The Short Story of the Longhouse

She hadn’t texted back in over four hours. He was suicidal.

But freezing to death wasn’t as painless as he had hoped. Turns out there was no drifting off into some permanent numb. No, it happens from the inside out.

Arctic atmosphere entered his lungs one breath at a time. Blood freezing into atomic razor blades. Tiny cellular slices gradually reducing him to a pond of icy flesh.

He picked himself up off the -14-degree shoulder and got back in the Subaru. He had only lasted eight minutes away from it’s heated leather seats.

She wouldn’t let him take her out. Wouldn’t accept money. Wouldn’t let him rub her feet. This last offer a ploy to steal secret sniffs from between her toes whenever she looked away.

On occasion, stalking would pay off and he would ‘bump’ into her at the coffee shop. She would make him sit at a different table. Would buy her own coffee. Work diligently. Make him text her from two arm’s length away and wait until her submittals were complete to reply.

45 minutes later, ‘I’m just in my phone down era, what are you doing to better yourself?’ Thirteen seconds of eye contact then back to work.

She was an impenetrable fortress. Pussy locked up so tight prime Khan couldn’t penetrate.

Yet he had persisted. He was just interesting enough to get her response rates down from two days to under sixty minutes. He didn’t care how demeaning it felt. She was the last female on earth worth living for.

But now she was drifting away and he was at the edge of yet another mid-life crisis looking down into an abyss forty years deep. He had been here before.


He married young and had kids like you’re supposed to. They had bought a house together. A minivan. Maxed out 401ks and 501cs. Sam’s Club Sundays after church. In-laws close by for date night Thursdays to avoid the weekend rush.

In the begining even the sex was sublime. Her body count was two, he was three, and they took it to 1000. Lewis and Clark fucking and feeling their way west into the great unknown.

But not even his square jaw, chiseled abs, and full head of hair could overcome his lack of earning power. She came from money he didn’t understand. His $75k engineering salary not enough to keep her wet past menopause.

By the time their third child turned one she was fucking the resident physician between shifts at the NICU.

He knew but couldn’t bring himself to confront her. Felt too much like failure.

He entered into a secret competition with him. Read up on tantric techniques to up his dick game. Started writing poetry again. Would surprise her with home-cooked candle-lit dinners at the end of her work week.

She picked up extra shifts and came home with strange seamen inside her. Let him taste it before rolling over and turning out the lights.

But she didn’t leave him until his sister died. Seeing him weep was the last straw. She told him she had no choice that he made her do it. He signed the papers, gave her everything, and checked himself into a psych ward.

That was the last time he was suicidal, almost ten years ago.


But things were different now. He had hard fought wisdom on his side. He had braved the post-thirty dating wasteland, taken licks from his share of aged-out single moms, and learned to channel his desperation through his writing.

Nobody read him but he imagined future generations finding his hard drive in a post-apocalyptic rubble heap. A half starved blue eyed youth with bony fingers would hold it high above his head in front of circling savages.

‘We are not alone in our suffering, if he can find a way forward, so will we!’


And then, a ding. It was her. ‘How are you?’

Fuck it. What’s one more ride on the merry-go-round? He had a self to sacrifice to the furnace of the future.

Rebirth of the Living Dead

It was the morning of his 42nd birthday. Early spring in rural Oklahoma. A day and season marked by desperate longing. Both pinnacle and gulley. Both beginning and end.

Today was the day she would give herself to him.


The sight of her made him sick. But he couldn’t help himself.

For weeks, every Friday he would wait patiently for her to arrive at the coffee shop owned by the only gay couple in town. The coffee was below average and the service worse but there was a table in the corner with an ergonomically perfect chair that relieved the pain from the worsening CTS in his left wrist just enough to make the experience worthwhile.

But she, she was glorious.

He studied her over the top of his company-issued HP Elitebook. He noticed the crook of her neck with its pale supple skin. He noticed the peacoat brought out of storage a month too early because it was too cute not to. He noticed how little she picked up her phone to scroll. An utter lack of fidgeting. No sideways glances.

She commanded the room in stillness. No one else seemed to notice. He couldn’t stop.

She would walk by his table once, or twice if he was lucky, on her way to the restroom. He contemplated sending anonymous drink after anonymous drink to get the numbers up. Perfectly timed deep nasal breath to catch her scent. ‘Evian skin cream agent Sterling,’ he said almost too loudly from behind the screen.

And then one day as she was leaving she looked him square in the eye and waved with a smile. He was on a call dumbfounded. Wanting to puke he brought his hand to his mouth while his cheeks expanded under sudden pressure.

He blacked out.

He didn’t know for how long but it didn’t matter. There was no evidence of actual vomit anywhere. There was a scrap of paper containing a phone number and the initials JL as the nose of a smiley face.

He stopped sleeping. He wrote poems about her instead. Deleted and blocked for her. Stayed home sick about her. Sweat through sheets in her name.

She would let him see her on their usual Fridays but prioritized work. She would respond to his text messages but only after several hours. Sometimes days. She was 29 and wouldn’t date anyone with kids or more than five years her senior.

Two strikes but still swinging.

He knew she wanted a full-time family. Not the time-share model. But her boundary served only as a levee for the rising tide of his relentless pursuit to ultimately overwhelm. He had put in six semen-retaining months. He would make it twelve more hours.

She had agreed to submit for at least five unadulterated minutes in exchange for full immunity from future advances. One final wave to wash one or both of them to sea.

She had picked the hotel on the county road next to the pull tab bar. He had wanted the casino resort but it was too far to drive. He had accepted coffee instead of dinner, motivational texts instead of nudes, poetry instead of pussy. The Thundermine Motel wouldn’t break him any more than she already had.

Childless men of her age didn’t approach. Chinless incels with grey eyes and rectangular hips. Or, naval gazing gym bruhs too drunk on the scent of their own steroid shrunken scrotums to notice.

The traditional mean had been obliterated by the progressive extreme.

She followed the playbook of a bygone era. Kempt hair. Book clubs and coffee shops. Portrait quality posture. Firm feminine physique. Holding back her hoe for her husband. Even managed vanity into obscurity.

She was too good for the times. But she was lonely and his writing made her wet.

She wasn’t caving, she was paying bank rates on loaned love. She would wear the outfit he sent and follow the included instructions. She would get out of the experience what she could and give him what he needed

It wasn’t easy picking an outfit for a goddess. He wanted her to stand before him in all her splendor, provided for and proud.

He had settled on a white crop top hoodie from Anthropologie with Burberry skirt. She would take these off and leave on the knee-high stalkings, thick cotton panties, and custom-made JL pendant.

What he wanted most was her three-month-old muff. They had grown them out together. He would salivate thinking about pulling thick cotton aside to bury his being in her heavily wooded hobbit hole.


He woke in a panic. What time is it? Hadn’t slept in months and his fucking birthday is the day his accursed soul sanctions him to miss! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK how did he doze the day away!

The nightstand reads 9:19. Quick math. He can make it by 10:00 if he didn’t shower and didn’t get pulled over. The AWD in the Subaru will help on the dirt roads. He thought, ‘Maybe she will like my musk,’ as he pulled pre-planned outfit over clammy skin.

Text ding as he peeled out of the neighborhood read, ‘I will be here and ready when you arrive.’ Heart tapback and ‘omw’ reply.

It helped that he had made several planning trips to lock in the best room and negotiate special housekeeping measures with Bernice the motel manager. He could make this drive in his sleep.

He parked the car at the far end of the Thundermine directly in front of room 115 at exactly 9:59. The light was out in the room. The only other car in the parking lot was Bernice’s town car out front of the office.

Wim Hof breathing to reduce his heart rate as he approached the grey panelboard door. One last inhale to find his center as he turned the knob and stepped into the dark rental.

Before he could flip the light he was met with the hiss of what sounded like an aerosol can but was not Secret deodorant spray. Something wasn’t right. He was dizzy. Losing vision. Legs like spaghetti.


When he came to everything was according to his instructions. Almost.

The red bulbs had been inserted into the two nightstand table lamps and were the only light in the room. Red silk sheets and pillowcases on the bed perfectly made. Champagne on ice for affect that neither of them would drink. Shostakovich’s Symphony #6 rising ominously from the Bose Soundlink he had sent ahead. Crop top hoodie and Burberry skirt on the floor.

However, he was naked on his knees at the foot of the bed. Bare ass resting on heels with hands tied behind back. Rope around his neck and anchored above to the canopy bedframe. Tight enough to keep him upright, loose enough to keep him alive.

He looked down in front of him. His phone was ringing. Vision not yet 100% but he was certain it was her. By rising up on his knees and leaning to the left he was able to swing his right leg out from under him and land his big toe on the answer button. Successfully sliding it to the right on the fourth attempt in time to accept the FaceTime request.

‘Nice cock. Too bad you’re incapable of listening,’ came her measured tone over the speaker as a shadowy figure emerged from the bathroom.

‘Jackie, we had an agreement.’

‘Yes we did. Fortunately for you, Bernice has grown quite fond of you and will take care of all of your needs. She will give you what you REALLY wanted and I will see you Friday for coffee.’

Reality too unreal to believe and dreams too good to be true, he closed his eyes and let the waves wash him away.

Hello! Love You Bitch Goodbye

She won’t let me love her. I can’t let her go. I put her in my trunk.

It’s midnight at the Kum N Go on I-40E. Orangish red halogen bulbs. Pall Malls slow burning holes in the dark fabric of a moonless night.

A middle aged, heavily mustached man in a cutoff jean shirt slumps inside surveying the parking lot with bug eyes through thick glasses.

Based on what I remember from chem 101 and an approximate body weight of 105 pounds I have less than 30 minutes before she wakes up. Fill the tank and switch subjects.

Love calculus.

Twenty years ago it was love geometry. Proximity and a few basic formulas revealed the contours of any shape. Times have changed. Old approaches no longer penetrate new hearts.

Or was it these new scrotum scrunching boxers from Hugo Boss? Testicles forced to retreat inside prostrate. Diminishing pheromone emissions. Hugo’s raw dogging her right now bent over my kitchen table. I’m numbering my t-level on one hand and unnutting my prostrate.

Focus. Twenty minutes to discover new math and rescue my future from the death grip of destiny.

Why did she have to wave at me? Why couldn’t she just have gone about her day and left me to continue inserting tidy formulas into LCD illuminated cells designed to measure future values of current expenditures?

The tiny glow on the horizon is NOT my friend. I should know this by now.

I can’t help it, my body animated by mosquito soul. A warrior class blood sucker who ascended to Valhalla in a bygone era. Elevated to human form in the present. Still irredeemably drawn to the light. ‘Hope Kills,’ will be my epitaph.

FOCUS. Fourteen minutes.

Untouchable peach pressed into well worn jeans. Equestrian mornings, motorcycle afternoons, siren song nightshift.

I drive a Subaru and my dog has fleas.

But my thicker than average shaft. I’ll show her the data. Convince her of the benefits of being a standard deviation to the right on the pussy stretching bell curve.

I’m hard just thinking about it. Cool breeze gently blowing the scent of precum into my wet nostrils.

FUCK! Six minutes, maybe less. A muffled moan from the trunk audible ahead of schedule.

THINK. What did the pastor say, love conquers all? Prepare to be conquered my love.

The tank has been full for fifteen minutes. Thick glasses behind the counter lost interest. Plus, I’m 94.5% sure he’s an ally. The time is now.

Hang up the pump. Walk around to the trunk. Open quickly. Use the element of surprise to prevent tire iron wielding demise.

Too late. The first strike folds thick shaft in two. Which, in turn, folds head to knees meeting strike two between my temples. There was no need for strike three, I was out cold.


Horn honks. Trunk opens. I climb out. Head throbbing. Broken dick bleeding out.

Passenger door swings open. Pink Cadillac parked on the dirt service road.

One armed toddler behind the wheel. Wordless command, ‘Get in.’

Take the wheel. Drive west together.

Blinding sunrise behind us.

Pearl Necklace: Part One

pearl necklace

He parked in direct sunlight, killed the engine, and kept the windows of his ’94 Sunbird up as active penance for the sin he was soon to commit.

It was 12:55 on Friday afternoon in Northeastern Oklahoma. The bank marquee read 108 deg. F as a black Audi Q3 assumed its stall in a nearby vacant lot.

Even without binoculars, he could see down Jackie’s blouse from his lookout on the third story of the adjacent parking structure.

‘Lord, thank you for 20/20 vision, panoramic sunroofs, and the plastic surgeon on 3rd Street,’ he whispered before running a thin tongue across dry lips. His sponsor had given a testimonial on the benefits of practicing gratitude at a recent PAA meeting.

‘Come on little guy, shows about to get started,’ encouraging his crotch with his best Jackie voice. He closed his eyes and tilted his neck back 90 degrees bringing the back of his balding head to rest atop a headrest-free baby blue bucket seat.

His mind now a movie screen featuring a scene from three weeks ago. Her ladies taking center stage squeezed between two elbows resting on a jewelry case.

‘Can I take anything out for you?’

‘I want a pearl necklace.’

‘This what you have in mind?’

Well-moisturized hands moved automatically from inside the case to behind her neck, holding in place a sequence of small white beads buoyantly adorning her gravity-defying bosom.

‘It is now.’

He had no idea what he was doing and didn’t care.

He was organically aroused for the first time since mom had found him downstairs at second base with a Tinder date on his 29th birthday. He reached 34 last week a virgin. He lived next to the stack of magazines in her basement.

But none of that mattered looking down from the roof. He had the high ground now. Thick, hot blood in his neck underneath new pearls. Eyes reopening.


Squinting against the blinding heat and fogging windows in the Q3 below, he trained his sights on the now folded-down back seats.


‘Did you bring the comforter? I can’t keep telling Manny I’m redoing the display case every time he asks about my red knees.’

‘Are you wearing the panties I left you?’

‘Yes, Chuck.’

‘Good girl. Now back up into Chucky’s lap.’

Things were looking up for Chuck. He had put 1500 miles and 15 days between him and his #metoo moment.

The allegations were 100% factual but he was too pretty to be served up as prison meat.

Nightmarish clarity hit him with the realization that the 19-year-old intern was no longer conscious. Looking down at her bloodied, unmoving asshole he understood it was his future he was peering into.

Reflexively puckering in response, ‘This must be what they mean by empathy.’

Within twenty minutes of fucking and choking the life out of the office copy girl he had abandoned his beachfront condo in Laguna, leaving his Porsche 911 and Mercedes G-Wagon in the garage. He had accepted the fact the VC firm he had built and was about to take public was no longer a viable source of income or teenage pussy.

He pocketed his Bitcoin Ledger and the $10,000 cash he had stashed in the fireproof Sentrysafe under his California king canopy bedroom set. He bought an unmarked car from Lou’s chop shop and hit Interstate 10 headed east. Looking back was not an option.

Less than a week later he was coasting on fumes into a Tulsa Quik Trip. Twelve years of Bitcoin investments transferred to Scottsdale hookers for hot wax hand jobs.

‘I’ll never get laid again,’ he thought out loud, ‘or worse, it’ll be in long-haul cabs underneath toothless truckers on the road to anywhere but here.’ Poetic fatalism.

But God had plans for Chuck that didn’t yet include sliding down to the ranks of lot lizard.

Almost within reach, Jackie was white-knuckling the gas pump as if it would extract from her all the frustration of a woman cursed by breadwinner status. Starved by her own success, she hadn’t been fucked in forever, spousal loathing seething behind her downturned mouth.

She wasn’t 19 but she had a vibe Chuck could taste.

‘I need a ride.’

‘I need a hand back at the shop.’

Jackie didn’t ask Chuck what was wrong with his car or why he couldn’t Uber. She didn’t ask what his plans for the car were. She didn’t ask him anything. As far as Jackie was concerned, no man with less than 8″ would have balls big enough to approach a slim, middle-aged woman with a ring for a ride.

Her jewelry store didn’t open for another 15 min and was never busy on Tuesdays. She made a mental note to scrub the security footage as she walked Chuck back to her storage closet converted office.

‘Manny won’t fuck me in here, says it could disrupt sales, but I bet you will.’

‘Why would you want any Manny to fuck you?’

‘He’s my husband.’

‘Of course he is.’

‘Don’t mess up the do, customers coming soon,’ she said turning her neck 90 degrees to his left while pivoting 180 degrees counter-clockwise on her heels, bending at the waist, and lowering her check to the desk.

‘Wait,’ taking a fistful of hair to halt her descent while simultaneously sweeping aside loose papers, a photo of her dog Dayna, and a Hello Kitty stapler. ‘Bare wood feels better.’

The next eight business days she took lunch on Chuck’s lap in the backseat of her Audi. She disabled the security system at the shop and gave him a key to come and go after hours as he pleased. She left money at night and leftovers in the morning.

Sales were up.


The sun was setting as Celeste came to. Everything hurt. She couldn’t swallow. Shallow breaths. Stabbing recollections breaking through forgetful defenses.

No, not now. Get to safety first.

To be continued….

Barred For Life

He had a PowerPoint to update but couldn’t because she was basting the sweet bread.

She must do this on purpose to prevent his deck from reaching the catsup overlords looking to optimize their warehouse footprint after an otherwise canceled market analyst had managed to make public a well-argued case for imminent recession.

She had her back turned, ignoring the impotent fact of his existence while serendipitously preserving livelihoods, one warehouse-closing presentation at a time.

The catsup commanders however, in exchange for temporary employment, knew as much about him as he did. For example, they knew that despite his current productivity lag, he would, ultimately, opt for the cold comfort of empty corporate platitudes over risking rejection at her hands.

Yet loaf after delicious loaf he lusted, eyes fixed just over the edge of his laptop screen, back slumped against the graffitied coffee shop wall.

Warm liquid fats applied evenly around the edges. Steady shoulders. Supple elbow rhythmically pivoting between butter and bread. Heels of her flats pressed firmly into the white linoleum at slightly more than shoulder width.

Slender frame saran-wrapped in olive leggings and a grey, over-starched baker’s smock dusted in gluten-free flour. Her top and bottom halves coming together to form a nostalgia-inducing earthy granite aesthetic.

He is 7 years old again. Running inside from a pogo-ball workout on the deck of grandma’s house sweaty with deep crimson running down his leg from a fresh knee scape.

He was crying softly.

The kitchen was to the left of the dining room as he entered through the sliding door from outside. Eunice had just taken the lemon bars out of the oven.

A violent passivity baked into her bones, Eunice, like her piping hot lemon bars, required sufficient time to set up before enjoying.

He had burst into the grizzly den hot with blood in early spring after a long winter.

She turned to face him sliding tulip print oven mitts from warm, combat-ready knuckles.

‘You’re bleeding,’ she whispered, beating him to the punch and anchoring his feet to hell itself.

The abrupt change in momentum carried his center of mass over his toes and created a sudden pressure on his bladder which released down his leg.

He was a pussy wet with tears, sweat, blood, and piss getting fucked by a 70-year-old woman with a 12″ spatula.

Later that night he would bury his terror under bar after bar of her tart treats charting an underground course towards certain virginity where, later in life, he would leave the sweet bread at the coffee shop returning home in time to masturbate before meeting deadline.

Wayward Semen

wayward seamen image

Her mouth hole was flapping open again making a perfect target. He was certain it was within striking range.

The last time he had retained semen for over 60 days he had shot a load from his seat on the couch over the coffee table splattering the TV and a photo of his mom next to a 6′ sunflower protected by a hobby lobby frame with the words ‘stand tall’ etched vertically on both sides.

He had given up semen retention for six months after that, returning to Facebook dating for a steady diet of hands-free nut-busting.

Years prior, in the aftermath of his divorce, he had learned that Facebook dating is the Golden Corral of online dating which is the dumpster dive of actual dating: patrons so desperately hungry they are willing to eat anything.

Occasionally when he logged in he would reflect on how his relationship with the website mirrored the relationship the website had with the general public, that being, he was going to suck it dry and pretend as if nothing had happened.

When he swiped on her, he added a note with the question, ‘What’s got a bottom at its top?’

Adding a comment to a like was free on Facebook, unlike Tinder, and increased the chance of sex on the first date by 7.5%, even if it was an actual rip-off of a cracker-jack joke.

‘What?’ Celeste replied predictably eager.

‘Your legs and I belong between them,’ he fired back, reveling in his statistical prowess with fingers crossed she was within 35 lbs of her profile pictures.

This was the 12th time he had used this line that summer and, hopefully, the eighth to get him laid the same day.

When she arrived at his Manyard Mannor loft apartment ninety minutes later wearing Lulu tights and a Pink crop top tee he was surprised at how little of her exposed stomach spilled over her waistband and how close to kempt her hair was.

He grabbed her wrist pulling her inside and shutting the door in one motion. Understanding his nonverbal command she dropped to her knees. He held back her hair while she took him in her mouth. Twisting her around and pantsing her in time to get off two pumps from behind before blowing his load inside her.

‘Fuck. This. I can’t. Shit. You need to leave. I. I have to go.’ Words blurting out to the rhythm of each genital convulsion.

‘I’m naturally shy and don’t normally do this on a first date. I think I’m falling for you. Go get me a towel.’

‘It’s just the oxytocin, it will wear off. I should have just came in your mouth.’

‘You can but it’s my turn now.’

45 min and three semi-flaccid, teeth-grinding orgasms later, as she was gathering her things to leave, ‘I’m ovulating, thank you for your service.’

He wasn’t nor had he ever been in the military.

In the weeks that followed, he had had to first block her number, then when he couldn’t block her iMessages from coming through on his Macbook without disabling the feature for all his contacts, he resorted to weighting his phone to the bottom of the river and switching to a burner.

When that wasn’t enough he deleted all his social media accounts and ate his deposit along with three months’ rent to move across town into a different loft half the size because he couldn’t afford any larger deposit after draining his 401k to break his lease at Maynard Mannor.

Even then he had to pawn his TV to pay for the Uhaul, accepting a discounted rate on account of a discoloration on the screen likely caused by jerking off too close to the set, the clerk had explained.

‘I was sitting on the couch across the room.’

‘$79 is the best I can do.’

Loading the Uhaul by himself in late August had pushed him to the brink of heat stroke before he remembered an anonymous Twitter account he had created to distract him from his misery and refine the punchy one-liners that landed him in this mess to begin with. He went inside to cool off and build his empire.

Twitter, or X or whatever had been studiously noting each of his breathless condemnations of the fairer sex since first login and subsequently filling his feed with content from the red-pilled incel community leading him to indefinitely swear off all women and renew his efforts towards semen retention.

It was now October. His nuts had swollen to rival the cheeks of the winter-prepping local squirrels and forcing a slight bow-leggedness which he exaggerated for effect as he entered the coffee shop, ordering his pumpkin spice latte like Wyatt Earp ordering the Clanton brothers to stand down at Tombstone.

He preferred to sit at the table around the corner away from the register, but Carol the 62-year-old single dog mom had beat him to the draw and would likely remain seated until the tax extension deadline. She pretended to be an accountant for a big firm but really just did her neighbors’ taxes in exchange for home-baked goodies she pretended were for her non-existent grandchildren but were actually for her severely overweight dog.

A quick scan of the rest of the shop produced only one viable location to enjoy his PSL for a few minutes before returning to the office. He took his seat at the community high-top in the back near the restroom.

It was the sound of crocs scurrying across laminate flooring that hit his tympanic membrane first, drawing his head up from his phone in the direction of what he anticipated to be an attacking chihuahua.

It was Celeste. Hands on hips, belly now forming a recognizable bulge behind her Lulu waistband, mouth open barking unintelligible syllables in one continuous stream of delightful triumph.

She had found him but he wouldn’t give up that easily, he would fire back, 60 plus days of ammunition on demand.

He would end this how it started. Right here. Right now.

The community table providing the necessary cover for his left hand, which was already in his lap beginning to draw his weapon from its trousered holster.

‘Why are you looking at me like that, did you not hear anything I said?’

The delivery driver opening the back door caused a draft of warm, danish-scented air to rush out and meet the cool morning as he stood up, cock in hand.

Many years later, over a campfire, he would tell their teenage grandchildren it was a combination of exhilaration, terror, and a warm draft that caused him to profess his love that day, pants falling to his ankles, wayward semen painting everything in sight, including grandma, their unborn mother, and the unsuspecting delivery driver.

‘Sometimes, love happens to you.’ He would say, extinguishing the fire.

Chili Recipe

There was a young man once healthy except for his donkey who had constipation

The young man tried everything to get the donkey to shit until one day he read an advertisement for a new doctor in town

This was exciting because he lived alone and the nearest city was a three-day donkey ride a distance his constipated companion could not travel

Following the instructions on the advertisement the young man made an appointment for the next day explaining to the gum-chewing desk attendant his interest in homeopathic gut remedies

Upon arriving and filling out the paperwork requiring him to divulge his bank information, family of origin, list of all the books he had ever read, driver’s license, social security information, and finally, medical history with full release authorization a male nurse appeared beckoning him from the lobby down a dimly lit hallway to the tidy Dr’s office looking out onto the parking lot of the Kwiquie Mart where he re-explained his interest in homeopathic gut remedies

The doctor who was understandably very busy servicing alone the entire village avoiding unnecessary movements like eye contact behind fogged spectacles far away surmising every detail both shared and unshared while calculating a precise medical formula designing a custom cure

No question was asked

Then after exactly 60 seconds the Dr’s pen began furiously moving across his pad for 92 seconds when he violently tore off the notes in the direction of the young man making eye contact and entering the room for the first time asking in the tone of a commandment do you want to be healed?

It was the young man who was far away now noticing the nondescript painting of a donkey up and to the left of the examination table braying in anguish due to the artist’s inability to include a straight line anywhere on his broken frame

Wordlessly removing the prescription from the Dr.’s outstretched hand the young man turned to leave with instructions to have it filled at the nearest pharmacy and schedule a follow-up in 10 business days

Remembering the nearest pharmacy was a 3-days ride from his very small village the young man was suddenly very hungry for his semi-famous donkey chili

My First Father’s Day Without You, Pops

No son thinks of a day when his dad isn’t there. For a young man, his father is a fixed entity who will go on forever – whether he likes it or not – moving the world to make it safe for the tribe.

A son imagines growing to be the man his father would be proud of, stepping either into his shoes or over them, but never absent his influence. His father is like gravity to his young consciousness, inescapably drawing him into the form he must become.

And now my dad is dead and I am left to finally answer the question every father demands of their sons:

‘Who are you without me?’

-fathers to their sons-

But without you here, the answer I worked all those years for now eludes me, leaving behind a mixture of anger and desperation in its wake.

Like the man who traveled a long distance to end up where he began, holding only a map to nowhere.

I started working towards autonomy around the age of twelve when I landed my first five-figure job. Around that same age, I began regularly testing my physical limits via manual labor, various athletics, general fitness, and diet. As a sophomore in high school, I weathered my first ‘La Noche Obscura,’ with a half-dozen more to follow over the years, each time emerging more spiritually whole. Mentally and emotionally, I have done my fucking work wrestling my shadows.

Bike Crash

Relentlessly I strived,
getting up early to grind. 
Even sat on the cushion and cried, 
refusing the instinct to hide. 
And now you rode off and died
leaving me untied.

Yet, beyond the burning horizon of my anger, I know there’s more to our story than a dead end.

I know a man’s journey is helix shaped, stretching out as we circle round, and that I am neither lost nor defeated. I know that your passing has indeed brought me home, that this is a good thing and brings with it another, richer perspective.

I know that I can now hold a looking glass to our history and absorb whatever it is I see without a point to protect.

I can now see how you maintained a silent steadiness about you, consistently working away like a windmill to deliver power to those nearby. I see how you would engage with almost anyone who rode your bus but chose your circle carefully. I see where you would measure a man’s intentions against his contributions, weighing his character in the balance. I see how you searched for the truth behind the facade and freely shared all you could discern. I see that you pressed on down the trail of life, striving for inner stillness through tireless motion. I see whenever you fell, you got up.

All except this last fall from your fat tire Specialized. The fall which claimed your life on the banks of the Minnesota River at age 79. From this fall it is I who must get up on your behalf.

So get up I will.

Rest in peace pops, Happy Father’s Day.

Commemorative tweet from the location where he was found, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

This Should Have Been A Love Story

Pop culture tells me I ought to love myself and thrive but my imprinted degenerate prefers self-loathing to survive.

So instead of offering you a heartwarming love story, here’s yet another cautionary tale from yet another dysfunctional dreamer. I do promise, in my telling, to refrain from all woe-is-me-isms, both general and specific gnashings of teeth, and bro-hemian style sausagry of any kind. What you have here is just a simple serving of the facts with a side or two of retrospect baked in for anyone craving deeper nourishment, petulant as it may be.

The relationship could be summarized with four basic strokes: it began with a brush stroke, then some key strokes, followed by a bunch of breast strokes, and culminating in one abrupt back stroke.

I’ll explain more below, but suffice to say here, I loved her from the first and, in fact, still do. So much so, I fell to pieces and pushed her away. Hear me out, I know it sounds dumb, but let me explain, I bet it’ll be instructive or at least entertaining.

Returning to the self-loathing I mentioned above, it’s not just imprinted, but insidious as well for when the sun shines brightest, most subtle then are the shadows. What I mean is, my demons dress like daytime deities and soothe like sirens. So the sweeter life starts to look, the more happiness I’m stacking, the more them demons really get to schemin’.

for when the sun shines brightest, most subtle then are the shadows

Like, for example, when I fall in love. Right when it starts getting momentum, that’s when the feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and insecurity creep in claiming she brought them. Gnawing away at the edges of my confidence until I’m convinced the best thing to do for both of us is to break it off (back stroke).

Spoiler: as it turns out, you can’t project deep-seated internal narratives onto other people, cut those people out of your life, and hope the narratives don’t bother you anymore. My Christian history should have taught me this as even the salvation equation requires an ongoing relationship in exchange for mercy.

you can’t project deep-seated internal narratives onto other people, cut those people out of your life, and hope the narratives don’t bother you anymore

But I’m now a couple strokes ahead of myself.

So what happened was, she stole my heart with her art. No, seriously.

It was a late afternoon in early autumn when I saw a painting of an old friend of mine on Insta that looked like it knew him better than I did (brush stroke). Bonus: the artist was tagged in the post, single, and smokin’ hot. That was more than enough for me, I needed to know her, or at least know that she knew how talented she is.

Into her DM’s I dove (key stroke). Surprisingly enough, right back she responded. We exchanged a few messages and even set up dinner and an art show later that week. I was stoked. Unbeknownst to me, my baggage was about to begin unpacking itself in a full force feindish frenzy.

She arrived at my place precisely two minutes ahead of schedule in a dress I’ll never forget. But it was her eyes that sealed my fate. Somewhere between green and blue stirred a sea of wonderment breaking hard against all attempts at composure. Then she smiled and I exhaled, realizing too late that I was clammy and the vibe awkward. ‘Come on in,’ I managed while leading her to the dinner table, buying time to collect myself while shifting the focus to highlight my homemade handiwork.

Perched on the table was a less than memorable meal of more-than-bite-size beef stew, crusty cornbread, and a crème that wouldn’t brûlée due to failure of the culinary torch (likely operator error). She was graceful. We joked and took turns teasing each other until my cheeks were sore from smiling. Two hours passed as effortlessly as the levity in our laughter. Time to hit the art show.

Perched on the table was a less than memorable meal of bigger-than-bite-size beef stew, crusty cornbread, and a crème brûlée that wouldn’t brûlée

I don’t remember much from the show aside from how sweet the fruity pebble cocktail we shared at Glacier Chocolate was and how natural it felt to take her hand in mine. We walked and talked and didn’t look at a single piece of artwork. Nothing could draw our attention from each other. At the end of the evening, I closed my eyes and went in for a kiss, which landed, and sparked a physical chemistry that would prove electric (breast stroke).

A couple of weeks later we made it FB official. A few days after that we held each other close and exchanged, ‘I love you’s.’ This was the first time these words had passed audibly through my lips in over seven years to anyone other than my three children. I fell hard and I fell fast.

She had recently taken the plunge out of corporate America to focus 100% on two things: her art and her daughter. That was crazy sexy to me as I was contemplating something similar with my writing but was still too scared to launch. We started to imagine a future together with our kids crawling over canvas’ in a country homestead, her painting, me writing, no one fully dressed. I remembered what it felt like to not be alone. A problem I hadn’t even realized I had seemed suddenly solved. We planned a weekend getaway to Broken Bow to celebrate our new relational wealth. Life was all heat and light, at least for a hot minute.

We started to imagine a future together with our kids crawling over canvas’ in a country homestead, her painting, me writing, no one fully dressed.

Insert insecurities. I told myself that it was for the best, but the reality was I lost my cool with my boss who turned me over to HR, first for a suspension, then separation. For the second time in as many years I found myself involuntarily terminated without a plan. You could say the universe was helping me into the entrepreneurial world, which helped to make me feel better but did little to pay the rent. The funk had found it’s way in and wouldn’t fight fair going forward.

To my credit, I did push back a little against the demons. For a while at least. The experience was like playing catch with a boomerang, only the boomerang is outfitted with a running chainsaw that explodes if you hold it too long or put it down. For example, I would notice myself in a funk and, rather than blaming her, would evaluate my environment. Often one of my support legs would be broken, like my diet or workout routine, at which point I would work to repair it before the funky boomerang came back and chopped off another one.

The experience was like playing catch with a boomerang, only the boomerang is outfitted with a running chainsaw that explodes if you hold it too long or put it down.

After several rounds of this behind-the-scenes battle, I began to slip into a suspicion that it was the relationship itself that was doing the damage. Not my employment situation, mood disorder, or traumatic history correlated with this time of year. Instead, I began to entertain the doubt, ‘Maybe this isn’t my future?’ And, ‘Haven’t I got into trouble in the past when ignoring my gut?’

Looking back from my current vantage point and given the self-work I had yet to do, it feels like it was always destined to fail. Like the demons just gave themselves a sixty-day handicap to make more of a sport out of it. Whatever the case, the lesson landed, which was, ‘Your ass belongs to us.’

75 days after our first date I succumbed to a feeling of utter powerlessness and quit, over text.

Young Pablo

Not that it always has to be that way. In the future, I could work a program in cooperation with my partner, much like the one above where the couple stands to get stronger, not weaker, during tough times.

You both wholeheartedly agree that loving each other incredibly well and healing yourselves should be your top priority

Since it’s still fresh I find myself yet digging, but I think that’s the real lesson my demons didn’t see coming.

Relationship work happens in real life, not in my head and no matter how strong the demons feel, their only staying power is that which I concede in isolation.

I’ll sign off for now, but drop this heavy heart a healing line and let me know how your relationship handles conflict. Let’s get some ’22 momentum rolling in the right direction.

Dearly Departed – Lessons in Love For Anarae on Her Birthday


ANARAE – you have been on my mind, as you always are, this time of year. Sadly, we can’t spend your 29th birthday together, so I have chosen to type out my thoughts and, even if I can’t hold you while you read them, perhaps they will wrap themselves around another, warming them in hope or help or healing, as you were so apt to do, in even the most unlikely of moments.

I love you Anarae.

I don’t mean in the conventional, familial, expected-because-we-share-blood kind of way. I don’t mean it in the sappy, manufactured, Hallmark way. Nor in the distant, 1000-yard-smile way that you probably remember from your childhood as I, a decade older, ran off to chase girls my age leaving you behind to work on your chess game. And most definitely not in the sentimental, ‘love-what-you-can-no-longer-have,’ kind of way.

See, love has taken on an entirely new meaning in my life of late. It feels as if a fortress of stone has crumbled down from around my heart, opening me up to a new type of existence, one defined by gratitude, peace, and joy. My entire being has begun moving into this space as if it were a seasoned traveler taking a new trail in an ancient wood. As I feel my way through fresh, yet familiar surroundings, I have begun to taste the reality of all you have taught me, of how you have cared for, even carried me through, so much darkness over the eight years since your passing, a darkness that I all too often blamed on your untimely departure.

But, as you know, nothing which happens in the past can be at fault for actions taken in the present. I am sorry for carrying so much pain and heartache in your name for so many years. I know now it was your presence, your spirit, and your compassion that, through it all, was gently and patiently warming the cold embers of my heart inside a healing hearth.

Today, looking back with eyes you helped open, I struggle even to see the sorrow separate from the saving.

I love you Anarae.

I love you through and through. I love you raw – unguarded, unfiltered, and unapologetically. I love you with the same love that created the universe and moves it still – day, night, heaven, hell, pleasure, pain, and everything in between. And, even though we fell short of consciously sharing this bond while you were still here, I need you to know I feel you now.

game changer

But more than my feelings about you and life as a whole, I want to share back what you’ve taught me, my top three transformative takeaways if you will. Call it my moment to admit a small but rewarding defeat as if to finally throw my hands up and say, ‘Yes Anarae, I hear you.’ See, even this stubborn ole mule can grow up for the better, despite, or rather because of, your unrelenting nagging. So, for your birthday this year, I give you my top three, attempting yet again to take credit for your work while throwing but a few sparse accolades back in your direction:

1. acceptance is not surrender

2. the destination is the journey

3. hope is happening

top 3 transformative takeaways over the 8 years since your passing on to a new plane
getting together

acceptance is not surrender–

Anarae – you are the most accepting person I have known and that is not just my opinion, everyone agrees. You had a way of drawing out the best in people and, like a self-fulfilling prophecy of awesome, pointing to it and saying, ‘See, I knew you had it in you!’ This was most especially annoying when you did it to me despite my best efforts at resistance.

Maybe it was the ten-year age gap, but in our years together, I had a different relationship with the concept of acceptance, one which seemed to be hardening like petrified wood as I ‘matured.’ So, it would be fair to say neither of us were surprised by my hesitation to embrace you dating anyone, much less an ex-con whom you were convinced was on a path of reformation, one whom you believed you were chosen to support. You accepted, I resisted.

Harder yet to accept was the ‘I-told-you-so-reality’ of his taking of your life less than a year later, a pill so alive with hatred, agony, and utter despair it took several years for me to fully digest and almost swallowed me whole more than once.

Back then, I had yet to learn that you become the ideas and emotions you swallow, the spiritual equivalent of the old adage, ‘You are what you eat.’ I was clinging desperately to my idea of justice, as well as the emotions of what should have been had you just listened to me, had the bar not let you in as a minor, had the cops acted more quickly, had the world been a better place. And on and on. I felt righteous, believing that if I simply held on tighter to my version of what should have been that I could actually change the past. If only I just kept pushing.

So push on I did. I pushed my wife of eight years to divorce me, I pushed away from my three young children for almost a year, I missed my brother’s wedding, went broke, and landed in jail for DUI. Hatred of my history was eating my future from the inside out. I needed to change my diet, it was time to let go of my resistance and begin exploring the acceptance that came so naturally for you.

‘Hatred of my history was eating my future from the inside out.’

It wasn’t easy, especially as stubborn as I am, and as wounded as I was, but I began to let new ideas and emotions in which lead to new experiences, new beliefs, and in time, the new way of being I describe above. So much so, that a month ago, on the anniversary of your death, I finally accepted the man who took your life, and fully forgave him.

No more hate. No more agony. No more despair. I could breathe again. I was both lighter and stronger than before. Strong enough to accept that the differences between Shavelle and me (pictured above) pale in comparison to the likenesses and that only love has the power to heal us both. Turns out, accepting a difficult history and forgiving the man who took so much from our family wasn’t surrender at all. In fact, it may turn out to be the greatest triumph of my life for never again will darkness be able to gain such a footing on my heart.

Accept your past, fall in love with it even, lest it limit your future

–the destination is the journey

Anarae, you mastered chess at a very young age and stuck with it, going on to compete nationally and racking up an impressive array of hardware in the process. But it wasn’t the trophies you were after. You loved chess itself, checkmate being just a passing mile-marker on the road of endless games, growth, and gratitude.

The irony being that the most celebrated masters of any discipline tend to be the ones who, rather than obsessing over the podium, relish in the repetition of relentless practice, and focus on the gritty day-in-day-out grind and the lessons it has to offer. You mastered this approach not just in chess but in life as well.

When you were tutoring younger kids in math or chess, you focused on the relationship, not the test result, working to ensure the student felt safe and secure enough to succeed. It was the same with sports and musical endeavors, you innately sought out and nurtured the tender moments, surfacing the sweet from the sweat of struggle. You knew how to work hard and have so much fun in the process that, from the outside, it looked like you were hardly working.

‘you innately sought out and nurtured the tender moments, surfacing the sweet from the sweat of the struggle’

I, on the other hand, was more apt to sprint to the finish line only to start another race. School was about the shortest path to the highest marks, sports about earning the letter, friends more about what circle they ran in over who they really were, work was about the money, and on and on. In fact, I remember at a job interview in my early 20’s, not long after moving back home from college, a total stranger after speaking with me for only a few minutes, interrupted me to say, ‘I don’t think you in this role is a fit for either of us at the moment and if I had one piece of advice to give you young man, it would be to SLOW DOWN.’ I always had a suspicion that you had secretly set up the interview and told him to say that.

Whatever the case, fifteen years later, I am beginning to listen. I am teaching myself to cook and how to laugh and learn through all the delicious missteps. I am back in the weight room, this time for the enjoyment of pushing myself more than the muscles. I am reading and writing almost as much as when I was a kid and for the same reason; because I enjoy it. I am even letting Max and Christian teach me how to skateboard at age 39, mainly as an excuse to get to hang out with them all day at the park, but also to show them that it is ok to suck and keep trying.

It must be that at some point not long ago I accepted the fact that the roses are going to smell good with or without me, so I might as well slow down enough to add that small joy to my life. That working hard wasn’t worth it unless I could find the fun and share it with others. And that each goal, dream, and destination is just the starting point of the journey to the next one. Or, to summarize, moving slow and steady down an endless, uncharted, but chosen path is infinitely more likely to produce happiness than sprinting along the provided public pavement.

‘each goal, dream, and destination is just the starting point of the journey to the next one’

–hope is happening–

A former leader of mine, whom I very much respected at the time and still do, once introduced himself to an auditorium full of hard-working, blue-collar machine operators, technicians, and floor leaders by saying, ‘Hope is not a strategy.’ He then paused, instinctively waiting for the moment to land, and land it did, to snickers which grew into a swell of uproarious laughter.

He knew his audience; masters of the moment, skilled tacticians well versed in solving real-world problems under duress where abstract ideology and flowery philosophy fail to turn hardened steel crankshafts and 450 horsepower motors.

This was my clan then, and for as long as I can remember stretching back to my early days of 40+ mile bike rides, 10k+ runs, and early mornings in a canoe on the MN river with my dad from age eight to when I graduated to baseball, basketball, football, track, and various hard labor jobs shoveling rocks and wheeling wheelbarrows uphill; in all these endeavors I learned you either put up or shut up. Words were nice but they didn’t get the job done, and if you couldn’t outwork me, I didn’t care what you had to say.

It was as if I was working the writer right out of me. The questions I hadn’t answered, or much less asked were; why I was working so hard? To what end? What was it all for and where was it taking me?

‘It was as if I was working the writer right out of me.’

Losing you caused me to start asking these questions and begin digging for meaning.

Helping me along was a deep, unshakable hope that wouldn’t give up on me which, like a still small voice, kept urging me forward through it all. It was a hope that the real me, long ago buried by various hurts and hangups, would be rediscovered, revived, and gradually re-emerge from the depths made stronger by weathering weakness. It was a hope that would do whatever it needed to in order to get me to listen, travel down whatever path, refusing to quit prior to manifestation. It was the same spirit that animated your life and breathes life into these words.

This hope may not have been a strategy as much as a lifeline, but without it, I wouldn’t have made it. The way I see it, in your final exhale was a gust of hope that was carried by a steady breeze of which I inhaled just enough to begin my rebirth.

And now, on your birthday, after eight long and winding years of struggling through the re-birthing canal, I find myself feeling more and more at home in my own skin. With what was once a thin wisp of hope for a better future, now filling my chest with confidence that it will be. Confidence that I can live out and up to your legacy of love in action for all of my days to come. Hope is happening, I am home.

Anarae, I love you.

Rest in peace lil sis.