A Cheerful Holiday Note

from great big canvas

It’s the holiday season. I posted a mournful scream a few days ago. Now I’ll balance that with something a bit more cheery.

We are expecting snow here along the floors of the Eastern Oregon/Western Idaho valleys. A covering of white over the mud. Yes, please! Even if I have to drive in it for work, it doesn’t seem right if the end of the year doesn’t have that blanket of snow or snow falling or some sort of snowy snow happening or already happened. If that makes sense. I have a bit of Fireball whiskey in my coffee. A droplet, really.

My cat goes in and out, restless as a mini tiger. What a joy she is. I am so very glad I decided to keep her. I am grateful for this loving little beast who seems to utterly adore me. She went from slowly dying homeless refugee to cosseted spoiled lovebug. Stop and help an animal if you see one in trouble or distress.

I have stories placed here and there. That’s a nice feeling. That my work is ‘getting out there’. That slowly, so slowly, but surely, I am making some inroads writing-wise. There’s City Full of Rain, Gladys, Pig Bait, Elbow and Bean, Seffi and Des, Blood and Bread, Witch of the Highway, the Fish Whisperer, Everything You Need, Jimmy’s Jar Collection, Let There Be No Memories…I am forgetting one or two or several, but what a list for 2021. Submit, submit! is my battle cry for 2022.

I also put a novel out– The Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane, which is 99 cents over on Amazon through tomorrow, btw. Ahem, hint. I loved writing this. I love those three sisters I created– Lily, Violet and Laura. I adore the bikers that took shape in my head and oh yes, on the page. From Gut Bucket and Rosecheese to Amy Octopus and poor doomed Bluebird. I think the version that made it to final edits is the version closest to the one originally in my head. Sort of lighthearted doomsday fairy tale fare. Whee, indeed. I did have a very heavy, dense, savage version, but I think this go-around works so much better as a story and as a reading experience.

I do have a novel from last year I’ll blip about as well. Aftermath: Boise, Idaho. Yeah, it’s zombies but they’re sentient ones. Most of them are, anyway. It’s also 99 cents over on Amazon through tomorrow!! Ahem, ahem. This is Hannah’s tale. She kills herself rather than succumb to the zombies about to break down the door of the place she’s trapped in. But she wakes up in an office setting, with zombies for bosses, in some parallel existence, where she’s at a loss and disadvantage. However, being scrappy, pragmatic and mostly realistic, Hannah navigates somewhat successfully until she doesn’t. Her alter ego, the Hannah of the world she now finds herself in, seems to be some sort of spy for the resistance. There’s always a resistance. She messes up by killing her for-show boyfriend/one of the leaders of the resistance and it all snowballs from there, until Hannah finds herself fleeing the scene of many crimes, heading off into the Idaho wilds to take her chances.

Again, another novel I had such fun writing. I enjoyed making up slang and inventing this NWO as run by conservative zombies in pearls and business attire. I also toyed with explaining why Hannah fell through the time cracks, so to speak, but…it got clunky and stopped the story colder than a bowl of congealed brains. I also fiddled with several endings but decided on the one now as it seemed fair to Hannah and true to her character of a tough person just trying to survive the unimaginable.

Okay, I’ll keep this short. Happy holidays, however you celebrate or don’t. Don’t let what’s happening in the world or on your doorstep rob you of any joy or hope. Not just yet. New year comin’. Gird the loins, sharpen the knives, battles are comin’, woot woot.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
― Shel Silverstein

Army of Flamingos, Part Two

As promised, here is part two of my novella, Army of Flamingos.


Damn it.

 I don’t know, I say as I try to escape to the bathroom to empty my rather full bowels. I thought it was yours. Oh the lie comes easy. That’s the head flamingo general, I know this, the flamingo knows this. This is all for Marsha, who will tell everyone she can that I’m a fruitcake, a cracked fruitcake and crazy as a loon. Marsha has her pet words and phrases for the staff here. She suffers no fools gladly. No, where would I keep lawn ornaments at my apartment? In the bathtub? She laughs, goes off to straighten the magazines in the rec room or perhaps inventory the adult diapers or sort through the donated paperbacks for ‘dirtybooks’ she finds inappropriate and not necessary. She’s set aside that one about the guy who likes to whip his girlfriend and anything by Mickey Spillane, Rosemary Rodgers or Jean M. Auel.  The residents complain, they are adults, they claim, and can decide for themselves what to read or not. But Marsha poo-poos that and continues to do as she wishes, content to be a benevolent dictator and protect her charges, even when they don’t wish such protection. She has the skin of a rhino and the eye of a zealot. The world cannot prevail against such a person. Her three children and husband cannot win against her. We are all the mercy of Marsha. Bucking her has become too tiresome and too against adopted habits of letting her do as she pleases so peace prevails.

     I make it to the bathroom. My bowels explode, the sound like a gunshot in the enclosed metal box, booming off the enclosing metal womb. I shiver, my stomach cramping, my other end as open as a Los Angeles super-freeway. Feces pour from me in liquid awfulness. Oh how Marsha would have talked about me. Terry shit his pants last night, I think that guy’s crazy as a loon. Who shits their pants these days? No one, that’s who. Said in her whisper-voice.

     Something falls over in the next stall over. There are two in the antiseptically white bathroom, which doesn’t actually contain a bath or shower, just two toilets, a urinal and a sink. A paper towel roll in a holder stuck to the wall. A mirror. Antiseptic soap for hand washing. The odor of industrial strength cleaners– pine and lemon. I barely hear that scutter of flamingo meeting floor, not over my relief at the emptying of my body into the receiving bowl beneath and my groans as my body twists and stamps and rebels from deep within. My forehead has a sheen of sweat. I look down. There, by my foot, is a pink plastic flamingo head. The rest of it is outside my stall, but it has managed to fall just so. Just so. Just so that it can peek up at me as I endure a bout of fear-diarrhea.

     I scream, a hoarse honest little scream. Rather like reacting to a mouse running over your foot in the dark. Or over your face in the dark. The little loathsome furry drag of its body across your skin. The skittle of its little claws as it races over you, that unwelcome surprise that you are not alone in the universe at four in the morning. The plastic black eyes roll up to peer at me in amused condescension. We’ll get you, that flamingo promises. We’ll get you.

     I kick at the thing and it slides the short distance to the wall, wedged in the corner, on the far side of the one urinal.

     A faint, barely heard squawking laugh. It’s amused by me, it knows the taste of dark victory in its long s-curve throat.

     A knock on the door, then Marsha’s whispery plague of a voice. Terry? You okay?

     Yes, I answer back, my bowels still leaking brown sludge the consistency of watery gravy. Why? Oh me, clever boy. You’re hearing things, Marsha. You’re getting old, Marsha. Soon you’ll be in one of those beds with someone making sure you only read the right type of book and drink the correct sort of beverage. Oh yes. I thought I heard you yell. No, I screamed when the evil flamingo general showed up. No. Just a bit of a bellyache, is all. I’m fine. I heard her shift and creak, the rustle of her work clothes, jeans, a long tunic, an apron over all that, one of those Betty Crocker-ish ones, that protected her clothes from old people’s messes. Okay, sorry about that. I’ll leave you alone. She walked off and I noticed the flamingo was back, staring up at me as if I hadn’t kicked it. Please, please, I prayed to my bowels. Please.

     That black eye moved. I saw it. The slow blink of a plastic bird slowly turning into a real bird, but something else…a real bird with the brain of some cartoon villain. Aware. Amused. Wanting vengeance for no other reason than vengeance is always needed. That pupil contracted. The iris changed to a pumpkin sheen.

     My foot came down on that head.

     It twisted beneath my foot.

     That head twisted and turned beneath my foot attempting to crush it. As if I had stepped on a living chicken or duck or a living flamingo. Not a brittle, weathered plastic decoration with no redeeming artistic value. I bore down with my foot, encased thankfully in a thick-soled, well-made tennis shoe from Nike. I spent a lot of time on my feet and good shoes protected my feet, supported my arches, kept me from going home and wanting to kill myself from foot pain and tired legs and a bad back. That thing struggled, I felt it struggle. I could almost hear the caws and calls from the other twenty-two flamingos, somehow witnessing me murdering their head general. An absurd murder. A monster having a bout of diarrhea killing one of their own. It was unheard of. It was bordering on ‘ genocide will solve that absurdity’. As if destroying all humans would finally save all plastic lawn flamingos from destruction. Which was, essentially, true.  Genocide is a sort of severing the Gordian knot. Occum’s Razor. All the nice, pretty words for reducing your choices to kill or be killed.

     That head broke open beneath my foot. No blood or brains, just poisoned air rushing up at me, choking me, making me cough and retch, making me bear down even harder, the reek of my intestine’s interiors almost sweet by comparison. The metal legs, two long pieces of wire to stick into the ground to anchor the flamingo and make it look, somehow, alive…beat on the stone floor. As if in dying throes. As if the thing somehow had organs and nerves and muscles telling it it would soon be no more.

     I sat there, on that white human waste receiver, panting, sweaty. It was dead.


     After finishing, as there could not be anything left in me to pour out, I broke the bird further with my bare hands. I bent the metal legs. I smashed the hollow plastic body, cutting my hands. I stuffed the remains into the wastebasket and covered that, as best I could with toilet paper and paper towels, then decided to just take the bag out and put it into the garbage bin out back. There were piles of new liners beneath. The plastic sack bulged obscenely with dead flamingo general remains. I peeked out. No Marsha. She’d want to know what was in the sack to make it puff out like that. Or why there was a metal

wire sticking out through the side. I got it to the bins out back. I tossed it among the remains of last night’s fish dinner, soiled sheets no longer able to survive the harsh detergent or harsher old washing machines. Whatever detritus would not be labeled a biological hazard.

     I had crossed a line. I knew that. It had been more a game until now. They had held back from actually killing me outright. I had not yet done anything unforgivable. Other than that vague sin I had committed, unknowingly, in the beginning. I had played the scared little virgin to their mustache-twirling vampire. We knew our parts, we played along with each other. But now. Now their hatred would manifest, bubble over, boil through them. They had loved my mother. I had murdered one of their own, perhaps their queen-general-goddess. Their virgin mother crone wise female! They now hated me.

     My head fell forward, I shivered in that cold air. Right before dawn, the world is a dead whore in a ditch. A hopeless filthy obscenity of a time. Night is beautiful, day is a happy child, but that hour right before day shows up again is a dead whore rotting in a roadside ditch full of slimy water and used condoms. A cat slunk by, gray tail twitching and moving as it flitted by me, a mouse in its small mouth. Perhaps a mother taking home a snack to her unwanted clowder. A clowder of cats. Memory vomits up odd facts in the dead whore hour of the night.

     I walked back inside and finished my shift, numb and absent-minded as Marsha clomped about, always busy. She gave me some Imodium pills she had in her big white purse and I washed them down with decaf coffee, gave her a smile at her odd acts of kindness and thoughtfulness. I waited for that flamingo general to rise from the dead. I waited. Seven came and the shift change. Breakfast smells. Eggs and toast today. Cheerful careful voices of Maria, Sandy and Maisy as they checked on residents, got them up and going for the day, gossiped and chattered with each other and with Marsha.

I left, and it was raining a bit, a misting of rain. No coat. I got in my Chevy, sat there. And in the back seat, nothing. I had been expecting a surprise, an unpleasant one. Nothing.

     I drove home, so very tired. I had the three o’clock shift tonight. Swing. Movie night. They had all voted last week, suggestions were written down or told to a staff member on communal group activities. Casablanca had won one week. The Sting, another week. Support Your Local Sheriff had been a popular one. I wondered what I’d have to nod through later on tonight. Birth of a Nation or The Egg and I, it could be anything.

     The flamingos were all gone when I got home. I sat in my car, and then turned it off, the engine ticking gently as it cooled. Rain splattered on the roof. Rain made little rivers down the glass. Where were they?

     Where were they??

     I got out, the rain sizzling on my exposed skin. Winter would be here in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Snow, ice, Christmas decorations at work, nothing here at my little house. My mother decided to share Christmas this year with my aunt. I had prepared that but no one had asked about her. Not even Marsha. She had quit at the grocery store, her heart too bad to let her stand for long periods. I told her it was fine, our bills were small. She told me she’d die soon. And she had.

     I saw the curtains twitch on the window of the back door. As if someone stood there, peering out as secretly as possible at me.

     For a moment, I thought it was my mother, seeing if it was me or some salesman. Though door to door salesman were a thing of the past. Perhaps one of those annoying

Jehovah’s Witless, as she had called the earnest, humorless robots who tried to sell their version of a god with pamphlets and dead-eyed evangelism.

     I miss her. She survived life, more than quite a few can claim. The suicides, the accidents, the cancer and diabetes and genetic diseases that can strike without warning or reason. She had cruised past such things with a roll of her eyes. Carleen had done nothing wrong. She had worked, saved her money, voted when asked to vote, raised a child on next to nothing, kept the sink cleared of clogs and the toilet working. Her possessions still lived in her small bedroom; I hadn’t yet cleaned them out, sorted through them and hauled most of it off to the thrift stores or the nearest garbage can. Mostly in case someone came looking for a missing woman nobody missed or misses now. But. It’s what happens to all of us. Our treasures turned into trash the moment we shuffle off the mortal coil. Miss Standage’s treasured pictures will be thrown away. I know that, she knows that. They are worth nothing, she is not famous. She is neither evil or good, just a woman who survived life, too. Except we don’t survive, do we. We don’t survive at all.

     I put my key in the door. I turn it. The tumblers click and chatter. I open the door.

     They stand there, balancing on their various spikes and twin metal endings. They seem bigger, the pink darker, more menacing. Their eyes move and swirl as they fix me with hard, pitiless gazes. The closet is now open. How? How did it get out? My little house overrun with plastic malignant flamingos somehow free of the earth that allows them to stand upright and serene. Please, I ask them softly.

     The flamingos saying goodbye to my mother, gathered about her secret grave, pink heads bent to give her respect. Perhaps even to weep. Their grief allowed to flow out of them and out and out.

     What if I took them, all of them, to my mother? Buried them in the ground with her? Or arranged them about her grave as a sort of honor guard? I had prepared her for burial, I won’t say how, it’s best left to imagination what is done to the dead to make them ready to be viewed by the living and then placed in coffins for eternal rest. I have some medical training, I know what happens to bodies after death. The gases, the decomposition, the…yes.

     The thought of just what to do danced through my brain.

     I’d have to capture these soldiers, stuff them into my car, touch them again when I buried them. It seemed fitting to bury them. And I’d have to retrieve the head flamingo and take her as well. A her, of course that flamingo who had invaded the bathroom during my moments of distress caused by fear and constant paranoia had been female.

     Would they let me?

     Even as I watched, they crept a little closer, like a weird game of Simon Says or Mother, May I. Except I hadn’t given any commands or instructions.

     Listen, I say. They listen. 

     Listen. I’ll take you to my mother. You can be with her.

     It’s a two day drive. It’s far. I strained my back getting her in and out of the car. A shovel. Some tarp. Rope. Except plastic flamingos did not rot or flop about. They were already in severe rigor mortis. I’d go today. Today.

     They allow me to make plans. They make plans, too. The shift toward each other, the exchange of avian glances, the soft, nearly inaudible rasp of their newborn voices.

     I call in sick to work. Marsha can verify, with everyone, that I was indeed, suffering some flu-like symptoms working Jessica’s shift. No doubt that bathroom still reeks, frankly. Stephanie, the on-call person in case of staff problems, will work my shift tonight. As I am seldom sick and cover for everyone, even during holidays, no one minds if I call in, on Friday and claim illness. Nobody thinks I’m headed off for the bars or anything else any fun. I’m a little homebody, as someone once remarked in a cutesy voice. Plus, people need the money these days.

     I put the shovel in the trunk. I also included a battered flashlight. How to get twenty two flamingos in my car. Some on the roof? Yes. I put on my winter gloves. I begin carrying them out to my car and the heads turn on the long, long necks to regard me rather thoughtfully, as if actual thoughts live in their hollow heads. They are planning something. I stop, at the sixteenth flamingo, considering this, with a real knowledge that something bad is coming. That something bad will happen to me. Which is nonsense, humans can’t know such things; the future stretched blank and pale because nothing has marked that canvas yet. That’s science.    

     And yet.

     They had gone still and patient. The flamingos allowed themselves to be neatly stacked in my car, arranged, tightly packed together. Some were tied to the roof of my car and I flung a tarp over them, fastened that down neatly. I stacked against the shotgun seat. Those heads were right next to my arm. I’m taking you to my mother, I told them over and over and over. I spoke as if to about to attacked by tigers. As if I addressed a bear about to charge me. Slow, soothing words in a slow, soothing tone. Burn them, another voice said deep in my head.

     Just stack them all in the front yard and burn them.

     And then what, I asked back. They’ll kill me before I can douse them with gasoline and throw a match.

     Kill you? Are you a man or a mouse?

     I’m a mouse, I replied.

     Off I went. I had my wallet. I had my shovel, my winter coat. My eyes had turned into gritty marbles in my eye sockets. I dry swallowed a Ritalin from my stash. I had ten left. I had not slept since Wednesday night. My reserves of energy had gone alarmingly low, so I stopped, with my carload of lawn ornaments, which made people laugh and smile and yes, point, and got myself a quick breakfast sandwich, sausage patty, rubbery egg, fake square of cheese on a soggy biscuit. A big giant coffee. I’m taking them to my mother’s place, I said very truthfully to the girl at the drive through, who shrugged her skinny shoulders, tossed her tail of solid black hair and took my debit card. She’s moved, I’m just helping her out.


     I drove and drove. I’m not a lover of the open road. I am rather a homebody. I like to stay home, people depress and annoy me. I find I cannot follow along with their little sorrows and happy bland joys. Kids and trips and pets and family dinners mean nothing to me. I never had such things growing up. I cannot relate, as they say. I can only stand aside and nod whenever someone tries to include me in the discussions of in-laws, diaper

training, dog-chewed chairs and breaking down just outside Twin Falls, Idaho, on the way to the waterpark in Utah. I drive and drive and they wait, the flamingos with their plans well hidden yet.

     They will try and kill me.

     Because they can’t forgive me, not a real forgiveness. Which is so rare. Where you honestly move on after someone almost mortally wounds you. That ability to trust that person again, when you know they are capable of ripping your guts out and laughing while they do it. The flamingos work on eye for an eye level. I am a sinner and they are the executioners. That’s all they understand yet of the world they are slowly being born into. They don’t understand nuances. Once a sinner, always a sinner is not always true but they, new hatchlings to this world, have not gained knowledge, yet; that overlooking and pretending not to notice is actually how this old world spins.

     I won’t let them kill me. I haven’t yet given in to them.

     I stop at work, park far down the street, sneak up like something out of a bad shallow screwball comedy and nick that bulgy bag full of dead flamingo head general out of the garbage and no one, that I know of, sees me do so. I hit the open road, with all twenty-three flamingos now. It feels right. This feels right. They might not think so and will

probably try something awful but they were meant to be with my mother, not plotting my death at the little house.

     And this way, I can come off as kind, as the one who took the high road. Whatever judgment comes when my race is won, I will have this decision to treat my betes noires  with mercy in my positives column. And no one, even the Eternal Judge, or Anubis or

Hades or Jesus or Allah…need know that I was too cowardly to burn them in my front yard or chop them up with a kitchen knife or casually haul them off to the nearest garbage dump.

     As such an act would just…give them strength.

     Give them enough power to return and settle with me once and for all.

     No, this was better. This act of kindness on my part would put coals on their head. Render them into nothing more than silly birds with a grudge. A grudge for no reason now.

     I drove and drove, took the little road that went a hundred miles or more before it crossed that other road, where miles would have to pass, too, before I came to the dirt path that led upward into the high desert. Where my mother’s grave was. People laughed as they passed me, I am a cautious driver. I didn’t care. I got gas and coffee. I bought candy bars and hot dogs and beef jerky.

     Sometimes they moved and shifted. It was not the car or the bumps in the road. It was them, reminding me time was rapidly ending for me.

     I got on the second road, then found the dirt path again. I had marked it with three big rocks, in case, for whatever reason, I wished to visit where my mother slept her infinite

sleep. Dark now. I had driven all day. It was far longer than a couple hundred miles. They seemed to smile.

     I found the spot, after parking and getting out, retrieving the shovel  and the flashlight. I had a weapon and tool in one hand, and light in the other. There was the disturbed earth yet, the headstone a slab of desert rock where I had placed smaller rocks in a smiley face

configuration. Her name written on a rock, in black letters. Anyone coming across this would stop and wonder, of course. But pass on, I hoped. It looked like one of those markers for a car accident where someone had been killed. Nothing to call the cops over, surely. And it was far enough off the regular roads that no one would notice this for years. That small animals would knock those rocks out of place…

     I kept one eye on the car full of savage unnaturally animated flamingos and my other eye on that grave. What to do? Bury them? Or just stick them about and let them arrange themselves as they wished when I had gone?

     I would bury the dead one and just stick the others in the hard earth. Wind moaned and skittered through the sagebrush and weeds, a coyote called, several more answered. The darting little dogs of the Americas. I sighed, so tired, so very tired. I would have to drive to a motel after this. I’d not eaten a real meal since the morning breakfast sandwich. It seemed more important to get here, to my mother’s side, and rid myself of evil flamingos.

     First, I buried the dead one. I dug a hole next to my mother’s grave, and placed the bag in it, then covered it with a covering of clods, rocks and dry desert earth. No one would suspect foul play, ha ha, if they dug up the sack of what looked like garbage. No one

would suspect me or come find me and accuse me of murdering an important general. I thought of taking another Ritalin. I thought of the dead general. Had it been preparing to slaughter me with its metal legs? Deciding which tender part of me to stab repeatedly? Until I stopped screaming and it could claim victory over the one and only foe it knew about, dreamed about, perhaps?

     It was almost over.

     I had turned my back on my car.

     I turned and they were there, alive, fluffing their pink and rose feathers in the cone of the flashlight as I grabbed it from the ground, swung it back and forth. Their beaks

opened and hissing came forth. As only savagely angry birds can hiss. Their long thin legs ended in wide webbed pink-skinned feet. I had the shovel. I backed away, away from the car. They followed…I tried to count them. Were they behind me, were some of them behind me, closing me in a flamingo circle of imminent death?


     I stopped, stood there, trying to be calm. I would not die like this. Listen, I asked them. They came closer, not listening. I heard them behind me.

     She is right here, my mother is right here.

     They stopped, their heads cocking as if they wanted to believe that.

     She’s right here. Right below our feet. I miss her, too. I  miss her, too!

     Hisses. Honks. Calls so low I almost could not hear them.

     Those black eyes blinking at me. No, not black, golden to orange to pale brown with giant pupils, real eyes. They sported real eyes to regard me with. The rustling of the many

feathers threatened to drive me into fits. The wrong move or wrong word and they’d fall on me. My voice quavered. I did not become brave or noble. I am not made of sterner stuff.

     I miss her. Stay here and guard her, please.

     The many heads in the flashlight’s beam bobbing and turning as they consulted and schemed and perhaps argued my fate.

     I said nothing further. It seemed patience was needed now as they decided what to do, what to do, what to do. Their own plans seemed silly now, perhaps, or they were torturing me further. Before rending me into human jelly. I gripped the shovel’s handle, readying myself. Nothing would come to my rescue, no cavalry would ride up. No intervention.

The desert night held wind and coyotes and the soft sounds of flamingos, who’d once been lawn ornaments, deciding my fate.

     One by one, they arranged themselves into a big circle. I watched this, my heart clenching and pounding. My bladder seemed full of hot acid. An opening had been left…as if a door, an exit, right to my car. They watched me, they watched me. This is not your place, they seemed to say. This is not your place now. It’s ours.

     Slowly, my feet catching at every last little tuft of tough grass, every last little pebble, I made my way to that opening in the flamingo circle.

     I walked through and out.

     When I looked back, after reaching the car, getting in, locking the door…the circle had closed. Just plastic flamingos arranged, for whatever reason, in a circle around a rock with a smiley face in smaller rocks on it. Some weird version of a funeral or a practical joke or aliens visiting the earth to do experiments with stones and plastic decorations. Rather like a version of crop circles, except with lawn frippery. I wept.

     I sat there in my car and wept.

     And then noticed one flamingo had not joined the rest. One flamingo waited in the back seat, returned to plastic hardness and stiffness again…until it turned its long head to watch me weeping in the front seat, uncomprehending why I should feel such relief. They had not forgiven me at all. They would watch me and come back.

     I would never be free.

     The army of flamingos turned in one smooth movement to regard me sitting in my car. The one in the back seat waited calmly for me to start the long journey back to my little inherited house. I would never be free of them.


     I drove. I found a motel. I slept. I made it home, that single flamingo guarding me. Reminding me how very damned I was. I went into my house. Sunday I go back to work, and there are few questions I have to answer. No one much cares. I do a shift, nothing happens, it’s just a shift. I drive home, it’s clear, cold, dry. My little house, the lawn now empty of those baleful pink birds.

     I unlock the back door, go in, tired. I eat my last can of chicken noodle soup, vowing to go the store. A shower, then bed, my door open. What can they do to me? Watch me sleep? My eyes close before I’m near the pillow. Morning, the alarm. I have the early shift. It takes me a while to wake up. It takes me a while to realize something is wrong.

     There, on my bedroom floor, is my mother. The flamingos had thrust their spikes and wire legs through her bloated body…there is dirt in her wide open eyes. Anyone with any sort of forensic training will know the wounds caused by the spikes are post-mortem. But everyone will assume my hands desecrated her corpse…that I caused her to be a corpse. I cannot scream or breathe or think. The flamingos blink at me, over and over. I can smell her now, that miasma of decay. The flamingos wait for me to bring her back to life. They somehow got her here for me to fix. For me to make this all right and all better.

     I drag my mother’s corpse to the front lawn, using gloves and an old sheet. Her fingernails and hair seem longer but that is due to her skin shrinking back, not the growing of her tissues after death. Death means life stops. One eye glared at me, clouded over, the other blessedly closed. The flamingos hopped and swayed around me, following me. Carleen waited on her own front lawn, still bearing the dirt from her desert grave, with small holes poked here and there where her devout fanatical darlings had pierced her to bring her home. Rather like a dog digging up the dead cat to place it once more upon the carpet that cat had so once loved.

     My hands fetched cooking oil and the box of matches. Cooking oil would burn just fine. I had nothing else to douse her corpse with. I covered her with her books, piling them about her. I tore out pages from her romance novels, crumpled them to use as a starter. The matches did their job, my fingers shaking as the flamingoes watched, their heads tilting as the tiny flames bit and spread across her gray smock. I began to layer her clothes atop her body. The few pictures she had saved, one of Aunt Carol from Florida pointing at a dead gator someone had hung outside a shack. The fire curled, leaped, danced. The twenty-two half-living lawn ornaments drew their heads together. One broke from the rest, orange eyes rolling for a moment as it regarded the lawn it had inhabited for years. It let loose a low hissing cry, sounding almost like a goose. I saw real feathers along the s-curve neck. And it leaped into that fire atop my mother’s body, writhing and melting in such an obscene way that I had to close my eyes. A parody of lust and seduction pretending to be grief. I heard it shrieking in pain, in ecstasy. One by one the flamingoes repeated this ritual. The leap to the center of that fire, the melting down, with the next one calmly waiting to be turned to a puddle of charred pink goo that bubbled and steamed, before blackening.

     The lazy swing of police lights. Someone whispering they had to wait until the last one had gone, could we wait for the last one to go before going anywhere, please? Two had been left, just two. Why had the neighbors decided to care about a fire on Carleen’s tiny lawn all of a sudden?

     I sit in my cell, with murder charges pending. Among other charges. It’s night. I hear the calling for mama, the profanities of the caged, the call of guards to knock it off. I count the click of the doors, hear the changing of the shift. I wonder if Marsha gossips about me yet as she picks what books those under her care can read or not. I turned my head and the two flamingos in the corner patiently wait their turn to be with their maker. But I fear whatever magic or malice formed them, seeped into the earth with the directed spray of the garden hose the police directed at the pyre I had made of my mother’s corpse, her few things and her beloved disciples. I held out my arms and the two that had been left so far behind their brethren, now in paradise or hell with my mother, huddled against me. Soon their faint heat would turn cold, they would just be lawn ornaments again. My head ached so. They rubbed their plastic heads against me, their beaks finding my cheeks, my nose, my ears. I whispered to them all through the night. I whispered and held them until they turned cold and still, just plastic flamingos with cracks and holes in their sides. And in the morning, I let them go and they clattered to the cell floor. One shattered, elderly plastic turned to something like glass but the other lay there, staring at nothing with one painted flat black eye. 

Halloween Novella

Hello! I’m going to post a novella of mine called Army of Flamingos, about a man trying to cope with his newly dead mother’s sentient lawn ornaments. Happy Halloween everyone.



  They sit out there, stuck into the hard, cold ground, biding their time.  

   Flamingos. Plastic pink and hollow, full of malice, the spaces inside filled with a juicy invisible menace. I pull back my curtains, the blue ones I found at the thrift store. The purple chickens and the black ducklings line the hems like an avian army.  The small neat lawn, the legion of pink demons in my misty eyesight. Their  flamingo eyes find me, though the painted eyes don’t move. They find me, those eyes. Mock me. Warn me not to sleep or rest or let down my guard. Because they are coming. A pink plastic legion. An army. Coming soon. I let the curtain drop.

     I don’t know why they would target me for their crusade. But they have. My safety, sanity and well-being amuse and enrage them. I have become their enemy. Not the little brown dog, with the funny ear, that comes sniffing through once in a while, then pees on them. Their only enemy is the man blinking at them from behind a rather silly curtain.

     Defenses. I need defenses. I’ve had this vague thought before. Those flamingos belonged to my mother, she collected them, thought them ‘cute’ and ‘funny’ and ‘so American’. She’s buried out in the desert. No no, she died in her sleep, she had a bad heart, and there was no money for her funeral. Her death was not caused by me in any way. My mother lived and she died, simple as that. She worked most of her life as a clerk, Walgreen’s to Wal-Mart to Joanne’s, and then the doctors, at the end, took her feeble life savings. And she wanted to be buried without any fuss– just put me in the ground, she’d told me. No damn funeral homes, look at what they charge! I won’t pay that. I won’t! I took her at her word. I told everyone, well, about three people, that she just went away. That she’s visiting her sister. Her sister lives in Florida. Aunt Carol never calls, writes or visits here. Has never called, written or visited here. My mother never had time for friends, relatives, acquaintances or enemies, anyway. No one checked. No one’s checking now. Her Social Security checks go to her bank account, automatic deposits. My name is on that account. I use it to pay bills, for home repair, nothing that would garner any scrutiny. We lived together very modestly. Our biggest expenses were groceries. Or to get something repaired.  I don’t think she’d mind, at all, that her checks will keep coming until I arrange to have her die, somewhere else, be buried, somewhere else. Except there’s paperwork, death certificates…sigh. Another problem that needs my attention. I might just lead whoever needs to see the body to where my mother is buried. Face whatever might be done to me for doing as she asked.

     My mother was a most unpleasant woman, with a voice like a cartoon shark. She worked and she collected plastic flamingos. How she came to have me at all is a mystery. I’ve never known my father or her to have a boyfriend, a lover, a one night stand. Maybe she wished me into being. Some women have that sort of power. They can wish for things and things they get. I drink coffee behind my closed and locked bedroom door, wondering about my father, hearing the odd hopping of the spy flamingos in the little house.

     They are meant to be outside, stuck in flowerbeds. A metal spike exudes from their centers or maybe two long sturdy wires acting as legs. My mother collected both kinds. At night, they’ll send two or three into the house, just to check things out, to get ready, to scare me. I hear them hopping about, the odd whistling of air in their hollow bodies. At night, sometimes, they are almost real birds. With feathers and long beaks. And they balance by my door, if on a single spike or they balance precariously on their two thin cheap metal legs. Listen to me listening to them. I stand there, by my door, my hands wrapped around a baseball bat, just in case. I know it won’t hurt them, not enough to make them go away and leave me alone. I haven’t yet found the cure for the malignant magical flamingos that haunt my life.

     It was my mother, you see. She did something to them. I don’t know what. She fell asleep and never woke up and never told me how to call them off or strip them of the life slowly infusing them; how to offset their utter smoking hatred of me. My mother and I got along, we were amicable toward each other. I can’t make them understand this so they’ll turn their fury toward something else. How do you make barely sentient things know you’re not their bete noire? I haven’t lucked into the right combination of words or deeds yet to do just that. My mother never included me in her training of her metal disciples. Such stories, that include disciples and savior queens, need a betrayer or a supreme adversary. Perhaps my mother had told her too-attendant flock that I was the devil in their world. I cannot ask them, but what little sense they have seems directed at destroying me.

     I didn’t kill her, I tell them every day. I stand out in the lawn among them, twenty-three in all. Which is actually five. If you add the two and the three, it’s five. That’s a magic number, a number with power. I can’t tell you why. I just know. Numbers have power, they tap into the lines and pull of the universe around us, provide order out of chaos. Math is the language of the universe, someone said. The horrible ancient sound of a universe learning to speak, with things we don’t wish to hear, no matter our pretending otherwise. I have no wish to know the truth about what lives behind the sky or who hung that moon, if anything hung that moon…I have no real wish to know the actuality of such things. The terrible finality of such knowledge would surely rip the skin off my little quivering soul. Off all our souls. We’d have to face things. We’d have to line up in rows and face things and we’re not good at that. At all, we humans. I don’t know, my mind wanders off, the way gets fuzzy as a stretched out old sweater, my eyes fill with sandy tears.

          I have soup heating in a pan on the old G.E. snot-puke colored stove. It’s stained and filthy, my mother was no housekeeper. I try to keep it clean but I am sadly distracted by trying to save my life at the present so the house looks horrible. Dust. Crumpled up papers. Mail I haven’t opened. I go to work, yes, I pay the bills, yes. I’m still functioning somewhat. I work as a nurse at a nursing home. One of the three males that work there. Terry, is what my nametag says, my credentials swinging against my skinny belly. I get asked all the time if I’m one of those gayboys. I don’t have time for love. I’m an ugly little man with small ratty eyes, invisible to women. My voice could best be called ‘fits and starts’. What women wishes sweet nothings whispered in her ear by such a voice as mine? I cannot dance. When I attempt small talk, it sounds strange and ill-rehearsed. Rather like a child being asked to recite a poem they just learned five minutes ago, with words too big for their mouths. Women’s eyes move over me as if I were air or a rock on the ground. I really don’t care, not anymore. I used to get upset and wait to grow, to get bigger. I never did. Sort of a male Cinderella. I can laugh about that now. It used to be such a tragedy at one time. It’s not true that men don’t want love; we do. We do. I did. And if I’m honest, I still wait, a bit, for someone to smile back at me with a real shimmery light in their lovely eyes. But I keep that to myself and every year, it fades, just a little. Just a little. Not everyone finds love, that is a truth that universe will tell you in its mathematical linguistics. For every one plus one, there is a one plus zero, after all. That is just math and it doesn’t care about loneliness, despair or even rage at being so alone all the time.

     No, not a gayboy. But the ones who ask such a rude, harsh question, meant to wound and humiliate, never believe whatever you might claim otherwise. And it’s not really an insult to me. It’s just another way of loving people, being gay, being queer, the other names nice or horrible applied to such matters. My mother hated them, gay folks, but said everyone did in her day and she was too old to just go changing. I told her she didn’t really hate them, it was just a habit to say so. She told me to shut up. Carleen had no interest in exploring her mind or heart or the world around her. She invested everything in her damn plastic monsters.

     My mother’s name was Carleen. I wrote that, in permanent marker, on the rock by her grave. She had scoffed at paying good money for a funeral home rock carved with details. Just write my name on a rock or a bit of wood, Terry! And so I had.

     She’d have two or three in her room sometimes. I’d catch her talking to them, as if they were her friends or the children she wished had slithered from her womb. She’d stroke their heads, run her fingers along their long, curving necks, smile at them, when she smiled at no one, ever. The one with the crack remained her favorite. She smiled at that one all the time, when she smiled at nothing else. Not even her only puny son, who’d taken a few nursing classes and managed to get a job. I stayed with her because she’d asked me to. This house will be yours, she had told me. Why waste your money on rent? Save up, kid, you’re gonna need it. Which I knew to be very, very true. This tiny house belonged at one time to my grandfather, a convicted bank robber.

     But. The soup, it boils, chicken noodle. I haven’t been grocery shopping and I have two cans of soup left, some iffy eggs and a pickle jar with two pickles in it. Dill pickles. My mother loved sweet ones. I bought a little jar as a sort of celebration after I returned from interring her. Nalley’s. Dill pickle chips. My mother used to go out and arrange her army of flamingos. In rows. In circles. In squares. Formations that appealed to her or formations they whispered in her ears. Maybe they gave her instructions, chirped to her about God. Told her of the devil. There are no real neighbors, so if anyone noticed a fat old lady playing with plastic flamingos, well. The wandering dog belongs perhaps to the Basque family but they are not dog people. Nobody much around at all out here. They could not possibly know the flamingos had turned evil. Nobody but me knows that.

     I pour soup into the green glass bowl that had been in my family for generations. Just an ordinary Anchor Hocking bowl. I’ve seen them priced in antique places for five dollars to twenty apiece. Not that valuable. I suppose a real man wouldn’t care what he ate his manly portion of raw meat in. Sometimes, I can be bitter, too. My mother passed it along in my blood when she formed me almost forty years ago. Odd stains of bitter notions spiking my thoughts.

     Something clatters in the closet.

     I stop eating, a cracker lifted to my lips. I listen. I listen. I listen.

     Faint. The scrape of a metal spike against the wood floor. The faint shoosh of a plastic side rubbing against my winter coat. My bladder goes tight and heavy. I clench my spoon. I’m a child in a dark bedroom, just like that. Waiting for that monster under the bed to pounce. My bowels feel a bit loose and hot. I force myself to stand, wondering if they ever give out medals for facing whatever’s in a closet despite control over bladder and bowels being iffy at best. Of course not. They give medals for shows of courage. I have none.  I move a box of books against that closet door, to keep whatever’s in there, in there.    

     A big heavy box of historical romances, James Michener tomes, biographies on Cary Grant, Fatty Arbuckle and Ronald Reagan. My mother’s books. Whatever is in that closet will have to push the box away, after somehow unlocking the closet from the inside. There’s a lock on the door, for some reason. Why would you need to lock a closet door? That puzzles me to this day. Just a simple slide lock, but still. You push the little lever and it comfortingly slides in the metal confines and blocks the door from opening. Who went out and bought it? Maybe grandpa kept his stolen bank booty in there. Instead of burying it out in the backyard by the elm tree. It makes me…wonder. What had someone tried to keep secret in this closet? And who were they hiding it from or for? It’s not a new slide locking mechanism. Sometimes it sticks. I have to use WD-40 on it. The flamingos like that hall closet, I find them in there in the mornings. Maybe it feels safe to them, a little safe musty haven from the too-wide, not safe at all outdoors.

     I hear the tap and slide of a metal spike from inside that little hall closet. I knew it was one of them. I knew it. I went to the window, lifted those chicken and duck curtains, peeked out casually, did a quick count. Twenty. There were three missing.

     Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Mother, Maiden and Crone. They were female, those flamingos, nothing in them of that dry male desert god and His dry male desert son. Whatever the flamingos were, they were mostly female. My cell rang and I jumped, my bladder let go. Hot urine stained my sweat pants. I nearly sobbed as my phone kept blandly ringing, set to a Caribbean guitar riff. My eyes, burning, stinging, read the number. Work.

     Can you cover a shift tonight? We’re short-handed. Jessica’s been stealing, we caught her, can you come? Eleven to seven.

     I answered yes, not even sure at the moment who or what Jessica was and why she’d steal when she knew there were cameras all over. But no one had liked Jessica, a quiet, stand-offish sort who was not a hardcore Christian and was perhaps an atheist. There were rumors and whispers. No one cared what I was, men were needed to lift things and the old men told me their secrets when they were too shy to talk to the women on duty. Mr. Carstairs had told me there had been blood in his urine. He had still died, but he had died floating on pain killers in a hospital bed. I was male yet safe and no one thought to pin anything on my head or accuse me of being in league with Lucifer–

     A deliberate creak from the bathroom. I spun about. No. No. But I had to change my clothes now, take a shower. I smelled like urine and stank of fear. There. A sly pink head peering at me from the bathroom, the door left open always now, it was just me here…except it wasn’t. I was not alone here at all. Leaning up against the white, dirty wall. A plastic flamingo on two metal legs.

     I had not put it there.

     My entire being shuddered at touching them. They felt repulsively smooth. And hot, as if fevered. Even on cold days, the plastic felt fevered. Not enough to melt it, but still.

     They never moved when I looked at them. They moved about when I turned my back or when I was locked in my room. At night. They moved about out on the lawn. They’d be in different formations. My mother had last arranged them in an odd circle, with each one almost touching the one next to it. An oddly…familial grouping. Or as if they were planning. As if they needed to plan something. The flamingos could sense my eyes on them. Perhaps they showed my mother what they could do. But they loved her. She found them cute and kitschy, my mother who had had no sense of whimsy or possessed any other collections. She read romance novels for the descriptions of clothes, not the breathless descriptions of couples coupling. They did not challenge her, rather like Wheel of Fortune, her favorite show. She did not do puzzles, [she considered Wheel of Fortune more a relaxing sedative than an actual show about puzzles], or play games. Card games left her exhausted and grumpy. She had her flamingos, she read a few books that would pass through her brain without leaving anything much behind and she drank coffee in her yellow cup, every morning, until the morning that she did not.

     I took a potholder, took two of them. My soup went cold in the green bowl. I heard a faint indignant slide of metal on wood floor from the closet. Could it see in the dark? That rose-hued plastic decoration watched me. It watched me creep toward it, with potholders in my fists. It saw the dark shameful stain down the front of my gray sweats. It saw how afraid I was. And it enjoyed all that immensely. Even if I managed to kill it, it would enjoy going to hell knowing I’d peed myself and had to use padded cloth protection against it. I took it by the long loathsome neck, and I swear to anything watching over the world, whether meek Jesus or savage Kali, that it shuddered, moved slightly, gave a faint little honk, bulging black eyes shifting slightly to glare at me. I carried it to the front door and then just tossed it outside, onto the lawn, where the twenty remaining flamingos were lined up, seven to each line. There was a flamingo missing from the middle line. Two flamingos had been out front, like two generals. Three lines of seven, twenty one. Two generals, which made twenty three.

     The discovered-and-thrown outside plastic decoration lay on its side, one metal leg bent, it had caught and bent. The twin metal stands that stood in for legs had a cheap flimsy quality to them. I had wounded it a bit. Uh-oh. No forgiveness for me. They could not forgive me for a sin I didn’t remember committing, that first sin against them, whatever it had been. Perhaps that I was not Carleen, not my mother, not the mother figure, the mother savior these female lawn decorations wanted. They willed themselves into life for her. Perhaps my first and fatal sin was not being the one they could love with such a single, ghastly passion. The remaining army looked at that wounded comrade then shifted their interest toward me, in the open doorway, concentrating their malicious will into a single awful mist. It drifted into my nostrils, into the holes of my ears, into the little pores of my skin. A coating of slime and vicious eternal anger. Their anger would never end and they would never forgive or forget; ancient little savages without mercy for me at all.

     I slammed the door shut, sucked in clean air, even though it smelled, inside the house, of stale bread, dust and a dead mouse decaying somewhere. That mist coated me, seeking more entrances, to find my soul to strangle it. I peeked out and oh, the thrown flamingo had already been moved or had moved itself. Back into that missing spot in the line, leaning sideways on its bad metal leg. I let the curtains fall. Work.

     I took a shower, a long one and washed their filth from me, watching it swirl down the drain, imagining it as pink foam being sucked down the drain and going off into the sewers where it could do no harm. I put on my scrubs, I made some coffee. This was my day off but I didn’t wish to stay in the house with the wandering kitsch lawn decorations from hell’s little circus.

     I took two uppers, Mother’s Little Helper, they used to be called. I preferred Ritalin. They gave me a nice buzz and kept me awake. And I felt justified in downing a couple. I hadn’t adjusted my sleeping schedule to work a night shift, I was doing the Knotty Pines Retirement Center a favor. The flamingo in the closet tap taps against the door, I hear it. Probably sending a message to those outside, some sort of Morse code for possessed lawn toys. I know how this sounds, I know. It’s comical.

     It’s not comical when it’s happening to you.

     My little battered Chevy Nova is parked out back. They are crouched near the front of the house. I lock my house and then realize I haven’t found the third flamingo. That it’s still at large, still hiding. One in the closet, one in the bathroom, where would the other one be hiding? One of the generals, not a follower. A planner. One who plans. One who can draw up plans. And then get the others to execute those plans so carefully

planned. I stand by my car, the air cold. My coat remains in the closet. I get the car started, I’m low on gas. I’ll need to put some in on the way there.

     I get gas, get a large gas station coffee, knowing the coffee at work will be decaf, as Marsha, who also works the night shift on Thursdays, thinks caffeine causes all the modern day problems, like obesity and cancer. Starbucks has given us all cancer and made us fat, she drones to anyone at all, regardless of the topic. Dutch Brothers, Java Hut, Mud and Sticks, whatever the name, they give us cancer and make us fat! I keep my mouth shut, she could flatten me like a bug, and anyone who works with her knows to bring something with a jolt. Marsha controls everything around her and tells everyone how nice she is. No one thinks she’s very nice, but she keeps telling us she is. She’s also something of a tireless workhorse, so she’s valuable in her own way. We wonder what she does take to stay awake all night. No Doz? Speed? Maybe she talks herself into believing one type of speedy fake chemical alertness is righteous while another is not. Don’t we all have such hypocrisies in our personal little inner baskets?

     The shift drags on. I hear that Jessica was caught stealing. Pain pills, morphine-based, from Mr. Olvetti, who has rheumatoid arthritis and can barely move without bursting into tears. She’d been halving his medication, and palming the rest. Somebody caught her doing that. What a shitty thing to do, I say in total agreement when Marsha whispers this me, but she always whispers, her voice wispy and ethereal, coming from her thick, liver-tinged lips. She stands about six foot one and has the build I should have had once upon a time. Big meaty shoulders, thick muscled arms and legs, the neck of a wrestler or a bear, a belly of steel covered with a goodly layer of fat. Marsha is not one of those soft fat ladies that look like marshmallows come to life. She’s hard-fleshed and solid, with forearms that make mine look like matchsticks. Oh well.

     My mind fills with flamingos. All over my lawn.

     In my house.

     Waiting for me to come home, so tired, so very tired and careless and just fall into my sagging bed. To forget to lock my door.

          I drink the remaining ice cold dregs of my gas station coffee; I find my mouth full of coffee grinds and sugar. One packet, all settled at the bottom of the plastic cup, instead of mixing with the brew. My eyes burn. I want to sleep. It’s three oh seven. Marsha comes back from checking everyone as I do charts and paperwork. A quiet night, a slow night. I hear someone having a bad dream. I got to check and it’s the newbie. No family. Very much alone, an old lady they threw away. Mrs. Bronson. Depressed, diabetes, in a wheelchair. I stand near the end of her bed, as she moans and farts and shudders. Her roommate, a Miss Standage, lies awake, staring at the ceiling, her hands folded over her flacid ruin of a belly. Miss Standage, despite never marrying, has a bit of a shady past. She had a child out of wedlock, and she broke up two marriages. She kept pictures of herself when much, much younger. A sort of Veronica Lake crossed with Marilyn Monroe, that smooth shining hair coupled with a soft-looking hourglass form. That inviting smile of a homewrecker. The eyes of a woman not quite easy with being a mother. Often at night, she’d study those photos of her no doubt very fun youth, the door to her room left open on her request, as she had a bad heart and had a touch of claustrophobia. Her fingers would trace the smooth lines of her face, the outline of her slender, tempting younger self. She had grown stout and graceless, that rounded feminine shape changing into slumpy hanging breasts, an overflowing big belly, sloughy arms and doughy dimpled legs, with hair sprouting from her somewhat weak chin. Miss Standage looks at me as I wait to see if Mrs. Bronson is having a stroke or just a bit of a dream. I smile at her and she looks back up at the ceiling, the pictures of her younger self turned over tonight on her nightstand, as if she cannot bear to look at herself so young and fair this long, slow night.

     I decide it’s not a stroke and leave the two to their own ends. Marsha has been watching, to back me up in case anyone accuses me of anything.

     Marsha goes off to tidy the supply cupboard. I go back to continue catching up on paperwork for the state. We have an inspection coming up, our ducks have to at least look like they’re in a row. Ha ha. Ducks. I’m not scared out of my wits by ducks. I catch a glimpse of something pink from the corner of my eye, wishing I had more coffee or that I could run out for some. Wondering if someone had left any real coffee in the staff room. The kitchen staff would be here around five or so. There’d be real coffee then. Even with hulking, whisper-voiced Marsha squeaking about obesity and cancer. I look up from filling in reports. No.


     There, against the wall, a flamingo, with a single metal spike, and a crack along the neck seam. The general, the leader. The head flamingo. My mother’s favorite. She had put duct tape over that crack many a time. Once a bandage. How was it here, how had it gotten here? I rose from the desk, having been entering information into the generic file form on the center’s main computer. It saved trees, the director had said, at a meeting. It saves trees to use online forms.

     Those sly painted eyes marked me. Marked me as a dead man.

     It had followed me here, to show I was not safe anywhere. No lock or door or trip to work would spare me the coming wrath of the lawn flamingos.

     No god or devil would intervene to write me a pardon or help me in any way against the coming wrath of the lawn flamingos.

     The flamingo fell over. It had been leaned up carelessly against the wall. I gasped, my bowels filled with hot rats chewing at my insides. Hot biting rodents. I slowly moved toward the bathrooms, quite sure an accident would happen before I got to a toilet. That fallen bird watched me, already triumphant. Already confident that it had won and I had lost.

     I slide toward the bathroom, so careful not to turn my back on that plastic commander of a small, powerful, invincible army. It observes me from its place on the shining white floor. Marsha makes sure that floor is cleaner than the plates in the dining room. My tennis shoes make complaining sighs. Marsha comes from Mr. Appleby’s room, checking a worrisome cut on his foot that won’t heal up. I’ve checked it, too. He’ll soon be off for the hospital and the morgue, frankly. We just don’t say it aloud. He doesn’t, either. She asks me what I’m doing, as I play some sort of sliding game, apparently, and then notices the flamingo. Where did that come from? I just love them. They’re so weird and cute.


Rain storms. Oh. How I have missed storms. They don’t seem to form here anymore. I hope the fall and winter are storm-choked. Please!? Whoever is in charge of Eastern Oregon storms, can you please send more than one or two a year? That’s what it seems like. I know we get more storms than that.

I maybe have a new gig. Tutoring. We’ll see how it goes. I’m very confused and unsure how to work their system so…should be fun.

My garden is producing lots of peppers and mini pumpkins. I’ve been baking them, then scraping out the insides for future pies and quick breads.

I am writing. Gardening a bit. Waiting for America to just tumble off that cliff already…yeah, okay. Been watching horror movies. Just did the Evil Dead. The Sam Raimi ones. Just having a jones for horror movies.

Here is my short story, Gladys. It’s body horror, very short read. A woman wishes to be rid of her parasite-like muse.



Oh….kay. Am wishing on stars and selling my soul to the devil at the crossroads at midnight. Cause. Why not. It can’t hurt and it might help.

Got through the second round of [bleep] and am WAITING OH MY LORDY DO YOU IDIOTS THINK I AM PATIENT OR SOMETHING? Just tell me. Ugh!

Tom Petty, you were right. The waiting is the hardest part.

It’s my b-day tomorrow. I’m old. Considering getting myself some Midori and watching movies all day. I have a trip coming up so don’t need to chance the local wilderness on a Friday, with the crazed shithouse rats that live around here and near here all competing for a spot in their vans down by one of the rivers.

I did manage to write this week. Got Army of Flamingos polished up and sent forth into that weird novella territory. I didn’t number the pages but I don’t normally do that for a book-length anything. I hope in the NINE FREAKING MONTHS or that one eternity later, from Spongebob, that it doesn’t detract from the wonderment of my tale. It did say nine months to respond. But. There are a shit ton of submissions to read. I get it. I get it!

My garden has some splendid spots. My tomato plant is a BEAST. I love it! I don’t even like tomatoes. But. I can do things with fresh ones. And can freeze them handy enough. Punkins are percolating. Peppers are peppering along. Flowers are preparing to bloom. I’ve been drying my sage and oregano, need to tackle the cilantro. As in dry it or figure out how to preserve it.

So yes. I have books out. On Amazon and elsewhere. Aftermath: Boise, Idaho is a sentient zombies fun romp. The Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane is sort of Doomsday meets Mad Max meets a Judi Dench and her friends movie meets the Brothers Grimm. As in their uncensored tales, with cannibals and mothers beating on their dead children to make them behave and…uh huh. Make me a happy birthday person and pick one or the other or both up. Read them on your Kindle and leave me a review! Yay!


I know there’s no such thing as jinxes. I know this. My brain know it. The rest of me, eh, no so much. I am always wary of speaking or writing of something before it happens. Like a job interview. Do not tell anyone or even admit you have one before the interview. Otherwise, IT WILL GO BADLY.

Anyone else have this one? You don’t talk about something important or just ordinary [like a job interview] before you get the results or it will GO BADLY.

Anyway! Yes, I have a job interview or rather, a process to get to a job. A series of steps, as it were. I’m on step two. If I get through [this next task], it’s on to other steps. Hurray. The good thing is: I can do this job from home. I don’t have to deal with anything but equipment going nutty. Or a bad internet connection that day. As the internet works most days here, not really concerned that way. My computer works fairly well. I can even hook cameras and headsets up without much trouble. Go me! Normally I am such a Luddite. But it’s just plugging stuff into the USB ports, so…yeah. I can totally do that. I am the master of plugging stuff into USB ports. You betcha.

I’ve tried this before, what sort of job I’m trying to land now. I failed so miserably at it. Ugh! Could not get the equipment to work. But this time, I am ready, more or less. I’m being vague because of the whole jinx thing.

I have books out. Aftermath: Boise, Idaho deals with sentient zombies and our intrepid, pragmatic heroine, Hannah. The Remarkable Women of Brokenheart Lane pits three elderly, but thoroughly fabulous sisters, each in their own way, against a beat-up cannibal bikers. The Werewolves limp into what’s left of Fallon, Nevada, after their own epic showdown with a rival gang, the Glitterbugs. But wait, there’s a third gang of law and order church ladies looking to restore everything called the Snitty Ratballs. There’s also a lion roaming around, double and triple crosses and alliances formed to fight a common foe!

I had a lot of fun writing both of those. I tried to balance between the absurd, the comedic and the horrible. I think I did okay. Both are available on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.

The Rustle of Papers

Howdy. Here’s Chapter Two, the Rustle of Papers, from Aftermath: Boise, Idaho. Happy Memorial Day, America.


“Hannah? Hannah, wake up.” A soft female voice in her ear, the rustle of papers, the typing one heard from laptops and computers and devices, the hum of bored voices, the ring of several phones. Hannah sat up at a corner desk, a computer before her, and a file open: letter/fundraiser/Halloween. Nothing yet written—not even a date or an address or anything. The blinking curser waiting for her to start the letter. A picture of her, with short fluffy hair, next to a tall man who looked like he had just stepped off a movie set. Someone had drawn a heart around her and that strange man.

A woman stood by Hannah as she struggled to wake up, wearing a sedate hunter green dress and a blue paisley scarf, her golden-brown hair in a sedate updo secured with a large barrette. “Late night? That letter needs to be finished by five. What are you doing? Get it finished.”

Hannah blinked, looked around. She sat at the very back of a giant room full of other desks. Others working. Others. Behind her, a giant window overlooking a street; other tall buildings, trees. She wore dark brown slacks, a light raspberry-colored sweater, and a fake string of pearls! No zombies that she could tell. What was this? No. No, be smart, be careful. “Yes, late night. Do you think you can help me with this letter?”

“Oh, well, sure.” The woman pulled over a chair, sat, smelling of peaches. Peach perfume or peach shampoo. Something faint yet pleasant. Everything in this office—a big wide space of many desks with mostly women working at them—seemed very clean. “Jodi wants two points hit, right? It’s for a good cause and you can win prizes. Keep it the same bullshit as always, is my advice. Feckos don’t like change. They like order and things to go a certain way. Jodi should run everything here, she’s so wonderfully organized.”

Feckos? Hannah looked at the calendar on the desk. It said September. But what day? What year? “Oh sure, Feckos don’t like change. Jodi’s so organized, sure.”

“No, they sure don’t like change! They like tradition and order. Who doesn’t? Jodi says tradition and order win every time, no matter what. It always comes back to tradition and order.” Why did the peach-smelling office drone seem so stuck on this Jodi? “God, Lana at the meeting this morning! I about choked on my coffee. She’s hell-bent on naming names, you know? You should avoid her. Not take rides from her. Or Phil.” The woman had clear brown eyes. And an agenda. Mystery! It felt so nice to have such a harmless little mystery to solve as this woman and her office shenanigans. “Oh hey, just pull up that other fundraising crap from Christmas. Copy and paste what you need, slap a new date on it, change some details, there ya go! Do you still have them? It’s what I do, for the updates. I just copy and paste, it’s not like there’s changes at our level. Oh hey, did you hear? The wall got breached over on the Oregon side. Eatery Feckos got through,it was a mess. Nora has to deal with that PR nightmare. She’s in tears over it. Henry will probably fly up from Winnemucca if she fucks it up. And you know she will. And Henry will want to … you know.” The woman rolled her eyes as Hannah searched for a Christmas fundraising letter. There—a Christmas file and yes, a list of fundraising letters and events. The woman leaned forward a bit, nodded. “That one. Try that one, about the Holly Ball. That was the auction one, that’s kind of like the Halloween thing for this year. Yep. Just copy and paste what you need. The Feckos like their auctions. But we’re not supposed to know about the ones where they buy kids. Yuck. We all know about Salliana but we don’t know, you know? Just copy and paste what you need. It’s what we all do.”

“Thank you. I seem to have lost my notes for this fundraiser. And the name. I so spaced off or something. Salliana, yeah, that’s so gross,” Hannah said with a giant goofy smile, her brain ticking away furiously. What the hell was all this? Was she in hell? Had she been sent to hell to write fundraiser letters? She did not have office experience of any kind. No magical spate of knowledge on office letter writing came to enlighten her, either.

“That’s not like you. Are you okay? Is it Kevin?” The woman looked around, then leaned in, her breath reeking with coffee and spearmint gum. “Don’t let that pretty boy distract you. Keep your eye on the prize. You know what happens if you get distracted here.”

“Sure. Yeah, Kevin … he’s very distracting lately. We’re fighting.” Hannah said and the woman nodded. “So, it’s the 19th today, right?”

“What is? Oh crap … there’s Jodi. Just get that done and sent to her. And no more napping. Maybe call in sick tomorrow. Kevin is not worth it. Don’t fall apart now.” The woman pushed the chair she had taken back into the empty desk beside Hannah’s. She walked back up the aisle, toward a messy desk piled high with wrapped boxes. A woman in a navy silk pantsuit stopped to speak to her and at that point, Hannah noticed this navy pantsuit woman … was a zombie. She moved slowly and carefully, she wore an obvious wig the color of moldy carrots. Hannah had the letter opener in her hand, which had a Bureau of Humans on its silver handle. Zombies. They were in hell, of course they were. She’d have to fight her way free… Why was no one else screaming and running? No one seemed to care an actual zombie moved among them, and the zombie seemed oddly intent on pretending to be a boss or a supervisor. And then that zombie shuffled toward Hannah and Hannah came to her feet, her bladder hot and heavy and ready to let go down her leg.

The sensation crawled down Hannah’s spine that someone watched her. Studied her. Someone besides this zombie bitch about to … to attack her, of course. That’s what zombies did. They were famous for it.

“Hannah. Is that letter done yet? I need it.” The zombie came right to Hannah’s desk, stood there, oblivious to the fact that she was a zombie or that she should be trying to rip Hannah’s face off. It was unnatural. This was an unnatural zombie. “Hannah?” There it was, that smell, masked only slightly by heavy floral fumes that someone had tried to perhaps label a perfume. Filmy gummy eyes, a light silvery veil actually worn, that hooked behind the droopy ears. Maybe a Muslim zombie? Don’t laugh, don’t ask!

“Fine. Good. About done.” Hannah mumbled out, her voice tight and high. Jodi the zombie stared at her, then stepped closer as Hannah stepped back, the wall meeting her back, her hand a fist around that letter opener. Those gummy eyes went to the letter opener, then to Hannah’s face.

“Is there a problem?” The voice, gritty and low; the voice of dead things that should not be speaking. “Did you and your boyfriend have a tiff?”

“No. Fine.” Hannah made herself casually drop the letter opener, near an actual letter. “I’m fine. Fine.”
“Uh huh. Please get that done in the next half an hour. It should have been done this morning. Don’t let cute boys distract you, dear.”

“Fine.” Hannah could not stop repeating that word. Cute boys? Had she heard that? “Today’s date?”

“Yes, the nineteenth. Use the Winnemucca address at the top. We’re including our whole territory this year. And the Boise one, of course. I’m pondering whether or not to extend to Salt Lake, but I can put in that address if I do, so don’t worry about that. Thank you, Hannah. You’re a good worker, and I know it will be done and well written. You manage to improve even a copy and paste job. Take Sunni as your model if you need guidance.” Jodi moved off and Hannah sat slowly, then noticed she really had to go. Her bladder had turned into a throbbing monster. Bathroom. Or she’d squat and pee on the ugly dark gray carpet like a bad dog.

After a careful look about, she got up, wearing low heels that pinched her feet and pantyhose beneath her slacks. Pantyhose. That were a bit too small. Hannah walked up that aisle, trying not to gape at everything. It seemed everyone knew her and that she worked here. Wherever here was. A gigantic white square clock said it was past two. Afternoon, had to be afternoon. The sun shone through that big window. White walls. Insane asylum? Inside of a white whale?

“Hannah, instead of potato salad, can we go halvsies on a cheese and cracker tray?” a Mexican-looking woman said to her as she went past, heading toward the big glass double doors. Hannah stopped. “Jodi just said she’s bringing her potato salad. We can’t have two potato salads.”

“Sure. Cheese and crackers.” It seemed important to just agree with whatever was said to her. Food. There was food nearby yet her stomach did not seem empty. No raging thirst. No trots from sipping dirty water. It seemed there were bigger actual offices outside the glass doors, with nameplates screwed into them. Zombies lurched in and out of these offices … wearing nice clothes. Zombies dressed up like bankers. God damn it.

“Han? Are you getting sick? You’re pale,” the woman said, tapping away at a laptop—some kind of numbers report. “You need a Skeezie?”

“Sure, yeah. A Skeezie.”

The woman reached her hand into a desk drawer, her fingernails painted beige. Those beige-tipped fingers brought out a small opaque bag and this got handed to Hannah in a secretive way, rather like she was being handed a tampon. “Just take what you need! Take one right before you go home. Otherwise, you’ll, well, you know.” The woman made gusty wind sounds and waved her hands a bit, then laughed.

“Thanks, Susan,” Hannah threw out and the woman snorted, then pulled up something else that had even tinier, insufferably smug, collections of numbers and columns.

“Okay, Betty.”

Hannah saw a memo with the name Katherine at the top. “I’ll just take one for later, Katherine.”

“Katherine? What? Maybe you should take one now and just go home. Just put that bag in your top desk drawer, I’ll get it later.”

Another memo, with Ophelia on it. Damn it. Hannah was getting too unnerved and chickenshit to try another name. Then Ophelia, not Katherine, looked over at the woman who had helped Hannah with her fundraiser memo. “You’re friends again with Sunni? After she hit on Kevin? You’re a saint, Hannah. Though, you should let her have him. He’s trouble.”

Sunni, the woman in the hunter green granny dress. Okay. Jodi, the zombie. And now Ophelia. And Kevin, the man in the picture. Okay, got it. “I like trouble,” said Hannah, her face trying to smirk. No, no, you don’t know these people or what’s going on. “Forgive and forget. Thanks for the Skeevers.”

“Skeevies. Uh … you want me to go with you?” Hannah wasn’t fully listening. She was gawping at a very tall, gaunt zombie draped in an eye-watering poison yellow suit, paired with a blood-red tie. “What? Oh yeah, Harrison, he wore that yellow suit yesterday. He looks like a giant canary.” Harrison spoke to Jodi, hands moving slowly, gray hands… He had gray hands. “Don’t stare at them, they hate that. Fectos, they want us to pretend they’re normal. He’s such a perv. They all are. We’re not supposed to notice. Or care.”

“Yeah, Fectos. Fine.” Hannah forced herself to walk through those glass double doors and walk past Jodi and the zombie canary man. She saw two restrooms—male and female an a unisex one—plus a break room, with the door open and two men seated at the big table, coffee cups before them, heads together. They nodded at her as she went past and she nodded back. Once in the ladies, she sat on a toilet, which had a bowl full of clear bright water. The air smelled of roses from the air freshener left by the third sink. She took deep, head-swirling breaths, trying to calm herself.

Off came her slacks, simple pull up ones, and then those damn pantyhose got torn off. She stuffed them in the little wastebasket, and covered them with toilet paper. Actual toilet paper—not leaves or her own hand. There were used tampons, wrapped in shielding layers, in there as well. When had she last had enough to eat to be able to shit something out? Or have her period? The little bag Not-Katherine had handed her held six black pills. They were stamped with an S and were long pills, not round. The black coating smudged her fingers. Skeezies? Skeezers? Skeezawhatevers? She took one, put it into the pocket of her slacks. Then sat again, not ready yet to face going back out there.

Where the zombies were.

What was going on? What was that name the two women had used? Fecto. Festo? No, Fectos. Both had casually said it, as if they used that term for zombies all the time. What did it mean?

Someone came into the restroom, went into the next stall. A series of astonishing farts and whistles, then a long sigh as plops sounded. Hannah clamped her hand over her lips, the smell of fresh human shit so oddly welcoming. Just so normal. It was just so normal here except for the odd boss zombies slumping here and there.

“Sorry! I couldn’t hold it anymore.” The woman next to Hannah said, a cheerful grandmotherly voice. “When you gotta shit, you gotta shit.”

“Absolutely,” Hannah said, flushing her toilet, leaving her stall. She washed her hands, the soap in the dispenser a bright violent pink that smelled of roses. Cheap roses. Her reflection showed she did seem pale. Her face was her face—her little round chin, her snubby nose, the winged eyebrows she had always liked—but there was no giant scar from plunging through a barbed wire fence as three zombies tried… No giant scar. She was not starving or filthy. Her hair had somehow grown back and she had somehow added blond streaks to it. Her gray-blue eyes had been rimmed with brown, her lashes clumpy with mascara. Silver eyeshadow smeared on her lids. But she had never been good at applying makeup. More plops and sighs from the woman taking a monster afternoon shit. Sensible shoes, thick ankles, thick legs encased in dark hose. Hannah left her to it.

That very long hallway, with big offices and the break room and the main room full of worker bees… Bright overhead lights. Big windows that looked down on a city street. This was still Boise. She was still Hannah G. Gray. She looked at her left wrist. A faint scar ran from her wrist to her elbow, a jagged faint pink line. She remembered the blood pooling, the smell of hot crushed pennies. She did not remember this office or these people.

Aftermath: Boise Idaho – Kindle edition by Wuehler, Ann, Wallace, Leesa. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.


Around Nyssa, Oregon

I took the three dogs and drove toward Owyhee State Park here in Eastern Oregon. It was a truly GORGEOUS day. And there were oodles of people. On a Thursday. Fuuuuuuuuudgepops!

The back way to the park also had road construction. With detours. Fine, whatever, I know the roads are laid out like a grid, can’t stop me, state of Oregon. Woot woot, gonna get where I wanna go, baby.

Yes, I collected some red lava rocks and didn’t find anything spectacular or shiny or magical. I let the three dogs romp in the river, I threw sticks for them, I let them sniff and hunt a bit, as dogs are wont to do. My favorite spots sported tents and sullen campers setting up camps. Fudgepops!!

I also saw some buffalo, as they raise them around here and a field full of sassy, darling goats.

On the way home, same detour…except I had to drive almost to Nyssa to get on Clark Boulevard to get back home. Ah yes, the same boulevard featured in my second novel– House on Clark Boulevard. I even think I saw the old house where I used to live so long ago and in a time of far away. It’s run down, looks deserted but a car was parked there. But that has to be the house. It’s on the correct side of the road, there’s the space where the pasture used to be, the house itself has the same shape I remember. But no chicken coop or other buildings left behind the house. The trees are gone or pulled down or have fallen. Is that the house? Is my memory right or very very wrong? Mm.

But anyway…had to take the very long and winding way back home with three wet dogs. What a lovely smell a wet dog has. But I also had some new rocks. Good day. What a good day that was.

Owyhee River
Molly about to plunge into the river.

Pig Bait

Wheat field, with storm coming in, last year

It’s May. The weather is either FREEZING, WINDY HELL or hey, it’s warm out. Garden is planted, got a new blueberry plant to go with the one from last year.

So have been not writing that much. But. Have been thinking about it. Does that count? Yes, it does.

So saw this blip about Baker City, Oregon and how it’s now a sanctuary city against…wokeness. I. Um? Ahem. Not an Onion article or a satire piece in the sedate New Yorker. The mayor, with crazy glazed eyes, did an interview on Fuck It Fearnews. Where she blatted on about entire Pacific Northwest cities burning down, Antifa not welcome in Baker and…the usual bullshit you can hear from your red-hatted relatives. Seattle is gone? Portland is now just ashes? We’re kinda short on cities here in the Pacific Northwest. Eugene? Is it Eugene she’s shrilling about?

Yes, so!

This utter stinking lunacy gave me an IDEA. What if…what if someone deliberately trolled the red-hats, got them so wound up that one of them actually decided to ‘do something about it’. And it’s a trap. Baited with ‘go ahead, look me up, if you dare’ rhetoric implied. As Americans are off their damn rockers right now and do actually find people to shoot or run over or…Yeah, my brain, it just goes there.

Sometimes you have to take those wild ass far right news blips and turn them into horror tales for this post-modern trying to return to the actual fucking Dark Ages timeline we’re in now. Yeppity yep.

I am fully vaccinated. There’s that.

Been up since two. My brain is a swirly whirly sludge of huh? right now. But I noticed I had not posted for a while and hey, I do have a rough draft, two now, done of a short story I’m called Pig Bait. I rather enjoyed writing it. I haven’t enjoyed writing for a long time.

All righty! It’s gorgeous outside so I need to obsessively check my seedlings and yank the sprinkler to a dry spot. All my flower seeds sprouted! The cat is also doing well. In case you were worried. You know who you are.