To Muse and to Dread

August 18, 2020


It’s late. You stare at one of your many aquariums. The tank light is off but you can still see the neon tetras flitting about in the darkness. Hence the name. Oh, to be one of them. Cared for. No predators. Mating with impunity.

Once, when you were a boy, your brother had become terribly mad at you. You don’t remember why. He’d taken it out on your butterfly collection, breaking the mounts with a baseball bat. Grimly, you imagine Sarah smashing your aquariums, myriad fish splashing onto the floor gasping for air. Outside you hear the wind blowing down from the mountains.

Enough. Turn off your computer. Make sure the house lights are off as well, the front, the back and the hallway. The girls always leave every light on. They are teenagers.

Has it only been three days since receiving the letter? It seems painfully longer. You are in purgatory, riven by dread, knowing yet unknowing what terror awaits you. The extortionist had given you ten days from the postmark to sort out your payment. Waiting for the gallows, you would have expected time to pass faster.

Take your pills. Brush your teeth. Find the bed in the darkness. Slip under the covers, next to your wife who, tonight, is not snoring. Not yet anyway. Hopefully she won’t before you fall asleep.

To be continued…


Like many introverts, you find serenity in nature. Retreating into the woods, the hills or simply out on the lake fishing. Leaving the company of people. Entering a better place.

Drugs and alcohol once took you away from people. False prophets, malicious guides into dangerous places, they drew you inward. Left you there. Isolated. Like they say in AA, your brain is a very dangerous neighborhood.

So you go outside. Marin County has so many trails. Within minutes you are free. In nature means you’re never alone, even by yourself. It’s both hard to explain yet obvious. Solitude is company. You hike. You walk. You stand perfectly still. You can feel yourself breathe. No more waiting to exhale. Not here. The monumental redwoods and fragrant cypress are profound company. Called “The Sleeping Giant” by locals, Mt. Tamalpais lords over you like a sentinel.

Exaltation. Elevation. No matter the circumstances, if you open the door you will always feel better. It never fails. Misery comes when you forget that it’s here.

To be continued…

The Locker (3)

April 6, 2020


Another man struggles to unload an ugly dresser from the back of a brown van. Inside the vehicle, pushing the dresser, his wife. She swears at him. He yells back at her. Like a birth, you think. It’s a junk piece, better left to Goodwill, or the empty lot up the street. How many of these lockers were filled with shit like that? Surely, not yours! Thump. The dresser hit the asphalt. The van sighs, free from its burden.

The good news is you were able to secure a unit right by the door, so it’s almost like having a “drive-up,” which would have cost you much more. The small victory made you feel better about things, a silver lining. You unlock the roller door and lift. It heaves and rattles upward, releasing the dank smell of old wood into your nostrils. Upon checking in last week, the manager sold you a bucket of dehumidifying crystals for eight bucks. In the parking lot, a woman shook her head and clucked: “they sell the same ones at the dollar store. That one there is a rip off!” Good to know, you said.

To be continued…

The Flicker Inside (3)

March 19, 2020



Maybe in high school, where after a few beers you became giddy and loose, laughed at TV commercials, enjoyed the wobbly feeling and loss of control. Hidden in back alleys and basements, you and your cohorts reveled in breaking the law. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Then drugs and alcohol became prerequisite to parties, dates, movies and concerts, the joys of those things no longer joyful without them. Using became the party. Then in lieu of the party. Then only it.

In college, your passion for writing and heavy drinking were one and the same. Oh, how you romanticized it! Your right hand on the keyboard your left hand on a drink. You were like Hemingway. Jim Morrison. To this day you still type with only one hand.

Upon entering the work force you listed drinking as a hobby on your resume, along with reading, writing and fishing. Such audacity. They hired you anyway.

to be continued…

The Bogeyman

March 12, 2020


A virus was in the air long before this one. Canceling people, places and things anonymously and viciously. It was in our politics. Infecting belief systems. Pitting race against race. Few were immune. Yet, the more we suffered the more we had to hide, suppressing our anxieties, burying our fears. For fear of being canceled, shunned or worse. Humanity was plagued…is plagued.

The zeitgeist is a petri dish. Ground zero could have been anywhere…is everywhere.

But at last we have a villain: COVID–19 aka the Coronavirus! This glorified flu virus, which has killed very few healthy people, a mere handful actually. Most of its victims were “elderly with underlying health issues.” No matter. COVID-19 has found the perfect storm in which to spread. Not by creating actual new sickness but seizing upon the one that was already here. So let’s cancel classes. The NBA. Cancel conventions. And meetings. And all work in general.

Social distance is the new normal. But hasn’t it been that way for years?