

No, Hateem will not be telling anyone what happened. He cannot. Nor can he identify the members of the tribunal, because he cannot see. I find that this part is too gruesome to even describe.

For a while, we saw a new Hateem every damned week.

Dr. Chako likes to tell people he's a radiologist, which is pretty funny since he really is. When he's not dodging bombs in Iraq, he can be found crushing the poker tables in the greater Seattle area.

The High School Reunion

By Johnny Hughes © 2008

Bobby Hankins ordered chipped beef on toast all the time just because it said SOS on the menu. I ran into him at the Ranch House my third week back in Lubbock. We talked three hours He had me signed up for our upcoming high school reunion that first morning. He kept asking me if I remembered people which I didn't, but he told me all about them anyway. No one would ever forget Bobby, especially me. Now the most mellow guy in West Texas had a license to carry a hand gun.

At an annual-signing party right before high school graduation, I overheard Bobby ask, "Why does he keep giving everyone pictures? I don't even know him."

"Maybe he wants to prove he was there." Jo Gail said and everyone laughed.

Before that, I'd taken lots of pictures at school events and given people pictures of themselves. Many nights, I'd walk home from the Hi-D-Ho with a sack of what was left over, french fries or hush puppies. My meager soda jerk wages were spent on getting film developed. Taking pictures of people and giving away pictures was more than my hobby. It was my identity.

The High School Reunion web site listed those who had passed away. The two people who were about my only real friends were gone. Lonnie had been my best friend since Boy Scouts at St. John's. He'd shoplift cigars, steal hubcaps, sneak into the Lindsey Theatre, and hang varied species of road kill from area flag poles. Lonnie was always part of the popular crowd and invited me along wherever he was invited.

Betty was one of the only girls in the Photographer's Guild. We fell in love on a photographic tour of Carlsbad Caverns. She taught me about life and love. I never asked who taught her. We'd go parking at Prairie Dog Town and Copper Rawlins would run us off. I rarely thought of her, but just knowing she was dead haunted me for days.

Three weeks after I got back in town, an envelope arrived with two photographs. One was of the house I had lived in during high school as it was back then. The other was a recent photo of the same house. There was no letter or message.

"Yeah, I got pictures like that." Bobby didn't look up from his SOS. "Jo Gail and some other folks got them too."

The next morning, Bev Cobb invited me to a reunion planning session at the Country Club. I figured Bobby put her up to it. This is looking to me like a networking opportunity that might land me a real job.

There were already a dozen people sitting around the table when I arrived. The chitchat about napkins, food, missing classmates, and live music turned to photographs before the steam quit rising from my coffee.

"That picture of my house had Daddy's Cadillac in it. I was sixteen years old." Jo Gail's voice rose with every word.

She handed me a stack of eighteen pictures. The full ashtrays and the empty tea glasses signaled this meeting started without me and about me.

"Did you send the pictures?" she asked.

My story about leaving Reno and all didn't grab them and only Bobby seemed to be listening. Later, I saw Hoss and Nancy at the Mall and we acted like we didn't recognize each other.

Bobby told me several classmates had posted opinions on the reunion web site. The Photographer's Guild and the mysterious photographs were discussed, but not my name. One lawyer believed crimes, including stalking, could be involved. Bobby said a high dollar Private Detective from Dallas had talked to some folks but I never heard from him. Bobby believed me when I said I never sent a soul a picture.

When he told me this, I was watching these modern day cowboys bellied up to the counter with authentic garb and a cell phone where their six-shooters should be. The waitress said she had been telling Bobby jokes for twenty years.

All those hours drinking coffee with Bobby Hankins persuaded me that his sense of self and sense of place were based on a deep wisdom. He wasn't educated or polished and good ole boy was a compliment. The Ranch House promoted equality and fraternity. Everyone from shade tree mechanics to District Judges would shake hands or share a joke with Bobby.

I'd bought a new light-weight, gold jacket and some new loafers with tassles. I removed the tassles and spray painted them gold. Just as I walked into the bar of the Holiday Inn on the Thursday night starting the big weekend reunion, a dozen or so people at a table with Jo Gail and Bev jumped up and left as if I had flushed a covey of quail.

"Lookee here, you said you didn't even remember most of those people," Bobby said. I had beat him down to the Ranch House the next morning. "Jo Gail has tagged you a pariah. Some of them are going to shun you. They were headed for a tour of the new gym at Tech. It won't matter much in a month."

The next night I got all dressed up and drove by the Holiday Inn a few times. Then I drove all the way around the loop and was in my new apartment on the couch in time for Jay Leno's monologue. Bobby said the reunion had been a big success.

I didn't send anybody any fucking pictures!

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

Egotistical: Three Examples

By Sean A. Lovelace © 2008

As a child, gazing into sky: "Mommy?"
As a Mother, gazing into purse: "Yes?"
As a child: "Why is the sun following me?"

I didn't know what to do. Would you?

Noon-thirty and I was sitting out in the hot car of a Wal-Mart parking lot. I didn't mind. I was a college junior and time was merely a word and waiting in cars fit my lifestyle like keys fit crossword puzzles. I had a gas station beer, one of those cold metal 16-ouncers, and I wore my good fitting jeans (the ones I would write on when drunk) and the radio was playing angry girl bands. I love and have always loved angry girl bands. They have what I call fuck you. Also I was waiting on a girl. A cute bra-less girl who would soon leap off a balcony.

I didn't know it at the time, so just waited, with my beer.

As she exited she had that walk, all soft-glide and adjust the sunglasses and my god am I young and strong and filling these clothes like they were planted upon me and grown from the sun and rain and earth of my dreams.

She was eighteen is what I'm saying.

"You get your pills?" I asked her.

She slid into the seat with a crinkly white paper bag and a frown. "Yes . . .Why? What do you know about my pills?"

"Nothing," I said, which was true.

"Exactly." She squirreled the bag into her little purple purse. A sigh left her lips and ruffled her bangs. "Nothing at all. And why is this car so hot?"

I shrugged and waved to the glow and blink of the dashboard. "I couldn't figure out the A/C. It's like a spaceship."

"Right," she said, leaning up—half-moon flicker of cleavage—and flipping a knob. "How about that beer?"

Happy she got her pills but a little worried about the frown and the nothing at all, I passed her my drink and started the engine. We'd only known each other two weeks, since we'd met at The Underground, a techno club. I was impressed with her energy (and, yes, the fact she never wore a bra) — a dervish of a night, closing the club, sitting over three a.m. cheeseburgers at the Waffle House, walking and talking across campus until we passed her dorm and made-out good morning.

The car cascaded into the street and a motorcycle whooomed past and she gave the biker her middle finger; the nail polished a deep arterial red. She told me to drive faster and I did. The car was hers, a Lincoln Continental, a gift from her father who worked in downtown Atlanta selling small fish to big fish. It was boxy and white and slipped into gear like glances across an Alpine stereo.

"You want to get a movie?" she said, her voice lifting. "I got that giant TV, we might as well watch it."

Yes, yes, yes, I thought, and so said, "Sure."


We sat on her bed drinking beer and watching a Woody Allen movie about four people trying to figure out why they married their respective spouses as opposed to their best friend's spouses. It was one of his later movies and not so good. Woody Allen was playing Woody Allen, if you know what I mean.

She went into the bathroom and I heard water running and she returned with an odd smile.

"What were you doing?" I said, and then for some reason added, "Taking your pills?"

She dropped onto the bed, smoothed a comforter edge, and said, "You're so the same."

"What does that mean?"

"Beer," she said, pointing to the mini-fridge.

I went to the fridge, paused, and turned to her. "I'm not the same. I mean I don't think so. Am I?"

She gave a flattened smile. "Please, a beer, and only a beer."

We drank and watched the film, vaguely. She repainted her nails, a glossy black this time, and I got a ballpoint pen and drew an upside down cross on my jeans. I'm not sure why. I mean I don't even pretend to be religious.

"That's a hell of a car for a freshman," I told her, noticing her bra strap was showing. It was linoleum green.

"Yep," she said.

A mower hummed outside and the afternoon spread across the room in quilt-like patches of yellow. I made a shadow on the wall, a rabbit, or maybe a weather antenna. We finished the last two tall boys and the conversation turned aimless and beery.

We said thing like:

Is Budweiser to Irish people as Guinness is to us?

How often do you masturbate?

Why do bikers ride cycles, while cyclists ride bikes?

And then we were kissing and arms fumbling and my synapses crackling with alcohol and anticipation and the malty smell of her skin…and then she was crying.

I pulled away. "What's wrong?"

"The movie," she said, sniffling now. "I don't know. Maybe not the movie. I just need to go to bed."

She fell onto the mattress and tugged at the comforter edge, squirming her way up, a glacial effort. She hugged a giant purple pillow like it was a parachute.

"Okay... okay," I said, and helped her with the sheets. I tucked her in and she turned away, to the wall.

I looked around. I felt like a streamside boulder, only invisible.

"I like you," she said to the wall. "I do. I'm just tired and my head is full of things only I can think."

"Okay," I said dumbly.

"I need to sleep." She pulled the sheet over her head. Her face was hidden, a featureless lump. I felt the shadows gathering, like I had already lost something.
This muffled voice: "Call me tonight. Call some people. We'll go eat. We'll go eat tonight and forget about today."

"Right," I said. "I'll call you tonight. No problem."

Looking at the bed, and then about the room, I felt bewildered and angry and sad, but not sure why. I gathered the beer cans and placed them quietly in the garbage. I pressed MUTE on the remote control. Someone ran down the hallway, feet thudding on the carpet. Water gurgled above the ceiling. On the TV Woody Allen was walking down the street with a teenage girl and waving his arms excitedly. By the time he kissed her I was in the lobby.


We were one of only two groups on the restaurant patio because it was too early for the drinking crowd and it was located at least two blocks off the main strip of college bars and half the idea of alcohol for the drinking crowd is to be seen with alcohol. Our group was hungry, so it wasn't such a concern.

The patio was on the restaurant's roof and one of my friends leaned against the railing and talked to his girlfriend about high diving. They were both on the university's high diving teams, and always talked diving. The rest of us ate chips and salsa and smoked cigarettes and drank margaritas and occasionally joined in conversation with the other table on the patio.

A typical example:

"You guys know how to make sangria?" they'd yell.

"Wine and berries," we'd reply.

"Berries?" they'd shout back. "We were thinking apples."

And the night went on like something poured from a sloshing pitcher. We drank, talked, ate tacos of crunch and floury burritos and coppery pools of beans, fried, refried, topped with kaleidoscopic swirls of cheese. Finally, both groups pulled their tables together and we drank more, talked more, over-talked and hit all and every aspect of where to buy cheap beer and how the university parking cops were communist bastards and the way to avoid organic chemistry and who can reliably deliver weed without the confusing phone calls and hanging out for hours in some 30-year old stoner's apartment and did you know Microsoft Works is an oxymoron and wasn't Caddyshack the last truly funny movie, the before we were all dumbed down and thought Adam Sandler was a comedian movie, and what about these margaritas, it's the tequila, definitely that bite of the tequila, that makes a quality margarita. . .

I went to the downstairs bathroom and returned and took my seat, a swallow from my glass, and then my gaze met hers, a slitted glare, something ablaze.

"I saw that," she said in a razored hiss, a tone that quieted the table, no easy feat.

"Saw what?"

"You. You went to the bathroom, and at the same time that girl"—she nodded across the table, where a girl sat smoking a clove cigarette—"also went to the bathroom."

"What?" I said. "I have no idea what the hell—"

And she was up, flinging her drink, her keys past my ear, digging in her purple purse and throwing things at my head, me ducking, kneeling on the wet-plank-tobacco smelling floor, the outdoor lights blurring, the alcohol, her throwing, hurling, shrieks and curses, and then the purse, skidding along the table and rattling plates and pitchers, ashtrays, overturned drinks, and everyone, everyone what-the-helling, what-the-hell, and she took three steps back, three measured steps, grabbed the railing, smiled, lips curled, white teeth, hooked her leg—no, no, no, I'm not seeing—and she was gone.


I ran to the railing, searching, the shadows and light, the glistening asphalt, her body crumpled at the bottom of a low hill, between a garbage can and a Volkswagen.

"Hey," I said, the words dull and drifting.

And then she was up, stumbling across a street and then down another, away, street light to street light glow, smaller, each time, as she appeared in the next halo, running, arms whirring, running, away.

"What the hell?" I asked the patio.

They stared, a crowd on the highway, slowing for an accident, gawking, mumbling, maybe they saw something, or, if it involved a hassle, maybe they didn't see a thing.

"Angry," someone muttered, "an angry girl."

"What . . .?" I turned to the empty street. "I mean what do I do?"

They didn't know.

I didn't know.

My body floated to the table and plopped into a chair, synapses blurry, lines down, head stuffed with sodden wool, alcohol and adrenaline. Shoving glass shards and a plate of congealed nachos aside, I picked two quarters and a tube of lipstick off the table and put them in my pocket. Then I noticed a wedge of glittering foil beneath a dish of salsa. It held a tiny pink pill. My heart thudded up, and fell like a severed anchor.

It was lithium.

Ah, ah . . . you ass.


Yes, me . . . egotistical bastard.

Let's pretend there is no Example Number Three.

Sean Lovelace teaches writing at Ball State University. He writes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Recent publications include Willow Springs, Diagram, and Black Warrior Review. His chapbook "Grass" is from Elixir Press. His works have won several awards, including the prestigious Crazyhorse Fiction Prize. He also likes to drink beer. And run, far.

Ode to....

By Dusty Rhodes © 2008

After a few days of travel I made it home Thursday night feeling good and ready for Friday. I woke up early Friday morning because I had a lot of work to do and left the house about 6:45. At around 7:00 I got the phone call on my cell phone.

You know the call I'm talking about... It comes in many forms but is dreaded by everyone. I can be based off an accident or a sickness and hits you in the junk much worse than any bad beat you've ever had. It is the phone call that says someone has died.

Flying through traffic I answered the phone wondering why my wife would be calling me 15 minutes after I left the house. I wasn't sure what I had forgotten but it could wait until I made it home later that night. Then the word "emergency room" clicked and something about "passed away" slowly crept into my consciousness and I realized that someone I know had just died.

Death is something we deal with in different ways. I don't like to talk about the loss of loved ones until I'm ready to fully deal with the emotions that go along with the pain. Ignoring the pain doesn't last forever and eventually I have to come to grips with it or be caught up in a maelstrom of conflicting feelings as I balance real life with the past memory.

I turned the car around at the stop light, not caring if a police car was around because I needed to get home. There was a lot to be done in a short time and I had calls to make. I called my boss and let him know I wouldn't be in that day by leaving a voice mail message. I also called John and let him know because I wanted to cover my bases. As I drove home I wasn't flooded with memories of the past... I only had thoughts of doing what needed to be done and to be strong.

I've had family and friends pass away in the past. The last was my wife's grandma who died a few years ago. Actually... now that I think of it, a friend died a few months ago. He wiped out on his motor scooter on the way to watch a football game. Cracked his head on a culvert and died on the spot. I saw his wife a couple of weeks ago and even though she was trying to show strength I could tell the pain was eating her up. Condolences only do so much…they cannot replaces what has been lost.

When I arrived home, Mrs. PE was on the phone but dressed and ready. I made another work phone call and we headed out the door to head to the hospital. We stopped by the bank to get some cash and filled up the gas tank just in case there was a lot of driving in store for us that day. We made the 20 minute drive and walked into an emergency room that was empty. Nobody was there to greet us with their smiles and helpful ways.

All of my grandparents have been dead for a few years. My grandfather on my mothers side was the last to go. We suffered a lot in the last couple of years of his life as this great story teller could no longer remember who any of us were. There were glimmers from time to time where he came back for short periods of time but just a small piece of the man I remember as a child. He loved to tell stories, some made up and others real, that could captivate just about anyone.

After waiting a few long minutes, the receptionist walked up. We told her who we were and she took us to a waiting room. The doctor came in and told us what happened. We got the whole story from the beginning, probably to help easy their own minds as well, and we were asked to wait a few minutes more. I was hoping my sister would be there by now but she had longer to drive.

When I was in high school I saw a man die. He was very old and fell over in his back yard as my buddy Doug and I drove by on our way to go drink. It was very hot out and he was working in the garden. We started to do CPR and continued until the ambulance showed up. I knew he was dead and had no chance but I still tried as hard as I could to give him a chance. I was drinking to forget that night.

The nurse came in and asked us some questions. My sister wasn't there yet but my wife and I decided to go anyway. As we walked to the curtains with the nurse, I held my wife's hand and proceeded through. There was a body on the table, or bed, or whatever it is called. The nurse said some things that I didn't really hear and I slowly walked up.

Death is natural. We will all die and we will all have friends and family that die. It is a hard thing to deal with but it has to be done. People cry, people act strong, people try to empathize but can't truly understand what it is that you are going through. Our experiences are all different but I can't imagine anyone who likes dealing with these things.

I couldn't make my self look. I didn't want to look because it would mean it is true if I see it. My feet were stuck in mud as I tried to move closer. I looked everywhere but at the face. His arms look so frail. There has to be a mistake because my dad's arms aren't this small. He is a strong man with a strong will. There is no way that they could put that tube down his throat. What is that thing on his face? Oh my... I will miss you dad.

Dusty Rhodes is the father of three from the Chicago Suburbs. He writes at The Poker Enthusiast.