Consensus, Map, Musical

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

In a dream I heard the words whispered, “Her essence is so old it no longer recognizes the shadows of life.” I don’t know what it meant but the voice was musical in my sleep but I woke up with a familiar pain. One for which I no longer have a name.

It was the ache of having lived a life uncharted, with no direction, no map. The aimless wandering of a fool searching for any glint of recognition in human or animal. Wild animals are becoming more familiar, trapped in their loneliness, distrustful of anything outside their instincts. My base desires becoming needs.

I no longer live like the others. I understand those mysterious untimely deaths. They are of habits known only to the deceased, leaving everyone living to wonder why. Close relatives believing what danger surrounded their loved one is something that used to be not knowing that the danger is. Always.

Can it be contagious? Does it become an itch to which their is only one scratch?

Field, Carrot, Clock

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Immediately, he thought about Alice in Wonderland. The white rabbit frantically leaping into the air at every glance at his oversized pocket watch.

He snapped off the end of his carrot and kept thinking. More than a cup of coffee, chewing woke him up in the mornings. This morning, however, his mind seemed to be stuck in that fog between dreams and the reality of the world that his eyes took in.

He stared at the clock, hoping against hope that a story would come to him. Something resembling a beginning middle or end, but no matter how much he chewed or looked around the room, he stayed in his daze. A story was unable to develop, he was only able to fish out words, sentences but nothing that connected into an overarching narrative.

SNAP! He was getting closer to the end of his carrot but still no more alert than when his alarm had gone off. This morning, writing felt like dipping an oversized spoon into a bowl of alphabet soup. He was unable to be as precise as he’d liked and so meandered along, tapping away at the keys like a jazz pianist.

Tossing the end of his root vegetable in the trash, he turned to look out the window. His eyes finally registered something that pulled him into the land of the awake. A figure maybe 200 yards away, stood in the empty field near his house. As soon as he looked, the figure begin walking towards him. He turned back to his keyboard and typed:

A figure protruded from the weeds in the empty lot.

It was a good start, and further than he had written that morning. He looked back outside. The figure was still walking towards his window. A small mouse, crawled up his leg and bit his left calve.

Flinching from the pain, he reached down and touched the area. The mouse chomped down on his finger and hung, dangling with each of his movements.

Looking out the window, he could see the figure, now across the street, biting the air, holding out his hands to secure an invisible cob. The mouse crawled up his arm and reached his shoulder, biting down on the skin inside the clavicle. Right up against the outside of his window, the figure was smiling and licking at the invisible cob, furiously whipping his tongue side to side and shaking his head along it’s length.

He jumped up from his desk, flung the mouse from his hand and crawled back into his bed. Maybe sleep was better.

Feminine, Dramatic, Solution

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He kicked the dust and shoved his hands into his jeans. She slammed the hood of the car down and dabbed at sweat on her forehead. Pulling a cigarette from a pack, she let it hang from her lips and crossed her arms on top of her head.

“Shit.” He kicked the dirt again, sending another cloud of dust toward her.

“It’s not the oil, she’s just an old car. We’ll wait for someone to drive by and hitch a ride. Relax.” She lit her cigarette and put her arms back on her head, her hands dangling on either side of her face.

He stared at the hair coming out of her armpits and curled up his nose. She caught his look of disgust and laughed.

“Bitch, what’s your problem?” She flicked the cigarette at him and pulled out a gun. He stepped back. She walked around the car, stopping at each tire to shoot a bullet into the rubber. The car sat lower now and the sun was getting higher.

“There’s two left in here.” She tapped the gun. “I’m not going to use one, so why don’t you shoot yourself twice and end your insecure, sniveling misery.” She tossed him the gun and turned around, grabbing her purse from the car.

He watched her walk down the road. Not a car passed until her image started shimmering and wavering with the heat coming off the asphalt.

A Peterbilt blew past him and the gun, stopping just after her image on the horizon.

“Fuck it.” he said.

Just before she shut the passenger side door of the Model 567, she heard two gun shots. She hoped for his sake he had not missed the second time.

“Did you hear that?” the trucker spat out his dip and pulled his cap lower. “Sounded like gunshots.”

“Nothing that dramatic, probably just some loser on the side of the highway putting an end to his misery.” She rolled down the window and rested her hand on the ledge.

“Where to?” the trucker shifted the rig into gear.

“Do you ever get engine troubles in this thing?” She pulled out another cigarette and pressed her red lips around the filter. She lit it and slipped the butt in between his lips.

“Sure, sometimes it can be a bitch.”

“Well, what about a ride along mechanic?”

Back, Extreme, Thirsty

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Uncle Acid drove his dead beat nephews, nieces, sons and daughters to the circus. He’d arrive with the gang and leave with some money. The kids would learn a lesson today.

The morning was moist and the empty lot was soft underfoot, clinging to all the hand-me-down shoes of the young troupe. They made their way, shortest to tallest, toward the striped tent. Cotton candy, kettle corn, funnel cakes, fried chicken wafted into their hungry noses. Not a single kid, however, turned his gaze toward the vendors.

“Straight for the tent.” Uncle Acid had said. He didn’t speak much but he underlined his points with beatings, so talking wasn’t necessary.

Uncle Acid, following a few feet behind, stopped at the beer cart. Something about today was making him extra thirsty, but water wouldn’t cut it. Never did. A pain was slithering up from his gut to his chest. A familiar pain. The same pain when he left his sister at the foster home as a kid. The same pain as when he took the money from his partner and skipped town. These were not the first beers to reduce the pain and they would not be the last.

Holding both beers in his hand, Uncle Acid reached a wrist through the tent flap and pushed it aside. Entering the tent, he looked around for the clown in red coat tails. The sooner he found him, the sooner he could get his money, and more beer.

In the center of the arena, he saw the kids standing in a semi-circle around the clown he was meeting. Uncle Acid watched by the entrance.

The clown was blowing up a long balloon. It shot out like a sausage casing being filled with meat. It grew and grew, longer and longer. Uncle Acid frowned. The balloon kept growing. With each exhale from the clown, the balloon grew. It was curling around the pole leading up to the trapeze artist’s perch.

The kids, their backs to Uncle Acid, slowly turned around to face him. They all looked at him, holding his two beers. The clown kept blowing, now the balloon was reaching out across the wire to the other side of the arena.

Uncle Acid gulped down one beer and dropped the empty cup. He pulled a cigarette tucked behind his ear and lit it. Looking up at the balloon, he couldn’t see the end of it anymore. The clown still blew, so it must still be growing.

The kids started walking on the balloon, they followed it’s curling path around the pole and across the tightrope. As they did, they seemed to shrink.

Uncle Acid felt a tap on his shoulder, it was the end of the balloon. The clown stopped blowing and tied up the end.

“HA HA HA HA HER HER HA HA HE HE…” the clown laughed. Uncle Acid turned back to see the end of the balloon. The kids, now the size of cigarette butts, hopped onto his shoulder and began climbing into his ear. Just as the last kid climbed in, Uncle Acid touched the cherry of his cig to the balloon. It popped, along with the clown, the tent, and the muddy lot.

Uncle Acid had another flashback. When he came out of it, he told us all to hop in the car, we’re going to the circus.

Chauvinist, Television, Attention

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Little Johnny stacked his potato chips on the TV tray. His eyes were glued to the salted yellow starch disks while Wally and the Beaver “gee whizzed” and “golly’d” all around their picket fence neighborhood. So concentrated on balancing his Lay’s, Johnny didn’t hear his daddy come home.

Daddy walked past little Johnny, into the kitchen where Johnny’s sister was. Little Suzy was drying the dishes.

“Where is your mother, Suzy?” Johnny heard his father ask.

“She’s outside.”

Johnny heard the sliding glass door leading to their backyard open and shut. Though the sound was muffled, he could hear the familiar conversation.

“Madge, you’re out here smoking reefer again while the kids are inside taking care of everything. Johnny can help with the house stuff. Instead you have him stacking potato chips on his tray like a retard in front of the God Damn Television. Suzy’s working her ass off in the kitchen. What the fuck are you doing? Practicing for a Coca-Cola commercial that no one will ever see?”

Johnny heard the clatter of a ceramic pot breaking. It was the sound of his mother’s favorite response. He knew that later, Suzy would be the one to pick up the broken pieces. Once, she had cut herself and her mother had screamed at her to be more careful because she was getting blood on the white shag carpet.

“Raymond, go fuck yourself. You’re not a man. You can’t talk to me that way. As a matter of fact no man can talk to me that way.” Johnny’s mother lisped.

“Madge, I’m talking to you as the father of my children. I go to work so we can have a lot of these things. You’re welcome to get a job. Or do some of the housework. But you can’t have the kids be doing the work. They need to be kids.” Johnny’s father pleaded.

“Gee Whiz Wally, do you think mom will let us keep the dog?” Johnny looked up to see how Wallie would respond to the Beav.

“Golly Beaver, I just don’t know. We’ll–“

“–Fuck the mailman or even the milkman. I was this close to sending the kids down to the liquor store for some groceries so I would have 20 minutes of fooling around.” Johnny’s mom pulled his attention away from the show and into a realm of adulthood that made Johnny quiet and still.

“Is that what you want Madge?” Johnny’s father was barely audible, but Johnny recognized the pattern and now knew the words by heart. This time, however, there was genuine fear coming from his father.

“Madge, what are you doing? Hey, be careful, you’ll cut yourself. Ouch! hey. Stop! Fuck! Ow–”

“Gee whiz mom, can we keep him, huh, please, can we keep him?” Johnny turned his attention back to the TV.

The sliding glass door opened and Johnny’s mother through heavy breaths called his sister. “Suzy, bring me those rags and shut your eyes. Johnny, leave your tray on the sofa and go down to the corner store for some bubblegum, there’s a nickel on your father’s dresser.”

Johnny blew a big, fat bubble as he walked back up his driveway. POP! Wiping the gum from his face, he saw a rag soaked red hanging from the trashcan outside. Suzy must have cut herself again. Gee whiz.

Smile, Miracle, Painter

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It crept up the corners of her mouth and stuck like the bend in a banana. She stared at the splashes and splotches of oil-based chunks daubed on her canvas. This was truly majestic. An act that defied nature, more miraculous then that J.C. born of a sexless act. The textures, colors, shapes and composition from which she could not tear her gaze were indescribable beyond the basic elements of a painting.

She dropped her brush. The desert’s grit clung to the paint stuck to the brushes toe. The once indigo splash was now a textured nib of yellows, oranges and browns from the Mojave’s sands.

Tears began pouring from her eyes, as a memory flashed in her mind. Her father calling her by her name, Lucy. The image she had plucked from the fringes of the intangible was now reinforcing the meaning of her name; light.

Lucy’s name had meaning now beyond that crass coat hangar of a word that pulled her neck to look in the direction of anyone who called it. Lucy. This was her name, all in an image. All in the ethereal. The painting seemed to twist and bend, a galaxy of exploding stars, planets created and worlds extinguished.

Lucy. Light. See.

She could not move. Her being had found root in that moment. Presence. This was her purpose, meaning, the yin to her yang. She belonged here, in front of this painting, as audience and creator. An infinite loop of admiration, disgust, praise and critique, darkness and light. All equal parts of the whole.

The sun was disappearing behind the molars of the San Gabriel mountains. In the mouth of the valley she was left standing as a sigh of relief whipped up the desert sands. The paint, not yet dry, made for the perfect trap and in a single gust of wind, the painting was erased by the desert.

Lucy, shaken out of her trance, picked up her 12-oz. Fresca, wiped the sand from the rim and took a sip. Then she kicked over her easel and walked to the car.

My last confession

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
1,407 words

I must be falling. My suit jacket is bunched up under my arms and flapping around my head. A strip of polka dots slaps around my face. My calves and white cotton socks exposed. Shoe laces whip my shins. The wind changes pitch as it passes through the circle I’ve formed with my lips.

Forgive me father for I have sinned; it is…

     The air is getting colder. I look down and see flecks of shine coming and going on a canvas of blue. The ocean coming up to greet me. I make out, almost directly below me, the Golden Gate bridge.

I pray I hit it so the story ends.

The bridge whistles past and out of instinct I point my toes to the water and press my arms to my sides. The air rushes into my lungs just before water rushes in my nose and past my ears. My eyes are shut but less and less light makes it through my eyelids. I put my arms out to slow the dive.

     I open my eyes. All around are people. Some swim gracefully above, others motionless and fall past me. I see a man in shorts and a polo pushing past a motionless woman in pearls and an apron. Her hair wrapped around her face, pointing her way to the surface. People were everywhere, submerged, floating and swimming, looking around confused.

I look down. A mass of behemoth black shadows swirls below me. I look up. Pants, belts, socks, skirts, blouses, bras, thongs, ties, jackets, shoes falling toward me. People kicking and thrashing toward the light. I see people at the top burst through the surface and take a breath of air. My chest starts to burn with envy. Naked bodies fall toward me.

I need oxygen.

O’ my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee…

     I started to push up as if there were solid objects below my feet and hands. I am heavy with wet clothes. A woman removes her shoes and fights upward. I pull at the water to fight up. I kick off my own bloating leather soles and pull off my socks. A loose tie wraps around my neck as I push upward. I tear it off and begin removing the rest of my clothing, always gyrating upwards toward the light. The burning in my lungs starts to feel like the image of a film reel being eaten up by a flame. I’m feverishly kicking like a frog while my hands tug away at the belt. I pushed off my pants. The shirt doesn’t tear quickly enough. I look down and begin to panic.

     The shadows seem closer and the light farther away. Something touches my foot and instinct kicks in. I look straight up, now completely naked and cup my hands for full force. I’m beginning to exhale in short bursts that grow longer with each snort. I’ll run out of air soon and then, out of habit, inhalation will take over.

I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my whole life…

     Next to me, a man grips the legs of the person above, trying to pull himself up. He exposes the man’s ass and they both fall further down. They reach for me while their mouths fill with water and sink to the swirling black masses.

A woman below me reaches for my leg. I kick at her hand, but she grabs my ankle. A bubble of air leaps out of my throat but the muscles tighten their grip on my body, and I pull both of us forward. 

     I won’t make it to the top with her extra weight. The burning in my chest has been replaced by spasms. My lungs pounding in their cage. I begin to sputter. Whatever air is left in my lungs turns to bubbles in the water. The light is just a few strokes above me. I look down and see a man grabbing at the woman hanging on to me. I kick at her hand, she lets go, now fighting off her own leech. I push forward and in another two strokes, the light blinds my eyes.

Thank you, father.

The light disappears.

#

In an abandoned house off the 215 freeway I go to confess my sins. The minister sits behind a plaster wall from 4:00 pm to 4:52 pm. He enters through a hole in the outside wall because the front door is boarded up. Sitting in the master bathroom, he takes confessions through a glory hole. 

I walked in with the dead eyes of a junkie, unsticking my eyelids from the caked cocaine and running eyeliner. Another day wasted. Given up to the night before. I had time to confess before Father Ibsen spent the rest of his night suckling at any booze he could find, nursing his own demons. I stooped to put my face by the hole. Parting my dry lips with my tongue, I recited the script.

“Father forgive me for I have sinned again.  I know not what I did but I know a blue-eyed, red-haired devil in fishnet stockings made me do it.”

A lighter clinked and hissed. Tobacco hit my nose. Smoke poured through the hole and made my eyes well up. His words curled through the haze.

“Tell me son, what have you done that you say the devil made you do?”

My eyes tried to focus. I listened to my breathing and my mind clarified for a moment. Guilt has a queer way of turning me into a saint. The few moments in between coming to and my next blackout I find myself curling into a ball and begging my inner child for forgiveness. My ego quenches the thirst, but my self flushes it into oblivion. However, feelings don’t mean facts, so I answer honestly.

“I don’t know but the evidence keeps piling up behind me.”  Father Ibsen passes the cigarette through the glory hole, filter ripped off. I extend two yellow fingers to accept. 

“Son, in my terrifying experience the demons don’t scratch, tear, bite, claw, scream or yell, rip, shred or gnash their teeth. No, they brush your hand, touch you lightly on your thigh and whisper in your ear. They’ll give you sweet words and pour confidence down your throat, inject self-esteem into your veins and breathe life into your nose. It’s a slow seduction.”

I took a long pull from the cigarette. With no filter, the smoke punched a hacking cough out of my lungs. I choked it down to hear the rest of Father Ibsen’s sermon.

“They make you think you are doing all the work. That you make the decisions and take charge of your destruction. So that by the time you feel the scratching, tearing, biting, clawing, screaming, yelling, ripping, shredding, and gnashing of teeth you think it’s the demons but it’s really the angels giving all they have to try and pull you back. While the demons lay back, pissing and blowing snot bubbles all over themselves with laughter at the violent struggles of their boy scout doppelgängers.”

Father Ibsen stuck two fingers back through the hole. I handed him the cigarette and he continued.

 “That is the devil’s greatest pride. She twists her forked whiskey-soaked tongue around yours until you can’t tell the difference and when you think you know, she has you.  Her trick is making you think all the rules and regulations will save you, but the fortress is really a prison.”

The words were ironic coming from the fiery, vodka drenched breath spurting out of the hole. He chuckled and finished his impromptu sermon to the choir.

“So, it makes me laugh, son, until tears stream and sides ache, when I hear one of my children say, ‘the devil made me do it’ because son, aren’t we just the devil?”

His final words sounded like an admiring mother mildly scolding her mischievous child.  I heard his chair creak as he stood up. He passed his collar through the fuck hole, spotted and stained with sweat and semen, and spoke the last words I ever heard from his mouth. “Time for this devil to change costumes. But you should sit on this side of the wall. Hearing the insanities of the other, keeps one’s own in check. Their ain’t no glory on this side of the hole, any stone age queen will tell you the same.”

end

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Multimedia, Bite, Eagle

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It used to be a symbol of freedom and strength, bald though it was called. There were statues in official buildings and statuettes on the tops of flag poles. It was tattooed on the soldiers, officers and citizens with overwhelming pride. The eagle.

Now the laser shows had taken over. Lights pointing in all directions, splayed in all sorts of colors. Dots on walls, shapes bouncing off flat surfaces.

At first there were lasers only in the hands of civilians. At sporting events and theaters, jokesters would point single, red lasers into the eyes and crotches of athletes and actors. The more responsible among us used the lasers in academic settings, pointing at important points within lectures. Then video went viral and seemed to spark the consciousness of all mankind onto one laser beam.

A young girl, taking her parents lasers and adding some of her own, taped all of them together and stuck them on the weather vain of her roof. As she stepped back to admire the lasers whipping in all directions the wind would blow, she fell off the roof and never was the same, but neither was the world.

An explosion of tributes made to the girl, Lucy, became know has Lucy’s laser’s. People were putting together lasers with everything, on lawn mowers, through cereal boxes, on car windshield wipers, their dogs tails. They started adding other media to the mix, lasers playing out the scenes of movies to music and interpretive dancing. Soon, there wasn’t a time of day or night, or a direction in which you could look when a laser beam could not be seen.

This was the end of the eagle. So fickle were the people of the country, that they blamed the eagles weak eyes on the biblical downing of great birds. Almost like a plague, the baldies fell from the sky. Chomping their beaks and grasping with their talons on the way down, seemingly hoping to clutch a branch or telephone wire.

“The laser and its beams are what make us strong now. We were wrong to follow that stupid bird.” And so at every official gathering, public event, statue and statuette, the eagles were slowly replaced with lasers, light shows and multimedia extravaganzas.

This was the way the country found something they could control.

Extraterrestrial, Prisoner, Distance

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Dust. So much swirling in the air that it became mud in the eyes and chewed up cake in the mouth. Their ears built dams of wax and stone. Their noses reduced to only to hold up glasses, unable to pass air in or out from the mucus and wet clay caking its opening.

This was where we sent our poorly behaved, even badly behaved of society. Those who lost their cool or nerve or patience and acted. They were not banished to a cage, safe and warm and well fed. They were sent to the far end of the western United States, on the outskirts of Bakersfield, California. Once the heartland, now simply a vast swirl of dust from the beaches all the way to middle of the eastern country.

To resume their lives and learn from their mistakes, they’d have to find the lines of wire that ran from West to East, leading them home. Or die. There were checkpoints with food and water but they would have to be found. Often times they were lost in the dust storms. Missing a check point meant starvation and none of the safe houses along the way were evenly spaced out. There were no calculations to be made along the way. No planning or rationing, just pulling oneself along the wire to the next symbol of hope.

It might take months, or years. Never less than months to make it back to the livable Eastern United States.

When the prisoners arrived, they would be so fundamentally changed, that the states called each survivor a “remarkable recovery.” Under their breaths, however, officials were more terrified of the blank stares, lean muscle and wild hair.

These men and women crawled their way back to what, at the beginning of their journey’s, they called home. Upon arrival, however, there was nothing comforting or homely about it. For the rest of their lives, their minds would be trapped in the swirls of dust. Their bodies would wander through their former lives like cosmonauts on an unfamiliar planet. Aliens to all those around them and to themselves, living in an alien world.

Rugby, Shy, Shine

Flat-nosed. Ears like used tinfoil. Arms, legs and a neck like chiseled stone from a sculpture still in progress.

Ashley stood on the sideline of his final game, waiting for the coach to put him in. His knees and spine had only enough thread for 3 or 4 more scrums. Only the adrenaline from the roar of the crowd and the knowledge that millions of viewers around the world were watching at home. He just waited for the clock to stop before entering the game.

In an interview the day before, the reporter had asked why Ashley had not opted for the Rejuv. Procedures. Athletes at the age of retirement were extending their careers, and their 7 figure contracts, by the 10’s, 20’s and 30’s. Why had Ashley decided against it.

Whistles blew and the clock stopped. The coach twirled his hands around indicating a switch, when the line referee lifted up the placard with his number, the stadium came alive. They chanted his name and stomped their feet.

“Ashley, Ashley, Ashley…”

Ashley put up a hand, waving as he approached the young teammate whom he was replacing. They hugged and Ashley tussled his hair, playing up his image of the older player.

The whistle blew again, but the crowd still chanted his name. Ashley barely realized that he had already locked into the pile of the scrum. His muscles taking over for memory, they began pushing the pile toward the goal line. The rock came loose and the younger players ran, lateraled and jumped until the next scrum.

Ashley’s neck was sending images to his brain. Images of frayed wires barely connected, a rope swinging in the middle of an old, rickety mine shaft, scissors hovering over the last wire connecting a bomb. Before the impact, Ashley knew this would be the last hit his body would withstand.

As a kid watching his idols play on TV, Ashley realized all his favorites eventually had to stop playing. his eyes would shine with sadness but there was the anticipation of new players with different styles and personalities.

Then Ashely started playing professionally and many of his idols had returned, thanks to the Rejuv. procedures. New players were rarer everyday, until the league was filled with players able to continue their careers. But Ashley noticed that no one player really stood out anymore.

Ashley blinked. His eyes watered and his nose curled. Smelling salts.

This was it. He couldn’t move, yet, his legs tingled, his back ached and the crowd was silent. He had earned this without enhancement and would be forever remembered because of it. This was an ending.

Dinosaurs and Jesus

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
576 words

I picked up Saul after work. He was standing outside of a hole-in-the-wall Taqueria, smoking a cigarette. He got in the car and we headed to his girl’s trailer home. 

            “While I was standing out there a cop rolled by and stared me down.” Said Saul.

            “That’s always annoying no matter what you’re doing.”

            “Yeah and I was smoking. Loma Linda has a ban on smoking.”

            “Jesus, they’re making weed legal and banning cigarettes all in the same state.”

            “Someone told me there was a proposal to ban cigarettes or all nicotine stuff in the military.”

            “There’s no way.”

            “Yeah, some health nut politician.”

            “And replace them with what? Prayer beads? Crystals?”

            “I can barely walk outside without needing a cig, I can’t imagine sitting in a foxhole, bullets flying, you die right next to me and I’m not supposed to smoke?”

            “If that’s not the time, then when?”

            “Right.”

            He pulled out another smoke just as I pulled up next to the trailer home.

            “I just need to give this money to Paula’s mom.” He said, his lips pressed around the cigarette. Then he disappeared around the corner of the motor home.

Saul was in town for a few days before he moved out to Santa Barbara. He traded in his TV and PlayStation to get Paula a guitar. His plan was to find a campsite, set up and tune out. Off the grid. She would panhandle while he looked for a job. Her disability checks were also mentioned.

I was envious. The thought of my girl, some trees, cigarettes and booze were better than any heaven I had been told about in school. And those were the same people who denied the existence of dinosaurs while standing in front of the nearly intact skeletal structure of a Triceratops, their imaginations must have been out of this world. But Saul was looking everything right in the face and saying no.

He came back around the corner and hopped back into the car.                                                        “Jesus, not another second with her.”

            “You’re my hero.” I said, shaking my head. He grinned.

We had talked about shutting off the world many times and he was a few days and a couple details away from freedom. Tracking time in cigarettes and answering only to his bodily functions.

I changed the subject.

            “Stell?”

            “Sure, I could go for a cup of coffee.”

I made a right. We laughed at all the things we passed and listened to classic rock. Too soon we walked into the coffee shop. 

            “A mug?”

The lady got it right but today I was unusually optimistic. 

“A mug and a cookie, please.”

Saul ordered a beer and excused himself to the restroom.

Saul and I met in rehab. We got sober together. A few months after, Saul had jumped off the wagon.

Would they really take away cigarettes from soldiers? How would they cope with stress? I couldn’t imagine a soldier right after a battle also needing to fight off a craving. It was not likely to happen.

Our drinks slid onto the counter. I grabbed them and took a table outside. Saul came out, lighting a cigarette as he sat down.

I restrained my need for nicotine.

            “You still not smoking?” said Saul.

            “Yeah, but it’s a horrible feeling.”

He took a long drag.

            “Good for you man.”

Saul’s going to live off the grid. He’s winning the war.

end

Rating: 1 out of 5.