Friday, November 27, 2015

Thank You

      It's Thanksgiving! At least it was Thanksgiving. I've always said that a great day ends only when you fall asleep and let it go. Today, I am thankful for everything. I'm not going to make a list this time, but there are so many people in my life that make me who I am. The ones that love me, show it. The ones that don't have served to make me a better person. Both teach me to seek the best in myself...and to see the best in everyone else.

     I think that if you were to closely look back at your life, you will find God's provisions everywhere. At every wonderful turn, you will find one of His own smiling. At every terrible fall, you will find one of His weeping with you. I like that about God. He answers tough questions. People always ask where God was when these terrible things happen. The answer is simple. He was the person closest to you, holding your head to their shoulder.

     Christmas is hard for me. I feel it coming in...this sadness and loneliness. It starts with a fleeting feeling that they are gone. It comes back with this desire to crush me. It won't.

     I look back at the things that have almost killed me. I look around and there they are. On the train tracks, it was Joe. When Will died, it was Laura and Andy. When Joe died, it was Laura and Jeff. There was always a person who loved me deeply to pick up the pieces.

     I look back at those terrible times and see them picking me off of the pavement for months. I'm so thankful for God and the people He has put into my life to save me continually.

     Christmas time at "In Search of Whales" has been pretty bleak for the last several years. Understandably. But this year, I want to write about the one holiday that I think is truly beautiful. The day that God cared so much that He put Himself, His Son, His Spirit, into a world that would kill him violently...because He loved us. He saw me. He saw you.

     While I haven't represented a person who loves God very much lately, I do concede that He is active in my life. I see Him everywhere and that reminds me that He loves me.

     Christmas may be hard, and I may write about it's difficulties, but I'd really like to write about the joy that Christmas has always brought me. When I was a kid, I was really sad. But there was something about Christmas that was magical. I bet you can relate. This Christmas, I'm going to write some Christmas stories. Stories that remind me that this day is all about Jesus. I am reminded that, as a teenager I wanted to go to sleep forever. I tried to make that happen and He stopped me. I lost hope in myself and everyone around me. He sent the right people to heal me. I gave up and I gave up. I wanted rest, but He was always there to save me. All because of a baby being born a refugee in a foreign country.


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


     My friend Stacy posted a Story about her family and a group of people looking out for this homeless man in her community. The story made me smile. It's a story that reminds me that we are still connected despite our differences in opinion.

     I worked for a non-profit Christian group called Objects of Wrath. We would set up skate parks for at risk kids and feed the homeless. We had set up this event where we would meet the homeless in the park and eat dinner with them. It wasn't meant to be us helping them. It was meant to be us eating with them.

     It reminds now as I write that God named Jesus Emmanuel... meaning "God with us." It was a sign that God was present in all suffering.

     I wasn't a rookie to helping the homeless. I had heard the stories and the cues meant to manipulate. But when Paul sat down in front of me, I was speechless. I was shocked at what I saw and he was probably used to that. We looked each other in the eyes for a while. I wanted to cry. I didn't. Instead, I just asked him. I've never been a person for small talk. I asked him about his burns. Paul had no recognizable features on his face or body. His fingers were melted off and he spoke through a small hole in his face.

     He didn't hesitate. He told me about the time his mother met this guy that made her whole world go round. He made her feel so special. She married him and soon after, the guy started beating on both of them. Paul said there was something empty about the guy's eyes.

     One night after his mother had been beaten, Paul punched the guy in the face and told him that if he ever hit his mom again, he would be dead. The guy pulled back and smiled. But he left. This made Paul so happy to have helped his mother. That night, while Paul was sleeping, his step-father doused him in gasoline and lit a match. Paul rolled and screamed and tried to put out the fire that was burning him down, but ended up looking less than human. He lost the joy of being human.

     The story made me sick to hear. It made me love him instantly. I put him in my car and drove him to a shelter. I bought him a bus pass and a phone card. I promised to help him. I promised to get him out of hell.

     Over the next few weeks, I found him a job interview with a truck packing company and a half-way house to live in. I was so pleased with myself. I had done something good with my life...finally. When I bought Paul the phone card, I had asked him to call me every night to pray. I always felt bad for not letting him stay with me. The last night he called from Hart Plaza. He said it was so cold outside. I took the cordless outside with me and we both spoke shivering together. I told him about the interview and the half-way house. He was elated. He told me that I had changed his life and was so thankful to God for me. I went to bed feeling like a good person.

     I told him I would pick him up from Hart Plaza at 10 AM. I waited for over three hours. He didn't show up. He never called me again, despite having that phone card. He was ghost.

     I can only pray that he is ok and living well. I pray he found something that made his life worth it. But all I can really think about is how cold Hart Plaza has been the last few years. I truly loved Paul and I think he truly loved me. Despite the separation, we are all connected.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Suicide Letter (Short Story- Fiction)

"Have you ever wondered what your last moment of life would be like? I have. Now I know." - Micah McBain

Log Number 1: 1231 Mulberry St.      

     I used to work at a steal mill. My job was to clean the steal slough of the machines with a torch, then clean and repaint the molds that came through. It was hard work for very little pay. I'm not an idiot and this is America. I left on a Sunday morning when my alarm clock went off to get up and go to work. I went to church instead.

     So as I lay here on these tracks, I wonder if I had cleaned the machine that made the cold October steal beneath my neck. If I didn't, someone else did. That person had no idea what would happen. The thought of that random person gives me comfort for some reason. We are best friends and he doesn't even know it.


     I was a kid, no older than 11 or 12 years old when I left home. I won't make a short story long, so I'll get to the point. While I was sleeping, my drunk of a dad got drunk and let other men come into my bedroom for money. When daylight came and everyone had left, I took an ax and separated his head from his disgusting body. I called the police myself.

     They tried me as an adult, placed me in a juvenile facility until I was 18, then transferred me to a federal penitentiary. One year ago, I was let out of prison after a total of 26 years in various prisons.

     I got out. No one hired me as an ax murderer. I dated, but no one married and ax murderer. I went to church, but no one baptizes an ax murderer. I ended up sitting at the end of the bar, staring at various vices that I asked them to put under my nose. I did crappy work for crappy people. I spent it all on whatever I wanted that day. When a person has nothing; they have nothing to save for.


     My mom left me when I was a toddler. I didn't know anything about her other than what my piece of crap father told me about her. So I guess I didn't much care growing up what had happened to her. My father told me she left us both at the Tiger's game when she got up to use the bathroom. I do remember the foam finger. I do remember that Tiger's game. So it must have been true. During my life in prison, my aunt sent me a letter. The letter was return addressed to her, but my mother signed the letter.

     My mother told me she was sorry. It wasn't her intention to leave me with this animal. She was being hurt by him. She had tried to get me out too...several times. When she left at the baseball game, she had tried to take me to the bathroom with her and my father told her to leave me be. She had tried to kidnap me a few times, but had failed. She told me that she drove by all the time and watched me play at school and in front of my house with my friends and that I looked happy, so she gave up trying. She just wanted me to be happy. She told me that she would have liked to trade places with me.

     I tore up the letter the moment I finished reading it. I got into a violent fight that day and ended up in isolation with 65 stitches to my face and hands. My"aunt"sent me letters throughout my sentence, but I never opened them. Every time I got one, I would get into a fight and end up alone.


     I think they must have gotten tired of the fighting, so they let me out on parole. If good behavior means spending almost as much time in isolation as general population, I guess I was that guy. I left the prison on a Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM. There was no one there to pick me up. I called a cab and waited. I left the prison porch at 4:15 PM and slept at the Day's Inn.

     I tried to make it work. The thought of being free both excited and scared me while incarcerated. I've been here now for 5 months and haven't experienced any excitement. I'd tried really hard to make it work. I shoveled snow, raked leaves, dug holes, carried timber, broke fingers, lost weight, and still ended up laying in an alley in a shelter issued sleeping bag. It's impossible.

     The nights were long, but the days were the worst. At least at night, I could alternate between a shelter (when I could find one) and this small area in the alley behind a huge factory that blew it's hot machine exhaust into the air through these huge tubes. The days left me with nothing to do but ask for charity...something the world will give only in cancer patients and car accidents.

     So I decided to leave. I realized that there wasn't a single thing I would miss. No one would miss me either. I was an ax murderer. Everyone wanted me dead anyway.

     So here I lay on these tracks. I thought about my dad and my mom. I remembered one day that I was happy. We were at Chucky Cheese for my birthday. My mom and dad were smiling and giving everyone tokens. These stuffed machines were playing fake music through fake instruments and I could not have been happier. I opened my presents and didn't even care what I got. For this one moment, I got what I had always wanted.


     I walked 3 miles to get to the tracks. This was a busy rail, so I knew it wouldn't be long. No one wants to lay there waiting all night thinking about it. When a person does something scary, they have to do it fast; because it's hard to go through with it.

    I stared at the stars as a man staring at the sky for the last time. That night, I ate my favorite meal; cheese ravioli and garlic bread. I listened to my favorite song on repeat and just waited for the horror show to be over.

     After many meaningful moments, the tracks began to shake beneath my head. I turned to the right and saw my assassin for the first and only time. He was hooded in a dark shroud of steal and gears. I turned my head to the sky to keep my focus on the stars and not my fear. The shaking got stronger and my nerves couldn't handle it, so I shouted into the air as loud and as hard as I could. I would keep shouting until it was finally over.

Then silence.

     A piece of paper floated over across my eyes and landed to the left of my face. I was annoyed at first, that something was grabbing my attention away from my own chosen last moment thoughts. Then I got so annoyed that I grabbed the paper and looked at it.

     It was a colored picture of a small child, by a small child...handing a yellow flower to a woman who was bleeding from her face. The bottom had a caption, written "Becuze i love u."

     I rolled off the tracks as it's blades blew wind onto my back. I laid there weeping all over the picture. I knew it couldn't have been an accident. Someone loved me. Somewhere. That was enough.


Log Number 2: 1232 Mulberry St.........

(Part of this story was told to me by a person I cannot find in this world. The picture and tracks were his story. I filled in the blanks.)




Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Time To Go (A Short Story)

            Week after week I lay in my own vomit. The light peaks threw the blinds like jabs from a knifepoint into my eyes. I cover myself with my blanket to keep them out. My phone rings and vibrates, then falls silent. Every time it awakes, I get anxious, then fall into peace when it dies into the quiet of my little studio apartment attached to a tiny guitar store.  It’s been months since I’ve seen another person. I got a settlement from the drunk that killed my wife and bought a year’s worth of vodka and noodles.

            It has been 92 days since I saw her last. It’s been 87 days since I last stepped outside. Today is the day. I haven’t run out of alcohol. I’ve just run out of noodles. At the liquor store, I bought all they had of vodka and all they had of noodles. They are called a liquor store.

            I stepped out of the house into the small parking lot of the guitar store. The parking lot was empty. Must be a Sunday. The shop was always closed on Sundays because the owner liked to go to church and couldn’t afford to pay an employee. The shop was only open when he was able to keep it open. All night though, rain or shine, that old man would play that guitar on the other side of the wall until I was sleeping. Sometimes, he would play the song I dance with my wife too. He didn’t know…he couldn’t have. I would drink more, cry out the lyrics and he would stop. I’d pass out until I heard the guitar the next day.

            I walked over to the shop entrance and opened the door…no one there… nothing moving and no guitars. Just silence. I’ve been foggy before and today is no exception, but something seemed wrong. I walked back out of the store into the street and waited for a car to pass by on the busiest road in town. I waited almost an hour before I gave up and went to my truck. I drove to the convenience store, the liquor store, the grocery store, the women’s clothing store, and finally to the post office. There was no one anywhere. I called 911.

            “911 Emergency, please leave your name, birthdate, and emergency, and we will respond at our very earliest convenience.” Dial tone. I visited every single establishment over the next 2 weeks. No one stirred. No one answered their phones. My mom never answered. My dad never answered. My sister never answered. My friends never answered. The television was white and blue static. My radio was squealing with guttural noise. I thought for a moment that I was dead and this was either Heaven or Hell, depending on my current motivations to live.

Day  1.
            The funny thing is that before everyone was hiding from me, I didn’t want to see a single one of them. Now I just want to find just one. Someone to help me sort this whole thing out would be nice. I’ve always been a creature of curiosity, but never one for the emotional stuff. Right now, I’d really like to know where everyone went. More than that, I want to know why I didn’t go too.
Day 2.
            I borrowed a van from down the street. My friend uses it for camping. It has a mattress in the back and a small gas powered generator. As long as the engine runs, the extra batteries on the van charge. When they go dead, you can start the generator and get another couple days of heat and power.  I’m going to look for survivors or whatever and whomever you want to call us…or just me.

Day 10.
            Halfway across the country and I haven’t found a single person. I’ve meant to write about all I’ve seen, but I haven’t seen anything…just trees and leaves and road. For records sake, I brought the rest of my vodka. Not that I needed it…every liquor store is full.

Day 12.
            I heard a satellite radio broadcast! They identified as being from Long Beach California. I’m in Oregon now: Almost 1,000 miles away from whoever is sending these broadcasts. The broadcast played some old songs from when I was a kid. Songs from bands like Weezer and Jimmy Eat World. I got nostalgic feelings from high school while driving. I couldn’t get to the source fast enough. The broadcast went on as it would have usually. There was no mention of any catastrophe. There was just a guy playing music, speaking sometimes about when the bands would play and where, then commercials advertising things like new windows, hand soap, and lawyers. Most of the band’s dates had past.

Day 13.
            I wanted to drive straight through the night. I wanted to find the only radio station still broadcasting, and compare what we knew. But there was this deer in the road. It was the biggest deer I had ever seen, with the biggest antlers imaginable. I thought, “This should be on someone’s mantle.” It wouldn’t move. I could have drove around it, but the fact that it didn’t move made me wonder why. I got out of the car and it started walking to the right, into the forest. I followed it because I had nothing and no reason not to. It walked without any fear of me to the stream and started drinking from it. I didn’t get it at first. I thought it was just thirsty and I was the idiot that followed a deer panting for water. Then I saw a small deer to the left of it. It was dead. The larger deer walked over to it and lay down next to it. I listened to the water flow from the rocks to the stream and realized that even without people here to see it, the world was so beautiful and sad.  I drove my van to that spot and decided to sleep there for the night so I could listen to what life sounds like without humans.

Day 16.
            My mom told once that if I just applied myself I could see every beauty imaginable. It’s funny how things come back to you once they are only memories that cannot be questioned or rebuked. But here I am, lying on a mattress in a small meadow beneath a large mountain. Both back doors of the van have been open for hours and I have been watching one wild animal look at me and walk away unafraid after another. I am somehow no longer a threat to them. I am just an object in space and time to them. They move forward and forget me moments after they see me. I don’t need them and they certainly don’t need me. I slept to the sound of that silence for hours…the best I’ve ever slept. No one needed me or was afraid of me. There is something both sad and beautiful about that. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore, then I fell asleep in peace.

Day 18.
            I’m a couple days away from the transmission that just keeps going on like people are still listening. I’m listening, so I guess they are doing their jobs. Maybe hundreds are on their way there, just like me. The roads are clear. If this were a catastrophe, the roads would be a car park. This wasn’t planned. Everyone got gone very quickly. I stopped to take a look at the Grand Canyon today. My mom always wanted to see it and I had promised I’d take her. It was on the bucket list of things to do with my wife. It was so beautiful that I lost my breath. It was bigger than I had ever imagined. My wife would have been so scared when I looked over the edge. I guess we didn’t make it to that. She had done something good and apparently I hadn’t and she is gone and I’m here still. I walked right up to the lip of the canyon. I shouted into the abyss. I told God and anyone who may be listening how I felt. I shouted, “I hate you! I gave you everything! You gave me everything! Then You took everything from me!” I sobbed as I shouted. I threw up and shouted more. “You are a terrible God! You aren’t good or fair. You are death!”

            I’d spent the last bit of my life angry and wondering where my wife had gone. Why her? She volunteered to everything. She always gave to good causes. She went to church and believed in God just like I did. Then it drove me to one conclusion. It wasn’t her. It was me. I am here alone because I have always chosen to be alone. Even when she was alive, I kept myself from her… a very small part of myself. This was a part that only I could see. She could have never really known me; only who I was when I reacted to what life brought me. I reacted badly to what life brought me. I always thought the worst. Then I always self destructed and she always picked up the pieces.

Day 21.
            I’ve been searching the world for people. I haven’t found even a trace of them left. I put my hands on stove burners and find cold medal, hoping to find evidence of life. I stop at campgrounds looking for small fires and find nothing. It doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I guess it never really did. No one is there watching over anyone. I am alone.

Day 23.
            I remember this time that my friend at school had died and my mom maybe heard about it while I was at school, or not. I came home with my 12 years old stomach in knots turning all over. I didn’t have a word yet to describe my feeling. Later in life, I would have the word. It would be the word “alone.” He was alone, I felt alone, we should all feel alone. We don’t. That is what has always driven me to drink. Even before my wife died. I drank because no one feels alone when a 12 year old kills himself.

            I remember this while lying on a mattress in front of waterfall that washes away more land than I’ve ever seen. I think about who I am and where I have been and I finally realize how small I am.

            With or without humans, the world will continue as a clock would. The water will flow until it doesn’t. The air will push to and fro until it doesn’t. Life will begin, thrive, then die in front of maybe no one. This is the Creation of a God I can never understand.

            I smile and turn the key and make my way to my destination. Humanity.  I yearned to feel human touch and togetherness again. I think about the nights I spent in darkness…drinking myself into more darkness. It makes me sad. I really just want to see someone. I want human connection.

Day 31.
            I’ve finally arrived. There is one car in the parking lot. Satellite dishes cover the property. This is where I’m supposed to be. This is hope I have come all this way for. I walk in the doors. They are so welcomely unlocked.  I walk in and find my way into the control room that boasts a large generator roaring and a control panel unmanned. Unmanned…this isn’t what I was expecting. I search the place and only find that the generator is powering reruns of a satellite show to repeat until it ran out of fuel.

            I laugh to myself. I stop to think. Was the journey worth the ache in the heart? Yeah, I think it was. I think I found what went wrong. I lost my vision that the world would thrive with or without me. I would thrive with or without her. You could lose everything you had ever known and it wouldn’t make a difference. What remains will always be what remains.

Day 37.
            I drove to the ocean in northern California. I made a few stops to see the beauty that God made for us or whomever would see. I’ve figured out why I am still here. Because life is beautiful, whether or not you see it. She left because the world is sick and she fell victim to it. She didn’t deserve it. She got sick. She died. Then everyone left without saying goodbye. I can’t be mad. I never said it either. I never told her goodbye. I never told her that it was ok to go. I didn’t tell her I would be ok. Maybe I’ll be ok.

Day 40.
            I got to the coastline. I’ve seen so much. I’ve grown from a person that wanted to hide, to someone who wants to live, even without my beautiful wife and all of these beautiful people. I want to help people. I want to be everything I’ve never been. I want to be human.

            But here is this wave.  This enormous wave that is heading right for me as I stand on the beach and write this. Did they know about this wave? What caused it? It doesn’t matter. It is here and everyone is gone and I am finally here.

            I am finally here, and now it’s time to go. 


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Winter Hats

      It was the wee hours of the morning. It was the beginning of fall in Michigan, which means it will have been summer for a month more everywhere else. Will sat on the ledge of the concrete bridge at Horse Island fishing. We had on our winter hats and drank the sugar they called coffee from the gas station vending machine. Joe and I laid in the grass about 50 feet away from the bridge. We were sadistic little buggers. We wanted to hunt and kill something. We had laid out a blanket of popcorn I had gotten from my work at a theater to attract the ducks. We laid in the darkness with blowguns for the ducks to cross. They eventually did. We shot darts, and some landed, only to be shaken from the feathers immediately as the ducks took off.

     Joe used to catch fish and make them smoke his cigarettes. We would sit on that concrete ledge and talk about the deepest things we could. Joe would torture that fish, but it always swam away. Me and Will would look at him and shake our heads, then laugh. Because Joe was always Joe.

    We were terrible fisherman. We rarely caught a thing. But the times that one of us did, we would put it in the video store dropbox. We would always imagine their faces when they got to work. A copy of Porky's, Final Destination, On Golden Pond, and a wreaking fish still moving. We wanted to change a person's day.

     I think if you were to ask us then what the hell we were doing, we would have told you that we wanted to rock everyone out of the boat. People get up and eat breakfast, then go to work and sleep until they can do it all again. I'm not sure that is really living life. I didn't believe it then and I still don't. We wanted to make a person think about something other than what they always think about. We wanted people to see something they haven't.

     Maybe we just wanted to be heard. I don't know, we were teenagers. We thought the world was supposed to yield to us, and serve to keep us safe. We were young and stupid. The world yields for no one. There is no rest. There are no exceptions. We are human and humans are made to suffer.

     They went and I stayed. I don't regret it. I won't follow them there. I am lit up entirely by my wife and children. I have what they didn't see they also had... Hope. I won't speak much of their kids here, but they are beautiful. They are the most loving children I've encountered. I think I'll make it my job to keep them that way.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, November 2, 2015


"Laughing With" - Regina Spector

I was watching television and this song came on. Here are some of the lyrics...

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one´s laughing at God when they´re starving or freezing or so very poor
No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one´s laughing at God when it´s gotten real late
And their kid´s not back from the party yet
No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one´s laughing at God when they see the one they love
Hand in hand with someone else and they hope they´re mistaken

     These words are so true that they stink. Everyone has opinions and beliefs. People believe what they are comfortable believing. No one wants to believe in consequence or cause and effect. Nevertheless, the truth is the truth, even when it doesn't fit into our own belief systems. 

     I've encountered some bad things that didn't fit into my belief system too. I had to adjust the way I think. Truth is, I knew the truth before, but hadn't experienced it fully. I knew the world was really angry. I knew that there weren't many that were going to stand up for me or anyone else without some profit. But when I had to see even worse first hand, I had to try to figure out a life that learned to cope with true reality. Experiential reality is greater than knowledge of this reality. 

     Before I was a believer in a true and loving God, I was a believer in a true and angry and hateful God. I believed this because I went to a hateful and angry church and school. I was a kid trying to live, and they made me this monster. None of that matters now, but I think many have had the same experience with people that claimed to know and work for "God." So in the defense of the angry, I will tell you that I get it. I understand. I've been there until I saw God.

     I had always lived in this religious culture, where everything is subject to the religious commentary from it's "leaders." Rules come down from above and we are subject to them from self righteous pulpits and false visions of a better life. There isn't a better life. God doesn't make exceptions. People are born and people die. It can be funny, and it can make you mourn your entire life. 

     I don't think God really attends the memorials. I don't think God lives very closely to the neighborhoods that preach His name. I think God lives in the places that no one would ever find Him. I think God lives in the moments that the writer of the song above sang about. I think that God lives in the people that know they need him. In America, God is a joke. In reality, God is the hand that holds the head of a dead child in Iraq, who has just had his ams and legs blown off. God is the doctor that goes against his better judgement and makes difficult decisions to give peace to a patient that just wants it all to end. God truly is love. 

God is never a joke when you really need Him. 



Thanks for reading...Z