Thursday, August 31, 2006

Parking Lots At Night #3: The Parking Lot At Night

I pulled into a parking slot next to
the area we had used that morning.

We had the parking lot all to ourselves.

To the west we had a two-story wall,
brick and windowless. To the east were trees.
North of us were tennis courts with no lights
now that it was past ten o’clock at night.
South of us was a curving access road
with shrubbery and other landscaping.
There was one tall, circular light fixture
in the center of the parking lot but
we were parked nearer the wall and the light
didn’t even cast shadows that far off.

As parking lots go, we had privacy,
but it was still an outdoor parking lot.

“Umm, dig it,” Shelby said. “It’s like our own
lovers’ lane. An asphalt-paved motel room.”

I switched off the engine. “Listen, Shelby,
this is kind of freaky. You feel okay?”

“I feel,” Shelby said, leaning to me and
kissing my cheek, “absolutely entranced.”

She opened her door. The dome light went on.
Shelby fiddled with the overhead switch
and turned off the light. She stretched out her legs,
unbuttoned her dress and kicked off her shoes.

“Come on, Mister Indoor Guy,” Shelby said.
“Why don’t we do it in the road?” She grabbed
my hand, then let herself tumble sideways
out of the passenger seat and onto
the asphalt. I let her pull me with her.

Shelby lay with the asphalt under her
and me on top of her with nothing but
my clothes and the thin strings and thin fabric
of her lingerie between our bodies.

“The asphalt,” Shelby said, “feels softer than
a fancy hotel room’s fancy mattress.”

Shelby’s face was flushed and she looked at me
with an unbounded intensity that
made it possible for me to ignore
or forget or just plain not care about
the fact that we were in a parking lot.
I kissed her and she kissed me back, deep, hard.

Shelby’s hands moved down to my waist. She reached
to unbutton my jeans. But then she stopped.
I felt her squirm, slightly, underneath me.
I kissed her ear. “Am I heavy?” I asked.
“Do you want me to—”

She interrupted
by smiling, shaking her head. “No,” she said.
“You’re fine. I just feel something under me.
Must be a pebble or something. Let me—”
Shelby squirmed, again, to shift position.

“How’s that?” I asked. “Did you get off of it?”

“No,” Shelby said. Her lips formed a tight line.
“No,” she said, again. “In fact, it is worse.”

I shifted my weight onto my knees and
one elbow to let her move more freely.

“Ow!” Shelby said. “It kind of hurts. Maybe
there’s little pieces of glass or something.”

I pulled up my knees and sat back against
my heels. I reached down. “Here, sit up,” I said.
“I’ll brush off whatever is on your back.”

Shelby tried to sit up but winced in pain.
“It’s my skin,” she said. “It’s caught on something.”

I shifted sideways and brought my right knee
over Shelby’s legs and kneeled next to her.
I put my hand on her stomach to try
and calm her. “Tell me where you’re stuck,” I said.

She looked at me, her eyes wide, very round.
Color drained from her face. Her skin was white.
“My shoulders,” she said. “I can’t move at all.
But now there’s something under my legs, too.
It hurts. It’s like it’s cutting into me.”

I put my right hand on her shoulder and
tried to slip my left hand underneath her.
I felt something wet against the asphalt
and I felt the space between the asphalt
and Shelby’s skin narrow, become hard, tight.
The space compressed further, almost tugging
at my fingers reaching underneath her.
I pulled back my hand. Blood dripped from my skin.

Shelby moaned. She said, “I think I may scream.”

“My phone is in the car,” I said. “I’ll call—”

Shelby lifted her arm at the elbow
and grabbed my wrist. “Do not leave me even
for a second,” she said. “I’m gonna try
to force myself up. I cannot stand this.”

Shelby closed her eyes. Her grip on my wrist
tightened. I saw her stomach muscles flex.
She screamed. The sound was like the night itself
reached down out of the sky and slapped my face.

I shifted my weight back over Shelby.
I pushed my left hand behind her ribs and
was able to reach fully behind her.

“I’ve got my hand underneath you,” I said.
“I’m going to try and pull you upward.”
I put my right hand against her right arm.

“Pull me up now,” Shelby sobbed. “I don’t care
what happens to my shoulders or my legs.”

I braced my knees then shifted my weight back.
Shelby’s spine stiffened and her chest arched but
her shoulders and hips stayed fixed to the ground.

Shelby screamed. I almost fell because blood
from under her hips made my knees slippery.

“Shelby,” I said, “I have to get the phone.”

“Don’t let me go for one second,” she said.
“This fucking ground will eat me if you do.”

The pain is making her manic, I thought.

And the blood and screaming and poor Shelby
crying in her underwear were messing
with my own thinking because then it looked
like she was sinking down into the ground.

It looked like the asphalt was eating her.

Shelby grimaced and wrenched her head from side
to side. She forced her head up to look down
at her body. She lifted both her arms,
bending them at the elbows and she grabbed
at the tiny triangles of fabric
that still covered her breasts. She spoke, her voice
hardly more than a growl. “It’s this fucking
underwear,” she said. And she ripped downward,
breaking the string, tearing the bra in two.

At that instant both her shoulders pulled free.

I didn’t know what I was doing or
why, but I reached down and grabbed her panties.
I crumpled the fabric and pulled, breaking
the strings at her hips. Her legs twisted free.

Next thing I knew Shelby was off the ground
and had her arms and legs wrapped around me.

I half stood up but just let us both fall
into the passenger seat of my car.
I dragged us over and pulled the door closed.

When Shelby heard the door slam behind her
she let her arms and legs go limp. She sagged
back against the seat. I twisted further
and turned the key still in the ignition.
Shelby was crying in relief, banging
both fists against the passenger door lock.

I rolled backward into the driver’s seat,
shifted into drive and pounded my foot
against the accelerator. My car
fishtailed as the drive tire burned rubber but
traction took hold and the car leaped forward.

I don’t remember if I drove out through
an exit or over the sidewalk but
we got out of that fucking parking lot.

(Tomorrow: Parking Lots At Night #4: The Next Day)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Parking Lots At Night #2: Dinner With Shelby

Shelby didn’t drink and I was driving.
Neither of us had alcohol that night.

In fact although we planned to have dinner,
fried zucchini was as far as we got.
While we were eating the appetizers
Shelby leaned way back and exhaled deeply.

“Do you see what I’m wearing?” Shelby asked.

I did. I recognized the black and beige,
button-front de la Renta creation.
She’d gotten it at an earlier shoot.

“I see that you’re wearing a dress that’s worth
quite a bit more than my car’s worth,” I said.

Shelby made a face. “Not the dress,” she said.
She moved her collar. “Look what’s under it.”

That’s when I learned she was wearing the bra
from the photo shoot in the parking lot.

“Laetitia gave me the bra and panties.
The instant she put them into my hand
they started whispering a little voice
in my head, ‘Put me on and let’s go out!’”

I ate some zucchini. “My briefs,” I said,
“don’t talk to me, inside my head or out.”

“You know what my lingerie’s saying now?”

“Order chicken?” I asked. I liked Kiev.

“The little voice from the bra and panties
is saying,” Shelby said, “‘Let’s go back to
the parking lot
.’ Let’s go now. In the dark.”

Shelby looked at me. She moved an eyebrow.

“What, right now?” I asked. “To the parking lot?”

She smiled and nodded with Buddha-like peace.

I asked, “What? You want me to take pictures,
do photos of you in the lingerie?”

“No,” Shelby said, leaning forward, smiling.
“I don’t want you to do photos of me.
I want you to do me. Get the picture?”

Shelby giggled low at her play on words.

Now my eyebrows went up. All by themselves.

“I might as well tell you, Shelby,” I said,
“I’m not really an out-door kind of guy.”

“You’ll be fine,” Shelby said. “Now pay the check.”

“No, really. I’m an indoor kind of guy.”

“You’ll be fine. Call the waiter. Pay the check.”

“The thing is, I get distracted,” I said.

“I’ll do the work,” Shelby said. “Pay the check.”

Sometimes a girl’s face becomes so focused
her eyes are like the whole world turning and
a guy’s only choice is to spin with it
or get thrown off into empty, cold space.

I called the waiter and I paid the check.

(Tomorrow: Parking Lots At Night #3: The Parking Lot At Night)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Parking Lots At Night #1: The Morning Fashion Shoot

A friend of mine, Bob the photographer,
did a fashion shoot in a parking lot.

La Perla had put together some string
with some tiny triangles of fabric
and was selling the things as lingerie
to women with boyfriends who could budget
three or four hundred bucks for underwear.
The French model who stretched out on asphalt
all morning got two thousand bucks an hour
plus airfare, meals and hotel expenses.
I was there on salary because Bob
was one of those photographers who liked
cameras but not darkroom work. I liked
enlargers better than cameras so
we split the chores, Bob doing the lens work
and me doing processing and printing.
We had assistants for hair and makeup
and to wrangle fill lights and run for snacks.

It was a fun shoot, everyone happy,
everyone earning plenty of money –
especially the sexy French model –
but in my memory all that sunshine
is eclipsed by the crazy bloody night
I spent with Shelby when shooting was done.

Shelby did the French girl’s hair and makeup.
The model gave Shelby some lingerie
from the shoot. Just about six hours later,
Shelby and I went out to get dinner.

The screaming had already started but
we just hadn’t heard it yet. The bleeding
started later. Then we heard the screaming.

(Tomorrow: Parking Lots At Night #2: Dinner With Shelby)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Parking Lots

I wonder about parking lots.

I’m wondering if the number
of cars that go into a lot
will always be the same number
as the number of cars that leave.

Sure, it sounds simple. Cars drive in.
Cars park. And, later, cars drive out.
If more cars drive out than drove in,
where did the additional cars
come from? If fewer cars drive out
than drove in, where did the cars go?

I’m thinking goblin mimicry.

Most things we see that look like cars
are cars. That doesn’t mean all things
we see that look like cars are cars.

Every now and then, for instance,
a colorful thing that looks like
a butterfly might fly into
a parking lot and change into
something that looks like a parked car
only to later drive away.

Every now and then, for instance,
something that looks like a parked car
might change into something that looks
like a human being and walk out.

Industrial revolution
trickle-down changes did away
with most virgin streams and clear brooks
anywhere near modern cities.
I’m thinking now our parking lots
are the places to watch closely
in the industrial landscape
to observe fairies in action.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Bigfoot Walks Away

A bigfoot walks away. It disappears
into thick trees. Lots of vertical lines,
an artist might say. Lines blend together.
And lots of muted colors, an artist
might say, too. Olives, umbers. Colors blend
together, too, when they all look like gray.
Glaring, washed-out brights from the sun above.
Lost, indecipherable darks below
in shadows of tree trunks and undergrowth.
Reality – at least the visual
cortex version of the real – breaks apart
like pics in Antonioni’s “Blowup”
or process shots in Hitchcock’s final films.

I’ve never heard of a bigfoot sighting
where a person ran into the forest,
where a person chased after the bigfoot.

Has cinema so shaped our consciousness
that we live real life as if we’re in seats
and don’t even consider getting up
to chase the images in front of us?
Or is the experience of seeing
a bigfoot so perpendicular to
real life that we feel as separate from it
as we do from a Hollywood movie?

If I ever see a bigfoot I’ll try
to tackle it. I’ll try to drag it down.

Of course, fairy-lore is full of stories
where humans get dragged to Magonia
and disappear into the fairy realm.
But if I ever do see a bigfoot
I’ll still try to grab it and drag it down.
Either I’ll drag it down to here, my ground,
or it’ll drag me down to there, its ground.

I imagine that is the risk you take
whenever you get up out of your seat.
You never know where the scene will take you.
You become part of what looks like a film
to the people who do not leave their seats.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wolfram’s Terrarium

Alison is starting to wonder about Wolfram.

Not only does he watch a lot of Hitchcock movies

but when they had a romantic dinner at his house

he showed her his terrarium.

In a five gallon tank above his television

Wolfram is keeping a Givenchy thong stiletto

and a Gianni Milanesi two-banded slide.

Alison knows lots of people

who keep shoes but she can’t help feeling that it is cruel

to keep two adult-sized sandals in anything less

than a ten gallon tank. “Sometimes,” Alison’s thinking,

“little things reveal a man’s soul.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Pressures Of Being A Real Life Princess


and GRACE KELLY are sitting at a semi-circular booth.
We see Grace Kelly in the foreground
with the other women to her right.


LONG LENS CLOSE UP of Grace Kelly.
The camera begins to DOLLY IN and
at the same time ZOOM OUT.
We hear her thinking.


There was me, that is, Alexa,
and my three gal pals,
that is, Shelly, Shelby and Chic,
Chic being really chic,
and we sat in Rick's Place
chatting about what to do
with the evening, an awful,
overcast, nippy, autumn pisser,
though dry.

After “The Birds,” Alfred Hitchcock
tried to lure Grace Kelly back to the
film world by offering her the starring role
in his own adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s
“A Clockwork Orange.” Sadly, the pressures
of being a real life princess kept Grace Kelly
from returning to the director
who had made her famous.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lindsay Lohan And Rupert Sheldrake

Lindsay Lohan says she aspires
to become Marilyn Monroe.

I suppose I’m gonna get stuck
being the new Arthur Miller.

I was afraid I would get picked
as the new Herman Mankiewicz
but the new Orson Welles is late.

Of course there’s still always the chance
Paris will call and drag me in
as the new F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I’ve completely lost track of who
is the new Hitchcock so I guess
the new Ernest Lehman is out.

The new Thoreau looked promising
but that got axed when budget cuts
eliminated Emerson.

I sometimes wonder why I can’t
just be the new Horace McCoy
or the new Ross Macdonald but
you can’t fight morphogenic fields.

The presence of the past demands
a left hand page follow a right
and you can’t be Arthur C. Clarke
unless there is Stanley Kubrick.

Maybe if I limit my work
to only the internet then
I can avoid the alchemy
and not become anyone new.

But even as I write the words
I smile at the absurdity –

What’s the point of just being me?

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Monsters In Disney’s ‘Mulan’

Disney’s movie ‘Mulan’ is like Loch Ness.

Some people look at it and see monsters.

But even if they pinpoint exactly

where they saw a monster and even if

they describe the monster in great detail

other people will go to that same spot

and see nothing that fits the description.

Which creates an interesting question:

Are the monsters seen in Loch Ness somehow

like the monsters seen in Disney’s ‘Mulan?’

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mischa’s Dream

Mischa always dreamed

of being rescued

by angry peasants

wielding torches.

But Mischa never

accepted dinner

invitations from

the mad scientists

in her life when they

became obsessed by

her sexy shoulders

or the way she tossed


nuts to squirrels at lunch.

You can’t be rescued

from a dark castle

if you never go

to a dark castle.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Drew Barrymore and Eugene Ionesco

Last night at the keyboard
I was working, typing,
ghosting Drew Barrymore’s
biography of Eugene Ionesco,

when my spirit rose up,
left my body, looked down
at what I was doing
and banged its head hard against the ceiling.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I’m hearing complaints.

Police tell me they get

lots of reports my


Sea Monkeys escape

their moat and attack

the neighborhood koi.

But how can I let

the deaths of goldfish

get in the way of

advancing science?

It doesn’t matter,

however, because

my new and improved

giant tetras will

keep down the numbers

of the Sea Monkeys.

I am worrying,

however, about

those missing crayfish . . .

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Susan’s Team

From a flying saucer crash site

somewhere in the Catskills

Susan’s team recovered

three Donna Karan gowns

and two pairs of Armani pumps.

Monday, August 14, 2006


I switched on the light.

The first thing I saw
was a big spider
next to the light switch.

I wasn’t afraid
before I switched on
the light but seeing
the spider right there
by the switch after
I turned on the light
made me instantly
feel like the spider’s
giant spider friends
were behind my back
holding my shoulders
so I couldn’t move
and now this spider
from by the light switch
would leap on my face
and cover my eyes
and blot out all light
while they poisoned me
and paralyzed me
and slowly ate me
sucking out my guts
with their spider fangs.

I took off a shoe
and smashed the spider
then sat down to write
this poem about it.

I killed the spider
quickly but I wrote
these verse lines slowly
scratching out the words
with my writer fangs.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Martin’s Sweater #5: Martin’s Sweater

On his front porch, Martin reached to open the front door of his house but stopped. Instead of turning the doorknob, Martin knocked.

The porch light flashed on. The door opened only an inch or two. Susan stood hidden behind the door but leaned around to look out through the narrow crack.

“You’ve come back,” Susan said.

“Yes,” Martin said.

Susan looked down. “I don’t see your sweater in your hands.”

“No,” Martin said. “But I know where it is. I expect to have my hands on it any moment now.”

“Really?” Susan asked. “Where do you think it is?”

Martin raised an index finger as if to point, then touched his finger against the door. He gently pushed open the door.

Susan took a step back and let the door swing open. She stood in front of Martin wearing his sweater and nothing else. In the porch light, the sweater was bright green. The little rocket ship was bright red over her left breast.

“I knew you would figure it out,” Susan said.

“If you knew I would figure it out,” Martin said, “why did you do it?”

“Well, it’s one thing to know something,” Susan said. “But nothing compares to actually getting your hands dirty finding out. Sometimes you just never now about things.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that,” Martin said. “Of course, I think you’re just a trouble maker.”

Susan shrugged. “Hey, I’m not the kind of girl to sit around knitting a sweater while her man stumbles home from Troy. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to have my sweater fun.”

“Girls just want to have fun,” Martin said.

“How did you figure it out?” Susan asked.

“I should have known from the beginning,” Martin said. “You throwing the sweater just at the moment I turned on the light. You holding the sweater just so, so that I could see the sweater and the little insignia clearly.”

Susan giggled. “I actually posed there for a moment, waiting for you to come out and look.”

“It was the raccoons that tipped me off,” Martin said.

“The raccoons squealed?” Susan asked.

“Oh, no,” Martin said. “I didn’t talk to them. But when I learned they hadn’t run away from the house but had run back toward the house I wondered why they’d risked me seeing them. But they knew you’d be keeping me busy on the porch, right?”

Susan grinned, said nothing.

“And when I learned the cover was off one of our trash cans, I wondered if it was just coincidence. Or something else. What, did you do a deal with the raccoons, they hand off the sweater to you and you let them at the garbage?”

“Quid pro quo,” Susan said.

“Quid pro quo, indeed,” Martin said. “Sailor’s home from the sea.”

Susan held out her arms. “Welcome home.”

Martin embraced her. He felt her body warm under the thin fabric of his sweater.

They kissed.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Martin’s Sweater #4: The Raccoons Again

Walking away from the moths and mice, Martin also walked away from the only street lamp near the alley. The alley was dark, darker even than the front yard after Susan shut off the porch light.

Martin stopped at the entrance to the alley to let his eyes adjust. But even here it wasn’t totally dark. Ahead in the alley some illumination angled down from windows at the back of his house and from the house across the alley.

Martin heard noises in the alley in front of him. Scratching on plastic. Paper ripping. Chewing. He stepped forward, slowly, taking quiet, small steps.

He saw the raccoons behind his house. The raccoons were climbing in and out of an open garbage can. Martin stopped. Leaning back against a telephone pole, Martin studied the scene in front of him.

The pack of raccoons was emptying the garbage can and eating all the leftovers they could find. Two or three raccoons were inside the big can, tossing out garbage. Two or three more raccoons were in the alley sorting the garbage and chowing down on anything edible.

“You guys better save some of that food for us,” one of the raccoons in the can hissed fiercely at his comrades on the outside.

“Yeah, right,” one of the raccoons hissed back, “like you’re sharing everything you find. I saw you eat that chicken leg.”

So the raccoons did circle back, Martin thought. They left the front yard through the hole in the bushes and turned right. They came directly back toward the house and must have hid somewhere in the alley.

Martin studied the animals in front of him. He wondered, Why would they have risked getting caught to come right back toward the house?

Then Martin turned his attention away from the animals and onto the ground. If they put down the sweater to pillage, Martin thought, I can just grab it now. I can just run forward, clap my hands and yell to scare the raccoons and grab the sweater while they’re panicking.

But not matter how carefully Martin studied the ground behind his house, he didn’t see his sweater.

Martin was puzzled, but not surprised. Somewhere in his consciousness, like the shadows of the moths fluttering on the road, the events of the evening were casting their shadows onto his thinking. The pattern of events, each silhouetted against the others, was starting to take on a visible form. Martin couldn’t exactly trace the outline, couldn’t exactly say what the shape was, couldn’t say he understood, but he was starting to see. Even with the darkness around him, there was a gradual kind of revealing illumination dawning inside him.

The raccoons had circled back, Martin thought. He knew this somehow held the key to all the events of the evening. The raccoons risked me seeing them, Martin thought. Did they know the garbage can was somehow uncovered? Was the imperative to ransack the garbage too strong for them to resist?

Martin remembered what the mouse had said when they’d speculated about the obvious ways the garbage can could have come unlatched. The mouse had ended by saying, “Or maybe something else.”

And Martin remembered something the squirrel had said, “If the raccoons have something of yours it belongs to the night, now.”

Had the raccoons already handed off his sweater, Martin wondered, to the squirrel? Or to the mice? Or did they –

And then like an internal floodlight switching on, Martin knew. Martin saw. Martin understood. He actually blinked in the darkness as if the sudden internal illumination had flashed in his eyes.

Martin looked once again at the raccoons ripping apart his garbage. His lips pressed tightly into something like a smile and he took a step backward. He turned and began walking out of the alley.

Martin was going to get his sweater.

(Tomorrow: Martin’s Sweater #5: Martin’s Sweater)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Martin’s Sweater #3: The Mice

A couple of street lamps over, almost directly across the road from the hole in the bushes, large moths were fluttering in the air between the light and the ground. The shadows of the moths moved back and forth along the road by the curb. Among the shadows of the moths, darker shapes moved quickly along the curb. The mice were setting up for their night time adventures.

About a dozen mice had gathered along the curb, and at first Martin thought they were pitching pennies. But he realized the mice weren’t tossing coins, just spinning them and watching them fall. And the mice only had one penny. They were also spinning a quarter and a nickel. When the coins stopped spinning and fell flat, some of the mice made notations in little notebooks.

“Hi, mice,” Martin said. “What are you guys doing?”

The mouse nearest Martin handed his notebook to another mouse and turned to Martin. “We’re doing math,” the mouse said. “Specifically, we’re studying probability. We’re checking that heads/tails dynamics, that is, fifty-fifty outcomes, work the same with different systems. Pennies should work the same as nickels the same as dimes and the same as quarters.”

“I think you’ll find a fifty-fifty bet is the same whatever coin you use,” Martin said. “This kind of stuff is easy with computers.”

The mouse laughed. It was a high squeaky sound. “We know. We check things with computers, too. But nothing really compares to getting your paws dirty with real life examples. Sometimes you notice suggestive things a simulation wouldn’t include. We don’t expect any differences in the coins but it never hurts to experiment. We’ve got time. It’s good to be complete. Sometimes you just never know about things.”

Martin pointed at the coins. “But you’re not complete. You’ve got a penny, nickel and quarter but no dime.”

The mouse kicked at the road. “It’s the way things work. Every night there are dozens of coins lying around the sidewalk and curb. People drop them. But tonight, for our experiment, we couldn’t find a dime. So we’re making do.”

Martin reached into his pockets. He felt some change, tugged it out then found a dime and tossed it down to the mice. They scampered around, hopping over each other in excitement. The mice split up some of their groups to dedicate two spinners and a note-taker to the dime. They began spinning their complete set of coins and tracking how they fell.

“Thank you very much,” the mouse nearest Martin said.

“I’m looking for a pack of raccoons,” Martin said. “A while ago, they came out of that hole in the hedges across the street. I think they either turned left and ran down the street or they came across the street this way. Did you see them?”

The mouse swayed from side to side, shaking its head. “We only set up a few moments ago. We were out looking for coins. We just got here. We didn’t see raccoons come out of the hedges at all.”

Martin nodded. “The squirrel said you might have been able to help. Or might not. He said it was worth asking.”

“Oh, you were talking to the squirrel, were you?” the mouse asked. “That squirrel chooses his words carefully. He’s a jazz singer, you know. You were right to pay attention to him. I’m just sorry we couldn’t help you.”

Martin shrugged. “The raccoons have something of mine. I’m going to get it back. I’ve got to track down the raccoons.”

The mouse started to turn back to the coins, then stopped and took a step closer to Martin. “You live in that house across the road, right?”

“Yes,” Martin said.

“Well, we didn’t see any raccoons,” the mouse said, “but, like I said, you never know about things. We did see one odd thing about your house.”

“What’s that?” Martin asked.

“Did you know the cover is off one of your trash cans?”

“No, I didn’t. I took out the trash this afternoon. I latched the can closed when I was done and made sure the others were latched as well.”

“We came through the alley looking for coins around garages. We noticed one of your garbage cans was open because we made a note to go back and check it for lunch later.”

Martin looked across the road to the darkness behind his house.

“Maybe,” the mouse said, “the latch broke after you closed it.”

“Yes,” Martin said. “Or maybe the raccoons figured out a way to jump up and pull down the latch.”

“Yes,” the mouse said. “Or maybe something else.”

Martin nodded. He was thinking hard himself about something else, but he couldn’t quite put shapes to his thoughts, couldn’t quite put his thoughts into words.

“Thank you for the dime,” the mouse said. “It helps us be complete in our research. And I hope our little observation helps you get what you’re looking for.”

“I think it will,” Martin said. “And I’ll keep in mind what you said about the squirrel choosing his words carefully.”

The mouse laughed again. “Goodbye. I’ve got to get back to the experiments.”

Martin waved. The mouse returned to the others and began to help spinning coins.

Martin looked again at the blackness behind his house. He took a long breath. He looked both ways along the road, but there was no traffic in either direction. He walked across the road, this time back toward his house, back toward the deepest darkness behind the house in the alley.


(Tomorrow: Martin’s Sweater #4: The Raccoons Again)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Martin’s Sweater #2: The Squirrel

The wide, wooden steps creaked under Martin’s feet as he stepped down from the porch. The crickets in the nearest bushes stopped chirping. Martin stepped completely off the porch into the grass. Behind him, he heard Susan go inside and close the door.

At least she left the light on, Martin thought. And at that exact moment Susan switched off the porch light leaving Martin standing in the darkness of his yard. In the bushes, the crickets resumed chirping.

On the other side of the hedges, street lamps along the road provided some illumination. Martin could see light streaming through a ragged opening in the hedges where the raccoons had run through.

Martin walked forward and bent to examine the opening. I’ll never fit through there, he thought. He straightened and walked to the edge of the hedgerow. From the corner of the hedgerow, he turned and looked back. On the other side of the hedges, the raccoons could have turned right, gone straight across the road or turned left.

I don’t think they would have turned right, Martin thought. That would have taken them back toward the house. They’d know I might have seen them. They’d either go straight across the road or turned left and came this way.

Martin looked around. There were no marks on the sidewalk, and the grass along the road looked fresh and undisturbed. But, Martin reminded himself, if the raccoons had run in the street they would have left no marks.

Then Martin saw a small shape across the road. He heard music. In the circle of light from a street lamp a squirrel was sitting up against the curb playing guitar. Martin walked over.

The squirrel had a small electric guitar. Martin thought it looked like a Stratocaster since he didn’t see a whammy bar he assumed it was a Telecaster. A good jazz choice, Martin thought. And the squirrel was playing a quiet kind of jazz, odd, complex chord progressions that sounded clean but just a little tinny through a small, battery-powered practice amp. Martin looked both ways but the road was empty in the middle of the night. Martin crossed the street to talk to the squirrel.

The squirrel was singing quietly as he played –

“The night will open like a door
nobody wants to walk through
and if you don’t get done
whatever you doing by dawn
you might not be able
to walk back through
’cause the door of the night
might be locked on you.”

Martin felt around in his pockets. He found some folded money and took it out. He had a ten and three ones. He considered what to do, then smoothed out the three singles and put them in the squirrel’s guitar case. The bills just fit.

“That was a nice song,” Martin said.

The squirrel continued playing, but he looked up. He gave Martin a long stare, then made a clicking noise with his teeth. “I notice,” the squirrel said, “that you had a ten and three ones. And you gave me the ones. Is that a comment on my playing?”

Martin smiled. “It occurred to me that the best use a squirrel could make out of money would be to shred it and help insulate a nest. I figured you could get more use from three singles than one ten.”

The squirrel laughed. He stopped playing and began checking his tuning. “You’re one of them people that’s always thinking, huh?” the squirrel said. “Insulate my nest, huh? Well, I guess that’s as good an answer as any.”

“I’m looking for a pack of raccoons,” Martin said. “They would have come out of those bushes a few minutes ago. I think they either ran across the street or they ran off down the street. Did you see a pack of raccoons run this way or that?”

The squirrel finished tuning and played a few random chords. “Man, don’t put me in the middle of your troubles. Nobody wants raccoons mad at them. I didn’t see raccoons run across the street or run down the street. I’m just sitting here trying to get my old hands working on these six strings, just trying to get my old voice to disappear into the night without bringing down the stars. I appreciate the paper you passed my way, but I don’t think there’s anything else I can tell you.”

“The raccoons have something of mine,” Martin said. “I want it back.”

The squirrel laughed. “If the raccoons have something of yours it belongs to the night, now.”

“I’m going to get it back,” Martin said.

“Good luck,” the squirrel said. “Don’t let my playing and singing keep you around here yapping if you’re after some raccoons.”

Martin was going to say something else, but thought better of it. He glanced both ways along the road then turned to follow the curb guessing the raccoons had turned left exiting the hedgerow. “Thanks for your time,” Martin said to the squirrel. “I did like your song.” Martin started away.

The squirrel played a fast scale and then stopped. “Hey. I’ve told you everything I’ve got to tell. But there’s some mice down the other direction. A couple of street lamps along. They might have seen more. They might not have seen anything. But I’d guess it’s something you might want to take up with them.”

Martin looked over his shoulder. That was back in the direction of his house. The mice must have been right across the street from the hole in the hedges the raccoons used to leave his yard.

“Thanks for the tip,” Martin said. He started back up the road.

The squirrel returned to his song –

“The night will open like a door
nobody wants to walk through
and if you don’t get done
whatever you doing by dawn
you might not be able
to walk back through
’cause the door of the night
might be locked on you.”

(Tomorrow: Martin’s Sweater #3: The Mice)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Martin’s Sweater #1: The Raccoons

Martin switched on the porch light at the exact instant his wife Susan threw his sweater to the raccoons.

“Why did you do that?” Martin asked.

Susan turned to face him. “What do you think I did?” she asked.

In the yard, at the very fringe of the light from the porch, the pack of raccoons gathered up the crumpled cloth and scampered away into a hedgerow.

“You threw my sweater to the raccoons,” Martin said.

“No,” Susan said, “I didn’t.”

“Yes,” Martin said, “you did. I saw it clearly. It was my favorite sweater. The green one with the little rocket ship on the chest. You threw it to the raccoons.”

“No,” Susan said, “it was just a rag. I threw a rag at the raccoons to scare them out of the front yard.”

Martin and Susan stared at each other. The night was quiet around them. Crickets chirped in the darkness away from the porch. A gentle breeze carried the smell of night dampness off the hedges and across the porch.

Martin looked away. He studied the darkness where the raccoons had disappeared in the hedges.

“You threw my favorite sweater to the raccoons,” Martin said. “It wasn’t a rag. I saw it clearly.”

“Why would I throw your sweater to the raccoons?” Susan asked.

“Why do women do anything?” Martin asked.

“You’re imagining things,” Susan said.

Martin looked at Susan, then looked again into the darkness outside the light. He took a deep breath. He nodded.

“I’m going to get it back,” Martin said.

“A rag?” Susan asked. “A rag I threw at some animals?”

“No,” Martin said. “My favorite sweater. You threw it to the raccoons, but I’m going to get it back. I’m going out there. I’m going out into the night and get back my favorite sweater from the raccoons.”

“Think about what you’re saying,” Susan said.

“Think about what you did,” Martin said.


(Tomorrow: Martin’s Sweater #2: The Squirrel)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Suzy’s Show (End Theme)

Suzy says

Time to turn off the cameras

Suzy says

Watch out for the monsters

Suzy says

They know she’s not filming

Suzy says

Suzy says
If we make it through the next six days
Meet me back here
Next week


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Suzy Buys A Bikini



SUZY is in a skimpy bikini walking along
the beach. Sunbathers are all around her.


This little adventure has taught us that skimpy
is still sexy no matter how hard the marketing types
try to sell cover-up skirts and tops. And we learned
that even though more people are using sun screen
skin cancer rates are going up. The theory is that
more people are going to beaches today than in the past.
But tin-foil types – of course – think that sun screen
causes cancer. My Suzy theory is – of course – the simplest
one. My theory is that if sun screen blocks the ultraviolet
rays in sunlight from killing healthy cells then sun screen also
blocks the ultraviolet rays from killing unhealthy
pre-cancerous cells which are then free to grow and
mature into actual cancer cells. I’m not a doctor and I don’t
play one on TV – though I sometimes play with them
on TV
– but my prescription is to get some sun but don’t
get a lot of sun and – of course – have fun. Bye-bye!
I’ll see you next time the camera’s on!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Suzy’s Dinner With Michael Crichton



SUZY’S in her pajamas. She’s gargling.
She bends out of frame to spit into the sink,
straightens up and runs water for a second.
Suzy turns to face the camera.


Okay, today we learned that indiscriminate use
of antibiotics can cause big problems.
The antibiotics will kill the target germs but
certain strains of germs will survive.
Without competition from the dead germs
the survivor germs will grow into super-colonies.
Since antibiotics don’t kill these winner germs
you are stuck with them. Whatever they do to you.
Yuck. But of course things are never
as simple as the doctors-turned-writers
make them out to be. Because, hey,
I’ve been gargling with this stuff –

Suzy holds up a bottle of Listerine.


– for like ten years now. Everyone knows
this stuff kills germs that can cause bad breath.
Well if this whole drug-resistant bacteria dynamic
were true you’d expect my mouth to be full
of super-colonies of mutant bad breath germs.
But it’s not. Look!

Suzy opens her mouth wide. The camera
zooms into the blackness, then zooms out.


See? No monster germs. My mouth is so clean
you could sit down in there and eat a meal.
And some people have . . . So enjoy
better living through chemistry but
think about things. Bye-bye! I’ll see you
next time they turn on the camera!


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Suzy And The Sea Monster



SUZY’S soaking wet. She has a towel over
her shoulders from drying her hair.


So, what have we learned? Things like odd shaped logs
floating in the water or unfamiliar animals
swimming in the water can be mistaken for sea monsters.
Duh. Of course, by that same principle every day
hundreds of people see real sea monsters
and mistake them for floating logs or swimming animals.
I guess. Anyway, all you can do is have fun.
But keep in mind you never know what’s just a few feet away
waiting to bite you on the rump. It might be me
or it might be something even scarier! Bye-bye!
See you next time the camera’s on!