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EM & G

   a story 

~  by Michael Dennis Mooney

I wonder how rash, bold, impertinent, vainly grand, and rather vilely self-important you’ll think me, Honored Sir. But I must ask you this. Will you consent to read my poems? Of course, I don’t mean all! Just a few. And you’ll be glad to hear this, They are all very brief, my little lyrics.

I have seen a number of your many deep spiritual writings in periodicals brought to us by our village librarian. She reserves them for me and drops them off at my kitchen’s back door. I know you are a reverend, a writer of sermons,  a confessor,  a classics professor,  and a university rector. I count on your discernment, sir. Will you tell me if I should print and publish these my poor obscure works? Poems that I think must have been writ under a bushel, we would say. As they so rarely come to light. They dwell in shut drawers and in storage trunks. They are like me, shut in, shut away.

Though you reside in a great port city by the sea in Eire-land and I dwell in a countryside farm village in Western Massachusetts, yet I feel we must be, as people say, kindred in spirit. Indeed, we might seem different in more ways, I fear, than similar. You are a Roman Catholic, a man, a scholar who trained at Oxford, a consecrated priest, a Jesuit, a leader, an educator, a learned explicator of Greek and of Latin literatures. You are a public man. Me, well, I bake gingerbread for my nephews. I garden. I serve tea to my father’s household guests. And I scribble my poems in pencil on scraps of paper bag at my baking table while watching for my pies to be done-up brown. But we both deal in matters of the Ultimate Reality . The Metaphysical, as our Mr. R. W. Emerson would call it.

Sir, May I call you G.? I know I’m expected to properly call you Father. Or, Reverend Father Gerard. But I am not a member of your Church. Indeed, I am not a member of my Congregation, here in the village. I am, I think, a non-believer by default. I have tried to believe and I have failed, repeatedly. I have no faith. I am the Poor In Spirit of whom we’ve heard. There seems no cure for me. I am melancholic, despairing, often unwell, and, these days, increasingly solitary. And I refuse, like a coal-digger on strike, to spend my livelong Sundays in the dank shadowy Meeting House. All morning at Services. Then after dinner, all afternoon at Bible Studies. Evening Revivals. It is too much to bear.  Too onerous a load of bituminous black rock. Too endless a task, and too purposeless. It brings no joy.

Well, That brings me to my poem. It’s my current one.  It shows what I’m occupied with immediately.

##

THE MEETING HOUSE

I ask you, What sort of Manse is this,

This Rude White Clabbard  Cow Shed?

Truly, Can we be Serious?

Call this a House for God?

It is so Plain! It is Hideous!

It might be A Railway Station.

Yes, The Comparison is Invidious.

It is a Scar on the Face of Creation.

Do any Wonder why I Stay Home

And Kneel in my Garden Rows

To Root-Out the Weeds ’round the Gloried Rose,

And to Hoe, and To Aerate the Loam?

Sundays, I Long to be On My Own.

I am At Ease here, and Alone.  – E.D.

##

As the Americans say, OKAY! I will allow it. You may call me “G.”

I will refrain from staid forms, and thus I shall not call you Daughter. You are more the age of a Sister, a contemporary, in any case. So “Daughter” would be too stiffly formal.

I will wish instead to Em-ulate your informality, dear lady. I’ll address you as “Em.” Miss Dickinson, Maybe that will cause you to smile?

I am not sure, Miss Em,  what to make of your complaints. They savor of such a bitter and biting sourness! Biliousness, really. Honestly, you seem out of balance with God’s Reality, with the Universe itself.

You are melancholic, you say, and I believe you. You should be able to view these matters with a more hopeful spirit. You should, at least, intend to. You might aim to “on general principles.”  Your humorist Clemens might put it thus, heh?

You think ill of your religious community. You find it oppressive and gloomy. Yes, I could concur heartily with you, I suppose. But should I? Is that useful? Or does that not further abet your usual umbrage?  What sort of confessor would I be, if I helped to make you more deeply unhappy?

I wonder if you have the right conception of God and his World at all? And I wonder if your poetry does not further your rebellion against reason? Should you be writing so unrightly, as it were, Em?

Should not you be seeing God’s Universe as being One with the Gloried Rose you prefer to celebrate?  Indeed, you do suffer a pervading unhappiness, but that is you, inwardly, that darkness, is it not?

You ought to seriously think of taking a different view. Seeing the shadowy dark in balance with the sources of light. Those sources of light are in our values. In what we most benevolently, passionately, and innocently aspire to. What we mean when we mean well!

Here is my meditation for you, Miss Em:

##

MAKER  

Maker of red roses’ brightness,

Of their many velvet petals’ touch,

Grow in me a radiance, a rightness, 

As I rest on thy garden’s green leaves sloughed.

Creator of roses’ slim stems tensile,

As like to the iron of wire or cable,

Upstand me, like stems, as head-held-high,

As steady in winds, unshakable.

O, Armorer of roses’ thorns, like razors

That must be handled steady, mindfully,

Make me as clawed, as fierce amazing,

Let me draw blood as bloody-mindedly

Should one try to rob my rich red rose!

Let him be marked red, so everyone knows.

ENVOI:

Yea! Color me with with roses’ brightness!

Buoy me with the stems’ uprightness!

Bless me, happy with head-held-highness!

Banish all hanging-back and shyness!

Make my jubilations loud, so everybody knows!

As Faith, I, proud, I propagate the Rose!

~ G. M. Hopkins, SJ

[THIS STORY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION]

Anti-Social Media

Using Again

a story

~ by Michael Dennis Mooney

Katty is someone I’ve been out to dinner with a few times now. And we always go out for marinated raw fish in seaweed wraps. An iodine deficiency on her part? She only really likes Asian fish places. At our first dinner at Sweet Sister’s Sashimi, I remember thinking: Me, I don’t even like cooked fish! So, I decide to focus on the salad of dark greens, asparagus, and mango slices. Also the delicate veggie tempura, and the drinks.

I even, surreptitiously, nosh on the garnish! Which is really very pretty and appetizing-looking. It is red cabbage, or maybe a beet, I think. Which they’ve carved, with a mandoline, into a lacy filamentous purple cloud. A zero-calorie confection. Goes great with wasabi soy atop the greens. Thanks be to God, the beer has carbs! (Haven’t yet gotten the super-potent rice wine habit. Sake!) Ah! Now if only there were crackers or something. I’d kill for a little bowl of crackers. A crust of bread, at this point, would be a dining experience. I’m paying money for this?

SUSHI Rx

Raw fish flesh that’s wrapped in seaweeds,

That’s what Katty says that she needs.

She must be deficient in iodine!

So on sushis and sashimis we shall dine,

With slivers of ginger

And daubs of wasabi,

In a wabi-sabi shack by the salty shore,

In our little run-down hovel by the sea.

I can’t say, really, what our relationship is. Except that Katty is quite beautiful, and I could not resist the vanity, the folly, of inviting her to dinner. Reddish-gold hair like a long comet tail on the April night air, bright hazel eyes, dimpled child chin, laughing smile, lean sprightly figure like a newborn colt’s. She is very, um, actressy. She dispenses effusions of charm at will, very assured in her skills for holding another’s attention. She is simply a beauty, a charm explosion, a love bomb. Katty’s an idealist. She loves everyone, if in a nebulous spiritualized fashion. She hopes that we’ll all love her, and we all do, helplessly. She’s “a love bug,” she famously says. She is a biologic weapon of mass-infatuation. She tells everyone I’m her cousin!

Hmm… Helps to account, I’d guess, for her being with this aging guy, me — one who is more than 25 years older — while she is schmoozing, wining, dining, and looking splendid. Right away, she tells the proprietor Haki, “No! This isn’t my boyfriend. He’s my cousin.” She had just mentioned her boyfriend. She constantly mentions her boyfriend.

No one has ever seen this “boyfriend.” Her putative boyfriend, her theoretical boyfriend. Her fictitious sweetie. Her phantom lover that comes to her in dreams. Now, Get This! Katty, too, has never seen her boyfriend! Not really! True! They have chatted, texted, phoned, sent regular mail and posted parcels, and they’ve skyped. But this guy, Mitchell, is “away.” He lives practically in another time zone. Well, on Long Island. She has never laid eyes on him in three-dimensional space, nor spent five minutes in his presence.

These two “met” and became involved mainly through internet-based communications. They are entangled, and in a very odd and crazy-intense way. But, oops, they’ve not yet met! That is some technicality in their “relationship.” On social media, she’s “in a relationship” with this mutt, refers to him as “my lover,” and alludes to her own self as his “awesome girlfriend.”

They have even talked extensively about sex, yet they both remain pristinely untouched by human hands. (Not counting one’s own hands, I’d suppose.) She wants him to make her pregnant! So, this could take a while, ahem. She’s in her early forties. (Is she even able to conceive? How realistic is this plan?) Katty could pass for late-twenties in a mild light, because she’s so little and petite. And so full of beans. She has always dated younger guys, often with this same pipe dream on her mind, that of starting a family, and she has gotten nowhere.

And, I’m gathering, she and Mitchie haven’t yet met — he’s so wanky! — for reasons mainly to do with his social maladroitness. There is something wrong on his end of things. Inadequacy. He fails to come and see her, though she plainly desires him. He is more than ten years younger than her, and he is an outlandishly stuck-up, self-important, sheltered pretty boy who lives with his Mama and who’s enchained in apron strings. Very stiff and starchy ones, those of a very formidable Mother.

But there’s more to his problem, I think. He’s plainly somewhat mentally ill! Must be! Here Katty is saying, Come And Get It, Boy! And he’s making excuses and playing games, saying he’s too busy and can’t get away. Something’s not right … ?? He’s afraid of Katty Kat? Allergic to Puss?

Well, something’s not entirely right with her, too, one has to conclude. Maybe he’s smart to be afraid, huh? Because she wants so much! She wants a pregnancy! And a happy-ever-after! A huge level of commitment. And she’s not kiddin’, not Cath’lic Kat’leen. She loves babies and children with all her tidally surgent heart, and her heart breaks that she doesn’t have a child to care for and to bring up. Her younger sister Shelley has four beautiful kids, all under twelve, and “Tantie Kat Kat” helps with the kids every day. Katty has longed and ached to have her own. Her own little happy family.

I’ve often thought, since hearing this: Hell! Now, what if this guy on the internet, who is professing to be so interested in her, is a scammer of some kind who’s trying to separate her from her savings account and property? What if he’s scamming a number of older women over the internet simultaneously? No one knows! She doesn’t know! She doesn’t know him.

Mitchell’s her “imaginary boyfriend,” as one of her many older, bitter, and disappointed non-boyfriends, Allan Boholofsky, has said. (I liked hearing morose Allan’s cynical viewpoint the minute she mentioned it. Yeah!) You know, Katty and her “imaginary” Mitchell have even broken-up! Yes!

And they’ve re-united! They’ve had make-up text! With throbbing-heart emojis! Yet she and her “Mitchie” still haven’t ever actually technically met and clasped hands for the first time. Or looked into each other’s eyes in a really relaxed moment. Or hugged and held one another. Or spent an ordinary unguarded daily-life hour together. You know, just eating toast and sipping coffee and looking out the window at the rain.

He has, though, sent her jewelry. And she loveloveloves her some shiny jewelry! –More than one of her boyfriends has called her “a materialistic bitch.”– Necklaces, rings, ones for every finger, earrings, all kinds, her Mitchell has sent her via USPS, and she posts the dazzling photos of her wearing these on Instagram.

These two, Kat ‘n Mitch, have only been making outward impressions. Mostly via new media, mostly by way of their cell phones. She also knows his entire family via cell phone communications. All kinds of texts, LOLs, messages, OMGs, posts, selfie views, and all kinds of thumb-typing on her omnipresent iPhone. Must be exhausting.

My God, the tension. The pretentious nonsense. The foolish, deluded, and asinine games people play. — So I say to myself, Hey! How hard could it be to compete with this “boyfriend?”– He’s never around. More pointedly, He doesn’t seem to exist in space and time, only in a hoped-for Tomorrowland! Who knows what’s going on with this clown? I say he’s screwed-up, and he can’t get it together to come here and see her. Also, she feels he’s screwed-up and can’t get it together. Plus, everyone she knows is telling her that. She and Mitchie fight about this, and then they make-up, all in multiple new-media formats. Foolish hope springs eternal and redundant. And way unrealistic.

Katty and I are not truly cousins. At best we are shirt-tail cousins, as the old folks would’ve said years ago. Barely related. We had never gotten to know each other at all, never spoken, not until very recently. We don’t have the same grandma, the same lineage. Her grandfather’s lineage, the Cloughs (pronounced Claws,) a clan of wildly willful headstrong, ginger-haired Scots, are truly utterly different from my father’s family, the black-haired, hard-drinking, gloomy pale Maroneys, who’d emigrated generations ago from Eire-land and ended-up in a Pennsylvania mining town and worked in the building trades. We’re practically two different species, as I know the two families. (She can be the graceful, upright Cro-Magnan; I’ll be the bony-browed, hairy, stooped, and benighted Neanderthal cave-dweller.) Katty and I are from different generations, too. And we didn’t grow up in the same town.

Half the people Katty knows are “cousins,” seemingly numbering in the hundreds, and they are a massive cast of extras that populate her stories during conversation: “Yeah, he’s my cousin. But he wants to be with me!,” she says of a robust, handsome young guy, Ike Milo, the son of her Mom’s best friend from childhood, another of her multitudinous horde of non-boyfriends: Guys that are interested, who spend time with her, but who have no chance. Ike is someone she’s often met up with over the years at family events. (You’d have to trace back to post-civil war census records to find the genealogy link.) “I tell him: Ew! It’s too weird. Yer my cousin, dude.” Once she classifies you as a cousin, you are ineligible, I guess. You are many steps behind the eligible ones, the men she idealizes.

Me, I think I should be happy to be classified as cousin. As opposed to, say, elderly. Elderly and in need of companionship. That’s the customary cliche. Christ! I should really think about getting a labrador retriever. Great! So I’m definitely among the many losers, in the non-boyfriend category, along with bitter hangdog Allan and quite a few others. (Also merry Haki, pronounced Hockey, who just wants a conquest. She says, “Haki just wants to meet an American he can FUCK!”)

I could easily outdo this phony “boyfriend” Mitchie. How hard could it be? I mean, really, he’s a non-boyfriend too! I could pay attention to her! He’s too “busy,” –as if!–  and too far removed. I can take her out! She lives at her Mom’s and she chafes at that. I could get her a place of her own, and there she could preside as queen.

Those guys she idealizes, like her Mitchell, tend to be out of reach. They’re unrealistic choices, love crushes. Maybe movie-star handsome. And always too young for her! — Her vanity! Not unlike mine! — Yet these idealized younger men are unwilling to be involved. Which, oddly, works for her. She keeps the mere cousins, and all of us other non-boyfriends, ineligible. The handsome young out-of-reach guys similarly keep her at a distance. Everyone flirts and stays friends, all very airily and headily. No one gets hurt. She remains in a state of “single blessedness.” Like the Amazonian women of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Catholic celibacy is a condition which suits her best, as it involves far less heartache. The more usual man-woman relationships are too freighted with hard-to-fulfill expectations.

Katty’s mother is Kerry Ellen Clough, one of my very youngest and dearest red-haired Clough cousins. An actual cousin. Kerry was so much younger than I, she was an unformed geeky grade school child when I had left our old home town. Kerry and I had a whole extended family in old Pratt Falls, way upstate. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, family dinners, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, summer reunions, softball games in the yard, skating in the winter on the low ground where it would freeze, family picnics at the beach in summer, Sunday church, the Catholic school. But Kerry and I weren’t near in age. And all that was decades ago.

Nowadays, her daughter Katty is someone I barely know, but I sort of know her. And I have fanciful ideas about Katty, I confess. Mainly, that she could need someone older like me, someone with income, by her side. I very vainly think I could be stable for her, a source of love and support. She, for her part, could inspire me. I have been “depressed.” Or just as lazy and apathetic as hell. Suffering the Old Man blues, particularly since retiring. But, as we start to talk, I realize: My Dear God! I don’t know her at all. 

A cousin is someone you can go out with — but cannot kiss. Bad luck for me. Convenient for Cath’lic Katty, who is extensively conflicted about relationships. She has a dark history of relationships that have failed bigtime, she has indicated. (Which may’ve driven her into this current online thing with Fictitious Mitchie.) Guys who have stopped seeing Katty have then happily gone on to marry other young women and to have children with them. What ta hell?

Katty is certainly so sweetly kissable! It would be a sin not to kiss her! She is wearing makeup that says, Look at this face! This beautiful, smiling face. Glamorous, truly. She is a night owl, a little gothic in her mascara, her long painted nails, and her slinky slanted bangs, and she is wearing a red lipstick that says: You know you want to kiss. It has a vampire vibe. And I love it.

Okay, I, Mackey D. Maroney, am a little,  — well, okay, very very very insecure and very lonesome these days. So, I don’t know really what her lipstick says. Only what it’s saying to me in this deluded moment. It’s saying: Kiss Me! However, I’m not exactly possessed of a sound mind. Time to get a grip, Mack.

So at chi-chi Sweet Sister’s Sashimi she launches right into something we had discussed briefly online, and she treats me as if we were old friends. Yet she and I, before this, have never met. You see, I’d first contacted her through Facebook and then eventually by phone as I gained courage to try and get to know her. We knew some people in common, her mom and her mom’s sisters, from family events. And I had often heard of her, as Kerry’s kid. I had seen Katty around, very briefly, at a few events, weddings and such, when she’d been very young, all of it a memory blur. Back then, there had never been conversation between us.

But Katty is here and now acting like she’s just catching-up with an old pal. She hails me from across the room. (I am the only customer at a table. Good deduction.) And she sashays easily into raillery about something I’d said in online chat, something she’d challenged as bull.

In no time the waiters, led by the proprietor Haki, have her usual chardonnay in front of her, also my Heineken, plus menus, water tumblers, utensils, and place settings, and she is asking Haki a myriad questions about what kind of special orders he can make for her. He is someone Katty can actually relate to, someone she actually knows.

She’s a regular here. She is such a talker! She has a million things to say. All of them to Haki. And in no particular order. He is a fairly good-looking, slim and in good shape, pleasant and social, about her age. She won’t let him get away. She’s putting on quite a show. But she’s here to meet me. No? 

Katty and I are evidently the last two customers they’re going to serve here tonight, and she’s taking forever. If I were the waiters, I’d be truly tempted to poison us. We, all of us, had waited quite a while for her to show up and dazzle us with her latest look, as if she’d just stepped off the cover of a magazine, and she is taking nearly a half hour to order. And she is ordering things not on the menu. Which leaves me in the dark. I’ve never been in a place that serves mainly sushis. I don’t have a taste for fish. I don’t know the menu choices. It’s all, uh, Japanese to me.

When we finally get that green salad with mango and asparagus and wasabi soy, I am momentarily heartened to hear there is salmon on the bed of greens. I’d been hearing lately that salmon is great for your health, and I’ve been wanting to try some. Fat chance! The salad is topped with broiled, crisped, and seasoned salmon skins — without the salmon! — as a sort of strange crunchy fish-skin crouton. Who knew? Actually tastes pretty good. Like bacon. But where is the dinner in this? And it’s practically closing time. (My thought bubble: Please, guys, what did you do with those salmon steaks? Bring ’em here.) Katty explains, pseudo-knowledgeable, “All the nutrition is near the skin.”

“Sure about that? I’ll await the empirically valid studies.” One of my standard lines for dismissing a topic. I signal for another beer with my empty bottle. The waiter nods, then forgets to bring it while dealing with some of Katty’s non-stop yack and palaver. So I ask good ole ever-hovering Haki to get it. He has the waiter do it. Then it dawns on me, Haki is one of her numerous disappointed non-boyfriends, prosperous, personable, respectable, not in her target age group, but stuck on her.

She, for her part, likes ’em fully ten or fifteen years younger then her, about twenty-five, but not much more than thirty, and fancy-free, single. Haki is a married middle-aged businessman with a family. She is freely flirting with him about “the times I answered the door in my pajamas” for his takeout deliveries. I advise Haki to deliver in his pajamas. He gets a good har-har going. What a merry crew are we.

[THIS STORY UNDER CONSTRUCTION. More when it is published.]

Life's Enduring Mysteries

Spruce Hugh Pusey And Dandy Randy

A third installment in the “Randy On The Road” fiction sequence. The previous installment is in the August 2011 posting below.

##

Randy, the subject of the two previous essays here, has a longtime admirer, a gay man, Hugh Pusey, a lifelong acquaintance of both Randy’s and mine. Pusey has written-in to offer a spirited defense of Randy’s Randiness and of Randy’s, hushed pause, sexuality. This letter will be printed, below, as our first posted letter to the editor here at the weblog. Dr. Pusey writes-in to say this isn’t the Randy he knows, the one I’ve depicted in my essays. He also argues that what I’ve written aren’t essays at all. How could I call them such? (Pusey is a lit crit guy.) What sorts of essays are they supposed to be? And what sort of thesis am I working from?

My response is simple, “They are narrative essays of personal recollection.” My thesis? “I’d say they are about cheating and lying, a hurtful behavior, and a subject we are all familiar with. Spouses get hurt by these grievous ethical lapses. Their children can suffer, as well.”

##

I have personal recollections of Hugh Pusey. (Pronounced PEW-see.) Hugh was my English professor many years ago. He was also Randy’s professor. He was a formative influence in our styles of intellectual development and expression. Dr. Pusey is a teacher of literary criticism, an expert in the modern novel in English. And when we were college kids (we are now praying for Social Security) Pusey was probably the  best-liked faculty member in our school’s English Department up in Madison. Mad City, we called it.

He was so well-liked because he was accessible, inclusive, democratic, liberal, and humorous. He genuinely liked socializing with us only slightly younger folk. The older and more established faculty spent more of their time holed-up in their closed-door offices banging away at typewriters, or working at home and tending to family concerns and duties. Yet he was quite fancy free!  We, the students, were something of a family to him, and he was our cheerful gay uncle. One time a group of women students commandeered his kitchen and made a big spaghetti dinner and invited everyone, and he presided, smiling indulgently, over the whole thing, falling gently asleep at the head of the table after pasta, bread, salad and our cheap chianti. He and the girls were meeting boys together by candlelight in his elegant high-ceilinged dining room, but the girls were getting a lot luckier in garnering boys’ attentions. Oh well, the odds were against him.

At least, he’d established loads of good will. That was his modus operandi. Enable much good cheer with the red wine and the comestibles. We were being “wined and cheesed!” we’d say. And his shiny reputation had always derived from these little parties. They were most often held in the department commons at 4 p.m. and catered by the school, just as winter dusk was about to gather. The fireplace would be roaring later, as would the general conversation level, by 5 p.m., our enthusiasms stoked by soft cheeses, warm reds, sweet chilled whites, crudite, crackers, sour cream dip with chives, little slivers of pepperoni and ham. “Can I fetch you some sticks of celery?” “Uh, not necessi-celery!”

The older faculty loved him because he freely volunteered to coordinate all the holiday parties for the department’s faculty-student community. As well as readings by visiting writers. He issued all his invitations to students personally, in conversation, he had the personable touch of a smiling starchy-chasubled Protestant minister at the church door. No doubt, there were some such actual clerics among his ancestors. Hugh is now 70, fit and healthy, and retired from active teaching. Thirty-five years ago he was 35, a thriving young assistant professor, a Ph.D, developing good repute and earning tenure. He was a celebrity in the commons room at our English Department. He would stop in, between classes, to get fresh hot coffee from the commons’ perking, steaming urn, he would visit with us students for a few minutes, and he’d usually illuminate the atmosphere with one of his quick-strike zingers. For example, on the subject of the evangelist, Oral Roberts, who had just founded Oral Roberts University in the 1970s: Please tell me he has a brother named Anal!”  he drawled wearily. Pusey always had a comment like this that left us chortling. He was my personal role model for wise-ass waggery. Everyone, this is my brother, the proctology doc!” “Why, you must be Anal!”

He’d cheer everyone up, as his own morale was being so bravely maintained. He was a social critic, a contrarian, a puncturer of pomposity, and his humor was, most often, a blow struck for democratic American common sense against the pretense, the stuffed-shirt moralizing, of the establishment. He was our very own latter-day G.B. Shaw, right in our commons room, a man with a determination to see things empirically, pragmatically, and progressively, without the sentimental claptrap of received ideas.

##

Unfortunately, all our teachers tended to be branded with flippant, even cruel, nicknames. As was our relentlessly sophomoric compulsion. Hugh Pusey was somewhat flamboyantly effeminate, a big tall bearded man given to chubbiness, with sparkling blue eyes, dark hair, scrubbed grooming, impeccable tasteful dress, his cheeks and mouth often puffed and pursing as he made his bon mot and did his comic take. So it was inevitable that he be nicknamed Huge Pussy! The nickname was, in fact, as outrageous as he was seeking to be.

“Mackey, What did Huge Pussy assign in Literary Criticism?”

Quoth Moi, “He wants us to read Seven Types Of Ambiguity, written by some other Huge Pussy. There’s three copies on reserve.”

A typical exchange.

“Mack, Why does Huge Pussy think Henry James was the greatest novelist of the post-Civil War era in the Nineteenth Century?”

I had all the answers: “Because Henry James truly knew what it was like to be a Huge Pussy. He showed us the way.”

“Okay, who was the greatest American poet?”

“Easy, Walt Whitman. A Noteable Huge Pussy. He seriously wanted Abraham Lincoln to ask him out on a carriage ride. They could review the troops and hold hands under the lap blanket.”

“Who was the best novelist of the Modernist Era in England?”

“Simple. First off, you know he was a Huge Pussy!  E.M. Forster. A Huge Pussy from the Bloomsbury Group. Along with Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, each one a World-Historical Huge Pussy in his field.”

“Modernist France?”

“The Ultimate Huge Pussy in France was Marcel Proust. N’est ce pas?”

“Germany?”

“Thomas Mann. Death In Venice.”

We could go on like this forever. Or until Hugh Pusey came in to the room. Or one of the other faculty.

Then: “What did Big Hew Pew-see assign in Lit Crit?”

After the faculty member got his coffee and left: “Mackey? Weren’t there Huge Pussy women writers?”

I thought for a moment. “Gertrude Stein, but she was more an incredible dickhead. She liked to stick her Roman nose right into a Huge Pussy, though. It reminded her of her medical studies at Johns Hopkins.”

“Now, what about the Beat era?” A softball right in my strike zone.

That one I sprung to: “Allen Ginsberg. Truly a Huge One. Plus all his pally-pals, lying around on their palliasses, at Columbia: Kerouac, Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Peter Orlovsky, all those bums. Lying on their asses and singing work songs!”

“Our greatest modern poet?”

“Auden. The Huge Pussy Laureate. All in all, what we have here is a veritable Pantheon of the Huge Pussy in Litch-cha-choor!

##

[THIS STORY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. More when the story is published.]

Too Much Reality

JAYWALKER SHOT DEAD

POLICEMAN WILL BE EXONERATED!

The policeman Darren Wilson will almost certainly be exonerated,  he who shot and killed young Michael Brown in Ferguson on August 9th. No jury will be able to convict Wilson. Brown, the teenaged black kid he was detaining for questioning, had disrespected him, resisted him, scuffled with him. Officer Wilson’s lawyers will say in his defense that Brown injured Wilson in the scuffle. And the white police officer was indeed injured, and fairly seriously, with a broken bone and swelling in his eye-socket area. The lawyers will paint quite a picture of Wilson fearing he was being overwhelmed. Being badly beaten. Being head-injured. Being stripped of his revolver. So he had to defend himself! Case closed, from their point of view. Open and shut. Brown should have respected the policeman’s authority.

Even with all the exquisite public pressure being brought to bear on the district attorney –ARREST DARREN WILSON!— there are better-than-even chances that the grand jury in St. Louis County will not indict the officer. Not with second-degree murder, not with manslaughter, not with reckless endangerment. Brown’s family will, at best, be able to sue Ferguson, Missouri for civil damages in a wrongful death action. The grand jury has begun to hear some first-hand witness testimony on the shooting, but they are not expected to finish their inquiry till October. The grand jury panel consists of three blacks and nine whites. Six of the whites are white men. White men in the south. The whites and especially the men are more likely to skew the grand jury in an authoritarian, traditionalist direction. They won’t be able to concur on an indictment.  And there will be more public outrage in Ferguson. Demonstrations. Rioting. Traditionalism dictates: When a policeman rolls down his window and tells you to get out of the road and get on the sidewalk, well then that’s what you do. If you resist him, you’ll be arrested. Detained and questioned, at least. This sort of prevailing wisdom will win out. Brown was on the wrong side of the law.

Officer Darren Wilson was responding to a 911 call about a store robbery when he encountered Michael Brown, a 290-pound, six-foot four-inch, eighteen-year-old, walking in traffic heedlessly, causing cars to have to stop and wait to see if he’d get out of the way. The officer didn’t know Brown was involved in the store robbery of fifty dollars worth of merchandise. What he could see, though, was that Brown was not respecting the traffic laws or even common sense, and he was “high” at midday. Perhaps he had illegal drugs in his possession. Wilson decided to detain him and question him. Brown was essentially stopped for walking while intoxicated at noon. Wilson stopped his police vehicle, rolled down the window, and told Brown to get on the sidewalk. Brown, reportedly leaning in the open car window, gave Wilson some objection to being stopped. At some point the officer is reported to have said, “Get the fuck on the sidewalk.” Soon there was a physical struggle between the two, as the officer decided to take Brown into custody:

Wilson, still in his car’s front seat, attempting to get his left arm locked around Brown and bring him down towards the vehicle. Brown giving plenty of push back. Wilson attempting to forcefully push the car door open and get up from the car seat. Brown getting slammed by the pushed-open door. Brown slamming back. Slamming Wilson with the door, closing it on his left leg. Also slamming Wilson in the eye-socket area, which later became swollen. Wilson with his weapon drawn inside the car. Threatening “I’ll shoot you.”

Wilson’s first shot was fired from in the vehicle and Brown retreated. Then Brown turned to face him with his hands up: “Are you gonna shoot me?” He moved towards Wilson. Six shots were then fired into Brown, hitting him first in the arm, then the torso, and then the last two in the head. That certainly finished him. He died right there. Policeman rarely fire their service revolvers, and Wilson, age 28, had never fired his weapon on the street in his six years of working as an officer, one with a clean record. No history of disciplinary actions. Six shots to the torso and head. All this from an incident of jaywalking! Walking in traffic and being heedless. Objecting to being detained. Being a handful. Being attitudinal and resistive. Being an uncooperative, antisocial jerk. Being mouthy and not following the officer’s direction. Being “high” –like a fairly large proportion of his fellow Americans out on the street that day– and “out of control.”

When detaining a jaywalker, since when does the police shoot to kill? Albeit a belligerent jaywalker, one who was high, disinhibited. And one who was agitated.  (Because he had gotten into an altercation, only moments before, with the store employee he had robbed, menaced, and pushed around.) One who was guilty-minded, who feared he was being nabbed for robbery. It reminds me of the late nite comedian’s joke about some celebrity being arrested: “Well, they wouldn’t have arrested him, uh, if he hadn’t resisted arrest.” (Letterman) Here, the suspect wouldn’t ordinarily have been shot to death. — If he hadn’t objected to being stopped and questioned! But Michael Brown, fresh out of high school and due to start at technical school soon, didn’t want to get stopped and held in the back of a police car, likely taken-in for questioning. He feared, I’m sure, that Officer Wilson would discover that Brown fit the description of the store robber in the 911 call he was answering. How many other XXXL eighteen-year-olds in red hat, white tee, tan shorts, yellow socks, and sandal slip-ons, were there in the neighborhood? Ones with the actual stolen merchandise on their person? Brown undoubtedly knew his store robbery of a few minutes earlier was on store surveillance video. He was a star. He had gone viral. He was trending on closed circuit media. He knew he was caught. Brown didn’t want to be stopped. He’d end-up getting arrested. So he tried to object to being stopped, and he tried to resist.

The person who should have cooled his jets, showed restraint, in this matter was P.O. Wilson, of  course. He was the one who had, at least, been given much training in how to do so. …Much as the great basketball player Allen Iverson had once exasperatedly said, “This was practice! It was just practice!” … Well, this was just jaywalking! It sure didn’t call for a face-fracturing fistfight. And then lethal force! Once he started getting some stiff, stubborn resistance, Officer Wilson should have rolled-up his window and moved back a bit, slowly reversing  his vehicle. And perhaps called for additional men and cars, backup, if he was determined to stop and question Michael Brown. Or Wilson should just have let the matter slide, maybe. Win some, lose some. C’mon! This was jaywalking. But this situation had gotten away from Wilson already. Brown was leaning in the window, in Wilson’s face, objecting to being detained. The officer, angry, was telling him to get on the effing sidewalk. Both were able to get hands on each other and struggle to subdue and bring down one another. Wilson had let Brown get in too close. Now Brown could possibly reach, and grab, the officer’s revolver. Wilson soon had drawn that weapon. He threatened to shoot Brown. He fired –or misfired– and somehow missed, from inside the car, after grappling and scuffling and trying to emerge from the car’s doorway. Then, in moments, the horrible shooting death. The corpse of Michael Brown lying on the cordoned-off pavement for four hours, as the residents of the neighborhood mourned, posting their Facebook photos of the dead body.

After the misfire and Michael Brown’s momentary retreat, Officer Wilson had yet another chance to relent. Again, he could have simply kept his resisting-arrest suspect in view. Now an assaulting-an-officer suspect. He could have then radioed for help. But as Brown turned towards him,  it was already all-out war for Wilson. Brown approached him.  –This Was World War III !!!–  Wilson shot Brown to death. Wilson didn’t use a nightstick, a taser, or a judo throw to manage the “threat.” He used high-powered bullets to the torso and head! Kill shots. Game over. ~MDM

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The Ego Is A Souffle

fiction

Lee, My Man! Usually I make a late night phone call with a story like this. I wail, piss, and cry about what’s become of my life, about what sort of screwed up  mess has befallen me. “How could things be turning out like this?” Often those calls involved a woman.  –That woman, yes.  She whom we no longer mention by name!– Because it tees you off that I got so Stuck On Duh! with her. This one is a bit different. She’s not part of this story at all. Nor anyone like her. Also, there’s no late night call in this case. Because this is a more serious foul up, a real disaster wreaking mayhem on my plans. So I’m writing it to you in a letter. Writing it out. Thinking it through. That has to be an improvement.

A few nights ago, I –yer ole pal Mackey– made a huge mistake in managing my money. It all happened in a few seconds of thoughtlessness. A disaster. A horror. And I lost all sense of being able to manage my life. Of being able to hope for reasonable outcomes from my efforts. Crushed like a bug. I had been saving money from my retirement income quite rapidly in the last year or two, by making very deliberate economizing decisions. Example: I would read the paper at the coffee place and never spend the actual $2.50 for the Times. I’d found a place where coffee was only $1 as well. Plus, I’d get two for a dollar. Free Refills. I’d get chicken sandwiches for lunch at Mickey D’s. Again, only one Mc Buck. I spared using the car and walked. When I drove, I chose the nearest dining spots or shopping venues. Ones with Wi-Fi. And I’d read the paper and magazines and book excerpts on the internet. I bought a Barnes & Noble NOOK reader, and I’d electronically read B&N’s books for free while sitting in their Starbuck’s cafe drinking my McDonald’s coffee refill. I’m that guy!

I bought all kinds of my food staples at The Dollar Store — frozen vedge, pasta, canned tomatoes, minced garlic, beans, turkey burgers, cans of juice, bottles of iced tea, cans of coffee, and on and on. I began referring to myself as The Dollar Store Economist. Has a ring to it. Even over-the-counter meds, for example. Analgesics like naproxen. Anti-allergens like cetirizine. Important vitamins like D for preventing skin cancer. Each for One U.S. Dollar. (At CVS generic cetirizine, an antihistamine treatment for environmental allergies, costs 18 dollars. I get it for One USD. This is how the Retired Economist piles-up savings.) I created my own personal anti-inflation program. (Having nothing to with the estimable Ben Bernanke and the Fed.) The program was, Buy everything on sale. The lower the price, the better the inflation fighting. I’d get two-for-ones at the Shop Rite and at the CVS Pharmacy. I’d get things for small fractions of the normal cost at a Walmart’s price-slash on generics. I’d get crazy bargains everywhere they could be found. At Save A Lot where you bag your own after ringing up your buys. At Boscov’s where the store’s expert knowledgeable buyers creating their inventory of great bargains are more hawkish than I am even capable of imagining,  brand name shoes for only twenty and khakis for ten. And at Ocean State Job Lots where I’d get pairs of summer shorts for five dollars apiece, shirts for four, big packs of socks for three, etc. I always knew where you could get something more inexpensively. I was The Economist. The Dolla-Stretcha. I’d stretcha dolla so hard it’d holla. I’d torture the bastard.  I’se Da Economiser! (Emphasis on miser?)

Then things really sped up when my car got paid off last year, after a six-year stint of payments. — That’s an extra $360 a month right there! — And the savings really started to make a pile. I became mildly rich. Not a millionaire. But, you know, a man with savings. (A thousandaire?) In probably less than eighteen months I had made a pile of over fourteen thousand in overall savings. And I did this as a retiree. Without going to work! At my leisure. Just by paying attention to what I was doing. At my leisure truly. While hanging out at the coffee place and reading. And hanging out at the local bar-and-cafe down the block and snacking upon the six dollar flatbread pizza while watching sports on tv of an evening. Life of Riley. Going for walks. Fully unemployed. Man of leisure on the stroll.

Reading in every area of human inquiry: Hegel on the dialectic of history? Einstein on relative time? Keynes on creating greater aggregate demand to effect full employment.  —-Why do I care anymore!–  Hume on deontological ethics? Karl Popper on the limits of claims to knowledge? Let me explain them all to ya, and much more. It’ll only take me a few hours of self-important disquisition. Soon I’ll be able to parse for you my studies –Bacon and Locke through Popper and beyond– regarding the nature of human understanding and its complex intersection with external reality. Taking naps. Dreaming great dreams. –Dreams are free– Playing tennis. –On the free public courts, n’est ce pas? But of course!– Writing letters to the editor, by email these days. –Save a stamp– So as to solve the world’s problems. As I am now so wise. I am now old enough to know everything. Just ask, I’ll tell ya.

So it was along this merry course I was proceeding, deluded, the other night, late Tuesday at about 9:45 p.m., July 1. On the way between my car and my place, a small black canvas money belt, holding more than eleven thousand dollars in newly-minted hundreds, dropped out of my pocket, unbeknownst to me, as I was bending and struggling to pick up this great-looking, old-style, high-backed upholstered living room armchair someone had put out by the curb. I was being a ‘freegan.’ I struggled with the damned unwieldy furniture piece — it was really heavy, oaken and substantial –and finally got it in the door of my place. Then realized in a flash!– The money belt wasn’t in my pocket, as I reflexively patted where it should be. I got back outside right away. I went up and down the sidewalk between my place and where my car was parked, a few doors down the block. Panick! I went back in and got a flashlight. I searched and searched the edges of the sidewalk, the hedges, the grass in other people’s front yards, under the bases of trees along the curb. I searched under the car’s seats, between the seats, behind the seats, under the car, all around the car. I searched like a fear-maddened father seeking a missing infant at a teeming carnival midway.

I quickly came to think: While I had been in the house for just a two or three minutes wrestling the cursed unmaneuverable armchair through the narrow entryway, some newly blessed happy-camper pedestrian passerby had picked up my money belt from the middle of the damn sidewalk and walked off, all smiles, ear to ear, realizing what they’d discovered. It was so fat with cash, they’d of tripped on it! –Almost all my money. Gone. Shit! How had I fucked up like that?! Shit!– That pedestrian who found the cache of cash could have been anyone. Given my rather “mixed use” neighborhood, edge of the low-rent part of town, Who had my money? A booze hound staggering to the next bar. Or a bad news gang kid.  Or a hard-studying grad student from a foreign country. Or a senior citizen.  Even an octogenarian riding in a motorized wheelchair on the sidewalk, from the Seniors Residence in the next block. Or some struggling young minimum wage worker who’d just got off the bus from the shopping mall. –She’s my nominee! Most Likely To Find My Money!– Or someone on disability who never has more than a few bucks to spare. (So many of them here in the city and living near my nabe.) Or someone on welfare who never has any extra money to spend on their kids’ wants and needs. Every dollar of theirs already spent, so to speak, before it comes into their hands, money was so tight. –And I lost it all. All the cash. In a second. Without any awareness. Could not believe it. Indeed, I refused to.

Alternative theories. Maybe I hadn’t taken the money belt out of the car’s glove compartment. So back to the car. Damn. No. Twasn’t in the glove box. Maybe I’d dropped it somewhere in my entryway. Place is such a mess. Things strewn around on the floor. Not picked up. I pawed through all the household detritus on the floor inside the doorway  over and over. Shoes, boots, old snow shovel, magazines, mail, a trash bag waiting to go out.  I got down  on my knees and pawed through it all again. It must be here. That was my mantra. But nothing could be turned up. I raked my hands through the closets of the entry hall where I had quickly shunted things out of the way, when dragging the armchair by. Dark in the closets and in the hall. I got out the flashlight again to light-up every square inch of floor and I scratched away like a rooting animal at the stuff on the floor. Nothing. I searched under the dining table just past the end of the hall. Again tearing through things, books and papers and shopping bags I had left there, snapping on floor lamps and ceiling lights to make everything clear. Not a thing. I tore through some laundry piles I had taken the chair past. Nothing. I had mislaid things before. But had always recovered them. I could not believe I had lost my savings. There was, at least, about three thousand left in my check-writing accounts for paying rent and car insurance, etc. So I’d survive, and I’d have “cash flow.” But I was devastated. — My ego was on the line: I had made such a big deal of acquiring the pile.

It had set me apart, I felt. It meant I could be a Good Provider Dad. I had means. I could help my young son, Zach, when he needed me. It gave me interesting options. I could buy things and not worry about the money. Zach was renting his first apartment –at Independence Weekend!– One giant step for Zach-kind! I could buy him and his roommate air-conditioners. (I, of course, knew where to get them for a steal.) A perfect, um, “house-cooling” gift. Beginning of summer. But there was so much more: I could pay down on, and begin to buy, a distressed city property. Zach could inherit it. Or I could start a great business with some of the money. I could help the Young Lad Zach with school tuition. I had enough for several semesters of community college or state university. (If he wanted he could take up more studies in a new area. Or do further work with his music studies of recent years.) Also, anything I really needed I could easily afford now. If I wanted a big high-capacity desktop computer, it’d be easy to afford. I could lease a new Honda for 4,000 down and $59 a month. (Fifty-nine a month is half of what one pays for car insurance.) I could give Zach my paid-for car. Some of those things were now out the window. Like George Bush’s surplus in 2K3.

I lost the savings pile, but I would not give in. I took the flashlight back outside and searched again methodically. –I was possessed, I was looking for human remains, scraps of bones and hair under leaves and mould in the woods, in a forensic search.  That’s how it was for my miserly soul. I had to succeed.– Then I came back inside and searched my place again. I kept thinking of a new place to search. I went outside and searched the car again. Over the next few hours, between ten and one, I’d sit, panicked, head in my hands, listening idly to something diverting, a concert on tv, sweating in the night’s humid swelter, going over what might’ve happened, alternate-theory-wise. I went back out several times with the flashlight and with a new angle on how to search. No avail. And then over and over again inside the house. Maybe over by the bedroom door? Or near the bookcase where there was such an upheaval of books piled on the floor. Denial springs eternal in the human ego.

The one thing that could not have been true is, I had fucked-up, I’d been a real dumb ass. But it was true. I really wanted to bawl hysterically. I could feel the tears welling, but I could not weep. I had a lot of plans that were in wreckage now, but I was too allied to denial. I couldn’t let the sorrow come. I wasn’t that kind of guy. But, boy, could I hate! And I hated my life right now! Always had, really.This, now, was a new low. I hated my life. I wanted, as much as I wanted anything, not to live. With the money left I could just get a gun and get it over. Why pay bills? Why try? Why aim for anything? Everything I had ever hoped for had gotten crushed like this. Why continue? Why not resign from the human race?

[THIS STORY UNDER CONSTRUCTION. More when the story is published.]

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“C’Mon, All The Doctors, Make Those Ole People Well!”

fiction

I am looking, for inspiration, at this unlovely medical encyclopedia image of how literally intertwined are stomach, pancreas, liver, and bile ducts. I’m winding up to tell you the story of my stay, with much bellyaching, in the hospital this past Monday thru Friday. Stomach, pancreas, liver, and bile ducts. I had an apparent attack, an acute inflammation, of them all. Therein I discovered life inside a hospital. And it is, unless you’re dying, or having surgery, a place you’d not want to be. I wasn’t dying. More sort of “livin like I was dyin,” as per country music.  “But I’d a rather die, I’d say, /than go through much more a that.” I’d take a different tack next time, I’m certain. Could a would a should a.

‘Twas late the evening of Superbowl Sunday. A little while before Beyonce Knowles and Destiny’s Other Children did their Kung Fu Thighs dance for our halftime, uh, mmm, delectation. Yeah! Those are some thighs! They’ll surge the powergrid! Know what I’m sayin? And this dance she does, yeah, it goes good with snacks. And lemonade. Goes with everything that makes a man merry. The Ravens were crushing my team’s hopes — this is what the Ravens do, they crush your team’s hopes, its bones and sinews too — and I was stickin to lemonade. Wyler’s no-cal powder mix in a big koolaid fridge jug.

Made no matter today was a major amateur drinking holiday. I was being sober today. I was also in no mood to have anything to drink of my usual evening beers, nor in any mood to go out for a half case of brown longnecks, as I was ill. Also hungover and ill. Hungover from whatever I was doing Saturday. Don’t remember now. But it involved tavern food, pasta and meatballs, garlic bread, sports on TV, and having quite a few beers. More than a sixer, short of a twelve, I’d say about nine max. What the writer John O’Hara called getting “steamed up.” (Like the windows of a car in a bar parking lot? Or as a mighty engine of barroom yackety that exhales steamed hot air? Don’t know.) In any event, alcohol abuse.

Yeah. My name is Mack Maroney, and I’m a drinker! Though not much of one. You’ll never see me throw back a shot, for example, nor drink for more than a couple of hours; by then I’m buzzed thoroughly  and I’ve toddled off to bed. I’m never more than a mile or so from home, I just go home and retire. Often I’ve brought a six-pack home for “just a couple more” while surfing the net or watching the late night news, chucklin at every incongruity in the world, before sleep. Eventually I give it up and go to snoozin. I think you could say I’m a closeted drinker who acts — the other 22 hrs of the day — like he thinks he’s normal. A musician I know wrote a parody song, Secret Drinkin Man (to the tune of Secret Agent Man.) That’s me.

I was quite ill too this particular Sunday night, more than I knew. I thought I was just somewhat hungover from Saturday and extra-ugh, blah. Disgusted would be a good word. I was “treating” my supposed hangover with weird nutrition — jalapeno nacho cheese plus smoked oysters, from a tin, stuffed into split open salty green pimento olives, also succulent dill pickles — just the snack a sixty five year old with practically lifelong hypertension should be having. Next time, some light cottage cheese, maybe some berries, some hot mint tea with honey. A little reason, please.

Really, I think I was in the beginnings of some acute liver inflammation already, as I now can see, and not just hungover. I thought I was just a little ill, like tummy ache ill. I had taken an extra Prilosec, and was hoping for a popped pill solution, a wipe away of distress.  Instead, I became really ill throughout the ballgame. Though I caught every play and every iconic commercial. My fave: The elderly eating Doritos while breaking bad, havin a good ole time tearing up the town, in the style of don’t give a shit gang delinquents, even attracting police suspicion, while on an outing away from the retirement home. I even caught the post-Beyonce power outage of about forty five minutes duration between halves.

The tinned smoked oysters were very unfamiliar and odd tasting “food,” and this ugly snack was not going well with my stomach ache. My stomach was getting to be a hot zone! It was goin nukey leer!, as G.W., our clown prez, mighta put it. And I was starting to get weird persistent hiccups. I never get hiccups. I was “dry” and constantly drinking water. During the halftime power blowout I tried some more “treatment” from the bat room medicine cabinet. Damn, outta Zantac. Mighta really helped to take a good double dose. Will need more. Tried a couple Simethicone chewables. Considered the milk of mag, which might have been best, but I wasn’t thinking slowly and calmly enough, and demurred, not sure. Distracted. Didn’t know what was to come. And I don’t mean San Francisco’s stunning second half resurgence. (Maybe the coach had had them catch Beyonce’s act ?? )

I was getting quite ill, I was a right sick Ole Mackey D. Maroney. Sick as a dog. Sad Maroney Dog. Woof! Morose Mackey Doggy. Dull Woof. No wag. YUCK!  Hic! Hic! By the time of the postgame analysis — Fuckin Ravens! They iced my SF Forty Niners and crushed their hopes in the last ten minutes! — I was in the bat room vomiting yellow stomach bile, something I never do. None of that awful “food” came up.  That would have been such a relief, but no.

I felt I was maybe having some kind of stomach flu like the dread norovirus of this season, the one you can’t prevent with the flu vaccine. Not sure. But I was feeling flu like, aching back, over-warm, heavin, hiccin and yuckin. Though it was midnite I bundled myself into the car real quick like and tootled the mile to the all nite grocery. The outdoor air felt good. Didn’t even think about the beer shelves, went straight to the OTC meds, and got economical small packages of Ranitidine (Zantac), Simethicone, and a new cherry mint Maalox which seemed to offer hope.

I took two Zantacs the moment I got in the car. I swigged the Maalox, a double,  as soon after. Ewww! Nothing makes this stuff tastes good! At least not today! I almost threw up right there. Gag. A half hour later, now back at the abode, I was in the bat room throwin yellow rains of stomach bile, across the tiles, waterward. Ahoy!  It was like LIFE OF PI with Three-D Chrome Yellow Bile Rain! God, I was sick. Also panicked.

When I’d been out on the road for a minute I had thought about going to Urgent Care. I live right in the hospital district and I’m a retired hospital worker, and I’m very familiar with the emergency rooms of numerous local hospitals (from my many years in social work assistant roles, also mental health aide work.) Four of them, ER’s, within a mile or two of me here on Park West.

Tried to lie down. Could not get peaceful. I was agitated, scared. Searing abdominal discomfort. Lower back pain as discomfiting. Maybe those awful smoked oysters were “bad.” Not good, I’m sure. What had possessed me to try them? After lying down and then sitting up repeatedly, I could not settled down at all, I got up again to pee, for about the fourth time, and to drink more water. I got to the tiles and yucked again. “This is getting bad!” I bundled up again, resolving to go to the big metro hospital closest by, to its nifty handy 24 hr Urgent Care which I had never used as a patient. By the time I was in the car, defrosting the windshield of its pointillist dots of rime, I decided, uh, “Nah!  I’m not going to that zoo. Always very busy there on a weekend late night,” I knew.

I redeployed ! I went to the quieter and more orderly Catholic hospital, Santa Rita’s Family Health Partners, a little further up the same road. “Well played,” I told myself, as I parked in the car garage and entered a waiting room that had in it … no one waiting. This waiting room! It’s waiting only for me.“Is it possible for me to see Urgent Care?” I had my  netbook with me, I’d get a little online work done, while I was consulting and being assessed medically. I thought I’d get a good quick Dx — then a licketysplit Rx! — then jet outta there and fill the script at the all nite CVS pharm. (I like to call it the pharm and to think of the pharmacy students who work there assisting as “pharm hands.” I like to picture them in blue jean bib overalls and straw hats, harvesting the pharm produce of Big Pharma.) I’d be back in bed and comfy before dawn, as it was about 0230 or so.

Uh, not so. I was seen right away. And seen right away to be in a dire medical crisis. And I did not see the out of doors for a week. I was interviewed and examined, and I told all about the whale in my abdomen, Reverse Jonah, as above. I was candid about my usual evening diet of heavy foods and beers. They knew they were looking at someone who never comes to the Emergency Department. Last time I’d been there as a patient was fully twenty two years earlier. I had also been in the building for elective surgery — in and out, same day — a couple years ago. They had records of those history blips in their system. I had never had a real hospital stay for acute illness, though as a retired health care worker I had witnessed hundreds of such up close. My god, I was unprepared for what it’d be like. Only the actual patient really knows the experience.

They did my labs, vitals, an EKG. And an abdominal sonogram depicting organs of my epigastrium. Who knew men had abdominal sonograms done? So unexpected. I really liked the sonogram lady, she was indulgent and practically holding my hand. She seemed a kind of needy lonesome plump Catholic temptress. Our Lady Madonna of the Sonogram. She’s rubbing jelly on my belly, squeezing up next to me on my gurney, and running the electronic wand around in the jelly. I wanted a date, my hand on her fine fanny. My hand, in fact, was resting awkwardly athwart her haunches as she would unexpectedly squeeze up against my hip with hers and manipulate the sonogram wand way around The Other Side of Pot Belly Mountain. My hand was trapped, mute, against her ass, between us. I remained “appropriate,” motionless, but sort of secret smilin, lovin it, feelin would-be pervy. Wand me, maybe! Wand me, baby! I was like Carlie Rae Jepsen, just a little exhilarated! I wanted my hands on that ass. She was my type!

I was telling her jokes, “If you find a baby in there, I want at least half the money from The National Enquirer.” She lol’d for me and her hips were shakin and jigglin against the back of my hand. And she never stopped talking, chippering away, normalizing what could have seemed quite awkward. That bustling heinie of hers! It got into your path, and in a real nice way. Not a perfect Beyonce exemplar Size L tush –but an honest XL fanny, a warm and lively one all the same. Not a XXXL  enormity, though. Moderately XL, and awful nice. Really my type! Her biology-chronometer was a ticking-fast timebomb of need. She was nearly forty and “truly beautiful” in my codger’s eyes.  My codger’s eyes/ Saw paradise/ My shakin hands/ Was, uh, in her pants… Well, they coulda been.

In no time I was admitted to the hospital. I barely had time to say I had Medicare. Parts A, B, and D. And I lost track of Miss Sonogram 2013. I have to find a way of looking her up.  But how to explain to her now how I knew her? “Hi, I’m Mackey, the guy you completely restored to sexual functioning by having me on my back covered with jelly, while you rolled over me a hard plastic wand in the jelly for about forty minutes. If it had been four hours, I’d a still been lying there smilin and murmurin jokes. Are you sure what you do is covered by Medicare? — ‘Cause I want it done to me all the time; I want redundant needless billings for your services constantly! Whatever you’re doing with that wand thing, it’s really good for me.”

My Admitting Dx — PANCREATITIS! — Whoah! And I was told by the night doc, “You’re being admitted for inpatient treatment. ” “Pancreatitis? I had a brother in law who died of that,” I quailed. (What to hell is pancreatitis?“No joke, he flat-out died at about age 50, I think.” “Don’t worry, you’re not that sick, Mr. Maroney”  Like he cared! I said I did not, you know, really “get” what pancreatitis even… is ?? It was explained: “Your drinking is slowly killing the cells in your pancreas.” Straight talk! “One of the essential things to do is quit using alcohol.”  Catholic therapy! Also true, I learned. The only treatment is to go dry, to stop consuming, once such an organ failure is found. “You know,” I said, ” …Well then I will quit completely, permanently.” One of my rarer, seriouser moments. I am usually not thus straightforward, earnest. I usually “tell it slant,” and with tongue in cheek.

I was asked, “Mr. Maroney, have you ever been told you have elevated blood glucose levels?” “I have never had high glucose.” I am blown away again! My mother and both her parents had had various degrees of diabetes, from mild and age related to severe and lifelong. But not my dad. I always thought I had his genetics. Fortunately, my mom had had the mildest and most late onset case, which she managed with her very abstemious dietary customs. Woman ate like a bird anyways, figure conscious, always slim and fitting into fashion. Someday soon I’ll have a bizarre dream of Mary S. Maroney at the backyard feeder nibbling on a single seed held in her elegant pale steno’s  fingers, her bony aquiline nose alert to the taste and smell, and eyes vigilant.

I have another brother in law, Ole Murph, still thriving, who has very difficult, very severe, hard to manage problems with diabetes. “Yikes! I was just told I’d need insulin coverage. My God!”  “Your pancreas is having a breakdown today, and it’s not making insulin as it should,” quoth my smug expert interlocutor, Basil Exposition (docwhatshisface of the ER night shift.) “I get my labs done every 90 days or so, by my prescriber Dr. Schlomo Fuhrlicher,” who also works at an Urgent Care affiliated with  Santa Rita’s, who has to be reminded he knows me — he has known me more than a decade — by looking me up in the chart records. I guess I’m unremarkable medically thus far. I guess he has too many patients he doesn’t know. This is not a reassuring experience for the patient, I can say. “He has never found high glucose.”

He’s supposed to remember everyone he’s digitally examined for prostate health? “If I see BOTH your hands on my shoulder, I’m screaming! You know, we haven’t even been out to dinner.” Heh heh. He chuckles, fingering. “You like me! You really like me!” “Heh!” Then Fuhrlicher starts in with his cracks, wiping his hands after ungloving,  “I lose all my best friends like this,” he fake-laments, woeful. Jerk! He can never even recall my name, let alone my history, without the records in front of him, and he always gets the nuances way wrong. “He’s a doctor like a foot doctor’s a doctor!”

He’s on the outer margins and lower slopes of medical acuity. He’s an urgent care clinic owner and administrator, a money maker who offers every imaginable service. He’d clean your ears or trim your toe callouses if he could charge your health care plan for the work. And he has done so!  But for all his eagerness to get involved in the minutiae of my medical care…. “My doctor has never found elevated glucose levels!”  I repeated, insisting. I was asked, Did I know my BP was elevated at about 157/99?Christ!” At Santa Rita’s one feels inclined to prayerful ejaculations this day! Though I ain’t no real religionist, for a certainty.“My BP is always well controlled. Fuhrlicher prescribes me two blood-pressure meds, Amlodipine and Lisinopril. Two, not just one. Mix and match. Take em both every day upon arising. Like a sacred rite, never fail.”  

I remained in the Emergency Department for almost 18 hours (they were having trouble getting a bed freed up in med-surg.) During my time in the ER, 0230 on early Monday a.m. to 2030, when my bed’s previous occupant ultimately got taken home by family — or died ? — I went through every kind of med test. “Open Donut” CT Scans of the chest and abdomen, my somehow strangely erotic sonogram, a Full Body MRI Scan, which was very damn strange, being sealed inside a cylinder for a half hour. (I really hated it, but I managed to tolerate it sufficiently well. Ugh.) I also had to drink quarts of “contrast” for the full scan — it tasted oddly like my Wyler’s lemonade, come to think of it, and I sucked it down in no time. Plus I did repeat blood labs and repeat glucose fingersticks.  A permanent “dwell,”  an intravenous line, was put in my right arm vein near the inner elbow. I was given a med for nausea, Zofran, via the dwell. (They didn’t want me throwing up on their nice expensive hospital.)

I was also told I had signs of liver inflammation — a hardened, painful, and distended liver was palpated for me on the right side of the abdomen, see! — and of dilated bile ducts and of possibly migrating gallstones. “Mom always said, ‘You gotta lotta gall, Mackey!'”  I was told I had been Rx’d a choice of Oxycontin  or IM Morphine for pain — “My God!”— as they didn’t want me taking Nsaids or Acetominophen, the latter being particularly bad for one’s liver at a time of inflammation, I’m told. It was then said I had elevated liver enzymes on my lab results and signs of a fatty liver on the scans — “I’ve never had lab results of that kind!” …not in all my years with Fuhrlicher. Today was a day of reckoning. A day of the proverbial hitting bottom, running aground. I was The Wreck of The Hesperus. “I have, though, recently been treated for a fairly sharp rise in triglycerides. Too much laying around. My only exercise is jumping to conclusions. I take Fenofibrate every day to keep my triglycerides normal.”

I took note of the oxycontin and morphine mentally, but I couldn’t really imagine taking narcotic substances. Why couldn’t I? Well, it seemed out of the question to me, as I never had used them in the past. They seemed quite unnecessary. I was miserably uncomfortable, yes, but I didn’t need such heavy duty pain meds. I was also told I had been Rx’d Ativan. Why was I being offered ativan? I guessed my elevated BP was being seen as a sign of withdrawal from alcohol. I knew so, because I had done such evaluations myself in my working days, charting an alcoholic in withdrawal’s heart rate and blood pressure, and telling a nurse in charge that a person’s pulse and BP were rising. They were getting this all wrong, though. I hadn’t had anything to drink all day, and I was not in withdrawal. I also knew my lifelong high blood pressure could spike simply because I was “stressed out” emotionally. I knew I had never experienced withdrawal symptoms of any kind, and I wasn’t very likely experiencing them now. I had no shakes, for example, nor sweats. No delirium tremens, whatever that is exactly. And I had never taken a benzodiazipine, nor ever needed to.

When it got to be about bedtime up on the med-surg floor, though, I was firmly urged to try the morphine and the tranquilizer, urged by a nurse that was so “permissive” with her med arsenal she was practically throwing a party, it seemed. I hadn’t slept well the previous night in the ER, due to terrible degrees of discomfort and restlessness and I had been sleeping poorly at home, too — so I gave it a try. But I should have simply requested a sleep med, such as Ambien or even Benadryl. Boy, was I surprised, as the morphine made for bizarro, crazy-vivid, briefly psychotic dreams; and the benzodiazipine (ativan) made for a pure blizzard of calcium snows! I was now officially a hospital patient! I was snowed in! “I was out of it!” These were treatments I had never tried before, and they made for extensive recreational snoozing, but also for some degree of loopy disorientation, which I eventually learned to dislike heartily. People woke me up repeatedly at all hours, checked my intravenous line carrying water and NaCl, tested my blood glucose, did repeat labs, measured my vitals with finger clips and pressure cuffs, listened to my bowel and breathing sounds via stethoscopes, whatever, and then I’d roll away again into the whacked out fun house mirror distortions, the insane morphine dreams. I was allowed to sleep and sleep, way past breakfast and  lunch — I was allowed no food nor fluids by mouth anyhow, as I was being “watered” like a hydroponic lettuce through an IV line — and I really didn’t do my re-entry of the ward until Tuesday afternoon.

By that time I truly smelled and looked like a bum. Unshaven, wild bed hair, dressed in this short exam gown rag with — yikes! — openings everywhere like low rent ghetto lingerie, and in bare feet. A most unseductive nightgown wearer, I got myself unhooked from the watering can — Lettuce Alone!  Laissez Nous Faire!  — I struck a blow for lettuces everywhere! — and went down the hall to find a shower and I watered myself, quite self-sufficingly, and got all the rust spots off. I showered sitting down on a chair, being a little weeble wobble in bare feet on soapy tiles. I shaved, brushed teeth, and mouth-washed, all while sitting, and I combed my terrible long hair, now clean yet much in need of a trim. God, I looked awful! Damn, if I wasn’t …YELLOW! Jaundiced! … in the unforgiving fluorescent light of the shower room. Another symptom I had not had before. These past two days! I won’t soon forget.

I scrounged some real hospital clothing items from the staff, some scrubs pants — “All people need to wear pants!” I demanded, a tinpot Hammurabi on a dripping shower chair, and the staff complied with my lawgiving. I also got some of those great traction socks, and a decent scrubs shirt. YAY! Joining the human race, though in the merely provisional category. I no longer looked exactly like a street person. I looked “like a surgeon” in scrubs, a Weird Al Yankovic parody of one, a “surgeon” who had taken quite ill, one who had an intravenous line in his arm, one who had a jaundiced complexion (and outlook), a bad hairstyle, and weird socks for footwear. Clearly not a real medico. You can’t dress this stuff up, try as you might.

The previous afternoon I’d texted Shannie, my former wife, and Zachy, my young son, saying I wouldn’t be able to attend Zachy’s performance — guitar and vocals — at a local cafe, his first, at age 21, because I was ill and I was “visiting the Urgent Care.”  So sorry. And I texted Shannie’s sister Chris to say I couldn’t help with her dog’s vet visit. Tuesday I sent texts saying I was admitted to Santa Rita’s — my texted headlines were coming about a day after what they were announcing — and, no, I didn’t want to see people really. I was feeling “out of it” and unlikely to be cheered up by visits. I’d just fall asleep in the middle of conversations, that kind of thing.  I was in no mood. And I looked like hell! I’d be out in a day or two, I said. I asked how Zachy’s night at the cafe had gone. He had had a great time being a performer, something he had finally screwed up the nerve to really do! And he had partnered with a friend, they gave each other courage. Sorry, I missed it. ‘Sokay, there’d be more such evenings in the future, he assured. He was gracious. Nice.

Shannie texted back, Did I want anything? Didn’t immediately realize what to ask for, so I let that pass. A word to all readers about hospital stays:  What any person admitted to a hospital wants, whether they quite know it or not, is something decent to wear (the full kit, p.j.’s, robe, underwear, socks, slippers) and something serene and pleasant to listen to, a radio. They don’t want any damn magazines or flowers, as nicely intended as those might seem. Naturally, Shannie showed up the next afternoon unauthorized, flowers and magazines in hand.  She’s a good egg. The nurses, especially the foreign ones, were impressed: “She wants you to be her Valentine!” Their reading of the red flowers, heart shaped tulips. Shannie is a flower person. She would’ve welcomed flowers, it it were her in the Big House of the Sick. She is a painter, and she had just completed a sequence of 26 flower blossom paintings ala O’Keefe. She had flowers on the brain, and she has always been an avid gardener. She didn’t need no stinkin Valentine! Certainly not this bum.

I had brought with me my smart phone (I’d rate its IQ as undistinguished), my netbook, and my device chargers, but I couldn’t focus to read on the internet. I’d get tired and “out of it” right away. “Out of it”  was my heraldic motto, a discharged dripping morphine syringe needle rampant, leaning insouciantly against a bottle of tranqs, that was my coat of arms on a field of gold stars, silver moons, shimmerin auroras in a dark blue Klondike skyscape of 24 hour midnight. A little of my roommate’s TV news channel, between my tossings and turnings, and soon it was night again. I was passive, and I again didn’t ask for a mere “sleeper.” I took oxycontin and ativan. Hmm? What was I up to in acquiescing to this hospitalism, this g’night my snoozy baby routine?  I was asked, How would I rate my pain? What to say? “Uh, about 7 or 8 out of 10.”  Whatever! I was on the snoozed cruise, after having been sleepless a lot in recent days at home. It seemed the pragmatic opportune thing to do, take the proffered pills and erase my discomfort. Turn out the lights. Maybe, while thus resting and being watered, I’d get better. Lettuce Hope!

Communicants of Santa Rita’s, Lettuce Pray! Pray for improved labs upon the morrow for all our old and abandoned sons of the working class, and especially for one Mackey Maroney!  May he be discharged into the Lettuce Fields of the Lord where he will want for nothing — except for beer, it is a serpent’s poison — as he harvests the bounty of the Social Security and the Medicare. Parts A, B, and D. And may he have pajamas with him, slippers, drawers, socks, robe, maybe a nice sleeping cap with tassels —  and, lo, comprehensive cable TV! —  next time he’s in these precincts. Ora pro nobis.

Ora pro nobis. Nunc et in hora mortis. Ave Santa Rita! Benedicta tu in mulieribus!

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THIS STORY UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  More when the story is published.

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Cliff Notes

The Cliff! The Cliff! The Fiscal Cliff!

It’s now a matter of when, not if,

We go over the rim. Pay Deductions will rise.

Public Budgets will trim. Millionaires’ eyes

Will well to the brim, hypothetically.

Workers’ too, more pathetically.

*

Costs then increase. GDP slows.

Unemployment surely grows.

This is not the time

For this dumb debt-reckoning.

No matter the drama,

The cliffhanger beckoning.

Boehner’s dumb Thelma,

Obama’s tectchy Louise,

These are not the roles

They should be in, puh-leeze!

They should not refuse funds

For governance. Nor grant funds

For debt service all at once.

To both I say, Art Ye A Dunce?!

*

Their elaborate game of chicken

Truly starts to sicken.

##

Hey, who says you can’t write a poem about stalling GDP growth, increased payroll deductions, decreased public spending, slow job growth rates, and austerity program debt-bombs, the whole damn macro picture of our stagnating national economy under our leaders’ timid middleroad guidance? ~MDM