Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Much Needed Imaginary Key West Vacation

Being that I have a deeply embedded moral override in my head that prevents me from putting my foot up someones butt no matter how desperately they need it I sometimes suffer from an affliction akin to delirium tremens. Like most stories I could write a very long winded tale but the best way to describe the situation involves a sleazy dude ratting out another in an attempt to garner brownie points and make himself look good.

However, the wise and knowledgeable Jimmy Buffett has written, " ...good times and riches and son of bitches I have seen more than I can recall." The only known cure for such frustrating situations usually has to be pursued on the weekend since it involves about a gallon of Margarita mix and cheap tequila, along with chips, salsa, and several hours of Jimmy Buffett's best music.

Since it is Tuesday night with the weekend a distant and dim beacon of hope and relaxation I am forced to cruise You Tube looking for the next best thing. This imaginary vacation will either defuse my growing frustration saving me from financial ruin and possible jail time or my next post will actually be from Key West. Stay tuned for the forthcoming answer.    

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chips Ahoy Cold War

Like any good father when my son, Darth Spoilboy, was born almost sixteen years ago I wanted to pass down certain cultural traditions that I felt important. However, being hamstrung by our location and the conflicting nature of my work hours and National Guard duties during those early years many activities were either greatly curtailed or had to be abandoned.

I will admit there were times I was close to being outright depressed at not being able to share activities like spontaneous trips to the beach with my infant and later toddler son similar to the ones my uncles took me on at the same ages. Now to be honest my uncles, who at the time were in their late teenage years, were using me as bait to attract the attentions of bikini-clad ladies they knew in high school.

Despite the many cynical remarks by my wife, I never for a minute intended the spur-of-the-moment trips down to the coast I wanted to make with my son for the same reason. Now if any attractive ladies out on the beach felt drawn to my young son because of their raging maternal instincts that was something beyond my control and since I was raised to be a Southern gentlemen I was required to be friendly and responsive to their interest in my son.

Nevertheless, because of certain circumstances, namely the audio recorder/tracking device called a wedding ring my wife forced me to wear, it became necessary to share less exotic activities with my son like my utter devotion to Chips Ahoy cookies. Spoilboy could not help but eventually come to share a similar religious zeal to those glorious cookies but unfortunately, in recent years our mutual affection for them has evolved into a cold war with increasingly desperate attempts to hide the Chips Ahoy bags from each other.

The actual memory of my first exposure to the luscious and pure all American goodness that is Chips Ahoy cookies faded away long ago but the story I like to remember involves my grandmother and her desire to keep her house clean.

Decades ago here in the South, during a far simpler age, there was a common philosophy that no good whatsoever could come with “youngins” staying inside a house during the day. This belief was so extreme that during summer months when school was out kids were often shooed outside by their mothers and not allowed back indoors until dinner later that evening. The only real exceptions to this policy were for a short period at noon for lunch and very severe thunderstorms. Any other time gangs of kids could often be found wandering through neighborhoods like hordes of bipedal locusts looking for something to do. Those in my age group were experiencing the very last years of a golden age of adventure and innocence for kids and I was lucky to have experienced any of it.

The first of many societal assaults that eventually brought an end to that ear began when local televisions stations started their insidious broadcast of several hours of kids programs in the afternoon. The endgame of it all eventually lead to soul crushing cable cartoon channels filled with crass commercials and mind numbing video games.

Being a ravaging horde of bipedal locust looking for stimulation my siblings and cousins using a hive-like sixth sense invariable made our way to our grandparents house in hopes of watching Bugs, Daffy, and Roadrunner, and after that “The Three Stooges.” For about an hour our Granny welcomed such visits until we began reenacting the rambunctious antics of Moe, Larry, and Curly endangering her clean house and sanity. Now Granny was cunning and after decades of using Pavlovian training techniques on her own children knew exactly how to chase away her over stimulated grandkids.

When Granny could not take it anymore, she would pull out the famous blue Chips Ahoy bag and after giving us one cookie each, would toss the rest outside on the front porch. With our sugary instincts primed like sharks smelling blood we would rush outside and begin the frenzy. No one should be surprised that given our crazed state we never once heard the clicks of our grandmother locking both the front and back doors.


My son’s first exposure to Chips Ahoy began when he was a toddler, after we returned home at the end of the day a bag of the cookies would sit between as we both sat in from of the television watching the evening news. Icy cold milk was the beverage of choice with his in a Barney the Dinosaur sippy cup and mine in a quart-sized tiki mug. After Spoilboy chewed on a couple of cookie he would grow bored with the news and doze off leaving me with the entire contents. As it can be expected that was my chance to relive my youthful fantasies of having a complete bag of Chips Ahoy all to myself.

All through the period of our ravaging horde visits to my grandmother’s house, I had to contend with three younger siblings and several cousins each battling on the porch for as many cookies as possible. During Spoilboy’s early years, I was still a lean, and very mean fighting machine so a whole bag could disappear in the space of thirty-minute news broadcast along with nearly a gallon of milk. Now things have greatly changed.

My lean and mean army trained body has morphed into that of a middle-aged civilian and Spoilboy has long since gone beyond being satisfied with just two cookies. The trouble began when one of us, I am not saying who, found the quantity of Chips Ahoy dangerously low. The natural male knuckling dragging thought was to protect the supply by hiding it from the person who might take what was left, then deny any knowledge of their whereabouts.

Since my son and I know each other very well this subterfuge was successful for only a very short time, after that it became a contest to find where the cookie were hidden. Early hiding places were easy for both of us to uncover, I normally picked high places requiring him to climb and he would locate redoubts in the far corners of low cabinets. Places where my wife stored her exotic and outright scary kitchen appliances that were at best used once a year.

On a side note, so rare are these bizarre culinary appliances ever used that there has been several occasions we when we have forgotten we owned them and have mistakenly gone out and bought duplicates. Only to rediscovered the original appliances after searching for a place to store the one we recently bought. My wife finds such occurrences outrageously funny, for various reasons I fail to find the humor in those situations.

Anyway I digress, in recent years this Chips Ahoy cold war with my son as escalated to the point that Dragonwife, my lovely spouse, has become drawn into the conflict. Feeling that my middle-age spread has become an issue she has begun restricting the purchase of Chips Ahoy to times we have discount coupons. Dragonwife treats these coupons as classified materials and only shares this information with Spoilboy in an attempt to curry favor with him.

Since my only skills at espionage have come from spy novels and television shows like “Burn Notice” I will admit that I have been caught a couple of times sneaking looks through Dragonwife’s coupon folder. But such desperate actions are required because if Dragonwife is able to make the purchase and then pass the Chips Ahoy over to my son I will pay a steep price for even one cookie.

When will this cookie cold war ever end? It is hard to say since I am quite proficient at concealing the cookies when I am able to get my hand on them first. For years Spoilboy never found my hiding place behind the washing machine until recently when he searched in that area looking for a missing shirt.

Now a good cold warrior would not have said a word but feeling he had scored a massive coup in our frosty conflict Spoilboy danced around the house in victory. Like the proud father I was I saluted his momentary triumph and just smiled. I did not say a word about the fact that a few weeks before I had found his own Chips Ahoy hiding place but had left his stash untouched.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Brilliantly Simple Idea-A Liter of Light

Brilliant ideas that are cheap, effective for the long term, and greatly improve the conditions people live under are very rare. Whenever discussion of helping those in underdeveloped regions of the planet are brought up we are use to a whole range of logistical, technical, procurement, and political problems frustrating even those who dedicate their lives to helping people in need. But sometimes inspiration strikes with an invention so simple and inspired it wipes away all problems and obstructions.

Here in America the vast majority live with the benefits of electric light significantly enhancing living conditions not only at night but also during the day. We have become so accustom to having our homes illuminated at the flip of a switch that we only really notice when it is absent because of power failures. So great is our dependency that when we lose lighting in our homes it often becomes an insane scramble to find working flashlights or candles to try and make up the difference.

The remarkable discovery, at least for me, during these times of power failure is that when blackouts extend into the daytime unless a window is nearby the house is still largely left in the dark. Like a typical American, I never made the connection between losing lights in my house for a short time and that of people living in third world countries for which darkness is the usual state of affairs making their lives even more difficult. However, someone has come up with a plan to fix that using discarded plastic bottles and other simple and cheap items. My only hope is that this video at the bottom of the post reaches a wider audience.

A little further research on this subject suggests some have gotten their noses bent out of shape because of the ubiquitous multinational corporation jumping into the mix trying to take some credit for the idea. Yeah, it does appear that way and while I detest those actions since this design is so simple but can help so many people I will ignore the typical corporate behavior.

Lighting Up Homes With A Plastic Bottle and Some Chlorine

Isang Litrong Liwanag

If you live in a home without electricity and few or no windows, it's always incredibly dark inside, even at high noon. Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light) is a sustainable lighting project that is trying to help people overcome that problem with extremely simple technology: a plastic bottle, water, and a few drops of chlorine and salt is all they need to light up the inside of homes that have no electricity. Designed and developed by MIT students, the Solar Bottle Bulb is now being distributed throughout the Philippines, and the MyShelter Foundation plans to light up a million homes by 2012. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction (Cycle 48) Falling Up

Friday Flash Fiction Prompt: Use music in a short fiction piece
Genre: Any
Limit: 750 words
Deadline: 9/14/2011 at 8:00 p.m. ET

(Author's note: The Discovery Channel show "Curiosity"recently ran a serious episode with experts in varying fields discussing the possibility of an alien invasion. I have based the story on that episode and my musical influence came from listening to the  "Linkin Park'" song "What I've Done". A video clip from that "Curiosity" episode can be found at the bottom of the story)

Looking up into the sky watching the derelict starship pass over me I realize why the young these days have no idea what the world and Humanity went through sixty years ago and how it utterly changed everything. At best, the only concern they have for the now dead alien ship is its gradually decaying orbit and the attempts by the world government to push it further away from the planet. More than likely, they only see it as some historical remnant associated with their aging grandparents and the boring stories they tell of the era before its arrival.

Humanity is on a different course now, gone are the wars over religion, ideology, and resources. Discounting the titanic efforts by the United Earth Peacekeeping Forces and the economic development teams working to stabilize the various underdeveloped regions of the planet there is simply too few of us left to even consider sliding back into our pre-first contact barbaric ways.

My grandchildren consider me insane for speaking aloud my thoughts on how we got this way, but until the day they finally lower me into the ground I believe we have the squids to thank for Humanity’s second chance. But after what I saw in the final days of the war all those years ago, I keep to myself the even crazier thoughts that it could have been so much better.


“The thermal image shows both the port and starboard cannons on the squid tank are dead cold along with the engine Lieutenant Stevens. We have a HEAT round loaded, you want me to light it up?” Specialist Thomas Hunter said to me over the intercom on the Abrams tank I was commanding while looking at the targeting screen. He was my gunner in the last days of the war and we were just outside the ruins of Chattanooga running cleanup operations with the rest of the Second Armored Division.

“No,” I responded, “hold your fire and order Sergeant Rivera to dismount the infantry squad in his Bradley to scout the area. I want to get a closer look at that thing.” A few seconds later, I was out of my Abrams and on the ground walking towards the alien tank.

Despite traveling untold light-years in a six-kilometer long starship the squid’s idea of an armored tank was the same as Humanity’s. It was a tracked vehicle with a rotating turret on the top.  The two visible differences were that the squids had two main cannons on either side of their turrets and that their tanks were made of a stainless steel looking alloy giving it the appearance of a maniacal work of art. In all the years I had been fighting I had never been this close to a squid tank without fearing for my life. M1A2 Abrams tanks and their crews could defeat the alien armored vehicles but it was done on sight and usually from the extreme end of effective range.

Squid tanks were fast and their two main cannons were electromagnetic rail guns that fired off kinetic energy rounds which could punch through the best human tanks like a hot knife through butter. Even with those advantages, the rail guns effective range was less than the Abrams and their armor, despite its appearance, was not all that good. To have one abandoned just a few meters away and completely intact was an opportunity I could not pass up.

Six years before that the squids had entered orbit around Earth and within the space of nine months had come damn close to wiping us out. In the first week, they destroyed every civilian electrical grid on the planet using electromagnetic pulse satellites. A week later, they caused massive tsunamis across the planet wiping out the mass of humanity living along the shore by bombing the oceans with kinetic weapons. The final attempt at genocide was engineering, then letting loose various plagues to kill us off. The result was the human race seemly broken into scattered, isolated pockets and reduced down to a little over two billion people. However, we pulled together somehow and fought back, the result being our own use of  very crude but massive kinetic weapons launched from Earth that destroyed their huge ship in orbit leaving it a crippled hulk.

By that time, the squids had setup forts and small colony towns on the surface and fought viciously to protect them. After the first squid settlements began appearing it didn’t take rocket scientists to figure out that they were guarding what amounted to nurseries for baby squids. But Humanity had lost so much but after we crippled their ship and organized our efforts at resistance on a global basis it just became a question of how long the squids could hold out.

Before their arrival I never considered myself the soldier type, in fact when I thought about it the idea of killing any living creature it turned my stomach. Now after what they had tried to do to the human race and the planet, I reveled in every squid I ran over with my tank. 

Lost in my in my own thoughts while examining the alien war vehicle I was surprised by an adult squid coming out of the destroyed remains of one of their buildings not ten feet away from me. One of its three legs was injured so it’s unusual step by human standards was made even worse. In two of its arms, it carried what was clearly a dead squid larva and it held the smaller creature with a tenderness bordering on recognizable human emotion. In the hand of its third arm it was limply carrying a large machete-like blade.

“Hold your fire!” I yelled when I heard the pounding boots of infantry troops running in my direction. In every encounter with squids, they had treated humans as if we were cockroaches but this one was looking straight at me as if I was an equal. If it had wanted to kill me, it could have long done before it came out in the open. So with a surreal calmness I stepped closer to the creature and took the blade away from it.

“It didn’t have to be this way you sorry bastard!” I yelled feeling overwhelmed as I looked it in the face. “You could have asked for help, any number of nations would have fell all over themselves to assist your people. We could have learned so much from each other!”

The squid fell to its knees, gently laying the small dead creature on the ground. The adult's feeding tentacles at the base of its head were limp, a strange behavior that I somehow attributed to despair. It then looked at me and while they had never once tried to directly communicate with humans, I knew what it wanted.

“Thank you,” I said to the thing knowing that their arrival and actions had utterly changed Humanity forever. Its eyes showed no further emotion or awareness of me but after it lowered its head, I raised the massive blade and brought it down hard across its neck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Terrorists Have Won

God help this poor country when consenting adults cannot sneak into the cramped confines of a commercial jetliner restroom and make whoopy. Never having the opportunity of a such an encounter myself  I have got to admit to some admiration in how any couple can maneuver themselves into such positions as to accomplish the desired carnal tasks. When I fly I can barely complete the primary mission the microscopic restroom was designed for in the first place. In some jets I have to struggle to close the door because my damn knees stick out too far when I have no other choice but to take a "seat" since I cannot wait until we land.

My biggest concern is with the fighter pilots who were scrambled and forced away from the comfort of the ready room couch and their endless watching of SpongeBob reruns. This terrible incident could redefine the term "wingman."

Sure, it's the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and you're flying on a day when there's extremely heightened security, but if you don't seize the opportunity to join the Mile High Club now, doesn't that mean Al Qaeda has won? Such apparently was the reasoning (or lack thereof) of an amorous couple on a Frontier Airlines flight from Denver to Detroit yesterday. After they slipped into the W.C. for an intimate encounter, their "suspicious behavior" was reported to the TSA, and F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to chaperone the plane to Detroit.

A Frontier spokesman tells the AP the couple was in the bathroom for "an extraordinarily long time," and law enforcement sources tell ABC they were totally "making out." When the plane landed in Detroit at 3:30 p.m., it taxied away from the terminal to a remote spot on the airfield. The 116 passengers waited about a half hour, and then passenger Belinda Duggan tells the AP, "All of a sudden, a SWAT team went through and saying, 'Please place your hands on the seat in front of you.' " (Also, get dressed.)
Three unidentified passengers were detained, and eventually released. An airport spokesman tells the AP that the response wasn't unusual. "Regardless of why it was triggered, whenever we get a radio call of a security problem on board, our response is the same one we would have had yesterday, tomorrow," Wintner said. "We always react as if it's the end of the world. If it isn't, so be it."

The incident took place around the same time that fighter jets were scrambled in response to another report of suspicious activity aboard an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to JFK. This one was also bathroom-related—ABC reports the pilot became spooked by passengers' frequent trips to and from the restroom. Three male passengers—two Israelis, one Russian—were reportedly drunk and refused to follow flight attendant instructions. But after the plane landed at JFK, they were questioned and released.

UPDATE: The AP has heavily revised their initial report, in light of a statement sent out by the FBI this morning insisting "there never were two people in the bathroom at the same time." The FBI tells the AP a man who was not feeling well went to the bathroom and another man followed. ABC, however, has not issued a correction; their sources told them two people were "making out" in the bathroom. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Poor Mexico, so far from God....

Being the eternal oddball that I am the perpetually unlucky nation of Mexico has always held a certain fascination for me. The blame probably rests with any number of Jimmy Buffett songs and old movies making Mexico in my mind an exotic land of adventure and mystery.

When Jimmy, or any of his tropical rock-singing buddies, croons about the country south of the Rio Grande, I think of ocean breezes, beautiful senoritas, and easy living. Given my early onset curmudgeon-like behavior and my growing nausea at anything to do with American culture and politics that alone is enough for me to idle away even more hours dreaming about permanently flying south like some pissed off goose desperately seeking a tequila drenched Margaritaville.

The old movies that influenced me generally portrayed Mexico as a refuge for heroic losers running from bad memories, lovers, or crimes they may or may not have committed. The movie I remember best setting that mood ended with Humphrey Bogart in a white linen suit standing by a balcony overlooking a Mexican beach waiting for the beautiful Lauren Bacall. The two had spent the greater part of the movie set in late 1940’s Los Angeles trying to figure out what Bogart’s amnesia suffering character had done to draw the ire of the local mafia and cops. I only saw that movie once but the closing scene made such an impression that I often imagine myself as a Bogart-like character sitting in some Mexican bar overlooking a tropical beach awaiting a gorgeous woman whenever I need to tuned out the whining of someone bitching about how unfair the universe is to him or her.

Despite these romantic notions idiots like me cling to, Mexico is a country that even in its early years seemed cursed in many ways.  One of my college history professors put it best about Mexico’s misfortune, “Poor Mexico,” he would say with a theatrical air, “so far from God and so close to the United States.” For the 19th century and at least a third of the 20th, our fine neighbors to the north the Canucks had the benefit of the British Empire blunting the worst of American imperial dreams of a true continental Manifest Destiny. Poor Mexico with no powerful protector got close to half of its area sliced off and incorporated into the United States and was damn lucky not to be totally carved up like Poland found itself in the late 18th century.

Adding insult to injury, White Anglo-Saxon Americans have always looked down upon anyone they considered not to their standards and proper ethnic breeding. Over the centuries, this promoted a very high level of American meddling and outright domination of the entire Latin American world. This created enough bad feeling that ultimately the United States had to deal with the likes of Fidel Castro coming to power in Cuba and inviting the Russians to grow a garden of nuclear tipped missiles on their soil. That brouhaha almost toasted the entire planet in a multi-megaton nuclear fire complete with a radioactive fallout icing.

At least we Americans were gracious enough to allow our Mexican neighbors to cross the border and work in the broiling sun picking our vegetables and fruits, clean our nasty toilets, and take care of rich Anglos children allowing them plenty of free time for the country club. Despite the widespread use of this cheap and dependable source of labor padding the pockets of many who would otherwise have to shell out huge bucks paying for American labor we have not always treated these people kindly.

I believe this has largely to do with the fact that we do not want them to stay in this country, if they do it might upset the delicate balance with it getting so bad that daughters might come home to introduce some “Juan” or “Miguel” to daddy while explaining about the growing bulge in her belly.

Well, in the fine tradition of reaping what you sow the United States has once again created a situation that is well on its way to blowing up on our doorstep. And wonder of wonders, those nasty Muslim terrorists that many Morlock-Americans are convinced are out to impose Sharia law on us good Christian folks have nothing to do with it at all.

It all starts with a population here in American that loves to get high on illegal substances, now do not get all defensive or high and mighty, this crosses all ethnic and race lines here in the United States, in short we are the proverbial demand. After that throw in the nation of Colombia, which exports drugs like China ships out electronics and you have a supply anxiously wanting to meet the waiting demand up north.

In the middle, you have Mexico who is now embroiled in a horrific war trying to stop the flow of drugs to the land of the free and the home of the brave. All they are seeing for their efforts to stem the tide is an Afghanistan-like breakdown in society with many government officials dropping everything and running away in hopes of saving the lives of their families and themselves.

Of course, this war is going largely unnoticed here in the United States. Hell, we spend damn little time paying attention to our own ongoing imperial adventures in southwest Asia. We have two-hundred satellite television channels available here with a wide array of shows devoted to the latest in narcissistic celebrity escapades, groveling political pundits, and any sport under the sun. What is it to us that some banana republic is undergoing yet another civil war?

Thank you for asking because I am here to answer that trillion-dollar question.

At one point early in this war, largely inspired to pass the American drug problems on to someone else, it was concentrated in the northern Mexican states along the border with the United States. This has allowed many gringos to sit back and go tisk tisk and push even harder to “build the dang fence” like McCain grumpily complained in his frantic bid to be reelected back in 2010.

Now the violence has begun to spread rapidly throughout the rest of Mexico. For the American assholes who think the world is their private playground and for those for whom Profit is the one true god this chaos will put a big crimp in their vacation plans and cut into the corporate bottom line. Since I consider myself to possess some small fragment of a conscious I get sick to my stomach knowing innocent people are dying and suffering because Americans cannot pull their collective heads out their asses and come up with a more effective way to combat substance abuse. But then again it all goes back to having a relatively informed American public and at least a semi-competent United States government. However, the former is laughable and the latter is something from the realm of extreme science fiction bordering on fantasy.

Since Americans like to live under a cloud of fear and threat there is one avenue I can think of that might goad them into action, if the drug-related violence continues to spread and grow it will ultimately push a wave of refuges northward across the border. The good gringos, ever worried about their tax dollars, will be forced to live up to their supposed Christian credo. They might even have to raise taxes a little cutting into their golf club budget.

Few Americans are even vaguely aware that in Mexico’s last presidential election they came very close to electing their own version of Hugo Chavez. The American backed guy, Felipe Calderon, was able, somehow, to snatch victory from the jaws of electoral defeat but many Mexicans openly questioned his legitimacy. Now I know as sure as God makes little green apples the fair and just United States government would never interfere with another country’s elections but living under a real state of daily terror Mexicans might not want to keep Uncle Sammy satisfied by putting his man in office next time.

God save us from the hysteria that would erupt here in United States if Mexico elected a certified commie unfriendly to American corporate interests, Given the current mindset that may leave our government no choice but to invade and spread "real" democracy again. However, before America goes and does something seriously stupid again, in my humble opinion it would be better for us gringos to rethink our attitudes and policies concerning our fellow North Americans before we have an Afghanistan just on the other side of our southern border.

Enough of my insane rambling, Fred Reed, an American expat living in Mexico has the real scoop on what is going on:

Fred On Everything: Scurrilous Commentary by Fred Reed

An Intrusion of Reality

Never a Good Thing

Things change, usually for the worse, and always against the innocent. (This truth is a principle of curmudgeonry.) When I came to Mexico some eight years ago, it was a peaceful, moderately successful upper-Third-World country—middle-class, barely, literate, though often barely, and as democratic as the United States, which is to say barely. Things were improving, though often they had a long way to go. The young were visibly healthier than preceding generations. The birth rate was in sharp decline. Women entered the professions in substantial and growing numbers. 

And it was safe. Expats sat over coffee at the plaza laughing at people back in the States, insular, fearful, ignorant of the world outside their borders. (For recent college graduates, Mexico is a country south of the United States. “South” is down on maps.) Mexico, they believed, was most astonishing perilous. Don't drink the water, avoid ice. Salads were thought especially lethal. The Federales would kill you for sport, like squirrels. On any given day, you would probably be shot several times by bandidos. It was nonsense. 

Then Vicente Fox left office, and Felipe Calderon came in. He declared war on the narcotraficantes. Why he did this, I don't know, since Mexico didn't have a drug problem. My guess is that Washington pushed him into it, but I don't know.

Unfortunately Mexico, which neither produces nor uses a lot of drugs, lies between Colombia, which produces vast amounts of drugs, and Americans, who want vast amounts of drugs. Washington does not want Americans to have vast amounts of drugs. Neither did it want to lose votes by imprisoning white users of drugs, such as college students, high-school students, professors, Congressmen, lawyers, and blue-collar guys driving bulldozers. The answer was to make Mexico fight Washington's wars. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 47) Bright Eyes

Flash Fiction Friday Prompt-Look at the photo, look into the child’s eyes. Some children are lost before they have even started living. Some children are a throw-away commodity like a burger box that’s left to blow down the street in the wind and rain.
Genre – open
Length – 700 words
Topic – look at the photo, look into the child’s eyes.
Deadline – Wednesday September 7th at Midnight EST. The stories post will go up Thursday morning.

(Author's note: This is a true story.)

After working my part-time pizza delivery job for a little over six months, I had come close to hating the aroma drifting out of the tightly packed insulated carrying bags located on the backseat of my car. Even worse, while I had been on the clock making deliveries for close to four hours since getting off work from my full time job I had less than twenty dollars in tips to show for my efforts, not really enough to cover the cost of the gas I had used driving around.

The section of town I found myself driving through offered no hope that I would hit the jackpot with a customer serving up an above average tip. The streets were lined with the type of cheap but rundown houses people reside in when their lives have not lived up to the popular but largely delusional belief Americans cling to about the country being a land of boundless opportunity. My ultimate destination was especially bad with huge patches of paint crumbling from rotten wood walls and makeshift cardboard patches covering busted windows.

Out of all the months of playing delivery boy I had never felt nervous walking up to a door, but this time the hairs on the back of my neck were standing straight up, namely from the odd chemical odor I could tell was coming from the house. After learning the doorbell did not work, I respectfully knocked on the door several times trying to get the attention of those inside. Just when I breathed a sigh of relief at the lack of a response and was about to turn around and leave the door opened and I was greeted by the cutest African-American girl whom I guessed was about six years-old, the same age as my own daughter at that time.

“Did you bring the pizza?” She asked with a dazzling smile and bright eyes that could have cheered up the dead, and given the person that showed up a minute later I believe that was the case. The adult male that now stood in the doorway looked like a real-life version of an undead zombie. While African-American, his skin had a visible gray pallor and was so loose it appeared to be struggling to stay attached to his hideously underweight frame. Adding to the effect, his soulless eyes reminded me of a clothing store mannequin.

“Sir, I have the pizza you ordered.” I said after several seconds of watching the zombie standing in the doorway saying nothing.

Some semblance of sentience appeared briefly after that with him mumbling, “Oh yeah, I’ll go find some money.”

After he disappeared back inside, I was left looking at the little girl and dealing with the overpowering chemical stench now pouring out of the house. She was now sitting on the floor with crayons and a coloring book obviously to the smell that was almost making me gag.

“How much money do you need?” She asked looking at me with innocent eyes that made me more uncomfortable than the chemical smell.

“About eight-dollars,” I replied absentmindedly, which caused her to flip the coloring book to a blank page and begin drawing intently. It took several minutes, which was no problem since the zombie had yet to return, but she eventually showed me her work. It was a crude drawing of various dollar bills and coins very roughly adding up to eight dollars.

“Do you like it? I colored all the money, even the coins.” She said visibly proud of her efforts.

“Yeah sweetie, it’s perfect.” I said feeling a growing sense of dread. Given what I was seeing and smelled I was worried that zombie dude was not going to show up and that the pizza was suppose to be her dinner. Feeling both disgusted at the adults in that precious girl's life and powerless to do anything about it I just gave her the pizza free of charge, walked back to my car, and drove away.


About a month later, I made a delivery to a different house in the same neighborhood. On the way back out I rode by that house and saw that it had burned completely to the ground leaving nothing but the foundation.