Sunday, November 30, 2014

Smoke and Mirrors (Like a Bunny Part 3)

It wasn’t until maybe a week after the power went out that things started getting really bad. A week of people being unable to shop for food and unsure of what would happen… A week of bipartisan bickering with each party blaming the other and neither accepting any responsibility… I mean, if you think about it, really think about it, a week of Starbucks junkies unable to get their caffeine fix is a disaster waiting to happen. A week without television for the majority of the U.S. is asking for riots.

Things were already tense before that. With a market crash far exceeding the recession and bank bailouts that rocked the country in 2008, unemployment skyrocketed, businesses closed, and the economy tanked leaving people fighting for minimum wage jobs and still unable to keep afloat. The government was forced to cut social benefits. No food stamps. No welfare. Social security was next. People were literally starving to death while Congress and the President continued to make full salaries and dine on caviar for breakfast (metaphorically and perhaps literally) every day. When a new budget approval bill stalled in Congress that both reinstated and increased these benefits and raised the debt ceiling, the government shut down cutting tens of thousands of more out of their jobs with no end in sight.

That’s when things went from bad to destroyed… sovereign citizen militias took advantage of this vulnerability and attacked the White House, the Pentagon, and Capitol Hill. No one had any idea the numbers these groups had, and the arms that had been amassed by them under lax gun control laws were staggering. Their targets were quietly and swiftly taken down in a matter of hours leaving a bare-bones government in place that still couldn’t tell its asshole from a hole in the ground, bumbled their way through managing the problem, and still, obviously, couldn’t get a budget approved much less get things back on track… Chaos is an understatement. The central government completely fell, and the states weren’t too far behind. Everything dissolved. Everything. So, people started taking care of themselves any way they could. No one was looking to rebuild. It was complete lawlessness and not in a feel –goody Libertarian utopia kind of way…in a cannabilistic, we’ll-rape-you-just-for-fun kind of way apparently.

Alyssa can’t help thinking about the past. About what has led to where she is now—camping with her partner in the middle of the woods with no tent, no supplies, and her badly injured father on the run from a group of Others. Others who wanted to rape and kill her. Others who tried to kill her father and may very well have succeeded.

Daniel moans in his sleep then pulling her out of her own head. She goes to him to check for fever careful not to wake him.

“He’s got to be quiet, Lys. He’ll attract people making noises like that.”

“And this fire won’t?”

“Point taken.”

She smirks at Jamie across the fire. Even in the most dire of situations, she can’t help that warm feeling she gets when he admits she’s right…mostly because she’s right pretty often, and he can’t stand it. It has been that way since they were kids.

“I hate that look you get.”

“The one when I’m right and you’re not?”

Jamie shakes his head but even in the shadowy, low light of the fire she can still see the smile on his face. Moments like this almost make her feel normal again. That feeling is gone in a flash, though, when she hears her dad moan again and she has to wonder once more if he’s going to make it. She has lost everything. She and Jamie both have. He still doesn’t have a clue what he will find when they finally make it back home. Will there even be a “home” or will Jasper be taken over by Others? For all she knows, their childhood homes may be demolished, burned to the ground perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve seen it during their travels. What she does know is that her mama is gone and her daddy may die, too. The wound in his shoulder needs treatment that she can’t give especially not without supplies. If he makes it through the night, they’ll have to scavenge somewhere for whatever first aid items they can find.


She shakes her head attempting to break loose the thoughts that seem to have rolled their way inside her mind threatening to take root and realizes that Jamie must have been speaking to her then entire time. She hasn’t heard a word of it.


“Did you hear anything I said?”

“No…I was lost in thought, I guess. What is it?”

“Nothing important except that we should get moving soon. The sun’s coming up, and I don’t want to stay in one place too long just in case we’re being followed.”

“I don’t think Daddy can move right now. He needs his rest.”

“And we need to move. If he’s going to come with us, he’s going to have to move, too.”

What they really need, she thinks, is for everything to be fine again, for the power to come back on, farmers to go back to work, for each other to no longer be seen as food and for some sort of manufacturing to take place to fix what has been destroyed and get things back on the mend … Order needs to be restored. People can’t continue to live like this. As it stands, there have been several groups that have tried to take over and create a functional government or so the rumors go. News travels slowly in these times, but it still gets around. The regular players attempted to step up with their ideas about how to make it work, radicals with extremely conservative goals took a shot, and of course, the militias, but nothing has been able to stick, nothing works. Nothing’s going to work as long as far gone as everyone is, not for the entire country anyway. If it were left up to her, being as she’s always right and all, maybe the best solution would be smaller governments based on region with a central government forming later if at all.

With the sun higher in the sky, Jamie begins to get edgy. He paces out of frustration. Daniel is still out cold. He hasn’t stirred except the occasional moan, but he’s still not feverish. Not yet anyway. It’s time to go. Jamie’s right--staying in one place isn’t a good idea. She shakes her dad calling to him softly at first to wake up, but he doesn’t respond until she’s nearly yelling at him. He stirs and blinks slowly at her groaning in pain.

“Daddy, it’s time to go. We need to get moving…the sun’s already up.”

He nods. He’s in too much pain, it seems, to actually form words, but he manages to get to his feet with her help. There’s nothing to pack, and the fire had already dwindled down to smoldering ash.

They have nothing but themselves and each other.

The small group heads towards Jasper. Alyssa’s mind is on loss…losing her country, her home, her mama, everything she thought she needed. She lost her phone, her ipod, coffee…PIE…everything. Everything she thought was important in life, that was necessary for life is gone. She doesn’t even have tampons anymore. No gummy vitamins. No dresses or bags or shoes. No candy or chocolate. She doesn’t even have a fucking hair dryer or shampoo for fuck’s sake. Everything she ever knew about the way life works, about how to fucking live. It’s all gone. But, what she realizes now trudging through these woods to get back home with the sunlight in her face, hand in hand with Jamie and her arm around her dad for support, is that everything she ever really needed was inside her all along, and every day she continues to prove that. The things she thought were central to life were all just smoke and mirrors…illusions of necessity to fuel a broken system.

Of course this has been another installment of Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. I hadn't really planned to continue this story (again...ha), but when I saw the prompt this week was "power" I had to continue it at least once more. It's not all that action packed, but I enjoyed it all the same. Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out the other contributions on the MTCAB page and anonymous confessions on the Facebook page. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Sign and Share Please!!

In April of this year, I read an article about a young man who had been tried and convicted in Florida under the Felony Murder Law. This law is something I’m familiar with and have been against for some time now because it doesn’t apply punishment that is proportionate to culpability in a crime, and I have seen plenty of cases where a person who wasn’t even present or couldn’t be proven to be present at the scene of a crime was given a life or even death sentence for whatever small part they may have played. This was something altogether different though. When I read this one, I was pretty enraged. This was the first time I’d ever read a case where the person affected by this heinous law had absolutely no involvement in the crime nor in criminal behavior at all.

The man in this case loaned his car. That’s what he did to get a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He was drunk at home with his roommate and his roommate’s friends. The roommate and friends decided to rob the house of a known drug dealer and asked to use his car. Ryan agreed. The roommate is on record saying that the only part Ryan played that night is giving permission to use the car. He did not help plan a burglary. He did not help plan a murder. He gave permission and fell into a drunken sleep. He was asleep when the crime was committed.

Plenty of people were outraged about this case. The comments section each time it was shared was quickly filled with people who were angry and who demanded justice for the man in question. I took it a step further though. I wrote him. I sat down and wrote a letter the very day I read about him.

That’s how I met Ryan.

Anyone can read the articles that I have or visit his website or even read the petition I created. Those are all important but can be found easily through Google. I’ll also include them here at the end because that petition is of utmost importance right now. But, what I want to really tell you about is Ryan himself because if you know what I know about him, if you can see what I see, you can’t help being angry and wanting to do more to help him.

Since first writing in early April, we’ve gotten up to 2 or 3 letters a week, and I’ve visited him twice. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about him and what he’s like. He wears the label “nerd” proudly and loves to talk about video games and comic books. Luckily, I have a whole lot of nerdery going on when it comes to video games so we both geek out on letters talking about the nostalgia of gaming classics and me writing about newer stuff I’ve played or watched being played. We talk about music. A lot. Music is really his salvation. A letter without mentioning a band or song is an anomaly. He loves comic book movies, Star Wars, and old cartoons.

Ryan grew up with a very strong woman as his mother. She’s his rock even though these last 11 years have impacted her in ways you could not imagine. She’s his champion and is always in his corner pushing for his freedom. In 11 years, she has only gotten more determined instead of jaded which shows just how incredible her strength really is. It’s her influence that has made him one of the most respectful and thoughtful men I have had the pleasure to meet. 11 years of prison hasn’t changed that or diminished it in any way. He would be mortified if anyone ever accused him of disrespecting a woman or anyone for that matter.

No matter how harsh the prison environment can be, he has never lost his humanity, his will to help others, to do good in the world, and to be something more than what he often sees around him. In fact, if his sentence were commuted, he wants to speak out against the felony murder law to work towards getting these laws changed across the country instead of just a few states. He also wants to use his experiences to help at-risk youth learn the perils of the company they keep.

Perhaps the biggest thing that amazes me about my newfound friend is the lack of bitterness he has. For 11 years, he has been behind bars for a crime he had no idea would be committed, that he played no part in, that he was asleep at home in bed during and yet… he has no anger, no bitterness. If anything, he is one of the most positive people I have ever met. Every now and then, he might have a complaint about the food (dry slices of turkey for Thanksgiving…blegh), but that’s it. How many other people can say that? The last time I visited him, there was also an art student visiting who is preparing to make a documentary about his case. When he asked Ryan how he can stay so positive and not be bitter about the circumstances of his life. Ryan answered that he’s still alive, he has family that support him and love him, and he has friends who provide unconditional and unexpected support. Most people I know have all that on top of their freedom and still can’t make it through a single day with even half the positivity. Knowing Ryan has been an inspiration.

A girl lost her life tragically in this case. No one denies that. But, the theft of Ryan’s freedom by the state is criminal itself. The governor of Florida has agreed to hear his plea for clemency before the Offender Review board on December 10. At that time, Ryan’s sentence could be commuted to time served. I beg each of you to sign the petition included below and share it. Every little bit of support we can give him can only help improve his chances of never spending another holiday season behind bars away from the family who loves him so much.



Young Turks video:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eddie (Like a Bunny Part 2)

The two of them are sure, certain in fact, that they are going to be chased through town. They stick to the shadows moving quickly but stopping to listen if anyone is close on their heels. At no time do they hear footsteps echoing behind them, no mad laughter cackling over their shoulders. Backyards give them enough cover to make it out without ever having to go into a street or dealing with the guards on the road out of town.

One of the backyards leads them to a field they cross before coming to a wooded area, but that’s where Alyssa stops.

“I have to go back for my dad.”

“What? What the fuck, Alyssa. NO. No way. You saw what was going on back there. You heard what I heard!”

“What if he’s still alive and they’re just keeping him around for…for…” She cries then and not just a little…not just silent tears. Huge, racking sobs shake her entire body for a few moments before she is able to get them under control. “Jamie, family always, always comes first. You know that.”

“I do.”

“Then we have to go back for Daddy.”

“No. Even if we were to go back, that man back there isn’t your daddy anymore. That’s not the Daniel I’ve known since we were little. That’s not the Daniel that gave me a talk about how to treat a woman when you and I finally started dating. That Daniel is gone. That man back there isn’t family anymore.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. If that were true, we’d still be back there tied up and probably missing a leg right now and smelling ourselves roasting on an open fucking fire.”

Jamie sighs. She’s right. She knows she’s right. He knows she’s right. Her dad couldn’t have revealed who they are without looking weak, without revealing a vulnerability that would later be used against him. But he still risked himself to get them out of there…

“Okay, I’ll compromise. We can wait for him like he asked on the outside of town. In hiding. The first hint that anyone else is coming for us, that anyone else is out there and we’re gone. If he doesn’t show, we have to leave it. We don’t have anything. The few things we did have are back there. We can’t take on that whole camp of Others to get your dad and you know that. If we try, then we all lose. We all die and get eaten. Your dad took that risk to see you live so why make his sacrifice worth nothing?”

“If my daddy doesn’t show up, you’re not stopping me from going for him. I’m not leaving here without him.”

“Let’s just move back to the edge of town. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes. There’s no use standing here arguing when we don’t even know what’s going to happen.”

“Fine.” She crosses her arms signaling her discontent that he’s even fighting her on this. This is her DAD. This isn’t really some stranger. How could she not go back for her dad whether it was stupid or not? How could she live with herself if she didn’t?

The sun is setting in a blaze of blue and pink hues as they make it back and find a hiding spot to wait for Daniel. Dan. Whatever. There are plenty of bushes and trees to keep them safely hidden, and if nothing else, they can crawl back into the thicker parts of the woods from where they are if they hear anyone coming. It’s as good as it’s going to get.

Time passes slowly as the two sit at the base of an old Live Oak peppered with Spanish Moss giving it the distinguished aesthetic of a gentleman with graying temples. There’s no comfort there despite Alyssa loving these old oaks. It’s the thing she’s missed most about her Southern home, but right now, there’s nothing that could put her mind at ease except seeing her dad and knowing he’s going to be okay. And if he is, she’s going to throw on that pouty, wide-eyed look of hers that has always gotten her what she wants. The phrase “daddy’s girl” is an understatement. Jamie knows that. He also knows she’s not going to give up on this if Daniel doesn’t show…

Jamie grabs her arm in mid-thought almost causing her to scream out loud until she remembers where she is and what’s going on. She clamps her mouth shut tight breathing in sharply. She turns to him with a “what the fuck?!?” look on her face as he reaches one finger up to his lips telling her to keep it quiet.

“Listen,” he mouths without making a sound and points to their left in the direction of the town.

She cocks her head to the right listening, breathing slowed and eyes looking around at nothing in particular as if this somehow amplifies her ability to hear whatever it is she’s supposed to be hearing. That’s when she hears the underbrush moving. It’s faint but it’s there, and it doesn’t sound like whatever or whoever it is wants to sneak up on them. She starts to move but Jamie’s hand tightens on her arm. She glares at him, but he only shakes his head solemnly and holds up his finger telling her to wait.

Alyssa settles back down into her spot and cocks her head again… Did she hear what she thinks she just heard? Was that a whistle? She leans forward some straining to hear better and recognizes the sound instantly when it winds through the trees again. It’s what her father passes as a bird call. He’d use it whenever he was looking for her when she was a kid. He couldn’t stand the way her mom would stand at the backdoor and scream her name. It would piss him off every single time. So, he came up with whatever this is. He says it sounds like some kind of bird native to the area, but she’s never heard a bird that sounds as pathetic and constipated as that whistle makes it out to be. Naturally she returns the whistle. It’s what she has always done.

“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST DO?!!” Jamie hisses at her.

“That’s my dad. That’s his whistle. You know that!”

“And what if he’s taught that whistle to every single one of the Others in this camp? What if it’s one of them? What if one of them is with him?”

All she can do was look at him. He was right. She should have waited. The thought of her dad being out there was too much for her though and she had gotten ahead of herself.

“We have to wait, Alyssa. We have to wait and see just exactly who is out here with us. We can’t stop being smart about things just because family is involved. If we’re not, none of us are going to make it. Don’t you get that??”

“Sure,” she answers. And that’s all she can manage beyond the tears in her eyes. It sounds sulky and in a way it is. She’s mad at herself for not thinking more than she’s mad at Jamie for calling her out about it, but he rolls his eyes and grits his teeth in that way he does anyway.

“Look, why don’t you wait here and keep your whistler zipped. I’m going to go around behind where they are and try to see what’s going on and who exactly it is. Don’t move. Don’t talk. And especially don’t whistle again.”

He doesn’t even wait to see her nod in agreement before he’s silently moving through the trees. Their only flashlight is back in that building with the rest of their stuff, so she doesn’t know how he expects to see with the light nearly dead on the horizon and the moon just a smear behind the clouds in the sky. She suspects he has to get away from her for a bit before he loses his cool and gives them away himself, but she doesn’t feel good about being left alone no matter the circumstances.

The whistling sounds more fervent now that she’s returned a call of her own, but it doesn’t sound much closer. Whoever is making the call is still pushing through the brush but it’s hard to get a fix on how far away the person is or which direction they’re headed. She leans her head back and closes her eyes listening and waiting.

“Well, lookit what we found, Dan! Sleeping Beauty! I thought you said that girl of yours was long gone by now. Another lie!”

Alyssa snaps her eyes open and is immediately blinded by a glaring flashlight. She scuttles around the tree, but a hand reaches out lightening fast and grabs a handful of her hair pulling her towards him.

“OWWW… let the fuck go of me!”

“This daughter of yours sure does have a filthy mouth on her, Dan.”

“Daddy…? What’s going on?”

“Zip it, Alyssa.”

“That’s right, sweetie, you better do as your ‘daddy’ says . The two of you’s in a whole heap of trouble after that business in the Hall today. We got a man dead and all his fresh meat lost just because your dear ol’ man got a bit sentimental. And we ain’t having that. We cain’t even justify Beau’s death since we cain’t keep the meat fresh. Such a waste, too. We coulda had a half a dozen meals off that carcass instead of just one good meal tonight. So now your daddy’s gotta make up for that with you and that other one. Where’s he?”

“How am I supposed to know? He took off when I wouldn’t leave without my dad.” She’s lying but she hopes that lie will save them from looking for Jamie. At least one of them should make it out of this mess alive.

“Bullshit!” the hand yanks on her hair a little harder until she has tears in her eyes.

“It’s the truth!”

“Let her go, Eddie. You don’t see the boy do you?”

The hand tightens on her hair again, and she hears a meaty sound that makes her want to puke. Dan moans softly sounding not quite there but she can’t see anything that’s going on. Her head is bent unnaturally from the vise on hair. She’s clueless.

“That wound looks pretty painful there, Dan. You want me to dig my fingers around in it one more again? Ol’ Beau at least managed to get a shot off, didn’t he? Right into that shoulder, huh?’ She hears that sound again, hears her dad begging.

“Please… just please let the girl go. She ain’t got nothin’ to do with this. It was all me. “

“And? What is that going to do for our food count, Dan? Can we eat your blame? Your responsibility?”

“No, but you can eat me.”

“DADDY!” Alyssa screams. She fights throwing punches against unseen enemies struggling to break free but never connecting.

Eddie laughs it off and cinches his hand tighter. “Keep on wiggling like that little girl and see if I don’t knock your ass out.”

She stills herself, thinking…searching for an answer.

“Now, Dan, why do you think I’d rather eat you and not her? She’s young, tender, and definitely got way less fat on her than your big ass. The fact is we’re going to eat you both. I ain’t lettin’ go the best meal I’ll have all damn month likely, and until we get ready to eat, she’ll be good for morale, don’tcha think?” he laughs then sounding just as mad as the one her daddy must have killed. If she lives through this, she’s sure she’ll never get that cackling out of her head. Even now it feels like a parasite that has managed to root its way under her skin making her ache for a shower that she’ll probably never get.

“No one really gives a shit, Eddie.” Dan’s voice is weak, but the conviction in his words is still coming through intensely. “That’s why it’s just you and me out here. Everybody else told you it was a wild goose chase and to forget about it. All you have to do is look inside to that human being that used to be there…you used to be a father yourself, man. Let her go. That’s all you have to do. Let my girl go.”

Tears threaten to spill from Alyssa’s eyes again but not from pain this time. The sound of her dad crumpling to the ground pulls her out of her sentimentality, though.

“What the fuck’s that?” Eddie manages to get out before he collapses to the ground releasing her hair in the process. She stays on the ground until she sees its Jamie standing behind where the men were holding a tree limb nearly as big as he is. He runs to her frantically and begins checking all over for signs of injury.

“Are you okay, baby? Please tell me you’re okay. Just please be alright.”

“I’m fine. Why’d you knock out my dad?!”

“I save your ass, and that’s the first thing you ask me about? Daniel? Daniel who must have led that man out here since he’s the one that called you with that whistle of his?”

“Family first, Jamie. Always.”

He shakes his head, but he hugs her tighter until he hears moaning coming from the two downed men. He leaves her then to check. Eddie’s armed with some sort of rifle. She doesn’t know what kind. That’s never really been her thing. Jamie takes it, chambers a round, and looks back at her.

“Don’t look. And cover your ears, okay? It’s going to be loud and that’s going to signal the Others, but it’s the fastest way to do this. We’re going to have to get the fuck out of here after this and both of us don’t need ringing ears.”

She does as he asks and turns her head. Eddie has to die and she doesn’t feel the least bit sorry right now, but that doesn’t mean she wants to see it.

The gun makes an enormous sound even with her hands clamped tightly over her ears. Jamie comes for her and quickly pulls her to her feet.

“What about my dad?”

“What about him?”

“He’s coming with us.”

“Alyssa…he’s shot. Look at him. He’s going to die.”

“He’s not going to die here to become food for these maniacs!”

“Fine, help me get him up. We’ve got to move. Now! We should be outta here already.”

They get Daniel to his feet. He stumbles, almost falls down again but catches himself with Jamie’s help.

“You got this?”

He glances over at Alyssa. That look in his eyes…he knows she won’t leave without him. He doesn’t have a choice but to get moving unless he wants to risk her even more.

“yeah,” he says. “For now anyway…”

Alyssa takes his hand in one of hers and Jamie’s in the other, and they run for it.

More fiction on this fine Sunday as part of Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. I had a couple people ask what happened to the folks in the last story I posted. I hadn't intended to finish anything. The idea was to leave it as a cliffhanger, but a certain blogging goddess I know said that would be evil. Ha. So, here we are. I don't think this is any more of a finale than the last, but I hope you enjoy it all the same. As always, any feedback is appreciated. And please, please, please head over to the MTCAB blog to read the other linkups and check out the Facebook page for anonymous confessions. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Like a Bunny

“quick, like a bunny!” he half-whispers.

“what’s that from?”

“Fear and Loathing. Don’t you remember?” he asks the girl.

She sighs audibly going to great lengths to make sure the exaggerations are noticed. “I miss that movie. I miss any movie. I definitely miss Johnny Depp. I’d even watch him in late era Tim Burton films! Even Dark Shadows! Ooooooh, I’d love to watch Gilbert Grape.”


“Yeah, yeah. I know Tim Burton didn’t do Gilbert Grape but that movie is awesome. I’d even watch 9th Gate right about no—“

He interrupts her with hiss. “You don’t want to do this, do you?”


“What choice do we have?”

“I know.”

She knows what needs to be done. Of course she does. But that doesn’t make what she’s about to do seem any less daunting. That’s the way this world works. In a way, she supposes that’s how the world has always worked. Fighting to survive was always a part of the equation, right? But, now it was so much more of a literal take on things rather than a euphemism for trying to make it in a society that, by definition, always put a whole lot of people in the tar pits. A system like that can’t sustain itself forever though. Not really. Eventually when you take all you can from those beneath you, when there’s absolutely nothing left to take, things get messy. To say the least.

Things are pretty much beyond messy.

They need food. It has been a couple days since they had anything substantial to eat because they’ve been in the woods. It’s always safer in the woods than on the street or in a town even if all they have to eat is a few berries, mushrooms, and some dandelion shoots. Maybe a rabbit or squirrel if they’re lucky enough to catch one. Which… well, to be honest, neither of them likes to do. She always cries. To be fair, though, she cries a lot these days. Point being, they’re in the woods more than anywhere else. Alyssa, who never camped a day in her life. The irony of it all, situational as it may be, really isn’t lost on her.

After a few days of scraping together what they can gather, staying on the move, and having zero protein, though, the two of them were forced to leave safety and take some risks which brought them to this place, a smallish town near where they grew up. Over the last several months they’ve traveled from NYC where the food ran out quickly and looters turned murderous in a matter of days to try and go back home to find their families. Or, at least, where home used to be. They’ve been getting closer and closer to where their parents are in hopes of reuniting with people they trust and trying to build something like a normal life again. That’s the plan anyway.

The hope for now, she can't really call *this* a plan per say, is to scavenge enough from this town to get them through the last bit of their journey. There might be food here. There might be nothing. It's a gamble, and a dangerous one at that because there’s definitely some Others. They heard them talking loudly, unafraid of who might come up the road, unconcerned about danger which meant these Others are the danger. If you can be that unafraid in this world, then you’re the thing to fear.

The two of them have been watching in the shadows for a bit. There were a few Others guarding the road’s entrance into the town but mostly they were goofing off. Because they don’t have to worry really. Because they’re armed. If they’re going to make it into this town to do some scavenging they’ll have to be quiet. And quick.

They move from the road looking for a way in elsewhere that might not be guarded and find it through a backyard. They’ve done this before but only out of necessity like tonight. There’s no way they’ll make it home in this cold if they don’t get some food. Real food. A place like this with Others is going to have the food stockpiled in one building which is stupid, of course, in case people like Jamie and Alyssa come through, but it’s the way it always is. When you are the danger, when you’re the thing to fear, you stop being as cunning. You stop believing in anything except brute force.

The two of them stick to the shadows searching for the stockpile aware that it might be guarded but often it’s not. Just the main roads to town are. It's just a game of trial and error when it comes to what you'll find. Maybe this time they’ll be lucky and find it completely vulnerable. If not, they’ll move on and brave the cold another night. By tomorrow, they should be home.


If they can pull through…

There are no longer motion detector lights to worry about. The power grid went down in the first few weeks after the stock market crash and the government shutdown. So, moving through yards is ideal. Most of the dogs have probably either been eaten, starved to death, or moved on, but every now and then Others have used them to help guard their camps, so the threat is there but it’s small. Neither one of them could survive a dog bite though. They haven’t seen any antibiotics in a town in ages. As long as they stay quiet and there are no dogs, they should be good. And if they’re captured? Chances are good they’ll be part of the stockpile of food. At least that’s the way things have been going. The less food is available, the more people are willing to do whatever it takes. This isn’t going to be easy.

But they keep moving.

They have to.

Both stop at the edge of the property crouched beside dying bushes and wait. There’s no sign of any Others, so they move on to the next yard. And the next and the next until they reach the center of town. City Hall will be the place. Or it’s usually the place at any rate because for whatever reason most people seem to think democracy still exists and the best place to keep things for everyone to have access is the power center of the town. It’s sad that people still hold onto that kind of shit even while they’re eating other people to stay alive. It isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference in the end when things are already this damn bad.

The closer they get, the more she shakes. This part is never easy. There have been more than a couple close calls in these last several months. And that one time that she won’t talk about with that man…She can’t even think about it without getting sick. She used to think the world was a terrible place as it was. She was mostly wrong about that. It was terrible…it just wasn’t this kind of terrible.

In the darkness against the side of small City Hall building, they wait for any sign of life. They hear nothing, though. Not a crackle in the breeze. No sounds of life on or outside of these streets. Not even a cricket to be heard. Her heart rate should be slowing down while they’re still and lying in wait, but it’s on the final stretch of the race. She may as well be sprinting towards the finish line with her competitor close at her heels as far as her heart is concerned. She’s pretty fucking sure that as quiet as the night has become, the thump in her chest can be heard two blocks over.

This is the hardest part.

They circle the building looking for a side or back entrance if at all possible. A window, a back door…anything that isn’t locked or locked down well. Going in the front is never a good idea. It doesn't even take trial and error to figure that one out. If anyone IS in there, the front entrance will be guarded more than anywhere else. The windows on the ground floor are all locked or maybe painted shut. Either way, they’re not giving them a way inside. There’s a door on the far side though that appears to only be secured with an old, rusty padlock and fortunately, they scavenged some bolt cutters a few towns back…

With the lock cut free, the door opens easily and the two manage to get inside. Just as Jamie suspected, the food was stored right there downstairs in an office to the side of the main lobby. It’s not much food. Some unmarked cans. Beans. Tuna. Dry pasta. Bags of rice. Barbeque sauce. A few scarce packages of peanuts and cheese crackers. They’re only going to take enough to get them through the night. A couple cans of tuna and some beans will do. Maybe a couple packs of those nuts. They start loading up their score when a bright light blinds them both.

“Just what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” the gravelly voice on the other end of the light asks.

They can’t see a thing.

“Hey, Dan! Dan! C’mere. We got ourselves some fresh meat.”

The two of them hear footsteps. Jamie reaches over and squeezes her hand briefly then takes off charging in the direction of the light. “Run, Alyssa! Now!”

She takes off into the connecting office and breaks into the hallway before she feels huge hairy arms grab her around the waist and pick her up off the floor. She hears a thud in the other room and screams “Jamie!” She kicks back as hard as she can connected with what she hopes is a set of balls but feel s more like a meaty thigh. The guy gives a grunt but holds on tighter refusing to let go.

“Babygirl…?” he whispers.

She freezes. Her heart is in her throat as she tries to turn around. “Daddy….?”

“Don’t turn around. Don’t look at me. Don’t act like you know me. I’ve got to get this figured out. Act like you’re passed out or I swear to God I’ll knock you out.”

He throws her over his shoulder. She’s panicking. Maybe she’s having a heart attack. She doesn’t fucking know for sure but she does what he asks because being knocked out can only lead to bad things. She learned that the hard way. At least if she’s conscious she can figure things out. Could this really be her father? This man living with these Others? It sounded maybe like her father… That man called him Dan. Her father is Daniel. Who else would call her Babygirl? Who else would know to call her that? Who else has those gigantic ape arms that would call her that?

With her eyes closed, she can't see where she’s going but she's sure they’re moving back towards Jamie. The Other with Jamie says, “I got this one knocked out and tied up already. Whatcha wanna do with her? Time for a little of the old in and out?” He cackles madly like he’s just made the funniest joke of the apocalypse. Apparently even with a societal collapse, douchebags remain douchebags.

“We ain’t got time for that, Beau. We just ain’t. We need to get her tied up, too, and secure that back door. I told you that lock weren’t good enough and now look what we got to deal with. “

“What we got to deal with is food and playtime…everybody wins. Well, everybody ‘cept them, of course.” He cackles again sending shivers down her spine.

Jamie groans below her somewhere.

“Why don’t you go take care of that door while I get this one situated?” Dan, Daniel…her dad says to the Other.

“Why don’t you go fix the door if you’re so damn bent up on it while I have a little fun with that pretty little thang right there?”

“ENOUGH with the bullshit. You’ll have her here tied up to do what you want with when the time comes. That time ain’t right the fuck now. Get the door fixed, Beau. Now.”

Her eyes grow wide. Was her own flesh and blood father just going to tie her up and let this man do that…do that thing the other one did to her? What kind of hell is this?

She hears footsteps stomp loudly down the hall just before the arms swoop her down and softly set her on the floor. She looks up and inhales sharply, tears in her eyes.

“What…Daddy? What’s going on? What are they going to do to me? What are you doing here? Where’s Mama?”

“You always did talk a mile a minute, Alyssa. We ain’t got time for that right now. He’s gonna be back. And you ain’t gonna be here when he is.”

He unties Jamie. “You and that boyfriend of yours never should have come back home. It ain’t good down here.” He tries shaking him but Jamie only manages another groan. “You’ve got to wake him the fuck up and get gone.”

“But…what are…what about you? What about my mama?”

“Alyssa, your mama’s gone. She’s been gone. I ain’t got time to sit and cry and moan about it right here and neither do you. I can’t leave here. This is all I got. Get out to the edge of town and when shit settles down, I’ll come out and we can talk about it, but then you’re gone and you ain’t coming back, you got it?”

He reaches over then and slaps Jamie right across the face.

His eyes flicker open, then. Searching but not quite seeing, not focusing.

Dan picks him up off the floor while he struggles weakly. Alyssa takes his hand and whispers, “it’s alright, Jamie. It’s my Daddy. Look at him…”

Jamie turns his head and a look of recognition sweeps across his face.

“Shut up, boy. Don’t say a word. We’ve got to get you out of here. Now, I need you to punch me. We gotta make this look like you escaped.”

“I can’t---“

“You can. And you will. Or you’ll be food. As hungry as I am right now tonight, I can’t see my Babygirl end like that. And I won’t see her go through what I did with her mother if it happens to you. Now punch me, you little shit. And make it good.”

Jamie pulls back and let’s one fly busting Dan’s lip. Blood pours from the split and Dan howls in pain.

Jamie and Alyssa take off to the front. They hear a loud click before that gravelly voice croons, “Now, just where do you think you’re going?” They can barely make out his silhouette in the moonlight but he’s there between them and the doorway.

Dan charges into the lobby pushing past them and tackles the Other to the ground.

“RUN!” he shouts as the two struggle.

They head to the back hoping the lock is still broken, push through…everything they had is still back in that room but they keep going in the shadows looking for a way to cross to the next block trying to stay quiet. Trying to be quick. Like a bunny.

They hear a gunshot followed by a mad cackle and make a run for it.

Thanks for reading another installment of Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. Be sure to check out the other linkups this week and the facebook page for anonymous confessions! And, in light of my decision to possibly enter a short story contest in January...any and all feedback is welcome. Thanks!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Negative Nancy

I’m finding out the hard way that there’s a tremendous difference between having an intense desire to get over insecurities and actually being able to do so.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve envisioned myself gagging that nagging little voice in the back of my head and tossing her and her self-depreciations, doubts, put-downs, wildly irrational reasons, and idiotic misconceptions down an abandoned well, but it never seems to work. Not for very long. That bitch is determined. And strong. And obviously an exceptional rock climber.

I started this year, this blog actually, talking about my insecurities and how this was it…I was done with that. I was going to learn self-acceptance. I was going to learn to accept a compliment. I was going to stop inherently doubting every single thing I do. And, I was going to learn to see myself through other people’s lenses instead of the ones I must have mistakenly picked up at the magic shop or been given as some kind of long-con prank that make everything carnival-mirror distorted. I thought, and still think, that seeing myself the way other people do might finally fracture the images of myself that my brain so stubbornly refuses to let go of... or at the very least, I’d realize some things I actually need to work on versus the everything-is-wrong-with-me mentality that lives inside my head.

But, here it is nearing the end of the year and I still can’t take a compliment seriously. And, I’m not just talking about compliments on my physical appearance. Even the compliments about the strength of my character fall on uncompromising ears that absolutely have no intention of letting anything positive absorb into my being and stick. I go out of my way to be a beneficial presence in other people’s lives who often don’t have that, not in the form of peers anyway. I write and I help where I can and I visit and I distract. For at least a couple of people I know, I am their only connection to humanity beyond bars and walls. I’m the only person who cares, truly cares and not out of some sick fantasy. And, what do I do when I haven’t heard from that person in awhile? I immediately assume I did something wrong or that something is wrong with me. Even when I try desperately to push those thoughts away and wait and be patient, my mind works a thousand miles an hour coming up with any and every reason, reflecting on every word written or spoken, analyzing every possibility. When there is nothing I can find that I’ve overtly done wrong, my brain works even harder to hypothesize what it could be. I am never able to just leave it alone and see how it goes and give myself the benefit of the doubt. And that's in times when there is absolutely no reason that a person I go out of my way to help would be angry with me. In any situation, I’m never able to give myself the benefit of the doubt and let those kinds of thoughts cloud my mind like poisonous gas that stifles everything but the negativity.

I know, deep down, that I am an entirely rational being. Except for when it comes to myself, my self image, and the way I believe I must seem to other people. The whole saying about what other people think being none of your business is all fine and good when you don’t give a flying fuck about those other people. But, when it’s personal, well, that changes everything. I realize that this partly comes from years of knowing people who did criticize and hold irrational ideals about the way I should look and act and be…from having a parent who only knew how to be hateful and living in a town where I’ve never fit in and was ostracized for being different. On some level, part of the problem is that I expect everyone to act in the same manner. But, even after years of actually receiving compliments from time to time and having people believe in me, really fucking believe in me, and try to build me up, things remain the same.

It’s not that I don’t know how to fix it. It’s something I work on. I’ve had a million conversations about it with a close friend who has the same issues and we constantly work on being open and honest with one another and share how we both see each other and the reality of our respective situations. We’re a voice of reason for each other. But, we both still find that no matter how reasonable we tell ourselves we should be, that little voice creeps back in when we let our guard down and the doubts submerge every last reasonable corner of our minds. The dam ruptures and floods everything in its path that might have been a rational thought with obsessive insecurity . Are we able to stop the torrential downpour of darkness? Sometimes. Sometimes we help each other through it. But, most of the time, it’s a futile effort…. because that voice keeps on going no matter what finding one tiny crack and splitting the dam wide open once again. I know that I need to find a way to stop the poison from spreading as soon as it starts one way or another or the doubt takes over and it becomes harder once again to stop it the next time. I feel like for every 2 steps forward I’ve taken this year I take at least 1 back. Progress, when it’s made, has been abysmally slow and painful.

I refuse to give up, though. No matter how hard it has been, no matter how painful, I can’t just roll over on this and let that voice win. Determined rock-climbing-queen or not, I will take her the fuck out even if it means a sucker punch to the box. Fighting dirty sometimes has its benefits. The progress may be slow, but it’s still progress, and it may seem like I’m trying hard to convince myself here that I can do it, and that’s true. That’s what this entire blog is about…me forcing myself to be frank and vulnerable and all too real because I can’t pretend like it’s a nonissue if I’ve been open about how big of an issue it really still is in public for anyone to see.

One day I’m going to be looking through old posts, and when I get to this one, I’m going to celebrate how I knocked Negative Nancy right down to the bottom of the well with a well-placed punch to the throat and sealed that fucker shut for good.

(and, dear friend, I hope you're able to celebrate with me, too)

Of course, since it's Sunday, this is another Sunday Confession with More Than Cheese and Beer. I hope you'll check out her page to see the other submissions for this week's prompt "Able" and look at her facebook page for anonymous submissions.

Friday, November 7, 2014

It's Not Always About the Apology

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week, 12 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My prompt is: Who was the toughest person to forgive in your life? How did you bring yourself to forgive?

It was submitted by:

I’ve blogged about this once before, about forgiveness and this particular story, but having written about it previously doesn’t change my answer so here goes….


The thing about forgiveness is that it’s never just given. It’s not something we just decide will happen and so it does, simply and easily, especially when you've been extremely hurt by someone…when that hurt runs deep into the core of your very being, when an apology doesn’t really cover it, when an apology was never really given, when forgiveness is more about you than them.

I learned that the hard way.

In March of 2006, my father was given 6 months to live. With treatment. Without treatment, that gap of “living” would have maybe been a couple weeks or maybe not depending on how badly his brain
continued to swell from the tumors that had metastasized there from the late stage renal cell carcinoma that was taking over his body. When I got the call that carried that news, I wasn’t really sure how to feel. I was shocked, sure. And on some level, I was grief-stricken. This was my father still, after all, and aren’t Daddies always invincible to their little girls? Even Daddies with a penchant for hard drugs and hitting?

Mostly, though, I was numb. Confused. Completely blank.

We hadn’t had the best relationship in my lifetime to say the least. Even as a little girl, my mom tells me I didn’t want to have much to do with him and would cry if she left me in his care. She has to tell me these things that happened because, for the most part, I can’t remember it on my own. The first 12 years of my life up until my parents divorce is pretty much a collection of hazy snapshots that look much like polaroids taken by a drunk man with parkinson’s
disease. There really aren’t many clear memories and the ones I do have involving my dad are things I wish didn’t exist inside my brain.

From everything I’ve read, and believe me I’ve put a lot of effort into trying to understand why I don’t remember, a child who lives in a high stress environment simply doesn’t store memories like other people, like other kids who were allowed to be kids and not shrinking violets scared to move or talk or breathe. Basically, the brain is so often in fight or flight mode that storing memories takes a backseat to survival. Those blurry captures of time exist because my brain was too hypervigilant about what mood the man was in, what he was doing, where he was, and what I could do to fly under his radar. I do remember that...the way he was...even if I don't have my own pristine stories that verify it.

After my parents’ divorce, I lived with him for awhile, and things then were even worse. He had young girlfriends, a bigger coke habit, was drinking a half gallon of whiskey daily, an occasional crack habit, started selling more drugs to pay for the alcohol habit, and an even bigger temper. He went to prison for awhile for trafficking and came back worse than ever. Of course. And, at that point, it was either move out or he was going to kill me either in a drunken car accident or out of sheer, unadulterated, black rage.

We didn’t speak for a long time after I moved back in with my mom, and even when we did, it was tentative. Forced niceties. Awkward. Devoid of warmth and kindness and love. I couldn’t even hug the man without feeling slightly nauseated just because of the fear reaction that he always caused. Like Pavlov’s theory for abused kids. Beat a kid enough, cause enough fear and those reactions occur without the child even being hit. For life. I still flinch a lot of times when someone swoops in to give me a high-five.

My son was 6 months old at the time my dad got his diagnosis. Dad had genuinely been trying to be a decent grandpa. It’s not like I would have ever let the boy spend the night there. (oh fuck no). But the first time my dad saw him, his face lit up…I’ll never forget it. It’s something I’d never really seen before in his eyes—a mixture of joy and awe that a life he brought into the world had created a life herself. He made more effort to be part of my life, and I didn’t put a stop to it really. Realistically, he already had the cancer by then, but none of us knew it. We didn’t know he would be dead in less than a year, buried on my birthday in September 2006. We didn’t know if he had just gotten to the doctor sooner instead of being stubborn and numbing himself with weed and booze every day he might have made it longer.

So, when I got the call, I knew, consciously knew, that the thing I wanted to do most for him before he left this world was to forgive him… I needed it as much as he did. I needed to forgive him for the hurt and the lies and for choosing drugs and alcohol over his family. I needed to forgive him for all the namecalling and the emotional abuse because I would never be okay in my own skin unless I did that. I absolutely couldn’t fathom a life with all the pent up resentment I had for this man, the scorn, and, if I’m really to be honest, the shades of hatred I sometimes felt for never having anything close to resembling a normal childhood, the hatred for him blaming me when I was raped at 13 because of his own failures instead of supporting me and admitting he was wrong to leave me alone for days at a time at that age.

It didn’t happen.

His death came and went and the more I wanted to forgive, the more I felt desperate for it, the more frustrated I became until I convinced myself that I would never feel the sweet relief that a release from all that stifled darkness would bring me. I even got a tattoo that symbolized my badge of courage for making it through what I did and coming out relatively okay…something I thought would bring me closure. It was from the cover of a book I was reading at the time that had so much to do with similar themes—a child abused. But it didn’t. Nothing did. Nothing gave me a sense that I would ever be able to make peace with it all so I gave up.

Sometime in the year following his death, my stepmom called us, my brother and I, out to his house to give us some items of his that she didn’t want. Believe me she kept the lion’s share for herself and
had already burned anything and everything from our own childhood except a few bowls of photos, so it wasn’t much. A couple of hats. A shirt or two. And a box of records… The music note on my wall in my bedroom is made from 45s that were in that collection. I won’t say it happened the first time I listened to his records. I won’t say it happened while I lovingly made that music note. But at some point after walking into my room each day and seeing it, listening to the kinds of music we both loved (classic Southern rock), and not trying to force it, I forgave him. When I listened to those songs, I could see him singing along and fist-pumping at the best parts… I could remember times when he would tell a sorry son of a bitch (that’s what he called his friends. I know.) to listen to that fucking part right there and he’d turn up the sound system at his home bar and let the song speak for itself with his swimmy-red eyes closed and his head tilted back a bit soaking up every single bit. Long nights of hearing him drown his sorrows in a bottle and good tunes would come back to me. Along the way, I suppose I figured out that the man I had come to loathe for breaking me in so many ways had also given me some of the things I love most about myself—the way I love music, the freedom I find in a good song, the way I love to share it with others so they know what I know, and the way I love it when I listen to a song with someone (a song I picked for them to hear) and watch their face totally change in awe. From there I figured out other things…my feistiness and assertiveness, the fact that I tell it like it is without sugarcoating shit, my quick wit, my take no bullshit attitude.

He may not have known what it meant to be a good father, and I may have had a fucked up childhood but somewhere along the path to growing up and raising my own son, I figured out that he loved me in his own way, and he definitely passed down the kind of things that make me a better person. At least by my own standards. And that’s all that counts.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:                          Baking In A Tornado                                       The Momisodes                          Spatulas on Parade                      Stacy Sews and Schools                            Dinosaur Superhero Mommy                         Climaxed                   Someone Else’s Genius              The Bergham’s Life Chronicles             Confessions of a part-time working mom                    Silence of the Mom                       Crumpets and Bollocks                             Sparkly Poetic Weirdo

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Most of the time, people seem less than solid.

I don’t mean that in an I-see-dead-people, M. Night Shyamalan type of way. It’s not that I see ghosts
all around me. No apparitions. But it may as well be true. When I stop to really consider how well I know everyone, I’m mostly left with locust-husks. The transparent outer layer that is regularly discarded…the part that is completely unnecessary to life.

Is it that we live in a digital age?

Maybe. Probably. I don’t know for sure. All I do know is that it’s not very fulfilling to be surrounded by dried up, human-shaped shells that never fill out. There’s no satisfaction in getting the disposable bits, the discarded refuse that isn’t really part of who they are. We get 140 characters at a time of daily activity or ironic insight. We get a flash, a moment. A political statement. A religious rant. A host of complaints.

We see photos angled to hide who we really are. Snapshots in time that offer no discussion. There are no questions about what our goals and aspirations are. We don’t talk about why we cry and what makes us scared. We don’t talk about what makes us tick. Our passions. Our shame.

It’s all smoke and mirrors what we do with each other. There’s no flesh and guts and teeth with people that I can tell…not most of the time. No real connections. Instead of solidity, we get wisps that we can never really grasp. Plumes of smoke that almost take shape just before dissipating again. We flip through Facebook feeds liking a comment here and there to satisfy a need to connect that never really shapes into a true picture of the person we’re supposed to be friends with. When it comes down to it if you were asked to describe even 10% of the friends you have on social media, could you do it? Could you pass a test on who your friends are? Do you know more about the people on your friend’s list than what their kids look like and what their generic political stances are? Do you even know that much?

I don’t. I couldn’t pass that test.

That’s part of the reason I enjoy writing letters as much as I do. The conversations are different. There’s no hurry. No hidden agendas. No urgency to squeeze a caricature of who you are into a few characters in a little white box. I value that immensely…getting to really know people in a way that doesn’t exist in the natural world anymore unless sex and marriage is involved and even then it’s far too often that two people never really know each other fully. There’s a romanticism in writing people, in putting your heart and soul onto paper and watching someone else’s form before your eyes in every return letter you read. Should it be that way? Should it take letter-writing to people who aren’t allowed to socialize with the outside world to figure out how to make connections?


I want solid friendships. I want my friends to know who I really am and care about who that person is even if they don’t agree with that person. I want to know your loves, your passions, your fears. I want to know the solidified form of who you are not the watered down, applesauce version of you. I want the fully ripened apple down to the dark, tough bits in the core. I want it all, baby. Because that’s the way it should be.

You say you want a revolution. Well, you know. We all want to change the world…..
 You say you got a real solution. Well, you know. We’d all love to see the plan….

It’s simple, really. It doesn’t take destruction or money. Reach out. Reach out to other people in a way that opens you up, that opens them up, that fosters a true connection instead of a collage of hazy snapshots. Reach beyond the husk, the translucent shell hiding the true meat of the person standing there before you. Make the apparition, shimmering and easy, into something more real and yes, more difficult to manage. Stop filling in the gaps with fantasy and turn your reality into a communal sea of real fucking people.

It ain’t that hard. Just hold my hand. I’ll walk you through it.


Today's prompt was Solid for Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. I hope you'll check out her page to read the rest of the link ups and the Facebook page for anonymous confessions, and maybe next week I'll crank out some more fiction. Thanks for reading!