By Josh Farris
was used to folks doing a double-take when they heard my name, Dag
Johanssen, for the first time. I
was proud of my Scandinavian roots, hence I rarely took offense—until I
met April Livingston.
was not paying attention to what was physically in front of me when I
rear-ended April Livingston’s 66’ VW bug with my truck.
tried to charm April: “I’m sure other men have used more traditional
ways to capture your attention.” She
was curvy and athletic. She
had long-flowing, waist-length, strawberry blonde hair.
For her, on the outskirts of an unforgiving desert, her beauty was
more of a hindrance than an attribute.
was confident that the accident was my fault.
Her adrenaline was not soaring, but her battle-ready spirit was; as
it always was. She held her
hands on her hips and squinted at me as the desert sun beat down on her
tan, smooth, beautiful, makeup-less face.
know, I know. I apologize. It was an accident,” I quickly explained.
I was trying to remember what I was thinking about when the
accident happen; what mental distraction had robbed me of my vision. We
exchanged the necessary info. We
both agreed the accident was my fault.
well, once again, I am sorry.” Looking
at her address I asked, “Do you live in Victorville?”
that’s just where I keep my post office box,” she replied.
good, I was about ready to offer my condolences.”
Ostensibly, I made my third mistake of the day: Mistake #1) Bending
April’s fender. Mistake #2)
The indirect swipe at the city of Victorville.
Mistake #3) The fact that after I made a rude comment, I laughed at
my own joke. I knew right
away that I had angered her.
5’2” frame lunged towards me with forefinger in full point.
She heatedly exclaimed, “I was raised here! This is a fine city! These
people have an understanding of what hard work is; an under-standing of
the concept of the word ‘neighbor;’ an understanding of how not
to be smarmy and how to exhibit
a modicum of decency.” Her
hands were back on her hips. She
stared at me briefly and then got back in her bug.
ya later, Dogwood,” she said as she flashed a pearly white, sassy grin,
and sped off.
Dogwood?!!” I hollered as she roared off.
“That’s Dag! The
name’s Dag, lady!!” It had not been since grade school since someone
had ignited my ire by making fun of my name.
I pointlessly yelled at April, amidst the dust and gravel that her
bug had kicked up, “You’re very rude!!”
I was not sensitive about my name, but she had pushed my buttons en
masse. The sexual tension
left me with butterflies in my stomach.
I was wondering if I would ever see her again.
wind was increasing as the afternoon sky turned a shade darker under cloud
cover. In several minutes,
the sky had gone from calm, to that of a sky threatening the Mojave with a
storm. The wind blew my hat
off. I bent over to pick it
up. At the exact moment that
I grasped my hat, I caught an eye level view of my dangling bumper being
removed from my vehicle by a strong gust of wind.
mechanic at the gas station told me that he could have the bumper
reattached in about an hour. I
considered just throwing it into the back of the truck and taking care of
it at a later date, but I was hungry and would have needed to stop to eat
anyway. The mechanic
suggested a diner within walking distance. He said he would call the diner once the repairs to my truck
took a seat at the counter. I
did not open the menu. I
wanted a BLT. Unexpectedly, there was a tap on my right shoulder.
I looked to my right. I
looked to my left and was surprised to see a man sharply dressed in a dark
green suit sitting on the stool next to me.
I had not seen him walk up. I
was startled, but I did not show it.
you tap my shoulder?” I asked politely.
I said ‘yes’ would you hit me?” said the impeccably groomed, elderly
was calm, but the day seemed to be moving away from calmness.
I decided to ignore him. I
opened my menu and buried my stare in a catalog of grease and
thought you decided on a bacon, lettuce and, oh, what’s the third
item?” asked the stranger.
had not ordered yet. I had
not said a word to anyone in the diner about my sandwich selection.
I had only thought about
the BLT. I closed my menu and
looked at him. “Tomato,”
didn’t answer my question,” said the stranger.
told you the third item: tomato. You
asked what the third item was.”
don’t seem to answer questions in their proper order.
You could use a lesson in juxtaposition.
I asked you if you would hit me if I confirmed that I tapped your
could not help but smile. However,
I was not going to allow myself to be harassed.
“All I wanted was a Pepsi and a sandwich,” I whispered to
myself. Politely, I asked,
“Are we going to argue over inane semantics?”
items are meant to conjoin: the sand and the sieve, the drawn and the
quartered, the edge and the knife, the television and the madness,
awareness and the revolt of Prometheus.
Prometheus revolted against the gods as a proclamation of human
considered self-conciousness to be the highest divinity.
What do you think of self-conciousness?”
think it is important.”
right it’s important!
see,” I said, with calm sarcasm.
change may occur when you do not care about anything because you do not
think that caring does any good. And
then there’s action. I like
the word ‘action.’ Although,
as just a word it accomplishes very little.
Action is just a thought unless you have the guts to put your plans
in motion. Counter your fears and dive into the unyielding ocean.”
was intrigued, yet still guarded. “I
feel I’m about forty-five minutes away from being asked to join a
could introduce you to my daughter. Her
last boyfriend said being with her was tantamount to brainwashing.
Awareness of thyself is key,” said the stranger.
“Grasping the magnitude and importance of the unconscious is
democracy is the greatest threat to wealth.
When you hear the phrase ‘the economy,’ you may simply replace
it with the phrase ‘the corporations.’
Men never relinquish what they have won—or stolen.”
you think corporations wield all
is an employee of the corporations. The
corporations, now international in scale, control the economy and much of
your social life. The
corporations set the conditions within which the government operates, and
control it to a large extent. Corporate
America has ridiculously intense representation in congress and at the
executive level. You do not.
Corporate America pays for an arrangement where no one is entirely
accountable because those same jackals who have bought the government also
own the media. They feed you
rabbits a lot of lies.”
some point, the burden of unkindness that people perpetrate on others
catches up with them. At the
risk of sounding like a monitor at recess, the old saying is true: What
goes around comes around.” I
was not going to teach Karma 101 to this stranger.
I got the feeling he already knew.
their comeuppance, America is going to need a Jedi Knight. A ground swell starts with a disturbance in the sea, far away
from where the pulse is felt.”
you think insecurity and lack of awareness play heavily into these
course. Oh, I concur. What is it you think Jesus did?
The man was in touch with his insecurity. Jesus said not to judge, but that is exactly what all of
these folks do on TV, in the churches, lobbying in Washington—all of
them always asking for cash. How
ugly is that? They judge more
than anyone does.”
was a pause in the conversation. When
I walked in the diner all of the patrons had been engaged in conversation.
Now, no one said a word. The
waitresses and a few of the patrons were staring at me.
It made me uncomfortable. I
did not know why. The
stranger and I were not speaking loudly.
is a top-down control in your society,” said the stranger.
society? It’s not your
do you mean by top-down?”
at the top, the ones with the power, the ones who make the laws, they are
going to continue to make laws that benefit their wallets and their
friends’ wallets. The
benefits roll from the top-down. They
are quite directional. You’ll
need to be directional, too. Remember the top-down explanation.
It’s a great way to assess whether a household will be successful
or not. If the parents put
their children first, you do not have the cruelty of the top-down problem. The parent sacrifices for the child even though the level of
power is unequal. The parent
does this because they care for the child.
If they take advantage of their position and strength, the child is
neglected and dehumanized. The
same applies to a society. Understand?”
patted the stranger’s arm to ask him more about the top-down theory, but
there was not a regular arm under his clothing, or so it felt.
My hand sunk into the stranger’s clothes.
It was as if his sleeve was filled with oatmeal.
the diner’s phone rang like a gunshot in the night.
Time seemed to slow down.
can’t do that bumper today,” said the stranger.
continued to stare at him with a befuddled look.
“Who are you, Obi Wan?” I asked rhetorically.
waitress who answered the phone hollered to me that the mechanic wanted me
to go back to the garage so he could speak with me.
“That’s never a good sign,” I said.
I turned back to the stranger to ask about his arm.
As quickly and mysteriously as he appeared, he was gone
made my way for the gas station to speak with the mechanic.
Distant thunderclap was unnerving.
I thought about desert flash floods and how the rare survivor would
invariably speak about how it came from nowhere, mercilessly and with
man, I just don’t have the tools to get this attached today!!” yelled
the mechanic, as I approached in a dazed state of mind.
it’s just a bumper.”
sorry. You’ll have to take
it down to Henry’s Automotive. Just
take it down to Henry’s. I
called over there and he’s gonna put you in front of some other
customers so you can be on your way.
April is one hot number, eh?”
suppose,” I mumbled.
not to get in a wreck on the way out.”
The mechanic laughed at his own joke.
and almost trance-like, I got in my truck and drove down to Henry’s.
The wait would be about 45 minutes, according to Henry.
walking distance where I could get a drink?” I asked.
Staunch Turtle. It’s right
behind the Safeway over there,” said Henry as he pointed at the
supermarket, caddy corner from the garage.
ordered a scotch from the mixologist at The Staunch Turtle.
“What was with that guy’s arm?” I thought.
A rational explanation was not to be found.
felt someone staring at me. I
looked to the corner of the bar and much to my surprise, there was the
stranger. I chugged my scotch and ordered two beers and two of the
bartender’s finest Tequila. With
his expression blank and his stare penetrating, the stranger never took
his eye off of me. I returned
his stare with a stare of my own. The
drinks were fetched. The
bartender set the drinks on a tray. I
walked them over to the stranger’s table and sat down.
man, who are you?” I asked.
Old man? You
wouldn’t hit an old man would you?!” the stranger bellowed and then
let out a hearty laugh.
did you leave the diner so abruptly?”
did it. “That does it. OK, this is some major head-trip where you bumpkins want to
get even with city folk, right? Some
kind of mess with the guy from L.A. game?”
no game here.”
you do admit we spoke before?!”
at the grease pit.”
you just said—”
no diner. That’s a grease
pit. You’re lucky they
threw your ass out of there before you got your bacon, lettuce and tomato.”
the story with your arm?” I inquired.
normalcy in man is his inability to figure out what the hell is going on
in his own mind.”
oh,” I said in hushed tone. I
listened intently, preparing for who knows what.
an extent, that’s everybody. Consider
the perils of malignant narcissism, my friend.
Dive into that in your spare time.
Do not do it while you’re alone.
It’s very frightening.”
wrong with your arm? What do
you have there? Is it a
prosthesis or what? Why was
it so mushy?”
whole life you’ve been focusing on the wrong items.
Obviously, now is no different.
Drink with me. You
bought good Tequila.” We
chased the shots with a swig of beer.
“Where there is life, there is potential.
If there is not a purpose to the Everything, accept that and do the
right thing just for the sake of doing the right thing.
Do not do the right thing because it will get you into heaven or
keep you out of hell. That is
an insane concept built on the weaknesses, insecurities and fears of men
that lived a long time ago.”
is a lot to digest. Are you
trying to spur me into some kind of action; join you in some crusade?”
people find themselves at point in their life, at least once, where their
confidence pounds in their chest and demands thrust.
The thrust demands that you take your moxie out for a test drive.
Most give it a whirl, then decide on something with a little less
thought maybe there was a Faustian nightmare in the works.
For the moment, I had an uncanny feeling I was destined to die in
got to thinking about my girlfriend, Millicent.
Sometimes I wondered if Millicent was everyone’s girlfriend the
way she shamelessly flirted with men in my presence.
Millicent’s friends assured me that she never flirted with guys
when I was not around. I
believed her friends. It made
sense. She wanted to make me jealous.
I had become more aware and weary of her feeble attempts to get
what she wanted: a marriage proposal.
is a rare individual who is free to choose their own productive forces.
This goes back to determinism.
The social history of men is never anything but the history of
their individual development, whether they are conscious of it or not.”
gazed out the window as the tiny bubbles in my head made me feel fine.
“I’ll get us a couple more drinks,” I said.
strolled up to the bar. “Another
shot?” the bartender asked. I
turned to yell at the stranger and ask him if he was up for another round
of the good stuff. Once
again, the stranger was gone. In
mere seconds he had disappeared into thin air. I asked the bartender if he
saw the man in the dark green suit walk out.
“I didn’t see him leave,” said the bartender.
I should have expected it. I
walked back to Henry’s Automotive.
listlessly paid Henry. I
found a two-lane highway and drove. Lack
of providence could no longer be an excuse as I propelled my vehicle into
the desert night.
hour passed. The truck
started to bog down. I was
running out of gas. Obviously
too late, it occurred to me that I never did get gas.
I could not see any lights in front of me.
I pulled my truck to the shoulder.
I peered down the way whence I had come.
I saw a host of flickering lights.
It meant a long walk, but at least there was light.
was just after dusk. The now
less clouded sky granted the occasional glimpse of a crescent moon.
When the greedy clouds stole the guiding moonlight, I was forced to
stare at the ground in front of me. I
thought of owls and their keen night vision. “Wouldn’t it be nice to
fly, see clearly in the night and simply hunt your life away?” I
walked on. The set of lights
was a small desert community made of a dozen sprawling homes.
In this neighborhood, your backyard was the Mojave Desert.
is it?” asked a woman after I knocked on the first door that I came to.
a closed door, I yelled: “I ran out of gas up the road!
I don’t expect you to open the door, but could you call a tow
service and ask them to bring out a gallon of gas?!
I’m about two miles northeast on this road!
Would you do that?!” There was a long pause.
I yelled. “Did you hear
door slowly opened. It was
April Livingston. She had her
hands on her hips. It was a
familiar view. She had the
look of woman who had had her fill with a man, or just men period; or,
maybe I had done it. I did
not know what to think. “No
way,” I whispered. “This
is purely coincidence,” I loudly assured her as I shook my head in
said April. “What are you
doing out here?”
be honest, I really do not know. As
I waited for my bumper to be repaired—you may remember why I needed
that—I had this strange encounter with this guy and it just got me
thinking about…I just felt like driving without any real destination.
I did not want to go home.”
encounter?” April asked as she eyed me suspiciously.
no. We just talked.”
huh. The phone is in the
kitchen. The number for
Henry’s Towing Service is on the fridge.
Make it snappy, Dag. If
you’re stalking me, you are in for a boring ride because I spend a lot
of time out here in the middle of nowhere doing a whole lot of nothing.”
just coincidence. Is that the
same Henry from Henry’s Automotive?”
of course. Hey, you know, I
might have some gas that I use for my lawn mower.
Will you promise to bring back my container?
Well, actually, I guess I could just give you a ride.”
“No, that’s OK. I’ll
walk. Yes, of course I’ll
bring the container back. I
should be back in about an hour. I’ll
pay you.” I did not want to
go back and have to face Henry, Jr. or Henry, Sr., since I had been so
cruel to the poor kid.
pay me?” April asked.
For the gas.”
please. Just make sure your
insurance company pays me. I’m
going to get an estimate tomorrow. Where
are you on your way back from? Vegas,
Salt Lake or did you drive out here from Manhattan Beach to see the
exquisite far-reaching outskirts of Victorville?”
which usually is accompanied by a bachelor party, eh?
Did you get lucky, Sport?” she asked as she eyed me with a touch
of mischief. There was a
coquettish twinkle in her eye. It
was the first sign I got from her. “Was
there a sexual and kind being inside that perfect exterior?” I asked
look like the type that lives at the beach, has a lot of hard-working
professional friends who take trips to Vegas, bungee jump, mountain bike,
do sushi twice a week—treat women nice when you are with them, but talk just
terrible about them when you are not.”
“All that from how I look?”
much,” she said as she smiled, slowly walking past me. She walked out the backdoor.
The engine of a loud vehicle suddenly roared from the backyard.
This was not a 66’ bug. I
went to the backdoor and found April—petite, confident, and in command
of her destiny—sitting behind a very large, dark green, old and dirty
International. April yelled out the window, “Get in!” I got in.
afternoon was a strange ride. Let’s
see where the evening goes,” I thought.
gunned the old traveler as gravel shot up in the driveway. We arrived at my truck in no time. April had a five-gallon can of gas. She handed me the container and I poured about half of the
can into the gas tank.
there we go. That should get
me to the gas station,” I said.
That’s enough. It’s about 20 minutes back the way you came.”
Well, thanks much.”
get with my insurance company first thing in the morning.”
should wait for me to get you the estimate.”
call. I’ll wait for you on
You got all my info, right?”
nodded. “And, um, you have
mine. So, I guess that’s
was a moment of uncomfortable silence as we stared at each other.
I wanted to find out more about this woman.
I wanted to spend the rest of the evening with her.
At the time, my opinion of her was cursory and clouded with lust. She was confident and that was sexy. She was beautiful and that was arousing.
she said in a voice that hinted at disappointment that I was leaving.
I wanted to seize the moment, but I sheepishly turned towards my
truck as if I were at a junior high dance heading for the boys side of the
got back into her vehicle. She
looked at me and said, “C’mon back over for a beer.”
And then, for the second time that day, she sped off and kicked
dust up in my face. The large
wheels of the International shot a myriad of pebbles at me like a feisty
grenade that stung with the unknown potential of an exciting and
the games begin,” I said to myself, as I jumped into my truck and sped
after her. The chase was on!
walked through April’s unlocked door.
She tossed me a beer and opened one for herself.
She walked out to the backyard, assuming I would follow. “You’re not a serial rapist are you?” she asked,
offended at the question, I replied with ribald wit, “No, just a
rapist.” She laughed. I had a feeling things would go well We sat down in lounge chairs and stared out through a
chain-linked fence into the cold desert night.
The conversation had to start somewhere and I was still reeling
from the odd encounter with the stranger.
I found him confusing, interesting, intellectual and bombastic; all
in one elongated verbal filament. I
actually absorbed the majority of the content in which the old man spewed,
but the meeting as a whole was very mysterious.
The oatmeal arm and the invisible diner scene seemed like items
that would puzzle me evermore. I
likened the meeting to watching a philosophical butterfly flutter directly
in front of my face. If I
caught the butterfly, clarity in life would sit sensuously in my lap.
you ever tried staring at one star for a long time?” April asked.
others around it will disappear if you focus on just the one star that
you’ve chosen. I’m not
being metaphorical. It’s an
optical illusion. The longer
you stare, the more the others will disappear from your peripheral vision.
Actually, maybe there is something metaphorical in that.”
was comfortable. I was trying
to hide my attraction to her. She
wore a loose-fitting blue skirt that draped down to about mid-thigh.
I tried to catch glances of her perfect body without being noticed.
is my garden,” she said as she waved her hand at it.
It’s very average. There
are folks around here who go all out.”
nice. Granted, I can barely
see it. Still, it’s
nice,” I said. “The
crescent moon was poking in and out amidst the these fast-moving clouds
when I was walking in here. It
made vision a challenge.”
sound like a pseudo-poetic meteorologist.”
once dated a pseudo didactic cardiologist.”
lot of things can sound good if you do not know if they are legitimate.”
agree with that. Living where
you live must do a number on your psyche.
You are like a caged rat in that place!” April exclaimed.
think I know what you mean. I
know that getting away from all of those trite robots in the bustling city
can induce some clarity.”
clouds almost always move fast in the desert.
Dad had a garden where mine now grows, but the raccoons tore it up.
When he died I planted a garden and they have never bothered it.
I think if you ask the raccoons they will tell you that Dad drew
first blood. Dad would say they did. Typical of a
war?” I inquired.
I was a little girl, I would romp around in his garden. Unwarranted rebellion, I suppose. Dad thought it was the raccoons that tore up the garden.
I never admitted to him that it was me.
He used to chase them off when they’d slink along the top of the
fence in the middle of the night.”
Pointing to the east, she said, “They live over there, somewhere.
Probably in the Maple’s junkyard.”
Pointing to the west, “They go along the fence every night around
1am or 2am to eat from the Pickett’s orchard.
After all this started, when we’d leave town, they’d go after
the garden. The poor
of the night, a playful German Shepherd came bounding our way. I suppose he had been in a doghouse. “What’s his name?” I asked, as he ran up to me and
licked the top of my hand.
Hi, Stewball. Is he named after the horse from that song?”
yes,” said April. “Stewball
would get so excited when Jacob Livingston, my quirky father, would throw
items from his study at the raccoons.
Stewball would viciously bark at the family of raccoons.
Stewball was indifferent to the raccoon crossing if Dad was asleep
or unaware of the crossing. Stewball
could be lying right next to the fence, fully aware that the raccoons were
six feet above him, and he would not even bother to look up at them if his
master was not in the mix. He’d
stare at Dad’s study with devotional visual focus, especially if the
light was on. Where there was
light, there was hope for action. If
an item came flying or Dad so much as showed his face, the hunt was
on—and, at that point, there was beloved action in an otherwise solemn
dog’s life. You’d hear a loud cheer, and even louder barking, when
Dad’s aim was good and he knocked one off the fence.
My Dad wrote a syndicated political column, so he was heavily into
politics—very opinionated when it came to ideology and the sort.
He named the raccoons after politicians, even though I doubt he
could distinguish one from another. Well,
I mean, he knew which ones were the adults and which ones were the kids,
but…let’s see, there was LBJ, Lady Bird, JFK, Truman.
He’d call the little ones Bobby, Teddy or John John.
On these nights when Dad caught them crossing, for about three
minutes, there would be this little mini-war that went on out here.
Sometimes it would wake my sister and I. Sometimes not. You’d
hear Dad swearing. The
raccoons would hiss and scratch the fence.
There’d be a lot of noise caused by them scurrying and him
hurling objects and…and, just lots of noise.
The neighbors never said a word, though.”
your sister now?”
moved to New York. She
married a botanist.”
New York botanist? He
probably yells at plants,” I mused.
a good egg. She’s a really
nice person. She’s much
different than me,” she said with a smirk and a glance my way.
paused to collect her thoughts. “However
noble Dad’s ideology was, he got to a point where he was too consumed by
his views. They became him
and he changed. People who
disagreed him became ‘evil.’ To
some extent, he lost his objectivity.
Yes, that’s it. He
really did lose his objectivity. Where,
when he was younger, he would say you have to accept people for the way
they are, he ended up stereotyping. He
lost his objectivity.”
was spiritual warmth emanating from April on that night. There are some people that exude love naturally.
I do not know if I would classify April in that group, but there
was something extra about her. And clearly, something was going on with me.
I felt my potential swelling.
There was always that touch of self-doubt when I spoke about
philosophy and politics, but I usually knew that what I was getting at had
merit. I felt April was with
me in that sense.
was nights like this when the placement of objects in the universe made
sense and a young man’s pensiveness could lead him to change in his
life. Just a semblance of
comfort from another human might be the impetus to believe in
something—anything. One can
fade into the night. The
difference between burning out and fading away is confusing.
One can strike fancy with the darkness of the night and blend into
desert and accept a quiet death. I
leaned back on a lounge chair and listened to a woman who could cross the
great divide of personal torture with grace and style.
With her inhibitions mitigated, April’s fire was temporarily
extinguished as she let a hummingbird named Intimacy into her heart to
flutter about a bit. I
thought there was a good chance we would end up kissing before the night
was over. In our future,
there was trouble and the potential for: love, change, kindness,
awareness, revolt and absurdity. Tonight,
in this corner of the Mojave Desert there was lucidity under the stars.
do you do for a living?” I asked.
sold some paintings, but the majority of my earthly wage stems from
illustrations for children’s books.
There are several successful authors that use me for most
of their illustrations. Each
one of them is a prick who has tried to get in my pants.” She glanced over at me to assess my reaction.
how someone can tap into what is meaningful and entertaining to a
child—and these authors do that—yet glaringly and obnoxiously possess
the inability to extend common courtesy to another adult.
Amazing how someone who could be so sweet and creative on paper
could be so woefully incorrigible in person.
The great peril of success is the inflation of the ego.
The poor bastards, or at least these fellows, have become slaves to
themselves. They are a
microcosm of a twisted amalgam of occupational success and social
ineptitude. They are the
anti-heroes of insecure male artists everywhere.
At least they’re not in a band, then they wouldn’t have to work
at getting laid. They deserve
nothing,” said April with as much venom as an aged rattlesnake.
I exclaimed as I took a hearty swig of my beer and yelled, possibly a
little too loudly, “You go girl!!”
April was on fire and it looked and sounded good.
“I think becoming a slave to your self seems quite common in a
night wore on. I couldn’t
have felt any better. The
conversation was lighter and there was laughter.
shhh. I hear something. This is around the time that the raccoons come,” said
April. “If that bush in the
corner starts to rustle it means they are getting ready to make their run
across the fence. Daddy’s
been dead for a year—exactly—but they still race across here with
heightened awareness for fear of having a boot or a hardback version of
Tom Sawyer hurled at them.”
think I see one,” I said. I
looked closer. It was
nothing. I was getting caught up in the raccoon wars.
really used to cuss at them. I
wonder if he secretly liked them. Sometimes
the people that treat you the worst are the ones you like the most.”
forward, truly intrigued by that comment, I said, “I think that is quite
profound. I think that people
sometimes only feel guilt for hurting those who hurt them the most. That’s actually something quite complicated and paradoxical
that you really need to think about to grasp.
So many paradoxes in this world of ours. One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small.”
being cocky and confused about where the hell to drive your car, you seem
like you got it together. Do
you like living at the beach?”
like my friends, but they do not provide much in the way of intellectual
stimulation. Everything is
money, women, sports and drinking. If
I speak of making change in my life, or the world for that matter, I’m
left with hollow or tacit reactions.”
about the women. You have a
girlfriend, right? A
good-looking guy like you must feel fairly fortunate, eh?”
girlfriend is soon to not be my girlfriend, as harsh as that may sound. Put an ex in her title, she’s done. She’s annoying. She
lives off of Ibuprofen and fear of being alone.
I’m tired of clinging to her positive qualities and ignoring all
the negatives that make simply hanging out with her a challenge.
So many people stay with someone because the alternative—being
alone—is utterly terrifying.”
honest or inhaling shrewdness?”
start somewhere. What better
place than here, in the spiritual embrace of the desert?
What better place than now? I
felt like I was on the front steps of a journey into a house of knowledge.
day was lending itself to an insightful internal audit.
Trimming the fat on the desperate aspect of one’s existence is
glaringly necessary and hauntingly difficult.
The same is true of a society.
desert was never completely still and quiet.
Like a rambunctious child, many desert inhabitants were only docile
when they slept. However,
many were worn out retirees dozing off gently to wind chimes as they
rested perfectly in the physical warmth of a soul mate.
There was safety in the desert, appropriately lacking the climbing
madness of overpopulation. Tonight,
April and I had synergy. The
cool desert wind soothed our faces. The
numbing effects of our collective lives made the current tranquility a
you feel pressure to be happy?” I asked of her.
suppose,” replied April.
mean, well, sometimes I feel like my desire to be happy has little do with
me actually enjoying myself, but more avoiding the embarrassment of
others viewing me as being unhappy. It’s almost as if in my social circle there is a lifestyle,
an agenda of accepted events that are the determining factors of
contentment. How sick is
guessing you’re more introspective than the majority of your friends.”
suppose,” I replied. “At
the bachelor party I looked around at my friends and I saw an arrogant
lot. They are all of this
same mold that has very little to offer society.
Maybe they are all the same person and it’s done with holograms.
Someone’s pulling the puppet strings and this is all egg in my
face. They’re nice fellows
and we have fun. They are big
contributors to the money machine. What
does that get you at the end of the day?
At this upper class wedding, I saw very little humility and
humbleness. They hide that
crap because insecurity is not sheik.”
“You’re alright,” said April.
“You need to spend more time away from the masses.
They devour your soul. That’s
why my Dad built his study. Would
you like to see it?” asked April. “He
accumulated a lifetime of work containing unpublished volumes of political
theory, ideology, philosophy, sociology and historical commentary.
He wrote and collected short stories, chapbooks, paintings and
walked into the study and I followed.
The room had a distinguished feel and rustic air to it.
It smelled of old leather. I
pictured Jacob Livingston sitting at his desk under a 19th
century oil lamp, writing away with passion and vigor.
I envisaged an elderly man straying from his writing and wandering
over to the open patio door to feast on the soothing desert breeze.
I envisioned the aged writer lighting a pipe that had sweet
flavored tobacco tightly packed. And then, his calmness would disappear completely and he’d
hurl objects at a family of raccoons.
décor was enchanting, yet masculine.
There were statues of Celtic warriors, a medieval chess set, a
hundred year old oak desk, an aged poster of a pin-up girl drinking a can
of Pepsi, a Degas print, an old potato sack with a tobacco emblem on it.
There was a large assortment of books.
I perused the titles attempting to gauge Jacob’s interests,
politics, philosophy and spirit. “What
type of man produces such a feisty, intelligent, spirited, thoughtful and
attractive woman like April Livingston?” I thought.
The eclectic book collection fascinated me.
There was a plethora of literary classics featuring famous authors
from the 19th and 20th centuries: Joyce, Steinbeck,
Faulkner, Hemingway, Camus, Kafka, Vonnegut, and Tolkien, to name a few.
In another section there was philosophy: Plato, Kierkegaard,
Nietszche, Sartre, Alan Watts, Ram Dass, etc.
At eye level there was a row of political books (all first
editions): Che Guevera, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Gore
Vidal, John Kenneth Galbreath, JFK, RFK, Richard Nixon, Rush Limbaugh,
George Herbert Bush, Caspar Weinberger, Hitler, Churchill, Machiavelli and
respected this man’s ostensible capacity and taste.
I knew, and it seemed that Jacob Livingston knew, what every
formidable military mind embraced as a tacit creed: you must understand
the way the enemy thinks in order to overcome their aggression and/or
penetrate their defense.
is the stuff your Dad wrote?” I asked enthusiastically.
all in on those shelves,” pointing to a bookcase filled with
leather-bound books, “and the less organized stuff is in these two
chests. That is where most of
his political theory rests. That’s
the good stuff,” pointing to the chests.
“That’s what I read when I dive into the whole Dad thing. It’s
like reading Solzhenitsyn in the sense that you would think it would be
boring because it is cumbersome, ponderous and all about a seemingly
singular and boring topic. Just
like Alexander, it isn’t! Politics,
the struggle of the poor, the rebels such as Che and Chomsky, views on
economics, opinions on the sociopolitical climate during and after
different times of strife—these are the topics that my father was
passionate about. That
passion oozes out of the pages in those treasure chests.” April was
silent for a moment. “They
are absolute treasures. Of
course, I am biased because that’s my Daddy.”
felt odd. The odd feeling was
borderline annoying in its inopportune arrivals throughout the afternoon
and evening. I started to
feel dizzy. I figured the
alcohol and the vicissitude of the day was catching up with me.
I tried to cast this latest peculiarity away because I was so
intrigued with the study. There
was so much life in the books, décor, trinkets and furniture.
There were pencils everywhere.
Obviously, the man never threw away a pencil. I decided it would be cool, and necessary, to kick back in
what was obviously the old man’s kick-back chair.
I sat down.
is a comfortable chair,” I said sincerely.
a comfortable guy. I mean
that I, or maybe you…that came out wrong.
You’re…do you know what I mean by that?”
laughed. Things were looking
April said, “No, you know what I mean!
Or, maybe you don’t. Christ,
maybe I don’t.” April paused and then took an uncharacteristic leap
into flirtation. “Do you know what raw attraction means?” she asked as
she lowered her head and looked up at me with the world’s sexiest gaze.
She masked her embarrassment with confidence.
She had a reservoir of sex that could convey intention in any look
she chose. April’s libido
romped with cautious attack. Her
desire had been building and it was the immediate story.
Assertiveness came naturally and often for her, but this type of
attempt was foreign. The
desert neighborhood was accustomed to April’s intellect and aggression. These people would be the first to tell you that it rarely
had anything to do with intimacy.
leapt back to the times in the past where failure had gotten the best of
me and I had succumbed to fantasy. I
would spin the regretful of the
past/planning for the future game into ridiculous oblivion.
The fact that I had not made a move on April seemed appropriate: it
signified patience, maturity and respect for April.
was nervous. April had
stopped talking. She sat and
stared at me. The butterflies
in my stomach were fluttering about.
She held me paralyzed in a heavy stare.
This was better than watching TV with Millicent, driving down some
lonely road or getting primal at a bachelor party.
Still, the heaviness of the moment and the eroticism was
unsettling. I sheepishly looked away.
I spotted a picture in a frame.
It was a peculiar picture. You
could only see the outskirts of a man’s face.
All that was visible was his hair, his neck, his shirt collar and
ears. A large and beautiful
butterfly sat with wings half-extended on the man’s nose. The man clearly had a smile on his face.
that your Dad?” I asked as I pointed at the picture.
replied April. “We were in
San Diego. It was right after
Dad and I had marched in a protest. We
were relaxing in a park. We
needed to relax. There had
been some shoving, a lot of name-calling and some arrests at the protest.
That butterfly was flying around in Dad’s face.
My exhausted father kept taking gentle swipes at it to get it out
of his face. He didn’t want
to hurt it, but it was flying several inches from his face for what seemed
to be a long time. The
butterfly was clever. He
dodged Dad’s swipes and landed right on his nose. I told him to hold still as I went to my purse for a camera.
Mom had been dead for several years.
My sister never really interested herself in politics, so she
wasn’t there. He was
laughing, telling me to hurry up and take the picture.
He said it tickled.” Pointing
to a corner, “There’s a good picture of him.”
looked to the corner for the picture April was referring to.
I had not seen this picture in my engaging panoramic swirl several
minutes earlier. It was a
picture of a man that looked very familiar to me.
My blood/alcohol level prevented me from immediately placing the
face. The man was wearing a
dark green suit. Like an
unexpected win—it was “the stranger,” I whispered.
“He’s her Dad,” I thought. My
mind reeled at the impossibility of it all.
my Dad,” said April as she strolled over to me and sat on my lap.
She put her arm around me and stretched her legs out high in the
air. We both looked at her
legs. I barely noticed them
as I shrewdly tried to grasp the magnitude of the situation.
To suss out the enigma that the encounter with the
stranger—seemingly Jacob Livingston—now represented would be
difficult; even more difficult with a sensuous woman on my lap.
April wiggled her butt and stretched her legs out even higher in
the air as if she was posing for a photographer.
She slowly ran her hand along her calf and knee.
She put my hand on her bare thigh.
“When they passed out legs, you got a good deal,” I said, as my
attention shifted. She was
incredible. At this point,
aliens could have landed in the backyard and I would have been solely
focused on touching her. There
was something uncommon about her skin: it was soft and perfect.
I rubbed her thigh. “How
could a woman spending all this time in the dry desert heat, with this
wind, have such perfectly smooth and tender skin?” I thought.
felt like I was being revealed; nonetheless, everything was very nice. The situation was reminiscent of high school parties I
attended where the occasional teenage girl would try to catch my fancy
with physical flirtation.
desire for each other was clearly mutual.
We were soon to be lovers and we had a feeling that the future was
tailored for both of us. The
union was as raw, adaptable, spirited and intellectual as anything I had
next day April and I were different people.
I think we had fallen in love.
Both of us knew we should not admit it this quickly; at least not
made me breakfast. She
scraped the scrambled eggs on to my plate.
We were happy. She
said this: “I’m leaving for Tucson tomorrow.
Stay tonight. We’ll
hang out and get along just fine when I come back.
I don’t mean to alarm you or seem overly aggressive, but I just
know we will.”
know we will, too.”
answer, Dogwood,” she said, beaming with a smile that made me want her
housesit for me while I’m gone for these three days.
You could learn a lot in the desert.
You could learn a lot from the contents in that study.
And, most importantly,” April said in a low tone as she strolled
over and kissed me softly on the lips, “thank you for last night.
nodded and ate my eggs.
is attained by way of capacity, not experience.
Collectively, we had the potential to create a paradigm that could
hollow out the sprawling trees of greed in America.
It would take extensive reading, self-discovery and maturation for
our two bouncing spirits to lead the masses to change.
In a small desert community the seeds of love were fluttering,
swimming and dancing at the chance to grow.
With any labor of love, there is nobility and true happiness within
the attempt. This beginning represented the birth of a political party.
Color that windy desert day as harboring the seeds of a revolution
planted on the fortuitous convergence of vehicular bumpers.
looked away from April and read the paper.
My breakfast was delicious. I
was deliriously happy, but I wanted to be cool.
I looked at my food, stuck a fork in some hash browns and ate them.
April, in her yellow sundress, stood by the stove in perfect
stillness. I felt like a hero
in the making. She turned to
the fence out back and pointed out the tail of a raccoon making its way
back across the fence. “How
traditional is this? Dad
would appreciate the irony,” she said with a wide grin on her face.
when he happened to be awake in the early morning, Jacob Livingston never
bothered the raccoons on their return trip whence they came. The raccoons focus was directional. This seminal and nascent desert morning harbored the spirit
of challenge. On the wings of
love—and guidance from a mysterious presence—April and I were
preparing for the glorious wars to come.
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