"Woody told the story of Bob Simmons from Denver, Colorado.
Bob arrived in town for the funeral of a grandmother with whom he never enjoyed much of a connection. While in town through the weekend, Bob woke up Sunday and went to Church just as he had done every Sunday morning since the summer of his 6th year. By the time of his grandmother’s death, Bob barely knew anything more about the Bible or Jesus than he did at six but he certainly attended services and he certainly liked to be entertained and it didn’t take much to entertain the somewhat dense slug of a guy who was Bob Simmons from Denver, Colorado, so naturally Bob frequented the local mega churches in the Denver area, all of them found on the same web site on which he found Calvary Fellowship this particular Sunday morning. Bob traipsed through Calvary Fellowship to an aisle seat, his personal preference, and within minutes, three men approached him, wearing flimsy plastic card necklaces with the gaudy Guardian logo flapping against their chests as they walked. The loud music forced the Guardians to lean into his ear. They asked to search his bag.
My bag? Your pouch. My pouch? Your fanny pack, sir. Oh, that? You want to search it? Yes, sir. He removed the belt and handed it to the nearest of them who unzipped it. Any weapons or needles I need to know about before I put my hand in here? Nope. Nothing dangerous or suspicious was found but two of the Guardians still felt he posed some sort of threat although no one is quite sure what that threat could’ve been especially after the initial search. Minutes after the first invasion of Bob Simmons’ fanny pack, the two most adamant of the Guardians returned to his pew and asked to search his bag. Again. Bob Simmons felt slighted. No, he said, you’ve had your fun. Now leave me alone.
"Composed and quieted, he returned to the show, determined to ice over.
From here on, fear is of no consequence; there is no turning back, he told himself as he snagged another champagne in stride, nodded and smiled his way to the darkened patio and a cool breeze laced with fall. He sat among an older group many of them probably not locals. He looked at his watch again staring at the hours between him and the deed. After drinking the rest of his champagne, he stood to return to the party and possibly smooth over his behavior with Jane but there at the end of the rail stood Malorie, the dewy-eyed girl who drank white tea in the afternoons. She was searing the very dust in the air around her, immolating any hint of iniquity within her range of influence like some magical cream-red stick of incense, the subject of palpable jealousy in the middle-aged faces around her.
Excuse me, he said, physically compelled to step right up to her. My name is--.
"The next morning was Saturday morning.
He and Olivia sat in miniature chairs around a miniature table dressed with miniature utensils and ware on the second story deck at the rear of Allison's parents' house. Olivia, now nine, spoke to her guests with calm cadence. There was a stuffed Chihuahua and a lion and her father and a little green parrot dressed as a pirate with a salty sneer on his face and another little bird sitting on his shoulder. He could hear her but he wasn't listening. She poured them tea, real Earl Grey off the kitchen stove.
From the deck, he could see across the stilted highway into the canopy of neighborhood trees on the other side. An apartment complex broke through it and stood against the flatness of the clear sky as the painting of a building, not a real place but a decoration. He was staring at the cosmic blue brushed against its edges without a thought in his head. All he could grasp or care to involve was the suggestion of a penumbra between the two. His brain meat barely sizzled with activity.
"Ethereal shapes bathed in cityglow skated the pale night over the empty parking lot across the street from the bar.
Poole and Hatchet had been the last to submit to closing time and they were leaning on Poole's car, neither willing to admit the hour or any fatigue. When's the last time you saw that little girl of yours? I don't remember; let's drop it. Poole wiped his eyes and stared into the crackling street lamp above them. I haven't seen mine in ten months. Drop it, Poole. Hatchet wanted to remind Poole that unlike he and Olivia, Poole's disconnection with his daughter was his own choice. You wanna talk about Delilah? Poole said. Nope. You wanna talk about your rent? Dexter. Let's talk about this, Poole spun drunkenly on his toe and slammed his palm against the hood of the vehicle. Hatchet heard a cat scream somewhere in the black void behind them and turned to peer into the windows of a tall rest home several blocks away just as the last lighted window went dark. Are you listening? Poole snapped. You haven't said anything. You ever thought about being locked up? What? Going to prison. Is this gonna be a philosophical discussion? Fuck you, Hatchet.
Poole turned his back to him and dug his phone out of his pocket and fiddled with it in confusion for a moment then placed it to his ear. Jail sucks, he said, there's nothing I hate more than going to jail; I ran from the cops once when I was eighteen just to give them hell for the last time they dragged me in; teenage logic at it most ironic. Are you talking to me? Yes, I'm talking to you, Hatchet! Poole faced him again, the phone still in his ear. Jesus, Dexter, just give me the keys. My daughter went to jail once when she was fifteen; she was in a stolen car with another girl; her mother wouldn't let me bail her out; she was supposed to be in a big play at school the next week; her mother just takes her script to her and tells her good luck; she called me on the phone, crying; I hadn't seen her in a year; she called me, daddy, Hatchet. Poole's face had faded to the color of the clouds migrating into the northern darkness. But her fucking mom, Poole shook his head and returned his phone to his pocket. What are you gonna do when you get that call, Hatchet? Are we talking about my daughter or going to prison?
We're talking about my daughter, asshole.
You can purchase That Night Filled Mountain for kindle here:
You hear people talk about the "hole" in their lives and you see them flimflammed by religion and spiritual pseudoscience and complicated, convoluted programs for happiness.
When all they have to do is relax and accept the fact that when they get up in the morning, they are volunteering to jump into this mess. Volunteers are by definition unpaid workers. Anyone can checkout at anytime. When we endeavor to see all our struggles in context, when we learn to accept everything and expect nothing, all the while striving for the highest heights (because believe it or not, the act of striving is the natural baseline for human consciousness. "Doing nothing" is nearly impossible on a conscious level) the hard brutal world becomes a manageable beautiful world. Few things acquired with ease yield much reward. The struggle is yer friend and wants you to be a better person. "Struggle is all."
River of Blood, a novel about anarchism, atheism, racism, violence, family, and corruption.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.