Lucky

IF YOU FOUND ME ON THE STREET and asked, “What have you done with your life?” my answer might be:

“Well, that depends on who you ask.”

Some people say I’m a murderer. Others call me a nasty nuisance. Then there are those who can’t go a day without me, and to them, I’m the only thing standing in the way of a complete mental breakdown.

I’m no hero, that’s for sure. I’m not even positive I have any control over my own fate. I am born, I grow, I change along the way, and then eventually I die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The only difference between me and you is this: I BURN SLOW.

I’ll never get a proper burial. 

***

I met Doris Lynch at a Citgo in 1997. It was a good year. Gas cost $1.22 a gallon; you could go see a movie in the theater for less than five bucks, no joke. Doris Lynch picked me up after a fight with her estranged first husband. She was a little more colorful coming out of the apartment than she’d been going in. We hit it off pretty quick. I was there when she needed me.

Don’t get the wrong idea, here. I’m no homewrecker. Doris cashed in her chips long before I came around. The bags were already in the trunk of the car. The only thing she forgot was her purse––wouldn’t you know it––and she would’ve left without that if it hadn’t been for the pictures of her mother in the wallet.

Doris Lynch needed me, but I needed her just as much. I’d been in a slump myself; sitting in a gas station 18 hours a day with sweaty lottery addicts and the occasional junkie for company will do you in real quick, if you catch my drift. I was looking for a way out, and Doris just happened to come along at the right moment. It was love at first sight, if such a thing ever existed.

Doris took me places I’d never imagined. Most of all I remember her lips, the classic cherry Chapstick flavor, the way her tongue slid out to wet them from behind brittle, yellow teeth. They got more and more yellow in the years to come, I imagine.

We were standing in the parking lot, fast approaching midnight, when this guy came up to ask if Doris knew “The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He offered her a pamphlet. Her response was priceless: GOT A LIGHT?

“No thanks, I’m allergic.”

We were golden from then on, baby. It was the best thing, and the worst thing, and the shortest thing that ever happened all rolled into one. A brief moment of clarity; burning desire mixed just the right way with desperation, a volatile blend of agony and regret. This makes for a powerful concoction, one any down-in-the-dumps burnout would be hard-pressed to refuse, and Doris had never been a model for reasonable behavior.

She knew all the warnings. She’d read about this kind of relationship in magazines and on the sides of buses, on billboards and on TV. She’d heard politicians groaning on the radio, pressed by pundits and lobbyists to make outlandish statements, promises they would never live up to. In that moment, Doris didn’t care about all that. She went with her gut.

Her gut was telling her, “Well, I guess it can’t get any worse.”

She took the leap. Both eyes closed, lips parted, an eagerness on her tongue and an emptiness in her heart, she jumped in with both feet, and from then on, well, as they say: SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM.

The rest was history.

***

About seven years later, almost to the day, Doris Lynch came down with a cough. Nothing serious; the doctor said it was Bronchitis. She didn’t even call in to work that day. She worked the rest of the week, coughing into her fist. Then one afternoon Doris Lynch pulled her hand away, beet juice glistening in the crook of her thumb.

I heard about it through the grapevine. You know how these things go. You meet someone, you have a moment, and then the moment passes. Sometimes one leaves a mark on the other. Sometimes it just doesn’t stick.

There’s no denying I left my mark on Doris Lynch.

It’s true what they say: the small things are the most important. It was just this tiny thing growing inside Doris Lynch that did it.

She never stood a chance.

I have to say this: I didn’t feel a thing when I found out about Doris Lynch. Not a thing. No regret, no burning in my eyes, nothing. I went on about my day, laying in the crack of a sidewalk, like nothing ever happened. I’d been decomposing on the streets for years; hearing the news didn’t change anything. Life after Doris Lynch hadn’t been exactly kind on me. Apparently we had that in common.

Point is, I’ve moved on. The world has moved on. Doris Lynch rots the same as you will.

I don’t care what you think of me. You don’t have to like me. You don’t have to love me. You can outright hate me, for all I care. I’ve been around for a very, very long time, and I’m not going anywhere soon.

When you stroll over a crowded crosswalk, I’ll be there. When you settle down for a beer at the local dive bar, I’ll be there. When you walk through the hospital, any hospital, I will most certainly be there.

If you were to find me on the street and ask me, “What have you done with your life?” my answer might be:

“Nothing. Everything. Depends who you ask.”

END


I wrote Lucky for the COLOR BY WORDS | THE OL’ SWITCHEROO writing challenge, brewed in a cauldron and cast upon the world by The Mother of Bunnies herself.

I hope you enjoyed it.

If you think you know who or what the protagonist is (in other words, what perspective I’m writing from), drop a comment below and let me know. I’m curious to see how you all read it.

(Psst! I love you.)

Drinkers With Writing Problems Published My Poem!

It’s Christmas in August for this vagabond poet.

DWWPIn case you missed the giddy Tweets, earlier this week I was honored with a chance to guest-publish a poem on Drinkers With Writing Problems. Fantastic site, in case you’ve never had the pleasure. Go there. Just a heads up though, it’s BYOB.

I couldn’t be more excited for you all to read The Good Life. Special thanks goes out to Kim Nelson, keeper of the Ponytail Up blog, for getting my poem in the DWWP queue. Thanks, Kim. I’m sending you a bourbon basket.

Wait, is that even a thing? Do they actually make bourbon baskets?

If not, they really should. Someone, please steal this idea. Then promptly send me a free sample. “Free” being the operative word, since I’m broke. I would say “starving,” but fortunately I’ve stored enough blubber to keep my body functioning for many winters.

Okay, I think that’s enough self-deprecation for one blog post.

Now leave me alone to kill the rest of this Woodford Reserve in peace, dammit.

But, before you go, know this:

I love you.

P.S. Please Drink Responsibly.

Icebreakers

When we go out, I’m a stunt double,
Or a bouncer, or a villain, or a thug;
But only on the silver screen.
My buddy here, he’s an underwear model.
Yes, really. It’s no big deal. Not like,
Calvin Klein, or anything.
He doesn’t have the height for it.
But you know those Fruit of the Loom ads,
The ones where you only see the guy
From navel to thigh,
And it’s very focused on boxers or briefs,
And the bulge in the crotch
Staring at you subliminally
Behind that thin layer of cotton?
Yeah, that’s totally him.
So, basically, you’ve already seen him
In his underwear. I think it’s only fair
If he gets to see you in yours.
This is a great icebreaker, believe it or not.
Girls at bars think it’s funny,
Because they don’t know for sure if it’s true,
So they stick around for at least a few beers
To shoot the shit and see if we’re full of it,
Or if we’re just being funny, at the very least,
Because funny is always a good thing, too.
Sometimes, this game will go over perfectly,
And my buddy will go home with a girl,
And I’ll drive myself back to his place,
Where I fall asleep on an air mattress
On the floor of an empty guest bedroom.
It’s cool, because I’ve already got a lady
Back home, waiting on me,
So I’m not trying to score.
But once I get back home,
And have a minute to think,
I like to lay in bed and revise our résumés
To prepare for the next night.
Maybe tomorrow night,
I’ll be a brilliant writer, and my buddy
Can do the talking, and I’ll just smile and nod.
He’ll be Edward Norton’s stunt double,
And I’ll be a New York Times Best Seller,
And at the end of the night,
When the girl is trying to get me to go home,
I’ll just smile and say,
“Maybe some other time.”
Because I know I’ve got the air mattress
And a picture of my beautiful love
Waiting for me in the guest bedroom
That suddenly doesn’t feel so empty.

Backwards Marco Polo

I met Death in the afternoon,
Hiding at the bottom of a bottle.
Now, I know that sounds
Like bad lyrics to a country song,
But actually, it was amazing,
Because the bottle was see-through,
And still I never saw him coming.
A sneaky one, that Death.
Always creeping up on you
When you least expect it,
Or when you hold a bullhorn to your lips
And scream for him to come find you.
This backwards game of Marco Polo
Will not end well, invariably.
Trust me, CPR hurts,
And when someone puts
Their fingers down your throat,
The fingernails always scratch you,
And the IV never goes in quite right
The first time, so it bruises
When your vein blows.
This happens every time, like clockwork.
And then they pump you with charcoal
To get your stomach cleared out,
And that stuff is just awful.
It’s better to do it quick, I think,
Than go lurking behind trees,
Playing tag with Death,
Because when he does get around
To finding you, and he will,
He comes with vengeance in his wake,
And fury in the palms of his hands,
Lithe fingers at your neck and chest
That leave burn marks.
And heaven forbid you wake up,
Or snap out of it halfway through,
Because then they’ll haul your ass to jail,
Or slap a happy jacket on you
And toss you in a soft room
With other people who lost a game
Of Backwards Marco Polo with Death.

Goose

You sat me down on the soft
Brown shag carpet,

Ready to teach me the ways of war,
Gear in hand, idle throttle,

You reached up and pulled
The cord on a low-hanging fan:

We took flight. Pitch, and breeze
Be damned, our Blackhawk

Would never go down,
Not with you by my side, Goose.

Or so I thought.
I was too little to know

How that story would end,
Floating quiet on a salty raft,

Dog tags sinking, discarded
But not forgotten.

We spent the summer months
Dangling feet over Papaw’s head,

Snickering at the TV
And a receding hairline,

Easy to see with a bird’s-eye view;
I braved gossamer and angry cats,

Chased whispers,
Fought the dreaded raspberry

To see your smile,
Hear your laugh,

And never once
Did we leave that golden battlefield,

And never once
Were we at war.


Goose was the first poem I wrote for a collection called MOONHANGER (still in writing) about my grandmother, Darlene Kington. I called her Mammaw. She was one of the kindest, most beautiful souls ever to walk this earth. We played this game called “helicopter” on the stairs leading up over the living room. Mammaw would start up the ceiling fan––the propeller––then I would fly us around.

Goose takes me back to all those summers I spent with Mammaw, army crawling  her carpeted floors, pretending to be shot down from my captain’s seat at the bottom of the staircase. Mammaw’s gone now, just like Goose, but I don’t need a set of dog tags to remember her. I’ll always have that golden battlefield.

Today’s no different than yesterday; the same will be said of tomorrow. I love you.

Weekend Living

On Saturday mornings I become a cartoon
Caricature of a “normal,” “happy” American,

Drinking coffee, eating an English muffin,
Parading around in pajama pants,

And the kind of shirt you wear to the gym,
But as the day goes on, I get less and less normal,

Screaming psychedelic garage blues in the shower,
Mourning from head to toe, black shirt and jeans,

Smoking dope in a little pickup truck
With a half-gallon of rum riding shotgun,

Still high from the Bennies I ate after breakfast,
A whole new dish I like to call Eggs Benzos,

Like Eggs Benedict, only way better,
Now with half the anxiety and no hollandaise.

By the time I get where I’m going,
I usually don’t remember why or where I left,

So every day is a mystery, a new adventure,
And everyone I meet is a stranger.

In the afternoon I like to break out the rum,
Typically with passion fruit or mango juice,

Something healthy, you know,
And after three or four of those, I’m ready.

For what? Fucking anything.
Not like, the way you’re thinking,

I just mean I’m up for whatever,
As long as it involves parachuting Molly

Until my eyes are flying saucers,
Then dancing with the strangers I met before,

Or didn’t meet, whatever;
I won’t remember them, so it’s all the same.

Then at night, when it gets really late,
I like to have a night cap, something strong,

Like a glass of rum with some Oxy
To take the edge off, get ready for bed,

And by the time I’m passing out,
I’ll remember that tomorrow is Sunday,

So basically, I get to do it all over again.
This is called Weekend Living.

It’s just like Weekday Living,
Only you don’t have to go to work.

It’s way better, too,
because talking to customers

Is hard enough sober,
Let alone drooling uncontrollably.

I guess what I’m trying to say is
Customer Service jobs are the worst.

Doodle | Drink Up

This week’s doodle comes, once again, from a bar in Lexington, KY.

The past week has been a whirlwind of chaotic writing fueled by late-night drinking, a lot of insomnia, philosophic and other discussions, and a variety of other fun substances mixed into the fray. When I get into this mode, I really have to embrace it and kind of go with the flow, and I find that ultimately the story is better for me living in the character’s shoes.

The novella I wrote last week is about a junky living life on the outskirts. The main character dives head first into this vivid underworld full of rich characters, surreal experiences, and no shortage of drug-induced paranoia. “Drink Up” captures some of this sentiment, I think, by throwing inhibitions to the wind and embracing that dark voice inside you that always craves more.


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For now, and always, I love you.

Disassembled

I fell apart on the subway this week.
It was a dreadful scene, really.

Parts of me went everywhere,
Scattering around the subway car,

Rolling across people’s feet,
Bouncing around on that icky floor.

One of my arms landed
In a sweet old lady’s shopping bag,

Right next to a loaf of french bread.
She didn’t even notice.

I was so embarrassed, my cheeks turned red,
But she didn’t see because

My head had already split off,
Rolled to the back of the car,

Bumping into shoes and ankles,
Bruising my nose, my cheeks,

But I wasn’t able to shout,
Because my lungs weren’t connected,

So I can’t blame those people for kicking me.
They didn’t know any better.

This isn’t the first time this has happened.
Every once in a while,

I start to feel all bottled up inside,
And I know it’s about to happen again.

I’m going to fall to pieces,
Little bits of me here and there, disassembled.

There will be tears, of course,
But crying won’t make a bit of difference.

The doctors haven’t come up
With a name for it yet, but they will.

I don’t think they truly understand it yet.
Maybe one day, a doctor will go to pieces

In the grocery store,
Or while he’s talking to a patient,

And then he’ll take the time to give
This horrible condition a name,

Solve the mystery for the rest of us.
Maybe it goes back to Ancient Greece,

Or the Egyptians. Maybe somewhere,
In a hieroglyph carved in stone,

There’s a picture of a person,
Man or woman, it can happen to anyone,

With their limbs scattered all about,
Sadness in their eyes,

A look on their face that says,
“Help me. I’m lonely and lost

And I need someone to take notice.
I need someone to put me back together.”

Who knows? Maybe one day
This will happen to you.

If it does, the key is, don’t panic.
It will pass, with time.

The human body is a remarkable thing,
Capable of all sorts of miracles,

And over time the limbs naturally
Attract one another, draw closer,

And reconnect. It takes a while,
But eventually you’ll go back to normal,

Like nothing ever happened, almost,
No scars, if you’re among the lucky ones.

Your friends and family won’t understand,
And they’ll forget all about it in time,

But you’ll never forget.
It will always be in the back of your mind.

No matter what happens,
Or how much you tell yourself it’s all better,

From then on,
You’ll always remember

How it
Felt to

Fall
Apart.

Inner Beauty

The inspiration for this week’s doodle came while I was sitting in a bar in downtown Lexington, KY with some friends. 

I’ve always been a people watcher, and Lexington has no shortage of unique and beautiful faces. Lots of young people, most of them struggling with self love, self image, and self respect. Sad to see, but with the current programming, what would you expect?

“Find Your Inner Beauty.”

 

Love you, mean it.

Hide and Seek

We spent our younger years
Pondering the brutality of love,
Huffing the breath of darkness
Like gasoline fumes,
Basking in the sorrow of morning,
The song of eternity we spent dancing
Hopeless hapless helpless
Amongst shrunken heads
Twinkling in the sky.
The stars and rain formed a chorus,
Voices born before time,
And sang us soft to sleep.

We grew older. In the afternoons,
Rain ruined our favorite shoes,
Made our kisses sweeter,
Made the days longer,
The darkling nights we laid together,
Counting leaks in the ceiling,
Counting thunder clashes,
One. Two. Three. Four––boom.
God was getting closer now.
This was our hide and seek.
We hid from the world,
And the world hid from us

The darkness we didn’t care to see,
Dangers crawling like leaves
Along a sidewalk, scraping,
Hushed and low, ready
To sweep our toes from under us
And throw us to the dirt,
But we’d have none of that.
We were ancient now,
Wise enough to know the difference
In clouds, and clouds.
A storm was coming, true,
But you and I, we’d fare just fine.

And when night came at last,
We’d be sitting hand in hand,
Watching the horizon disappear,
Waiting for the clouds to find us,
And you’d look at me,
Hope in your eyes,
And we’d speak without speaking.
We wouldn’t need words,
Like love, or death, or thank you,
Because we’d have said them all before,
And when the rain started,
We’d hold hands and count, together.