Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Generosity Of Spirit


2:45 PM

The phone rang.

"Steve here, start talking."

"Hey, it's Ken. I need help. Say yes."

"I'm listening."

"I'm really fucking horny. I'm bursting here. I can't stand it!"

"And you're calling me... Why are you calling me? Go jack off."

"No, no, see, I need you to give me a ride. I've been looking up escorts on my iPhone. You know, Craigslist, shit like that. There's some pretty good ones on there. There's this one petite blond, goes by Kelli. I emailed her and she'll take me tonight. $300 for an outcall. I need to get to the Extended Stay America in Schaumburg, but my car broke down last week."

"If I heard you correctly, you have a busted car and several hundred dollars. Am I missing something here, or are you?"

"The car's gonna cost a grand, man. It'll keep. I can walk to work. It's a fucking print shop, I can show up sweaty and nasty. I need to get off. Come on."

"What's in it for me, Ken? I don't want to sit in a hotel parking lot for an hour, looking suspicious, while you're inside catching crabs. Take a cab, whoremonger. Obviously you can afford one."

"Not if I have to keep the meter running for an hour! That'll probably cost more than the hooker!"

8:48 PM

"Alright, we're here. Now go fuck. And you owe me."

I sat in the car smoking cigarettes, reading a John Irving novel by the dim interior lights. Ken had been inside for forty five minutes when the hotel's fire alarm went off.

I considered the pile of smoldering cigarette butts on the pavement beside my car. I'd been chain smoking, but it looked like I'd been there for hours. I thought about the fire trucks and police soon to be crowding the lot. Potentially blocking me in. I thought about fire marshals, questions, and outstanding warrants for my arrest.

Time to go. Sorry, Ken.

As I drove across the lot, threading my way to the exit, evacuating guests began streaming into the lot. They milled about, confused, swapping information, looking around and up at the windows, trying to find an actual fire. I was almost out of the lot when I heard Ken shout.


There he was, wearing naught but his socks and boxer shorts, dripping with sweat, coated in glitter, sprinting towards my car. I halted and unlocked the passenger side. He hopped in, hyperventilating, eyes wide, his wallet clenched tightly in one fist.

"I thought strippers wore glitter. Hookers too?"

He ignored the question.


I wasn't about to peel out. Whether I'm guilty or not, I know better than to look like it. Calmly, I continued away, leaving the Extended Stay and a parking lot full of bewildered folks behind. Most were watching, entertained by the nearly naked man running and shouting.

Ken kept craning his head to gaze through the rear window, trying to see if Kelli had made it out yet.

"Why do you keep looking back there? I mean, you paid, right? You have to pay up front. Don't they make you?"

"Well, yes and no. You put the cash on the dresser."

"So what's the 'no' part?"

"Well... When the fire alarm went off, I kept fucking, but she said to stop, so I did. I pulled out and started getting dressed. I was wondering how this was gonna work, cause I only got to come during the blow job, and I paid to come twice, once in her mouth, once in her pussy. I mean the condom. But anyways, when she reached for the dresser, I pushed her away and snagged it, but I was all energized and shit and I pushed too hard. She flew back and fell off the bed, hit her head on the other nightstand, and started screaming shit about her pimp castrating me. Or killing me. Something bad. I don't know. Her face was bleeding. When she went for her purse, I figured she had mace, or a tazer, or something. So I bolted."

"I thought you were a bad person before, Ken. But not a very bad one. You know? Jesus. I want this fucking glitter out of my car; you're sweating it all over the seat. You're paying for an entire wash."

"I'm a bad person? No way man! I didn't even get to finish!"

"You still have the $300 then, right?"


"Wanna get an eightball?"
6:44 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hero Worship (An Obituary)


One day my father said this: "I wish you were never born." We were enemies, you see.

His father, Albert, never took much active interest in him. So when my dad, Tyler, joined the Boy Scouts, he went to meetings and campouts with his best friend and his father. As a result, when I was born, he promised himself he'd make a better father.

He enrolled me in Tiger Cubs and then Cub Scouts. He not only participated, he was the Packmaster. My mom was a den mother. I earned every activity badge in Webelos, the last stage before graduating to Boy Scouts. I loved it. As a Boy Scout, he was there beside me at every campout. He was an awesome dad.

When I became a teenager, my interest in scouting waned and I gravitated towards teenage things like girls, drugs, and popularity. (my lack of those, specifically, though I got pretty good at acquiring and using drugs) It wasn't cool to be best friends with Dad anymore. He wanted me to make Eagle Scout far more than I did. He kept dragging me to meetings. I only wanted to camp. I began to resist and resent, and found ways not to be home when it was time to go to Troop 493 meetings at Dirksen Elementary.

We still got along. He taught me to play chess, a family tradition. He never gave an inch. I always lost, but I loved it, and never gave up. We played for years and years, even after we grew to hate one another. He taught me about computers in the eighties and early nineties, long before the days of graphic interfaces. Everything was hexadecimal and text entry. (I hated it when Windows became an operating system, with point and click, because it let idiots into the wonderful world of computers, which I felt was the private playground of the intelligent.) We still had things in common. But we weren't best friends anymore.

He was changing, too. My mother got a hysterectomy after my folks' fourth child, Andrew was born in 1983. Mom's sex drive departed with her fertility, and as my parents' intimacy evaporated, my father found a substitute in bourbon. None of that registered with me as a youngster, but by the time I was 13 or so, my parents rarely spoke to one another, and when they did, it was curt and snide. Mom slept in the bedroom. Dad slept on the living room couch or the floor. He drank a fifth of Ten High every night; Wild Turkey if he was feeling extravagant.

Home from work in the evenings, he'd sit on the couch, the TV usually off, staring into space, chain smoking Bensen & Hedges De Luxe Ultra Lights 100s. Near the end of the night, shitfaced, he'd remove his pants and button down shirt, leaving him sitting there in black dress socks, white briefs, and threadbare white undershirts. Sometimes all his clothes came off. Often he passed out face up on the floor, drooling, snoring loudly, or both. He was never a violent drunk, just a distant, melancholy one.

Such behavior severely undermined a father trying to maintain authority and impose discipline. None of us four kids took him seriously when he yelled at us for misbehavior, or grounded us. How could we take him seriously? When he ate lunchmeat late at night and left it on the coffee table, Anita and I would sometimes unpeel the remaining slices and layer his naked, prone body with them, giggling all the while, secretly masking our helpless distress. I made fun of him to my friends, pretending none of it bothered me.

My mother is a quiet, sweet woman. And a very soft touch. She never yelled at any of us, never disciplined us. She simply nurtured and supported. As a result, when I rebelled against my dad and quit high school midway through sophomore year, there was nobody who could successfully punish me or force me to go back. I chose instead to stay home and play on the computer, or, when Dad's angry tirades annoyed me enough, I'd stay at friends' homes for weeks on end, supporting an exciting drug habit with money from a fast food job. I always ended up back home, though, a disappointment to my father, a smart but angry teenager wasting his potential and destroying his future.

I hated the man. Daily he committed the worst sin, in my view, which was hypocrisy. I heard lots of "Do as I say, not as I do" and "Because I said so." One of many screaming matches ended with him saying "I wish you were never born." That one made me cry. I guess I did care what he thought, as much as I told myself otherwise.

I didn't learn to drive until I was 22. When I finally had my license, Dad tried to kick me out for the fifth time. (His previous attempts failed when I told Mom and she allowed me to ignore him.) This time, instead of running to Mom, I simply packed up and left. I was afraid I'd never amount to anything in life, and living with my folks wasn't cool for a 22 year old. My peers had graduated high school 4 years before (I never have to this day) and most had left for college. I knew my evolution to adulthood was long overdue.

I wasn't a total deadbeat during those years from 18-22. I had a good work ethic and was working for both Hewlett Packard and Enron, but I'd never paid a bill in my life. My income was disposable and I had lots of fun with it, to my father's chagrin. As a result, striking out on my own was a huge deal.

Having finally flown the nest, I learned that life was one hell of a struggle when you have to provide for yourself. I gained a measure of appreciation for old Tyler, realizing he'd supported a family of six for almost two decades despite being desperately unhappy. He kept the family boat from sinking while basically estranged from not only his wife, but his entire family, who treated him with hatred. Some of that hate was his fault. He was certainly the catalyst, but I fueled it, too, in my arrogant teenage way, using diplomacy and persuasion to frame the battle as us vs. him, with everyone on my side. I was extremely successful at that, which I still regret.

Two years after leaving home, I was between jobs, broke, and had a falling out with my roommate. I swallowed my pride and went back to my folks' house. By this time my hatred for my dad had evaporated. Absense makes the heart grow fonder, they say. I had a newfound awareness of financial struggle, resulting in a begruding respect for the old man. I was ready to mend our relationship.

I came home expecting derision, lectures, and fifty varieties of "I told you so!" and "tough out there, huh?" I expected a difficult and painful reconciliation.

What I arrived to find was a sad, broken man, still a slave to bourbon, now without hope. And so, so lonely. His industry, electrical engineering sales representation, had evaporated with the twin advents of direct sales and outsourcing. His savings had dwindled to perilous levels, then nothing. His stabs at new careers like insurance sales and Amway had failed, and with all his kids reaching their early twenties and moving on, my mother, Kristine, finally felt she could divorce him without feeling like she was disappointing or abandoning her children. Papers were filed. Dad was almost broke and on the verge of losing not only his home, but also his family, whom he loved deeply, despite his ineptitude at displaying it.

Enter me, his oldest son, and biggest enemy. I could almost see the resignation on his face when, on my second night back, I grabbed his Ten High, poured myself a couple fingers on the rocks with a splash, (same as him) and sat down beside him. I say almost because his face was already beaten with resignation, and the words he expected to hear from me were just going to be frosting on his cake of doom.

Instead, he got a surprise. I spoke.

"Dad, I'm sorry. Sorry I never listened to you. Sorry I disappointed you. Sorry I hated you. I was young, arrogant, and ignorant. I couldn't fathom the sacrifices you made for me, for the entire family. I couldn't understand that you wanted the best for me, which is why you always tried to direct my life in positive directions. I have some good things going for me now, I think, but on balance, I'm more failure and missed opportunity than success. But that's okay, I'm still young; I'm learning every day. I could blame you for where I went I wrong, but that wouldn't help either of us. So I'm done with that.

"I used to blame you for your weaknesses; for alienating me. A lot of choices I made before, when I was younger, were born of anger. I wanted to spite you. Not anymore. I take responsibility for my life and my actions now.

"Dad, I love you. You're my father. I'm not absolving you completely. In many ways, you failed me. You tried to push me in directions you thought were good for me, but I couldn't listen because I just didn't trust you, and that's your fault.

"You gave up on your wife and love too easily. You gave into self-pity and addiction instead of being a patient and loving husband. I know about Mom's hysterectomy, Dad. I know her passion burned out. But you weren't strong enough to wait, or find a new way to love Mom. You failed each other, and as a result, failed your children.

"Despite that, though, you kept the family together and provided for us. Even when we had no respect for you. Even when we hated you. You were surrounded by your family but completely alone. I see that now. Your strength.

"Now everybody is splitting up. I know you're terrified we're all going to move on with life and forget about you now that we don't need you for money anymore. I know you're bitter as hell about the way everything is turning out. But that's wrong, that isn't true. You are not alone. You are not unloved. Now you need us. I've talked to Anita, Carolyn, and Andrew. We don't hate you. We love you. Very much. Mom still loves you too, she just can't be with you anymore.

"I love you, Dad. You taught me so many great things. You made me, for good and ill. I don't want to be enemies anymore. So no more of that bullshit silliness. I'm here Dad. I'm proud as hell to be your son. I look up to you more than you can know."

We hugged. We cried. We played chess. We drank bourbon. My relationship with my father was reborn and blossomed during what was otherwise the worst summer of my life. I beat him at chess, finally, for the first time ever, then beat him again. I gave him all my money to help pay the overhead. I was merely prolonging the inevitable. We were evicted. The family scattered to the winds. Anita was married. Andy and I went with friends. Carolyn and Mom got a place together. Dad was alone.

He rented rooms in crowded flophouses full of divorced men and parolees. He delivered pizza and auto parts. He mourned for himself and longed for the past. He bought dirt cheap Indian reservation cigarettes via mail order, switched from bourbon to handles of cheapshit Skol vodka (less detectable on his breath than bourbon) and soldiered on, drunk, depressed, and lonely.

Interventions failed. Everything we tried failed.

He descended further. He stopped renting rooms in crammed houses full of other bitter men and slept instead in his minivan, all his possesions in the back. When winter came, he went to shelters. He hung out with junkies, losers, drunks, and priests. My father, who made six figures one year. My father, who had a degree in electrical engineering from the University Of Colorado at Denver. Tyler, proud father of four, was now just another broken hobo drinking himself to death. He had given up and accepted an ugly end long before his children tried to save his soul, and no effort we made could change the outcome.

One night, he called me asking for money for rent, telling me he spent the cash he'd set aside for it on an emergency car repair. I didn't have it. At that point I had finally gotten an apartment of my own, without roommates. I treasured my solitude and privacy. On the phone with him, something itched inside me. I said no to his request for money, but I asked him to come live with me. Maybe it wasn't too late to save him. He arrived in his van, the remainder of his wordly possesions stuffed within it. A little over a month later our cohabitation ended badly.

The last time I saw him was at Christmastime 2007. I'd heard, from my litter sister Carolyn, that he was in bad health. I called him on Christmas Eve and asked him to spend it with me. He was hesitant. I knew he was afraid of missing final check-in at the shelter. I told him he could stay overnight. I told him to bring his vodka and a fresh change of clothes for the next day. He agreed and I gave him directions.

We talked for hours, smoking cigarettes, reminiscing. We told stories from the past, glorifying the good times, laughing at the ugly ones. When he started to reach that slackjawed heavy drunk mode, I interrupted him and demanded his full attention. I had serious words to impart.

"Dad... I know you're never going to stop drinking. Even if you're capable of it, you just don't want to. You won't. You're gonna die. You're gonna fucking die! Not sometime in the future, but any fucking day now!"

I was crying. I was squeezing his shoulders, shaking him.

"I love you so much. You're my hero. You're my idol. I'm like you in so many ways. I'm my father's son. I am you. Watching you like this, it rips me apart, Dad. So... I just... fuck. I guess... I'm saying goodbye to you now, Dad. I might see you after this, I might not. You're beaten. You're broken. You're dying. I'm fucking furious that you're leaving us like this. You fucking asshole. You fucking shit. I love you, godamnit. Fuck!

"Just know. Just know that... you're my hero. Even like this. Even as a shell. Even... even... Fuck! I'm gonna miss you Dad."

He looked at me, glasy eyed, so wobbly he couldn't even sit up without bobbing left and right, and said, slurring, "I know, son. I know. I'm sorry. Sorry."

He coughed, long and deep.

"I love you. I'm proud of you. You're a good son. Thank you for that."

He paused for moment, looked away, then turned back to me and said, "I'm so scared."

We sobbed until we ran out of energy. We sat silently smoking cigarettes, side by side, looking at the wall, until he was just too drunk for consciousness. He knocked over the ashtray and his vodka, and almost fell from the couch to the floor. I pushed and prodded him into a position that was more likely to keep him from falling off the couch. I went to bed, heartbroken.

I saw him the next day, on Christmas, but there was nothing left to say. When he left Mom's (our holiday gathering place) to head for the shelter, we hugged fiercely.

June 15th, 2008 was Father's Day. I was working a double shift as a bar server at Buffalo Wild Wings in Hoffman Estates. The general manager, Jay McDonald, knew a bit about my family history from conversation.

"Hey Steve. Talk to your dad today?"

"No. I don't think I will. I'm kinda angry at him."

"You should call him. Things happen, you know? You might not get another chance."

"Yeah, you're right. Maybe I will."

I resolved to call him after work. Fast forward three hours.

My big sister Anita called me during the dinner rush.



"It's Dad. He had a heart attack. He died."


I broke down. Lost it completely.


I miss you, Dad. You bastard shithead. You angel. You wonderful, wonderful man. I have so much left to do in my life, so much I wanted you to see. To be proud of me. But you won't. You're gone.

I love you, Dad. Hope you're okay.


Tyler William Giles
10/7/49 - 6/15/08
4:19 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head


"Red, crying's not for me,
Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain
By complainin,
Because I'm free,
Nothing's worryin me."
-"Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," BJ Thomas

By the time you read this, I'll be dead. I just wanted to have the last say.

Once upon a time, everybody was sympathetic. People were nice to me, and I got lots of attention, lots of people curious about my accident, and what it was like.

I always answered as best I could, but after what I'm planning to do today, I expect this goodbye note will become famous. Instead of being the guy who survived a lightning strike, I'll be the guy who went on a campus rampage with two pistols and bad aim.

It started with the lightning, obviously. I was golfing. (Yes, I used to golf, which proves I was an asshole even before all this.) I was finishing the back nine just ahead of a fast approaching thunderstorm. I didn't know lightning could strike without rain. Before rain, I mean. Why should I even have considered that? I still think it's fucking ridiculous.

I was in a fully extended backswing when it struck. My senses were overloaded. The sharp, sudden noise, the all-enveloping hotness, the feeling that every last cell in my body was popping like grease in a hot pan. Then I was out, gone. If my partners hadn't sought medical help, I probably would've died. I wish I had.

Okay, okay. Might as well be honest on this day, my last. That was all bullshit. I always told people that because it sounded more interesting, but I wasn't golfing. (I have no opinion on golf itself, but I do think all golfers are useless assholes.) I wasn't even outside. I was taking a shower. During a thunderstorm. I'd never heard about the danger, never even thought about it. (which kind of fits with my lightning before rain fiction.) It was actually my girlfriend who saved me. All the power in the house went out and I fell out of the shower at the same time, wet and crispy all at once, like that cereal. She heard the thud and came running, yelling my name. My arm broke when I landed. So that's the actual truth. Anyways.

There were permanent effects, of course, both physical and mental. At first, it seemed like only my body was damaged. I lost all hearing in my left ear and half of it in my right. Due to this I frequently turned my head when people spoke to me, facing my right ear towards them. Needless to say, people found this very off-putting, and those who didn't know about the strike found it rude. The hearing problems also affected my equilibrium. I became clumsy and prone to toppling over without realizing it until I was halfway to the ground. Let's see, what else? I broke my arm. Mentioned that already. Ummm... oh yeah. My nose. Ever since I woke up in the hospital, I always smelled semen. Constantly, without interruption. It was very strange to smell other, normal, everyday things, except mixed with spunk. Spunk flowers. Pearly pizza. Jizz chocolate chip cookies. Sperm blacktop.

There were mental effects, too. These destroyed my social life; my ability to play well with others. I became afraid of water, particularly showering and bathing. Sometimes, just the sight of a running tap would drop an uncomfortable rock in the pit of my stomach, the dread and memory making me sweat with a familiar but imagined pain.

My girlfriend left me once she realized she couldn't convince me to overcome my water problem. My friends stopped answering my calls after giving me ultimatums. When I went out in public, anywhere really, people looked at me with disgust. Gave me a wide berth. Those who got close enough to smell me often made rude comments. You can imagine.

People cited statistics. Explained my irrationality. Pleaded with me to clean myself up. Some said these things with pity while standing upwind of me. Some said them with disgust. They said I had to accept logic. Who knows, maybe that part of my brain was fried. My emotional response to water trumped any logical sense. I lost all my so-called friends.

I did try, once, to shower. I think it caused a nervous breakdown. I was standing under the water for two minutes, frightened as hell, and finally I broke, jumped out, and frantically toweled myself off. I laid on the carpet hyperventilating, trying to calm down. I wasn't in there long enough to get anywhere near clean. All I managed to do was wet the scum on me before I smeared it around with the towel.

I did wash my clothes (drop-off service) and sure, I tried deodorants and colognes. They sort of worked for a while, but eventually, you just can't cover it up anymore.

The lightning strike was a year ago today. I've gotten used to my smell. Sometimes having my skin and hair all oily bothers me, or makes me feel itchy. For a while I told myself I was living the rustic life, dirty ass pioneer style. In more ways that one. Afraid of the toilet, I dug a ditch in the back yard to be my latrine. When it was raining, I shat in a paper bag and waited for sunshine before I went out back to dispose of the mess.

Enough details. Enough colorful anecdotes. Time to get to the point.

I've been alone for a while now, caught between my fear of water and my hatred for everyone. The way I'm treated... my experiences in public... things like: people in movie theatres getting up to move away from me; grocery clerks holding their breath... The last time I was out of the house, my professor ordered me out of the lecture hall after every student I sat near got up and squeezed into the opposite side of the room, many muttering and glaring, a few outright insulting me. He said I was a disruption and a disgrace.

So I isolated myself. I grew alienated from everyone. I became angry. I am angry.

I go back and forth from rage and hatred to depression and defeat. By now, you know where this led me. To all you fuckers who just don't get it.

And I have guns.

James Wesley Dobbs Jr.
7:32 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monty Python's Flying Chicago



Hey Mom?

I got arrested again. I didn't do anything wrong this time. Well, sort of. Let me explain.

You remember the DUI. March 07. You remember I was sentenced to $1500 in fees, $700 in alcohol education classes, six months of social services counseling, and 1 victim impact panel.

So I did some of it. Then I missed a social services visit. I called Curtis, my counselor, three weeks later.

"Oh... so... sorry about that. What next, Curtis?"

"Well, officially, you now have a bench warrant issued for your arrest. Finish your classes and fines, and come to the courthouse and request to stand before a judge, and hope for the best. I can't schedule your next visit without notifying the court for the purpose of your arrest."

Nice guy, Curtis. Did me a solid there, sort of. As it happens, no warrant was issued. Yet.

Just before I offically got evicted from Palatine, the repo man showed up. (You remember my financial situation after getting canned.) I bribed the repo man for the total of his commission, $300, and took off the very next day to move in with The Captain, who'd just come back from Florida after ten years. He brought that godawful Melissa with him. I told you about her. Anyways, The Captain and Melissa took me in and let me mope for a couple months while I scraped by on Buffalo Wild Wings tips. This was October 07.

Because I was hiding my location, I never got the letter from the Circuit Court of Cook County at Rolling Meadows informing me I had a court date set in February 08. Assuming, as I did, that I was already a fugitive from justice, I never inquired with Curtis or the court, wondering how the hell I could afford the fees and so forth. I felt doomed.

Well, as of February 08, upon missing that court date, there actually was a warrant issued in my name. They caught up with me just days after Anita and I moved out of the Captain's and into our own place. It only took them a year.

I had just spent $200 on groceries and Obamabilia at the Dominick's in Hoffman Estates. Yeah, Hoffman. Of all places. Motherfucker. (Sorry Mom, I realize I shouldn't write like that in front of you.) Fortunately it was exactly zero degrees out so none of my consumables spoiled.

Believe it or not, the cops were super cool. Really!

Officer Zaba didn't charge me for driving without insurance, or any other bullshit he certainly could have. He didn't search my car, choosing instead to believe me when I told him there was nothing illicit present. (true!) And that I was stone cold sober. (also true!) He didn't make me stand outside in Siberian weather, instead waiting until everything was ready before removing me from my vehicle, cuffing me, and placing me in the back seat of his squad.

I said nice things. (I admire what you do, etc.) We had a nice conversation about Humboldt Park. For an arrester/arrestee conversation, it was downright cordial. That led to something bizarre.

Officer Mueller was at the police station when I arrived. He didn't remember me, apparently. Good. While Officer Zaba was collecting my possessions and conducting his inventory (this was before the fingerprinting, which was high tech and cool as fuck) Mueller strolled in and began to speak to me.

"We have to do this three times a year, randomly, be it an arrest, a complaint, or whatever. Would you mind answering a few questions for a survey?"

"Uh, okay, sure."

"How would you rate your experience with the Hoffman Estates Police Department?"

I was dumbfounded. Nonetheless, I attempted an answer.

"I... it was... what do you mean? Like, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest? Or between unsatisfactory, somewhat unsatisfactory, satisfactory, somewhat good, or extremely good?"

He just looked at me. I tried again.

"Well, I guess it was as good as possible, considering the circumstances."

He exhaled heavily, simultaneously exasperated and amused. He wrote something brief upon the sheet of paper.

"How would you rate Officer Zaba's conduct?"

I answered. "Randomly? Really?"

He answered. "Well..." He tilted his head slightly, indicating the possibility of sympathetic selection.

"Okay, Okay. Zaba was courteous, polite, and answered my questions to my satisfaction. I would go so far as to say he was gracious."

Mueller scribbled some shit on his sheet and continued.

"Do you have any recommendations on how Hoffman Esates can improve its municipal services?" He arched his eyebrows and desperately tried to supress an amused grin.

I paused for moment, watching him. Finally, failing to generate something clever, I answered "You don't really want me to try answering that, do you?" He looked around, then back at me. "Mark it no." I started giggling.

"Okay, last one. Come on, stop laughing. Please? Okay. Now. Would you be interested in joining the Hoffman Estates Neighborhood Watch program?"

Mom, I wasn't in cuffs anymore, but Jesus. When I managed to cease my full fledged laughter, I stuttered out "I just work in this town, so no."

"Thank you Stephen." Officer Mueller smiled at me. Zaba, finishing my inventory, just grinned halfway and shook his head.

That's when I found out I would be spending a month in County unless somebody showed up with 10% of $20,000. Holy shit, right?

Good thing I told my boss this would happen eventually, back when the old company that canned me hunted me down and rehired me. I love them. Good thing I don't burn bridges.

So yeah. Thought you might get a chuckle outta that whole scenario. Sorry about that phone call, by the way. Love you Mom.

3:35 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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If The River Was Whiskey



Dear Captain,

By now you know I moved out. My sister and I both did. It was time. I know leaving you a letter in an empty house with a fuckload of unpaid bills was a shitty way to do it. Shame on us.

A year ago in January you went crazy again. Between chucking knives into the wall, smashing bottles, and peeing yourself during drunken slumbers, I began to fear your eventual breakdown. All that talk of boatjacking on the Mississippi and death by cop were amusing until I realized you meant it.

Moving away from that suburban hellhole in Elk Grove to Chicago seemed to help, for a while. While we had the money, going out and getting wasted seemed like a wonderful pastime. You stopped treating me like your live-in psychologist. No more of that "I'm a bad person" fishing for compliments I got so sick of. No drunken pleadings for affirmation of your human value. The angry empty black hole went silent, and like the old days, we were buddies.

When my sister moved in, you reverted. I warned her that she was joining a bachelor pad. That we were slobs. Noisy. Crude. I made it clear that we weren't going to change much.

I appreciate your willingness to help her out when she needed somewhere to go. I still do. That you went and decided to develop an inferiority complex was not her fault. So you hate yourself. Your family. Women. Coworkers. But most of all yourself. I get it. You blamed her for representing everything you're not, but secretely wish you were. I get it. I dealt with it. I played referee.

I accepted you as an unrepentant hopeless drunk fifteen years ago. Call me codependent, fine. I've seen you behave like a bile tsunami many times in the past. Mostly you were pathetic and idiotic, but until those Elk Grove episodes in January last year, never frightening.

I always agreed when you said "We're best friends. Brothers. Right? I'm the Captain, you're the XO. We're gonna storm this fuckin' city. Right?" I always answered affirmative. Maybe I was hedging. Maybe I was lying. Maybe I was dumb dog loyal, and wanted our bond to be true, but somewhere in my evolved recesses, I knew I didn't mean it when I answered "yes." Maybe I was just waiting for an excuse to ditch.

You sure as hell provided them.

You were shitfaced, so you may not remember these incidents with any clarity.

You threw a Polish sausage in the oven, set it to 400, and passed out. Anita got home ten minutes before me, threw open the windows to let smoke out, yanked the battery from the smoke alarm, and opened the oven to let the billowing black clouds stench their way through the apartment and out to the sky. She woke you up, understandably furious. You proceeded to berate her for not buying oven cleaner and scrubbing the oven, claiming you'd merely been preheating the oven and that the old scum in it was burning, not the sausage you half-assedly plopped on a pizza pan and chucked in there. You then went to the kitchen to butter fry a greyish maroon spoiled steak on the stove-top, mindless of the horrid gusts rising from the oven, sooting up your face like a chimney sweep. I got home and received a verbal lashing after my vociferous scolding of you. You claimed I was being an unreasonable asshole, expecting contrition for a simple honest mishap.

Anita decided to take immediate action to depart, and began scheduling apartment showings.

I didn't hop on board with her right away. Not until I heard what you did during the last week of January this year. Is January your appointed month for bulge-eyed murderous psychopathy?

I was at work. You two were home. You got mad about the bill sharing arrangements we all mutually agreed upon. You got drunk (Jack Daniels and PBR, plenty of each by noon) and went to her room to wake her up and scream at her, looming over her while she was barely awake, making vague threats like "Don't fuck with me, don't you dare fucking try to cross me, you have no idea what I'm capable of, no idea what I've done in the past. Watch the fuck out, you fucking bitch."

She went to shower and leave. She wanted to get as far away from you as possible. You played something by Eminem at full blast, with lyrics something like "Shut up when I'm talkin bitch, I'll fucking kill you." Then you turned it down to call one of your weird skeevy little gangster coworkers. You said, drunk and oblivious to your volume, "Remember what we talked about? It's on. Now. Get over here. NOW!" You know what that sounds like, right? Anita left without finishing her makeup or hair curling, essentially fleeing for her safety. She recounted the events the next morning when I took her to get her car back from a tow.

Normally I would've brought this up with you. I always did that so we could talk out our dispute and put it behind us. I had no intention of forgiving this one, so I stayed silent until a week ago. You begged me to drink with you, claiming I'd stopped acting like your friend. True. So we drank. And I spilled.

When you learned she was afraid of you, you got even angrier. Our conversation ended uncomfortably. I went to bed around 5:00 AM. Shortly afterwards, Anita got up and got in the shower. You stayed awake, staring holes in the wall, stewing a fresh cauldron of ugliness. Finally, with a full head of steam, you burst into the bathroom.

Screaming at her. She, naked, showering, threatened, vulnerable, nothing but a plastic curtain between her and a drunken Tasmanian fuckhead.

I wasn't asleep yet. I got up quickly, interceded, and provided her safe passage from the apartment. You invited us to get the fuck out of your house.

Guess what? I accept.

You haven't seen her since, you may have noticed. Maybe once or twice, when I was home to provide cover. So she could pack. And surprise! I packed too. We both left.

That money I supposedly owe you? I'm not paying February rent. I left on the 3rd. I'd love to fulfill my obligations from other bills I accrued, but I have a new apartment, security deposit, and moving expenses to consider.

So go ahead and get mad. You put us all here.

I hope you do get your shit together. I hope you do find something to live for, a purpose, an order in chaos. Hell, maybe we can still be friends sometime down the road. In the meantime, grow up. Stop blaming your parents. Your shitty childhood. The world around you. Look to yourself. Look in the mirror. If you can't accept responsibility for your own life, you'll continue to drive away your friends. You'll finally succeed with some form of suicide.

Don't. Choose to change. Choose to live.

Greener pastures, man.
2:01 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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