I finished a possible cover for my work in progress, A Field Guide to Fauns. It is a book about re-forming families from tragedies and divorce. It is also about suicidal thoughts and depression. And it takes place in a nudist park where the family has a permanent trailer.
This book will definitely be about some of my own experiences with these things and issues. And I hope to distill a bit of high-quality wisdom from this brewing novel. After all, when it comes to depression and battling it, I have deep scars and burned-in notions of how you overcome them. It is ironic that I know so much about fighting depression and darkness, even though it was mostly about the depression of other people, not me.
I have come to know how to stitch families together out of used and discarded parts. Hopefully not creating a new monster. And again, it is ironic that I know this mostly from other families, not ours.
The book is flowing, practically writing itself. And that is always a sign of a big idea turning itself into a great novel. I look forward to finding out what happens in each and every next chapter… or, in this case, Canto.
Once upon a time there was a geeky, nerdy hobbledehoy who liked girls pretty much, but was totally oblivious to the fact that some of them really liked him.
This problem began in junior high when the hobbledehoy was thirteen. A girl named Nikki decided to sit by him in art class even though they were assigned seats in alphabetical order, and the hobbledehoy’s last name began with a B, while Nikki’s last name began with V.
She constantly remarked about how wonderfully he drew each and every assignment, even the ones that looked like a black bird bathing in a mud puddle even though they were assigned to draw the teacher using swirl doodles, which nobody knew how to do and everybody got wrong.
By the end of the first semester, Nikki had made it known to the hobbledehoy that her greatest wish was for him to come to her house after school and draw her in the nude. “I cannot,” said the hobbledehoy. “I have to catch a bus after school. And this is Iowa. It is too cold to take my clothes off to draw somebody. I would shiver too much to draw well.”
In college, the hobbledehoy was still a little clueless and clumsy. He still didn’t see it whenever someone of the female persuasion looked at him and hoped that he would be their little huggie-bear.
A beautiful blonde girl started sitting with the guys from Ayers House whenever they went to lunch in the dorms. She always chose to sit next to the hobbledehoy. She asked him about his class times and class locations. When the guys went in Doobie’s car to MacDonald’s. She sat in the front seat and turned around to talk to the hobbledehoy in the back seat, the whole way, both going and coming.
Then one day, she sat by him at the food service table even though no other guy from Ayers House was there at the time. “Sometime you will have to show me these drawings you can do, the ones that Doobie is always talking about. You can bring them to my room when my roommate is out. Doobie can tell you where to find me over in the Maples Building.”
The hobbledehoy seriously thought he might show her some of his drawings. But he couldn’t ask Doobie where to find her, because he didn’t know what her name was.
Finally, when the hobbledehoy got through college, and he also got through remedial college to get a Master’s Degree and a Teaching Certificate, he got a job teaching middle school English in South Texas. And he had a pretty Hispanic teacher’s aide who asked him to take her places in his car. And the pretty blond Reading teacher from the classroom across the hall also liked to invite him to go places either in her car or in his. And he had a great time with each of them. But the three of them never seemed to be able to do things together without somebody getting angry. And the hobbledehoy didn’t understand it. He was never the one who got angry.
The Hispanic one had a sister who lived in an apartment complex in Austin. And the hobbledehoy’s parents lived in the suburbs of Austin at the time. So, they would travel together to Austin for weekends. The only complicated thing was… the apartment complex where the hobbledehoy dropped her off and picked her up was a clothing-optional nudist apartment complex. The hobbledehoy learned about human anatomy and nudist etiquette very quickly.
And the Reading teacher was rather aggressive. She dropped a lot of hints. And one night she arranged a card party at the hobbledehoy’s apartment. It was a small party. Just the Reading teacher and the hobbledehoy and the female Science teacher. And it turned out that the Reading teacher had bought two packs of pornographic playing cards. And she wanted to play strip poker.
So, the moral of the story is… even hobbledehoys grow up sometime. And by the time the hobbledehoy had gotten fat around the middle so that he could no longer be a hobbledehoy, he got married and had three kids.
And if you were to say to me, “Mickey, is the hobbledehoy really you?” I would say to that, “I don’t think I can answer that.”
It was a lonely day. My family was away. My Thanksgiving dinner was purchased at the drive-thru at Jack in the Box. Just me and the dog, hanging out with Netflix. I watched what I wanted to. The dog complained there were no dogs in the shows. There was a monkey. But that didn’t impress the dog.
I have had time to write. And I have made progress. I reached 35,000 words on my work-in-progress. I watched a really good movie in the theater in Lewisville.
But what am I truly thankful for?
My wife and I are headed towards separation. I am bankrupt and must pay off my bankruptcy in the next two and a half years. I am in terrible health. I am forced to earn extra money in order to keep making all the payments I must make. Working is hard because my diabetes and arthritis both interfere. No one reads my books beyond a few random discoverers of the power of the stories I tell. And it all will probably end sooner rather than later. I may be developing cancer again. Diabetes may be wrecking my heart, or possibly setting me up for a stroke. It will all be over soon… probably.
But my hardships are what I am thankful for.
Pain reminds me that I am still alive, and dealing with pain makes me stronger to live a little longer.
Sadness reminds me that there are people and endeavors that I truly love and care deeply about. My sadness is proof that I have really known love.
Being poor and nearly destitute reminds me to take stock of all I do have, and to make the wisest possible use of all that is left to me.
I am not homeless.
I have a wife and kids. My parents are both still alive. My brother and my two sisters are still thriving. The dog still loves me. Some of my people do too.
I am free to think and feel and be… no matter what the thoughts and feelings and facts of my being are.
It is true that some people are luckier than I, have more than I do. But more people are given a lot less in life. And what I am truly thankful for is the greatest gift I have been given. I have the honor of being me, and I actually know what that means, who that person is.That is a rare and priceless gift.
It seems sometimes, in a Judaeo-Christian society, that we are a constantly being scrutinized by a rather harsh all-knowing God who rewards getting the faith-words accurately correct, to the letter, and the faith-based actions perfect, without a single mistake. And He punishes missteps of word or deed with pain and suffering and the potential of an eternity in Sheol or Hell. And that is a tough God to live with. He is like a teacher who uses his or her God-like powers to reward or punish to lead his students all down an exacting, narrow path to a destination that does not have room for everyone when they arrive.
It doesn’t take long in childhood for a highly intelligent person to realize before childhood is over that this cosmology is actually a load of horse pucky. It didn’t even take long for somebody as semi-stupid as me.
What I like about listening on YouTube to the wisdom of Alan Watts is that he gives us an alternative way of seeing the universe and ourselves. This he can offer through his studies of Eastern and Buddhist philosophies. Everything appealing in John Lennon’s signature song “Imagine” comes from Lennon’s love of listening to the lectures of Alan Watts. He is obviously a wise-guy.
Alan Watts teaches us the pathways that lead to finding yourself, who you truly are, and how you fit into the universe as a whole. When Carl Sagan says that we are all made of star-stuff, he is not only telling us what is literally true, as the elements our bodies were formed from were literally made in the nuclear forges at the centers of stars that later exploded in nova-bursts to scatter the elements across the skies of everywhere. He is also telling us that what Alan Watts says is metaphorically true, that everything in the universe is part of the same thing and we are all one in this way.
There is plenty to worry about in my little life. I could easily drop dead at any time from any one of my six incurable diseases or even the return of the skin cancer I beat in 1983. I suffer from the consequences of disease daily, as I have for many years now. My sins are many. I broke my promise the other day to never show you the horrors of my naked body on this blog. I constantly eat the wrong thing and continue to do things that I know are bad for the environment and the health of my body. I am prejudiced against racists, stupidity, and the actions of dedicated Trump-lovers. In many ways I deserve God’s wrath and brutal correction. I have come to truly believe that climate change is going to end life on Earth. I am horrible.
But I have learned from Alan Watts that all of those concerns mean nothing. I don’t believe in Heaven or an afterlife. But I do not fear death. I am one with the universe. And the universe goes on even if I do not. And I will always be a part of it, even after I am no longer alive. The universe has a mind and is intelligent And I take part in that because one small part of that intelligence is me, and lives in my head.
There is comfort to be found in the words of Alan Watts. And living in pain as I do, I really need that comfort most of the time. That is why I have attempted to share a bit of that comfort with you.
Mom had breakfast ready and on the table. Eggs and bacon on stoneware plates, one for
Val and one for Daddy Kyle. She was a
great cook and loved to stuff her small family with what she made. That was probably the reason she was
watching over a second pan-full of sizzling bacon.
“Your father isn’t ready yet?” asked Mom, left eyebrow
“Oh, he had to change his pants again for some reason.”
“That man can find more excuses for dragging his feet than…”
“Mom? Is something
the matter with Daddy?”
“What do you mean?”
“Last night I thought he was crying in the machine shed.”
“Well, you know your Daddy Kyle. He loves his machinery, and that big old
combine is broken down again.”
“It shouldn’t be.
It’s only two years old.”
Mom looked at her with unreadable eyes. Was she mad?
“He says he can fix it.
He says the problem is just mechanical and you know how handy he is with
“Sure.” He did love that combine. Maybe that was what made him sad. He
loved Valerie and he was always sad when she was sick too.
Valerie gobbled eggs and bacon. It was good, but even better eaten fast so
you could enjoy those bacon burps for the next half hour.
“You eat like you’re starving. I wish I could eat like that, Val, and stay
as thin as you do.”
“Mom, I’m only eleven.
I’m not supposed to be a fatty at my age.”
“I thought you were ten, dear. Where does the time go?”
Valerie was still thinking about yesterday, the holiday Monday…
and why did so many people have to feel sad?
“Do you know what makes Ray Zeffer so sad, Mom?”
“Ray Zeffer? What
brings that up?”
“He and Danny Murphy walked me all the way home last night
from town. He’s such a gentleman. But he always seems sad.”
“Well, I would guess that losing your father the way he did,
such a short time ago… well, it might have something to do with it. I know his mother, Donna Zeffer, is sad a lot
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“And there was a brother that died… older brother… Bobby, I think. His family has been through a lot.”
Valerie buttered a piece of toast and then sipped her milk
from the mug that Grandpa Larry had given her years ago. The mug had a big red heart on the side of
“I didn’t know about the brother. Younger or older?”
“Definitely older. More than ten years ago.”
“What was more than ten years ago?” asked Daddy Kyle as he
came in to breakfast.
“Valerie was wondering about Ray Zeffer because he and the
Murphy boy walked her home from town last night. How long ago did Bobby Zeffer die, Kyle?”
“Oh, at least sixteen years ago. But what’s this about boys walking Valerie
home last night?”
Uh-oh. Dad radar had
picked up a boy-alert… a potential boyfriend/trouble/rock salt alert.
“Danny and Ray were just being gentlemen,” said
Valerie. “They wanted to make sure I got
“And they didn’t have anything but your safety on their
little minds?” Kyle asked with a skeptical smirk.
“I suppose now you want to shoot Ray?” asked Valerie.
“Who said anything about shooting Ray?” asked Mom.
“Dad did. He wanted
to shoot Pidney and Danny last night, and now he wants to shoot Ray!”
scolding stare could wither flowers that were otherwise in full bloom.
“I was just kidding around!” said Daddy in a defensive voice
that sounded a lot like a little boy who’d been caught pulling his sister’s
hair. “I wouldn’t really shoot
anybody… It’s a dad thing.”
“I’m sure it is,” said Mom.
“But let’s not joke about that anymore.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He was
thoroughly chastised, and Valerie marveled at how Mom could make him so
instantly repentant, like a Baptist preacher preaching Hellfire or something.
“The bus is here, Princess,” said Daddy Kyle while peering
out the window.
it really was. Valerie had to
hustle. The old yellow bus driven by
Milo Volker was waiting at the end of the Clarkes’ lane, and he wouldn’t linger
if she didn’t show up fast. Still, it
made her grin to see the look of relief on her Daddy’s face as he realized the
dangerous conversation was at an end.
This is a story about an innocuous piece of furniture in Great Aunt Minnie Efram’s house. It was a little brown loveseat with carved wooden monster feet.
As the story begins, the little loveseat was sitting in the parlor in front of the small black and white television. During the monthly Efram family card party, the love seat was the only place for the two of them to spend the evening. But he was ten and he hated girls. He had a reputation with the guys at school as a girl hater, and he couldn’t have it known that he was sitting on a loveseat with Uncle Henry’s stepdaughter, the one the guys all said they had seen eating her own boogers.
She was also ten, and in his class at school. She liked to watch him more than any of the other boys. But she didn’t know why. She liked unicorns and the color pink, but she also kinda liked the way boys looked at her when she wore shorts. And she liked seeing him in PE class at school, wearing shorts. He was athletic and often won games in PE.
After two years of monthly card parties happening during at least three different months every year at Aunt Minnie’s place, he had discovered that girls didn’t actually smell bad, and this one actually listened when he talked about playing football, and how it made him feel when he scored the seventy-five-yard touchdown. In fact, the more he talked about football, and the closer they sat to each other, the better she seemed to smell. He liked that smell.
She liked that he didn’t only pay attention to her at the card parties anymore. He actually said, “Hi” in public. And she liked his smile, even when he got braces. He let her pick the shows they watched on the old black and white television while seated on the loveseat. She actually worked up the nerve to tell him that she had told Jane at school to ask him if he liked her, and stupid Jane had completely forgotten to ask him, or maybe Jane was just too chicken to ask him and used the excuse that she forgot.
He said that if she liked him, he liked her. But if she didn’t, he didn’t either. “Like” her, he meant. Which he did because she did.
After two more years and six more card parties worth of scootching behinds closer together on the old loveseat, something different had happened. And it was about time too. Aunt Minnie had bought a puppy, and that not only was a bad thing for the seven cats that lived with old Minnie, but it was hard on the loveseat too. One of the little couch’s monster feet was lost, and the numerous instances of terrified cat claws digging in were beginning to have an effect on the upholstery. And that danged dog wizzled everywhere. The loveseat had one purpose in life, and it didn’t want to give in to wear and tear before achieving that purpose.
But the very next year brought disaster. He apparently told the members of the freshman football team that something had happened on that old love seat that really hadn’t happened. The football team was impressed because they all thought she was pretty hot stuff, and he was generally thought of as a lame-o dweeb. She heard about it from Jane who heard about it from Nanette’s boyfriend who was on the team. And she got mad. How dare he say something like that when it wasn’t true?
In January of that year, Aunt Minnie passed away in her sleep. The loveseat was sold at auction to a farmer who liked to do re-upholstery as a hobby. It got re-done in red velvet and leather with wheels replacing the wooden monster feet and sold to a car dealer in Des Moines who placed it in the lobby show-room for customers to sit on.
But the story has a happy ending. She would later make his locker room lie into the truth on Prom Night (fortunately with protection) and then went on to marry him when they both were sophomores in college. Of course, it wasn’t always, “They lived happily ever after,” because they didn’t. They got divorced once and got re-married shortly after… to each other. They had three kids. And the loveseat didn’t ever learn any of that. Because it was a loveseat. You didn’t really think loveseats could know anything, did you?
Chances are… I could wear a foolish grin, like a Johnny Mathis Moon in the sky…
I could waltz… all alone in a dark room, never seizing on the chances to fly…
But there’s a time… meant to let the summer in…
And love songs… all make me wonder… Why?
Silly, I know. But silly and surreal is how I go, how I deal with the time. A song in my head leads to rhythm and metaphor and rhyme. And it takes me from old winter and the waning of the moon… to the silly month of June… And my dancing shoes were never quite so spry.
Chances are… if you really read this, you will know I am depressed.
My life is all unfairly messed.
And I barely can get dressed…
To go tripping cross the floor, dancing awkwardly toward the door, ’cause I’m in need of so much more.
But in a poem I find it… the very reason that I rhymed it… like the crooning song that’s stuck in my old head…
I will catch it, and I’ll bind it, like a fool who hopes you’ll find it, and the treasure will be revealed before we’re dead…
Chances are… that you hear that silly tune, as it reels across the page in silent spread. And the song will slowly stop, as I dance a final hop, and the answer is brightly shining in my head.