Category Archives: Wolf Tales

Stolen Moments

A friend of mine, Preston*, has recently taken to poetry writing, or more specifically to haiku writing.  Haiku (or hokku) is a Japanese verse form of poetry that follows a very strict composition of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables.  Not popular in Western cultures until about the early 1900s, haiku are often accompanied by an image, or a pair of images, meant to depict the essence of a particular moment in time.  Their brevity is occasionally an introduction to a longer poem or a story, but its central purpose is to focus the reader’s attention on that one single moment that struck the poet’s mind as critical or somehow significant; a moment where everything came into focus; where the complexities of life were abruptly reduced to what is – and what is not – essential.

I trust and admire Preston greatly.  I wrote about him nearly 6 years ago in “One Good Friend.”  He’s truly one of those rare individuals who is focused and level-headed.  For us writers, focus is always a challenge, while level-headedness is sometimes elusive.

Time is a bandit

Reducing our hopes and dreams

To mere memories

 

– Preston

 

*Name changed.

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Coal Black

This is a version of a poem I first composed in February 1983, when I was 19.  It reveals my long-held passion for the color black, oceans, wind and the moon.  It also highlights my obsession for women with long hair, especially long black hair.

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Coal black,

Solid black,

Deepest darkest as the night.

I have no fear.

I feel no fright.

I see your face,

With the crescent moon’s light.

And I see your hair,

In this coal black night.

I wince through the shadows,

Your tresses glisten with streaks of blue.

A river of indigo,

It makes me coo.

I must concede,

I still lust for you.

Standing on this cliff of immense height,

I remain awed with your porcelain beauty,

And owls take flight.

Your eyes gaze wickedly delicious,

From a face so blessed and kind.

My heart thunders.

What dreams do you have in mind?

The moon we both love lingers above the sea.

I feel a surge of blood within my soul.

Are you wanting to set me free?

I still want to touch that waterfall of hair,

Hold you tight,

And assure you I really do care.

Your sapphire follicles caressed by the winds.

The onyx sky bears no cloud,

A theater of stars dancing above,

Happy and proud.

They accentuate your face,

And tumble through that mass of hair.

I reach to touch you.

But I shall not dare.

You kiss the breeze and start for the sea.

Please look back.

Do you have any love for me?

But you wince and you taunt.

Deep in my heart,

You forever haunt.

“Perhaps,” you whisper,

Coy and bright.

And I remain enamored,

On this coal black night.

© 2018 Alejandro De La Garza

 

Bottom image by Alex Cherry.

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A Land Called México

They have experienced the glory and the pain.

They have weathered through generous pride and torrid shame.

They have felt the hate and the love.

They have lived through peace and seen blood.

They worshipped then, as now, both sun and moon.

They have guarded their temples and slept quietly in their tombs.

They have fought savage invaders and their very own.

They have been dragged through dirt and scraped their bones.

They have suffered through individual and collective emotions.

They have seen painful strife and been betrayed by unwanted notions.

These are the people who looked down from the mountains and built a nation on a lake they named Texcoco.

These are the people of a land called México.

 

I wrote this poem in the early 1980s and had it published in 1984 in “Our World’s Most Beloved Poems”, a compilation of poetry by the World of Poetry Press.  There’s not much information available now on WPP.  They published my poem for free, but – of course – I had to buy the gigantic book in which it appeared.  Yes, it’s amazing how naïve people can be at the age of 20.

Odd, but I never considered myself a poet.  A writer, obviously; yet poetry generally ranked somewhere between Reader’s Digest and the local classified ads, as far as I was concerned.  Still, outside of my blog, letters to a newspaper editor and a couple of anonymous romance inquiries circa 1990, it’s the only thing I’ve officially had published.

 

Image: “El Mercado de Tlatelolco” by Diego Rivera, c. 1935.

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Frozen in Dust

8926 C.E., Northeast Texas

They’d found another one.  It was huge.  A drone surveying the area counted 109 figures; its sensors initially identifying them as human.  Rivas and Mugabe had stood in awe upon studying the preliminary data, alongside the rest of the team.  If 109 human bodies did lay in the rubble – remnants of what they believed to be a hotel – it would be the largest collection of human remains the team had discovered in more than a decade of scouring the locale.

The region itself was gigantic; what once had been a placed called Texas.  More specifically, the northeastern stretch; where two of the most heavily-populated metropolises had once thrived.  Until seven millennia ago.  Before the 2019 event simply known now as “The Cataclysm.”

“There have to be thousands, if not millions,” Rivas had told the expeditioners just a day before the drone returned with its stunning data estimate.  “Not just here in this one building.  I mean, across the entire region.  These cities were among the grandest of their time.”

“Right now,” Mugabe interjected, “let’s just concentrate on this one building.  Or what’s left of it.”  He didn’t want the group to get too excited about anything; least of all a site containing so many bodies.

“Yes, of course,” Rivas concurred with a grin.

The crew was already stretched; pushed to the precipice of exhaustion as they continued searching through the unimaginable layers of dirt, rock and dust.  But whenever they did find the remains of someone, they’d also noticed the individual was clutching an object in their hands.  All of them – each and every corpse – held a similar object.  Every single one of them – holding tight to a single item.

The 2019 sunstorm had been massive; the worst on record.  Then and now.  Among the archived records of all the sunstorms hitting Earth before and since, none matched the 2019 event.  That’s why scientists dubbed it “The Cataclysm.”  The word is so bland, so ordinary in a way; yet it said everything.  To the untold numbers of people who studied the event – and the subsequent, wide-scale societal collapses it induced – the term “cataclysm” itself had come to signify that one unimaginable episode.

It was inevitable.  By the start of the 21st century, humanity had come to rely upon technology too much.  People across the globe identified with tangible pieces of metal and plastic more closely, perhaps, than their own families and friends.  In fact, personal interactions seemed routed through the mystical electronic clouds they’d created for their world; a world they claimed was better than any before.  To their descendants of the 90th century C.E., such flippant beliefs were almost laughable.

It remains a miracle – no minor one – that anyone should survive to the present day.  Any human, that is.  When the multitude of satellites cluttering the ionosphere fell silent in the days immediately following “The Cataclysm,” it appeared – from what records remain – a brutal chain-reaction of minor cataclysms exploded across the planet.  Power plants – able to remain operational for a while – eventually died; as did water treatment plants, telecommunication lines.  Everything attached to an actual or virtual wire just…died.

And thus, so did people.  Countless numbers of people; millions of them.  A mass exodus of souls floating from the decaying flesh of their hosts; rising past those same darkened satellites and up into the brighter stars.

Perusing photos of other recently-discovered sites made Rivas and Mugabe think of an even more ancient but equally horrific episode: the destruction of Pompeii.  Pictures from 20th century archaeologists captured the disaster in a manner never seen before.  The city-state’s residents – trapped in the environs of what they surely thought was a safe place – caught off-guard in the worst possible way.  Their bodies and terrified expressions frozen in swarms of scorching lava for future humans to see and study.  There was nothing like it.

Until now.

But this – this was on a much larger scale.  Pompeii was a single prosperous city with the unfortunate coincidence of being situated beneath a ubiquitous volcano.  What the explorers saw in the remains of some nondescript building in the midst of a place once teeming with life was a tiny fraction, a sliver of the human wasteland that stretched across the globe.  The societal collapses had driven many of their ancestors underground into vast caverns constructed for just such an event.  Or something like it.  But surely even those initial survivors couldn’t have foreseen the rolling swathes of brutality that followed the darkening of those wicked satellites; surely even they couldn’t have imagined the blessed sun betraying them in such a vile manner.

Yet, they lived; they survived.  They survived to repopulate and prosper with a greater understanding of their own humanity, their vulnerability, their fragile nature.  They survived to love that sun unlike their immediate ancestors who lived within the confines of those mystical clouds.

Rivas and Mugabe stared at those antiquitous photos of Pompeii’s victims; frozen in lava; terrified and helpless.  And then they looked at the drone photos of the bodies in this building; the 109 discovered so far.  And they realized the vast difference between the two events; a difference apparent in the faces and hands of the dead.  The people of Pompeii had died clutching their loved ones.  The victims of the 2019 event died clutching their cell phones and laptops; waiting for the Internet to come back up.

Rivas smirked.  “Bunch of dumbasses.”

© 2017

Bottom image courtesy: Freaking News.

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Good Carla

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How could it still be so cold less than a month into spring?  Snow flurries had fallen the day before, and they’d made Carla nervous.  It reminded her of the dust cascading down from the blast last week.

Her heels clacked hard against the sidewalk.  They’d told her downtown could be so impersonal, and she was glad.  Hardly anyone noticed her.  She kept her arms wrapped her torso, as tight as she could get them, with the band of her purse intertwined.

A heavy hand suddenly grabbed her left shoulder.  It frightened her like nothing else; the mere thought of someone touching her.  But it also angered her.  She whirled around to see a husky, bearded man with wild eyes looking at her.  How dare you touch me, she screamed silently.  Her father had warned her about people like that.  “What?!” she snapped.

“You almost stepped right into traffic,” the man said.  That heavy hand gestured to the road.  His eyes went from wild to a normal-looking bright.

“Oh…wow,” Carla finally muttered.

“Didn’t mean to grab you like that,” said the man.

“No, no!  That’s okay.”  He wasn’t one of those people from the beige-colored building, but he looked friendly nonetheless.  Still, she remembered what her father had said: unless he knew who they were and had pointed them out to her, don’t trust them!  And say nothing to them, beyond ‘thank you’ or ‘hi.’

She continued walking, growing increasingly leery of fellow pedestrians.  When she strolled passed the federal building, she got the feeling someone was following her.  She always had that feeling.  It had started in grade school, when a gaggle of mean girls tormented her from the moment she arrived every morning until the moment she made it into her front yard.  Then her father taught her how to throw a punch.

“Just roll up your fist like this,” he’d explained one evening after dinner.

Her mother got mad.  “Teaching her to fight like an animal?!”

“No,” her father replied matter-of-factly, “teaching her to stand up for herself.”

One punch, one punch – right to the face.  And that’s what Carla did to one of those girls.  Just swung around and swiped her puny fist across the girl’s upper lip.  Not enough to bruise it or cause it to bleed, but sharp enough to startle her.  Startle both of them.

Yeah, somebody was following her.  But she knew, once she passed the federal building, she was near her next destination.  She slowed her gait and glanced around as much as her stiffened neck would allow.  She came to another intersection and stopped, seeing the traffic well in advance.  She didn’t want anyone grabbing her, or needing to grab her to save her from herself.

Damn this cold!  Spring, spring!  It’s supposed to be spring.  The wind hustled past her.  The cutting edge of it reminded her of the old house where she and her younger sister had grown up.  A breeze would roll through it, if both the front door and back doors were open at the same time.  It created a tunnel effect.  Carla and her sister and other kids from the neighborhood loved to stand in the middle area when sharp winds hurtled over and – with those doors open – through the house.

Her father liked it also and sometimes would stand with them and pretend the wind was too much for him; fake-slamming into the walls and onto the floor, yelling, “Help me!”

But they were the only ones.  Her mother hollered about the electricity bill and yelled about the childishness of it all.

“You’re all acting silly!” her mother groused.

“But, mama, we’re having fun,” Carla would say, trying to rationalize.

“Stop acting so stupid!”

If she only knew how bad that word hurt, Carla snarled into her pillow.  ‘Stupid.’  Her mother never liked to do things just for fun.  But her father was different.  He was whimsical and free-spirited.  He could actually make her mother laugh – at times.

She stopped at Elm and Pacific, the northeast corner, looking south towards the Indian deli – just as she’d been told.  She turned to her left and saw a woman slightly taller than her, wearing a police-style uniform with her hair pulled tightly back into corn rows.

Carla shuddered.  She glanced at the upper left side of woman’s torso and saw the name on the bronze-colored badge: Jamal.  Carla exhaled.

As the woman got closer, Carla began, “Are you – ?”

The woman silenced her with an upraised hand.

Oh yeah, she recalled.  No questions.  She felt embarrassed.

“They’ve found them, Carla,” the Jamal woman muttered.  “The police are there already.  Our man watched them.  You did take the bottles with you – right?”

“Yes – of course.  Into the dumpster on Turtle Creek – beside Cody’s.”

“Good.”  Jamal smiled reassuringly.

Carla grinned, but she was beaming deep inside.  Her father would be so proud.  With each step, she believed more and more her father had been right.  ‘Who says a low IQ means you’re too stupid to do anything?’

“You know where to go now, right?” Jamal asked.

“Yes, to the –”

Another upraised hand.  “As long as you know.”

“Yes.”

“Good.  We’ll see you later,” she added with a smile.  She wheeled around and hopped into the gray SUV – all so effortlessly and in a split second.

These people move and speak so fast, Carla mused with the same degree of wonder she’d had from the beginning.  Entering that beige-colored building two years ago had intimidated her like nothing else.  If her father hadn’t been with her, she would have screamed at the sight of the burly man and small woman with over-sized glasses at the front counter.  They were genuinely scary!  But the folks in the back were much different.  Much kinder and soft-spoken – a lot like her father.

“How long have you known these people, daddy?” she asked, gripping his left forearm.

“A long time,” he quietly replied.  “They’ve been good to us – to our entire family.  They’re good to everyone who’s good to them.  But you have to be good, too, you know.  Understand?”

“Yes, daddy.”

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Carla looked at her watch – 2:54 p.m. – and strolled to the huge electronics store further down on Elm.  She still couldn’t believe the number of people rushing about in downtown Dallas.

The training sessions had tested her ability to remain aloof and constrained in the midst of such human traffic.  The heavy noises had bothered her more than anything.  Enough to make the trainers question their selection.

But that’s when Carla’s mother (of all people) jumped into the mess – inherently jeopardizing the relationship they had with the group – and pulled her away for a few moments.

“Remember what I said about all those people?  Remember?”

“Yes,” Carla replied meekly after a few terrifying seconds.  Her mother – usually loud and intrusive – had vowed to stay in the background throughout the entire training procedure and let Carla’s father serve as liaison with the trainers.

“What was it I said?” her other queried.

“Just don’t talk to anybody.  And don’t stare.”

“Yes, exactly!”  Her mother smiled, which she rarely did.  “Good Carla.”

The second trial run made Carla realize she could truly remain aloof and discreet; allowing her to move unnoticed from point A to point B without interacting with somebody.  A third and fourth run solidified the group’s trust in her.

The snow flurries had stopped falling.  Carla entered the electronics store and ambled to the pre-paid cell phone rack.  Model A42997: it was almost hidden towards the back of the spindle.  Paying with cash, she hurried back outside and found a shadowy overhead.  Sticking her left forefinger into her purse allowed her to see the code embedded in the lavender fingernail polish: 990Y23L17.  She input that reference into the phone’s text box and waited.

“This is Paula,” answered the woman’s voice.

“This Ms. C496233.”  Oddly, remembering all those codes was easier than remembering which way was north and which was south.

“Hi, Carla,” Paula replied.  “How’s your hand?”

She knew she had the right person.  “It’s okay.”

“Good!”

Carla had been nervous about Paula at first.  But her father told her it was just another test.  “It’s just one of those things called a coincidence,” he said.

“A what?”

Paula had been the name of her kindergarten teacher; the one who said she was “too stupid to know day from night.”

“Paula, la pendeja,” her father had said one evening at home.

“¡Callarse!” her mother had shouted back.  (Shut up!)

Carla didn’t speak Spanish – then or now – and she certainly didn’t know why her father felt compelled to silence the teacher with a shotgun blast to the head late one Saturday night.  Sitting in the back seat of their old Buick, Carla became mesmerized by the sight of the brilliant neon lights slathered all over a part of town she’d never seen before.  “Stay down, girls,” her father ordered her and her younger sister, Andrea.

Carla peered above the rim of the window and was startled by the sight of a large group of women stumbling out of a building; all of them wearing very short dresses and skirts and very high-heeled shoes.

“There she is,” the girls heard their father mumble.  “Paula, la pendeja.”  They were parked across the street from the building.  He picked up what Carla later realized was a shotgun and pointed the tip out the window.  “Cover your ears, girls!”

They did as ordered.  But the loud boom still echoed through their heads and made them shriek.

The screaming from the crowd of women overwhelmed them instantly.

Carla’s father slowly pulled out of the parking lot and onto a street in the opposite direction.

“What happened, daddy?” Carla asked.

“Don’t worry about it.  You girls want some ice cream when we get home?”

“Yes!” the screamed in unison.  Carla glanced back and wondered what those words above the doorway to that building meant: B-E-E-R and D-A-N-C-I-N-G.

She still didn’t know what they meant.  But she wasn’t thinking about them now.  Paula on the phone instructed her where to go next.

“The furniture store two blocks down on Elm.  The one with the big clock hanging outside the front door.  Remember?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

The word ‘good’ meant so much to her.  It was actually everything.  It told her she was doing things right.  Outside the furniture store, she again found herself beneath some shade and stuck her right forefinger into her purse.  The code on the fingernail read, 990Y23L18.  Just one number different.  But the text didn’t produce another call on the phone.

Instead a picture displayed.

She recognized it: a large house; different from the other one.  It was the mayor’s house.  The last house had belonged to someone called an attorney.  “He’s a lawyer who works for the city,” her father had told her.  “He’s bad, too.  Like Paula, la pendeja.”

This person, the mayor, was another bad one, the people from the beige building had told her.  Once she got there, they said, her job was done.  Done for now.  If she handled this one right, they’d give her a bigger job.  Bigger jobs – done right – meant more clothes and more music.

She boarded the bus, number 359, at Elm and Akard.  It took her to the Bishop Arts section south of downtown where she found another deli; this one an Italian place.

The young woman in a blue coat met her at the doorway.  “Ms. C?”

“Ms. C496233,” Carla announced.

“Good!  I’m Brittany.  Let’s eat.”

They entered the deli and found a booth off to the side.  Brittany ordered for both of them.  They ate mostly in silence, before Brittany pulled a soft drink can out of her purse.  “Remember what this is?”

“Yes – soda.”

“Good.  Now, on to the house.”  Brittany followed Carla into the bathroom, and then they left the diner.

Carla got onto another bus at Zang and Bennett and arrived at the Arthur Court neighborhood; actually two blocks from it.  The residents of those monster houses didn’t want the buses coming too close to their gated estates, Carla’s father had told her.  She didn’t understand why.  “Everyone takes the bus!”

“Most everyone,” her father had corrected.

She still didn’t know what the problem was, but she couldn’t bother with it at the moment.  Brittany had put the soda can into a box and sealed it up.  Along with the mayor’s name and address, the letters ‘T-O B-E O-P-E-N-E-D B-Y A-D-D-R-E-S-S-E-E O-N-L-Y’ were printed in several spots around the front of the box.  Like so many sets of letters she’d seen, Carla didn’t know what they meant.  But, as instructed, she didn’t ask questions about them.  The drawing beside what her father had told her was the return address piqued her curiosity, though: a blue-tinted dome atop an otherwise flat-roofed building that had what appeared to be several columns lined up in front of it.  She didn’t recognize the name on that return address, Senator somebody.

“A senator is a very important person,” her father had told her.  “Not too important that we can’t get rid of them.”

“Okay,” Carla answered.  Her father always knew what he was talking about.  She barely trusted the people from the beige-colored building.  But, when her father said they were okay, she felt safe with them.  They always had to talk with him first – in private.

Carla arrived at the tiny building in front of a gigantic set of wrought-iron gates and handed the package to the little man wearing a police-type uniform inside.  He studied it for a minute or so and then said, “Oh, okay.”  He grabbed a clipboard from the desk behind him.  “Sign here,” he added, giving her a pen.

She signed the name, ‘M.S. Carl.’

“Say nothing else and do nothing else,” her father had ordered her.  “Absolutely nothing.  Do you understand me?”

“Of course, Daddy.”

“Thank you,” the little man in the little building grumbled.

“Thank you,” Carla responded brightly.  She could say that much – only that much.

That night, after her parents had treated Carla to dinner at her favorite restaurant, she spoke briefly with her sister and the latter’s two young children.

“Say nothing about what you’ve been doing,” her mother warned her – as usual.

Carla’s sister always tried to cull information from her; more than just, ‘How was school?’ or ‘What did you have for lunch today?’

Afterwards, Carla plopped down onto her favorite spot on a couch in the den, the family’s two corgis curling up on the floor nearby.

“Well, would you look at that,” her father muttered at the TV.

The local news was awash with terror.  A frazzled reporter stood outside, her stringy hair whipping uncontrollably in the wind.  Behind her Carla could see a small building and a set of gates that looked familiar.

“I’ve been there!” she suddenly said.

Her parents turned to her.  “Ay, Carla!” her mother scolded.

“What?”

“Don’t say anything!”

She looked at her father.

“No – don’t say anything,” he repeated.

“Oh – okay,” Carla finally said.  She hated when her mother snapped at her like that.  But what could she do?  She turned to the dogs.  They simultaneously rolled over, fighting for her ticklish fingers.

“…the explosion ripped through the house.  Officials say both the mayor and her personal assistant were present and critically injured.”

Carla glanced to the TV for a few seconds.  She recognized the reporter’s voice.  But she became too consumed with the dogs.

“Reports that they were killed have not been substantiated.  We need to emphasize: NOT substantiated.”

She heard her father sigh heavily, before he muttered – loud enough for her to hear – “Good Carla.”

The dogs were too important for anything else now.

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© 2016

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Dig

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“If this rain keeps up,” said Lydia, “I think the garage roof is going to collapse.”

“What’s that?”  Miranda was leaning forward.

“The garage roof!  It’s sagging in one part.  Every time it rains –”

“No.  What’s that?”  She pointed over the dash board.

Lydia peered through the rain and, between the wiper blades, could see a small figure some distance ahead.

A young female, a teenager perhaps, with shoulder-length blonde hair and a purple tee shirt stood off to the right.  As Lydia’s car approached, the girl waved her arms.

Miranda lowered the window halfway and grabbed her cell phone.  Lydia reached towards her pistol she had tucked into the driver’s side door panel.

“Can you help me?” the girl asked.  She propped her tiny frame atop her toes, stretching so she could be heard through the partially-opened window.

“Of course,” replied Miranda.  “What happened?”

“It’s my friend.  She’s in trouble.”

“What happened?”

“Well…”  She looked behind her for a moment.

“Yes?” prodded Miranda.

“She needs help.”

“Who?  Your friend?”

“She’s buried.”

“Excuse me?”

“She’s buried,” the girl repeated.

“Buried?!” blurted Lydia.  “What do you mean buried?”

“Can you just call the police?”

“Yeah, sure,” Miranda answered and dialed 911.

“Buried?” Lydia muttered.  She took a closer look at the girl.  Her light brown eyes appeared empty, her cheeks sunken.  She’s in shock, thought Lydia.  Buried?

Miranda didn’t tell the 911 operator about anyone being buried.  “I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said.  “But I can tell she needs help.  She’s out here on this road alone in the rain.”

A few minutes later a solitary police officer arrived.  By then the blonde girl had retreated closer to a rut alongside the road.  Lydia had edged her SUV as close to the edge as possible, allowing more room for the handful of other vehicles that passed by.  No one else seemed to notice the girl, Lydia thought, except her and Miranda.  The girl had refused Miranda’s offer to jump into the back of the SUV.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” Lydia told the police officer, a tall woman with her hair pulled back into corn rows.  “My sister spotted her first – back up the road.”

“What’s her name?” asked the officer.

“I don’t know.”

“I asked her,” said Miranda.  “But she didn’t say anything.  She just moved off to the side there.  And she didn’t want to get in the back.  You know – to get out of the rain.”

“Right.”  She glanced up to the sky.  “I think it’s starting to let up more.  Now what did she say?  Her friend was what?”

“She said her friend was buried,” Lydia answered.  She looked at Miranda.  “Right?”

“Yeah,” replied Miranda.  “That’s what she said.  I asked her what she meant by that, but she didn’t say anything more.  She just said to call the police.  I’m the one who called,” she added, holding up her phone.

“Okay,” muttered the policewoman, peering at the girl from over the SUV’s hood.  “Dispatch mentioned that, but I wanted to make certain.  I’m Officer Robinson.  I’ll talk to her.  Can you two hang out here for a little while?”

“Of course,” said Lydia.

“Sure,” rejoined her sister.  She whipped her head around as the wail of another police siren bellowed from behind them.

Two more police vehicles arrived.  Robinson talked briefly with the two policemen who joined her, before approaching the blonde girl.  “Excuse me,” she said gently.  “What’s your name?”

The girl finally spun around as Robinson got closer.

“I’m Officer Robinson.  What’s your name?”

“Elizabeth,” the girl muttered after a second or so.

“Elizabeth – what’s wrong, dear?”  She took note of the girl’s haggard appearance.  “What happened?”

“It’s my friend.  She’s in trouble.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“She’s buried.  Way back there.”  She gestured towards the heavily-wooded area behind her.

“What do you mean she’s buried?”

One of the male officers approached.

“She’s buried!  Someone tried to kill her.”  Her voice quivered.

“Who?” asked Robinson.  “Who tried to kill your friend?”

“Can you just help me dig her out?!”

“Where exactly?” asked the policeman.

“Back there!” Elizabeth blurted, haphazardly swinging a hand behind her.  “I’ll have to show you.  Can we just go out there?!”

“Yes, of course,” said Robinson.

Miranda had lowered her window again and tried to hear what the two officers were saying to Elizabeth, but commotion from more law enforcement prevented that.  “Buried?” she muttered.

Lydia took in the bevy of police officers descending upon the area.  “Looks like a freakin’ drug bust.”

“Buried,” Miranda repeated, more to herself.

“You can lead us to your friend?” a supervisor named Zerega asked Elizabeth.

“Yes!” she exclaimed.

“Okay,” replied Zerega.  “Take her in your car,” he told Robinson.  He turned to another female officer, Jackson, and ordered her to accompany them.

“Roger that,” said Robinson.  “Come on, honey,” she said to Elizabeth.  “We’ll go in my car.”

Jackson joined Elizabeth in the back seat.  “Which direction?” she asked the girl.

“Just back down this road,” said Elizabeth, leaning forward.  “I’ll show you where to turn off.”

“Okay,” said Robinson.

“What’s your friend’s name?” Jackson asked, but Elizabeth seemed distracted, as she stared out the window.  Jackson took visual note of the girl’s shaggy appearance: damp clothes; messy hair; mud-stained white casual shoes.  She smelled of grass and dirt, and Jackson wondered if the girl had tried to dig her friend out of…wherever she was, before seeking help.  “What’s your friend’s name?” she asked again.

“Coming up here on the right,” Elizabeth blurted out, leaning forward.  “There’s a dirt path.  It’s easy to miss, so slow down.”

“Okay,” answered Robinson.  She knew of a few uncharted paths off this stretch of blacktop that wound through some miscellaneous farmland and woodlands.

They approached a curve in the road, a long line of police vehicles behind them and a helicopter overhead.

Robinson slowed.

“We’re almost there!” Elizabeth exclaimed.  She strained against the seat belt.

Jackson spotted a news van ahead, coming in their direction.  “And there they are,” she murmured.

“Yep,” noted Robinson.

They slowed even more and came upon a nondescript separation in a thick row of trees.

“Right here!” said Elizabeth.

“Okay.”  Robinson realized she would have missed it, if someone hadn’t pointed it out to her.  She thought for a moment, as the vehicle bounced onto the muddy pathway, and wondered why she’d never noticed this particular road before.

“Just keep going.”

“Okay.”

Once more Jackson asked, “What’s your friend’s name?”

“You’ll have to turn off onto another path,” Elizabeth instructed.

“Okay,” said Robinson.  She reached for the air conditioner knob, noticing how cold it had grown inside the car.  But it was set as low as possible, without being turned off.

“Who did this to your friend?” Jackson asked.

“Someone else,” Elizabeth answered after a minute.  “Up here, off to the right.”

“Okay.”  Robinson glanced into the rear view mirror.

The car rocked in every direction, as the path became more irascible.

“Who is that someone else?” Jackson persisted.

Elizabeth remained silent.

“Elizabeth, please tell me.  What happened to your friend?  We need to know, so we can help her.  And you.”

“Some other girls,” Elizabeth finally said.

“Some other friends?”

“Yeah.  It’s coming up – on the right.”

“Okay.”  Robinson was inclined to turn off the air altogether, as the car had grown unbearably cold.  She started to shiver, but maintained her eyes on the bumpy path ahead.

Another virtually hidden opening loomed off to their right.

Robinson almost knew instinctively this was the next turn.

“Yes,” Elizabeth said.

“Yes what?” asked Jackson.

“It’s coming up on the right.  It’s hard to see.”

“I see it now,” said Robinson.  She drove the car through a thicker cluster of trees that blocked out much of the sun that had finally started coming out.

“Down here, off to the left,” said Elizabeth.

“Okay.”  She slowed and maneuvered the car down a rocky embankment.

Heavy tree branches overhead shrouded them in darkness, until they entered another clearing.

“Down here,” Elizabeth said.  “Right up ahead.  She’s buried down here.”

“Alright.”

The sun managed to poke through an opening in the canopy above and highlighted a mass of overgrown shrubbery and a fallen tree.

“She’s under there.”

Robinson slammed on the brakes.  “Stay here,” she ordered Elizabeth, while jumping out of the car.  A battalion of fellow officers swarmed onto the remote locale, as Robinson pointed to the batch of wild vegetation.  “She’s saying right under there!”

Several men and women rushed forward and began yanking away the branches, gloved hands frantically tossing the mess forward.  Seconds later they reached a mound of dirt and began clawing at it with the same hurried enthusiasm.  Zerega had ordered no one to use a shovel, for fear of hurting the victim, if she wasn’t interred too deep.

Jackson finally stepped out of the car.  “God, I hope she’s still alive.”

“No telling,” said Robinson, still watching the orderly mayhem.

“We have something!” a female voice shouted from a depression in the ground.  “I think this is her!”

“Jesus,” muttered Jackson.  She looked at Elizabeth who remained unmoved; merely staring ahead.  She started to think that Elizabeth might be involved in this, given her reticence about details.  She turned back to the activity several feet ahead.

The other officers had managed to clear away the dirt.

And the horror became clear.

They found a petite female laying on her back, hands crossed over her stomach.  A small girl with shoulder-length blonde hair.

“Ask her to come over here!” Zerega told Jackson.  “She has to identify her!”

Both Robinson and Jackson turned back to the car.

That was empty.

“Where’d she go?!” hollered Robinson.

“I don’t know!” said Jackson.  “She was just here!”  She darted around to the other side and yanked open the door.

No one.

She looked to the floorboard.  It was covered with streaks of dirt and leaves.  The car smelled of mud.  “What the fuck?!  Where is she?!”

“What do you mean where is she?!” yelled Zerega.

“She’s not here!” said Jackson.

Robinson joined her on that same side.  “Where did she go?”

“I don’t know!  She was just here!”

Robinson looked up to see a few police officers approach.

“Where did she go?” one of them asked.

“I don’t know,” answered Robinson.  “I told her to stay here.”

“She was here!” Jackson insisted.

Everyone began scanning the area.  But Elizabeth was nowhere.

“What did she say that girl looked like?” Zerega asked.

Robinson and Jackson fumbled for words.  “I don’t know,” Robinson finally said.  “She didn’t say much.”

“I couldn’t get her to say anything,” Jackson stated.  She was beginning to hyperventilate.  “She just said some friends of theirs did this.  She wouldn’t even tell me the girl’s name!”

The entire group had grown frantic.  Zerega ordered some other officers to begin searching for Elizabeth.  “She couldn’t have gone far!” he said.

Robinson charged forward.  She had to see the dead girl for herself.  “This is too fucking weird,” she said to no one in particular.

Jackson followed her.

They stared into the shallow pit.

And took note of the girl.

With shoulder-length blonde hair.

Wearing a purple tee shirt and blue jeans.

And mud-covered white shoes.

The sun retreated.

everyone-needs-a-stick-pile-photoc2a9liesl-clark

© 2016

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The Alphabet of Me

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A is for adamant.  I have a certain view of how my life should function and I refuse to relinquish it.  It’s how I’ve survived all these years without going crazy and killing myself.  I don’t impose my ideals on others, though.  I’ve had that done to me and sometimes I’d obey; thinking if I did what others thought I should do, they’d like me.  It never worked!  So I stopped doing that shit.  Other people’s rules don’t apply to me.

B is for barrier.  I’ve placed too many barriers in front of me; impediments of my own making; excuses to prevent me from taking unnecessary risks and possibly hurting myself.  I’ve told myself I can’t do X because of Y.  Or worst, because someone else told me I can’t or shouldn’t do it.  So, I’ve finally learned to knock down those barriers.

C is for curious.  I’ve always been curious about the world around me, even if I feared it most of the time.  I’ve wondered why hurricanes form and why dogs move in circles several times before laying down.  I wonder why most people are assholes and refuse to get along, when the alternative is constant yelling and fighting.  When I get curious about human nature, I become frustrated.  So, I start thinking about dogs and hurricanes.  At least they have a reason for being the way they are.

D is for depression.  It’s one of the ugliest words in the English language.  It’s been a constant, demonic companion in my life.  It’s robbed me of life’s simple pleasures more times than I can count.  It’s held me back from taking the chances I needed to move forward.  It’s kept me in bed or drunk, when I should be out doing something good for myself.  It’s almost killed me – several times.  It’s still there; lurking in the back of my psyche like a dormant flu virus.  But I finally stood up to it and beat the fucker back down into the gutter where it belongs.

E is for education.  I feel this is the single most important factor in any civilized society.  Odd, considering I dropped out of college in the late 1980s and didn’t return until almost 20 years later to earn my college degree.  But, I did it.  And, my education didn’t end when I finished that last class.  It continues.  I’m still learning.  I’ll always keep my mind open to new experiences and different things.

F is for fear.  There it is again – fear of the unknown; fear of people; fear of taking chances.  Fear has been the other unwanted companion that just won’t leave me alone.  It’s taken almost my entire life to learn to smack that thing down into oblivion.  Still, on occasion, it extends a grimy finger upwards and points at me.  It still tries to intimidate me.  But now, it’s all been turned upside down.  Fear is scared of me.

G is for glaring.  The truth about people and things is often glaringly obvious to me.  Why don’t others see the various and sundry colors of the world, instead of just the grays?  Some folks look at me like I’m crazy.  But I just have my own unique view of my surroundings and the people who occupy it.  More importantly, I no longer expect people to think and feel exactly as I do.

H is for health.  After seeing an aunt battle with cancer in the late 1980s and a friend ravaged by AIDS just a few years later, my physical and mental health became paramount.  Few other things matter as much.  For years, however, I had a handle on my physical health.  I lifted weights, jogged regularly and did some basic calisthenics almost every weekday morning before heading out to work.  It took a while longer, though, to get a grip on my psychological welfare.  I know my body will grow tired, as I continue to age.  But I refuse to get “old.”  That’s more a state of mind.

I is for introvert.  It used to upset me so much.  I had such a hard time making friends.  I just couldn’t get too many people to like me.  I felt, for so many years, that I was defective.  Something was wrong, I kept telling myself; something wrong with me.  But now, I embrace that attribute.  It’s me; it’s who I am.  I am just quiet and insulated.  I’m a reader and a thinker; not a showman.  I don’t have to make a spectacle of myself anymore to feel important.  That introverted attribute generates a slew of story ideas and compels me to write and to read.

J is for jaded – as in cynical.  You get that way after a half century of experiencing life’s bullshit; enduring years of being shoved around because you won’t conform to others’ expectations.  I’m jaded as in bitter; bitter that it took me so long to realize I’m important and have much to offer this world.  But, at this point in time, that jaded personality has given me a more clear view of life.

K is for kill.  If I killed everybody who pissed me off, I’d be the world’s worst serial murderer.  Then again, who wouldn’t?  Part of being introverted and jaded is that I don’t like people much.  I’ve always said the more I get to know people, the more I like my dog.  Animals are cool; most people are assholes.  But, I couldn’t waste my time killing anyone.  I don’t want to spend that much gas money driving out to secluded locations to bury the bodies.  I have stories to write!

L is for lost.  Growing up so shy and timid I often felt lost in a world of bullies and cool kids.  Now, I feel lost in a world of idiots.  So I get lost in my world of reading, writing, music and good wine.

M is for meticulous.  I’m a very detail-oriented person.  Some people like that about me, especially at work; others find it annoying.  People don’t have a certain place in society, but objects do.

N is for nearby.  I keep the memory of long-gone loved ones close to me.  People who helped raise me and had an impact on my life reside in my heart and my soul.  I won’t let them drift away.  I can’t.  I can’t turn my back on them just because they’re no longer physically present on Earth.  They’ll be the ones to come get me when my own life expires.

O is for ordinary.  As difficult as I am to get to know – this, according to my own parents – I consider myself rather ordinary.  I’m not handsome and I don’t have the perfect physique.  I certainly no a genius, but I’m intelligent and well-educated.  I do consider myself a very good writer, so on that level, I’m somewhat extraordinary.  Writing is the one part about me in which I’m 100% confident.  Otherwise, I’m an ordinary individual trying to live a relatively ordinary life.

P is for past.  I’ve dwelled on it too often.  I always wanted to make things better – things that happened a while back and can’t be altered now.  I’d spend – waste – so much time thinking about the past.  You do that a lot, when you grow up shy.  People always seemed to take advantage of me and get the best of my mind and soul.  So, even though I finally stopped doing that to myself, I occasionally have trouble breaking free of the past.  Pulling my mind away from way back there and keeping it in the here and now.

Q is for quiet.  Teachers and other adults always said I was quiet as a child.  I’m still somewhat quiet.  Now, it depends more on the situation than on my desire to stay out of trouble.  If I’m quiet, that usually means I’m listening; sometimes plotting.  What’s wrong with that?  No one needs to be loud and obnoxious.  Those who feel the need to be that way actually need to be smacked.  As a writer, I relish the quiet; the solitude; the isolation.  I’m quiet because I’m observing the people around me – and trying to figure out how their personas would fit into one of my stories.

R is for rebellious.  Yes, I’ve always been quiet.  But, I’m also rebellious.  Quietly rebellious – as oxymoronic as that sounds.  I don’t like to make a scene, unless I become enraged.  It always startles the crap out of people when that happens.  But I’m generally a silent rebel.  My parents wanted me to study computer science, or anything related to computers.  I wanted to be a writer.  They equated that with being a bum; thus I started studying computer programming in college – just to please them.  But my inner self said no; that’s not who you are.  You’re a writer.  Now, I’m a technical writer by day and a creative writer by night.  Ironically, I’ve had to become a computer aficionado to engage in both tasks.  Either way I’m still a writer.  I rebelled against my parents’ desired plans for my future – quietly.

S is for smart.  I’m smarter than I look.  I like to read, so I know a lot; a lot of different things.  Things like arctic hurricane is the formal name for a blizzard.  Things like Polynesians in the South Pacific sometimes have blond hair, not because some European sailor got shipwrecked on an island 300 years ago and then got lonely, but because there’s a genetic trait among them that produces fair-colored locks.  I’m smart because I understand human nature, even if I don’t like people that much.  I’m smart because I know the environment is worth saving and not from a politically correct standpoint.  I’m smart because I’ve been around and listen and observe more than I talk.

T is for tender.  I have a good heart – physically and emotionally.  My disdain for human beings notwithstanding, I still have compassion for people in general; mainly children and the disabled.  I certainly have a tender spot for animals.  Yes, that’s kind of odd to hear from someone with a leather fetish and a taste for vodka.

U is for underappreciated.  Once more, growing up in a cocoon of timidity, I always felt underappreciated.  It also means underpaid, and the two are usually interconnected.  Showing someone respect is showing your appreciation for them.  For example, I always try to remember people on their birthdays.  To hell with Christmas or Valentine’s Day!  Those are easy to recall.  But, if you really want to show someone you care about them, or at least acknowledge their presence on Earth, wish them a ‘Happy Birthday.’  They’ll appreciate that more than ‘Merry Christmas.’

V is for various.  I like a variety of things.  My blog, as well as my writings, reflect that.  I like different foods, different genres of literature and different styles of music.  I have definite opinions on various subjects; some of which seem contradictory.  I urge people to vote, for example, but I despise most politicians.

W is for weird.  I’m a writer.  I’m just weird.  They’re symbiotic elements – ying and yang.  They just go together.  Only other writers will understand.  But, whereas I once cringed at the mere hint of being dubbed weird, I now celebrate it.  Actually, it’s pretty normal for me.  Other people are the ones who think I’m weird.  They just don’t understand.  And, that’s fine.

X is for X-ray.  Sometimes, I’ll expose my true self to people, so they can see who I really am.  Those who think I’m weak will see the strength deep inside me.  Others who think I’m cold and calculating will see the clown figure that lies beneath the rigid exterior.  That’s not a common occurrence, though.  I rarely let people get inside me like that.

Y is for yes – as in a restrained yes.  I won’t say yes to just anything.  I’m too cautious.  I’ll say yes to saving an injured animal; yes to good vodka; yes to dancing to my favorite music.  I reserve my yeses for the most important elements of life.

Z is for zeal – a zest for reading and writing.  Well, I guess that’s two words for this one letter.  In case you haven’t figured it out yet, though, my passion for the written word is boundless.  We writers have to possess such an innate desire to sit down and drop words onto paper or a computer.  It can be exciting and rewarding, but quite often, it’s frustrating and disappointing.

 

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