Saturday, August 24, 2013


“Wow, that’s awesome.”

“Dude was a genius.”

“Yeah, he was,” said Mystik. “A genius and a prophet.”

They were looking up at a huge mural that covered the side of an abandoned soda bottling plant on the east side of town. The mural was a wild riot of color, a giant psychedelic cartoon masterpiece that depicted angels and demons at war. It was titled “Heaven and Hell” and signed Roach.

Mystik had brought Jag and Zoop here because they were new in town and had not seen the mural. It was Roach’s last surviving work, but it would not survive much longer. The building was marked for demolition.

“So you knew him,” said Zoop.

“Yeah, he was my best friend. For four years. We went through a lot together. And I was there when he died. I saw the whole thing.”

“What happened?”

“He was tagging a KFC that had been shut down. Five pigs showed up. I was the lookout. I told him to run, but he took an extra minute to finish one last little detail. That’s how Roach was, a perfectionist. Nothing else mattered to him but getting it right. I was behind a dumpster watching. I kept saying hurry up Roach, hurry up man. But by the time he finally dropped the can, the pigs were almost on him. They chased him. Went all the way up Industrial. I ran after them. They cornered him behind the Wal-Mart and one of the pigs Tased him. Right in the chest. Then another one Tased him. They were all laughing and Tasing him. It was awful. They kept Tasing him. Then when he wasn’t moving anymore they stopped and started high-fiving each other and laughing. And one of them said how funny it looked when Roach’s butt clenched up while they were Tasing him.”

“Fucking pigs,” said Jag.

“What happened to the pigs?” asked Zoop. “They didn’t get away with it, did they?”

“Nothing happened to them. I told the media, man—I told Channel 22, told the newspaper, told everyone about the high-fiving and everything. And nobody believed me.”


“But if I’d got it on video it might have been different. Then the world would know the truth.”

“So that’s why you always carry the camera.”


“We got to start killing the pigs,” said Jag.

“No,” said Mystik. “Roach didn’t believe in violence. He believed you could change the world with art.”

“Yeah, and look what it got him.”

Mystik shook his head. “Roach still lives. I see him in my dreams. I see him painting. He’s painting in Heaven now, and what he paints up there happens down here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean what he paints comes true. Fukushima, he painted that before it happened. And Sandy Hook and the Boston bombing, and a bunch of other things. Terrible things. Listen dude, I’m afraid to look at the things he shows me, but I have to. They’re warnings. One time he painted a picture of me on my skateboard getting hit by a bus. Next morning I knew I was gonna’ have to be extra careful. And sure enough, I was flying down the street and something about the street looked familiar and I remembered this was the street Roach painted in the dream. So I slowed down and stopped before I came to the corner—at the very moment a city bus ran a red light, man. I would've been killed.”


“Yeah, Roach warns me about things. But sometimes he just paints beautiful things. I can’t even describe them, they’re so beautiful. They’re better than anything he ever painted on Earth, better than this mural, no shit. I wish I could paint the things he shows me, but I’m not good enough. That’s why I don’t paint anymore. The camera’s my medium now. Roach said that in a dream one time. He said keep that camera with you always.”

(To be continued)

Friday, August 23, 2013


The nightly visitations from Margaret suddenly stopped. At first, Charlie was not greatly disturbed, but as the days wore on with no more communications from his departed wife he grew depressed. It was like losing her all over again.

He wondered why the dreams stopped, and prayed they would resume. But they did not, and without the daily affirmation these dreams gave him he found himself once again doubting they were genuine visits from Margaret. Perhaps they were only dreams after all.

True, she had told him things in the dreams that later came true. She had told him his nephew’s wife was pregnant, but perhaps that was only a coincidence. She had told him the price of gold would fall, but gold was always rising and falling. And yes, she had told him where to find the recipe, but perhaps in his unconscious mind he had known all along where it was. Perhaps, when she was still alive, he had seen her place it in the book—a momentary action glimpsed then forgotten but retained on a subliminal level, beneath his conscious awareness until it resurfaced later in the dream.

It was not at all far fetched. He had read enough psychology to know that dreams often served as wish fulfillment—a far likelier explanation than the supernatural notion that Margaret was speaking to him from beyond the grave.

And as for the “poltergeist” activity, he now returned to his earlier theory that he may have moved those objects himself while sleep walking—an elaborate self-deception, his own mind tricking him into believing a fantasy. He had no previous history of sleep walking, or delusion for that matter, but there was a first time for everything—and, again, it was the likelier explanation. Psychotic episodes were well documented by science; poltergeists, prophetic dreams, and life-after-death were not.

It was a tremendous let down. He had been so happy believing he was in contact with Margaret. Happy in his delusion. But that’s all it was, a delusion. There was no life-after-death. Margaret was dead and he would die too and there would be no wonderful reunion in the afterlife; he would simply join her in oblivion. And soon.

How long have I got, he thought. A few years, a decade maybe, not much more. There’s very little future left and what’s left is not going to be easy. I’m getting around okay now, but that won’t last. I’m 70 years old for Christ’s sake and already losing my mind apparently. Next to go will be my physical health.

He was lying in bed as he thought these things. The sun was not up yet. He could hear the wind from last night’s cold front blowing against the house. So little future, he thought, and a bleak one at that. Nothing to look forward to. Nothing good, that is. Everything good in life is now in the past. Margaret’s just a memory now. Memories are all I’ve got, and there are so many of them.

It’s funny, he thought. When you’re young you have no idea how it will feel one day to be this age and have so many memories, and how it will feel to look back on it all—all the decades, all the changes. At 18, you can imagine the future, but it never works out like you expect. I thought there would be Jetson rocket cars and vacations on the moon and all sorts of things, but none of that happened. There were changes, yes, and big ones—but not like I expected. And nothing could have prepared me for how it would feel to look back now on all the decades that were once in my future. In 1962, the year 1984 seemed so futuristic. We’ll be riding around in those rocket cars by then, I thought. But when the 80s finally happened they weren’t so futuristic after all and now from this vantage point, in the year 2012, they seem quaint. And 1962 seems ancient.

And the people you take for granted when you’re young—parents, grandparents, all those older people who were such a big part of your life. You knew they wouldn’t last forever, but you couldn’t know how it would feel when they actually died, or how it would feel years later, when they had been gone a long time and were just memories. Memories growing dimmer with time. And not just older people, but friends too, people your own age. I’ve watched them die off one by one. I’ve watched the memorial list at the class reunion grow longer every year, and soon I’ll be on the list too.

No, when you’re young you can’t know what it will feel like to reach this age, and no one can tell you. You may think you know but you really don’t. You can’t know till you live it, till you actually reach this summit and look back where you came from. Yes, look back where you came from … and see the strange route that brought you here … the twists and turns along the way … the twists and turns, and the missteps and mistakes … but also the happy accidents, yes, and the surprises, and the things you find along the way … but also the things you lose … the things you lose … the missteps and mistakes and happy accidents and the strangeness of it all, and the things you lose … the things you lose … the things you lose …

Charlie fell asleep and began to dream. In the dream he was hiking up a mountain. The sun was warm on his back and the sky was high and cloudless, and the mountain very steep. He passed a mountain lion seated on a rock. The cat was enormous and it watched him with golden eyes, turning its head as he passed. Mustn’t show fear, he thought. They can smell fear.

He reached the summit and the view took his breath away: the impossibly deep blue abyss at his feet, swirling with clouds, and the great teeming earth stretching away incalculable distances in the golden light, and beyond the horizon an opening in the sky and a vision of untold immensity: suns and galaxies and universes blazing in the vault of infinity, a vista beyond time, vast beyond measure … and Margaret by his side saying, “Charlie, you haven’t been golfing lately. You’ve slacked off. You should be practicing your swing. It will do you good. Promise me you’ll do it today.”

“Well I don’t know, Margaret, it’s awful windy today and cold.”

“No, it will warm up by afternoon.”

“But the weatherman said—”

He woke up, heart thumping, and later that day the winds died down and it grew warm, just as she said. He went to the golf course.

(To be continued)

Sunday, August 18, 2013


The next day, as he patrolled the north side of the city, Officer Sam Reynolds was still seething over the treatment he received from Heather.

I won't forget this, he thought. Treated like garbage by a sorry bitch who shows her titties for a living. No sir, I won't forget this. I’ll remember this a long time and I know where she lives.

It was true. He had waited in the parking lot of the Pink Kitty Kat till he saw her leave in her car, then followed her and memorized her license plate number sitting at a red light, and the next day ran the number through DMV and learned her home address, a shabby apartment complex on Russell Street.

All he needed now was a plan. He had ideas, but no coherent plan, just ideas—actually, images that went round and round in his brain. Images of all the things he would do to her. I will break her, he thought. Break her and make her beg me not to kill her ...

Suddenly, in the midst of these thoughts, Officer Reynolds got a call on the radio. Two young males, one White one Hispanic, had been seen tagging the side of an empty warehouse off Palmer Avenue.

He turned on his siren and floor-boarded it, shooting through red lights, weaving around stalled rush-hour traffic, running cars off the road. This was just what he needed …

Meanwhile, a cell phone buzzed in the back pocket of one of the taggers.

The tagger was known as Jag and he was standing on a ladder spraying red paint onto the wall. He put down the paint can and answered, and heard his lookout Mystik shouting into the phone, “Pigs, man! They’re coming!”

Jag clambered down the ladder, calling to his buddy, “Zoop, it’s the pigs!”

Zoop and Jag left their paint cans and ladders (stolen) and jumping on their skateboards shot down the wide streets of the industrial park. They dodged an oncoming van as they veered sharp left. Then they went down another street, hit a curb and flipping over it with precision jumped off and catching their boards ran into the tall grass to hide and wait for Mystik to join them.

Mystik was on the roof of a parking garage next to the warehouse, where he had been skateboarding when he heard the distant siren. At first he had thought—hoped—it was nothing to do with his buddies. But just to make sure, he zoomed in with his Canon and saw three cop cars racing straight up Parmer towards them. This was when he called Jag.

Now, after he was sure his buddies were safe, he hopped on his skateboard and started shooting down the ramps of the parking garage. There were four ramps in all and it took several minutes. Yes, he might have hidden in the garage, but he had learned from experience it was better not to be anywhere in the vicinity of pigs, especially when they were frustrated and looking for somebody, anybody, to fuck over.

His buddies meanwhile crouched in the grass, breathless and watching the garage exit, hoping he would make it out before the cops arrived. “Come on man,” said Zoop, “stop fucking around.”

Mystik shot out the exit an instant before the cops appeared, then shot around the other side of the garage and out of sight. Jag and Zoop cackled.

Jag texted Mystik, “Dude you made it Thanx.”

Mystik texted back, “Meet me Red Wag.”


Jag pocketed his phone. Then he and Zoop watched the cops get out of their cars and stare up at the almost-completed graffiti (a colorful masterpiece depicting Godzilla roasting the president) and look around at the turned-over paint cans and ladders.

One of the cops looked at the other two and said, “Who turned on the siren?”

“I did,” said Officer Reynolds.

“Oh, so it was you. Well, thanks for warning the taggers, dickhead.”

A third cop said, “Shouldn’t we look for them?”

The other cop rolled his eyes, got back in his car, and drove away. The others followed.

Hearing this, Jag and Zoop snickered. Then they smoked a joint, admiring their artwork in the setting December sun. Then they got on their skateboards to rendezvous with Mystik at Red Wagon Burgers.

(To be continued)