A Short Story
“Just for today; a bit of the future”
Sci-fi reframing over on Fresno!
Apocalypse Fresno (NOW)
You may ask yourself how I got caught up in a shit storm of this magnitude 5148 miles from home? Good question!
Better question – Which Bozo gave the order to break every Meth Lab in Fresno on the same night?
More importantly – Why in the name of insanity am I stepping out into the street??
It all started a long time ago when God created the Heavens and the Earth, and Hell followed!
Fresno CA – 2040 AD
Less than 24 hours have passed since my flight from Louis Armstrong Airport. Its funny how quickly things escalate when the right amount of excrement hits the fan. Yesterday I sat on the banks of the Mississippi, today I march face forward into the Apocalypse. If you really want to know why I chose to trudge through this Hell state then maybe you should ask “What the actual fuck is going on”?
By the way; this all happened…
In a slightly different way, somewhere in another time!!
Rising tension continued during our short trip. “Those fuckas” he screams, responding to the radio update. I sense his keenness to get the taxi off shift. I feel it too. It was the same leaving New Orleans. Passengers preparing to board flights stopped to stare at wall screens as they projected news channel footage into the departure lounge. The broadcast showed unrest. Reports claimed large scale police operations involving Federal Agents and Drug Enforcement Teams. Announcements alleged resistance, many shots fired, and casualties. But this was beginning to look like a whole different ball game.
Im vaguely aware of my grip on the coin as it indents the palm of my hand. We’re above the main drag heading downtown from the airport. Dead streets – no traffic in sight! Gunfire brakes the City’s silence. With time that becomes familiar and so will many other things before this tale is told.
The driver half turns to me and bellows “What the fuck you doing here man? I mean we are nowhere”.
“It seems to me like you’re everywhere tonight my friend” I reply. “Now here” Flashes through my mind.
A sense of unease and discomfort worms its way towards a dark crevice deep in my soul. Im guessing the driver feels it too. If not, maybe he should. The noise of a Hoverbike rises from behind. It lifts up and quickly moves alongside. The bike cruises a moment and the rider locks horns. The passenger flashes a firearm, more a canon than a gun. “Motha Fucka” shouts my man at the wheel. Instinctively throwing the cab down and to the left knocking the bike sideways out of the sky. Theres no mistaking things now… this town is chaos. Law and order is on vacation.
While sat at the far end of Bourbon Street, alongside the Mississippi River, I began noticing strange vibes creeping in. My mind had projected bad luck at being one of the last ever passengers on a commercial flight. I sensed something. It disturbed me! Thoughts turned to Fresno. The town with a bad reputation. A populous of half a million citizens in the Meth Amphetamine Capital of the Planet. I’d been told its a tough place, but compared to what? I grew up on a diet of football violence and brutality during the miners strike, not to mention lunatics for friends. Whats that place got to show that I haven’t already seen? Another town another girl. Same old story! Nevertheless I felt a disturbance in the force before leaving New Orleans. Sat in this Hovertaxi playing Grand Theft Auto for real I begin to get a sense why.
“I need to park this heap of junk bro; shit got real”.
“Yeah man, how far to go? Remember Im a stranger in this town and the locals don’t seem too friendly”.
“Almost there” he replies. “You still haven’t answered my question! What brings you to a dump like Fresno”?
Laughing I say “Heard it was an exciting party town on the rise”.
Fear shoots across his face “Theres a fucking uprising going down tonight white boy! You made it just in time to party”.
As the sun dips to the horizon I see the shape of an electronic advertising board. Its lights are out. Hanging below, I recognise the silhouette of a human body.
Stood paused in the doorway I survey the apartment. It looks spacious and uncluttered. The last trace of natural light filters through open curtains. All quiet, nobody around, just as expected! Turning to close the door I see a shadow flash across the lawn and movement in my side vision. With the door shut I bolt the deadlock and apply the chain. I step into the living room, drop my bag and collapse on the couch. Staring at the ceiling my eyes slowly acclimatise as darkness creeps into the room. Laying there lost in the breath, feeling my lungs expand and contract until finally grounded I decide to look around. I find my a light switch. Up and down it flicks. Nothing! My vision rests at the staircase and I decide to check out the upper floor. Viewing outside becomes priority. The bedroom looking out over the lawn is the obvious choice. I pull the drapes within a couple of inches, almost to the point of closing. Hunched down at the window ledge I can see the street and the road crossing the junction. Its empty, silent and dark. The street lights are out. A sense of doom washes over me. Quickly it retreats to a shudder. I experience an undercurrent only described as awareness.
Suddenly an explosion lights up the sky. I make a guess it wasn’t the neighbourhood barbecue gone wrong. The disturbance is huge. Small arms fire sounding close by is quickly met with a loud thump. A terrific bang echoes throughout the darkness. The blast feels close. It has a deliberate edge to it. The tremor flowing through my arm becomes noticeable and the curtain shakes in my hand. I let go and step backwards. Moving into the centre of the room, a thought flashes across my mind- “What the hell is going on”? And then it starts; the voice, my voice but not my words! The Beast wakes! Half of me expected him. This is fucked up. Of all the Godforsaken times and places why now? Never once have I consciously made that fucker welcome. Ive learned the hard way that resistance means persistence. Now was a very fucking bad time indeed. I need to find my way around this house and see whats what. Just then, appearing out of nowhere, a Sky Cruiser hovers outside the window. A voice hails from its tannoy. “Put down your weapons or we will open fire”. The words have barely registered when the vehicle blows apart mid air. Flying debris shatters the bedroom window – flames burst into the room! The blast knocks me sideways into the wall. My face reflects red heat. I hear the Beast laugh and feel consciousness slipping away. Passing out as I recall the taxi driver shrieking “Good luck Motha Fucka”.
In the dream I see a coin. Silver and…
With my back against the wall, collar pulled high and hat down low, I sit trembling. The room is full. The meeting started moments ago.
“Anybody want to announce any length of sobriety”?
Im thinking ‘not really’ but thats not How It Works. They know anyways so I’m thinking what the hell.
“I got 24 hours… again!”
The room bursts into applause but I don’t see the need to make a big deal of it. I fucked up, but guess I’m lucky to have made it back. It feels torturous. I almost convulse. Nervous energy pulsates through my bones.
A friend comes forward and shakes my hand. He plants a silver coin in my open palm.
Struggling to stay still I remain seated for the hour. Eventually the meeting ends.
As I start to leave I’m approached by somebody who knows me well enough…
“What happened Man”?
“I don’t know, looks like I took my eye of the ball, something like that”.
He frowns “Bullshit and you know it! Relapse starts weeks before the drink. Even the planning and preparation stage kicks in with days to spare”.
I feel on the spot “Hard to say, things got difficult. I knew it was coming for a while but felt powerless to stop it. You know how it goes”.
He pushes a cigarette my way “Yeah it sucks but you can come back from this. Stick around buddy you’re one of the good guys”.
We shake hands and I head back to the cruiser. Everything he said makes perfect sense. But my mind is heading in a different direction and trying to pull me with it. How can ya be honest when you’re still surveying the damage? I know one thing for sure, it was an experience I don’t want to repeat again.
It all started with a minor confrontation. Some people seem to have a natural talent for pissing me off. My aptitude for polishing resentment outgrows the other guys efforts very quickly. Increasing a dislike to the level of blind hatred is my super power. I took it to another level within a week. Fear always shows up for the fun and games. That subtle little pest rapidly turned into a snarling monster. My mind projected impossible outcomes into a dead cert in record time. All of this I kept to myself. Lets face it I’m good at hiding shit.
Then the Beast began to whisper. I tried the old fashioned Jedi mind trick hoping this Clusterfuck would disappear. As for prayer and meditation, who cares to enlist the help of a Higher Power when you’re in the middle of some self serving battle zone. Only somebody with a decent grip on sanity, thats who! Thinking I know better! Well how did that work out…
Leaving the apartment early that morning my eyes focused on an empty beer can. Just sitting there in the gutter, cast side, it meant no harm. But the Beast did. That intrusive voice, impersonating my own, whispering sweet nothings of self harm and personal destruction. That fuck face certainly meant plenty harm and brought a shit load. I was quickly tuned in at full volume listening with intent. Gripped in a vice like dream state I found myself re-entering the flat fully charged up with enough juice to guarantee oblivion. All varieties of my choosing from hard liquor to dry cider plus enough cigarettes to bring about an embolism.
The days turned into weeks. Vaguely I recall phoning in sick at work. Sordid bars and street fights flashed through my memory. A fleeting recollection of been in a house with some woman and no idea how I ended up there. As for how long I stuck around? It beats me!
I came out of a blackout screaming, hoping it was a nightmare, unsure if I’d lived it or dreamt it. I was sitting in my own piss so that put paid to that query. The cruiser was laying on its side in the alleyway. Local kids had covered it in graffiti. I was a mess!
I got 24 hours… again! I feel the coin in my pocket. Im holding on to this one, nothing to add or take away. Anything and everything, no matter how difficult it gets, this one stays! 24 hours to thine own self be true. Just for today. Every fucking day!
Sat aboard the Mayflower Torpedo as it hurtles across the Atlantic just above the sea bed and Im thinking “What an incredible feet of shipbuilding and engineering”. I feel privileged to be on board so soon after her maiden voyage and aim to explore from Steerage to Captains table. Nuclear powered engines firing her across the pond in under two hours and the feeling of motionlessness is sublime. Never since the Titanic’s fateful journey had a launch attracted so much attention. I guess they were expecting a similar outcome. You never can tell with these things. However, that never stopped the rich and shameless spending a small countries deficit on a first crossing boarding pass. This is her third trip today. I almost taste the Florida sunshine as I strut my stuff through the Casino and Bar, rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of high society. All expenses paid. My Job is to visit with political and non profit community leaders working on solutions to the smog. International air travel, banned now for almost 2 years, internal flights wrapping up, except for the police and military, sky flight will soon belong to the past. Big money has been invested in Nuclear Monorail to catapult large numbers coast to coast. Cruisers have replaced the good old automobile. Their magnetic downdraft finally waved goodbye to stinking diesel along with oil’s lust for war. Still the smog increases.
This is definitely the way forward. Welcome to the future and God bless all who sail in her. A smile broad and… Boom!!! The Subs rear end overturns as Im thrown at speed over the backgammon tables. My last thoughts before certain death are “collision, disaster – Im fucked!” Shrieking sirens cut through the darkness and a voice from a loud hailer repeats over and over… “This is the voice of the City of Fresno Police Department. Armed Police are patrolling the streets. Rioters and looters will be shot on sight. The City is under curfew please remain indoors till further notice. This is the City of Fresno…”
Woke by the voice of a drone issuing its stark warning as it heads off into the night. I recon dawn prepares to break. Lying there stunned and disorientated I wait for the Sun to put his hat on and smile down on this madness.
In the daylight I search the house. Electricity is still cut and the TV is dead. I rummage through my bag and check my tablet. It suggests no internet connections are available. It seems the web is also under curfew. Theres food in the fridge left by the host. I see a note on the kitchen table “Welcome to Fresno make yourself at home we hope you have pleasant stay. Call if any problems”. I fucking would if the phones worked. Finding a door to the basement I shake the lock loose and head down the stairs.
Its a Jumble Sale; mountains of shit! I spend the next few hours rummaging through it. I mean what else is there to do – take a walk in the park on a day like this? Its almost 100 degrees and a battle zone outside. I find a sandalwood box. A handgun inside almost antique, looks like something from a turn of the century action movie. What was that dude called? Schwarzenegger I think! A box of ammo, enough to fill the clip, without guarantee to fire, sits alongside the piece. A baseball bat and skateboard pads are amongst the bounty. It turns out to be more like a treasure trove than a trash dump.
Then the voice. It sounds like me but uses phrases I wouldn’t choose to think. It chatters negatively away… “Imagine if we found whiskey here? A psychotic party for one while this goon show burns itself out. What could be better”? I feel sick. “If not, then we could always branch out to the liquor store. Maybe a little break & enter, how difficult could that be? Like who’s gonna notice? Common it’ll be fun”.
I now know I’m in a much worse situation than whatever the fuck is going on in this desert oasis! I need help and its not available here at the Fresno Funshack. I hear a scream from above. It sounds like outside. I reach into my pocket and take out the coin. Ive got to get out.
The sun burns my eyes as I step out through the door. Blinking hard I raise a hand to shade my sight. I notice the shake. Still holding the coin, I immediately pocket it, feeling the stock of the pistol buried in my waistband. Automatically I scan the street, theres no sign of the screamer. One foot goes in front of the other without a plan. I have to find someone or something. A city war zone lies ahead, but to what level? Anybody’s guess! One thing for sure is I need help. It wont just show up with a knock at the door. I need to take action.
Experience has taught me some painful lessons. Its not all about the drinking. Initially I thought so. Eventually it dawned on me its about the Beast. That other side of me, the one that wants to fuck me up! The snake and the apple. Obsession. An obsession so subtle and so powerful, it sneaks up, usually at five to midnight at 3000 leagues below with nowhere to go. Left to its own devices, a crescendo of barbaric torture leaves me powerless to resist. Just one drink! When the fuck did I ever have just one drink? Once fish takes the bait, trap is sprung, the mayhem merry-go round spins faster and faster. Only one destination. I must stay ahead of it and acknowledge the primed timer ready to blow. This Beast of obsession awake inside scares the shit out of me!
At the junction I decide to take a left. No other reason than to the right stretches out to the distance an endless road. Thoughtless steps lead me down a street lined with wire fenced houses. I hear a blast echo nearby. I find cover behind a parked cruiser. Between two houses runs a woman. Her blouse is torn. She looks stricken with panic. Some guy wearing jeans, t-shirt and a red baseball cap appears in slow pursuit. He carries a bottle in one hand and a laser blaster in the other! Hunched down behind the vehicle I can see the pistol charger flash its low battery warning. I hear myself think “Tackle the bastard now before its charged. Get that whiskey”. Quickly I shake my head searching for some sanity but I know thats temporary. Somethings got to give!
I had took my eye off the girl long enough to watch the whiskey. Big mistake. It didn’t take more than a second or two for her to spot me. She makes a dash in my direction. Fuck! Think quick! Whatever’s pissing him off is none of my business.
The blast strikes the cruiser melting its front wing. A miss but close enough. He had saw what she saw and took the shot. Watching him stumbling in my direction I can’t help but think that this fella may, on a different day, be quite handy with that thing. He’s obviously steaming, still that shot was way too close for comfort. I’m involved whether I like it or not. One of us must yield. This won’t be painless!
He takes a moment to steady himself. Our eyes lock and he takes aim. My heart pounds and my feet are frozen in time. He squeezes the trigger. Nothing! Checking the charge display he is rooted to the spot. I get my chance. Forgetting the old fashioned blunder buster in my waistband I burst out of the blocks full speed straight at him. He’s too drunk to step aside as I launch a tackle. We crash down together landing hard on the tarmac. Wrestling for a better hold this piece of shit is stronger than I estimated. The palm of his hand is up under my chin and digs into my throat. With a gust of force I send him spinning. He manages to clamp his legs around my lower back. I hear the bottle bounce on the ground and the Beast whispers again. Frenzied as I rain blows into his face I feel hands grip my collar. Unexpectedly I’m propelled up and over, somersaulting, landing heavily on my back. Momentarily I’m dazed and he’s up staring down at me over the barrel. He smiles. Tiny veins, crimson in colour, streak the whites of his eyes. The battery gives up a high pitched noise… ready to fire! Laughter cut short as the sabreblade burns through his chest. First surprise then horror shoots across his face. He slips forward and lands face down.
Releasing the igniter button the flame evaporates and she pockets the knife. We face each other and look down at the body. “Say hi to Earl.” Her voice trails off to a nervous laugh.
“Im Hennessy Griffith, friends call me Griff”. She reaches out a hand. I shake it.
“Deano, pleased to meet you”.
She looks pretty, even with the psycho stare. The torn blouse reveals a packed tight cleavage barely hidden under a vest. Adidas sneakers standing her up in tight faded jeans. They sit well on her. Shoulder length blonde hair, mild complexion, I’m guessing mid 30’s.
“You not from these parts then”?
“Clues in the accent” I reply.
“Long story. What happens next is what I want to know”
“Where you heading?” She takes a quick look side to side.
“Dunno”. I replay her scan of the area. “I thought it best to take a chance on the street. I need to find someone”.
“Who”? A puzzled look crosses her face.
“Again its hard to say”.
“You’re taking a big risk mister! You don’t know where your going and not sure who you’re looking for. Appears you don’t know shit! You got any idea what the fucks going on here”?
“I’m a little sketchy why don’t you fill in the gaps”? She picks up on the sarcasm and I notice a shift in her expression.
“Ok Dorothy or whatever the fuck your name is you’re a long way from Kansas so I will bring you up to speed on the state of play. You’re standing in a minefield and I just saved your ass from certain death. My ex husband had you licked good and proper”. She looks down at Earl.
“Listen lady” I interrupt. “It didn’t look like you were doing too well either till you blew my cover. If thats how you guys treat each other then I’m not surprised the marriage didn’t last”.
“Yeah well hell, sorry about that! He always was a rattlesnake. I knew it was a mistake showing up at his place. It wasn’t my first choice but his place was nearest after running into that sniper”.
“Sniper, what sniper”?
“I couldn’t say. A blast shot through the air and some lone wolf took the hit. I didn’t wait around for an introduction”. She gives the scenery another quick glance. “Guess it was the police, taking the other guy out first, since he was armed and all. It sure felt like I was next. Made a break and took off, hurtled over a fence then realised I was just a block from the house we had shared. So I headed on over to his place, should have known he’d be drunk. And now here we are, all three of us”.
“So how come you’re wandering alone through all this”? I study her face.
“My place got swamped. I was holed up just waiting for some normality to return to this town. Then it started to resemble an invasion. Police sky cruisers attacked. Search and destroy squads on the street moving house to house. The dealers fought back. Turns out there was a hive of them and they were packing some military style hardware. I had a close call. Felt the blast almost part my locks. I made it onto the street just before the house took a direct hit. Something heavy duty by all intents and purpose, it went up with a bang, only recently lost sight of the smoke. You not hear any of this”?
“I was sleeping” The sarcasm returned.
“Listen wise guy I aint got time for your shit! You have any useful qualities or shall we just part company here and now”?
“I’ve got a place nearby but I need something in return”.
A smirk passes over her face as she looks me up and down. “We only just met sugar, but shit, if you’re the last man on the block”.
“Not that! I need your help to find something. A meeting”.
“What kinda meeting”?
“What!” Her voice takes on a high tone. “Why didn’t you just say so instead of standing here cutting the shit? I’m heading to my brothers place. Under different circumstances it wouldn’t take long even on foot. It could be risky right now incase you hadn’t noticed. Hows about we hide out at this place of yours? We can move on after the light fades”.
“What good will that do”? I start to feel impatient.
“He’s friends with one of them 12 Step fellas. Dude often drops by after one of those meetings you so keen to get to. I believe its in the neighbourhood”. She waits for a response. None comes. “Why the big deal anyway? sounds a fucked up priority to me”.
“Another long story”. I look at the whiskey bottle, just sitting there, not meaning any harm to anyone.
“We got about 7 hours till sundown. I hope its interesting”. She walks away from Earl, heading back the way I’d came . “Wheres this place you been telling me about”?
Sat at the kitchen table she fires off questions I don’t mind answering. That and talking about Earl, how they met and the way it started off like most relationships do. There’d been some happiness. Earl been the considerate lover, before the farm had to let him go. Laid off he turned to drink. She let that slide for a while hoping things would turn a corner. But with every dead end job came more bitterness. She took the beatings and hid the bruises. Finding him with the neighbours daughter was the final straw. Little more than a child, sweet sixteen, she looked every inch the woman as Griff walked in on them. I listened intently joining in only where it seamed appropriate. I caught her looking at me in a way I recognised; curious about what was going through my mind as I tripped out listening to the Beast. Obsession chattered away reminding me of the whiskey bottle sat next to Earl. Patiently awaiting my return. Could I just leave it there? I might share it with her at this table. Then who knows? Maybe spark up some passion. Or I could end up like Earl! Sobering thought.
I interrupt as she starts on about her sister “Exactly how far is it to your brothers place”?
“Maybe three miles give or take a yard”.
“So what we looking at – an hour on foot”?
For a moment she just stares “We cant just ramble over there like a Sunday stroll. Its a war zone out there! You forgot about the heavily armed meth heads? What about that sniper”? She pauses expecting a response. I cant think of one.
The Beast starts to whistle and I find myself saying “So apart from slaying ex husbands and dodging snipers, what does a nice girl like you do in a place like this”?
“School teacher, nursery kids, 4-6 year olds. They call me Miss Griff”.
“Ok miss Griff, Im going to need you to teach me a lesson. Geography! What we looking at between here and your good brothers humble abode”?
“Oh it gets interesting”. I see a flash of dread cross her face.
“After we cut through a few rows of suburbs things thin out a bit”.
Picking up the drama in her tone. “What does that mean”?
“You’ll see soon enough! The lights beginning to fade. Maybe we should make a move”.
The Beast shows me the whiskey bottle. Shaken by the flashback I walk over to the baseball bat. I pick it up and look back at her. “Im ready lets go”.
Griff was right. No description would do it justice. I imagined better. A sign said Jefferson! I suppose the place was named after a long dead President. Its in desperate need of some TLC. Either that or a bulldozer. Rundown is an understatement. This neighbourhood could pass for a war zone in peacetime. Total fucking shambles!
A howl cries out in the night! Sounds like a wolf, probably the local lunatic. I hope its a one man show! We crouch down low taking turns to dash between burnt out cruisers. I sense we’re been watched and feel unease creep over my skin. Quickly my eyes scan upfront. An old school block sits in the foreground its walls awash with graffiti. Darkness oozes through broken windows. Behind the school lies an underpass lit with burning oil drums. A scene from a not too distant past looking slightly out of place. A drum beat breaks the silence! That howl again and this time close behind. I see shadows! The tunnel is alive with marching silhouettes. At first I see only human form but quickly notice something more. Dogs straining at the leash! I can see the outline of their snarling teeth.
“Griff we need to move and quick”. I see fear in her eyes as she looks back at me.
Bolting forward towards the school fence she swiftly crawls under loose footing. Hot on her tail I roll underneath the wire as a blast hits the fence pole to my right. It ruptures a slot two foot wide and I feel the heat as metal catches fire. I’m up and off the mark instantaneously! Seeing Hennessy dash through an open doorway I make up the ground quick time.
Hunched down waiting, a look of alarm on her face!
“What the fuck was that”? I scream at her.
I almost feel the drool on the back of my neck as she leaps up and at me.
“Dog!” She screams plunging the sabre between its monstrous eyes. Heat from the blade scrapes my cheek. What looks half dog half wolf snarls. It writhes on the floor as Griff leans heavily over the knife.
“Action… take it fucker!”
I put everything into the swing as the bat comes down hard on the animals neck. Twice for luck! Lying still and silent the dogs tongue flops alongside massive teeth. We glance at each other. That howl again. Getting closer. We head down a corridor marching as fast as the darkness will allow, growing more confident every step, underfoot seaming clear as we pick up the pace. Straight ahead I can see light finding its way in.
It looks like somebody made a half arsed attempt to board up a gaping hole in the wall. A couple of planks lie on the floor. Griff starts to yank one from the window. Gunmetal prods my temple. I freeze to the spot!
A scruffy looking man charges past me and grabs my companion by the scalp! He pulls her backwards onto her knees.
“Wurdup”. Off to the side – a latino, six foot, heavily tattooed face.
“Allow me to introduce you to my brethren. The gentlemen with the Pistola at your skull. “Names Jonny Walker” Whisper in my ear.
“And this here brother with your lady friend is Tequila.” The latino points at a short, fat looking Mexican. Fatso waves with one hand, gripping Hennessy’s hair with the other.
“Let me guess, you guys are responsible for cleaning the windows in this institution.” I reply before feeling a sudden blow to the kidneys. The baseball bat clatters on the bottom, the ground sounds like rock! All fight leaves me!!
Tattooed face reaches his arm back pointing to the gang gathered behind “As for these beauties here, they are the Demons”.
His fist swings forward – “And my name is Laphroaig”.
I feel my jaw shatter as the lights go out.
I’m dreaming, I think!
Somehow it feels real enough!
I’m walking along an isle in the liquor store. In front on the counter sits a bottle of Hennessy Brandy. Alongside it a pint of Jonny Walker and a fifth of an Irish Single Malt by the name of Laphroaig.
Griff smiles “Not today Deano… you have an important appointment that must be met”.
“Who let the school teacher in? Its no place for kids” I sulk!
She turns to walk away and I follow her out the back of the store. The dull overhead lights are replaced by a flash as she pushes a bar and the exit door swings open.
“Where we going”? I ask.
The underpass looms straight ahead. The old oil drums still burn. More faintly now giving off a gentle glow. The dogs sit. From behind I can see their tails wag. They appear alert and interested. But in what? As we get closer I see an old man. Heavily tanned face with deep wrinkles, he looks aged. Decked out in double denim and a baseball cap he sits on the floor. He’s talking to the dogs. They appear fascinated and totally unaware of our approach.
“Griff, Deano, come on over, we just chilling”.
How does he now our names?
And at the same time Im sure I’ve seen this old fella somewhere before.
“Do I know you”?
“Sure do! And how you keeping Miss Hennessy”?
“Im good” she purrs. I never realised how beautiful she is till now.
“Deeeenoe! How come you showed up here my man? In this time, this Now”.
“I don’t get the question. And who are you, how come you know my name, we met before”?
“Many times son” he reaches out to pat the dog closest then sharply claps his hands. Flames burst high from the barrels. The dogs are up and begin to chase their tales.
The old man rises to his feet.
“What the fuck is going on here”? I feel panic in my voice!
“Take a look son, you’re a long way from home”.
“Go ahead Deano”. She gazes at the fire.
Walking towards the flame I get the feeling I’m been guided in…
A horse. It rears up. The rider slumps forward, its a policeman. His bloodied face buried into the animals mane. The brick lands inches from my feet as Im carried along with the rush. Punching out and kicking anything that falls. I give not two fucks for sides in this skirmish. Its early 80’s and hot as hate! Theres nothing but violence in my veins. A television screen flickers. Its shows Goals on Sunday as I come out of blackout. 3 days lost. Whiskey and Guinness. A dark room and the thoughts are intrusive. I scream in my head, the Beast laughs just that bit louder. My mind poised to snap! Shaking and crying in the shower. Broken promises and strongbow cider. Dallas and Bloody Marys with a twenty dollar cleavage. Canadian girl by the stroke of midnight, New Years Eve sex in a Manhattan nightclub toilet. Puerto Ricans pushing and shoving, coiled and ready to ram a glass. Leprechaun hats IRA bar. Blood streaked elevator wall. One leg over the side while surfing the Bay of Bisque through the night, bouncing across the sea on a flat bottomed landing ship with half cans of Heineken! Little Ian with the ball. Running. Laughing. Not so little Ian. Bald. Dying. Bouncer and a broken ashtray. Bouncer with a broken face. Cigarette burned hands and pass the parcel. Sniffing glue and sick relationships. Broken homes and tornadoes. Liver damage and Neuropathy. Smoking Heroin and breathing Temgezic. Prison walls. Magaluf dance floors. Ecstasy in a teaspoon. Fear, Resentment… Forgiveness!
“Whats this about Old Man”? Speaking to myself. “This all happened years ago. In another place another time”.
“The time is Now. It is always Now”. The Old Man’s voice appears deep down inside myself.“Lots of personalities mixed up in there” – merely a whisper.
“Really fucking mixed up if you ask me”. I bite.
“What about the role I assign”?
“I work this programme. Growing in understanding and effectiveness” – I snap out!
“What is the point”? – Questioning!
“The point is we are…” – Cut short.
“The ego, it can even use spirituality against you! Manifesting self into Bigshotism! Cunning, baffling powerful” His face appears in the flames.
“But there is One who has All Power and its not me!” I start to laugh.
“I can never be humble enough, forgiving enough, courageous enough. But that resentment, fear, self-centred shit, I can do that to full volume”.
“Progress not perfection” His turn to laugh. “Step into the flame. It will not burn you, it will only burn what you are not”.
I look back at Griff. She’s gone. So have the dogs. The tunnel is darkness!
“Take the first Step” I hear Him say.
Eyes closed one foot slowly moves forward then the other one. I expect to touch something, hit something… nothing!
I open my eyes and see a door. A sign hangs from the handle. I walk in. Somebody is reading aloud. Stops. They all turn to look at me. Somebody points to an empty seat and I sit down. The reader carries on… “If you want what we have and are ready to go to any lengths to get it then you are ready to take certain Steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier softer way but we could not. With all the earnestness at our command we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start”.
“You Only loose what you cling to” – Buddhist Proverb.
“Wherever you are, be there totally” – Eckhart Tolle.
“Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations” – Chapter 5.
D&O in Fresno