Star Wars — Episode IV: No Hope (or: “Paging Dr. Skywalker”)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

…there was a young boy named Luke Skywalker. Like many boys his age, Luke dreamed of becoming a Jedi, just like his father. He would stare up at the sky and dream of adventures among the stars. At first, all signs seemed to indicate that Luke was on the correct path for living his dream. His skills as a pilot were increasing daily, his latest achievement being that he could bulls-eye womp rats in his T-16; and they’re no more than two meters in length. However, things quickly took an unfortunate turn for young Skywalker.

It was as normal a day as any. Luke was raking the sand at his neighbor’s house, a weekly chore assigned to him by his Aunt Beru, when he was approached by an unsavory character whose appearance was not all that dissimilar from a relatively large shanty, or bodega. The overgrown slug-like creature spoke in a language unfamiliar to Luke, but his side-kick, an albino Rastafarian, translated. “Jabba says that you must do a job for him. Or you will suffer the consequences.”

“What’s the job,” asked Luke. “Will this interfere with my plans to become a Jedi Knight like my father?”

The shack sized fellow let out a bellow, and spoke again in his odd language. The Rastaman again translated. “Jabba says that he is your father.”

“No!” exclaimed Luke. “No! That’s impossible.”

“Ah-ha-ha,” laughed the Rastaman. “Stupid kid. Of course it’s impossible. Look at this guy! He’s like a small house. Between you and me, I don’t think he even has a penis. Hell, the only way to kill the son-of-a-bitch is to choke him with the chain of an enslaved bikini girl.”

Just then, the lean-to known as Jabba spoke in perfect English, with perhaps just a bit of a New Jersey accent, “I can understand you, you know.” He turned to look at Luke. “This guy’s my brother-in-law. Favor for the wife. You know. So listen, kid, you wanna make a few thousand credits really fast? I need you to take this box, get in your T-16 over there, and deliver it to a guy I know. Think you can do that? Do it once a week and you’ll have more credits saved up than you’ll know what do with. You’ll be able to finance your own rebellion.”

Being the naive farm boy that he was, Luke accepted the job. And so it began. Every week Luke would make a pick-up at Jabba’s palace, and then make a drop at a certain location. It was pretty simple. And easy money. That is until the day the stormtroopers picked him in his landspeeder doing 77 in a 45 MPH zone.

“May I see your identification?” asked the trooper.

“You don’t need to see my identification,” responded Luke.

“Excuse me?” said the trooper.

“I’m not the anthropoid you’re looking for,” said Luke.

“Outta the car, sir,” said the stormtrooper as he removed his sidearm from its holster.

“Move along,” said Luke.

“That’s it, you’re coming with me,” said the trooper as he set his weapon to stun.

When Luke awoke, he found himself in a holding cell. He could hear the voice of his Uncle Owen bellowing somewhere in the distance, clearly trying to barter for his release. But frankly, Luke didn’t want to be released. His chances of joining the rebellion now were no better than the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field: approximately 3,720 to 1. And if he couldn’t pilot a fighter among the glimmering stars that surrounded those two magnificent suns, then life just wasn’t worth living.

But he was released. Not only that, but he was released a second time just three weeks later. After his first arrest, Luke knew he’d never be a Jedi, so instead he started mainlining Essence of Sarlaac — the trendy drug of choice among kids his age. He was back in the local lockup within a month. Things were going downhill for Luke, and they were going downhill fast.

Once he was released for the second time, Luke moved out of his Aunt and Uncle’s hole in the ground and moved into a much cheaper high-rise on the wrong side of the Sand People tracks. Down on his luck, and nearly broke, it didn’t take much for Jabba to convince young Skywalker that his T-16 skills made him the perfect candidate to transport large quantities of controlled substances across the sandy dunes of Tatooine. Jabba’s interplanetary contacts, Indiana Solo and some Wookiee named Huey or Louie, would drop the main shipment at a rendezvous point, Skywalker would pick up the merchandise and bring it to the designated warehouse. It was going to be a walk in the park.

Unfortunately for young Skywalker, it was a very short walk. Unbeknownst to Jabba, Solo, or the Wookiee, Imperial Agents had been wire-tapping Jabba for years. Luke Skywalker got caught in the middle. As you probably know, Tatooine had recently passed a 3-strikes/no-tolerance law. This meant that Luke had to serve no less than ten years in prison. There was no escaping his fate now, his destiny lay in a cell.

It was during this time of incarceration that Luke found an interest in medicine. He began meditating. He put his faith in his knowledge of an unknown force called pilates. It was with this strength of body and mind that Luke was able to transform himself from a youth-gone-astray to a full-fledged educated pre-med student. Within weeks of his release from prison, Luke was able to take his medical board exams. He passed with flying colors.

Luke encountered another setback, however, when he attempted to look for a job. Unfortunately for young Dr. Skywalker, he lived in a time when all medical professionals were actually robots. In fact, there hadn’t been a non-robotic doctor of the non-proctology practice in well over 300-billion parsecs. This left Luke with just one option: become a proctologist.

Oddly, due to many individuals’ fear of being examined rectally by a robot, business was booming for Dr. Skywalker. He became so famous throughout all of Tatooine, that people started referring to him as Dr. Luke. He even had his own self-help television show for a period.

Which brings us to the sad conclusion to our story. On one particular afternoon, Dr. Luke was treating a pair of Siamese twins. It seems that they were suffering from a pretty severe case of hemorrhoids, exacerbated by the fact that they were congenitally joined at the sphincter. These were his last patients of the day, so after treating them for their affliction, Dr. Skywalker suggested that he take them to the local cantina where he might buy them a couple drinks. In this age of disconnected robotic medical treatment, Dr. Luke found that taking the “human” approach was a nice touch that his patients always appreciated.  The twins agreed to accompany Dr. Luke to the cantina, and with their inflatable donut pillows, they set out on the short walk.

Upon entering the cantina, the trio was enveloped by the echo of the familiar music that became sort of the theme to this particular establishment. Luke always liked the tune, personally, but frankly, on karaoke night it got a little old. On this night, however, things weren’t fated to go as usual. Before they could even descend the steps into the main bar, the bartender yelled up at Luke and his companions.

“Hey, we don’t serve their kind here,” said the bartender sternly.

“Huh?” said a confused Dr. Luke.

“Your ‘roids. We don’t want them here. They’ll have to wait outside.”

That was the final straw. Dr. Luke reached beneath his white lab robe, next to his stethoscope, and he pulled out his lighted rectal examination sabre. His intention was to demonstrate to this bartender that his companions did not, in fact, have “‘roids” (as he so callously referred to them), for he had cured them of that affliction.

In a moment of tragic misunderstanding, however, Dr. Luke’s world changed in a heartbeat. First, he heard the bartender scream, “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi! You’re my only hope!” That was followed by a searing pain in his right shoulder. But when he looked down, he did not see his shoulder. Rather, Luke saw only the floor below; upon which laid his severed arm.  Standing over it was an old man in a brown robe.

Luke screamed out in pain, “My arm! What have you done, you fool?”

“Who’s the more foolish?” said Obi Wan calmly. “The fool? Or the fool who follows him?”

“What? What the hell are you talking about, old man!? You just sliced off my arm! You just sliced off my examining arm! I’m finished! Ruined!”

“Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them,” said Obi Wan.

“My eyes can WHAT!?” screamed Luke. “My arm is laying on the floor, just between your feet there. See it? What’s deceiving about that, you sick bastard?”

Luke moved as if to strike the old man with his remaining arm, but the old man was too quick for a weakening, one-armed doctor of proctology.

“If you strike me down, I will be become more powerful than you can imagine,” said Obi Wan.

“Shut up, psycho!” yelled Luke. “Get me to a doctor! Please! Leia! LEIA!”

Just then the sound of a blaster rang throughout the cantina, and Luke fell to the ground, dead.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid,” said the shooter. “Besides, proctology is for assholes.”

With that, the cantina band began playing again. Obi Wan returned to his bar stool and ordered another Rob Roy. The Siamese twin/former hemmorhoid sufferers quietly backed out of the bar. And as the cocky shooter headed toward the exit the bartender called his name.

“Hey! Dr. Richard Kimball! Who’s gonna clean this up?”

The man just flipped a credit coin in the direction of the bartender.

“Sorry ’bout the mess,” he deadpanned. “But it was the one-armed man’s fault.”


Two Year Anniversary & A Poem to Boot

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to say that today marks the two year anniversary of my time here on WordPress. In that time I’ve written a lot of posts, deleted a lot of spam, read a lot of Chuck Norris facts, and even written and deleted a handful of posts having thought better of them.

To celebrate, for no particularly good reason, I’ve written a poem. I wonder who can identify the source of its inspiration. I actually hope to write a song with the same title. The lyrics would be quite different, however.

Sugar, Mr. Poone?
by Michael P. Fertig

She converted personal holdings,
Not corporate holdings,
Personal holdings.
Were there improprieties?
Aren’t there always?
Like a fist punching a picture frame
Hanging from the wall,
Shattered lives tend to result
From murderous plots,
Polygamous tendencies,
And drug pushing cops.
Where are the mattress police
When you really need them?
Where have you gone,
Sally Anne Cavanaugh?
Where have you gone?

For the Love of the Haiku

I’m not going to say that I’m the biggest fan of the haiku, but they are fun to write. I once wrote a really dirty haiku on the wall of the men’s room in Tavern 33 on Lincoln here in Chicago. But I’m not gonna post it here. But if you’re in Tavern 33 anytime soon, feel free to copy it down and post it in a comment.

But what I will share with you are some other haikus I’ve written lately. These are often just left as random messages for friends via email or other random forms of communication. And I’ll write a few fresh ones, as well, simply because I’m in a poetic mood today.

Are haikus supposed to have titles? I’m not sure, so I’m not titling these.

Remember always
In the pants of the hairy
Strangeness lingers thick
(Posted for my friend Deb on her MySpace page)

Words, like bees, can sting.
Fly away, little words, fly.
Now fuck off asshat.
(Posted for my friend Matt on his MySpace page)

I just thought of an idea. Maybe it’s stupid, I’m not sure. I’ve got my iPod on shuffle right now, so I’ll write a new haiku inspired by each random song that comes up. So those will sort of be the titles for each of them. Yeah, this is stupid, but it’s fun for me.

“The Band In Hell” by Electric Six
In the devil’s house
The kitchen reeks of onion
And the grill is broke

“Well Well Well” by John Lennon
Five shots in the back
Don’t want to think about that
Plastic Ono Band

“Everything Counts” by Depeche Mode (from DM 101, Disc 2)
Sanjay’s favorite
It’s a competitive world
Parking lot anthem

“A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” by The Kinks
Is he Ray Davies
Or is he now Ray Davis
He kept changing it before

“Resigned” by Blur
Richard M. Nixon
Nelson A. Rockefeller
Spiro T. Agnew

“Crazy Angel” by Kill Hannah
Psychotic with wings;
Halo and a straight jacket.
Think I dated her.

“Still” by Lionel Richie
What was I thinking?
This song makes me want to puke.
That explains Nicole.

“Sa Prize (Part 2)” by N.W.A.
I’m just a white boy
Who likes some good gansta rap
Makes me feel bad ass

“Radio, Radio” by Elvis Costello
One of the best songs
With “anesthetize” in it.
Uncle Jim digs him.

“Tummy Tum Tum” by The Dollyrots
Dollyrots rock ass
They’ll be at the Note May 6
I’ll be there watching

“Sail On” by Lionel Richie
Oh God, please, no more.
All I wanted was “Hello,”
Now I’m stuck with crap.

A Reader’s Lament

What do we call that feeling we get when we finish a really great book?

I’m talking about the sort of book that completely takes you away from wherever you are. The sort of book that makes your existence in the world disappear. The sort of book that makes you pissed off that you ever started reading it in the first place because now that you’re done with it you’ve got a hollow feeling deep inside you. I’m talking about the kind of book that leaves you with the same feeling that sinks into all us after attending either a christening or a funeral.

What do we call that feeling?

It’s not sadness. It’s not joy.

What is it?

I think perhaps it’s reluctance.

Reluctance to make ourselves reenter the real world. Reluctance to accept that our journey taken through someone else’s eyes has come to an end. Reluctance to move on.

That’s what that feeling is. And it’s a good feeling to have.

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday from complications stemming from a fall he endured about a week ago. Clearly, Vonnegut was a revered writer, speaker, and all-around personality. (Who could forget his cameo in Rodney Dangerfield’s classic film, “Back to School?”) I read Slaughterhouse Five many years ago. But I’ll admit that I don’t remember much about it. I’ll have to do what always happens when a good writer dies, and buy his works along with everyone else. Apparently, since reports of his passing broke, Slaughterhouse Five has jumped into the top 10 on Amazon’s list of top sellers.

I wonder if If Cats Could Talk: The Meaning of Meow will make that sort of jump when I die.

Anyway, I sorta thought it would be cool to post some Vonnegut quotes in honor of his life’s work.

~Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.

~I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.

~I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

~If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.

~It is a very mixed blessing to be brought back from the dead.

~Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

~People don’t come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.

~The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest.

~Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.

~Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?

~What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

~Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.


I would like to think that I’m capable of writing in a style similar to that of Kurt Vonnegut. Of course, I’d like to think that I’m capable of all sorts of things. Once the dedication to my craft truly hits me, I’ll have my picture taken in an amusement park airplane, too.

Thanks for the work you’ve left behind, Mr. Vonnegut, and thanks for the work you’ve yet to inspire.

A Beginning. But where to go from here?

As tends to happen from time to time, I’ll be rummaging through some random folders on my computer when I’ll come across something I’d written a long time ago and done nothing with. Naturally, this is exactly what happened to me today. The beginning of a very incomplete story follows below. It was last saved to my hard drive on July 14, 2003. I remember writing it, but I have no recollection of where I was going with it. It’s a pretty good bet that I didn’t know where I was going.

So I’m calling to you, my readers, to help me out here. Between the six of you, I’m sure you can come up with a good suggestion for the direction to take this. Should it include supernatural elements? Is Bartleby really dead? Is it a dream? Are these characters metaphors for something else? What are your thoughts? Perhaps we should turn this into writer’s workshop of sorts. The forum is now open, please contribute.

With every passing second, Bartleby lost more and more money. He sat to the right of the dealer at a Las Vegas casino’s blackjack table. He started out with a bankroll exceeding $10,000. It was his wife’s inheritance. Her parents had recently been killed in a plane crash. Hard to believe that someone who started out with that kind of scratch could find themselves down to their last $200.

In a casino across the country in Atlantic City, Joseph made more money in three hours than he’d made in a month at his job. Joseph had started out with a bankroll of $200 and had so far won well over $10,000. It seemed he couldn’t lose. Joseph worked the graveyard shift at the Digger Steel Corporation. Bartleby worked as a digger at the Steelmount graveyard.

At exactly 7:06 am, both men stood from their tables. Bartleby rose from his chair slowly, looking a bit dazed. As he stretched, he shoved his hands into his pockets out of nervous habit. He was startled to find that he had one chip left. It was a $50.00 chip. For a split second Bartleby pondered how he could turn this $50 back into the $10,000 he had begun with. In a last minute decision, he flipped the chip to the dealer, thanked him for a lovely ass kicking, and walked out the front door.

Joseph stood up with his eyes wide and his smile wider. He raised his arms high above his head as he stretched. He had cashed all his chips for ten $1000 chips. As he reached into his pocket, he found an extra chip. It was worth $5.00. Joseph looked at the chip and mentioned to the dealer how it really was his lucky day, then he put the chip on the table and made another bet. Joseph lost after hitting on fifteen with the dealer showing a two. He glared at the dealer, turned and walked out the front door.

At 7:48 am, Bartleby was crossing a street a few blocks off the Vegas strip when a drunk driver lost control of his Chevy Suburban and slammed into Bartleby. Both the driver and Bartleby were killed instantly.

At the exact same moment, Joseph was crossing a street a few blocks off the Atlantic City Boardwalk when a drunk driver lost control of his Chevy Suburban and slammed into a tree that stood between the Suburban and Joseph. The driver was killed instantly. Joseph didn’t have a scratch on him.

Not dying that day was the worst thing to ever happen to Joseph.

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

I was glancing at some of my old columns for Negative Waves when I came across one that I’d forgotten about. The column had to do with finding inspiration for writing stories and such. But the column itself was bookended with this fictional story I’d thrown in there. Since I have nothing else to really write about today, I thought I’d go ahead and post the story portion of that column.

So the other day, as I’m talking to a girl in a bar, she interrupts me while giving me a strange once over look. She puts her hand on my shoulder, squeezes, then slides it down to my upper arm, and squeezes again. I felt a bit like Russell Crowe in Gladiator when the old gladiator is checking him out. Finally, this girl says to me, “Do you work out?”

“You bet,” I lied with a straight face.

“I can tell,” she smiled while staring me in the eyes.

It isn’t difficult to tell that I had this girl in the bag. It’s amazing what simple human intuitiveness can do for a person.

Our banter continued for several more minutes.

“I’m a dancer,” she told me. I could smell the coconut oil on her, so I didn’t doubt her.

“Is that right?” I said humoring her.

“Hmm, mmm,” she replied while her tongue suddenly slipped from her mouth and moistened her upper lip, leaving just the tiniest sheen.

“Where do you dance?” I asked, trying not to let my voice crack.

“Anywhere you want me to,” she said as she slid her arm around my torso. Her fingers pinched my nipple. I knocked my beer over on the bar.

In a moment of clarity, I looked at her as she looked at the spilt beer which was spreading across the bar. I placed my hand on her chin turning her head to look at me. Our eyes locked in a tractor beam gaze that sucked our faces closer and closer together. Before our lips touched, I pulled back, whispering, “I don’t have anything in my nose, do I?” It kind of felt like I had something in nose.

She took a quick look, then grabbed a beverage napkin from the bar, held it up to my nose and said, “Blow.”

I did.

She wiped underneath my nostrils with the expert hand of a pediatrician, flicked the used napkin over her shoulder, and grabbed my head with both hands as she planted a violent kiss square on my lips.

As the beer that had been spilled on the bar began to trickle to the floor like a leaky faucet, our lips were locked in a kiss so passionate, the mariachi band playing that night was blushing. Her hands still gripped the side of my head as I wrapped my arms around her.

Without warning, she released my head and pulled her lips from mine.

Then she slugged me.

She gave me a right-cross to the chin that put me on the floor. I looked up and saw a hazy shadow I assumed to be the girl that had made me see stars both with her kiss and her fist. I wasn’t sure, but I think I was in love.

I was stunned, to say the least.

As I slowly came around I could see she had begun to cry. I was still laying on the ground. I propped myself up onto one elbow and rubbed my chin. The beer that had been trickling from the bar was now dripping onto my head. I pulled myself to my feet with the help of a couple bar stools. The girl leapt at me. I flinched in panic only to have her wrap her arms and legs around me in a solid embrace. She whispered in my ear, “I only hit the one I love.”

I could understand that. Or could I? I wasn’t sure anymore, what with the sore jaw and all. As I stood at the bar with this beautiful stranger wrapped around me like an odd fur coat, I reached to the bar and picked up my beer. I took a pull and downed half the bottle. It was clear to me that this night was just getting started.

“What’s your name, Doll,” I asked the girl.

“I can’t tell you, if I tell you, you’ll kill me,” she replied.

Hardly the response I was expecting, but I accepted it.

“You don’t have a man’s name, do you? I mean, you’re not a man, or were at any time a man, were you?” I inquired.

“No, darling, nothing like that,” she said. I finished the rest of my beer.

I hadn’t even been at the bar for more than 20 minutes and already I’d kissed a strange woman with more fire than a four-alarm blaze, spilled a beer on my head, been clocked in the face by the same girl I’d kissed, and now I stood with that girl attached to me like a cartoon starfish on the face of Bugs Bunny. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, but apparently the sound of her name would make me want to kill her.

Little did I know how right she was. And little did I know just how young the night was.

Sugar Rat Cocktail (a poem)

Sugar Rat Cocktail
(Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night)
by Michael P. Fertig

Sugar rat cocktails, mixed in bowls of blue.
Thunder bolt lightning, heaving through and through.
Latent skeezers, broken dreamers, foaming at the mouth,
While walled-out geezers filled with creamers prepare to journey south.
Mumbling piles of regrettable lunchmeat fester in the corner,
While humbling pies baked on Thursday give cause to a mourner.
The silky, soaked, and unsuppressable sobs cease to believe
In a sojourned delicacy that has been placed unfairly on the bereaved.
But yet, like a fleeting fleet of feeding feelers reeling in the fool,
Bombardments abound up and down the rocking of the pool.
For ’tis it not no boulder we watch careen down the slovenly slope,
In a direction sure to break the wind of all in range of humanity’s hope.
When the great stone that isn’t there finds its manifest missing
There is little that our breadwinner’s stare could not resist kissing.
Whether a golden-haired summertime lilly sitting on a lemur
Can understand the in’s and out’s of a captain’s old tramp steamer
Only leads one to believe in journeys both elegant and salacious.
And for this reason along with others one must render one’s self loquacious.
To tie the tongue with molten rock is clearly not unclever,
But to grease the palatte of another is a simply wrong endeavor.
When it becomes our place to mock another for their point of view,
Critical mass assaults our urge to bail out of our canoe.
Though we paddle with the strength of ten thousand mutant aphids
It takes but one Goliath to slay scores of unarmed Davids.
Strength of man cannot compare to the will of mighty flowers
Growing higher than the smallest men and toppling over towers.
When the unpleasant unctuous ogres gather joyfully to mingle,
Little can be done to halt the conflict that so often tends to tingle
The most uncouth, ungirding sense of falsehood which starts to take
a means of passage through the soul that belies that which is fake.
A contradiction, to be sure, tendered and plucked with known intents,
No matter how intense the tensions, the fleeing will commence.
For running hitherto upon a flagrant roaming cloud,
Is akin to jumping down from a disenchanted shroud
Whose cloth has borne unto us all a silhouette not known beyond
The realm of this in which we’re trapped, forbidden to correspond.
As the multi-colored bursts of beauty barrage the faint of heart,
It hardly seems a breach of duty when fear drips from the dart.
A poison liquid known to contaminate the righteous and the weak,
A unilateral terror for the strong and just another symptom for the meek.
They crumble to the ground now, strewn with presumption of the future
As tiny wishes tumble through our veins, until breaking through our sutures.
The languid languish languorically in a vile room filled with laudations
For the evil deaths which have occured despite our ministrations.
And regardless of attempts to rectify intangible rights from wrong,
Vulgar riffs of a heathen nature find their way into the throng.
And as we creep into a era decked in tattered smiles and spoiled laughter
It must be recognized that it’s nothing more than knowledge we lust after.
Yet escape us does the closure to this unending quest for things enlightning.
When the finality comes we quiver and shake and pull arrows spiked with frightening.
For whether a quiver of arrows or a quiver of fear the target remains fixed,
And let us not fixate too greatly on the the illusions which become mixed
With our sense of reality in a time of understanding and great confusion.
We’re just a stone’s short throw from being exiled to a purgatory of delusion.
Propagated magic beans sprout a stalk that grows into the attic of the sky,
We, too, must recognize the nonsense that might insulate us on high.
It is not a question of belief which might give us cause for grief,
As the lack thereof also can’t be blamed for the anger of a thief.
We must suppose that the puddle duck isn’t the cause or the solution,
A state repose of the muddled luck from which we gain our transfusion.
A bloody good bleeding has weakened the strong from an insurgent point of view,
Only to leave them ravaged and cold not comprehending of days of the new.
Full circle the lariat swings overhead like a blue-gray cloud, lethargically immense,
We close this prose by returning to the verse which undoubtedly holds the most sense.
Sugar rat cocktails, mixed in bowls of blue.
Thunder bolt lightning, heaving through and through.

The Camping Trip (When Bears Attack)

Have I ever told you about the time that I wrestled a bear? It was pretty exhilarating, I must admit. And really, I thought for sure I was gonna be killed, but luck was on my side that day. It happened about ten years ago when I was out camping with some old friends from high school. We were sitting around the campfire, drinking some root beers and ginger ales, roasting marshmallows and telling stories about the various forms of community service we’d been performing lately.

The night grew particularly dark as there was no moon that evening. In addition, a cloud cover had moved in from the northeast and made visibility virtually nil. One of my friends, growing tired from our full day of chopping wood for other campers, decided to retire to the tent. There were eight of us total on that trip. As it happened, a good night’s sleep was just what the doctor ordered for all of us, so we all decided to hit the sack. We stumbled around the campsite for a few minutes, with flashlight beams bouncing around, as we tried to put away all the food. We took the necessary steps to assure a relatively tidy campsite so that we’d be able to wake up in the morning and launch right into our morning prayers without having to do much preparation.

Everyone climbed into the tents. I was the only one who remained. I took one last look around to make sure everything was in order. It was. I realized, however, that before climbing into my sleeping bag I should really take a walk to the camp’s community bathroom. More than anything, I just wanted to splash some soap and water on my face, as I was sure it was grimy from our full day.

You see, in addition to volunteering to chop wood for everyone, we had also spent some time rescuing a trapped worker from a local coal mine. It was particularly random that we should happen upon a coal mine in the middle of Wisconsin’s Bong Recreation Area, but needless to say, upon hearing the muffled cries for help, we jumped into action. It didn’t take long for us to secure a country-mile’s length of rope to the back of one of my friend’s hybrid sport utility vehicle. Since we were all eager to be the one to climb down and assess the situation, we drew straws to see who received the honor. As luck had it, it was me.

The rope was tied around my waist as I was lowered slowly into the opening of the mine. The cave-in had destroyed the mine’s elevator system along with the secondary ladder escape route, so being lowered in was the only option. I had our trusty Coleman lantern in hand, a first aid kit, and a few Powerbars with me as well, as I slowly descended into the dark abyss. After what seemed like hours, I was finally able to make out the bottom of the shaft. There, laying prone beneath a fallen wooden support beam, was the mine worker whose cries for help we heard earlier. He had clearly lost consciousness. I became paranoid that I arrived too late until I saw the faint movement of his upper body rising and falling with each strained breath he took.

I yelled out to him, “Sir! Sir! Are you okay?”

His eyes slowly opened just as my feet finally touched the ground next to him.

“Am I dead?” was all he could ask.

“No sir,” I replied trying to sound as much like a living, breathing human as I could. The last thing I wanted was for my voice to resonate off these stone walls in such a fashion as to lead this disoriented blue-collar hero to believe that he was hearing the voice of a creature from beyond. “You’re not dead. You’ve been involved in an accident. The mine in which you have been laboring has collapsed around you. Can you move?”

He raised his arms in an attempt to sit up. He clearly had movement in his upper body, but his lower half was still pinned securely beneath the wooden beam.

“I’m stuck,” he said.

“Don’t worry,” replied trying to sound confident. “We’ll get you out of here.”

With that I quickly untied the rope from around me and secured it to the beam. Luckily, before descending into the mine I had thought to establish a system of communication with the others using only rope tugs. I pulled the rope three times quickly, followed by one isolated tug, then followed by a succession of four bursts of seven tugs each. This would indicate to the others that I had secured the rope to a fallen object that needed to be moved in order to complete the rescue.

In a matter of seconds, the beam was lifted from the gentleman’s torso and he crawled out from beneath it.

“I think I’m okay,” he said. “I don’t think anything’s broken.”

Wasting little time, I quickly gave the rope tugging signal indicating that I needed another eleven feet of rope. With the extra slack supplied in an instant, I quickly tied myself to the higher portion of the rope (figuring this would allow me to communicate more effectively with those above) and then tied the end of the rope around the grateful miner. Once we were both secure, I offered the man a Powerbar, which he hungrily devoured.

I gave a quick quadruple tug to the rope, indicating that we should be pulled up. It took some time and effort, but eventually we reached daylight once again. The miner was incredibly grateful. So much so, in fact, that he gave my friend Ed a great big kiss right on the lips. It sure was funny to see Ed with all that black soot or dirt on his mouth after that dirty miner gave him his thank you smooch. Strangely, however, no sooner had the miner detached himself from his grateful liplock, than he took off running. Clearly he had to get home to his family to assure them of his well-being.

Afterwards, we sat around the mouth of the mine shaft for some time. We felt the need to let the adrenaline wear off. Gary went to the car to fetch some ice-cold Capri Suns from the cooler when he returned with that morning’s newspaper, which we had happened to pick up in town earlier that day. He pointed out a small headline on the bottom of the front page that read, “Escaped convict ‘The Kissing Killer’ still at large.”

We all looked at one another with round eyes as we realized what we had done. We let a possibly injured, tired, hungry, and thirsty victim of a mine collapse run off into the forest all alone while a maniacal escaped convict was on the loose. We all just joined hands and prayed that he would make it to his family safely before he came face to face with this Kissing Killer.

As I continued my walk under the dark night sky to wash the dirt and grime from my face, I felt a sense of pride in having helped to save the life of a man who toiled so hard to provide for his family. But I couldn’t help but shake my head when hoping that he had made it home safely.

Putting the days events behind me, I finally reached the community bathroom. I went to one of the stalls and did my business. Then I walked to the sink and let the yellow run from the water before reaching my hands underneath it and relishing the feel of the cool water as I splashed it on my face. I took my time washing away the day’s events from my skin. It felt good to spend the day helping others in so many different ways. I knew then for what it was that I was put upon this earth. I was meant to be a servant to others. I made a mental note to put up a Craigslist posting as soon as we returned to civilization.

I dried my face off thoroughly, applied some Pond’s Facial Replenishing Cream, and made my way back to the campsite. I walked as briskly as I could given the state of darkness I was faced with. My flashlight, though effectively cutting a path through the darkness, wasn’t one of the stronger flashlights we’d brought on the trip, and it was fading. I thought nothing of it until I heard a rustling in some trees nearby. I glanced in that direction, but couldn’t make anything out in the darkness. I continued on.

I had only traveled perhaps another twenty feet or so when the rustling returned. Initially, I had thought that the sound was that of a racoon, or possibly a possum. It would not be uncommon for creatures like this to be rustling around in the foliage. However, I reconsidered these notions after this more recent occurrence of the disturbance. This was clearly a much larger creature. I scanned my memory looking for any trace of knowledge regarding the surrounding wildlife when I was suddenly thrown from my feet.

Something had jumped from the darkness and pushed me to the ground. I heard some heavy breathing coming from behind me. Is it possible that I was about to come face to face with a bear? But bears aren’t known to be found in this southern region of Wisconsin. How could this be happening. Slowly, as I listened to the sharp breathing, I stood up. I slowly turned around to face the beast that was certain to ensure my doom.

My eyes went wider than a Lincoln Continental. Standing there in front of me, was former Chicago Bear wide receiver Tom Waddle. He was clearly disoriented and appeared to be foaming at the mouth. As I stood with my mouth agape, Tom Waddle let out a roar that seemed impossibly inhuman. No sooner had the echo of his cry ceded into the night, than I found myself rolling along the gravel path with him on top of me. The struggle that ensued was akin to nothing I had ever experienced before. For more than forty-five minutes the two of rolled and wrestled there on that darkened pathway leading to the campground’s community bathrooms and showers.

Tom Waddle was relentless. Finally, he put me in a sleeper hold and had me moments away from unconsciousness. Struggling mightily to simply stay alive at this point, I reached out frantically for some sort of weapon that I might be able to brandish in order to fend this mighty Bear off. My hand found only handfuls of pebbles and the tiniest of twigs. Just as my vision began to fade and I thought all hope was lost, my hand felt something. What’s is this? Was it something I could use?

Despite my failing senses, I realized that my hand held the very Pond’s Facial Replenishing Cream that I had earlier applied to my clean and dry face. Not being able to consider any other options, I was able to remove the top from the Replenishing Cream and slide my fingers in to extract an extremely healthy portion of lotion. With all my remaining strength, I reached up to Tom Waddle’s face and smeared the cream all over his face. To my surprise, he fell off of me immediately.

I sprang to my feet as I watched the former Boston College star writhe on the ground beneath me. He pawed at his face with his Bear hands and roared in pain. Clearly, the Pond’s Facial Replenishing Cream was having some sort of chemical effect on him. I didn’t dawdle, but rather, turned immediately and ran to the campsite. I roused the others quickly explaining what had happened. At first they didn’t believe a word I said. It was only after I lifted my shirt and showed them the battle wounds I’d suffered that they came to their senses. It seems that during our scuffle, Tom Waddle had scratched the number “87” into my skin. This was the number Tom Waddle wore as a Bear.

In a matter of minutes we returned to the scene. Former Chicago Bear wide receiver Tom Waddle was still laying on the gravel path. He was motionless, however. Carefully, we checked for a pulse. He was still alive. The Replenishing Cream did not kill the Bear, it appeared to have only sedated him.

We quickly called the campground officials to the scene. In no time, an ambulance arrived and Tom Waddle was taken away.

The eight of us returned to the campsite, unable to fully comprehend what had happened. I fell asleep to visions of an interview Tom Waddle once gave after an amazing game where he caught pass after pass over the middle only to take the beating of lifetime. I remember the interview well. Local sports caster Mark Giangrecco had asked Tom a question, but all that Tom Waddle could reply was, “I’m not feeling too good right now.” This was a legitimate response considering he had more than likely been concussed.

The next morning we awoke and gathered in our usual prayer circle. No sooner had we said our amens then one of the campground rangers pulled up. He sauntered over to us, wishing us a good morning.

“We got back some information regarding your Bear attack last night,” he said. “It appears that the strangest set of circumstances developed resulting in your confrontation with him.”

We stood enraptured as we listened to the ranger.

“As I’m sure you boys are aware, the “Kissing Killer” has escaped from a local prison,” explained the ranger. “As it happened, Mr. Tom Waddle was out hiking by himself when he came face to face with the killer. Mr. Waddle explained to us this morning that the killer jumped on him, planting a kiss square on his lips. He said that when the killer released his liplock, he thought he was about to be killed. But instead, the killer said, ‘I’m gonna spare you, buddy. I got some help from a stranger today and I’m gonna go ahead and pay it forward. So consider yourself lucky.’ And with that, the killer planted another wet, sloppy kiss right on the mouth of Tom Waddle.”

Upon hearing this most unbelievable of revelations, the fellas and I all looked at one another.

“Well that doesn’t explain the crazy way Tom Waddle was behaving last night,” said Henry. “Why did he attack Mikey outside the bathrooms?”

“As a matter of fact,” said the ranger, “that’s where the story gets particularly interesting. It seems that after the Kissing Killer bounded away, Tom Waddle laid there for a moment before he could feel the saliva of the Killer still upon his lips, face, and tongue. Reaching quickly for something with which to wipe the offending fluids from his person, Mr. Waddle unknowingly grabbed a handful of poison oak leaves. It seems that he wiped these leaves right over his tongue. The resulting reaction sent Tom Waddle into a demented state of mind. He spent the next several hours wandering around the forest until he happened upon you.”

Needless to say, the group of us was dumbstruck at the story we’d just heard. We thanked the ranger for filling us in on everything and he went on his way.

We spent the next hour packing up all our gear as we prepared to head back into the city. That fateful night that I was attacked by a Bear was never spoken of again, but it’s something that will never be forgotten.

Another Crappy Poem

I wrote this a long time ago. It’s a completely non-autobiographical poem about a troubled rock ‘n’ roll star.


A sea of faces stare in anticipation,
the bass drum kicks wicked repetition.
Guitar licks echo as the wind swirls,
my brow furrows at the swooning girls.
Every word I sing,
every reprise I bring,
makes them crazy – their toes in curls.

It’s not the sound of my voice,
irrelevant is any given word choice.
It’s not the chords from my guitar,
that bring them here from near and far.
The stadium is full,
which seems like such bull.
Who am I that should command such a star?

But here I stand, singing my song,
each word meaningless, everything wrong.
But still they scream, their lighters waving,
not knowing why they’re all craving,
my attention,
my affection,
in the windy night that they’re all braving.

My face is soaked, I’m filled with fears,
it’s not raining, I’m covered in tears.
It makes no sense, what have I done?
One would think it would be fun
to have written a song,
to which they sing along.
Tonight I make love to my gun.