Thursday, December 20, 2007

Night Guest

One thing’s for sure. There’s no turning back—at least, not for now. Knuckles rubs his cold hands together, inches from the campfire that had warmed his supper, grits he’d bought in the small town thirty miles back. They now sit cold and half-eaten in a metal bowl at his side.

Shade, his gorgeous black mare, is unnerved by movements in the distance. The movements are just beyond her sight, but she knows that they are wolves. They’ve been following Knuckles and her for hours, waiting for the right moment to appear. The wolves in these parts are a bit abnormal; themselves descendant (spawn) of secret government breeding projects; carried out decades ago.

The project was intended to enhance the breed’s cognitive abilities, so that they would more easily adapt to the changing world around them. Rumor has it that the scientists experimented with human DNA, not resulting in deformities, or werewolf type creatures—but made the breed larger, and far more cunning.

Knuckles senses that Shade is uneasy, and he offers her what is left of his grits. She sniffs the bowl and then goes back to alert. Shade is descendant of thoroughbreds, and is the property of Knuckles’ recent lost love.

“What’s wrong girl?” says Knuckles, standing, “Is there something out there?”
He scans the darkness as he slowly removes his weapon.

The night grows silent, and is then parted by a deep growl of a voice from the shadows, “No gun,” it says. The project was also rumored to have granted some of its subject with abnormally humanlike qualities, vocal cords, developed and passed down through generations of alpha males.

Knuckles focuses more intently on the darkness and quickly realizes, courtesy of the campfire, that Shade and he are surrounded by more than twenty pairs of shinning eyes.

Empty dread floods him—likewise Shade, as the lake of eyes close in. Faint silhouettes moves into view and confirms what Shade already knows, as the raspy voice speaks again.

“Leave the horse and go.”

Sunday, October 28, 2007


She seemed a bit disappointed when I told her that it was only going to be a prank.

“But sir, I can get a real gun,” she said, “They don’t know it, but I have two. And I don’t like the Master Gunnery Sergeant.” The gleam in her eyes reminded me that she has been seeing a psychiatrist. I pretended not to notice. “Can I at least hit him?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “We just want to scare him.”

While the Master Gunnery Sergeant and I are inside the office, you start a commotion outside the door. I’ll have one of the sergeants try to stop you. He’ll shout. Then we’ll need something to make a loud blast—perhaps a firecracker. Kick the door, and then burst inside waving the gun at him.

Game day:

The Master Gunnery Sergeants sprung to alert when he heard the commotion outside. Then the door flung open, followed by a short wild-haired woman wielding a pistol. I jumped from my chair, just in case I needed to intercept him from challenging her.

“You knew this day was coming Master Gunnery Sergeant!” she screamed, “You ruined my life!”

She then swung in my direction.

“No, no!” I yelled—pointing at the master gunnery sergeant, “Shoot him first!”

The look on his face was priceless.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Knuckles thought he had it all figured out—finally, the cure for a broken heart. It required a touch of anger, as he sealed his thoughts of her inside a box. He then imagined himself placing the box inside another, and secured it with a big rusty lock, in which he broke off an imaginary key.

Each time he sensed memories of her surfacing; he would toss the box inside another—layer after layer—and seal them all, sometimes with a blowtorch.

When the boxes were not enough, he carried them to the ocean and threw them into the water. When the boxes floated, he sealed them inside a safe, broke the combination, and watched it sink to the ocean floor. Memories, like bubbles would rise to the surface, and Knuckles imagined himself adding more layers around his box of memories. Nothing can escape, insisted Knuckles; not until this pain is gone.

Then, in a moment of silence, an angel whispered, “Which is better to harbor within thy heart? Pain, or anger?"

Friday, August 17, 2007

My Name in History

Thank you Melanie, for the tag. The rules? (1) Google your name. (2) Repost (w/a link) the picture of the oddest, craziest, strangest, coolest, oldest, etc. person that shares your name. Post as many as you like, then pass it on.

The most memorable Eugene I could find was Eugene the Jeep, from the old Popeye cartoons. More than once, as a young boy, I was called a “Jeep”-- and I hated it.

One of the original Little Rascals, Eugene Pineapple Jackson, is shown here in one of his later films.

Pineapple's son, Eugene III Jackson, shown below, was also an actor. Among his early films were Shenandoah. In addition to his action, Junior also has an impressive resume behind the camera. It includes classic television programs like Emergency, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Columbo, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Mork and Mindy, as well as the more recent hits, Hearts Afire, Hunter, Cheers, Hill Street Blues, and Seinfeld.

That’s enough for now. And now I’d like to tag the following people: Susan, Jennifer, Paisley, and Cath.
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I was a gullible little boy, sitting next to the coolest guy in my fifth grade class. Sometimes he took cheap shots at me; commenting on my raggedy shoes, or the clothes I had worn for the second time in one week. His timing was always perfect, and he only teased me when he had an audience.

One day, after one of his verbal jabs, I scanned him for discrepancies. His shoes were in style; with bellbottoms, a silk shirt, and Afro. Then I noticed that his fingernails had little white streaks. It looked odd to me, and I thought it was my one shot to get even with him.

“Well,” I said, “at least I don’t have white marks on my fingernails.”

He laughed at me, and then fired back. “These marks tell you how many girls like me!” he said, “How many do you have?”

A cloud then hovered above me, as I discreetly studied my nails for marks and found none.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bad Hiding Places

It would be my last time to play hide and seek. It began with us sitting on the bench outside the Laundromat, Richard, Tyron, and me. We were bored, and waiting for Tyron’s clothes to finish. I don’t recall whose idea it was. One moment we were watching the cars go by, and the next, Richard and I were looking for a place to hide while Tyron counted.

Something compelled me to look inside the Laundromat while I counted inside my head, fifteen…sixteen…seventeen. When my time was nearly up, I noticed an open door to one of the large dryers. Tyron will never find me in there, I thought. “Nineteen! Twenty! Ready or not, here I come!” Tyron yelled as I closed the door behind me.

The dryer immediately turned me upside down and dropped me on my head, flipping me repeatedly while punching me all over with its steel ridges, designed to toss clothes. It was blasting me with heat the entire time, and then it delivered a hard jab to my ribcage, knocking out what was left of my air. Yelling did not occur to me, only disorientation and wanting to get out.

Between the stars, flashing lights, and falling clothes, I caught glimpses of the round window, turning while I took my beating. Then the door opened. Tyron had heard the machine tossing me around. It threw me out; and I fell hard to the floor. It was still a relief to be outside.

“You’re it!” yelled Tyron, laughing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why I Call Them Fire Ants

Growing up, I was always scheming up new ways to get rid of the fire ants in our front yard. Then—in the wintertime, while they remained inside their anthills eating the foods they had gathered all summer—I would somehow miss them. Springtime would return, and our bouts would begin again.

Round one went to the ants when I was five years old, sitting and playing near their anthill while countless numbers of them crawled inside my cloths. They waited until I stood up to leave before they began stinging me in unison. That began our rivalry, and over the coming years, many of my attempts at revenge would backfire.

There was the time one of them snuck inside my trousers while I was using a magnifying glass on their anthill. It climbed up to my inner thigh before striking. There was also the time I mixed every toxic liquid I could find inside the house: ammonia, Clorox, Lysol, rubbing alcohol, etc. I intended to pour it inside the anthill, but first, my curiosity wanted to know how it smelled. When I leaned over the toxic mix to take a whiff, before I could inhale, invisible vapors rushed into my nostrils and sucked all the air from my lungs. Desperate, ran around the room trying to inhale, but there was no air. Then I ran outside, walking in circles around the front yard. There was a cool breeze against my face and chest, but still no air for my lungs. I thought I was going to die. Then, near the end of my battle, my lungs; my tired lungs found a short painful breath; one after the other, and soon I was able to breath again. The narrow escape temporally took away my desire to bout with the ants and I poured out the toxic mix.

I was twelve when the ants and I had our last bout. It was summertime, and the grass in our front yard was dry. I figured that gasoline and a match would do a lot of damage—to the anthill. They swarmed when I poured gasoline over their bed. Then I sat the can beside me. It didn’t occur to me to close the gas cap before striking a match. It also didn’t occur to me to note the tiny trickle of gasoline leading from the anthill to the gas can.

The moment I touched the lit match to the anthill, the gas can erupted in flames. I panicked and started kicking the gas can away from the fire, not realizing that flaming fuel was spilling out with each kick. I was nearly twenty feet away from the anthill when I turned around and saw that half our front yard was in flames.

My parents were away, so while I stumped at flames, I yelled for my brother and sisters. They came rushing outside moments later and helped me put out the flames, leaving eighty percent of the front yard charred black.

“Man you’re gonna get it,” said Richard, “I’m glad I’m not you.” He is right, I thought to myself, looking out at the yard. The fire ants were still swarming the anthill, over and around the ones that the flames had killed, while I thought for a solution. Then I convinced my siblings to help me collect green grass from the backyard to spread over the burnt areas. After nearly two hours of plucking and transferring, the yard was still ugly; and nothing was going to get rid of the charred smell. The best I could hope for was that Daddy would arrive home after dark.

I got lucky, and Daddy arrived home late that evening. He didn’t notice the burnt grass until the next day. Then, to my surprise, he didn’t make a big deal about it when I told him what happened. As for the fire ants, we called it a draw.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


In this dream, I'm narrating, as on a sunny day, a small group of teenagers and their high school science teacher are walking through a peaceful meadow. Up ahead, the teacher notices a beehive. It stands approximately 7 feet tall and resembles a building. The teacher is excited, rushing over to the hive as the students follow behind him.

“Wow!” the teacher says, “This is really cool.” He touches the hive, as the busy bees move about, unconcerned by their excited visitors. The bees have never seen a man before, so they have no fear. Neither has a man ever seen such bees, as fat as strawberries and as tamed as kittens.

The teacher picks up one of the bees, allowing it to play on his palm; but he is concerned that it will sting him. The teacher then thoughtlessly turns the trusting bee upside down, exposing its thin black stinger. Then he plucks out the stinger and allows the puzzled bee to fall to the grass.

Betrayed, the plump bee springs into the air and flies back to its hive. Then, within three seconds, the entire hive of once friendly bees swarm up from the top of the hive like a tornado and then angrily rain down on the teacher and his students, stinging, as they run franticly through the once peaceful meadow.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Attic Window

One day, a fellow Marine named Shaffer shared a story with me. It was something he had seen as a young boy. According to Shaffer, Miss Jones was an elderly woman who lived near him and had a reputation for being eccentric. She lived alone in her large house and could sometimes be seen from the street, peering out from her attic window at passers by.

When Miss Jones passed away, rumors soon began to spread among the neighborhood kids that her house was haunted. One afternoon, months after Miss Jones had passed away, Shaffer and four of his friends were gathered in the street in front of her house. The doors and windows were partially boarded up, and the louvered attic window was in clear view. “That’s where her ghost is,” said one of the boys. “She's probably watching us right now.”

They looked over at the window as Shaffer laughed, “You sissies! There’s no such thing as ghosts!” Opinions were then tossed back and forth until Shaffer finally announced that he would prove it by entering the house. The four boys agreed to accompany him. They entered the yard, went around to the back, and pulled boards way from the kitchen door to gain access.

Inside, they made their way through the kitchen, and through the living room which was crowded with sheet-covered furniture. Up the stairs, they found a rope that when pulled would lower steps that led up into the attic. They climbed the steps and were soon standing in a dark attic, dusty and filled with cobwebbed boxes of whatnots, where beyond sat the old rocking chair at the louvered window.

“See! I told you!” one boy announced, “That’s her rocking chair.” Motionless, it sat where Miss Jones had left it, shrouded by shadows, cobwebs, and streaks of sunlight that peek in through the window.

“So!” said Shaffer, “That’s doesn’t prove anything. There’s nothing up here.”

They soon began looking through some of the boxes and drawers. One the boys even moved the rocking chair away from the window, so he could see outside. After twenty minutes or so, they became bored and went back out to the street. That’s where Shaffer reminded them that they were a bunch of sissies.

“Since you’re so tough, let’s see you to in there at night,” one boy said. Without hesitation, Shaffer said that he would go there anytime; day or night—and they agreed to meet in front of the house at ten o’clock that evening.

That night, no one would volunteer to accompany Shaffer inside the house. Its electricity had been turned off, so there would be no lights. It looked spooky even to Shaffer, but he wasn’t going to admit it.

“There’s no way I’m going in there,” one boy said, looking up at the window. The four boys agreed to wait in the street. Shaffer would prove himself by waving at them from the attic window. The window was illuminated by a full moon and striped with shadows from a nearby tree.

The boys watched as Shaffer entered the yard and disappeared into the darkness. Shaffer found the boards still pulled away from the backdoor and he made his way inside. That was stupid of me, he thought Shaffer, realizing that he had forgotten to bring a flashlight. Luckily, some moonlight peeked in through the boarded windows, through the cracks, enough that Shaffer was able to make his way through the shadows, up the stairs, and to the base of the attic.

He pulled on the rope which lowered the steps that led into the attic. His anxiety thickened as he climbed, and then peeked inside, scanning the darkness for nothing in particular, as dust particles floated on the moonbeams that poured in through the louvered window. Let me get this over with, he thought to himself, stepping fully into the attic. He paused to gather his senses; then began creeping towards the window. Something was wrong; he halted in his tracks, scanning more intently. The chair had been placed back in front of the window.

He tried to calm himself with the notion that someone was possibly playing a trick on him, but it didn’t work. He scanned the room once more, and then looked back at the chair. It had a high back and it was facing away from him, outwards towards the window. He took another step, tilting his head to the right for a better angle—not wanting to believe that someone was there. Then, no sooner than he thought it, someone stood up from the chair and turned towards him.

His mind went blank, staring as the figure began to creep towards him. It was an elderly woman, and her face showed no emotion. Her eyes stared into Shaffer’s eyes, coaxing him not to run as she inched even closer. For a moment, Shaffer was in a trance. He then came to his senses.

The moment he thought about running, the woman’s expression turned angry. It was as if she knew that he would try to run, so she tried to get between him and the exit. Shaffer was out of his mind with terror, darting as fast as he could, so fast that he stumbled and fell down the hatch.

His body crashed hard into the floor below; then he continued running, stumbling, tripped and falling down the stairs. When he landed at the bottom, he quickly spun around, expecting her to be there.

The woman was standing at the top of the stairway, peering down at him. She didn’t come down after him, but it didn’t matter to Shaffer. He quickly shook off the fall and continued running towards the kitchen, crashing out the backdoor, convinced that the woman was right behind him. He fell out onto the porch, sprung up and ran around to the street where his friends were waiting. None of them believed his story—but as he told the story to me there was a tear in his eye.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Sweetest Ride

When I was twelve, Stephan was one of my best friends, though we sometimes had our difficulties. I don’t remember what it was he said. It had something to do with my bike, and I was offended. Stephan sugarcoated nothing. In fact, sometimes he could be downright abrasive, blurting it out with his hands on his hips.

“Well,” I said to him, “Since you have a problem with my bike, you’ll never ride it again.”

“Fine,” he answered back, “I don’t like your ugly bike anyway.”

Over the next few months, Stephan and I remained friends. We hung out together all the time, but my bike remained off limits to him. Some days he would test the waters. He would watch as I allowed other boys to ride. Then, when he thought I was in a good mood, he would ask for a ride. My answer was always, "No."

Sometimes the other boys would ask what was going on. Neither Stephan nor I ever told them. In fact, I had forgotten what Stephan originally said to offend me. All that mattered was that I had given my word, and I was standing my ground, whether it was rational or not. Stephan, however, continued to pick happy moments to ask his question.

“Can I ride your bike?” His question was always the same. So was my answer.

“No.” Then we would continue playing.

One day, several of us were jumping ramps in front of Stephan’s yard, nearly six months had passed since I had announced my bike off-limits to him—and he hadn’t asked his question in nearly two months. He approached me in the middle of the laughter.

“Can I ride your bike?”

“Yes,” I answered.

He did a double take. “Did you say, yes?”

“Yes,” I said.

The biggest smile came across his face as ran over to the boy who was sitting on my bike.

“Junior said I could ride!” Stephan announced, excited. In deed, my bike was ugly; but it was big deal to Stephan. I watched him as he climbed on and started riding. He rode that raggedy bike as if it was the best ride of his life, sitting high in the seat and smiling the entire time.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sanctuary Revisited

I was twelve when I first began to practice meditation. It was my private way of relaxing. I imagined myself on a secluded tropical beach, barefoot, and walking across the sands. The crystal blue ocean was calm, and on its surface, amid shimmering sky-born lights, were reflections of distant places old and new. The sands gently massaged the soles of my feet, and as I entered the waters, they sank from warm to moist. Its waves lapped against my ankles, as slanted sunrays rested across my chest. My legs and thighs committed to the waters as I softly inhaled heavens mist. Then I submerged. Underneath the waters’ blanket, I had left all my earthly concerns behind. The perfectly warm waters gradually cooled as my body fell to deeper depths. They were still the perfect temperature when I found—against the seawall—the entrance to secret caverns. I entered them, in where I found magical underground shores, even more tranquil than those above. There, I had found my sanctuary

Monday, April 23, 2007

Even as they Smile, Even as they Cry

Knuckles ponder, “Perhaps I don’t deserve happiness.” He believes that his purpose is to suffer; and that he might as well accept his misery with a big fake grin. He smiles invisibly, as inside he embraces his most loyal companion – pain. Adversary or friend, Knuckles wonder if pain is intelligent. That if Knuckles becomes content to suffer, would pain then become his friend. Would they share secrets and laugh at the misfortunes of others? Would pain eventually lower its guard that Knuckles might sneak away; or would pain keep an ever-watchful eye, even as they smile, even as they cry.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hmm, Thinking...

The remarkably talented Melanie, and Jennifer have nominated my blog as a Thinking blog.

I am both honored and flattered - and I would like to pass this honor on to three people that have inspired me.

1. Susan is an incredible writer, versatile and highly creative. It was Susan who first encouraged me to begin writing a blog; and she has inspired me every since.
2. Mella is one of the most talented writers I have known. Visit her page and see for yourself. Her work speaks for its self.
3. Cath is a writing machine; and I am amazed each time I visit her page, at how diligent and creative she is.

Thank you again, Melanie.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crocodile Tears

One day, my cousin John and I were goofing around in the backseat of the car while our grandfather drove. I was ten years old, while John was a chubby eight. “Shut up!” Granddaddy suddenly barked, “And stop moving around back there!” I could tell that he was serious, but John giggled in mischief. “I said shut up!” Granddaddy warned once more, “Or I’ll give you a backhand knuckle-slap in the mouth!” John finally got the message and tried to behave. “Hmm,” I thought to myself, “I’ve never seen a backhand knuckle slap before.” Then I silently reached over and took some of John’s thigh between my index finger and thumb, pinching him as hard as I could, twisting and meanly digging my fingers into him. John tried to push my hand away, but I was too strong. Finally, he cried out; but before he could finish the first note, granddaddy -without looking- swung backwards and gave John a hard backhand-knuckle slap in the mouth. “I told you to shut up!” granddaddy yelled. John cried, holding his mouth as if he had lost a tooth, while I silently had a hard belly laugh, so hard that tears rolled down my cheeks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


From where rest I have sought, came rejection, “I shall teach ye suffering; not in words, but in deeds. All, and as bitter tea ye shall absorb.” Where I would resist, circumstances insist, “You will learn, one way or another; and that I no longer care; your past, your present, and your future; it matters not what ye do here.” Where I would beseech, deafness greets my charge, “Ye not swift of wit; how pathetic ye are.” Then shall I smile, be met with doubt, “What be ye grinning about?”

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sticks and Stones

A small detachment of Marines from my command deployed to the Philippines. They had authorization to setup their radars in the boondocks, where they found themselves surrounded by thick jungle. They were far from the party scenes, and scantily clad women that many of the younger Marines had envisioned.

Large black jungle monkeys were their company, as the monkeys would often sneak into the camp and steal whatever they could carry, particularly food. The Marines would chase the monkeys away with sticks and stones; but as days went by, the monkeys grew increasingly aggressive.

The Marines bout with the monkeys came to a climax one afternoon while the Marines were lounging in the shade. The jungle suddenly came alive with screams and frightened animals. The screams were coming from the monkeys, whom had gathered themselves into a large angry mass.

When the Marines looked towards the commotion, they saw the monkeys coming up the dirt road. Some of the monkeys were carrying sticks and stones, and throwing them in the direction of the camp. The sticks and stone would travel only a few feet, as the monkeys had poor technique. The frustrated monkeys would then move closer, pick up their weapons, and repeat the action. Each time, they drew closer to the camp, angrier, and louder.

The Marines, greatly outnumbers and without their weapons, knew that while the stick and stones were not a large threat, it was only a matter of time before the frustrated monkeys fell back on a more traditional attack, hitting and biting.

The Marines then retreated into their Radar Vans and watched through reinforced glass at the frantic monkeys destroyed everything they could get their hands on. When the monkeys finished, they quietly gathered what food they could carry and left. It was a much wilder party than anyone had envisioned.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Mule

Last summer, while I was visiting through Fort Worth, I shared a drive with an old friend, whom I will call Leon. Leon and I had not spoken in years. While we caught up on old times, he shared an interesting story. In it, he described a car drive he had taken years earlier, and how in that drive, he had never driven so carefully. In that drive, he kept both hands on the steering wheel at all times, and followed the posted speed limits without exception. In that drive, he knew that had a police officer pull him over, it probably would have meant 20 years behind bars. Possibly even his life. Had a police officer opened the trunk of his car, he would have found it filled with bricks of cocaine – and Leon was operating on strict instructions, “If you get caught, you’re on your own.” Leon was one of the most ambitious men I have ever known. However, in his story, while he nervously drove that car years earlier, he was a mule and a crack-head. He was also a father, a husband, and a former Navy man.

Leon and I had known each other since high school. Back then, he had sought me out because he was interested in the martial arts. We began working out together and quickly became friends. There were four of us in that circle of friends, Leon, Ira, Tong, and me. Each of us had a talent that made us stand out: Leon, the former singer in a boy’s choir, photographer, school journalist, and martial artist; Tong, the elite gymnast from Taiwan and future assistant coach under Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conners, at their gym in Norman, Oklahoma; Ira, the future golf pro; and me.

Leon once stood amongst the four of us and declared aloud, “With all the talent in this room, one of us has got to make it! There has got to be at least a million dollars in this room right now!” At the time, we barely had two nickels to rub together, but we were all ambitious, with no noticeable vices. We also were equally prejudiced against the common obstacles, drugs, alcohol, and thuggish behavior.

While I listened to Leon’s story, more than twenty years has passed, and in that time he had transformed himself from the ambitious teenager I knew, into a disparate crack-head mule, and then finally into a successful self-employed photographer and journalist with one published book under his belt. I was intrigued; and I wanted to know how the proud Leon had ever allowed himself to fall to drugs. More importantly, I wanted to know how he so amazingly climbed back from where many fade away.

When I asked him, he told me about his time in the Navy, the trips to the Philippines, and throughout the Far East. He talked about life at sea, and the boredom. How boredom led him to smoke, and how smoking led him to drink. He also talked about his transition from alcohol to narcotics, how easy narcotics were to find in and around the foreign ports, and how he discharged from the Navy after 4 years.

By the time Leon arrived back in Fort Worth, crack cocaine had become very popular, and Leon saw it as a way to make easy money. He soon found himself connected to the local kingpin, another old schoolmate of mine, whom had grown into a brilliant but roofless man. Their union began Leon’s life as a mule, and in time, Leon gave in to sample the product. It was something he had promised never to do, and he quickly found himself utterly addicted.

His life became a living hell, in where he lost the respect of everyone around him. Crack entangled his soul and smothered out his character, leaving an untrustworthy thief whose only mission in life was to achieve his next hit. Traveling down that dark path, Leon eventually found his rock bottom. He says it is what all crack-heads must find, before they are able to change. For Leon, rock bottom was his own reflection in the mirror, holding a photo of his young son. “It was pride that made me realize I had to change,” he said, the FBI was closing in, and the kingpin had put a hit out on his life.

While he stared into the bloodshot eyes of his reflection, he reminisced, and saw how far he had fallen. In that moment, he decided to change his life. He surrendered himself to the FBI and turned states evidence against the men that hunted him. He then enrolled himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation center and recommitted himself to God and family. It was a long difficult journey, back from where he had gone, but he found his way back.

Leon finished his story just as we arrived at our destination, a church where I would listen to Leon give a presentation to the minister in the back office, promoting his book. Had Leon never told me about his time as a mule, I never would have guessed it; or his recipe: (1) hitting rock bottom, (2) making a decision to change, (3) seeking help (rehabilitation, council, and spiritual guidance), (4) committing to the change, and (5) fighting with all your might.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Night Air

My silhouette moves among them, stable cracks and shadows of the branches above, cased down by a full moon. They resemble a maze, or a spider’s web, illusions – and yet they capture my thoughts. We press onward; warm lungs and crisp night air, distance memories, and sorting things from care.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Journey

In this dream, I drift slowly down the center of a narrow stream. My raft is small, and the mist that surrounds me is so heavy that I can hardly see beyond my reach. The same night sounds that once sang to my ancestors also sang to me. They link past to present, as my thoughts roam the crowded aisles of my imagination.

There are two companions at my side, not on my raft, but walking along the shores to my left and right. I can faintly see them, their ghostly silhouettes moving eerily at the pace of my raft. They rival each other, each trying to lure me to either side.

The figure to my right is aggressive. He offers me incentives to end what he calls my journey, and dock on his side. The figure to my left is quiet; and he has a calm demeanor. He cautions me; saying that once I dock on either side, I cannot reenter the stream. I remain on my raft, still drifting, and unsure of what will come.

In the distance, beyond the figure to my right, hillsides began to form. I gaze intently at them, and still my companions appear cloudy.

“Some of your relatives are beyond those hills,” the figure to my right announced, “You can visit with them after you dock.”

I focus harder on the background and realize that the figure to my right is not alone. There are shadows moving behind him. Creepy, and silently, they go about their business.

“Let me see them first,” I say, “Bring them closer.”

“No!” he said, “First you must dock. Then you’ll see everything.” His voice was agitated. Then he calms himself enough to offer me more incentives.

The figure to my left had been quiet, but then interrupts. “Look forward,” he said, “Notice that the river is becoming narrow. It will eventually end, and you must choose before then.”

I look forward, and indeed the river is growing narrow under the night skies. I cannot see where it ends – and while I have not yet decided, I continue to drift forward.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bone Soup

I see soup; and how each ingredient is carefully added, one by one – a dash of love to form the base, and sometimes not. Perhaps a pinch of neglect; constantly stirred by the steady hands of time. Who shall taste of this soup? Now I see bones, once strong, but now for flavor; sprinkles of wind-swept dust and a smile on chapped lips. They may savor this soup, memories and things that cling, another dash of passion, and then some pain. The flames must be just right.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Plum Trees

One day, while plums were in season, and the middle schools were having a teacher’s conference, we had the day off, Richard, Tyron, and me. We also did not have anything constructive to do, so we set out on a quest to find unguarded plum trees. We searched up and down alleys and through crowded fields until we finally came to a young boy sitting in a backyard. A chain link fence surrounded the yard, and three full plum trees surrounded the young boy, butterflies, and cool shade.

We asked the boy if we could have some of his plums and began climbing the fence before he finished saying, yes. I chose the tree furthest from the alley, closest to the house, and began stuffing the large pockets of my baggy shorts. Richard and Tyron chose the other two trees.

Not long after we began picking, did a large figure suddenly appear at the corner of my eye. It was moving towards me so fast, that I dared not pause to confirm what it was.

With full pockets, I darted towards the alley, past Richard and Tyron, and with the large figure strongly barreling after me. Momentum, adrenalin, and the classes I had had in gymnastic vaulted me over the fence without breaking my stride, and I felt a breeze at the back of my legs. Something had missed me.

Safely on the other side of the fence, I turned to see what had been chasing me. It was an elderly woman, the boy’s grandmother, wildly wielding a rigid switch, and furious that I had gotten away. She was a large black woman, amazingly quick for her size, and her gray hair was flying in all directions.

She then spun around and went after Tyron. Richard was huddled underneath a tree, watching as Tyron tried to run pass the woman. She was hitting at him the entire time, swatting and missing his back and legs. Tyron did not vault over the fence as I had done. Instead, he placed his back against the fence, faced the woman and tried to take the switch from her hand. That made her even madder, as she spoke for the first time.

“Oh! You gonna fight back, huh?” she growled and started swinging harder.

“He said we could have some,” Tyron yelled, referring to the young boy, as he continued grabbing at the woman’s stick. She landed another eight, or so slashes before Tyron finally spun around and jumped over the fence. From the alley, he and I then called for Richard to run.

Richard was still huddled underneath a tree, looking like a frightened rabbit as the woman howled, “Come out of there you little crook!” She repeatedly swung at him, hitting limbs, and knocking down leaves and plums, until Richard finally darted out. Tyron and I cheered him on as he and the woman ran around the yard like a skit from the Benny Hill show. He then dashed for the fence – but not fast enough, for before he could jump from atop the fence into the alley, the woman landed a slashing blow across his back.

“Y’all stay out of my yard!” she yelled, as Richard fell into the alley, nervously laughing. We all laughed, except for the woman and the young boy. We jogged away; and from the corner of the street, we looked back and saw the woman still chasing the young boy around the yard.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Balance

In my dream, an angel appeared to my grandmother, Estella. It was a beautiful angel, steady in posture, flowing hair, silky garments, and a serious message.

“Your scale is balanced,” she said.

She then went on to explain the Scale of Life. That from the moment of birth, the scale records every thought conjured and deed committed. It holds good deeds on one side, and bad deeds on the other. The objective of the scale is to determine the fate of each soul that leaves this earth.

The angel then informed Estella that her time was near, and that because her scale was balanced, the deeds she performed from now on would be very important additions to the scale.

Hearing this, Estella became defensive and started naming some of the good deeds she had performed in her life. The angel countered each good deed by naming a bad deed she had also performed. This went on for minutes… until the angel hushed Estella.

“You are wasting your time,” the angel said. The room grew silent, as Estella thought desperately to herself. Moments passed, and then her eyes opened wide.

“What if I build a dam?” Estella said, “Would that be enough to tip my scale towards the left?”

“Yes…” the angel replied.

The dream then took me to a hilltop, from where I looked down at a stream that flowed from left to right. I had taken Estella’s place in the dream and understood the task I had promised to the messenger. The stream was narrow towards its left and grew wider as it flowed to the right. I could still hear the messenger’s voice, whispering that the stream represents life and souls flowing through it. It was unbalanced… and I understood where I needed to build my dam.

I moved down from the hilltop and began building my dam in shallow water. It was a simple dam, made of sticks and stones, held together by clay. It did not require any special skills but it was very effective. The water to my left began to grow deep, while the water to my right narrowed to a trickle.

Suddenly an angry voice yelled out, “Get away from there!”

I looked to my right to see where the voice was coming from and noticed that the water to my right led into a dark cave. I could hear the sound of heavy footsteps coming from inside the cave, splashing in shallow waters.

“I said get away from there!” The angry voice repeated itself.

I stopped working, staring nervously at the opening of the cave as the footsteps got closer. My heart pounded with nervous curiosity, and I decided not to wait for the owner of the voice to arrive. I ran up to the hilltop, where I felt safe, and looked down at the cave opening.

From there a hulking figure appeared and looked up at me, tilting its head slightly to the right. Hatred clouded its eyes and shadowy dark features as it moved along the stream. It had broad shoulders, plated with muscles from head to toe, and a familiar face, though I was too far away to recognize him.

He stood over my dam, looking down at it in disgust. I expected him to destroy it, but he did not have the power to undo my work. He could only intimidate and discourage. He then looked up at me. “If you ever come down here again, I WILL take you with me,” he said. He looked at my work once more - then back at me, holding eye contact as he walked back into the cave.

I listened to his footsteps move further away, and I became curious about his face. I then moved down from the hilltop and into the cave. I could see his large hulking silhouette lumbering up ahead, moving towards a light at the other end. I followed him towards what I thought would be hell.

When I exited the cave on the other end, I did not find what I expected. There was no fire and brimstone. Instead, it was a typical cityscape, buildings, cars, and people moving about. I turned my attention back to the demon, which then had transformed himself into a man. I saw him climb into a car, and I moved as close as possible. When I peeked inside the far side window, I recognized the demon as one of my coworkers. I then moved away from him, ran back through the cave, and returned to the green hilltop.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Descent

The other night, I fell partway down a flight of stairs. They were made of slippery oak and I was wearing socks of cotton white. I stepped onto the first step as I had done so many times before, but this time was different. In the blink of an eye, I was airborne. My feet went forward and upwards, and all my agility meant nothing. I knew exactly were I was, but before I could react, a baseball bat -as if swung by Barry Bonds- struck me hard across my back. It knocked out my wind; then a blow to the back of my head, my left elbow, and again across the center of my back. It was the sharp edges of the steps counting my descent, until I finally came to rest. Then there the reaper came to inspect, and insincere whispers reminding me of a fortune I once did not have, that I would one-day pass of natural causes. I took inventory at the bottom of my narrow escape and pondered whether it was unnatural to pass from a shove and the impact of bats.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Horde

In unison, they flow like a herd of sheep, single-mindedly marching towards wherever. Others are wolfs, cloaked as sheepdogs. They keep the horde moving forward, barking and snapping at the heels of any sheep who dares to get out of line or raise its heads to see where they are going. The wolf then grins back for approval from the shepherd who watches from the shade.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Cherry Flavored Jell-O and the Grinch

My brother Richard was a carbon copy of our father, in both appearance and personality. So much so, that our sister Debra once referred to him as “the one Judas amongst us.”

Except for a few special occasions, Richard and I normally got along quite well. This night would be one of those special occasions.

It began with daddy telling me that he and my mother were going out, and that seven-year-old I was in charge of my three younger siblings.

“Bet not nobody go in the kitchen while we’re gone,” daddy warned me with piercing eyes, “Or that ass is mine.” He pointed at me.

I recognized that look and knew that he meant exactly what he said. Richard and the girls were also familiar with that look, so they understood my situation. Daddy gave me one last gaze before closing the door behind him, and we soon heard his car pulling out of the graveled driveway.

It was a perfect opportunity to get into trouble, or show that I was responsible. I tried to keep everyone in my sight, and away from the kitchen. We watched TV in the living room, where everyone but Richard was content. He kept complaining that he needed to go to the bathroom.

“Can’t you wait?” I said, “They’ll be back soon.”

“No! I need to go now!”

I reminded him that no one could go into the kitchen, and he promised that he would not. The kitchen was in the opposite direction from the bathroom, which was down the hallway, so I finally gave in.

“Just hurry up,” I said... and he swaggered down the dark hallway, out of my sight.

While Richard was away, my attention shifted back and forth between the TV and the hallway. It never occurred to me that he would climb out the bathroom window, and in through the kitchen window, all for the sake of mischief. He then retraced his steps to rejoin my sisters and me in the living room.

Daddy had placed a trap on the refrigerator door, a small piece of paper at the door’s upper corner. Upon opening the door, the paper would fall unnoticed. Inside the refrigerator, daddy was chilling a bowl of cherry flavored jell-o. It was the reason he wanted no one inside the kitchen – and I had no idea that Richard had devilishly taken a huge gouge from the center of the jell-o.

I was relieved when daddy returned home, and proud that I had accomplished my task. The first thing he asked was had anyone been inside the kitchen.

“No daddy,” I said, watching him as he walked through the room and into the kitchen.

When I could no longer see him, I listened for any comments that he might make, while my eyes shafted back to the TV, where we were watching Sesame Street.

“Get your ass in here!” daddy suddenly yelled.

I knew that he was talking to me, so I sprang to my feet and dashed two steps toward the kitchen before stopping. “Wait!” I thought to myself, “What is he mad about?” There was no time to think. My thoughts were scrambled, and I knew I had better not keep him waiting.

He met me at the door.

“I told you not to let anybody in the kitchen!” He grabbed my left arm and jerked me forward.

“Daddy, nobody came in here,” I said, pleadingly and puzzled. He then snatched me stumbling towards the refrigerator.

“Then who in the fuck did that?” he yelled, yanking the refrigerator open and pointing. I stared, but nothing made sense until I saw the gouge. I took a mental snapshot of it, just before he threw me to the floor.

“I’m-ma teach your ass!” he promised and stormed from the room. I stayed on the floor, waiting for him to return, furious and afraid.

“He’s crazy,” I thought, “He set me up.” I believed that he had taken the gouge from the jell-o himself, just for an opportunity to beat me – but it made no sense. There was not much time to think about it. Moments later, daddy stormed back into the kitchen and snatched me up.

I dangled at the end of his grip, airborne between the strikes of his heavy leather belt, as he cursed me the entire time. I had never been so angry with him – and when he finished, he told me to take my “ass to bed.”

Richard followed me like a shadow, studying me as I went to the bedroom, crying and rubbing my stinging arms and legs. I sat on the floor with my back against the wall, while Richard sat across from me on the bed. The lights were off, but I could make out the curious expression on his face.

I soon stopped crying and began recalling the chain of events. “Why would daddy go through so much trouble to set me up?” I thought, “Why is Richard acting so strange?” “Why does he look so sinister?” Then I recalled that Richard was the only person to leave my sight while daddy was away.

Then it hit me.

“You did it; didn’t you?” I said - hoarse, looking across the room at him. Even in the shadows, I could see his lips curl into a devilish Mr. Grinch-like smile.

“Yes…” he whispered, now sporting a full grin. I was still rubbing the welts on my stinging legs.

For a brief moment, I felt relieved, thinking that I could tell daddy. “Maybe he wouldn’t be mad at me anymore,” I thought. Then I considered that he probably would not believe me. That he might even beat me again. “Why did you do that?” I said, “You don’t even like jell-o.”

There was an awkward silence before he answered.

“To get you in trouble,” he gloated for another moment and then left the room.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Great Power

The other night, I dreamt that I travel back to an old house to retrieve two hidden items. Someone had shown the hiding places to me years earlier, when I was a small child. A distant aunt that spends much of her time searching for the items now occupies the house. She was not home when I arrived, so I let myself in and immediately went to the hiding places.

The first item, an ancient wooden carving of two birds intertwined had been in plain view, concealed as part of a lamp. The second piece was a glowing golden stone, kept inside of a small wooden box, and hidden underneath one of the patio tiles. The tile was circular, and marked with a yin and yang symbol. One clockwise twist and it opened.

As I pulled the box from the hole, I saw my aunt returning home. She had a mean walk, short quick steps, and leaning forward for added momentum. She somehow knew that I had arrived, so she carried a concealed knife in her left hand, meant to stop me from taking her prize. She did not see me watching her from the patio, so once she was inside the house, out of my view, I quickly took the stone from the box and snuck away.

The two items were part of a three-piece set, that when joined would become an item of great power. I did not know what the power was, but I knew that in order to get the third piece, I had to first defeat a creature, a champion, inside of a large arena. To reach the arena, I had to travel across a desert. During my journey, I saw men hanging on crosses and surrounded by what appeared to be mounted soldiers. My view moved in close to the hanging man on the far right. He was very muscular and defiant as the soldiers taunted him. I did not stop. I had to move quickly because I knew my aunt had sent a group of bad men after me.

When I arrived at the arena, I saw the creature standing at the far end, comfortable and confident in its posture. In the past, it had slain many challengers. Still, I entered the arena. The creature resembled a man, except for the bright red hair that covered its body. It was also very intelligent, polite in how it spoke to me. It was invulnerable, except for a single weakness that no man had ever found, so it had no reason to fear me. It was willing to answer all of my questions, except what was its weakness. Curiously, it offered that I might learn its weakness by attending a class. I asked how long the class would take, and it said 3 days. That was too long, with the assailant so close behind me.

The creature allowed me to feel the strength of its arms, and the sharp wire-like coat of red that covered them.

“Do you want to dual now?” the creature asked me. If I had said “yes,” it would have attacked me immediately.

“No,” I said, and then left the arena.

I went to where I could take the class, hoping to get a crash course; but all I found was a 72-hour video. The video was very boring; monotone, and discussed all the things I did not want to hear. It explained -in detail- various fighting techniques, and then added that it would not work on the creature. It also kept saying how vicious and invulnerable the creature was.

With time running our, I decided to find the answer on my own. I left the room and went out into the city. I found the city populated by creatures just like the one inside the arena. They were going about there day just like normal people, playing in the park, going to work, and pushing baby strollers. I approached one of them, a teenager that was rollerblading. They were all supposed to be invulnerable, but I saw his right elbow dislocate. I shook the hand of another creature and again its elbow dislocated. It was a common flaw amongst them, and I thought I had found a clue to the champion’s weakness.

I went back to the arena and found the champion still polite. It allowed me to feel its strong arms again, but this time I was able to dislocate it, just like the others. Surprisingly, the creature did not seem to mind. It allowed me to continued inspecting. I was able to look inside its arms, where I looked desperately for a soft spot. I was poking and jabbing at it, politely, not to let on that I was trying to harm it; but it was no use. The creature, its bones and marrow, its cells, and even its blood were hard as stone. It would not even bleed.

Frustrated, I left the arena and continued my search. Later, in a conversation with a female creature, I learned that she did not like water, or to be touched by it. It gave me an idea to return to the arena, this time with hands dripping of water. When I did so, I found that it took away the champion’s strength and made its hard arms soft. I had found the third item, water – and the great power, courage.

I challenged the creature to a dual, and two-inches of water suddenly filled the arena. When the lord of the creatures realized that I had learned their weakness, he announced that he himself would dual with me. As he removed part of his armor, I realized that he was different from the others. He was larger, without the fur, very muscular, and resembled an Orc. I agreed, and then awoke.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Tin Soldier

How can the body, mind, or spirit soar without the other? It was supposed to be a happy occasion, news of my promotion, but I could not look him -the messenger- in the eyes. He smiled, but I knew that he was only studying me. I knew that if he stared too long into my eyes, he would see my unhappiness. I looked away, and I wondered if he noticed. I hoped that he would not look at me again, but he did. He kept trying to make eye contact, and I kept trying to pretend that I fit in. He kept congratulating me, but success means nothing to a fractured heart and spirit. I am the tin soldier that marches ever forward. Simple are my steps, and empty is my chest, except for this throbbing pain. I am nothing but accomplished goals strung together with no life in between.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Stained Glass Windows

I watched from across the room as the large, sweaty, black woman shouted out, “Yes Lord!” and then went into convulsions. Her hands and hair flew in the air as she danced and hopped out of control. Then she fainted into the arms of a nearby woman, who gently lowered her to the floor. Near the front, another woman shouted out as the Holy Ghost took over her body. It was Sunday morning in the Church of God and Christ, and slanted sunrays from the East warmly poured in through the tall narrow stain glass windows.

It was a small church, constructed of pine, with a tall white steeple on top. The church sat in the center of a large grassy field with gray gravel-stones bridging a narrow pathway from the street until the church’s main entrance. There was another entrance at the rear of the church, leading into a tiny kitchen, where the women sometimes prepare meals. Beyond the main entrance, an aisle began dividing two sections of hardwood pews and ended with the front row. People of all ages filled the pews, in darks suits and ties, and colorful dresses with hats that had flowers.

Big mama watched from the piano near the pulpit, though she could not play very well. She also could not carry a tune. Even as a child of five, I noticed it, how her voice stood out like a howling cat amidst hounds that sang in harmony. Still, she loved to sing loud.

The room was hot, and colorful handheld fans waved in the air that smelled of Wrigley's Spearmint gum. I sat with my back against a pew, feet dangling and sometimes alternately kicking in the air, as I studied patterns in the stained windows and daydreamed to the sound of big daddy preaching fire and brimstone from the pulpit. He was a quiet man, except when he stood there.

Big mama then called me to sing a solo in front of the congregation. I was too young to be embarrassed. “Deep, and wide,” I sang, rocking back and forth as smiling grownups looked on, “Deep, and wide!” they rocked with me, “There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide!” Another woman jumped out from the pews and went into convulsions as I finished my song with wide eyes.