Saturday, September 28, 2013


It was early afternoon, December 23. Heather woke with a start, and found herself alone in bed. Where was Jim? Then, with a sudden pang, she remembered the argument and all the bitter words that were said and Jim rushing out the door.

And remembered having a couple of beers to calm herself down. And being out of her mind with anger and thinking it was good Jim was gone. Good riddance Loser, she thought, and bolted the apartment door so he wouldn’t be able to get in if he came back.

Then, after finishing the beers, she finished off her 750 ml bottle of vodka, and turned on the TV, but could not focus on it. Instead, she kept replaying the argument in her mind—that terrible, stupid argument—and wishing she hadn’t said certain things, and wondering when Jim would come back—if he came back. He would come back, wouldn't he?

And she remembered thinking she should unbolt the door, just in case she was asleep when he came back. She did not want him to be outside all night—there was a cold front coming in.

Yes I will un-bolt the door, she thought, and he will know this is still his home and he is still wanted here.

She remembered thinking this. Then she had a vague memory of stumbling down the hallway and falling into bed.

And now it was the next day. She looked at the clock. It was almost one. Jim had been gone over twelve hours, she realized. It was unlike him to be gone so long.

She jumped out of bed and went into the living room. Sometimes after an argument he slept on the couch.

But the couch was empty. And he was nowhere else in the apartment.

She remembered bolting the door and later thinking she should un-bolt it. But did she un-bolt? She could not remember.

She went to the door. It was bolted.

Oh my god, she thought. What if he came back and couldn’t get in? She sat down on the couch, tears in her eyes.

She began to sob, thinking about the stupid argument and the look on his face when she called him a loser.

He had called her something worse, though—called her a slut. And all because she asked him to hold her. It was so unfair and wrong.

Then she remembered her own cruel words and remembered the terrible look on Jim’s face when she called him a loser, and cried even harder. Why didn’t I just tell him the truth, she thought. Tell him what the cop tried to do, how he scared me.

But she had been afraid to tell him—afraid it would upset him, afraid he would tell her to stop working at the Pink Pussy Kat, when it was the only source of income they had. Afraid they would argue.

And yes, they may have argued, she realized, but at least it would not have an out-of-control argument. They would not have called each other names and hurt each other, and might have held each other and prayed together like they used to do when they were trying to get sober. And he would be with her now.

Where was he? Anything might happen to him, she thought. He might kill himself. Or have an accident. Or get into some kind of trouble and have his parole revoked.

Her heart began to pound and a black hopelessness took hold of her. She knew only one cure for such a terrible feeling.

She laid out a line and snorted it and washed it down with the last beer in the refrigerator.

* * *

At the same hour Heather was having these thoughts, Mystik woke from a dream.

In the dream, he saw Roach painting the side of a great building, all by himself hanging from a window-washer’s scaffold, small and ant-like against the massive mural taking shape beneath the practiced sweep of his spray-painting hand.

The mural he painted was a wintry scene, a desolate landscape of gnarled and lifeless trees, their bare thorny ice-coated branches reaching up in jagged fingers against a brilliant morning sky.

This sky was unlike any Mystik had ever seen or imagined—with a dawning sun that radiated colors unknown to human eyes, and deep within the core of that fiery orb a brightness beyond white; a purity of light that pulled you in and enveloped you with a sense of peace and compassion unlike anything known in this world, yet somehow strangely familiar.

Mystik watched Roach paint this mural until he awoke, and with this vision still in his head, smoked his first joint of the day and hopping on his skateboard raced through the cold, windy streets of the city, his heart soaring and knew no fear …

* * *

Charlie’s heart soared too. The day was so bitter there was not another soul on the golf course. He had it all to himself; it was just him and the expanse of winter grass and the trees tossing in the biting wind. And though the wind blasted him, he did not flinch or hunch his shoulders or shiver, but walked straight and tall, opening himself to the wind and letting it drive straight through him. He was not cold.

Nor was he daunted by the direction of the wind when he poised himself to drive the ball. He knew instinctively the right moment to strike, and laughed watching the ball rise higher into the air, defying the wind and laws of physics. And did it over and over again, until at last he scored a hole-in-one. His first ever. And thought, Margaret, with you by my side I can do anything, and am afraid of nothing …

(To be continued)

Friday, September 27, 2013


“Well if it isn’t Sleeping Beauty,” said Preacher Bob. “I thought you were dead, but here you are waking up from your beauty sleep, you son of a bitch.”

Jim groaned and rubbed his head. “Where am I?”

“Well you’re not in Heaven,” said Preacher Bob. “Or Hell, though you should be. What kind of a God-damned idiot are you exactly?”

“What? I don’t underst—”

“I mean what kind of a worthless damn son-of-a-bitch are you to throw yourself on the railroad tracks and leave it to ME to risk MY life saving your worthless ass?”


“Are you deaf, son? Or just crazy? Tell me, which is it. How dare you mess up my dinner, and damn near KILL ME trying to save you, whoever the Hell you are ... Who are you anyway? What is your damn name?”

“Jim. My name is Jim, and ... I’m sorry—” he broke down crying.

Preacher Bob and Tuffy glanced at each other. Tuffy looked reprovingly at Bob, causing Bob to sigh and say to Jim, “Now don’t cry, son. I’m not mad at you. I’m just worked up because I nearly got KILLED hauling you off those railroad tracks. Have a beer, and Tuffy, get him a bowl of beans.”

Jim did not eat the beans, but accepted the beer, and also a second—and would have accepted a third had Preacher Bob not said there was no more beer. Preacher Bob asked, “Jim, what was it made you lay down on those tracks to die?”

And Jim told the whole story … which ended in these words: “I’ve got no life, at least none worth living. I’ve hurt everyone that ever loved me. I’ve made a mess of everything. I’m a failure and a disappointment to my friends and family and to God, and—well, it seemed the only right thing to do, to end my life. My life was a mistake to begin with—”

“Now you stop right there,” said Preacher Bob, standing up and crushing a beer can and tossing it into the bushes, “you’re not a mistake. God made you, and God don’t make mistakes. Before this world was ever made, God got a notion in his head to make YOU. Not someone like you. No, he made YOU. Then, you got it in your head that God made a mistake. Listen, asshole, God don’t make mistakes. You made a mistake when you listened to the Devil instead of God and believed you were a mistake. God don’t make mistakes. People make mistakes, yes. But it’s up to people when they make mistakes to turn to God to make it right. Turning to the Devil won't do it, nor will turning to man. No, you got to turn to God. You got to turn to God, brother, and take that leap of faith, and believe that God will come through.”

Preacher Bob leaned closer into Jim’s face in the campfire light, and continued: “There is no shame in a crisis of faith, Jim. Sometimes even I am not one-hundred percent certain there is a God. No one is certain, if the truth be known—and that includes Mother Teresa and Pope Francis and Joel Osteen and Joel Spurgeon, and all so-called believers, and especially the God-damned Atheists. They, too, are not sure. And God understands this. God understands that in this life we human beans know nothing, therefore must take everything on faith and make a choice, whether we're believers or atheists, it always comes down to faith or the lack of it in the end—that is, a choice.

“The Atheist makes his choice and goes one way. The Godly Man makes his choice and goes another. But whichever choice, it's always based on faith, not knowledge, just faith. So what you did tonight, Jim, was make a choice based on faith. But it was faith in the Devil instead of God, Jim. You chose death when you might have chosen life. You chose no hope when you might have chosen hope. You listened to the Devil instead of the God who made you. You believed the lie, that your life is a mistake, and so you chose death. And yet—miracle of miracles—you are alive right now. And why? Because God saw fit to send some poor stupid son-of-a-bitch, ME, to risk his life and rescue your worthless damn ass.”

(To be continued)