Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Incredible Likeness of Being

Toshi paused to check her hair,
And who did she see standing there,
But the mirror image of
A person whom she did not love.
Did not love is understated:
She saw someone whom she hated.
“Mirror, mirror, what the hell?
Don’t hold out on me; pray tell.”
The mirror said, “Look near; look far;
What you see is what you are.
The traits you notice in your brother
You share one way or another.
When you sorry bastards see,
Your deeds are just as dastardly.
Grand or grotesque, fine or foolish,
Someone swell, or downright ghoulish,
To some extent you must be it,
If in other folks you see it.
Do not your opinions marshal,
Just observe it. Be impartial.
Be aware as you explore
That we find what we’re looking for.”

(Originally published in TheLonesome Wizard Boys' Campfire Tales)


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Truck Stop Christmas

This is a true story. It was told to me by a guy I met on a Riverboat. That’s how I know it’s true; who could doubt the veracity of a River Rat? He didn’t use any backup singers when he told it to me, but I thought since this is going out on the Internet and all, I should polish it up a bit.

I spared no expense to fly these women in from Nashville. They are, I am proud to tell you, the same backup singers who did all that “Wah-ooo” stuff on C.W. McCall’s records.

I am laboring under a serious deadline, so the singers and I haven’t had much time to practice. We will do the best we can. I’ll play the part of the Trucker (imagine a Red Sovine-ish, Tex-Ritter-On-Acid kind of thing). It goes a little somethin like this:

Singers:

It was a Truck Stop Christmas,    
With a light snow fallin down,
In Penciltucky, but it could have been     
In any other town.    
The miracle that happened    
We may never understan,    
But, here to tell the story    
Is a Truck Drivin Man...

Trucker:
Well, I'z—

Singers:

A Truck Drivin Maa-aan. Wah-ooo.

Trucker:

Skewz me. I'z drivin down a stretch of Interstate, an' I'z really gettin hungry. Every time I'd hit them airbrakes, I'd hear 'em sayin, "Peeech Pie!" And my air horn was tellin me how I like my coffee: BLAAAAAK! BLAAAAK! Oh, I know I shouldn of been barrelin down the Interstate, hittin my airbrakes and blarin the horn like Judgment Day—that’s what too much marijuana’ll do to a man. Prob’ly why I was so hungry, too. Yeah, I’d of given a month’s pay for a big ol’ piece of “Peeech Pie!” I was tryin to remember if there was a Truck Stop on this p'tickler stretch of Interstate; that big diesel motor kept tellin me that there "Wudden! Wudden! Wudden-Wudden-Wudden!"

Singers:

Just a homesick gear jammer
Runnin low on love and luck,
Thinkin 'bout his woman,
And talkin to his truck...

Trucker:

I was 'bout to—

Singers:

Talkin to his truu-uuck. Wah-ooo.

Trucker:

I'm sorry...just kind of wave at me or somethin when it’s my turn, okay? I was 'bout to wet my pants when I came whizzin into town; the lights of an unfamiliar Truck Stop caught my eye. When I walked in, there was this old waitress draggin a dirty rag across the novelty mud flap display. She smiled at me and said, "Merry Christmas, Son." I said, "Lordee, ma'am, is it Christmas already?" She said that yes, yes it was, and I bet my jaw must of hit the floor. Seemed like only yesterday it was October—that's what too much crystal methadrine'll do to a man.

She looked at me for a long time, then said, "You know, I had a son who'd be about your age. He took off drivin trucks and I never did hear from him again. I kept hopin he'd stop in here one day—preferably at Christmas, so I'd get a double dose of the willies."

Well, I put my coffee back in the cup and said, "Ma'am, you can call it coincidence if you want to, but I had a mother who'd be about your age. I talked to Daddy the day before he died, and he told me Mama had missed me so bad, she went out and got a job at a Truck Stop, hopin someday I'd stop in."

Singers:

A Truck Stop Christmas—   
Don't it make you weep?    
The snow continued fallin;
It was really gettin deep...

Trucker:

She said she—

Singers:

Really gettin dee-eeep. Wah-ooo.

Trucker:

Damnit! She said she knew her boy was never gonna walk in at Christmas or any other time, for it was on this p'tickler stretch of Interstate, ten years ago, that her son was toppin a hill and had to swerve to miss a bus load of kids. After he'd plowed through a ditch and nearly turned over, he stuck his head out the window to cuss at the bus driver and his hat blew off. So he jumped out to get it. He should have stopped the truck first, because he was goin 90 miles an hour when he jumped out. Yeah, he was in movin violation of the law of gravity.

She said she hoped I wasn't too disappointed about her not bein my mother, and I said, "Naw, I figured as much since I was only four years old when my mama started workin at a Truck Stop." I told her about a driverless truck that had passed me a few miles back: it was goin 90 miles an hour. I didn't think much about it at the time—that's what too much Night Train'll do to a man—but after hearin her story, I got a case of the hee-bee-gee-beez like you wouldn't believe. I leaned across the counter and held onto her tired old hand. I said, "Ma'am, you may not be my mother, but I'll bet you five dollars against the price of the pie and coffee that you can't name all 8 reindeer."

She started to cry and said this was the first time in ten years that Christmas had any meanin for her—she hadn even bothered to put up any decorations. Now that it felt like Christmas, and she knew it would be her last one, all she wished for in the whole wide world was somethin to make it look like Christmas. Well, it just so happened that I was haulin a hot load of cheap plastic Nativity scenes to Chicago for an eleventh-hour trainload sale. I made up my mind right then an' there that this old woman was gonna have one of 'em if it drove every dime store in Chi Town out of business. I said, "You wait right here, Ma'am; this is gonna be the best Christmas you ever had!"
     
Well...that's when I woke up.           
[military-drums-in-the-distance]

I woke up in a foxhole...about 15 miles from White Sands Missile Range. The First Sergeant was shakin me. When I looked up at him, there was a look of curiosity and concern in the narrow eyes that so resembled elongated lug nuts, chiseled into the weather-beaten leather that was his face—two eyes, one on either side of his nose. He told me I'd been yellin in my sleep, somethin 'bout drivin a truck.

I said, "But, Sarge! I am a Truck Driver!"
    
The curiosity and concern melted into a combination of compassion and sarcasm—with just a touch of amused weariness. He said, "Son, you are not a Truck Driver, for you see, that would be impossible."
     
"Why do you say that, Sarge?"
     
"For two reasons," Sarge said: "One, you are a chimpanzee. Two, you don't even have a driver's license."

Well, I thought about that for a moment. My disappointment turned to resignation. I quietly asked Sarge, "If…if I'm not a Truck Driver, then what am I?"

Sarge said, “Speak up, son, I can’t hear you.”

So I says out loud, I says, “If…if I’m not a Truck Driver, then what am I?”

He said, "You are an Astronaut. You just got back from a 5-year trip around Pluto. I don't know what happened to you up there, but I do know this: you are not a Truck Driver."
    
I sat there, chewin on that one for a good long while.
    
Sarge poured us both some coffee. The long silence was broken when I said, "Sarge, what month is this?"
    
He told me it was August.
    
"Well," I said, liftin my cup, "Feliz Nuevo Año, Sarge."

Sarge grinned, and raised his cup. "Happy Halloween, Kid."
    
I poured coffee all down the front of my flight suit—that's what too much weightlessness'll do to a man.

Singers:

It was a Truck Stop Christmas    
With magic in the air;    
It was the nightmare of a monkey,    
And a Mother's answered prayer.    
A mystery, a miracle,
We'll never understan;    
But it's notarized and witnessed    
By a Truck Drivin Man...    
A Truck Drivin Maa-aan. Wah-ooo.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Event Planning in Heaven

“This is going to be the best costume party ever. We were able to obtain a planet between Venus and Mars. This happening has a novel feature: It will last so long that everyone will forget what’s going on and start thinking it’s the—for lack of a better term—real world. The fun will be not in guessing who everyone else is but in trying to figure out who You really are. There will be plenty of clues, but folks will interpret them in any number of bizarre ways. It’ll be such a hoot to see how we react without the security of knowing. I’d be willing to bet that many, if not most, of us will be tricked into thinking we’re somehow better than the others, and we’ll express it in the most outrageous ways—skin color, hoarded resources, gender (I’ll explain what that means later; oh, it’s hysterical)—and we’ll use this new wrinkle we’re calling ‘twisted logic’ to support our positions. We’ll call our conclusions facts, seriously, while rarely digging deeper to see if how we construe the clues makes a lick of sense. You think the Dark Matter Fun House was scary? You ain’t seen nothin yet.”