September 06, 2008

September 2008, Vol. 7, Issue 9

Welcome back to another issue of Truckin'. We have a six-pack of stories this month.

1. Feline Existentialism by Paul McGuire
You're only one step away from nothingness. Your mere existence is utterly meaningless. What has more value? The zit on the ass cheek of Bono, or a religious missionary that has been burned alive by tribal elders? ... More

2. A Different God by Nick Cantwell
The slow walk along the dusty path was always a time for reflection. Reflection on his life, his family and his standing. But as ever, his thoughts turned to his loss. His daughter had only been nine when the disease had taken her. And since that day, he had walked the same path three or four times a day. Asking questions. And hoping to receive answers... More

3. One Night Out Part III: 120 Minutes in Sodom by Sigge S. Amdal
A show came on and six little dancers brushed past us from the dressing room. Barely legal naked nymphs with eyes too predatory for my liking. Reptile folk with nice legs, ripe breasts and hands long into your pockets. The moment our over-priced beer arrived, in slender glasses akin to lab equipment, my phone rang... More

4. Fatty McLiarson by Bob Respert
Emily and I had been talking for quite some time over an instant messenger on the computer. Her in ski-country and me in the suck-belt. Ugh, the Midwest. What a fucking dump. Nice job basing almost your entire future existence on the American factory worker and his union. Well played, Midwest. I can see the abandoned factories now... More

5. Journey of 35,000 Miles Began with One Bong Hit by Rob Hogan
I was surrounded by a room full of strangers who shared in my pathetic tales of a failed marriage, while enthralling me with their own stories of bad relationships and piss poor decisions. It was an instant camaraderie that connected us on the most basic of human levels. For once in my sad excuse for a life, I felt like I belonged... More

6. The Long by Dan England
The ridge looked like the back of a stegosaurus. It was long and thin, yet it also had many long, technical towers about three times our size that we would have to climb over. And once we got on the ridge, there was no getting off. No wonder many climbers considered it the toughest ridge in all of Colorado... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Thanks again to everyone for wasting your precious time with Truckin'. This issue marks the debut of two new writers, Dan England and Rob Logan. And, several of your favorite writers are back such as Sigge from Norway, Nick Cantwell from the UK, and Bob Respert from... ummm, I have no idea what planet Bobby is from. I also penned something about existentialism that did not involve a stripper.

It takes only a few seconds to tell your friends about your favorite Truckin' stories. The writers definitely appreciate your support.

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

Before I go... I can never thank the writers enough for writing for free and exposing their guts, blood, and soul to the universe. Their art and dedication inspires me and I hope it inspires you too.

Be good,

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." - Henry David Thoreau

Feline Existentialism

By Paul McGuire © 2008

"Did you say something, Emilio?" I said.

3am. Late night insomnia had struck. Maybe it was all the chemicals pumping through my bloodstream mixing with the high altitude. I was lightheaded since I'd landed in Denver and had been fighting waves of fatigue and fuckedupness for several days.

Nicky was asleep downstairs and the Joker was passed out in his bedroom. I sat in a dim kitchen, smoking nugs direct from Boulder, surfing for porn, and talking to Emilio Estevez the cat.

"Emilio? Did you say something?" I asked again. "I had my headphones on and could hear anything with Sly and the Family Stone blasting."

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of," said Emilio as he rubbed up against my leg and sat down underneath one of the kitchen chairs. "You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life."

"Did you make that up?" I asked as I bent down to look Emilio in the eyes.

"What do you mean?"

"You're quoting Sartre. Ripping off French existentialists?" I said as I busted Emilio.

"Fuck off, man. You think you are a know it all just because you read a couple hundred books. Well Mr. Smarty Pants, it wasn't Sartre. That quote was from Paul Camus."

"Camus. Sartre. Same fuckin' chain smoking zealot. Doesn't matter to me, but I'm curious why are you passing off someone else's work as your own?"

"Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear," said Emilio as he slowly walked towards the back door and nudged it with its paw.

"More Camus quotes. You don't fuckin' stop do you? Do you run some sort of classes for alley cats? Nihilism and Ass Licking 101?"

"As a matter of fact. I do. And I'm late for class. So if you wouldn't mind, I'd appreciate it if you opened the door and let me outside."

"Nice try, Emilio. I'm not letting you out. The Joker told me to keep you out of the alley at night. That's when you get into trouble. How many of the slutty alley cats have you knocked up already? Five? Six? By the end of the summer, you'll be the father of 25 to 30 kittens. How the hell can you support them?"

"Looks who's getting self-righteous on me. It's easy to judge me living up in your ivory tower where there's black and white and right and wrong. You don't know what it's like on the streets, do you? Fuckin' yuppie scum. And besides, those cats knew what was coming to them. Fuckin' white trash cats. Yeah, I might have knocked up one or two. But who knows about the other ones. They were little sluts banging every cat on this side of the tracks. A few even blew a couple of dogs. And one was caught in a gang bang with a pack of squirrels. I know, because I was third in line. Some nasty shit goes on when you are supposed to be sleeping a dreamless sleep. This is the ghetto, yo. Either you sling rock or chug cock."

"Sure, blame society. Don't take responsibility for your own actions. What did Camus say? 'As if familiar paths traced in summer skies could lead as easily to prison as to the sleep of the innocent.'"

"Keep up the condescending shit talkin'. You're only one step away from nothingness. Your mere existence is utterly meaningless. What has more value? The zit on the ass cheek of Bono, or a religious missionary that has been burned alive by tribal elders? Think carefully. The answer might astonish you."

"It's a trick question. The answer is neither. Here's some Camus for you... 'What is a rebel? A man who says no!' You like that? You're not the only one who can pull obscure Camus quotes out of his ass."

"Thanks for reminding me. I needed to go in for a re-wipe," said Emilio who rolled onto his back, arched his head and began licking his private areas.

"Sweet Jesus, you're one crazy motherfucker."

"Hold on a second, bitch! Did your cracker ass just call me crazy? Who's the psychopath that has been carrying on a conversation with a cat for over an hour?"

Paul McGuire is a writer originally from New York City.

One Night Out Part III: 120 Minutes in Sodom

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2008

The night had a peculiar smell of exhaust and blood so we were quick to put the streets behind us, and sooner rather than later the neon lights of Blaze shone at us like the glow of a holy grail welcomes the tired and weary. T&A comes to those who wait, but we couldn't wait, and ducked into the basement establishment upon arrival.

"I'll take care of it," Koew said and paid the underdog behind the counter. The fresh, unclean air of Oslo had cleared up Kornelius who was tapping his foot anxiously in the rhythm of the bass drum.

"Take it easy now, we don't want to get thrown out of here judging by the cover charge."

A couple of footballers half-ran out of the door with lust and testosterone twitching the flesh of their faces ready for Nigerian love.

"Pigs fucked the pope," Kornelius said.

"No fault of mine!"... Me and Koew completed, before we headed straight into heaven. At least it used to be. Now after several anti-smoking, anti-fun laws passed in heart of the EU, it smelled of sweat and cock and heated beer. You should never visit a strip joint in daylight. It's truly disgusting. But at night, when the lights are low and the alcohol boosts your chest and your participation, it's pure magic. If it hadn't been for steep prices there wouldn't ever be a way to know if you'd been dreaming.

The place was packed and there were no seats left. We went to the inner sanctum, ordered up some beers and took in the atmosphere. The scene was easily seen from our position, mirrors and ballroom balls, spotlights and framework of genuine fake gold.

A show came on and six little dancers brushed past us from the dressing room. Barely legal naked nymphs with eyes too predatory for my liking. Reptile folk with nice legs, ripe breasts and hands long into your pockets. The moment our over-priced beer arrived, in slender glasses akin to lab equipment, my phone rang.

It was Lady C.

I ran outside to take it.

"Hi! Where are you?"

"I'm not at a strip club!"

"... Alright... Listen, there's a nachspiel at my father's place right now and I was wondering when you were gonna show up?"

"Oh. Meet the parents, huh. I'm not so sure about that."

"Oh come on Sigg3! The pubs are closing in twenty minutes anyway!"

"They are!? I'll be damned. Fucking government. Well, I guess I could come by."

Sobriety took hold with cold hands.

"There's a lot of free beer here," she said. "Free Beer!"

Free as in beer?

"Okay, I get it. I'll be over there pretty soon."

I rejoined my soldiers slung over the bar. They had a gloom to their faces.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"No money no show," Kornelius sighed.

"I really need to take a piss," Koew said.

"What's wrong with the bathroom?"

"Cocaine all over the place. Cops can't be far away."

"I'm getting out of here."

The guys weren't too happy with the concept of Visiting the Parents to Secure more Beer, and I couldn't blame them. Instead they headed to Vår Frelsers Gravlund cemetery to urinate on Ibsen's remains.

Cut short from backup and all alone in the world I took to the streets with a new outlook. Yes. Better to go with the flow than grow bald from boredom I reckoned, and cleared my head up before circling in on The Father's apartment. I'd heard stories, but I didn't know exactly what to expect. Not only was he a flaming homosexual, his partner was one of the most prominent gays of Norwegian television. They were familiar names in the average household. Regular faces in the tabloid press. And father of the girl I was shagging.

"Gotta play this right," I said to myself and pressed the doorbell.

While I waited for the Buzz of Doom I felt like a lab rat ready for inspection.

"Hi! Come on up!" the voice was garbled through thumping pop music and women shouting. The door buzzed and up I went.

There was a flock of girls cackling like geese by the entrance and Lady C barely got though the crowd to shower me with kisses. Poor girl was starving for love, see.
The other girls dissected me visually head to toe in a manner of split-seconds.

"Hey everyone, this is my boyfriend," C said.

"He's cute," they said.

"Yes, he is."

"I'm still standing here," I said.

"Awwww. Come here, let me show you around."

She stopped me once again to make sure no spot was left unkissed.

"Who's your daddy?!"

"He's right over there!"


A bearded middle-aged man with dyed hair and bright clothes extended his hand.

"So you are Sigg3?" he asked.

"Sigg3, Associated Press."

"Nice to meet you."

"You, sir, look most terrifically like a producer of smut porn. Do you have any?"

He laughed with me and put a firm hand on my shoulder. That would be the bear.

"Let me show you around."

I was nervous. Here was a well grown man showing me around his private after-party who, incidentally, also was the biological origin of the girl I'd wake up with, naked and aroused, the following morning. Stop it. Stop thinking about it.

Luckily the marvels of richness soon had me distracted.

"Here's the people, the living room, here are some hors d'oeuvres, guy under the table - my boyfriend - you may know him from television."

"I don't watch television."


"Is that a genuine Nerdrum?"

I pointed to the painting above the sofa.

"Yes, it sure is! And we've got the self-portrait in the bedroom. Care to see it?"

"Oh thanks. But no thanks."

"Hang on a minute," he said and went to stop some giggling broads from bringing lobster into the loo.

I looked around. Lady C was already out on the veranda smoking. Good. She handed me a cold one and threw away a groupie who was dozing off in one of the seats.

"Nice place they've got here."

"It's actually two apartments built together."


"So... What do you think?"

"Like a bit of weird art."

"No, about my father!"

"Yeah, that's what I meant."

The conversation was interrupted when a strangely familiar face came through the glass door crawling.

"That's -"

"That's my father's boyfriend."

And that would be the cub. He sat down next to me. Daddy came too.

"Oh, having a fag?"

"Nah, just a cigarette."

Daddy sat down opposite to me and we talked some about current scandals, the new opera house, his fascination with Wagner, the North, television and work.

"You work in IT?" he asked.

"Gotta put bread on the table."

"Listen, I've recently been in the market for a new phone."

"Oh yeah?"

"I thought about one of them iPhones."

"'Course you did. You're a homosexual."

"So what do you think?"

I confessed my general ignorance regarding telephone technology before I gave a bullet point presentation of the Maddox article 'The iPhone is a piece of shit and so is your face'. Alas, as so often happens, reason was put aside for fancy, but at least the choice reflected his sexuality.

"Come!" he demanded and stood up. "You haven't met my chameleon!"

Lady C nodded to me. With a free beer in hand I followed him back into the living room. A couple of groupie teens were making out on the sofa.

There! Behind a table stacked with assorted snacks and lobsters, in a dark corner of the room loomed a great terrarium in night mode; branches, rocks, grass, leaves and artificial sun.

"Whoa, you really meant a chameleon when you said it!"

"Of course."

"I thought it maybe was some gay slang or something."

"No, no, no. I've kept chameleons since I was a boy."

"Can we-"

"Take it out? Sure!"

With the gentle hands of a loving father Daddy reached into the glass box and lifted out the creature. It gripped onto his arm with tripod-like feet. They weren't webbed like a duck's or claw-like like an alligator's but just real soft. As soft as baby skin. Three soft big toes.

"Oh my god, its feet are so soft."

"Yeah. You see that there? The little thing behind the heel. It's the only way to tell one sex from the other if the head ornaments are the same."

"So what is it?"

"Oh, we haven't checked. Wouldn't want to impose any roles on it, would we? Want to hold it?"

I swallowed and nodded. My heart stood still while the lizard clung onto my clothes, eyes darting in several directions simultaneously. Its "skin" of small, small scales changed to a darker hue as it crossed over to my fine black suit. It approved of the suspenders, pressing its head cosily between those and my chest. I could feel the heartbeats through my shirt. It was longer than my forearm head to tail, but he curled the tail around my overarm as he sought out my inviting armpit.

"Strong tail."

"Most important tool it's got. Tongue and tail. Just like us."


"Men.. tongue and tail?"

"I don't want to know."

"Let's see if it's hungry."

Daddy quickly returned with a drowsy cricket.

"Looks drunk."

"Kinda passed out. Just out of the bag. Let's see now. This is so cool. The tongue is longer than its body."

But the little critter was tired, and the cricket too. We put the latter in the bag and the former on the sofa, scaring away some groupies, and it headed straight for a lamp standing in the corner.

"He staring at the roof?" It had parked itself in a vertical position.

"Sleeping. They always sleep like that."

"That was really awesome!"

"Have you seen the fish tank?"


We turned around and, hidden from the entrance was a giant fish tank with something akin to an alien facehugger sucking on the clear glass.

"It's a sting ray. We just call it Raymond."

"No shit. Same as killed Steve Irwin?"

"A lot smaller, but essentially yes, I think it was."

"Kick ass."

It gulped up a tiny goldfish skeleton.

"Err.. I think it ate Nemo."

Daddy shrugged.

The other fish looked worried. I shook my head. Fish always look terrified. Maybe they were okay with it. Or thrilled even. Nemo the fuckup always making a nuisance! Good riddance! But how do fish cheer? Could be just like that.

We headed back to the veranda where there was a heated discussion on group sex positions. There was no knowing where this was going.

I looked at C looking at the ashtray.

She was composing thoughts, I could tell, drunk like a wedding maid left at the bar.

"I could do you from behind while you lick the teens," said the cub overconfidently.
Was he fishing or kidding?

"I'm married. Gee, I even have children," said the other guy.

"So do I. Was married too," Daddy said with a tone of gentleman's sport.

I so seriously didn't want to see where this was going. One of the groupies came out and sat down on my lap without invitation. She started rubbing her butt on me table-dance style. On the other hand...

From behind a veil of sweet liquor breath I could see C's eyes turn to ice, before she simply said: "Move." The girl to girl red flag was immediately effected and I crossed my legs to hide La Tour Eiffel, smiling as thankful I could. The web was closing in, but I knew C could outperform these young'uns any day. Just not today.

"Sigg3, can you take me home?" She asked with a slur.

"I think the time is nigh."

Morning birds were chirping all around us and the low sounds of traffic crept in with the early-work commuters. I pocketed a beer for the road and helped myself to a pack of cigarettes someone had forgotten. "Let's go."

And not a moment too soon. When we got out the door C needed some support for the troublesome footsteps up to the highway. I put her up against a wall before I waved in a shiny cab that had just had a wax job judging by the look of it.

"Oh my god! It's full of stars!"

"That's right. Get in."

And so, dear fellow fliers of the night, was the course of this particular cul-de-sac, my One Night Out all over and out. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Olso, Norway. Feel free to read the other two parts to this trilogy... Part I and Part II.

The Long, Last Walk on the Edge

By Dan England © 2008

I stared at the pool of vomit pooling on the dirt floor next to my tent and considered my future.

The caffeinated coffee drink went up quick and hard, through my throat, piercing the black like a comet and out, barely missing my boots and prompting my climbing partners to ask if I was all right from their tents.

I wasn't sure.

Usually puking would answer that question for you. It would mean the flu had kicked in, or maybe the egg salad had some bad mayonnaise, or maybe you'd downed one too many Southern Comforts and it was time for bed.

But I was at 11,000 feet, where I had spent the night after a long day of climbing, and so the answer wasn't entirely clear.

Maybe I was sick or had eaten something bad, but I didn't think so. The altitude was probably part of it. When it rises above 10,000 feet, messes with you. It sours your stomach and makes your head hurt.

Deep down, I think I knew the real reason, only I didn't want to admit it.

I was afraid.

Only it was more than that. I was scared, and maybe scared silly, to do what I was about to do.

I was about to strike out at 4 a.m. to meet up with a 65-year old astronomy professor from the University of Northern Colorado, and we were going to climb Little Bear, a gnarly 14,000-foot peak, and then traverse across its ridge to Blanca, another 14er deep in the Sangre de Cristo range.

Little Bear was bad enough. On the list of 54 14ers, a list I was chasing, it was considered one of the top two or three hardest. At least one died every few years on its slopes. The route featured the hourglass, a shiny, slick rock face, that led you to a couloir that captured every rock dislodged by climbers above you and funneled it down screaming toward your head. Its nickname? The bowling alley.

To avoid such obstacles, we would climb Little Bear through its northwest face, a route so steep it rivaled a skyscraper, and then we would make our way over the ridge, a mile-and-a-half long and thinner than a picnic table.

After almost 100 peaks, forty 14ers, and thousands of hours spent above 11,000 feet, it would be the toughest challenge I'd ever faced.

I took a deep breath, fought the urge to crawl back into my tent and climb the easier route up Blanca with my partners, and started cutting through the darkness with my head lamp.

• • •

I shivered in the cool morning, but otherwise the clear sky encouraged me as I made my way up the Lake Como road, searching for Dick's tent. I found him hunkered down in a sleeping bag. He grunted hello and we were off.

I met Dick while working a story on light pollution. I looked around his office while he was answering a boring question I regretted asking and saw him perched on top of a snowy peak.

"Oh, you climb?" I asked, cutting him off.

"There are two things I'm passionate about," Dick answered. "The stars and the mountains."

A few months later we climbed Capitol Peak, one of the other hardest 14ers in the state, and I wrote about it for the Greeley Tribune. It turned out Dick had climbed almost 1,000 peaks and was only the 130th person (at the time) to climb all of the 14ers in Colorado when he finished in 1970, before they became the fad they are now.

Dick was crusty and quiet, the kind of guy who didn't mind sitting in a room all night and looking at the sky, alone, through a telescope. In fact I think he preferred it. He was perfect, then, for climbing mountains, an activity that was, more than anything, about the internal struggle.

But he was about the only one I trusted to do the Little Bear ridge with me. When he found out I was interested, he called me that winter, and we agreed to climb it that July.

"I finally found someone crazy enough to do this," Dick told me as we walked up the road. "I've wanted to do this my whole life."

Little Bear loomed before us, daring us to climb it. We started to kick steps up the scree slopes.

• • •

Our first challenge hit us almost right away, just a half hour into the climb. A sheer, exposed rock face bridged the scree below and the scrambling above. Before I got a good look at it, I scooted up the side and sat on its top, waiting for Dick to follow. Dick paused, and then I got a good look at what I had just climbed. Oops.
One slip would have killed me. I was too cavalier at that moment. Later, my cockiness would almost kill me.

Dick brought a short rope along and grunted about needing a belay. Only I wasn't sure how to give him one. I wrapped the rope around my waist and held out the end.

"No, damn it, how is that going to help me? Put your feet on the end of the rock there and get yourself steady!"

I fumbled around for a good purchase while Dick continued to bark orders at me. My inexperience with technical gear was embarrassing me and pissing Dick off. I think he wondered if I was ready for a climb like this, even if we were already into it.

But Dick climbed the pitch, and as I looked up, I knew that little face would be the crux of the route for now. The scrambling was interesting, and you didn't want to loose your footing, but it was also fun, even as it got steeper. By the time the summit approached, we had forgotten all about our little spat, and we were climbing partners having a good day on the mountain.

I reached the summit and celebrated. The summit of Little Bear is always a relief for anyone chasing the 14ers. It's one big, very fat checkmark. And then I glanced over at what awaited us, and my mouth went dry.

"No fucking way," I whispered.

The ridge looked like the back of a stegosaurus. It was long and thin, yet it also had many long, technical towers about three times our size that we would have to climb over. And once we got on the ridge, there was no getting off. No wonder many climbers considered it the toughest ridge in all of Colorado.

I began having second thoughts. Something didn't feel right. But Dick told me to look around. The sky was a beautiful, clear blue, the kind that gives climbers wet dreams.
It was exactly the kind of day you have to have to attempt a ridge like this one. You might get a day like that one once every 15-20 attempts.

I could not let this opportunity go to waste.

Even if a part of me wanted to turn around.

• • •

Dick started up the first tower, essentially walking through the door and beginning the climb, with me close behind.

The ridge was airy, but it was solid and featured many good holds. It was beautiful rock, as perfect as a C-cup.

When people ask why I climb, why I would go through the pain, there are many reasons, but one of the best are for moments like that one, when you're in the groove and climbing good, solid rock with plenty of holds. It's like the rush at the poker table that keeps us playing through all the suckouts.

I was enjoying myself too much.

I jumped ever so slightly, off a ledge. The rock seemed to snicker at my foolish mistake as it squirted out from under me, yanking me off my feet and sending me tumbling like drying laundry.

My brain snapped into gear, searching for anything to grab, ignoring the granite that was tearing the skin off my palms. I had climbed enough to know not to panic when something happened. It's not the fall that kills you, it's the panic before it.

My leg banged against a small boulder, and I immediately hooked my right leg around it and then my left, and I screeched to a halt. I took a breath and glanced behind me. A 2,000-foot drop was a few feet from my head.

I looked up again and saw Dick's eyes bugging out and his mouth a perfect O. I thought that only happened to Bugs Bunny characters. I sat up, grabbed the rock and winced at the sting it brought to my hands. It wasn't bad though. The holes were quarter-sized but shallow.

I climbed back up the ridge and began to shake. Dick told me to take my time, to "my bearings," as he said. My bearings, at that moment, were scattered all over the rocks below.

I enjoyed the rest of the day, but it wasn't the same after that. I climbed the towers and scooted across stretches of the incredibly exposed ridge with trembling hands. I was on the edge internally as well, confident but also barely holding it together. Dick shared his water with me, as I sucked most of mine down after the close call.

Near the end, my jaw dropped.

"Oh, man, come on," I said.

A short section of rock bridged the end of the ridge to Blanca. It was probably the thinnest ledge I'd ever seen, with a sheer drop on both sides. This would feel like walking along the ledge of a skyscraper. There wasn't even enough room to crawl.

"Well, now or never," Dick said, though I could hear the fear in his voice.

We crossed the ridge a few feet from each other. I grabbed on to the sides and shuffled my way across. Halfway through, I felt a hold loosen in my grasp, and my heart stopped, but the hold held.

The summit of Blanca was only a couple hundred feet up, and when I reached it, I kissed the highest rock.

We snapped several shots, exchanged a few high-fives, and then it was time to go.
About a quarter of the way down, I stopped, got on my knees and vomited. I stared at the puddle and considered my future.

The adventure wasn't over. I would make it back to my tent by 10 p.m., in the pitch black, the same way I started. I would take a nap until midnight and wake up to a beautiful full moon, and I would pack up and hike out to its silver light and make it to my car by 5 a.m., 25 hours after I started the day. I would call Kate, who had worry tears in her voice when she answered the phone, and I would drive for five hours home, where I would sleep for an hour before I went to work.

When I think about this adventure, my greatest on my quest to climb all the fourteeners, I think about it all, even the two times I puked, both, probably, out of fear.

Three years later, I would finish the fourteeners (I'm number 1,153 on the list, Dick beat me by just a few). Jayden, my first child, would be born the same year I finished. On my last few trips, his picture rode in the front seat with me.

I left a part of me on Little Bear and its ridge that day besides the barf. It was a part of me I'll never get back.

It was my willingness to gamble everything.

I'll relish the times I lived with my very life hanging by an ankle. But Jayden, and two years later, a pair of twin girls, now make the stakes too high for anything but fond memories of the edge.

Dan England is a professional writer from Greeley, CO and a part-time mountain guide. He writes for Twins Magazine, the Greeley Tribune, Pokerworks and various other publications.

A Different God

By Nick Cantwell © 2008

The church was hot today. Hot and humid.

John Sowter rose from his knees, and stretched his limbs. He was alone – he liked it that way. Clutching his bible he walked out into the sun – his eyes squinting.

The slow walk along the dusty path was always a time for reflection. Reflection on his life, his family and his standing. But as ever, his thoughts turned to his loss. His daughter had only been nine when the disease had taken her. And since that day, he had walked the same path three or four times a day. Asking questions. And hoping to receive answers.

The final part of his walk took him past the fields, the Dogwood trees lining a path towards his imposing abode. The mournful song from the fields matched his mood.

His maid was waiting for him, holding the door ajar, and he strode past her towards the library.

The library was a place of shelter, escape. Upon entering, he realised his wife was sitting reading.

"John. Come and sit down. I have some news. The pastor came by, and the school can now be built."

A hint of a smile seemed to creep across John's face, but disappeared just as quick. His generous donation had made it possible.

He and his wife, then, as they seemed to do more and more lately, sat in silence for a long while, until there was a gentle rap on the door.

"Master Sowter, the matter you asked me about – would you like to deal with it now?" asked Tom Whitehouse, John Sowter’s overseer.

John nodded to his wife and left the library.

"Thank you Tom – I'll look after this one."

The kitchen was dead quiet. At times like this the staff knew to make themselves scarce.

"Barney, you know why I am doing this don't you. Mr. Whitehouse has informed me that you absconded last night to see your sister."

"She dying Sir," said the slave, wide eyed, his hands tied to the rope hanging down from the wooden hoist.

This wasn't by any means the first time for Barney – which made it worse. The scars from last time had barely healed – but the memory of the pain was still fresh.

He would pray. Pray it would end. Pray for help. Pray he would die.

John Sowter considered not using the gag. The screams would serve as a warning to the others – but being late afternoon, the fields were being worked, and he didn't want to slow this down any.

"He that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes," John quoted and then placed his bible on the worktop and picked up the birch.

After a little over an hour it was finished. John Sowter walked to the sink, washed his hands and then made his way back out of the house.

His wife watched from the window, as John once again made the slow journey back to the church.

A more pious man she did not know.

Nick Cantwell is part-time short story writer, a full time sports trader and a poker blogger from just outside London, England.

The Journey of 35,000 Miles Began with One Bong Hit

By Rob Hogan © 2008

Between October of 1999 and February of 2001, I circled the globe. This is the genesis of that story.

The judge ruled that everything was in order, finalizing the divorce. Time to celebrate at home with a neat bourbon and a good cigar, but the house was hers now. I had to dissolve my businesses and liquidate all my assets in order to give the newly ex-wife half, and then she asked for more cash. Paying her off sped up the divorce proceedings, but left me with no income, car or home and very little money.

Stoner John put me up on his couch for the weekend. Like always, the usual gang was there, and for three days straight we were baked out of our minds.

"I'm going to Ireland," was the proclamation I announced in between bong hits.

"Fuck yeah," was Stoner John's response. "Let's all fuckin' go. Get high till we can't see straight, then drink Guinness till we piss ourselves." The whole clan of stoners voiced their agreement, and just like that, seven high retards were planning a trip across the Atlantic.

Six hours later, the herb was depleted and reality was setting in. Danny had an early class, but was totally down for making the trip over summer break. Other Rob had to get to work, but as soon as he could get some time off he was down. Chewie had to get his kids to school, but he was going to ask his wife if he could go. Eggie was saving up for his wedding. Erin thought we were nuts, but would tag along if everyone else was going.

Which left Stoner John and myself. That morning he took me to the airport and waited in line as I bought my ticket. Despite what anyone thought of Stoner John, that douchebag was a hell of a nice guy. He walked me through security and we found a couple empty seats in the terminal to wait out the three hours before my flight.

"She really fucked you up man," Stoner John said with the tone of a pastor counseling a lost member of his flock.

"It's not just her, it's everything. With all the shit I've been through growing up, with my family and everything, I just—"

"You're lost dude. Just accept the fact that anything you do will fail until you get your head straight."

I nodded toward the bathroom, "Let's go spark up. That'll get me straight."

Stoner John shook his head. "No bra' it's out there," gesturing to the tarmac outside and the taxing planes beyond. "This place has got you trapped. Great escape is what you need."

The tail of an America West plane held my attention till I felt Stoner John's hand on my shoulder. He offered me the other to shake, and I grasped it firmly. "Some day you'll find yourself in a place where you never thought you would be. When that happens, you'll think of me and laugh."

With that, Stoner John spun around and strutted back across the terminal. It was the last time I saw him, and in me right hand I found the last gift he had to give. A wad of bills, probably his entire bankroll from the last month, sat in my palm. When I looked back, Stoner John was gone.


A short time later my flight was headed across the Atlantic, and I was seated next to the cutest Irish lass you could imagine. O'Beautiful was born near Cork, but grew up in Belfast, where her parents were active in the IRA. She was now living in Dublin, with some important sounding job at a bank. Her gorgeous red hair set my heart aflame, but her ability to drink me under the table cemented my affections for her.

When we landed in Dublin we went straight to O'Beautiful's favorite pub. It was surreal to walk into a joint with a gorgeous girl, where everyone knew who she was and they were all glad she came. We squatted at a table in the middle of the busy establishment, which was my home for the next six hours. People came and went, most all of them stopping by our table for a drink. There was Lil' Bono, Rocky (a Bronx ex-pat whose native dialect was mingled with the local accent), Irin (that's Erin with an I) and the illustrious Chips, who had all the connections.

As we pounded back shots of whiskey with beer chasers, I felt a feeling that was more then being drunk. This wasn't another night with my stoner friends pretending like we had everything figured out. I was surrounded by a room full of strangers who shared in my pathetic tales of a failed marriage, while enthralling me with their own stories of bad relationships and piss poor decisions. It was an instant camaraderie that connected us on the most basic of human levels. For once in my sad excuse for a life, I felt like I belonged.

Later that night we stumbled out of the pub, and O'Beautiful inquired about which hotel she could drop me at. Of course I hadn't the foresight to book a hotel before jumping the pond.


I woke up with O'Beautiful sprawled across my chest, the sunlight dancing across the brilliance of her flaming red hair. Her apartment was sparsely furnished, which didn't seem to matter. The bed was comfortable and the fridge was stocked with beer. The next eight weeks would be lived in and around this shabby little flat, and in that time I would fall in love, violate a treaty, go broke, get rich, almost get deported and break someone's heart.

Rob Hogan grew up in Vegas and L.A., traveled around the world, settled down in Ohio, and (when you get a few drinks in him) will enthrall you with stories that he keeps meaning to write down and get published. He's also a snappy dresser.

Fatty McLiarson

Fatty McLiarson

By Bob Respert © 2008

"I used to be a competitive skier," she said, "until I blew out my knee and had to stop racing. And I absolutely love yoga."

Good, I thought, athletic.

Emily and I had been talking for quite some time over an instant messenger on the computer. Her in ski-country and me in the suck-belt. Ugh, the Midwest. What a fucking dump. Nice job basing almost your entire future existence on the American factory worker and his union. Well played, Midwest. I can see the abandoned factories now.

Literally. They're everywhere already. While Mexicans, Asians, and pretty much everyone else in the world laughs at our fat, bowling-crazy factory workers as they crank out better quality goods for less. Anyways...

It's amazing what the whiz kids of the world have done for my quality of life and the general laziness with which I enjoy coasting along. I can instruct the pizza artists at the local Papa John's on how many garlic butters to place on the side of my order. On my computer. Right from the couch! I can order presents and have them shipped to where I'll be showing up to give them. I can find any kind of porn that I want. (Lord, don't get me started on porn.) But one of the more important technological breakthroughs of my generation is the ability to converse with people in other parts of the world in real time from the luxury of my well appointed bachelor pad.

"Great, because I'm all about keeping in great shape." Not really, I silently mused, I just don't want you thinking you can half-ass your down dogs over the next month before we have a chance to meet in person.

Everything had started with her sudden interest in my totally gay online diary. Not gay in the sense that I'm gay. Cause, I'm not. (Hear that ladies?) But a blog is a nothing more than an online diary and diaries are gay.

I'm not sure how she found it, but I always welcome new readers. Anyone who can read my insane ramblings and find them entertaining is automatically good in my book. At least until they prove themselves otherwise. Boy did she enjoy my site. Comments all the time turned into the occasional email. The occasional email turned into more persistent emailings and eventually she dropped a proposal on my lap.

She thought I'd be really fun to do a podcast with. And of course she was right because I'm really fun to do just about anything with. The persistence paid off for her as I eventually hemmed and hawed enough to feel like I had to.

So we began having phone conversations.

Her voice was velvety with notes of coriander and spice. (Fuck, I drink too much wine. Sorry about that.) I mean to say that she had a sultry voice that lent itself to the eventual flirting that took place.

While there was plenty of getting to know each other there were equal parts flirtation and fantasy. She talked freely of her past jobs and the occasional relationship while I, per usual, talked about everything and anything. It was fun. I was starting to like her.

She lived in a really nice home, had a vacation home in a ski-town, and was running an online boutique clothing store. She seemed to be doing really well for herself, which is great and all but I cared not for what she did or how much money she made. No, I was more interested in what she looked like.

There are certain things a guy can put up with and they all can be suffered through for certain periods of time. Here are some examples:

A beached whale worth ten million is an absolute no-go.

An ugly face with a killer body gets a couple drunken tussles in the sack.

An ugly woman with a bad body gets nothing.

A hot chick living the Jerry Springer lifestyle (trailer, kids, abusive ex) is an absolute go for between 2-3 months or until she starts trying to get her kids around you, whichever comes first.

A mediocre looking woman with tremendous sex appeal rates 2-3 months of behind the scenes relations with friends never meeting her in person and an additional 1 full year of late night booty calls.

A hot chick with money gets as long as she wants.

So, needless to say, I was interested in what she looked like. She was really hesitant about sending me a picture. Now, I know any sane person in this situation would assume she's a fatty, but there was a reason I didn't. She was really hesitant with other things as well. She only called from a cell phone and wouldn't call from, or give me, the home phone. She mentioned some past things that gave her caution in this arena, as well. So I wasn't shocked when she didn't want to send a picture. It seemed par for the course with her overall caution towards strange guys.

But really, what bad can come of a picture? If she's all hot and fit like she claims she is then where's the issue? I guess I was blinded by the light (Potential booty call light) and wrapped up like a douche.

So I eventually convinced her to send a picture and she sent along what appeared to be a picture taken by her, on her bed, and from above her face angled to catch her body. It worked. No head, but nice body. Oh, and it was in lingerie. Excellent.

With flirtation going on for quite some time it seemed appropriate to meet. At least that's what my penis thought, and I have come to trust his sound judgment and sense of timing. We began to discuss getting together to meet, and I'll be honest here, that totally meant we'd be hooking up. The conversations had clearly gone down this path by now and I had a couple grainy, faceless pictures that looked good enough for me and my penis.

Hell, she constantly talked about yoga and skiing, the gym, and keeping in shape. At this point I was thinking she'd be pretty darn doable. Plus, as embarrassed as I feel mentioning this, I was really enjoying talking with her. If her body was what the picture showed, and the conversation flowed the way it did on the internet/phone, and as long as her face didn't look like Rocky Dennis from Mask, It'd be all systems go.

Back and forth we went, me trying to get her to meet up and her shying away and pushing for a certain weekend when I'd be away at training and she could fly in to see me. Eventually we settled on the training weekend.

I hit the exercise bike and pseudo diet hard, hoping to look my best when she walked in. I researched, and found, a nice hotel to book so that I wouldn't have to risk anything with the Nazi regime that runs our training sessions. (No visitors. No leaving on weekends. No expensing porn.)

Leading in the phone conversations got more and more sexual. It wasn't a question of were we going to do it any longer. It was how and where now.

Then I got a nasty sinus cold. It was really bad. I had a really painful headache and my face was in pain from the pressure in my sinuses. I was doped up on numerous medications and I almost called it off. But I figured I could dope up and hit the booze. Booze always helps with the pain.

I got to the place early and set things up. I had purchased some wines and wine glasses. I got a haircut, ate dinner because she'd be arriving late, and downed close to a bottle of wine to make my face stop hurting. It mostly worked. Along the way she called from the airport. Her flight was delayed a bit and she was in the bar waiting. She told me how a guy had asked to buy her a drink, which she explained as something that happens to her all the time. Nice. That's a good sign. Ugly women don't get consistent offers for free drinks.

The call came in that she had finally landed and was on her way over. I was set. I had booze in my system and booze ready for her. I had jimmy hats. I looked good. I didn't feel the greatest, but it was manageable at that moment.

The knock on the door sent my heart racing. How hot was she going to be? Would she be wearing a trench coat with nothing on underneath? Would she really want to lick bourbon off my chiseled abs?

In a word, ohmygodwhatthefuckIthoughyouwerehotthisblows.

She was as tall as me and a good deal thicker than she purported to be, a combination that wins no awards with me. Her hair was thick and almost mangy in a few spots, which can be attributed to the plane ride, I guess. When we hugged hello and I got my hands around her midsection it felt like I was squeezing my hands into soft dough. I even got scared for a moment, worried that her stomach might confuse my hands for food and try to eat them. She looked like a 15-20lb heavier version of what she said she was, and not in a good way. You know how some people put on a couple pounds and it distributes well and doesn't look that bad, right? But then some people put on a few pounds and it goes bad fast, like how ugly Charlize Theron became when she put on weight to play that serial killer.

Chubby Jennifer Tilly = Good.

Chubby Charlize Theron = Bad.

(By the way... Jennifer Tilly + Gina Gershon + Lesbianism = Excellent movie called Bound.)

This was not the package I was sold. A total bait and switch.

Her own phrases kept darting through my mind...

"Guys are always buying me drinks."
"I absolutely love yoga."
"I'm athletic."
"I ski all the time."

...And all I could think was, "Are you fucking kidding me? Does she understand what the words 'fit' and 'athletic' even mean?"

I couldn't (And still can't) get over how badly she set herself up for failure. You can't send pictures of when you were years younger, and tremendously more fit, to someone and not expect them to assume you look like that, can you? You can't talk constantly about how fit you are and the hours and hours of yoga you do without someone assuming you'll be in shape. Honestly, there's no way she actually does yoga with any sort of consistency. Nor does she have an athletic body. She might have had an athletic body hiding under a solid layer of once uneaten tubs of cookie dough ice-cream-turned-fat, but you don't tout yourself as the underneath layer and expect people to buy it when they meet you.

Here's the main thing. I felt hoodwinked.

Sure, she wasn't hot and fit, but she wasn't ugly and she wasn't so fat that I couldn't get my arms around her. She was just clearly not what she claimed to be, which turned out to be a major disappointment. One that, I might add, was perpetuated by her. She didn't need to lie. She didn't need to send pictures of what now looked like her younger, hotter sister. I probably would have still met up with her at that point if she had sold herself correctly. As a moderately attractive woman with the need to hit the gym to take a few pounds off, who was up for a good time. But no, she had to go and ruin it with the old bait and switch. And my dumb ass fell for it.

But I fucked Fatty McLiarson anyways.

I'll slot it under Slump Busting in my repertoire.

A 14 year old black Caucasian from Beijing, Bob Respert has traveled the world in search of answers and so far has only found three: Yes, not unless you want Chlamydia, and when all else fails just flop it out and see what happens.