Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Will

I laid on the grass next to you watching the sparks erupt and fade into the dark as the rocket flew first up, then to the side.  We used to build those rockets all night long as the snow would fall outside our window. Yours was the most meticulously built. It's nose was as sharp as an arrowhead. It's fins were perfectly placed. It's packing was stuffed gently but carefully, sure to not bring unbalance to the rocket as a whole. The rocket was taped to the side with a counter weight on the other side to keep it from throwing off the weight and balance of the rocket, whose frame was a simple toilet paper cardboard base. Joe and I were both lacking in any mechanical abilities, but were a guru. Your rockets flew into the night December sky and out of our vision...out of our reach. It was as if they had a real destination that was far away from this place.

We laid on the grass and watched Joe's rocket fly sideways and onto the neighbors roof...a site I had seen so many times before in both my rockets and his. We didn't take those nights for granted. It was cold outside. Crystal covered everything. We wore those hats. We smoked and smoked and smoked. We exhaled and made symbols of our youth into the sky, never once admitting that we would grow older and have to accept the responsibility that came with age. We just tuned out the world and built those rockets and enjoyed every moment of our time together.

Underneath was a dread of it all ending. In the back of our minds we knew it would have to end and there would be wives and kids and jobs. We knew we couldn't live in the night sky forever. There was something profoundly sad about the thought of that. I didn't want it to end. I had what I needed...finally.

I grew up, just as I suspected I would. I got married and had kids and became a wild success...maybe not the way success is usually defined, but success the way I have perceived it. I became intensely devoted to my wife and my children. I had been blessed with everything I thought I did not deserve. I had everything, until I lost you on Christmas of 2009. The last time I saw you was your birthday 2009, just 6 days before you built a rocket that could hold your 6 foot 6 frame. It's your birthday today and I don't know still why you aren't here celebrating. In fact, today none of us are celebrating. We are instead somber...trying to remember only the positive. We are trying not to let it all come flooding back in. The last three years have been the most difficult of our lives. We have wept uncontrollably and without consolation. We have shook our fists at God. We have held each other and held each other together. We have had to stop talking when talking about you to keep from breaking down. We have remembered every beautiful thing about you. We remember who you really were...the most beautiful person any of us had ever met.

Losing you brought us together. Losing you has defined the way we live our lives. Joe and I still talk about going night fishing or building rockets, but those things are gone now. If we did them, they would only be an unbearable reminder of how you were no longer here with us. All of those things are gone now and we are forced to finally grow up....without you.

I miss you big brother more than any of my words could describe. I wish I would have known and done more to save you. I wish all of the beautiful lights of Christmas could have kept you out of he dark. But I didn't and they didn't and now I stare at your grave with your ashes lying on my chest. I say, "Happy Birthday!" You would have been 35 years old. You would have loved to see your son as a safety at the elementary school. I get to see him directing traffic every morning. You would have loved to see your daughter sing a solo in the Christmas play. You would have loved to see the way your kids have grown so strong. They worship the ground you walked on. You are their hero. You are my hero. They miss you and so do we.

I stopped being mad at you years ago. I thank God for you. I thank God that I got that time with you, laying on top of my car, looking at the sky and dreaming together. We were made of gold and nothing could touch us. We were what every kid believes they are...invincible. Until we weren't.

Happy birthday Will.


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas in a Box

I watch my kids play and sit in bewilderment at the things they do when they think no one is watching. Every Christmas when the tree comes out, my son grabs his action figures and plays on the branches with them like it was the only thing he desired to do in his entire life. I used to do strange things like that too. I still do sometimes. I still lay in front of a small heater with the window open, freezing my wife into frustration. I do it because it helps me fall into sleep, which is something I have always had trouble doing.

When I was a kid, I would lay in front of the heat register when everyone was sleeping and just stare at the tree twinkling despite anyone but me being awake. I would wait for the clanking sounds that the furnace would give off minutes before it would push hot air into the house. I remember the smell of the heat as it hit my face. If I didn't fall asleep by the time it gradually produced cooler air and turned off, I would wait for those noises again and feel real peace when I heard them. Those moments were mine. I would get up and play in the tree just like my son would. We had these little elves that we would put on the tree and I wanted nothing more every year than to play with them. All year, they would wait in that box until late November when they would become my muse. I like to think they are still on some tree right now and not in a box waiting for eternity. My mother bought me similar ones off of Ebay a few years ago when we couldn't figure out where the elves had gone. At Christmas, in my mind everything was crystal and the heat vent was my closest friend.

I played a stuffed bear in my church Christmas pageant when I was a very small child. I had a handful of lines that were aimed at making people laugh just because I was cute. I remember watching all of the costumes and old people sewing together last minute mistakes by the children. I remember the crowd smiling as if there was no violence going on in the world. There were little old ladies in grey and red blazers with poinsettia lapel pins and old men with pinstriped tweed slacks. They all called each other brother and sister and greeted with a hug for the women and a handshake for the men. After the play, we would all go deliver groceries with the Goodfellows of River Rouge to people that needed food on their doorsteps.

Christmas is one of those things that science cannot explain. It is every much an emotion as it is a calender holiday. Those emotions are driven mostly by our memories of the way we experienced this holiday as kids. I think that is why it is so perfect. As kids, most of us can only see the light, where no violence happens to us. So these memories bring back this feeling that is stored in a box all year and brought out just as strong as it ever was in us. Everything becomes crystal and beautiful again. It makes us remember that we are all the same and yet have such different experiences. No wonder why Christmas is the holiday that people most donate their time, money, and services to give to someone else. The absolute spirit of Jesus.

I hope that Heaven is a child's choir singing peace into the world, and recreating every precious memory we have ever had of something beautiful.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Great Grizzly Brown

"I didn't know I wasn't dead until I walked right out of hell." -The Great Grizzly Brown

The television flickered and flashed across the screen as people waited for the static to clear and the picture to return. One moment they were watching a large man hold a very primitive but effective looking ax over the seizing body of The Great Grizzly Brown. This was one of the New York coliseum's most hyped duels. The Grizzly had taken down 9 straight opponents bringing him to the tenth. The tenth had never been achieved. When you take down ten, you earn your freedom. No one had ever earned their freedom. The large man standing over him was this monster the media named "Samson." He was on his fifth straight victory, which means, he had taken the lives of five men that also shared his captivity. There was a very dreadful way in which he won his battles. Never by accident, and never without screaming. This one had been in lights for months.

Grizzly Brown was not a crowd favorite as he never addressed the media or spoke after he took another man's life. He would make the fatal move and lean down to the man losing life's blood and whisper into his ear and deliver a finishing blow to the head. It drove people crazy to not know what he was saying. Was he taunting them? Was he telling them he was sorry for what he was about to do? Either way, he never told the crowd what they wanted to hear.

Samson didn't speak much either. He was a school teacher before his sentencing. "Hard to imagine him in front of a desk," the newsmen would say as they flashed replays of him stabbing a man in the jugular over and over, holding his head up by the hair, letting his blood drain all over his feet. When he was sentenced, he was originally sent to the boiler room. This was a death sentence for most as they would drop you into a pool of boiling water. They got him to the edge and kicked him in. He fell in and went under causing a wave of water to rush over the edge from his large frame. He began thrashing around and flinging boiling water over the edge to the faces of the executioners, scalding them. He screamed in a rage of pain and anger and pulled himself out of the water and onto the side of the pool where the executioners lay buried in their faces. He snapped the neck of the first and threw the second into the pool. He was almost impossible to subdue. He made such a fantastic show that the president chose to enter him into Death Valley, the tournament in which he was at the time the static came, about to win.

Grizzly Brown was a Scotsman who's infant baby was thrown into his own fire place and wife shot in front of him. Grizzly Brown was said to have killed the machine gun clad soldiers with their own rifles and bayonets. The story was legend, but a photo was leaked of one of the soldiers being removed from the home with a bayonet protruding from his ear. It took 2 weeks before the authorities located him, which incidentally happened when Grizzly Brown actually made it into the president's house with a cleaver and kicked open his bedroom door. He was shot in the back and dropped. A mere two days later he was sentenced to Death Valley and locked in a small stone cell with a dirty bandage covering his wound. 9 lives later. Gallons of blood later. 9 souls released from their prison cells. Whatever he whispered into their ears gave them a sense of calm, that was clear. They would go from screaming and twisting about, to lying still, until they saw darkness.

This was freedom standing over him with an ax. One more and he would be free. The ax comes down and static. The entire world sat on the edge of their seats for the cloud of chaos to end and sanity to return to their eyes.

10 minutes later, the cameras returned the viewers were shocked to see Grizzly Brown walking out of the arena to his holding cell as bagpipes roared his theme song..."Lay me down, in the cold cold ground...." People were cheering and shocked and some were just holding their mouths in bewilderment. The body of Samson lay in the middle of the arena face down with his skull chopped in half.

The president outlawed any speech of the battle and immediately begun promoting the next big fight. No one attending said a word and The Great Grizzly Brown's freedom he had earned was stripped of him due to a guard's report that he had murdered one of their own, found dead in the recreational area. For now, The Great Grizzly Brown would have to continue the fight.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Even The Bad Guys

Things matter until they don't anymore. There are these undefined moments that no one warns you about where you forget about every little thing that once festered in you. These moments where all you can do is wander your own mind for an answer that seldom comes. Times like these when your brother dies and you answer the phone to your other brother in a panic with a voice so other worldly. Times when you are at home and the phone rings and your child has been in a car accident. Times like when the soldiers ring your doorbell with a flag in hand. You forget everything you have ever cared about except the one person you would melt through a wall for. These moments, no matter how terrible and traumatizing they may be, are what make life beautiful. The very reality that we can love so much and work so hard for something we consider better than ourselves, makes all of life's toils seem trivial.

I ask myself this question...Who could stop me if you placed my brother in front of me? Who could keep him from my embrace? Most importantly, who could keep me from my God? It is important for the ones who believe that Jesus rides with you, to remember that one day when our eyes close and the little ticking in our chest subsides, we will be standing before the very God that allowed His flesh to be ripped from His body and thrown to the ground like and animal hide. To stand face to face with Him. To remember the way the cold steel felt beneath your neck. To taste the carpet again as you remember the hours on your face. There is nothing that could keep me from my God. Nothing.

So easy to forget what we are working for. So easy to forget that life isn't about punching a clock and hoping for a good day. Life is so much more. Life is sharing in the lives of others. Life is listening beyond what someone is saying and hearing what they are really saying. Life begins with Christ and thrives in the restoration of humanity. As ugly as we may be sometimes, we are bigger than we look. We are more than our appearance, even the bad guys.

Photo credit to:


Thanks for reading...Z

The Church In Peril

As a pastor for over 12 years, I have hesitation when writing this
blog and I will choose my words very carefully. Some of what I write
may sound inflammatory or cynical against the church or it's
inhabitants but this is not the intent. The intent is to speak about
what I think is clearly happening the the United States church.
I will begin with what I don't mean.

*I don't mean to disrespect any church or it's leaders.
*I don't mean to sound as if I know it all or have figured anything out fully.
*I don't mean to be too harsh or allow my pride to make me unteachable
to criticism.
*I don't mean to open my mouth and allow the words of the devil to
come out of it.

That being said ahead of time.... I love you. I love the church. I
love the United States. Most of all, I love God, which is why I write

The United States may just be the most impoverished country in the
world. We eat freely, we sleep freely, we assemble freely, and we
become habitually entertained. We still are the richest nation in the
world and it sounds arrogant to place us below countries without
drinking water. However, we are certainly teetering on being the most
spiritually barren. You can look around and see the way the world is
changing, especially the US and no one would argue that it seems to be
losing blood and weakening. So much of what our culture and society is
standing on is based on money. Our entertainment isn't following the
cultural norms, it is driving them. Our politics aren't based upon the
voice of the people, but the voice of the wealthy. Our morals and
ethics are not based upon our upbringing and homes, they are quickly
becoming driven by our media culture and ideals that don't really have
a base in any tested theory or doctrine. We are a country that has
lost value of life. We kill for many reasons, but here are a few that
don't match with the Bible.

*Revenge killing- One may have committed crimes against another, so it
becomes ok to commit the same crime to them. If you deserve it,
killing is ok. However, the Bible says we all deserve it.

*Convenience killing- If a life doesn't make sense for our plans and
goals, regardless of our actions to achieve that life, we have the
right to end the life. We can use our untested and untrue moral that
is based on the media all we want as justification, but there is no
science behind you.

*Pre-emptive killing- Made popular by politics, this one says, "Let's
look at our nation as the standard for everyone to live by and
eliminate those that don't subscribe." We have made ourselves the
Bible for the rest of the world. We will nuke you and have, but if you
mess with uranium, we will bomb your residents. We are the all
powerful dictators of the land. We have divorced our constitution.

What does this have to do with the church? Everything. We meet in
buildings made of beautiful stones and stain glass that presents our
suffering Christ. We sing together and hold hands. We listen to a
lesson on what God wants from us. We put our money in the plate. These
are all good things. But where is the follow through? Where are we
Monday through Saturday? Where is the fire and passion to make real
change in the world around us? Where is the Jesus ending up in our day
to day? I disgust myself often. I realize so many times that my words
are many and actions few. I speak of change and find myself changing
nothing. A very valid and applicable message can go in my ear and
register in my consciousness and leave out the other side moments
after the final prayer. All of our talking and holding hands mean
nothing without follow through. We have let our country go where it
has gone. It is the duty of the church to preserve the world. God said
we are the salt of the earth. We both preserve and flavor, yet the
church has become synonymous in our culture with mean spirited,
bigotted, political, and hypocritical. Much of what is said about us
is fabricated from this media again, however, not all of it. The
church needs to be seen as a healer and mender, not in groups of
whining people, shouting about our rights being imposed on. The church
is flourishing more in places you do not have the right to be a
church. They are sending missionaries here! We are flawed and broken,
but there is hope. God is good and faithful. God reigns still in us.
But God hates the lukewarm Christian. We are about to be vomitted!
What happens when the stones of our buildings get dismantled and

Doom and gloom. Nope. Hope. We pray and we listen for God. We shut our
mouths and get back to the basics of loving God and loving other
people. We love in a more practical way. Instead of raising awareness
for people in peril, go to them and help them in whatever way God lays
on your heart. For some, keep your money and use your hands. For
others, sell off all you have and give to the poor. Remember that true
religion is related to helping widows and those in prison, not holding
hands and singing through our tears. We need to worship, but we need
to stop crying and do something. Holding our hands outstretched to God
is only valid when paired with holding our hands outstretched to other
people. We don't fight an evil culture through our words, we fight
through our actions. If we all unify and shower this country with
love, those living in the dark will be able to finally see the hope we
profess. America is hiding it's light. The church in America needs to
be awakened, not by argument, but by example. This darkness in our
church must no longer be tolerated.

I write this out of a recognition of the darkness in me and my desire
to light up for all those around me. I am the worst offender, but
change comes with humility. Light will be found in Christ and our
obedience to following you He is.


Thanks for reading...Z

Friday, October 26, 2012


I keep getting into this figurative car and slamming the door on myself, trying to tell myself not to go. There is this battle that wages within every human. The battle to hold on to the things that have value while trashing the things that harm us. This is maturity. When we have learned to bag the bad and live the good, you are fully mature. This is supposed to be natural I think, but for me I find myself constantly finding myself in that car slamming the door on the things that are good.

Like fire. This is the thing people saw most in me when I realized that there is a God and He is active in my life. I was excited. I was ready for anything. I would let you stick me with a rusty knife if it meant you finally seeing the truth like I did. I wanted everyone to know that Jesus is real, and alive, and active right now. I wanted the entire world. I was intense. I would drink pots and pots of coffee and read and educate myself. I was training for a war. People would comment on my intensity because I was a bit misguided and rash.

Then something happened...time. Time passed and I helped make a family and tried really hard at my life and job and failed to be who I thought I could be. I have always had big dreams and thoughts, but lacked follow-through. I felt God had more in mind for me, but failed to deliver what I should have been able to deliver. So I became frustrated with the constant starting and stalling. God would shake me with something and the cobwebs would be cleared and I would set fire again....for a while, then fizzle. I would get discouraged so much and find myself ready to quit, then smash, an SUV would strike me from behind and I would emerge alive again....and full of flames. I was still on fire when my brother took his life.

After that.....I don't know. I don't know how to describe it. It had a base in anger, but didn't feel like anger. It felt like how a field feels when the wind is blowing and no one is around to watch how far it's stems bend. I was just there receiving punches. I took them, but I am still unsure whether I was really fighting or just receiving the punches out of a feeling that I deserved them.

I did things to better myself and my surroundings. I did difficult things to take my mind off the time that was passing so quickly. I went back to school and changed careers even though I loved the one I was in. I felt the need to escape the bleeding that seemed to come from every place I set my foot down. I would pray to my God, but to be honest, my prayer life lacked any fire at all. It was me asking for help and God directing me back to my own heart. I knew the answer then and know it now...letting go of the things that are harming you and returning to the fire is the only way to find yourself complete. I had walked away from the little things that burned in my chest and forced me to act. I got in that car and slammed the door on myself and anything great I could have become.

Life isn't about your talent or potential, life is about your obedience to God even when the entire universe hates every inch of your existence. It's about the fight....and remembering constantly why you are fighting. If you forget that reason, you will end up stagnant. You will end up without any direction to travel and you will sit down and wait. Waiting is the worst enemy of any human being.

I know I said I would finish the Halloween story, and I will, but I still haven't figured out how it ends.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Awakening - For Halloween- 2 part series

I opened my eyes. I open them again. I opened my eyes. I open my eyes to silence. The sun flashes through the trees like street lights passing overhead in the night sky while your driving away from someone. The wind is blowing leaves over my jacket and across my face. This is the most peace I have felt in many years. I can't hear anything, not even the wind, not even the squirrel that scurries up the tree beside me. It looks surprised to see me awake. He stops mid-trunk, looks at me and stares into my soul, searching for a threat, then tears up to the top. Life is happening in slow motion and I have no real desire to speed it up.

My life is too fast. I wake to the world forcing me to be somewhere. I sleep as a necessity to get me to where I have to be tomorrow. I am a soldier marching on through whatever is happening in this giant spinning sphere. There is a tightness in my chest, so bad sometimes that I have to remind myself to take a breath and then another. I feel smothered and sinking. I haven't spoken to my family in so long...never have the time. My mom calls three times a week and I don't even listen to her messages anymore. It's not that I don't love her, it's that I don't have time for her. I don't have time for anything. They came to my house last Thanksgiving in Seattle at my mom's insistence. My dad just sat at the end of the table and ate quietly while my mom waited on me, probing me with questions. "Do I have a girlfriend?" "What's my job like?" "Where do I do my grocery shopping?" I told her I had to sleep and we all went to bed. Through the wall, I heard my dad ask her if they could just grab their stuff and leave in the night. I woke the next morning and they were gone. My mom left a hundred dollars on the pillow. I haven't heard from my dad since. I haven't spoken to my mom since. I have always felt so ashamed for that night.

Right now I feel nothing but silence, so I choose to stay still for a while...just until I can feel my feet moving across the pavement. My body seems to be moving across the path, but I don't feel any part of me. I do find it strange that no one is on the streets, in fact the place looks like crap. The buildings are dilapidated and the sidewalks are split in pieces by weeds refusing to be ignored.

"There's nobody here! No one is left!" Shouting a voice from nowhere and all around me, seeming to shout from the inside of my body to the outside. "What? Where are you? What's your name?" I shout back. Silence. No answer. I am no longer relaxed. I start to run, but still cannot feel my feet. I look down and now cannot see my feet. I panic and turn into a store and slide through the door handle and stumble through the glass and into the room. I had meant for my feet to stop and they didn't. I had meant for my body to hit the glass, but it didn't, yet I am in this room. I see the phone and try to grab it and nothing happens. I scream in frustration and still nothing happens.

"Think about picking up the phone without your hands and just speak to who you want to speak to," says this voice again, this voice that sounds arrogant, that has a hint of laughter, like he is making fun of me. My dad used to do that when I would argue with him, like he knew the answer and the future and was going to just go along with me and laugh at me when I failed.

I reach for the phone again and nothing. So I close my eyes, which I assume I must have because it became dark when I did so. "Call my mom." Ring. "Yes!" "Hello?" "Dad?" "I'm no one's dad, he says laughing. Who might I ask is calling me?" "It's Mason, is my mom there, Shelly Morgan? Is this even the right number?" I say. Laughing comes from the other side of the phone. "Who is this?!" I say. "This is Shelly Morgan's answering machine." "What? Stop messing around, is she there?" "She's not here anymore. No one is here anymore, they are all gone into the ground. They all went screaming," he says. "Stop it! Who is this?!" "This is the only voice you'll ever hear again. You won't like me much now, but when the silence becomes deafening to your mind, you will pray to me for my voice."

More to come, to be continued.......


Thanks for reading...Z

Friday, October 12, 2012

My Last Right

I work in an environment that deals with so much death. I meet many people when it is too late. I am new to this environment, but I have to admit that it has scared me a bit. I don't feel much of it when I go home. I take off my shoes and scrub all of the disease off of my skin and go to bed. Some cases bother me because they could have been avoided or they were too young, but for the most part, I am not affected. But I do think that after a while, it could be very easy to take death too lightly. I could be me lying there on that bed with another jaded person suctioning my airway...rolling me over every two hours.

Humanity needs a second look.

In the Bible, people would fall on their swords just to avoid disrespect for their family. I do not and could never imagine being subjected to the things that many families put their loved ones through. People just want the problem to go away so they can rest again. So as long as there is a heart rate on that monitor, even if it is being controlled by my hands, they will live. Make a puppet of them, just make them live.

I do sympathize. If it were my wife or kid lying on that bed, I would fight for their last breath. I cannot blame the family for trying and hoping, I would tear that hospital apart, but in the end, the person that suffers is the person that is being kept from peace. They just want you to let them fade.

This is gonna sound weird from a pastor. Don't take it the wrong way, I do believe in God. I do believe in miracles. I do believe that God is capable of anything and He is active in this world and in our personal lives. But when people come in and decide to let us cut holes in their mother's throats and stomachs to make them stay alive when there is not a chance of recovery, and yell out Jesus' name, I get frustrated. People still do not seem to understand that God blesses those who do evil with those that do good. He takes away those that do evil as well as those that do good. God takes us into what comes next for a reason. Just because you may believe in God and place your faith in Jesus, does not mean your family or you yourself will not suffer and die. Actually, the Bible says the contrary. So when you put your loved one through all of this torture and do it in God's name, I get a bit annoyed because my job isn't to coach your life decisions. My job is to be an advocate for the patient, even if that means I have to tell you that it may be time to consider whether your loved one would want to continue.

So I come home from suctioning really old people and turning them every two hours to avoid the inevitable bed sore, and I take a shower and decide to not allow that to ever happen to me unless there is a really good chance that I will walk out of that hospital on my own two feet and listen to music again. The moment I cannot hear the music or see my family's faces, I want to fade away.


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Prognosis- a fictional short story

Genetics work with mathematics.  "They also work with little plastic toy monkeys," I tell myself as I pull a line of them clinging for dear life to each other from the little plastic barrel. You shake them up or God does or whatever and dump them out. Grab one of them and whichever ones hold on to another, you get your DNA. Its completely random, yet feels so completely planned. One thing compensates for another. One shortcoming weighed against one strong least for me. For some, it is all consequence.

It is about balance. This life. It is about the bad making the good so good. One cannot exist without the other. I have forgotten how to tie my shoes a thousand times I would guess, but I won't forget how to solve the most complex mathematical problems. I have always resented this gift. What good is math? How does it change a person's fate from one day to the next being able to calculate the amount of times it takes the toilet to flush before the bowl is completely white again? How does it help me to know how many seconds are left in my life? I wasn't given the gift of tact. Whoever may or may not be up there, decided that the monkeys that held on were as far from emotion that they could be, but full of cancer. I don't feel much, just the weight of numbers, which brings me anxiety. Statistics and mathematical probabilities. I had calculated my survival before the Dr. had even told me, and the numbers did not look in my favor. So I count.

I count down the days until the numbers finally and eternally become irrelevant. If there is something up there, I don't believe they have much dealing with time and figures. I would imagine it to be much more artistic, which in reality is just another way to interpret mathematics.

This is my final letter to you. This is the end. I do not have the energy to figure the binary that is taking place with every keystroke anymore. I am tired. I have been writing every night for ten days. My exhaustion has gotten worse and this record of my death is becoming more work than I had expected.

I have a real passion for good record art also based in simple mathematics. Everything in it's right place...even me. I will waste away and turn to dust and the energy inside me will travel out somewhere different from here and join more energy and make mathematics possible for another expression of whoever is up there's imagination. Or I will just become the number of molecules that have passed away and blow with the wind into old plastic grocery bags and beer bottles. Either way, I don't care anymore. I just want to scramble the numbers. I want to shake the barrel of monkeys and see what holds on to each other.

I am not good with speech. I stutter. I say inappropriate things that seem to bypass my mind and cross my lips. When my Dr. told me it was over and mathematically there was too minute a chance of success to continue, I just said "Ok, when in Rome.?" I had just watched a movie that said that as a joke the night before and it was the only thing I could think of to say. I didn't laugh at the joke when I heard it and the Dr. didn't laugh when I said it, but I think we both understood it in this situation.

I have never been on a date. I got close once. I had miscalculated my odds with this girl. We grew up together. Well, she used to babysit me. I never saw it as babysitting. Somewhere I always thought she was always coming over because she wanted to see me. I waited until it was mathematically appropriate to ask her out...I had just turned 18 and she was 26. I had miscalculated the way she looked at me which was something I had never seen before as being love. I think it may actually have been pity. I asked her to come help me hold the dog down to bath her and when she put her hands on the dog, I leaned over and kissed her. She got up and the dog ran off tracking soap and water everywhere. She just looked at me embarrassed and again with that look I had misconstrued. It was then I learned it was pity.

I have stage 4 lung cancer. I didn't get it because I smoked. I would never take such a risk. I got it from the barrel of monkeys, yet no one in my family as far back as 1878 has had lung cancer. I worked most of my life as a medical statistics analyst at The University of Michigan Hospital. The statistics always point to cigarettes or our parents, and there really are no happy endings. One gets cancer before they could have been treated and the cancer gets worse as they dump toxins into you and try to kill your entire guts to kill it. In the end, the majority of stage 4 get bad news. Good news is a medical anomaly. So I am not keeping my fingers crossed. I am instead writing this death journal because someone who cleans out my little apartment might decide to look into the black and white camouflage looking notebook sitting right here as I write, and read my about my journey from here to there...from mathematics to the abstract.

I'm not going to cry now. I will open the results. 2 weeks after they arrived to my house, I'm finally opening the results. I don't quite know why I waited so long. I guess I have always rooted against the numbers...against everything I have ever believed in. So I open it slowly while my hands shake. I pull out the sterile white folded letter size sheet of paper and read it.

The little cursor in my head keeps blinking on and off, waiting for a conduction that would stimulate my body to tremble and tears to fall. But they never fell. Nothing happened. Ten days after my diagnoses, my prognosis says I am gonna live. I pick up the letter and set it on top of the refrigerator and head off to work.   


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, September 15, 2012


A guy walks out of his office, down the road in the bustling business district. He won a huge account today. He walks through parking lots with venders selling spots to have your car babysat. He comes to the edge of where it is safe. He stops at the big red line on the ground that says danger in front of his feet. Today, he feels invincible, so he steps over and makes his way down the section of hell that houses the less desirable. He watches the little kids play on the porch with no shirts or shoes, the old 7-11 door sign still pops in his head. He can see the pan handlers on every corner holding their cans out to those passing through district hell to the business district. He sees a house fire down the road and smells in the aroma of burning fabric and methamphetamines.  He pictures devil's night 1987 when he started an old shed on fire in the woods behind his house. He assumes no one lives in that burning institution either. He looks down at the man in the wheel chair with no legs and long dreadlocks holding a can and just shakes his head no. He doesn't try to mask his distaste. He just looks him in the eyes and shakes his head. He has seen enough and makes his way back toward the thick red line. He reaches it, looks down in relief and steps over it.

On the other side isn't the business district. On the other side is paint dripping off of walls. On the other side are shrieks far off in the distance. This place gives him the same feeling he would get as a kid when everything would sleep and the furnace would awake and throw noises and echoes throughout the house. He makes his way through the labyrinth of rooms watching one story unfold after another. He walks first into a little room in a beat up house where he watches this guy make something other than love to a woman, then get up from the bed and drop 20 cents on the floor and leave. He walks to the next room and the same woman holds a baby screaming, while she tries to put a needle in her arm. He walks to the backyard and watches the same little boy, grown up pulling the trigger on a store clerk.

He enters a theme park that is empty, as if it hadn't opened yet. The rides are moving, but no one is operating them. He walks through and sees rides he used to ride as a kid. He sees rides he always wanted to ride, but was too small for. He sees cotton candy and elephant ears sitting without predator on the benches that line the road through the park. He remembers this place. He has been here before. The very time spent here is making him feel something terrible. This crushing pain in his chest that begs him to remember something he has tried to forget. He always wanted to be able to ride that Ferris wheel. He blocks the thought out and tries to keep moving, but still trying to define the pain he was feeling. He wanted to let it in, but it belongs to a different and weaker person.

He gets to the nearest door and opens it. Light. Bright light. He walks through shaken but fearless. He opens is eyes and tries to adjust. He pushes away the blur with his fists on his eyes until he can see the wooden box in the front of the room that held his child, his wife, his mother, and his dog. He closes his eyes and feels his stomach trying to wretch onto the floor. It wasn't really them. They died long ago. People hurt them for no reason. He wasn't here. He got courage and opened his eyes again to nothing.

A white area of nothingness filled with nothingness. If there were a state of actually being alone, this would be it. This is where he was. This was where he has been for so many years. This is home. Not there. Everything beyond that red line was broken and cruel. He had made a living of tearing out his own soul and this is where the soulless go. From out of the nothingness-nowhere came this homeless looking man walking toward him. As he got closer he could make out a familiarity in the man's eyes. His face was something different, but his eyes had looked into his before. The disheveled man leaned over to him as he was about to pass and kneeled down at his now sitting form. The bum reached out and put his hand into the pocket of his suit and put something in it and walked away. Filled with fear and curiosity, he takes out the item. $10. Money. The man fell back into the nothingness-nowhere.

What had happened to him? The bum didn't even want the money, he wanted something different. In fact, "I don't want the money!" he shouts, all of the sudden angry. "I don't want much of anything but this white board I live in....but there's nothing here. Who was the one in poverty? The bum has his head up and I have nothing!" The man walks over to the ledge that overhangs something other than nothing marked with a red line on the ground and leaps off into wherever. Just not nothing.


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, September 8, 2012


She had two options that she could figure. She looked at him as he slept in that bed she got him from the Salvation Army. The corners of his lips turned up when he was relaxed...when his face could feel nothing. This was the first thing she noticed about him while running her fingers across the contours of his face, moments after giving birth to him. He was a first grader now. He was a really good kid. She believed he was no reflection of her. She believed he was the very character of God, rising with Him with the sun. She wouldn't soon deserve him. She couldn't. She was only mistakes. She had to choose between the sickness and the sanity of her son. She would have to choose later, she could not right now as she watched him sleep. He didn't deserve that.

His father was a married man. She didn't even know his name, but he wore a wedding ring opposite hand of his 1977 class ring. He would come and give her money and she would make believe love for him. She didn't even know how long this went on for, but knew he had a disgusting smell to him. His hair smelled like old sweat. His beard smelled of garbage. He was always sweating on her. He would get up when the love faded and leave the hotel room smiling and forgot to say goodbye every time. She didn't care, she desired him dead when he used words, she desired him dead anyway. She didn't even tell him he had a son, she just ignored his calls and got a job at a supermarket bagging groceries.

Her two options now? Take her life now or let it happen. Just let the cancer slowly eat her away while he watched from just below the bed rails. Using her head, she could only come to one logical decision. She had a sister who was much better off than her and loved her son as if it were her own. She had a big house with an extra room and two kids the same age. If she just said goodbye now, her son would be OK. But everything that isn't supposed to feel logical told her to stay. Every moment would be worth a pound of gold to both of them. She would give him the world even as a skeleton.

She had this choice to make. She had a tube down her throat that would not let her speak to him. At night, he would crawl up on the bed and they would take turns writing things on each other's backs and guessing what the other had said. This night was the THE NIGHT. She had to make a decision before she couldn't anymore. She had to give him something. She couldn't lie anymore or wait for some miracle to happen. This was her life. His life was about to change. Soon enough, she wouldn't know his face or even be able to see it. Soon enough he would be dead to her mind...a thought that was more torturous than anything she could think of. She knew that he knew she was going away. He just couldn't say it.

She flicked his ear to wake him. He stirred and she knew he was listening. He always seemed to be listening. She began drawing on his back. Her hands shook with every letter and she could feel his body tremble with every completed word. Her tears made it hard to keep going. His tears made it hard to feel what she was trying to tell him, but he knew I think.  Her hand stopped at his lower back and he felt her squeeze his small frame against her even smaller one. He braced himself and closed his eyes to think about when she was well. He went to this thought every time he was scared. He went to he time he fell out of the tree in front of his house and she she rocked him back and forth like the wind as it blew storm clouds through the trees. He remembered when she held him when his friend was hit by a car and killed. He didn't understand death until he saw his friend lifeless in a coffin. Then he only knew death as just being plastic looking. He closed off the entire world, even when he felt the gasp of his mother's chest and the alarm sounding on the machine next to her. He was definitely crying, but could and would only allow memories of laughter to flood his brain. He would never see the tube in her hand. He would never see all that she sacrificed for him. He would never understand that Salvation Army Bed that took the last of the money she had made with a legitimate job before she started to get sick.

He would never know all that her life had produced, but he would never forget what she was to him.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Different Way To Live

Live a life without fear. Fear holds true happiness at bay. It doesn't matter what can happen to you, at least in the grand scheme of things. What matters is how you spend every minute of your life here. Regardless of what some people say and even what some of my previous posts suggest through my venting, life is beautiful. Life is what you allow it to be. It all depends on the lenses you see it through.

It may feel both euphoric and tragic. It can be the steel that crushes your chest and it can be the cloud beneath your beloved feet. It just is. We face all of these things, like them or not. You may perceive only the bad and ignore the good. You may take the good and refuse to believe the bad. Neither is a productive or truthfully balanced way to live. God sets the sun on us some days and puts us in he dirt others. We need both to appreciate life.

What if we live without that fear of the bad things that can happen? What if we just understand that they happen and move forward? It isn't easy, but it may just be necessary for you. It is for me.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


You can stare at the shapes for days and days and it will never make any sense until the night time, when the monsters appear from the the sponge painted brown blobs that inhabit your thoughts and fears. When you're a kid, light and dark are everything. The noises heard in the day time go completely unnoticed until the sun sets and falls and the same sounds ring violence and terror from the basement into the hearts of little kids all over the world.

Fear is universal, so I guess it should be respected. Old wooden things creak and crumble in the night in China, just like in our own homes. People always fear what they cannot see. They fear the dark because nothing can be seen in front of them. They fear the unknown because the unknown has been known to cause great harm to us. Fear is both a motivator and a killer of potential. It can be used to overcome and to be overcome.

Fear is easy to overcome in theory, but in life practice, we find a beast that cannot and will not be tamed. A couple of weeks ago, I was on a high ropes course. I have always known about my fear of unstable heights, so I was a little reluctant to go up there in the first place, but if my kid, who is afraid of so many things can do it, so can I. I got to the first level, which is about 50 feet in the air and begun my walk across a very bendy 2x4 plank hanging over what I imagined were hungry sharks and a pool full of razors and black widow spiders. I got to the middle and froze with fear...paralyzed. I was connected to a steel ring which was attached to a steel pulley which was attached to a tweed rope? Really? This little rope. Ropes scream when you put weight on them. I couldn't move for a moment, until I saw my son two levels above me (about 150 feet up) walking across the same 2x4 without even holding the rope like it was the sidewalk. I then took a breath and walked across and made myself finish the course. I tell this story because I think fear has always meant to be a test that you should really try to pass. Some fear is good obviously, because if you don't respect death, you will get yourself killed acting a fool. But the things we fear in life can be very temporary and meaningless. Sometimes, we have to take a deep breath and walk across that rope despite your heart stopping desire to be somewhere or someone else.

One foot in front of the other until you forget the sequence and are just rhythmically moving forward.


Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guns an God

Probably gonna upset some of my friends with this one, but it has to be said. My last blog I eluded to our methods of living as an unashamed Christian in a politically, but not-so-necessarily correct society. The answer is love. I think one of the issues that Christians have is that we aren't used to watching a world deteriorate, especially when it is deviating from our moral or spiritual values. Those that don't profess to be Christians do this just as much as we do, but we are called to be different from the rest of the world. The Bible calls us to live as aliens here and to not get too comfortable. The Bible says to rejoice in persecution against us for the sake of Jesus, because we are now sharing in His suffering. So where is the joy?

Anger and arguing. This is what we are called not to do. Yet if they threaten our guns or our Bible we will gut you. I get it. I lean into the liberatarian room, I understand and wholeheartedly agree with our country given rights to bear arms. But what I don't understand is how they got tied to Christ. How did the teaching of Christ symbolize a weapon meant to inflict bodily harm on intruders? Didn't Jesus tell you to give your robe to the one who steals your coat? When Peter hacked off the ear of the guard coming for Jesus illegally, did Jesus not put it back on, heal it, then rebuke Peter for living by the sword. Didn't David lose the honor of building God's temple because God said he had "Shed too much blood in His sight?" Yes there were wars and some are complicated and some warriors were sent by God, this isn't the point. The point is that it is clear that God desires peace, even when we disagree intensely. God says to do this; "Snatch others from the fire and save them." He says to "Show mercy mixed with fear, hating even the clothing stained with corrupted flesh." Somehow, this has been reworded in our actions to hate the corrupted flesh itself. We go to the fire to save someone stumbling toward it and snatch them up. We forget about the mercy part of this passage. God tells us not judge those outside of the church. Why? Because we are stupid compared to Him and don't know what we are doing. Yet some political thing happens and we exhaust our lives fighting and taking up arms when Jesus, in response to an illegal tax, walked over and pulled coins out of the mouth of a fish. That's how much He cared about fighting the powers that were. You want my money, take it. You want to make it illegal to do something or legal to do somethig else? Do it. It is a reflection of our culture. We can and should speak out, but in the end, we need not do so at the sake of violence, both in our hearts and with our words. Jesus said if you speak slanderous words against someone, it is murder. It is still your murder, even if you are speaking out about their murder.

"Take heart for I have overcome the world." Jesus said. "Love your enemies as yourself." He said. Why do we make it, "Keep your friends close and your enemies and guns even closer." I like guns to hunt animals to eat, not humans to avenge. If you want to fight for your guns, do it wholeheartedly, we do have constitutional right to them, but please don't mix them with Jesus, He never carried one.

This is not an all inclusive blog. There are many things I did not touch on. I am not against guns, just the opposite, I am against Jesus being associated with violence and our perceived rights.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Politically Correct Christian

Does your heart delight in what it finds presently inhabiting it? I think that the world sucks. I think that people are horrible and things happen that make us all gasp. These incidences are isolated, but they do paint a picture of what the human being is capable of right now, right here. It is so easy to give up. It is so easy to let the little things like politics and religion (or lack of) send you to the brink of consciously making the decision not to care. This is important because many make the mistake of believing the lie that we have no choice when we feel overwhelmed with frustration, to throw up our hands and live a quiet and silent Christian life. This isn't the truth. It is when we meet resistance that we examine our own faith and either realize you have been wrong all along and walk away from lies, or get fortified with a renewed knowledge that others do not have and truly need.

People don't like the concept of Jesus, much less the idea that He really existed, even much more less, the idea that He was who He said He was. People naturally, in defense turn against the very thought, because they are conditioned to. Then they think of the most PC argument against Jesus that they can find and go with that one because they know it will get them help from other people who are afraid of the truth. They strike out and the meek are silenced. But should we be? Should we be quiet because people don't like our views? Are our views less valid? Politically, they truly are. However, when measured against science, the very people that get so angered have nothing to stand on. We have science. We have something observed and repeated throughout the ages. We have love. We need not embrace anger and hate. We need not argue all night. We need not defend our faith. We need only present love. If it is a lie, love will not be found. God is love. God is in everything. God is real.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Buried in The Ground

He could hear the singing above him. He could hear the sound of a guitar and a harp. Somewhere to his slight left, he heard a harmonica soar in like a blaze of fire entering a wicker room. He does not know where he is or how he has gotten here. He just knows he is here and it isn't a dream. The blood dripping from the ceiling of whatever this was would be empirical proof of that. The stinging in his knuckles are his second witness. After several hours of fighting it, he settles back into the realization that something terrible has gone wrong. Someone has made a dreadful mistake. He has been buried. He isn't even dead. It must have been bandits or sociopaths. But why would a bandit dress him in what he could only guess was the suit he wore on his wedding day. He made this assumption based on the buttons his wife bought him as a wedding present. They were shaped like little anchors...ones that matched the tattoo on his arm perfectly. The feel of them reminded him of the smell of his wife's hair when he leaned in to kiss her. How long had it been? She must be in Heaven above him weeping her eyes out. "Or dancing with someone else," he jokes to himself. He wants to panic again and raise another fit and bloody himself, but he knows they will not hear above that harmonica. He wants even more to go back to that memory of his wife's hair. That day. The sun, and the way it beamed through the trees at just the right time to make her squint during every picture. That had been so long ago. She past away 70 years later almost to the day. She left this world, their bedroom, their gaze, holding his hand. Their kids had grown up and gotten old too. His son died of a bowel infection when he was 51. His son's wife never remarried. No women could ever follow that man. He was the kind of kid that a father actually looks up to. The guy that did everything his father did, just better.

This music. What is it? It is dreadful and makes him wretch in his soul. Who would subject their phonograph to these notes and rhythms. Is this hell? Because he could only imagine demons dancing to this. He closes his eyes to regain his calm. He takes long, easy breaths in and out and travels back to last fall. They stood on top of a hill in a very small graveyard in the country. His son's name chiseled into the stone that stood knee high in front of him. His wife's to the right of him. It had been a decade since he had lost his son. His entire family of 7 daughters, 37 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren, and one living sister stood next to him silently wondering if the old man had the courage to say something. There was a mist in the air that blanketed everything with a thick layer of wet. Everyone's hair drooped under it's weight. He held one yellow rose, his boy's favorite color. He closed his eyes and let a tear drop from his eye and roll over the many wrinkles that formed into obstacles down his face. He took a deep breath.

"I named you after the bravest man I knew. We sat there huddled in front of the stove trying to keep warm. We had all given up. They had broken us. All we could do is look at the ground, our pride in being a God loving Jew was gone. We actually believed we were the rats they said we were. We watched our loved ones die. We worried about our wives who were hidden somewhere in the streets, silently hoping they would get caught just to maybe find out what happened to us. I had no idea what had happened to my love. She watched me get taken from her hiding place. She stayed quiet as I told her. I dared not to look at her to say goodbye. As we sat there silently, skinny, and shaking in exhaustion, we looked at each other to explain to each other that we had given up.

He was always getting beat up by the guards. He was always mouthing off and it was a wonder how and why he was still alive, but he did not share the tone of our glance. He got up and walked over to the guard and began telling him a story about a banker and 3 German policemen. The story went on and on and we honestly were getting bored listening to it. We had no idea what would happen next. The guard didn't realize it right away either. While he was telling the story to the guard, he was urinating on his shoe, but keeping the guards gaze and attention on his eyes that were opened so widely, you would have thought he went mad. When the guard realized it, he was laughing intensely in their faces and spraying them with urine all over. They shot him dead. We were stunned at what he had done, but knew he was gonna get himself killed at some point. We loved our lives too much to risk what he did for a little moment of satisfaction. No, instead, we let them kill us slowly. We named you Albert. Because the two of you were the bravest people I have met. My cowardice allowed me to meet you. The glory of the workman hands of God. More a man than I could have understood how to be. My son Albert, cheers to 10 years of being dead from us, but living in the presence of angels."

It was the very first time he had spoken of Austria to anyone in his family, except his wife who went with God. The wind blew over him in a way it had never before. The water in the air pierced through the veils of the women with him, but it only fueled what burned inside of him. It was a reminder that you don't weather a storm by running against it, you survive by fortifying yourself to it. This was the way he had lived his entire life. He wasn't just living to survive, but to be alive to meet what beautiful thing God would bring him next. Every passing moment of misery promises something beautiful that cannot be taken away. This is what kept him alive in Austria.

But now he isn't in Austria. He has realized the music has stopped playing. He knows he is dead. No one alive appreciates the things that are gone so much. No one remembers the smell of his wife's hair until they don't smell it anymore. He has been gone for some time...maybe years, maybe centuries. Up above where he is now probably looks the same. The music is different, but the fact that there is still music tells him that people are still dancing and laughing, which means that life is still beautiful up there. Up there everything goes on as if he were not ever there. Maybe he hadn't been. The window above his bed that let in the light that woke him every morning is probably still letting in that light, just not to his face. His box full of old photographs and letters are still buried next to the tree his kids used to swing on as kids. The ground has swallowed up all evidence of his life. He just can't let go. He cannot let go of his life. He cannot walk away from what he knows was true beauty, even to access Heaven for fear of hell....the hell of being forgotten and forgetting. He cannot close his eyes and let go because he is scared of losing everything.

Yet the voices continue above him. Telling him to let go, telling him it's ok to go, they will be fine. "Am I dead? No dead person feels this scared. People who are alive are scared of letting go, not dead people." He feels something squeeze his hand and something reminds him of his youngest daughter and how he used to hold her hand until she fell asleep when she was scared. She squeezed it just the same way, rubbing each finger separately. He knew he was alive now. But he knew he needed to go. It was time to trust in that God that has kept him alive. It's time to see his wife and son.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Me. Me. Me.

Me. Me. Me.

This is why I haven't been posting. Getting annoyed with talking about me, when others really fascinate me. Instead, I have been writing fiction stories about other people. It gets tiring though; making up stories about interesting people that do or do not exist somewhere in the world. It takes so much work. People here are just as fascinating, just not how I want them to be in my little mental pictures I like to paint them in. I want to paint them in with my own ending and be in constant control of what happens in the end....this is the American ending that movie goers really pay to see. I never thought myself one of these happy fruity smelling farts kind of people. I am far more sophisticated than that. I like Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens, surely I am different than them.

Maybe not. Maybe I want a happy ending after-all, at least the ending that makes me happy. So I can see now how being able to control the outcome would be so attractive. I can see how people have an issue with not being able to control something.

Life isn't about control. It isn't by far. Life is about handling with grace a life that is spinning in a direction foreign to you. Life is about not understanding anything anymore. Life is found in trusting someone you cannot see and cannot touch. A long time ago I wrote a praise song to God on a night I didn't feel like writing for God. I felt like writing something sad and stupid for me. This night I wrote a song about what God was to me when I was broken. I wrote about Will in it. I wrote about my disappointment with God in it. I wrote about the failure to thrive on my own and the absolute need to fall at my God's feet. I sang it in church and in youth group to the best of my ability, avoiding each time what it meant to me to keep from tears. Then a wonderful women from my church who has lost so much, but not everything, reminded me that God is very much real and good and made a difference in her loss through that song. Made a difference to her husband. She made me sorry I wrote the song because of my pride and foolishness, but thankful that that I wrote it because God is so good to use an idiot to reach a servant.

Sorry for my stupidity.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Castle Donington

Last short story of the week. Taking a little break from reality. I will keep writing them and putting them on my Arrested Development page, which I will probably change the name of because I intend to complete them and not leave them unfinished. Actually I have completed everything I have started on that one, so the name is inappropriate anyways. This one is not intended to offend, only to tell a story about a middle aged dreamer named Paul.

He opens his closet to possibly the neatest wardrobe that had ever contained clothing. Black t-shirts pressed with deep creases on the short sleeves on one side. Black jeans hanging from the boot openings on the other. On the rack above is a clear Tupperware box filled with stacks and stacks of old concert tickets. On the floor beneath the clothing are 5 identical pairs of boots, each with a different color of shoelace, blue, red, green, yellow, and purple. Paul looks through the closet pointing at different outfit configurations, speaking silently, but focused intently. He starts playing air drums with his fingers as he closes his eyes getting lost in the music playing only in his head. He continues for a moment before smiling and grabbing a pair of black jeans from the closet, a black Skid Row t-shirt, and the pair of boots with the red laces to match the skid row emblem on the shirt. He moves over to the tower of speakers next to his bed and moves the wheel up in a clockwise direction, watching the the bars increase until the volume reaches 75%. The house seems to rumble as he thrashes around in his room, dancing and playing various air instruments with the music.

It was 1988. It was one year after "Appetite for Destruction" was released and it changed Paul's life.

Paul and his mom and dad sat in the kitchen decorated in late 70's wallpaper. The table was a dark brown oak with a leaf in the middle separating him from his parents. He had made a conscious effort to separate himself from his parents since he heard "Welcome to the Jungle" a few months prior. He would sit on the floor before sitting next to his parents on the huge plush wrap around couch in the living room. His parents knew he was reaching for some independence, so they didn't make too big of a deal about it. This morning they were having eggs, toast, and bacon. Paul sat tapping his fork to the plate, leaving his food untouched. His mom and dad sat staring at him, obviously annoyed. He opened up his eyes and looked back at them. He looked deep into their eyes and just continued to tap the plate. He had a look of fury on his face and was resolved not to compromise. "Paul," his dads says. Nothing, no reaction. "Paul!" Paul gets up suddenly, leaving the table and marching upstairs. He gets to his room and turns the volume knob all the way to 95% and plopped onto his bed, staring at his posters. On the ceiling, he has a new Gun's N Roses poster, with he symbol of the "Appetite" album art. "Welcome to the jungle baby, you're gonna die!" he says at the top of his voice.

"Paul? Paulie honey it's time to go." says mom. She grabs the handle of the door, but it won't turn. She knocks gently. It is quiet in his room. The tape ran out hours ago without any remedy to the absence of noise. He must be sleeping. She knocks harder and he bursts out the door. "Let's go! Late! Almost late!" He grabs his mom's sleeve and drags her down the stairs, almost pulling her to the floor. Indeed, it was time, and they were almost late. But for what? Only the most exciting thing to happen to Paul since the tape player was invented. It was Gun's N Roses day in Donington Castle. He had two tickets and had written this date on every calender he came in contact with, even the one on the church office last Sunday. His mom grabbed her purse from the table on their way out the door and climbed into the wooden paneled station wagon parked in front of their house. The entire ride to the concert, Paul told his mom random facts about Guns N Roses, whether she wanted to hear them or not. "Did you know Axl used to teach Sunday School?" He says. "I did not sweety," says mom. "Did you know Izzy is the only band member to graduate high school?" "Did you know Duff has 8 brothers and sisters?" "Did you know Gene Simmons tried to produce the Appetite album? Hmm, good thing he didn't. I hate KISS."

The light show was fantastic. The sound was perfect. The pyrotechnics blew his hair back, literally. He stood in the front next to the metal heads and rabble-rousers. He had no interest in their activities. How could they enjoy the show when they were slamming into each other and throwing punches. A couple of girls next to him even passed out. He understood this action perfectly, hoping that he wouldn't do the same. They got removed from the show. He looked up with amazement in his eyes as he watched Axl stand back to back with Slash during the guitar solo on "Mr. Brownstone." Paul was in another world. His mom wanted nothing of the front of the stage, so she awaited him at the general admission area in the back. The crowd was pushing forward. People were drunk and throwing punches. The place was in hysterics. This was the rebellion that Paul was looking for. "Welcome to the jungle baby, you're gonna die! Haha, WE"RE ALL GONNA DIE!" He shouts this over and over as the guitars shred through his ears. Next song up......"Sweet Child O Mine." The riff begins and the place erupted. Fans pushed even harder to the front and Paul found it difficult to keep his footing. "Move it retard!" is shouted in his face by a guy with no shirt on and a bloody nose. The guy pushes him aside and takes his place in front of the stage. More people follow suit, many of them laughing at him and asking what was wrong with his face. "She's got eyes of the bluest skies........." Paul looses his footing and falls to the muddy ground. This opens up a a hole in the crowd and the fans fill it in quickly, stepping on lumps and soft hills that seemed to crack when dug in on. Paul struggled to breath and pick himself up, but the current was too strong and he found himself face down in the mud with feet stepping on the back of his head.

Guns N Roses completed their set and the ground cleared as people filed out of the castle. Once the smoke cleared, there was only Paul lying flat in the front and his mom standing anxiously in the back. She recognized his red shoe laces and ran to the front to help him up. It was 6 songs too late. Paul was dead. He was one of three dead at the front of the stage. Sadly, only two were reported and advertised in the media. Despite numerous suggestions by Slash for the crowd to calm down, their rebellion extended even to their heroes.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, July 9, 2012


It was the autumn of 1975. I was swinging on the swing-set in my back yard watching all of the people talk to each other. The metal hinges needed oil. They sang a terrible song. There were so many people at my house. My uncle Bobby stood by the old maple tree holding a glass of light brown liquid. He would touch it to his lips every minute or two and pucker like a kiss, then sneer like he was fake smiling for a camera. He was wearing a plaid suit and pretending to listen to my aunt Mary as she spoke to him. She kept talking and talking even though he never made any eye contact. Between sips of the bitter fluid, he would just spin the glass around and watch the fluid race all around the ice cubes, spilling it twice and licking it off of his fingers. People seemed to be speaking so quietly to each other as if they didn't want anyone to hear, especially when they saw me near. They would look at me and the women you cry and hug me as their husbands would pat their backs and walk them away. I have no idea what is going on. I got up this morning and my mom put these church clothes on me and I went downstairs to all of these people. My dad was away on business and my mom looked tired, so I did everything she asked me to. I usually do the opposite. People think I am a bad kid. I like that a little.

My aunt Phyllis keeps a wad of tissue in her hands and keeps blowing her nose. I have always thought she was really gross, but today she is outdoing herself. It'd be great if she would dry her hands. She touches people on the arms and face when she speaks to them and her hands are always wet. Her lipstick is always on her teeth and smeared almost up to her nose. Her hair is a formed heap of muck plastered with some sort of fishing net. She wears big, loud bangles that alert you that she is coming. This I didn't mind so much. She always caught me doing good things this way. Uncle Bobby and aunt Phyllis never speak to each other. Uncle Bobby told me it was because aunt Phyllis was a vegetarian and they eat sponges and soap and makes them crazy inside. She told me uncle Bobby had too much to drink and tried to kiss her. They both love my dad though. They tell me I have his cleft chin. Uncle Bobby calls it face cleavage.

It's not like my mom to keep such a messy back yard. There are leaves everywhere and the trash is still on the side of the garage. People keep taking the serving tray from her and scolding her. For once, I am a little angry with them telling her what to do. We may shout at each other a lot, but you should never do what other people tell you to do. She should decapitate them with that tray. I actually picture this scene for a moment with all the blood and screaming. It reminds me of when I faked a seizure in science class with an Alka Seltzer tablet. I fell to the ground and started shaking and foaming. I even soiled my pants for the effect. Kids were screaming and no one wanted to touch me because I was so gross. I got to go home, but Mrs. Dixon found my tablets in my desk later and I my mother was phoned. My dad laughed for a split second when my mom told him as he returned from work. He covered his mouth, but I saw it. She must have too because she didn't speak at dinner.

I get off the swing and walk over to this ugly woman with the tray...this bossy ogre and trip her. She fell hard with the entire tray of lemon aid. I quickly wipe my nose with my hand and extend it to her and help her up. Boom bam. That's what it would have looked like in a Batman comic. The trip, then the snot. I feel better now. I look to my mom and for a split second, I see her grin. Wait till I tell my dad about this one. Her grin reminded me of his for a moment. Maybe there was a real person in there somewhere. Maybe she is more than just some woman who always takes orders and tries to give them to me.

Meanwhile, uncle Bobby is sleeping in the sandbox. Aunt Phyllis comes over to him and sits down on the grass next to him and wipes the hair from his face. She is the oldest and uncle Bobby is the youngest. He opens his eyes and she reaches over and closes them with her hands, then just continues to rub his hair. This family is really strange. Stranger today than yesterday. I would ask my mom what is going on if I could find her now. I sweep the yard to no avail. I survey the house and find her in the basement alone next to an old trunk my dad brought back from the war. She is looking at old pictures. Some are my dad in his uniform, some are the two of them in front of theaters with the marquee lights illuminating the background. There is one of the two of them riding a horse. She is facing forward and he is facing backward on the same horse. I walk over to her and sit down next to the trunk. I don't say anything and neither does she. She just strokes my dads hair in the photograph like it were really there. Whatever is going on outside is obviously annoying her too, so we just sit in the basement together quietly for a little while.

When dad gets home, he's gonna be sore at the mess.


Thanks for reading...Z


It takes real rhythm to make a hula hoop go round and round. And why try anyway? Why is it fun? These are the thoughts that occupy my mind from my thoughts. These are the things that save my life from day to day. Above me, there is a dull hum of an air conditioner window unit. It's a strange place to put such a heavy and obviously dangerous piece of equipment. I bet if the wind blew just right, that thing would careen directly through my face and sink into the pillow beneath my head. My hair is wet. Why is it wet? Because someone put an air conditioner over the bed and it has been dripping for who knows how long until it's bitter mildew taste reached my lips, then my tongue. There is a velvet painting of a deer looking at me in some meadow...just staring down the hack artist who painted it. I bet it isn't worth $5. I bet he was so excited to receive that $1 that Walmart gave him as royalties 15 years ago when this motel opened. The pool isn't empty, but the kids don't dare go in it. The water is green and it looks like plants are actually growing on the surface of it. How did I get here? I vaguely remember something about being in the back of a truck and tossing all around as the thing swerved, and a very panicked look of an immigrant as he dropped me onto, I guess this bed. Which reminds me that my head hurts. It hurts on the surface of both the front and back. I am wearing a whitish tee-shirt. It's torn and has various stains on it. One stain I recognize. I dropped my beer on the side of my plate and it catapulted spaghetti up at me bringing a barrage of curses. The rest are new and very red. Possibly related to my head hurting? I am afraid to look. I won't. It wouldn't matter anyway, the phone doesn't even work. I can already see the line has been cut. I raise my arms out in front of me as I lay on my back and do so also with my legs. I am assessing my physical function. I wonder if I am going to die or have died already. This headache is bad. Not a hangover. After 20 years of drinking, I don't get those anymore. This is more crippling than that. This is the feeling of actually having a split open head. This may be the very situation the guy that coined the term "Splitting headache" was in. I can imagine it now. So I do. I imagine it for 15 minutes to pass the time. To keep my mind from wandering to somewhere I don't want to be. But then I'm there.

I'm in an ice cream truck. I was a very young man...just recently suited up with a driver's license. It was a very hot day that day. I knew it immediately when I woke up. It felt like it feels when you wake up a little too late inside of a tent under the sun. I knew today was the day to make some money. It had rained for a week or so and I was worried about being able to pay for prom. This girl was too pretty to let her down. Kids were lining up at every stop a few blocks apart. Some kids wanted the WWF Superstars cookie bars, some wanted the snow cones with the gumball at the bottom, but most kids wanted the Rocket pop. It was always the favorite on the hot days. None of the kids seemed to own any shoes, and very few were wearing shirts. An assortment of various races and skin tones, some missing teeth, some with temporary tattoos, some that seemed to have armpit hair already. Those kids always ordered the slushes or the candy whistles.

At noon, I had to pee. There was no holding it a moment longer. I parked the ice cream truck beside the old railroad tracks that had been long abandoned. The rails were tossed all along the road and the steel was all rusted out. I popped out of the truck and into the field beyond the tracks for privacy. I remember whistling Hulk Hogan's ring entrance music while fertilizing the weeds in front of me. It seemed like forever I was going. I got all finished up and headed back to my truck and hopped in to the driver's seat. I remember thinking it wasn't such a great idea for an ice cream truck driver to expose himself in public, even if he did think he was hidden. Next time, I would stop at McDonalds. The air conditioning worked well in my truck and I just sat back and closed my eyes for a moment enjoying the silence, until the freezer door slammed shut. I jumped from the seat and spun around to find one of those hairy armpitted ones with his face covered in chocolate like some guilty raccoon in the night. He was holding a push pop, a candy whistle, and a slush from the machine. He looked at me much like the deer is looking at me now in this horrible velvet painting. He dropped the treats and made way for the door beside me. I wasn't going to chase. I let him dash past me as he leaped through the door next to the cash register.

The next few milli-moments are the subject of a lot of torment for the next many years. He flew through the air as he leaped from the truck and was intercepted by something bigger than I had ever seen. The blow took him immediately from my sight as I watched the the endless streak of dull colors pass in front of me. Then it was gone. The kid was gone. I got out and looked for him and he wasn't anywhere. No blood. No sign of a train. The rails were still in shambles as I inspected the ground. He was as gone as never having been there at all. I turned back toward the truck. Was this real? I was never the kid to take drugs or alcohol, so I suspected I wasn't high. I walked in the truck hoping the floor was clean and clear. I may have fallen asleep whistling that Hulk Hogan song and not realized it. I walked in with my eyes closed and stood there. I was too afraid to open them, a feeling very similar to the one I have now with my splitting headache. I mustered the courage and opened them and found a quickly melting pile of treats on the floor of the truck. I pictured for a moment, the kid with the hairy pits stuck to the front of a speeding train like the coyote would when being hit chasing the Road Runner. But this was not a cartoon. Whatever this was, it wasn't a cartoon.

That kid was announced missing the next day. He was never found. I never said a word. A train was never again seen on those tracks. There was no record of anything traveling on them for 15 years.

I am tired of these thoughts so in an attempt to forget them, I reach for my head. I start at my chin and my hands crawl up past my lips to my nose. There is something sticky there, but once I feel my nose intact, I continue on without panic. I reach the bones that make up my orbital socket. One is bent in a smidge, but nothing to be too concerned with, this isn't where I feel the pain. I almost resigned myself to the notion of minor injuries when my knuckles hit it. It was large. It felt otherworldly. It didn't seem to have a sensation of it's own. It was like the feeling of your tongue under the influence of novacane. I ran my fingers around it's circular circumference and back again. My fingers made way across my scalp and through my hardened hair to the back of my head. I didn't need to feel it to know it was there. It's point, both sharp and dull protruding from the back of my head. There was no doubt what it was. It was the culmination of everything I was trying to forget about. It was the doom I had expected 20 years ago. He had returned. That kid had returned. This railroad spike was for me. I deserved it. There is so much that needs to be remembered, but I fear this spike has removed them from my mind. I fear these stains are actually the particles of my brain that knew what happened last night. I suppose I will live then if I have made it this long and can move my appendages. I guess so.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Just a Story and Nothing Else

I woke to tiny flickering flames scattered around me. I can't believe I made it. There was all this fire and there was me in the middle of it, covering his head from the disaster. I guess it didn't end up reaching me after all. After all the pleading and wailing about not wanting to die. I guess by sheer coincidence, everyone died but me. This wasn't the fire of movies where people would run around silently and fall into the fetal position. This was real fire and I was surrounded. People were covered in it's flames and screaming for help and I would just hit them with this branch to keep them from setting me a blaze. They didn't seem to have the peace that those guys in the Life magazine seemed to have when covered in flames.  I hid underneath the branches, beneath the snow, buried in the bodies of the dead. Some were not yet dead, but I ignored that and remained quiet. I listened to a night full of screaming and bullets and the sound of dirt being rocked from it's resting place and spitting all around me. The sound of gunpowder doing what it was always meant to do. I closed my eyes and for the first time in my life, I fell completely asleep. There was nothing to keep me awake. There was no worry. All was lost around me and soon I would be too. There was comfort in that. Realizing that, even though it is terrible to die, it is amazing to be able to glance at your life's itinerary and laugh, ripping out the pages.

I opened my eyes. I wasn't sure what I was looking at, but the sound I was sure of. It was birds chirping as if it were any other morning. They seemed to be in unison. They seemed to speak poetry as the sun infiltrated my eyes and what seemed like a dream became reality. There was blood. There were smoldering bundles of things resembling camouflage. There was an inhuman silence that shrieked louder than the screams of my dreams. There was the reality that everyone was gone. Worse than that....I hid through everything. I hit my burning friends with a stick to keep them from me. I guess this is my life. I guess I always keep people from me, especially when they need me. "No matter now," I say as I brush off all memory and bad thoughts. I return to base and tell a story entirely different than the one I remember. Wives feel better. I feel better. Kids feel better. Instead of screaming for his mom, he jumped in front of a bullet to save me. This story sits better. It really doesn't matter what I say does it? I can say whatever I want about it, it won't give them back the guy that had to eagerly wait for the letter announcing his son's birth while in the infirmary, but dying just prior to receiving that letter. It won't do anything.

I am a coward mom. I could not have been quieter in that hole. I heard noises and footsteps so close to me and willed my body to be still. I should have waited until they got past me and stood up and killed at least 5 of them. I didn't. I waited and shook like some woman after an earthquake. I acted like a victim.

I don't know if you will get this. Word is the neighborhoods are under attack and losing, but I refuse to think of those consequences right now. I am alone. I cannot come out of this hole. I just can't. People told me Halifax was gone. I won't believe it. You have to be reading this right now. You just have to. It's all I have left. I am gonna close my eyes now. I'm gonna dream of you on purpose and when I wake up, you will be there right? You will be there?  


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Story About Family

It was the perfect day. I hadn't had a perfect day in sometime. I guess the odds are always against the perfect day to begin with, so you can't really get mad when it doesn't happen. Only when you get the opposing force of the perfect day...the day of reckoning.

We were sitting on the couch as a family watching ALF and laughing. The kids were laughing at the primitive, furry, man filled space alien on the screen. He looked so funny when he tried to run. We were laughing because we cannot believe we thought this was funny once. Once in a different world. The kids are eating popsickles and mom and I are endulging in a Hot and Ready on the couch like viking barbarians. There is a cool breeze blowing on our faces from the window. It is a perfect 75 degrees outside. In the night sky, the moon lights the paths of the drunkards stumbling home from their corner spouses. They make no noise, but watch the beauty of a family realizing that all they really have is each other dancing inside the windows. The screen flashes with electric pictures and the depth of the beauty of family forces us all to close our eyes and feel the flakes fall on our shoulders...our eye lashes. It feels beautiful. We lift out faces to the sky and stick out our tongues to catch the falling cedars...........Cedars? "What is this?" We look up at the blizzard of saw dust falling onto our faces. It's both beautiful and confusing. It sparks at the occasional nail for a moment and continues splitting a line directed between us. Between my family. It begins to darken. The beauty of the dust showering us is now lost and it begins to get in our eyes and fills our stomachs. It is revolting. I makes us cough hysterically as we try to find each other in the darkness. The dust is razors now. It cuts into the very things we never wanted to happen as kids. It drives distance between us and separates us from who we always wanted to be. Our dreams will be the next to fall prey to the cedar snow. Our dreams will be pressed into wooden statues that will be gauked at by artsies and pretend artsies. They will look at our statues and get sad feelings about their parents or their lack thereof. They will buy those statues as symbols of their undying committment to never make committments. Our destruction will become art.

The sawdust flies in our faces and our kids are screaming, but nothing will keep us apart. Nothing will keep our hands from interlocking fingers again. We will join together or die. This is art to us. We stand in a circle holding hands and dancing around as the sawdust falls like a midnight snow all around us. Above us, we know there is a blade coming, but it cannot touch us. It may rain as much as it would like, but it will not separate our fingers from each other's. It's steel will recoil. It will fail. This doll house will fall, but our family will remain. Whoever wishes to bring it down and separate it's parts will walk away unfullfilled. He will walk away with a hot saw, but a heart turned to liquid.

But for now, we just dance in the falling cedar that has not power to stop us.


Thanks for reading...Z