Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2007

NANOWRIMO - The Lights Go On, The Lights Go Off


Waking from the coma was much easier than all of just about everything else. The lights were off and then- without my doing anything- the lights were on again. I was a suddenly-woken focus of hospital wonder who got baby-spooned small bits of information and food that I nibbled and swallowed. Nurses came and cleaned my ass and welcomed me back. Some reporter came and took my picture. She called me a hero. They all did.

“You’re a hero.“ they all said while I nibbled and swallowed.

I really had to blink my eyes at what I had woken to become. I got trampled by a dozen pairs of boots is what they tell me and I’m a hero? Imagine that? Three and a half months in a coma and you’d think I’d bump into some unique understanding of life’s profundities- and here I am, dumbfounded by a compliment on my second waking day? It’s all a mish mash. Who knew it would all become a mish mash?

Who knew I could get so angry, and “do” those things I think I remember?

I certainly didn’t. Like those retroviruses that erupt under stressful conditions- apparently- I always had it in me. It was hiding in my flesh and waiting for a ripened day- an evil hour- where all my circumstances converged into a reason to erupt.

Boy oh boy. I can’t believe I did the things I think I remember. I took on a gang of men, all by myself. I stormed into a gang of men, and demanded their respect. I did not turn my cheek. I did not roll over. I did not let them push me around. I stood up to a huge and hairy, nasty group of enormous men- I spoke up and I defended myself and those around me who were suffering too. Yeah. I did that and I’m a hero.

I did other things too. Lots of other things. Lots and lots and lots of other things. Wow. Yeah. Every time I think about it, I did some more.

The end of me is down there wriggling beneath a hospital sheet. I suppose it’s my beginning too? That’s where I start and stop. My beginning and my end. It’s where I come into being or disappear. Those are my feet. After that, there isn’t much left of me in that general direction. I suppose I could tell you that my footprints are some of me? If that’s the case, then my feet are near the end of me, but I go on and on. My head must be where I begin then, if that‘s the case? My head that holds my brain and all my thoughts. Sure. That could be where I begin? I think therefore I exist. I have a thought, and it begins me, and my feet leave footprints in the world and I leave me everywhere I go. My lights are off. My lights come on. I can wriggle my toes.

You can’t blame me for my way of thinking. I’ve got nowhere else to go. If I remember, I remember many things that seem like someone else. I remember days and nights filled with angst/revenge and longing and sleeping by myself. I remember the roar of the crowds when the lions were let loose. I remember I stood there naked and trembling with my pointy stick pointing accusatory crying “Momma”. It troubles me. I mean, I can’t be sure too much of anything.

I was trampled after all. And they say I’m a hero


Put yourself in my position. Working everyday to come home every night. Signing checks and mailing them off to pay for all of my unasked-for circumstances. It’s all a callous convolution. It tumbles like a giant ball and there I found myself, clinging to it’s inner walls and there was where my prison spun and there I was, going around and round like the stripes on a fast food straw. All the purpose in the world hid from me like a cricket in my bedroom. I worked. I worked. I worked. I came home and signed some checks to others working. I worked some more.

Free will never really fit me well. Free will on my back was my father’s overcoat when I was four. It was so big on me it made it hard to move around. I flapped my arms a bunch. But I went nowhere. When I had choices I didn’t see those choices. The lights were off. The lights were on. I followed along. Nobody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was just a child. Or they stopped asking me. I can’t remember. I got out of high school and I got a job. I stayed there until there was no job and I got another job. That’s how it went for me. I always got just a job. I got a job and I went to work and I got older. I got married and I got divorced and I got older. I lived.

My last job was driving a street sweeper. It was a good job, as far as jobs go. I got up before light. I climbed into my big machine. I followed the curbs around and round in a different pattern, Monday through Friday. I had five different days doing the same thing differently- over and over. It suited me. It filled my bank account and I wrote those checks. I did a good job. My streets were as clean as anybody’s.

I had lots of checks to sign so I took Saturday jobs in a different rig, driving around the Coliseum parking lot where the lions were. I never stopped to see the lions but I could hear them roar. They were let out onto the field and they devoured people. Fans went crazy. The lions went crazy. I could hear them over the roar of my sweeper motor and the two brushes that swirled around and round.

The worst of the noises though, came through my front window every evening for most of the year. I owned a little house that faced an onramp that led to the freeway that cut through town. Harley Davidson motorcycles with their owners oozing over leather seats like melting figurines all goosed their throttles and shat their awful noises that echoed off the wall that lined the ramp and pounded against my window like a thousand children wanting in. I put a curtain up and another curtain up and a thick blanket I nailed directly to the wall, making my only living room a tomb and the sound just kept pounding in. These were muffler-less men with dirty beards and careless lives, roaring past my house with their stupid arms held up to those stupid chopper-bars. The onramp was steep and short so they got on it like drag racers. Fire shot out shortened tail pipes and the backfires muscled in louder than the roar.

Of all the choices I never really made, buying that house where I bought that house was one of the worst of all.


Nurses in the hallways like to giggle. I can hear them murmuring so as not to disrupt their patients’ lives. But the giggling. That’s spontaneous. They can’t help that any more than I can help myself by being here. It comes out of them before they know it and it tumbles into here like a falling stack of rocks. I like to listen to the nurses giggling. It makes me feel better than I really feel. I don’t know for certain, but I think it’s what turned the lights back on. They giggled. They flipped a switch. I sat up and asked the world to please be quiet. There was always lots of noise, but I had been sleeping. For three and a half months, they tell me, things had been very very quiet.

My father raised me and my mother raised me. I had a sister and she died. I had simple friends but never any complex friends. My friends just came over and we went into my room. Or we went outside. We just did stuff that never really had much meaning. We played together. And they went home.

My wife was somewhat like my friends. One day she just went home. We did what we were supposed to do- like we sat together and we had sex together and we listened to each other for awhile.

“I’m tired of this, Walter. I’m going home.”

That’s what I remember. And then she went home.

They tell me I turned forty in my sleep. One of the nurses brought her son in and they sang me happy birthday. It was for kicks, she said. Just something to do. Her son was afraid of sick people, and this, she thought, would help him deal with that. I don’t weigh much anymore and I guess I slept quite peacefully. Kids used to look up to me because I was tall, but now I’m just as tall as the top of my feet. I can stack one foot atop the other and wriggle my toes. That’s about how tall I have become. I guess if you are going to un-scare a kid who’s scared, I would be a good guy to help with that. I mean, I’m not even scary when I’m standing. I never really was.

I walked into a bar one night and broke a bottle on the table and got surrounded by a riotous crowd. I was all lean muscle and cat-like against a man who had bullied many. He had a chest and belly like a stack of tires, but his arms were full of meat and he was an angry man. He shattered a bottle on himself and came after me while the crowd gathered around us.

“Walter! Walter! Walter!” they were all screaming. There was lots of lunging and gashing and blood all over. I cut him in his arms. I cut him across his belly. I cut him down a cheek and he stopped smiling at me. I didn’t want to cut him dead so I kicked him in the nuts. He went down. I karate-chopped the back of his neck and he fell from his knees to lay flat on his belly. For those who had suffered long under his cruelty, there came a roar of applause. Even in the end of fighting, it can be pretty noisy. We all drank beer and celebrated. They dragged the big man out back like a dead bull and dumped him in the dumpster.

I sat up just the once and I tore some muscles in my stomach. My first act after the lights came on was to sit up and “shhh!” something. I sat up and put my finger to my lips.

“Shhh!” I said.

There was no one there but some alarm went off and people soon came running. I was a miracle. I was a spectacle.

“Shhh!” I said. “Please be quiet.”

I had sat up when I wasn’t expected to, and now I can’t. Oh sure, I can push a button and make the bed sit up for me. That I can do. I can only go so far, though, before my stomach really hurts- and so I don’t. When I want to look over my feet, I roll my head forward instead.

The nurses and others around here all wear faded green or pink clothing they like to call scrubs. They look like faded Christmas P J’s to me. Like really faded. Both the red and the green. I remember Christmas. It was the time of year I always cried. It was always a really sad time for me, and I always felt washed out in the same way that these scrubs looked. There was nothing vibrant about our Christmases. We got trees. We gave presents. But we never really sparkled at Christmas time. My sister died in January when she was three. It was early January and she died in her sleep. She died quietly, I remember being told. Her lights were on. Her lights were off. The doctor’s all said it looked like she was leaking blood inside herself. Some of it came to the surface near her abdomen. She had a crimson circle there that looked like one of those red hot birth marks, is what my father said. I was seven at the time. I never got to see that circle.

I suppose it’s why we never liked the holidays. My parents never said as much, but looking back, I think that’s why. When my sister died, my parents lost their sparkle. They went to work. They came home. They signed some checks and watched the television on the weekends. We were a family of three with much stability. We were like a stool in a barn, though. We were practical. We weren’t pretty to look at. But we functioned.

They tell me Mom and Daddy are in Europe. They say they are looking for them to tell them all about me. I told them to leave them alone- that this was the very first time either one of them had ever been anywhere, and I didn’t want to spoil it for them. I was awake now. My lights were on. They could find out all about me, when they got back.

“But you’re a hero, now.” they all protested.

“I’m a hero, now,” I said to them. “And I’d like to be honored in my requests.”

“Very well,” they all agreed. “He is a hero, after all.”


I was an un-athletic child and I bordered on clumsy. I was a non-gifted child and I hovered near boring. I had acne for sometime and I had lice more than once. I never stood out in school while I attended and I never stood up for things I believed in- and I got by.

People always told me my face looked pinched. There was nothing I could argue for so I simply shrugged my shoulders. I had a pinched face. That was fine. I never understood why people came to that, or why they told me that.

I was able once, though, to get my head through a mail drop-slot in a bank and identify a bank robber. I was just walking by and a cop pulled me aside.

“Hey there,” he said, “you there, with the pinched face. Come here a second, and help us solve this crime.”

“What can I do?” I asked the cop.

“See if you can fit your face in there.”

He pointed at the mail drop-slot. I shrugged.

“I dunno,” I said. “Maybe.”

Everything was sideways and kind of weird as I peeked in. There was a nervous man sweating while he barked and shouted. Tellers were all gathered in a pile, and a single woman was going desk to desk and gathering money and placing it all in a bag. I pulled my head back out and I tore my ears as I did.

“He’s the milkman,” I told them. “That delivers door to door.”

They locked all the exits and brought his mother in, and she talked him into surrendering. I sat and watched from the curb and they never said another word to me about the whole thing. Sometimes having a pinched face can save people and put bank robbers inside of prison cells. If he’s out now, I hope they never tell him it was me that turned him in.

I never pinched a nurse before but the one that just came in is gonna be my first. Damn. Her lights are on. She’s got all the sparkle. I’m a hero now, so she’ll giggle and slap my hand away. That’s how women treat their heroes. They slap their hands away but they don’t really mean it.

If I try it now, it might hurt the muscles in my stomach. I think I’ll wait, then, until I feel better.

“Hello Walter. It’s so nice to see you back with us. I’m Caroline. I’ve been taking care of you off and on since you first came in here. “

Her voice has a sparkle too. It’s soft and frivolous like a school girl’s and it matches her face, which is soft and frivolous like a pink carnation. Even in her faded red scrubs- which are a whitened pink and ironed and clean- she reminds me of a prom queen for some strange reason. Or one of those debutantes. Or one of those nice kind of girls, that never really talked much to me before.

“I’ve been talking all about you to everyone, you know…” she’s saying.

I smile. She’s fumbling with my arms and all the tubes there, and I love it.

“This hurt?”

I shake my head.

“Hold still. This will.”

She rips a bandage off my arm. There are holes and bruises there. I don’t remember them being there and I ask her what it all means.

“It looks worse than it is,” she says. “We’ve been poking at you for quite a long time now.”

“Did you think I was going to die?” I ask her.

“No.” She smiles one of those kindly nurses smiles. “We were worried that you were going to live.”

She scrunches up my hair like a sister would and her face scrunches up as I watch her. Her hand falls gently to my chest like a falling sock and she leans on my chest just enough for me to feel her substance through the layers of blankets. I smile at her and try not to make this matriarchal and childish. If I were a child and you were my mother- I think without saying- I would not want to fuck you like I do.

“I’ll be back, sport,” she says. “Glad to get to know you.”

The lights come on. I’ve been sleeping, apparently. The day is now dark and the halls outside are void of giggles.

I remember watching them through my night vision goggles. They were three in a cluster, slinking across the roof top across the street from my janitor job. In the greenness and the blackness, they looked like cartoon characters. There were three of them because there were six flailing arms. They all wore different kinds of hats and I laughed at them as I watched their mass move down onto a fire escape and break a window.

What seemed funny to me became suddenly serious. I knew that window and I knew that girl. She lived alone and she danced in T-shirts in her underwear. I opened my window across the alleyway, and I shouted.

“I have night vision goggles! And I know who you are!”

The three men stopped and turned. My goggle was my mask. They could not know me, and I could not know them. But the bluff was working. I threw a can of furniture polish at them, and they clambered back up onto the roof. They went from cartoon characters to villainous louts to cartoon characters again, all in green and black. The last thing I remember seeing was one of them tripping and falling, knocking one of the other two down.

I had a belly laugh. You really should have seen it.

My room is empty except for me. The walls are half white and half cream with a strip of wallpaper like a ribbon in the middle. From what I can see, the ribbon goes all the way around. It feels like I am on the inside of a birthday present. Surprise, surprise. There is another bed in here, but there is nobody in it just laying there like I am. There are machines that I don’t recognize lined against the wall between my bed and the empty one. A few of them are on with tubes and wires leading from them into me. Boy Oh Boy. They must have really, really stomped me good.

They told me I can’t move much because I have atrophied. They told me I had sixteen broken bones. They told me I have a metal plate inside my head, and the doctor said it’s bulletproof, just in case.

“Just in case what?” I think I asked him.

“You do more hero work,” he told me, and squeezed my hand.

When I was a child, I used to lay in my bed and stare at my ceiling. We had sparkles in the texture and they would become stars in a white sky. I connected the dots and drew dinosaurs, and my dinosaurs fought. Mom and Daddy would be working, and I would be home alone. My lights were on, back then, and I thought many things. I thought about the moon and the stars and I thought about God. I thought about my sister and I thought about life. Your lights are on. Your lights are off. I thought about that crimson circle that I never saw. How could you bleed to death, when the blood stayed inside you? When I was a kid, I never knew that I would never know it all.

Daddy worked in a building that made light bulbs. Mom worked in a building that made cans of chili. I never knew what they actually did, because they never liked to talk about what they actually did- at least around me. I know my Daddy worked and my Mom worked, and I went to school and had friends sometimes, and that we lived in a small apartment on the third floor and that sometimes I played inside, and sometimes I played outside. When I was still only seven, I played with my dead sister on the floor in the tiny living room and she played with me.

“You be the dinosaur!” she would yell at me. I would always be the dinosaur.

“Knock knock!”

It’s Caroline. The pink carnation.

“Time for your pain meds.”

“But I don’t feel pain.”

“I know. We’ve got you on a drip. You’re not supposed to feel pain, silly.”

“What if I don’t have any pain?”

“No pain? That would be sensational!”

“I feel weak, but I don’t feel pain.”

“Do you feel this?”

She pokes my foot with something sharp.

“Ow! I feel pain.”

“You really started screaming after you woke, so we put you on morphine.”

“I was screaming?”


“I don’t remember.”

“We put you on morphine, and you’ve been quiet ever since. Let us know how it’s working and we’ll keep you comfy, Okay?”

It’s working fine. I feel like I am floating in a bath of warm water, only its not wet. I feel like I am of a mind and my body is not so much of me. Far, far away from where I‘m thinking, I am laying there in a pile on a hospital bed, though right here next to me, there I am. If I look down, I can recognize my feet and make them move. If I pay close attention, I can feel me moving one of my legs about though I‘m not sure which leg it really is. I forget I’m not talking and I can feel myself smile.

Caroline’s face lights up. And she really sparkles.

“That’s good stuff, isn’t it?”

She puts a hand on my forehead and I close my eyes.


They’re kicking me and stomping me. That’s all I see are beards and boots and legs and angry hairy bellies hanging over dirty belts and blue jeans. Sometimes there is a shaking sky and sometimes there are boots and legs and beards and angry, hairy bellies. Parts of me jerk around and are being jerked around and kicked around and bounced around and rolled around and there is shouting and the thwack thwack thwack of stomping boots and sharply focused pain in places I never felt much in my lifetime. My chest is on fire with this pain and my head is a bomb of pain and my feet are screaming with pain and I am bouncing around on the ground and all I want is sleep. Kick me harder in the head. Kick me harder in the head. Kick me harder in the head. The lights go out.


The lights go on. My stomach really hurts and I ache all over. There is a bustle about and several people fussing, looking down at me through fishbowl faces and I don’t mean to moan but I just do. They roll me on my side and it hurts me and I moan. They roll me over. They are wiping my ass and my legs and my feet. I feel the odd-cold slippery texture of someone’s odd-cold slippery hand between my legs. They tell me there are sores on my back that need attending to and that it just may sting a little.

It stings a lot. They work methodically, changing the sheets beneath me while they talk to each other and pretend I’m not embarrassed. They roll me on my side. They roll me over. When I blink my eyes and try to look at them, they scurry from the room.

I jumped on the back of a large man, once, and rode him like an ostrich. He spun me around and round and around and round but I held on. He shouldered over an old gray lady and took her purse. I stood atop a park bench, and leapt from there. As I landed on his back and loaded him down, he slowed and leaned and spun. He was trying to hit me with the old woman’s purse, but I kept ducking my head around. We traveled like this for several minutes. The big man had more energy than I wished to think about. I held him at his neck and tried my best to choke him, but his neck was big around and my arms sure weren‘t. He dropped the purse and the old lady cursed and soon was right there right on top of it. She picked it up and dusted it off and thanked me very much.

“You’re welcome, ma’am!” I said to her, as she tottered off.

But I wasn’t through. I rode this big man for fifteen minutes more, choking him and kicking him while he swatted and grabbed at me. He was out to get a hold of my head and I bit his hand. He tried to pull on one of my legs and I cinched them around him. I never was a big man but I always had the keenness. You had to be a clever man, if you were not as big as much as you needed yourself to be.

Like a worn-out tranquilized bull the man finally dropped. I got down and walked back where I came from. He was a criminal to be sure, and he needed his comeuppance. I just figured I had punished him enough.

There is a commotion in the hallways. There is a party of people out there, talking louder than they have been. The murmuring is now clearer, sharper, full of baritone declarations and cackling. I don’t know much, but I know these aren’t hospital people- these are outsiders, and they’re noisy.

If I push this button I can raise myself some. If I roll my head forward, I can see the shadows cross the doorway. My feet are still there, and I wriggle them to be full of certainty. I have to keep convincing myself, that I’m myself down there.

The party is now spilling in my room. There is a suit and tie. There is hair-sprayed hair and lipstick. That guy has a camera on his shoulder and that guy has a stand of lights. It’s me again. They’ve come for me again. I blink my eyes and roll my head away, and they fill the room on all sides anyway. I’m a hero. They want to know about a hero. My lights went out. My lights came on. I don’t remember anything about what they want- surrounded by all of this bustling and jostling and now a sharply painful light- I can hardly think at all.

I have to close my eyes it’s so bright in here. I’m in a movie I don’t wanna be in. Not right now. There’s too many of you and I can’t tell you much.

“There were boots.” I say. “There were boots and beards and hairy bellies. That’s all I remember.”

A baritone male is talking. I try hearing what he’s saying.

“…and with no thoughts of his own safety…”

What’s he talking about?

“…found himself a victim himself…”

And kicking and stomping. In the head. In the head. The lights went out.

“…interviewed shortly after, Carol Line described him as courageous beyond anything she’s ever seen. A man not afraid of anything. A man who put himself in mortal danger to save her from a mob of men hell bent on ripping off her clothes and raping her in a gang ritual that goes back decades…”


I was there. My Daddy liked to bring home books and dark brown bottles and sit on a brown reclining chair under a conical lamp-light and read all evening. His feet would be elevated and there they would stay, and Mom would bring him dinner and take his plate away and I’d be told to kiss him goodnight and he’d say goodnight and I would go to bed.

We were three people in a movie of our own making. We kept our movie quiet and simple, the way Daddy liked it. Mom liked it too, I think, because she only complained about the noise. If I had friends over, and we made too much noise, Mom would complain about it.

“You guys need to be quiet in there or go outside!”

She would knock on my bedroom door. Usually, we’d try to get quiet and then start giggling, and then we’d finish giggling and go outside. Outside was sometimes up on the roof. Sometimes it was down to the park on the corner where there was a wall we could play our version of handball against. Mom liked it quiet in our apartment and Daddy liked it quiet. When they weren’t working, Daddy liked to read and Mom liked to keep her hands busy, quietly.

My Mom liked to stitch and sew. She liked to knit and crochet and macramé and make things for our household. She liked to cover things with different colored knitted covers as if everything was cold. Cold salt and pepper shakers. Cold toasters. Cold televisions and the backs of our couch and chairs. Our building had a furnace in the basement and radiators in our rooms, but Mom was unconvinced. Everything needed to be covered by some stitch or knot or fabric, to keep them warm.

The light goes out. The party in my room is leaving. They have made their movie and they are satisfied. They are thanking me and apologizing for disturbing me, and Caroline is shushing them out the door. My pink carnation. One of these days I’m gonna pinch that girl, and she’ll shush my hand away. One of these days…


Around and round. In the dark, I turned the lights on and climbed into my rig. In the winter dark I wore brown gloves and carried coffee in a thermos. In the summer dark I wore much less and brought along a soda and some water. Doing my job- for seven years or more. Maybe heading into eight years? Around and round. The machine was noisy and the streets were quiet. There was the roar beneath me and the stillness out there surrounding me.

Everyday was a different route five days a week. On Monday, I had the hilly route. On Friday, I had the route downtown. The mayor wanted the downtown clean for weekend crowds and put his two best employees on it. It was Bob and I. We raced around and round.

The lights were always off when I got up. The sun was always down, and the streets were quiet. Every three am, I punched myself into a lonely ticking clock on a wall of safety pamphlets and prepared for my drive. We weren’t required by management to repair our machines, but we were required to maintain them. Part of my job. At four am I started up my noisy beast, patted her dash, and headed out to clean our city. In my sleep I can still see where I’m supposed to turn, where my circles stopped and started, the beginning and the end. The defiant cars that marred my route became the detours in life that I had read about- I took them all in stride. They would be the ones to get the tickets and pay the fines. Me. I’d just continuing going around and round.

I ate hot food on cold days by wrapping it in aluminum and placing it on my big noisy diesel. While I cleaned, I cooked, and I thought that clever. Cheese steaks, hot pockets and burritos all heated well-wrapped in foil atop a manifold. I showed Bob this trick one Friday, and he does it now too.

“You sure are a strange one, Walter!” he said back then. “But I like you anyway.”

My machine was full of noise and I got used to it. It surrounded me like a cushion folded over both my ears. The brushes… the vacuum… the vacuum pump… the diesel that drove it all. It became a single noise that became my job. For the six hours each day that I drove my rig, it became who I was and what I thought.

I thought Whrhrhrhr… Turn here. Whrhrhrhr. Turn here. It was my job. But it was me, as well.

When I was a kid, I placed plastic clicking things in my bicycle spokes and rode in circles. I had nowhere fun to go so I went nowhere in particular. The act of circling was comforting. I was never forced to make a choice, beyond continuing or discontinuing. Left or right. Big circles and small circles. Around and round.

I picked out landmarks in the asphalt. A rock, an intersecting line, a metal pole. I had obstacles back then and I went around them. I kept my eyes down and my focus on these landmarks.

There were days when my circles broke and I made straight lines. Other kids came and hassled me. Other kids came and noticed me. They were my circles and they broke them and I left them with a line. I rode straight home, and I put my bicycle away. They were my circles and I kept them as I wanted them. I invented them. I created them and I had the power to un-create them. Nobody but me rode their bicycles in my circles.

A man once went crazy in a giant shopping mall. He stood in the middle of the bottom floor and shouted at everybody. He had an Uzi, and he was threatening to use it. We were all evil, he said, for being in here. We were all part of the devil’s plan, and he aimed to fix that. I didn’t see the evil people he was talking about. I looked around and saw a lot of regular folk. I saw some kids that he was yelling at, and that made me frightened for them. The man looked like the evil one, and he sure seemed crazy. He shook his gun a bunch, and cussed and swore.

I grabbed a glass sugar-shaker off of a food-court table and pitched it at him. I knew I had the one chance, and that was all. If I missed, I think he would have shot me dead. I took the one chance, and I hit him in the temple. He took one look at me, and he fell over. It knocked him out. A security guard ran in and grabbed his gun away. They grabbed him by his feet, and dragged him off. There were children there who clapped and cheered. The local police came and cordoned off the area. I finished my shopping and got the heck out of there. Before it got too crazy.

There’s a new man in my room. He’s got blonde, kinky hair but he’s black of skin. He’s got lots of gold in his left ear. He smiles at me. His teeth are huge and his smile is like a banana on its side. I like him already, but I don’t know what he is, or why he’s in here.

“Hi Walter!” he sing-songs. His voice is full of music. “I’m Walter too. Ain’t that something? I’m your physio. I’m here to help you jump and shout.”

“My physio?”

“Physical therapist. I’m the guy who is gonna teach you to dance.”

He shakes his butt at me and makes it do circles.

“Shake that thing!” he says. “Shake it and… whooo lawd! Break it, baby!”

“I don’t dance,” I tell him, as he moves over the top of me and just looks at me. He isn’t pleased. He shakes his head and his smile is now a pucker. I’ve soured him.

“You are all bones, my man. You are Halloween on a street corner. You are one of them Auswitches in a day time TV. My oh my! You look like the victim of some serious ass whipping. Like they done sucked the life right out of your skin.”

“I broke sixteen bones,” I tell him.

“Sixteen? Lawd, that’s a lot of bones. They feedin’ you anything?”

“As much as I can eat. They said I’d have to start slow.”

“You’re gonna have to start by going backwards, my man.”

“I don’t feel anything much. I feel pretty good, actually.”

“Can you sit up?”


“You can’t sit up?”

“I tore the muscles in my stomach sitting up. When I woke up, I sat up. I don’t know why I sat up, but I did.”

“Ain’t that something!” he says, and he leans over me and puts a hand on the bed right next to my ear. “We’re gonna have to start backwards, and go from there. You ready to go backwards?”

“I think so.” Backwards seems better than just laying here.

“Alright, then. Backwards here we go.”

Walter picks up parts of me and moves them in and out. He picks up a leg. He bends the knee. He moves the hip joint around and round. It all hurts but it all hurts good. He’s a big man. And a happy man. And I like watching him work. I don’t have to do anything but just lay here. I keep my eyes rolling, and I watch what he does. There go my ankles and feet. Around and round. He puts them down, and comes up near my head again.

“They tell me you’re a hero.” he says to me.

“I am,” I say. I don’t know why I tell him that. I like him. And he likes me.

“Amazing!” he says. “Then this shall all go pretty easy for you- Mr. Hero, sir!”

“I sure hope so.”

“I gotta run. But you’ll be seeing more and more of me. And Walter? You is gonna dance!”

Walter backs out of the room dancing in turning circles. Joyful circles with snaps of fingers and banana smiles. I envy him everything, as he bounces out the doorway.

“Lawdy!” I hear him yell to someone in the hall. “Lawdy, that white boy sure can’t dance!”


I danced at my wedding. I took my wife Barbra’s hand and I led her out to the middle of the room and we hugged each other and turned around and round. Barbra was afraid of dancing and I was unfamiliar, so she hid her face against me and I just rocked her back and forth as we turned around and round. The band was playing that Michael Jackson-when-he-was-a-kid song “Ben”. It was the only slow song that they said they could play. They played it with some humor, and the singer had a deep voice with some gravel in it.

I never thought about it then, but I’m thinking about it now. The first dance I ever had with the only woman who would marry me, was a love song about a rat. The band all worked at my Daddy’s light bulb factory and they all claimed to have bright ideas. That’s what they said anyways. They were the idea guys. I never thought about that before either but I’m thinking about it now. Bright ideas. Those were a funny group of guys.

I had a friend named Jason once when I was ten. He was funny too. He made me laugh milk out of my nose and I liked him lots. We were friends for awhile and then we weren’t. He had lots of other friends. I don’t know what happened. He and I sort of drifted in different directions, I guess. He started belonging to a large group of other friends. And I started doing more and more on my own. We were different people, really. Like we needed different things. He had a dog that bit his grandma, I remember. And a cat named Suzie Q.

My wife was short for her width and prone to looking down. She was smart for her personality and rather plain for her disposition. Her parents’ were happy she found me and I was happy I found her too. There was a time in my younger days when her company was better than all the things I did by myself. I had someone to do things with and I liked knowing that when I spoke out loud, someone heard me.

Barbra often nodded and agreed with me. That was nice too. There were many years before Barbra that I thought I was the only one who thought the way I thought. And that can be pretty lonely. When your thinking wanders out and never comes back, it loses substance. Barbra was plain and heavy and short, but she gave my thinking weight that it never had before.

I started having opinions on everything.

“I really like asparagus,” I told Barbra.

“I’ll cook you some tonight.”

“I like Radar better than Hawkeye.”

“Me too.”

“It sure smells in here.”

“I’ll open some windows.”

There is no one like that now.

This ceiling should have sparkly things in its texture instead of flat and white and shiny. There can be no fighting dinosaurs here. This room is for sick people, who don’t need disturbances. Out in the hallway, I can hear the murmurs of nurses and the squeaking of a wheel. Time is odder now than it used to be. Now, I mark the passing moments on arrivals and departures. The nurses enter. The nurses exit. The nurses change their shifts.

My pink carnation is out there somewhere. She is walking the halls and she‘s all wriggly.

She is in a room hovered over a bed like a bouquet over a body.

She is in my dreams while I am wide awake.

She has impressed upon me all things wondrous and worthy, and I am full of her.

I have a doctor out there somewhere too, saving lives. He comes and goes like a hero and smiles. He’s missing half his hair but he doesn’t seem to notice. He stares at his clipboard. And he stares at me.

I found a guy in a gutter once. He was not breathing and he had no pulse. He didn’t look dead though, just extremely happy. He filled out a black suit and his tie seemed way too tight. I loosened it, and he still remained the way he was. I dragged him up onto the curb and tilted his head back. I blew in. I blew out. I pressed on his chest and pumped his blood around and round. He seemed less happy out of the gutter- but he seemed cleaner. I breathed for him. I pumped his blood for him. After awhile, his lights came back on and he staggered to his feet. He glanced around.

“I had a hat.” he said.

I found no such hat.

I can’t remember it being dark. They say it was dark for three and a half months. That’s a lot of darkness. When I was a child and my lights were on, I wondered about the darkness. What was in the darkness? What resided there? Was my sister there? Would I have friends there? The darkness was a mystery that I couldn’t solve. It was a question that I couldn’t answer. It fascinated me the way a closed box would. What was in the darkness? Was it safe in there? Was it dangerous?

After three and a half months of living in the darkness, I still don’t have an answer. The lights were simply off. Now the lights are on. Maybe it is just that simple? I see people praying to the darkness all the time. They get on their knees. They fold their hands. They close their eyes to make it darker for themselves. And then they pray. In the darkness I remember, there was no one listening. Your thoughts had no weight. If you prayed to the darkness and paid attention to what was said, you would have to answer for yourself- which would make you feel lonely. The darkness is so dark it sucks up all of what is suggested to it. It consumes what is asked of it, and destroys what is expected of it. It is like a black hole in the sky between the stars. It takes away from those who pray to it- all the sparkle. I’ve never thought about this before. But I can see this now. I suppose the profundity I am heroically expected to have found, is this nothingness. In the darkness, I must confess, there is nothing but an unlit emptiness. And there is no sound.

The squeak is louder now. There are people at my door. They are bringing in a bed on wheels, and on that bed, there is someone. Five people in faded Christmas PJ’s are in attendance and I roll my head around to follow what’s going on. A curtain is drawn and I can no longer see. There are voices.

“OK. Ready? On three. One…two…three…”

I think I have a roommate. I hope they’re nice.

A man is standing over me. He has a toy in his hand. He’s smiling and he’s holding out his toy.

“Hi.” I say to him.

“Hi,” he says to me. “I’m your respiratory therapist. My name is Michael and I’ll be coming in and out. What I want to do, basically, is deepen your breathing by exercising your lungs. Have you ever seen one of these?”


“It’s a device designed to get you to take deep breaths and exhale sharply. Wanna give it a try?”

“I tore the muscles in my stomach.”

“Ouch. How did you do that?”

“I sat up and told everyone to be quiet.”

“Amazing. I heard that you’ve been sleeping?”

“A long time.”

“Three months?”

“Three and a half.”

“On a machine?”

“I think so. Which ones? I don’t remember.”

“Amazing. Can you sit up at all?”

“No. Hit that button. I think I can lift the bed some. I’m on morphine, and I’m feeling pretty good.”

I feel like singing. I’ve never felt like singing but for some reason, I want to sing. I search my mind for songs but don’t find any. The bed rises slowly. My stomach pinches and I wince and wave my hand at Michael. Too far. Take it back a bit.

“Please.” I muster. Michael gets it and he lowers me back down some. I can see my feet and what lies beyond. There is a toy shoved in my face.

“Take a deep breath and blow,” says Michael. “You want to make the tiny ball dance between those lines.”

My breath is not deep. I blow. There is very little dancing.

“Again,” says Michael.

Again I blow. And again. And a fourth and fifth time. My head grows light and there is blackness descending upon my vision.

“That’s all I got,” I tell him. He smiles.

“You did good, Walter. Tomorrow, you’ll do better.”

The lights are on but they are dim. I smile at Michael and hand him his toy. I close my eyes and I hear snoring.

When I open them, Michael is gone.


The curtain opens and I am sharing my room with a belly and a beard. It can’t be so. There is a large, unkempt mound of uncovered hairy flesh laying in the bed not far from me, with a dirty beard and a grotesque snore. Caroline is standing there between us as pretty as a sunset and she is smiling at me.

“Hi Walter. This is Baldeeny. He’s your new roommate.”

Baldeeny is snoring like a motorcycle. He is oddly familiar- more by type than by anything facial- and he upsets me. It was a pack of Baldeeny’s that put me to sleep for three and a half months. They put a plate in my head. They broke sixteen bones. They were loud and annoying and they drove me crazy.

“Why is he here?” I ask. I don’t want him here.

“We don’t know.”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“He was hit in the head.”

“Is that why he’s here?”

“Well, sort of. He’s here because he hasn’t woken up in quite awhile.”

“He’s in a coma?”

“No. He just won’t wake up. Everything is normal about him except that he sleeps twenty four hours a day. We can wake him for a short duration, but he’s groggy and then falls right back to sleep. The neurologists think he’s damaged a part of his brain that controls sleep functions.”

“Is he gonna snore like that always?”

Caroline looks at the fat man who has kicked off his covers and twisted up his hospital gown. His ball-sack and his lips are hidden in large tufts of curly black hair.

“I sure hope not.”

I feel trapped. I can’t escape these miscreants, it seems. These hairy, horrible men. They roar in my mind like those crazed coliseum lions. They get inside my skull and ride around and round like those carnival clowns inside those giant circus balls. And I’m supposed to be a hero? I lie here, stuck inside my own weaknesses. My body is a trampled set of circumstances. My mind- a disembodied entity. Caroline stares at me like I am something extra special-but I’m not- just smiling and sparkling in my direction. She blinks there like a wishful piece of my wishful thoughts. She’s a flower, pink and faded in a love song I’m still writing and will one day sing to her in my dream of dreams.

It all gets washed away by a fat, hairy belly of a man and his motorcycle-snoring. That sound derides me like a bully. It chafes my mind’s insides insidiously. The noises of the world are unfair and uninspiring and wicked, truly. We live in evil noise. Our minds are shared with outside influxes. Our choices are garnished with heavy bass. Will that fat wad of putrid flesh “please” shut up?

I put my head back down and face the ceiling. I will not complain about my plight in front of Caroline.

They roared past my window every evening. They roared past my window far into the night. They all shared common meeting places, and one of them a bar just down the road from me. There they roared and drank and swallowed. There they parked and hollered. Every single night I tried to sleep beneath the shadows of their merrymaking. Every night I shut my eyes and tried to wish them all away.

If I fell asleep with cotton in my ears I slept through my alarm. If I kept the cotton out they ventured in and throttled me with their combustion-engines screaming. They had me unfairly penned between my early rising hour and their encephalitic sounds. Fat, hairy bellies on hulking motorcycles without their mufflers… Inconsiderate men who torqued their wrist to rev their unendurable noise-machines in my direction…

My work was a constant roar of diesel and vacuum and brushes. My evenings were a steady assault on my sanity as those leather dirigibles shat their horrific rumbles while I searched for peace inside my working days.

I stare at the white and glossy ceiling.

In all of this grotesque snoring, Caroline has managed to leave the room without my watching her behind.

I stare at the white and glossy ceiling with my eyes glistening tears.

And listen to the rumbles of the wholly unfair world.


The world treated Barbra far more unfairly than I. If you were a woman, you were expected to be lean and long of limb. If you were short and squared off and carried extra pounds around your middle since the days of middle school, you were sidelined like a cardboard box full of thrift store donations. Everybody acknowledged you had value but nobody bothered to rummage through you. What you did was for somewhere else, something else, someone else. You were a “good thing” for others but nobody stopped to think about being those others. If you were like Barbra, people thought of you as necessary but not for them.

I met Barbra at school in a night class. It was a hissing cockroach from Madagascar that introduced us and made us talk to one another. We were brought together for lab work- as my pinched face was paired up with her rather robust behind- and the hissing cockroach lived and died to break the ice.

“Are you afraid of him?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said. “He’s frightening.”

“Do not be afraid,” I said. “I will protect you from him.”

And I did. The relationship evolved from hissing cockroaches to spiders and beetles and flies, and just about any living insect-thing that intruded upon her space. Looking back from here, now, I can see that it was all a mischievous ruse. It was a woman’s mechanism for breaking down barriers and sidling up closer to another human being. We became comfortable friends- then uncomfortable lovers- and within two years of hearing that first insect hiss, got married and danced to a love song about a rat by a band with bright ideas in a rented space while wearing rented clothing.

Looking back as I stare up at whiteness and listen to the rhythmic gurgles of that fat hairy bearded man behind that curtain, I realize Barbra was the best friend I had ever had.


They come and go like the trains of my youth, causing discomfort and annoyance and desire while threatening to embarrass me and expose my inner-thinking sanctity. I have lifted the sheet at the groin with mental pictures and I cannot do much of anything about it. My body is a difficult thing to manipulate but I must try. I do not want to advertise my thoughts while laying here helplessly aroused. My penis is swollen and far too obviously in need and want- and if Caroline comes back in here, she’ll wonder much about me.

I manage to get a thigh elevated and I hope that will hide me until I can think of something else. Sex is rummaging around in my brain like a starving bear in a chaotic garage, turning everything over and spilling it all out in messy piles, dumping on all my other thoughts as if they were the first to make the trash pile. I bump into violent images and textured notions and scenarios full of bravado and macho-conquest, all mostly pictures in ribald detail- girls bent over book-cases and bed-frames. Legs splayed like victory signs. Hairy triangles and the exposed wishbone shape of the pinkish softly crinkled flesh that sends out its scent like a flower or a baking pie…

I lay here in this state and think of all I can never have. Young, firm, girl-bodies with young, firm flesh. Gorged of their own blood-flushed urges and crimson passions. Riding me as if I were all there ever could be. I, ready-made to quench those darker needs and satisfy those focused feelings.

Me. Stabbing my penis into nameless bodies, groping for the breasts that dangle, pushing my erection hard into moistened, hidden, wondrous places, thriving on the moans and gasps of heightened, satisfied young women. My mind has done this a thousand times, but my body, so much less. Barbra was a ready partner but not a writhing bundle of animus and pent up fervor.

She would lay on her back and take me into her. And into her, I would come. There was always so much more I saw inside myself that never made the bedside pages of our married book. I imagined turning her. I imagined lifting her. I imagined letting her dangle while I supported her like meat on a stick…

Barbra lay there and whimpered, while I thrust and made my sounds. Her legs lay short and fat and crooked beneath her hairy region, and this is what I rode upon.

“Lawdy, are you ready for another dance!?”

It’s Walter the physio. Walter is standing over me and staring at my erection.

“I see you’re feeling better!”

I can only force a leg to lift, and try to hide my thoughts within the sheets.

Walter just goes on. He’s pulling his own pants up comfortably around his middle. Preparing himself while eyeing me up and down.

“How’s your stomach?”

“It still hurts me,” I say. “If I move.”

“Hmmmm. Alrighty then… Let’s just work you limb to limb. Right arm first.”

Walter is standing over my right arm and just staring at it. I know it’s there because I feel it’s there. I can rake my fingertips across the sheets. I can move my thumb side to side like a windshield wiper.

“Lift your arm,” he says,” and scratch your nose.”

“It doesn’t itch.”

“It will when I take out the feather. Now go on. Lift and scratch.”

I try. I can’t lift it, but I am able to bend the elbow inward and slide my hand up onto my belly. I feel my shoulder come into play and now I am doing it. My nose is itching and I am scratching it. With my eyes going full cross-eyed I watch my fingers wriggle. I smile. Walter spreads his wide banana smile. I’m doing it!

“Excellent!” says Walter. Now put it down and do the left one.”

I slide my right hand down along my belly and it falls to my side. My left arm is weaker than my right, but I manage to get it up onto my belly and close to my chin. I try and lift it up onto my face, but it just shakes there- it seems to be someone else’s hand- and I watch it shake. It’s so close to me that it looks huge- it’s shaking there like a movie creature- and monstrous. My chin is a precipice. My hand is a monster. I am doomed.

“Lawdy!” says Walter. “You’ve got a problem with that one. Put it down if you can and we’ll move on to the legs.”

I put the hand down. It falls to my side. Walter pulls the sheets out of the way and takes a look at my legs. At least my erection is gone.

“Let’s start with a tap dance,” he says. “Tap my hand five times with each foot. “

I tap. My legs go easier than my arms. I can do this. I can tap my feet against his palm.

“That’s pretty good. Do some more.”

I do some more.

“With more rhythm, my man! Here. Do it with me. Dun dun dun doo doo dah! Dun dun dun doo doo dah!”

The beat is familiar and I try to follow it. I am doing it! My toes are tapping!

Dun dun dun doo doo da…Dun dun dun doo doo da…

I’m doing it!

Dun dun dun doo doo da… Dun dun dun doo doo da…

“I’m doin’ it!”

“You’re doin’ it!”

“I’m doin’ it!”

“You are dancing, my man! Dancing!”

“I’m dancing!”

Dun dun dun doo doo da… Dun dun dun doo doo da…

“Ok! OK! That’ll do! That’ll do! Save some of your dancing for the ladies, man!”

Walter has grabbed both my feet in his hands and is squeezing them. I stop my tap dancing. Perhaps he’s right? I can feel cramps forming in the arches of both feet. My feet relax within his warm hands.

“Here. Let’s do some movements for your thighs and your butt, shall we? You gotta have them buns of steel to go with that plate in your head, right?

Pull your knees up to your chest, one at a time. Right leg first.”

I pull. It hurts. There is a tug on the muscles in my stomach. Walter notices the wince and stops me.

“That hurts?”


“Then stop. We’ll give you another day to let that stomach heal. But you danced, man! You danced already!”

“I danced…”

“Like a champ, my man! A real hero!”

I’m a hero. The thought relaxes me and my eyes end up back on the ceiling. It is white and shiny there. There is the reflection of a light in the shiny painted surface.

‘Well, not bad for day one,” says Walter. We’ll do some more tomorrow. You’ll still be here tomorrow, won’t you Walter?”

“I’ll be here.”

“Good. Because I have been telling everybody how I’m gonna make you dance like MC Hammer.”


“Hammer time? Can’t Touch This? Oh lawdy! Do I have some work to do!”

I’m smiling. I’ve got a big banana too. The thought of me dancing with this man out in the hallways- out in public- makes me banana-grin just like he does. Oh lawdy! If it just didn’t hurt to laugh!


There are no happy endings. Endings are almost always unhappy, followed by funerals. Everything before the end is negotiable. Before the end, you still have choices. The lights are on. The ceiling is aglow and you stare and you stare. The lights eventually go off.


I don’t know if it is Baldeeny’s snoring or the nurse with the toothbrush that woke me up? My lights are on. The night has been erased by that cloud of unconsciousness I carry inside my skull. I don’t recall a dream and I wonder where the time went? Nine hours in total darkness- living in the nothingness. For nine hours, my lights were off.

This nurse is nothing like Caroline. This nurse is much more like Barbra. She tells me to open wide and I open wide. Who am I to argue? She tells me to try not to gag. Who am I to argue? She works the toothbrush across my teeth and gums. They are swollen and sensitive, but they feel like they need this. I feel like I need this. I gag and spit before she tells me to. There is foam running down my chin and I inadvertently let my bowels move. Good morning world. I’m a mess.

“I’m sorry.” I tell the nurse.

“Oh, it’s okay,” she says. “It’s just a little toothpaste.”

“I pooped.”

The words sound childish saying them. I said them, though, and she looks at me sort of squirrelly, and then she smiles a phony nurses smile.

“I’ll go get some help. And we’ll clean you right up.”

She backs away from me and turns and leaves. The odor of my own excrement reaches my nose, while Baldeeny snorts large volumes of my sanity through that hairy orifice of his on the other side of the curtain.

They burst in suddenly and swarm me. They’ve all put on their cold white gloves. I’ve been through this drill and I am prepared for it. All I do is lay here and try to not believe that this is me .

They roll me one way. They roll me back. They roll me again. Cold, odd-feeling gloved hands grapple with me. My legs are spread and my most private of areas wiped and coated with a waxy substance and a diaper is fitted. I’m rolled again. A new sheet is snapped out. I’m rolled again. My pillow is taken from me. My pillow is back. For a brief and amusing moment, I think I am in a NASCAR pit and they’ve got me ready to head out onto the track. My engine isn’t roaring, though. My wheels are off.

They all call me Walter and tell me how great it is to see me and then they all depart. They’re gone as fast as they arrived. They are nameless people in faded pink and green hospital scrubs who come and go wearing latex gloves. They seem to walk in bunches. They seem to be constantly called to somewhere else. They are cheerful with each other and courteous to those they embarrass so. I think about their job description and I laugh. “Ass Wipers”. There go the Ass Wipers. They’re such a cheerful bunch.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

This Is A Blowlog...

Cool, huh?

(This blog is my test page and name saving page. I do my doody here-

if you're looking for me.)