Posted tagged ‘Life’

Without Narrative

March 2, 2012

Rome Ants In The Sky

“What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“Like a big bang.”

“Oh, that. It’s nothing.”

“Nothing? It’s a big bang.”

“It’s a puff of smoke. It will be gone in no time.”

“Where’s it coming from? What’s causing it?”

“Nothing’s causing it.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

“In other words, you don’t know. Why don’t you just say that?”

“I know it’s nothing.”

“How do you know?”

“Because nothing exists. It’s all just a dream.”

“I exist, you exist, the big bang exists, the puff of smoke exists. Isn’t that something?”

“Sounds like the title of a song.”

“You’re not making sense.”

“I don’t need to make sense. You’re the one who’s always trying to make sense out of everything. You’re hearing a big bang. Oh, wow! What are you going to do about it?”

“Do about it?”

“Yeah, do about it. In another ten to the negative thirty two seconds, the negative-pressure from vacuum-energy density will produce a thermodynamic phase transition resulting in a cosmic inflation. You are about to expand exponentially in volume by a factor of at least ten to the positive seventy eight in approximately ten to the negative three seconds.”

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”

“Get used to it. We’ll be together for a while. I’m the Yin to your Yang.”

_______

Growth of the Lone Wolf

“Throughout today’s economy, from oil and military hardware, to timber and agriculture, to public services and education, it’s all about privatization and corporate acquisition. An inflationary period will follow, effectively reducing the national debt, while increasing the dollar value of these privatized acquisitions.”

“What? You think this is being manipulated?”

“Only a fool would think otherwise. The globalized oligarchy, the wealthy financial speculators, the multinational corporate leadership, they have absolutely no problem seeing the American middle class disappearing into the abyss of soul crushing poverty.”

“How come you’re always thinking so negative?”

“Because I’m hungry, I’m cold, it’s raining, and my feet ache.”

“You should get yourself a new cardboard box like mine.”

“I need more than a new cardboard box.”

“Of course you do, everybody does. I’m just saying, it would be a good next step for you to consider. Stop worrying about privatization and corporate acquisitions. Think more on a practical level. Deal with the world at hand, the world you live in, where you can do something about it.”

“Oh, okay, do something about it? I got an idea. Let’s leave our little nest here in the alley behind these garbage dumpsters and go rob that bank out there on the street. That’s the world we live in, isn’t it? If we’re successful, our troubles are over for a while. If we get caught, we go to prison, get a roof over our head, medical attention, a warm bunk, and three meals a day.”

“Get a new cardboard box is a better idea. Do you know how well fortified that bank is? How well armed the local law enforcement agencies are? Even in this small college town they have an armored personnel carrier. It was given to them by a federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The local law men and women have all gone through military style training in the use of military weapons. They come dressed in SWAT outfits, eager to engage.”

“Prison doesn’t sound too bad right now. It’s where all the good guys are, men and women, the one’s who stood their ground and continued protesting when public demonstrations were banned and martial law was imposed. They’re organizing in prisons now, spreading cooperative ideals, evolving a new political leadership.”

“Forget prison. Get a new box. Stay free.”

“Free? Living in an alley, in a cardboard box, hidden from the world behind garbage dumpsters, like rats?”

“You wanna organize? Talk to the people at the homeless shelter, at the church basement where you get most of your food, at the political events on campus sponsored by university students. It’s going on all around you. Get involved on a local level.”

“The leadership required to reorganize our future society is maturing and ripening in prisons right now. Many have had combat experiences in the US military.”

“You been there?”

“I did a relatively short stay inside the wall of a high security federal prison. The inmates there were like, bank robbers, hijackers, skyjackers, kidnappers, counterfeiters, drug smugglers, firearms and explosives dealers. They all had long term sentences. I was being coerced by federal drug agents. They wanted me to become a snitch. I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

“You were coerced?”

“I made a mistake, got involved in something I shouldn’t have. I saw an opportunity to make some quick cash and it turned out to be a federal drug sting. One agent sold me the drugs and a different agent purchased them from me. The charge was possession with intent to distribute. The prosecutor said I showed a willingness to participate and I was therefore guilty. I was facing fifteen years in prison. I had a wife and children, a business. When they offered me a deal, I jumped at it.”

“You became a snitch for them inside a federal prison, that’s a deal?”

“My wife was able to retain all of our property and take ownership of the business. We didn’t lose anything financially. The terms of my freedom were less clear. They said I’d be eligible for a parole hearing in eighteen months if I cooperated with them. It took me more three years to finally gain parole. The authorities were never satisfied with my level of cooperation. The only reason I was paroled is, the prison had become over crowded. They couldn’t justify keeping me there. I was unproductive as a snitch and it was clear to the parole board that I had been entrapped in the first place. I didn’t belong in prison.”

“Well, at least you had a wife and property and a business waiting for you when you got home.”

“Not quite. It’s remarkable how much the world changes in three years. I lived on memories while in prison. I built a fantasy world in my mind. Negative possibilities did not exist. That’s how I survived in there. You don’t know what it’s like. Luckily for me, there’s an unwritten rule, don’t ask other inmates what they’re in for, or how much time they’re doing. If you ask these questions, people get suspicious of you, unless they know you well and have already offered that information voluntarily.”

“How long did it take you to learn that?”

“I learned it on the ride from the courthouse jail to the prison. Nine of us prisoners, chained together in threes, were in the back of an armored van with two federal marshals up front. One prisoner I was chained with became a mentor to me, sort of, and that really helped.”
“A mentor?”

“He had previously done time there for possession of explosives and he was returning on a parole violation with additional charges still pending in court.”

“What, you asked?”

“Yeah, that’s when he warned me about the unwritten rule. And then he commenced to tell me his life story. At first I thought he was a big blowhard. Especially when he told me he had been the weightlifting champion at the prison. I mean, he was big, about six five, six seven. Yet he was also, I must say it, fat. He had a big head and a fat baby face. But, you know what, he regularly won all the weightlifting competition while I was in there. And that’s impressive. There are some very big, muscular dudes pumping iron in prison.”

“So he wasn’t a blowhard.”

“No he was the real deal. He was smart, too, and very kind, if you were his friend. I don’t know if I would have made it without his help. I eventually told him my situation and he understood immediately. He advised me to just lie to the feds and not give them any straight up information about other inmates. That didn’t go over too well with my handlers, of course. They kept warning me about doing the full fifteen year stretch. But I had to live with myself day to day and with the other inmates. Snitching is a cardinal sin. Punishable by death. Plus, I learned to respect most of the inmates there more that I respected the federal agents or the government.”

“And when you were released, what happened?”

“Prison is one of those before and after experiences. When I got home, nothing was the same as I remembered it. Everybody had changed. My wife had become a very independent, powerful woman. I fell in love with the new her, even more than the old. Unfortunately, that feeling wasn’t reciprocated. She loved the old me much better than the new, it seemed. We lived together but she was the boss and I walked the line.”

“Where is she now?”

“She’s in heaven.”

“How come you’re living out here?”

“Same reason you’re out here, along with all the other millions who have been sacrificed on the alter of a jealous deity, capitalism. Offered up for the sake of something considered more desirable, higher profits.”

“Let’s go and get you that new cardboard box. You’re gonna need it tonight. We’re getting ten inches of snow.”

Fifty Five Word Anthology

February 10, 2011

~Number Nine

San Francisco’s macrobiotic community in 1969 had many divergent sub groups ranging from yin to double yang. At open house dinners around town, intravenous drug users were finding nourishment and hope alongside health addicts who had never so much as smoked a cigarette. I was still coming down from the CIA’s LSD experiment in 1965.

~Disgeneration

Our closed physical universe has been winding down since day one. Solar decline recently accelerated. We need a source of outside energy. Human consciousness must find it. That’s the purpose of intelligent life. We are the bridge uniting matter with spiritual energy. We knew this in the sixties. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

~Big Bang Cools

The early universe was an opaque fog of diatomic hydrogen gas. As it expanded, temperatures declined and, with internal pressures dropping, gravitational collapse initiated star cluster formation. Stars radiated energy, stripping electrons, ionizing hydrogen atoms, clearing the fog: the universe became transparent. Our watery planet with sunny blue skies happened much later, strictly by chance.

~Many Rivers to Cross

The fertile earth, you can kick it, lick it, smell it, warmed by the heat of a fire that never goes out, not in a billion years, and by then terrestrial life will have already ended due to the planet’s surface becoming too hot for liquid water to exist, so be happy you’re here now.

~Stupiditās

We are hardwired for empathy, understanding, and communicating. Why have we failed to organize ourselves into a global society with a sustainable ecology? We need a unifying purpose which embraces our humanity while respecting our individuality; yet the intellectual force of the ruling class is focused on short term profits for the top one percent.

~Blues, Away

Low-skilled adults in a winner-take-all economy, homesteading the urban wilderness, rethinking assumptions without a master plan. The decaying city up for sale, commercial properties underwater, worth less than their mortgages. No buyers in sight. We may be stuck here with it. Things could get worse. And yet, how wonderful life is with you in the world.

~Women on Top

Today’s job market favors aggressive, educated women. They’re dominating the information age. My wife recently earned her bachelor’s degree. She’s been going to school at night after working all day in an office. I’m a stay at home dad. Boy am I sad, not! Keep her happy, that’s it. Kids take care of themselves: thanks Internet.

~Popular Economics

Volatile markets, a rapid bidding down, a specific sequence of events, not merely academic, without evidence of a deliberate attempt, beyond finger pointing: how could someone manipulate the markets, make off with a gazillion dollars, and avoid detection? Determined prosecutors are still searching reams of data, hundreds of transcripts, using meta-math developed by Harry Potter.

~Wee Party

Selfish, arrogant, and exclusive, yes, and greedy. You wanna tax my income? Try it. I’ll run you out of office. I want politicians who will beef up the border. Armed guards who will shoot to kill on sight. A strong military presence around the world to secure priority access to energy resources. God bless America.

~Piece of Mind

I’m earning top honors at the university, studying bling theory, all the observable forces necessary to make a relationship shine in the presence of internal penetration. Bling dynamics are governed by friction and kinetic energy, which combine to produce mutual oscillations. Even in a down job market, I can always find work as a gigolo.

~Z Boson with a Hardron

The night, when viewed in a mirror, violated all the laws of parity, symmetry, and conservation. Her response, strongly interactive, the flavor of strangeness, is the reversal of expected spatial axes. I can go macho, make the stars appear brighter. Or go wimp, become dark and evasive. She remembers the big bang. Hard to compete.

~A Stranger from Paradise

At midnight, flutes and drums, a traditional dance, her body moving rhythmically in sync with mine, the goddess of love in a blue velvet dress, no bra, pink panties: all phenomenon from the beginning to the end of time radiated outward from our union. Her happiness gave meaning to life then. Where is she now?

~A Fragmentary Vision

Flashing eyes and floating hair, a damsel with a dulcimer, an Abyssinian from Ethiopia, a reality never before achieved without the milk of paradise while living in a pleasure dome, a variety of actors singing and dancing, now buried beneath the shifting sands of time; yet the dream, the insanity, remains the same: the expectation of true love.

~Nineteenth Amendment

She clearly wasn’t a normal girl. At six her parents found her under a table with a book. They asked her to read aloud. She read so perfectly, they were shocked, since no one had taught her. The book she had selected from the shelves of the drawing room was a play about a prostitute.

~She’s Out

A woman falls in love with a man and then another man and then another woman. The two men fight and come close to killing each other. Until they finally realize she’s out of their reach. And there will never be another woman like her. Not for them.

~I heard the news today, oh boy!

You listened to Beatles music on the AM radio, the jukebox, watched them on TV, bought their records, played them loudly all day long. They filled your heart with joy, you said. But then they broke it. They were human, all too human, which you reluctantly recognized. I had never really liked them until then.

~Auld Lang Syne

I’ve been drunk every new year’s eve since 1956, with few exceptions. I should know better than to drink before driving these unfamiliar roads outside the city during a snow storm. And she could have warned me there were no gas stations or convenience stores out here. Where’s that goddamn cellphone when I need it?

~Bud Business? Booming!

You were in it for the money. Legalization would evaporate your profits and decentralize your control. A campaign of brutality became necessary to assure it never happened. The war on drugs allowed you, effectively, to play both sides against the middle. Then you became seriously ill and found pain relief with medical marijuana, home grown.

~Lucifer’s Farewell

You didn’t believe I could survive your wrath, fall from Heaven, traverse the void, arise from the burning lake, outplay the devil. You condemned me to Hell for all eternity. Yet I escaped. I became human through the power of love. I’ll die a natural death soon. Nobody knows who I am, not even you.

~Halfway to the Top

Twelve seasoned mountain warfare counter-terrorism army veterans with backpacks, carrying M4A1 carbines, wearing combat helmets, reach a semi-barren plateau halfway to the top of the Hindu Kush mountains, the sparsely populated center of world population, where they find themselves surrounded by numerous armed men who must be killed immediately. Why else would they be there?

~Private Security in 55 Words

He’s returning from close combat experience during special operations in mountain warfare near the northeast Afghanistan border. As a good soldier, he cannot and will not question his mission there. And, as a thinking individual, he knows better than to open the floodgates of speculation. But don’t you dare try to take away his guns.

~His Longest Day

He parachuted into Normandy on six June, forty four, to support the amphibious landing on Utah Beach. At the age of eighty nine, his heavily medicated eyes show a rare spark of interest when Red Buttons gets his parachute caught on a church spire, hangs there, pretends to be dead, avoids the fight below.

Working the City – 1,2,3,4

October 18, 2010

It’s an older, inner city neighborhood. The closest shopping area is eight blocks away. The grocery store building at the corner of my block is empty. I’m sitting on money. I’ve been saving it for an eventual move to the country. Yet, as I walk past the ‘For Rent’ sign in the store’s window, I’m attracted to the possibilities. I call the listed number. Within an hour, a sharply dressed older man arrives on the scene in a vintage, maroon Cadillac. He’s asking questions. What’s my plan? Do I have first and last months rent? Utilities deposits? I flash the cash. He gives me three copies of the lease and says I have thirty days to seek a lawyer’s advice before deciding. I scan through the lease and sign all three copies. He takes two copies and hands me the keys.

I clean the store, repair the walk-in cooler, wash the big glass windows in front. Then, early the next morning, I drive my pickup truck to the commercial produce terminal. Wholesale suppliers refuse me, saying my purchases are too small. However, at the end of the loading dock I find a supplier selling smaller quantities of expensive, high quality produce. He welcomes my business. Fresh items arrive early every morning by air freight, mostly from California. I can purchase older produce at reduced prices.

People in the neighborhood are delighted when I open the store with a wide selection of fruits and vegetables. They’re attracted to my unusual assortment of sweet and juicy melons with pink, orange, yellow, and green soft textured interior fruit, each with a unique flavor. They love my bright red tomatoes, gigantic orange carrots, pearly white onions, shades of green lettuce and cabbage. Grapes, apples, pears, and bananas. I’m sold out by the end of the day.

Even at moderate profit margins, I quickly accumulate enough money for a used deli counter with a working compressor allowing me to keep meats, cheeses, and other foods cool while on display behind glass. A stainless steel slicing machine comes with the deli counter. I sell pre-made sandwiches. Customers can buy a variety of ingredients and make their own. I collect an assortment of used kitchen tables with chairs and place them around the front area of the store where the big glass windows allow natural lighting throughout the day.

My shopping trips expand to include bakery, beverage, and condiment products along with the fresh produce, dried fruits, nuts, cheeses, and meats. I hire people from the neighborhood, a woman to make sandwiches, another woman to work the counter, and a man to work the front of the store dealing with customers and security while cleaning tables and taking out the garbage.

Everything’s going smoothly during the lunch rush when a tall man wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and tie walks into the store. He’s the city’s health inspector, looking for trouble. I hold my breath while he sniffs around. He gives me a list of violations to correct and tells me I’m doing a great job. I offer him a sandwich and a beverage but he says he’d rather pay for it to avoid a misunderstanding. We sit at a table to talk. He does most of the talking. He’s a treasure chest of food business knowledge. I ask why he still works for the city. He shrugs and looks out the window like that’s not a proper question.

_______
II

City departments are overwhelmed by job cuts and, in the absence of adequate police protection, the few remaining inspectors rarely venture into the neighborhoods. My store’s liquor license effectively allows me to market beer, wine, and distilled spirits in whatever manner I choose. The legal minimum age remains a priority concern for me and my employees, nonetheless.

The local gang leader pressures me for protection money. I’m able to involve him in a business scheme, giving me the confidence I need to make further investments in the neighborhood.

An empty industrial building six blocks from the store is in excellent condition. It has an attached four story warehouse and a paved parking lot surrounded by a ten foot high fence. I cut a deal with the property management agency. In the absence of other alternatives, they’re eager to work with me and my phased development plan.

Using unemployed workers from the neighborhood, including several master carpenters, I partition the main floor of the warehouse building into a mini-mall of separate stores. When the right time comes, I’ll go city wide with advertising. Until then, I stay under the radar. I don’t want inspectors coming around, going by the book.

I use the second floor of the warehouse building to support the first floor’s business activities. The third floor goes to the local gang leader who runs security operations. The forth floor is a private club with high stakes gambling.

In the large industrial bay, with its four stories high ceiling and one long wall consisting almost completely of big glass windows, I create an area for private parties with a bar, a stage, and a dance floor.

My job is easy. I’m the boss. Although the gang leader who runs security likes to think he’s the boss. He’s controlling crime and violence in the neighborhood, creating a safe environment for business, so I don’t mind humoring him.

_______
III

Pau Patro, that’s the local gang leader’s name. He now runs security operations for all my business activities. I couldn’t operate in the neighborhood without him. He’s young, strong, and ambitious. He reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. He of the lean and hungry look who doesn’t sleep at night. Referring to Brutus, I believe. Machiavelli’s political treatise, The Prince, also comes to mind. My greatest need is stability. Pau’s violent and sometimes cruel actions are predicated on acquiring necessary ends by any means. His methods are justified as the best way to acquire, maintain, and protect neighborhood stability.

There’s another new stadium downtown, along with casino, theater, and hotel renovations. The city’s looking good in mainstream corporate media. However, many neighborhood leaders throughout the city are lobbying for political independence, saying their specific needs are being ignored. They want to break the city up into separate villages with their own taxes and public services.

My neighborhood is a microcosm of the city. Business is good for some, nonexistent for others. Personally, I’m riding a wave of success. But I don’t want to ignore the needs of others. Referring back to Machiavellian theory, I don’t want to be hated by the neighborhood residents. They can hate Pau, not me. I share the wealth. I create jobs, business, and profits for others.

I bend the rules, yes, when they get in my way. But I bend them for others as well. I’m not Robin Hood, no, but I consciously funnel wealth from the rich to the poor. I started doing it for myself, of course, but once I learned how, a spiritual awareness came with it. There are forces at play beyond my understanding, and yet one simple rule to guide me and never bend. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Pau laughs when I tell him that.

_______
IX

Pau walks into my second floor office without knocking. He doesn’t ask if I’m busy.

I’m fascinated by his boldness even as I resent his presumption.

His presence intimidates me. He’s an archetype. An attractive warrior god. Tall, thick, muscular. Large head, dark eyes, wide set. Light olive skin. Thick dark curly hair, salon cut to collar length. His features defy specific ethnic classification. Although he’s definitely Mediterranean.

He slides a big stuffed chair across the room towards my desk, and says: “Who’s this Machiavelli cat you keep talking about?”

“Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli,” I reply, “is an Italian philosopher, writer, and civil servant from the fifteenth or sixteenth century. He wrote one book about how to apply power in the art of war. He wrote another book about how to apply it in politics. He remains famous for that last book because his methods still apply. You seem to know them instinctively.”

Pau smiles. Remains silent. I look away.

He surrounds me, suffocates me, with his presence.

“You think you can run this operation better than me, Pau? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

He hesitates, makes me wait, thinking about what I just said.

“I’m telling you I can handle the dance hall and casino operations. Have them cooking every night with private parties. Keep it under control. No cops, no city inspectors. I’m telling you I can do that.”

Our eyes meet. His smile forces me to smile.

“We can’t do it all at once,” I say: “Until we’re sure how it’s going to work, let’s move slowly. Along with alcohol, our drug sales will skyrocket.”

“I can handle it,” he says, pulling a fat joint from his pocket: “Here, try this. It’s excellent pot. I think you’ll like it.”

I take the joint, and say: “I need to get more work done first. I’ll smoke it later. But the drugs I’m worried about are heroin, cocaine, speed, ecstasy. Suppliers of those drugs will zero in on us. I don’t feel comfortable with that. I don’t want to get involved in a city wide drug war.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered,” Pau insists. He leaves the big stuffed chair next to my desk. He doesn’t close the door behind him.

With an energized awareness from toking on the joint in my office, I enter the expansive industrial bay area of the building where an overhead matrix of lights floods the dance floor, bar, and stage area with bubbles of randomly changing color and brightness while dancers move hypnotically to erotic rhythms. Male and female prostitutes are available for hire but the price of admission to this Sodom and Gomorrah excludes the casual shopper.

Pau calls my name, invites me to his table. An attractive woman sitting with him looks in my direction as I approach. Pau wraps an arm across my shoulders, and says: “Laura, I’d like you to meet Brian. He’s the real boss around here.”

Laura! Fair skin, auburn hair. Oval face, well proportioned. Greenish eyes, lined and tinted. Glossy red lips. She’s beautiful. I’m hoping she’s not a prostitute.

“Laura needs a job, Brian. I thought you could use her. You said you were looking for an assistant, didn’t you?”

She reaches out to me. I take her hand, and reply: “Yes. Yes, I did say that. I’m very happy to meet you, Laura.”

We dance. She presses her body lightly against mine. Our eyes meet. She smiles.

I’m feeling paranoid. Maybe it’s the pot. Maybe not.

Private Security -VI

September 9, 2010

Rob’s basic living quarters were attached to the back of the pole barn where a path into the elevated forest began sloping upwards just outside the rear door. When Janis finally awoke, Rob suggested: “Let’s go for a walk in the woods. We can climb to the top of the hill, catch the sunset. There’s nothing like it.”

She threw off the sheet, exposing her naked body, and said: “I don’t have anything to wear.”

“Let’s go savage, back to the basics, who needs cloths?”

“I do,” she moaned: “I want my things.”

“I’ll take you there anytime you’re ready,” Rob said, stressing sincerity in his tone.

“I can’t. I’m afraid. I don’t want him to kill you.”

“We can get you some new things,” Rob said, relaxing his tone: “Meanwhile, put on your army boots and let’s go climb the mountain. This here combat uniform is the perfect outfit for rough activities.”

“Oh, you want to get rough, huh?” she said, jumping out of bed and crouching like a boxer with her fists in the air.

As they embraced, Janis seemed more composed and in control of herself, Rob thought. In the pickup truck the night before, she seemed distraught and on edge while frequently smoking cigarettes. After their early morning sexual marathon, she had slept for most of the day, which could account for the change in her behavior.

He wanted to know more about her but he avoided questions that would put pressure on her. She would unfold in her own natural rhythm, he felt, and he could live with that.

The forest engulfed them in its timeless mysteries like an ancient cathedral. They stopped halfway to the top to catch their breath at a sunny clearing.

“I can understand why you called this an enchanted forest,” Janis said: “There’s a remarkable presence here. I could sense it right away as we started up the path. I feel like a Druid. I’m in love with this place. You own it?”

“I’m buying it. I’ve got the payments covered for awhile but I’m looking for a way to pay it off quickly and retire. Then there’s the taxes. The local farmer is selling it to me because he doesn’t want to keep paying taxes on land he can’t farm. But he doesn’t want it cut down, either. I promised him I’d take good care of it. And I will.”

“I feel good here,” Janis said: “Like I belong. I am the forest. We are one. In society, we all have our separate identity. It’s different here. Does that make sense to you?”

“You are a Druid, aren’t you? In spirit, anyway. That’s why I want this place so badly. My spirit comes alive here.”

“This is like another world, Rob. It’s like traveling in time, leaving all my worries behind. Here with you, Cal seems like a little man, in a far away place. And I’ve been afraid of him for so long. If I’m dreaming, I want this dream to last forever.”

Rob caught himself before reflexively saying, nothing last forever. He wanted to believe it could. Perhaps in a spiritual way, who knows?

Private Security – V

September 7, 2010

They approached Rob’s property shortly after midnight. A large hill located near the center of the least populated farming county in the state, the sloping landscape had evolved through the years into a natural forest with an inner and an outer canopy.

As he turned from the county road onto his property’s private access road, the dim lights of his pickup truck could be seen from a distance moving through the darkness of the farmer’s grain field towards the elevated woods and it worried him, even though the likelihood of locals being awake that late at night would be very low.

After driving in silence for almost an hour, Rob said: “Why did you even mention Cal, if you’re not going to tell me about him?”

Janis lit another cigarette, exhaled smoke, and said: “What were you in the army, a marksman, a long range sniper? You think you can sneak up on him?”

“I don’t think anything. I have no information. That’s what I’m asking for.”

“Okay, if he finds us, he will kill you, definitely. He might not kill me. We’ve been through shit before. He and I. This time, I don’t know.”

“He might kill you, yet you’re protecting him?”

“He has to find us first, doesn’t he? Like you said.”

The access road followed along the base of the elevated forest to an area not visible from the county road where, inside a tall cyclone fence topped with barbwire, he had a large pole barn, a built in living quarters, and a storage yard.

Portions of the fence were illuminated by the truck lights as they approached.

Janis sat up, and said: “That looks like a prison yard.” Rob stopped the truck to watch the gate open in response to his signal, and said: “What do you know about prison yards?” She stuffed her cigarette in the dashboard ashtray, and said: “More than I care to know.”

The gate close behind them before he signaled the overhead door in the pole barn to open. Then he drove inside, switched off the truck lights, shut down the the engine, and closed the door.

They sat listening to each another breathing in the silent darkness for a few moments before Janis slid next to him on the truck seat. She placed one hand on the back of his neck, the other hand on his leg, and said: “This is what you want, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” he said, turning to embrace her, adding: “But let’s eat and then shower first.”

“No, let’s do it now. A quickie, right here. I’ll make you cum real fast, I promise. Let me show you.”

She tasted like tobacco when they kissed but as he removed her camouflage combat uniform to kiss her naked body she tasted more divine than sparkling cheery wine, and proved equally intoxicating.

Private Security – IV

August 28, 2010

Rob noticed her outside the health food store one sunny morning. She had long brown hair and she wore a pale rose dress matching the color of her skin. The dress fabric, which barely covered her torso, clung to her body loosely, accentuating her curves as she moved. She bent to load groceries in her car and he could see her panties. He felt like a fool when she caught him looking. Her big brown eyes, her pouting facial expression, and her body language all seemed to say, if you think you’ve got something special to offer, mister, bring it on. Rob backed away when her musclebound companion came from the store with more groceries.

He saw her a few day later as he exited a drive through restaurant in his pickup truck. The street lights had just come on and he noticed her standing in the rain, wearing a black hooded cape, waiting for a bus. When he pulled alongside the curb, she looked at him through the open passenger’s window and, without a sign of recognition, said: “Take my advice and keep moving.”

Her facial cuts and bruises were from a recent beating, Rob concluded. The threat of danger heightened his interest. He had a complete survival kit in the back of his pickup truck, including a small arsenal of military weapons. Plus, he had a loaded handgun strapped under his seat where he could reach it.

He held her eyes with a steady gaze as he unlocked the door.

She hesitated, looked around, and then climbed inside.

Rob locked the door, shifted into drive, and accelerated from the curb. Then, while maneuvered his vehicle into traffic, he said: “Your place or mine?”

“You may not live to regret this,” she said, removing the hooded cape.

Her long hair had been cut short with different lengths going in every direction. Yet, even with the wild hair, the bruised face, and the poor lighting inside his pickup truck as they traveled through the city at night, he felt strongly attracted to her exotic beauty.

Holding a cigarette to her mouth, she said: “You don’t mind if I light this, do you?”

“For you, I’ll make an exception,” Rob replied, turning his head for a quick look into her eyes. Then, returning his attention to the road, he added: “I used to smoke. I quit when I joined the army. Almost five years ago.”

“You’re army?” she said, lighting her cigarette before adding: “You’re going to need it. Where have you served?”

“That’s classified. Name, rank, and serial number. Rob’s the name.”

“Okay, first names, I’m Janis. Here’s another first name for you to remember, Cal. He’s looking for me. And when he finds me, he’ll kill me and whoever is with me. Do you understand that? He’s a killer. He’ll stalk us and he’ll come out of nowhere when we least expect him.”

“He’s gotta find us first, Janis.”

“He will find us, he always gets what he wants.”

“Maybe I should go after him. That’s how we do it in the army. Attack, don’t wait for things to happen.”

She gave him a long sidewise stare before going back to her cigarette.

“Tell me about Cal,” he said, keeping his eyes on the road as he merged into expressway traffic heading out of the city.

“I don’t wanna talk about him right now,” Janis said, knocking the flame from her cigarette into the dashboard ashtray, saving the smokable butt inside the cellophane wrap of her cigarette pack.

Rob wanted to press the issue but he understood her need to be alone within herself. They drove through the dark countryside for almost an hour before she said: “Where the hell are we?”

“I have some isolated property out here,” he replied: “It’s mostly forest with steep elevation, surrounded by wetlands from flowing wells. Most of the flat farmland in the area is used to grow legumes, grasses, and grains for animal feed. It’s mostly dairy farms in the adjacent counties.”

“I didn’t ask you for a geography lesson,” she said as she pulled a new cigarette from her pack. After lighting it, she inhaled, held her breath, and, with smoke coming from her mouth, said: “I still don’t know where I’m at.”

“That’s good,” Rob said: “Then you can’t be sending mental messages back to Cal, informing him of your whereabouts.”

“Mental messages? You’re more paranoid than I am. I’m worried about tracking devices in my cloths, Cal gave them to me.”

“Take them off and throw them away. There’s a clean army blanket behind the seat. You can wrap yourself in that. Have you had any operations lately where something could have been implanted? Have you noticed any marks on your body that could be the result of an implant? Maybe I should look.”

“Look at my naked body? In the truck, using a flashlight? I don’t think so. I’m very sensitive, I would know if a tracking device had been placed inside me.”

“There’s a public campsite along the river up ahead. I’ll pull in there. I’ve got some clothes for you in the back.”

Rob carefully steered his truck from the asphalt blacktop onto a narrow dirt road leading down to the river. The parking lot had four vehicles close to the campsites. He stopped in a space just inside its entrance. Before getting out, he reached behind the seat for his shoulder holster and, after strapping it on, he reached under the seat for his handgun.

Janis laughed, and said: “You are paranoid.”

“It’s no use to me under the seat when I’m not in the truck.”

“You don’t trust me, do you? That’s why you’re taking the gun with you. You don’t want to leave it here with me.”

“It’s nothing personal, Janis. I don’t feel comfortable without my weapon. And I never leave it behind, not with anyone.”

Rob’s survival kit included an assortment of woman’s clothing per the advisement of a female friend. He found a combat uniform with the latest camouflage pattern and a matching boonie hat with a wide brim which snaps in place like an Australian bush hat. Then he located the appropriate underwear, socks, and boots.

“Oh, I hate that stuff,” she said when he returned to the cab.

He waited outside for her to change. Then, while she found a secure place to urinate, he buried her previous clothing in the woods, wrapped in aluminum foil.

Private Security – III

August 12, 2010

Rob’s special forces team consisted of twelve seasoned mountain warfare counter-terrorism veterans. Officially, they were participating in a coordinated effort involving US trained Afghan army and police units attempting to force Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents from a large mountainous area. Effectively, they were out there on their own, given the amount time required for combat support to arrive, if it arrived.

Late one evening just before dark, they reached a semi-barren plateau halfway to the top of the Hindu Kush mountains. Rob’s detachment commander decided they should rest through the night. They were tired from hours of climbing the steep path leading up to the plateau, checking caves along the way.

After selecting a defensive position behind a large pile of rocks adjacent to a clump of windswept trees, they deployed an eleven inch, eight pound robotic surveillance vehicle: controlled with a specialized touchscreen laptop computer, it maneuvered under, over, and around obstacles while scanning the area for electromagnetic vibrations in the visual and infrared spectrum using a miniature array of sensitive receptors and then transmitting its findings directly to the laptop where they could be viewed in real time, recorded, and analyzed.

Rob found a spot inside their defensive position where he could sit without removing his equipment: a flat rock with boulders stacked into a perfect alcove surrounding it. While still holding his fully automatic M4A1 carbine in his lap, he rested his backpack and combat helmet securely against the boulders. Then he closed his eyes, relaxed his body, and entered into a deep sleep using an auto suggestion technique learned from a book while in training.

He awoke at three in the morning with full recall of his situation and location. But the darkness had an uncomfortable feel. Partly from the high altitude and low atmospheric pressure, he realized, but also something else, like deja vu getting ready to happen. He remembered the recent combat where an air strike became their only course of action and he was not interested in living through that again. He washed the bitter taste from his mouth with saliva as he adjusted his night vision goggles.

Seeing everyone still asleep, Rob leaned over to awaken the chief warrant officer who had the specialized laptop. He checked the robot’s memory in the computer and found information indicating the presence of armed insurgents moving in position to surround them. The captain and the rest of the group were immediately awakened. Each soldier had a specific function on the team, yet they were cross trained to perform all other functions, and to operate as two teams of six each.

The captain decided to attack rather than wait. Rob’s team of six blasted their way through the surrounding circle of insurgents to get behind them. He didn’t know how many there were but the majority of them were probably men from local and remote villages being forced to join the Taliban or their family would be punished. Rob regretted having to kill them but, with his training, experience, and night vision equipment, he dropped them one at a time, making every shot count, and none go astray. All members of his team did likewise, using their computerized goggles to determine safe angles of fire relative to each team member’s position.

Rob slept soundly and often when he first returned home from the army. But, after a couple of weeks, he started waking up at three in the morning checking for situation and location, feeling comforted to realize he was home in bed and not sleeping on a pile of rocks high in the mountains, the sparsely populated center of world population, surrounded by numerous armed men who he needed to kill immediately to assure his own survival. When he couldn’t get back to sleep, he wondered about his special forces unit. He thought about returning to the army but he doubted the success, even the moral judgment, of their mission. He needed to find another way to make a difference in the world. And he wanted to do it at home, in the USA.

He walked across the university campus on his way to the admissions office, impressed by the number of construction projects at various stages of progress, especially in a down economy, a war drained economy. The students walking around campus looked young, wealthy, and fashionably dressed. He remembered dropping out of school to join the army because of credit card debt accumulated trying to keep up with them. And the sight of them now clashed with his still vivid memories of combat, of climbing over rugged mountain terrain in pursuit of combat, of interacting with understandably uptight Afghan villagers. The intensity of his negative reaction to the campus surprised him. He sensed himself going out of control emotionally. When he reached the administration building’s entrance, he turned and quickly walked away.

While in the army, he had everything under control, even during combat, especially then. Now, without the mental constraints he had developed in training, and strengthened through experience, his hidden fears were stepping forward into the light. Emotional stress that had been growing beneath the surface now entered his consciousness fully developed.

Sitting in his car, still in the parking lot with the windows down and the motor running, he felt almost normal. He wouldn’t have the patience for schoolwork, anyway, he told himself, deciding to forget the campus for now and find a job.