Creepy Story



The guards have assured me that I can stay up writing as late as I want. Even though the main lights have been switched off, the light from my laptop bothers no one, and I am at my most inspired when others sleep. It is finally quiet then. The hundreds of men who surround me make noise all day long, just because they can, I suppose, and because it makes them feel alive.

The sensor they implanted into my brain stopped working months ago, but I have not told them that. I pretend to be just as impaired as I was after they first installed it. It is designed to confuse me and make it impossible for me to follow a coherent train of thought. All I have to do to convince them it’s still working is act confused whenever they talk to me.

This latest story I’m working on is already novella-length and I still can’t imagine an ending. Nowadays that might be a liability, because thanks to social media the national attention span is a fragment of its former self. I love the fact that if you run out of inspiration, simply invent another character and let him or her take center stage for a while. How do you think Tolstoy got War and Peace to its massive bulk? Chamber pieces and short-short stories have small casts and only one location.

When I tire of my characters, I kill them off. Helps make wrapping up loose threads easier near the conclusion. Today I just had an especially annoying supporting role drift off into outer space in a leaking space suit, with an amoebic organism crawling around inside his helmet, attempting to eat his brain. At this point in the writing, it’s a toss up which will finish him off first.

Dramatic monologues by evil characters are the most fun to write. I admit I have probably gone on too long with some of them. It’s the old “since you’re going to die anyway, I might as well tell you the Master Plan I hatched years ago and which is now coming to fruition.” It’s always a mistake to assume the person you confess your master plan to is actually going to die before you do. My villains make this error frequently.

It’s gotten so I’d rather write a movie than watch one. The kinds of movies they show here on Inmate Movie Night are either action movies or crude comedies. These are the entertainments where the soundtrack involves a lot of someone hoarsely urging others to “go go go!” or lots of cursing and ghetto talk.

It would be easier if I were more alike my neighbors, but on the other hand, they leave me alone, calling me “The Professor.” No one wants me to teach them anything, but they offer me a certain amount of unearned respect simply because I’m not like them. If they only knew what I’ve done and what I’m capable of doing, they would not simply respect me, but fear me.

No, I am not a cannibal, nor a mass-murderer in the traditional sense. My nefarious plans are so subtle that they are never uncovered. My victims never know what hit them. We all die eventually anyway, right? What does it matter if I accelerate the process?

Most people are waiting around for instructions. I have never done so, for if I did where would my advantage lie? If I’m not running the show, who is? Powerful, intelligent, far-seeing men have always risen to positions of power and influence where they could direct the flow of historic events. I am one of those men, though I am strictly self-appointed and secretive.

I do not believe in democracy. Enlightened despotism has always proven to be the most favorable system of governance. Fools gladly elect despots to rule. Nothing is ever learned from such a debacle. Blame is freely tossed and promises to not repeat the same mistakes freely made. In the long run, nothing ever changes. Fools remain fools, and their leaders despise them for it.

They say this is a maximum security prison and I am one of the most isolated prisoners. When in doubt, they elect to keep me apart from the general population. Sometimes I see the guards photographing me when I am allowed to move about, and I think that is probably being done to provide a defense for the management if I were ever to sue them for cruel and unusual punishment. Funny thing is, I don’t consider being kept apart from these others to be anything less than VIP treatment.

I didn’t used to be so unusual. It was my wife who started me down this path. Nothing was ever good enough for her, because she hated he normal. She craved unusual people and situations, so once we became a couple we became a self-fulfilling prophesy, surrounding ourselves with oddballs, freaks, weirdos and perverts. Our home life was not placid. We were always either highly aroused, or terrified.

The drugs didn’t help. She fancied herself a witch and would concoct potions of herbs that nobody had ever heard of. They came in the mail from places like Bulgaria and Indonesia. They all smelled like something that had died a long time ago. I learned how to drink tea while holding my nose.

People either loved or hated her. Those same people either envied or pitied me.

I’m not saying we weren’t sometimes happy. You can learn to get used to anything. Certain adaptations might be convenient in the short-term, but not good for you in the long run. You can become a monster without noticing your descent. One bad idea leads to another.

I began to imagine that I was the leader of a movement, a vast, secret movement of like-minded souls who depended on me. If I were to abandon this path, they would suffer. No one could or would take my place. The longer I harbored these thoughts, the more I believed them.

Child sacrifice sounds like a horrible concept in the abstract, but in reality it can be a gentle way of bringing a group of people together. How else could we maintain school teachers and social workers, doctors and clerics as members of our secret army. No one person knew how many of us there were, because we kept our cell meetings small. Only I knew, and I never let on about it, because there were no other cells. The fifteen or so who formed our core group were it.

They, however, imagined along with me that we were but one division in a vast army, an international movement with chapters in a hundred different countries. I have the ability to make people forget about their misgivings and become whole-hearted about an idea, no matter how novel.

Speaking of novels, I’ve written six in just the last four months. Nobody’s buying them yet, but I figure as soon as I become a prominent person, sales will take off. By now you’re probably wondering if I have any regrets. I didn’t end up here by being a saint. It was never my ambition to be “good.”

The kids we disposed of were almost universally whiny, unattractive, clingy and friendless. Nobody wanted them around. Sure the rituals were hard to perform and even harder to stomach, but in some ways I think it was harder for us than for the kids. We had to bring in some Spanish priests who could teach us the ceremonies and rites of passage they used back in the Inquisition. We bought frankincense by the barrel, razor-sharp stilettos by the score. The priests wouldn’t let us use surgical scalpels. They had to be fire-hardened stilettos, the kind they still use in Spain.

Dismembering someone, even a child, is no picnic. Fortunately, we learned to crank up the church music and that made it easier to keep going, no matter whether the child was screaming or not. Palestrina at high volume, Gregorian chant in a constant drone provided an acoustic floor that supported our ceremonies.

We all felt it was worth it. Well, those who remained with the group felt that way. True, some of us left. That’s how I was singled out by the police. My wife, the one who got me involved in the first place, named me as the High Priest. I guess they offered her a plea bargain and she took it.

All that seems so long ago I can hardly believe it really happened. I’m a different person today. Far less likely to take amphetamines and hallucinogens in order to converse with dark spirits. Far less opinionated. I like that Sly and the Family Stone song, “It’s your thing…do what you wanna do. I can’t tell you, who to sock it to.”

But I’m having trouble sleeping. I can’t shut off mind. I wish they’d reactivate my probe. Even though I couldn’t keep a train of thought for more than a few minutes, it would still help me let the past go and start anew. A guy like me deserves a second chance, even if I have to be locked up here. Even if the books I write make no sense, I still enjoy writing them. And who knows, maybe somebody out there will one day enjoy reading them.


He was an especially weak man, prone to whining. For some reason, I seem to attract such men, and they are hard to get rid of. Simple hints don’t work with them. One needs to be direct and blunt to the same degree they are evasive and delicate. Listen up, Mister!

He would pretend to listen and feign understanding, but his own neediness drowned out any direction I could offer. He only pretended to follow. This is why I finally had to let him go, to release him from the ranks of my cadres. A movement like this can tolerate no duplicity.

We have no room for cowards. The abduction and killing of children is serious business. It is not for the faint-hearted.

My greatest error is in thinking I can fix these weak men, give them some spine, some steel in their rubbery souls. Even if I could, there would be no benefit to me. I do not lack spine. The art of ritual sacrifice is not vague in its demands on us, those fortunate enough to practice it. In this field there are no suggestions, only demands.

When I was merely a girl, I found myself sickened whenever I witnessed weakness. Something deep inside me would curl in revulsion when a man refused to act like a man, and instead pretended to be a woman or a child. I’ll never forget the time I saw some children crowding around a birds nest that had fallen from a tree. “Oh, the poor things. Let’s take them home and feed them milk from a dropper.”

You should have seen the looks on their faces when I snatched the nest away and stomped on it. Now these tiny creatures were free not to die a slow death at the hands of well-meaning wimps.

My actions horrified the weakest of my peers. They complained to parents and teachers. They gossiped about me at school. And where are they today? Fat housewives watching television while I go about the task of building a better world.

If you have chosen a narrow path, you must expect to leave the bulk of humanity behind. They will never support you. Democracy is for sheep. The crowd has no wisdom to share. For some reason, I knew this early on, but others are just coming to the realization and I must practice patience with them.

But it is difficult not to become impatient with weakness that celebrates itself as compassion.


Mom and Dad, I want to go home. Can you come get me? I wish I could tell you where I am, but they drove me here inside a van with no windows. The woman said you were waiting for me here, but she was lying. I know that now.

There are a lot of us children here. I’ve made a few friends, but some of them have already left. Gone somewhere else, but they won’t tell us where. They just say they’ve gone to a “better place.”

I don’t like this place very much. Some kind is always crying because everyone misses their family. They give us things to do, but they don’t ask us if we want to do them or not. I guess they don’t care. A lot of the men are older priests, and the women who feed us seem to be afraid of the priests. A lot of the women don’t speak English.

I thought priests were supposed to be good people, but these ones don’t seem very good or kind to me. I get the feeling they don’t like us. Maybe they don’t like kids in general and that’s why they became priests, so they wouldn’t have to marry and and have families.

Sometimes at night they make us go to a big ceremony where we hold candles and worship a statue they call “Ball.” Most of the kids don’t know what this is about, but one kid told me that if we follow their directions and really worship Ball, then we’ll burn in hell for all eternity after we die, which might be sooner than we think. So we pretend.

I wish I’d never left our house that day they picked me up. My plan was simply to walk around the block. When the van stopped and said there had been an accident and you wanted me to come home right away, I believed them. The lady in charge was an ugly woman with a crooked smile. Her teeth were large, pointed and yellow. When she smiled it made me sick to my stomach.

When are you coming to get me?



His diary entry:

She meant nothing to me until I successfully ran away from her, and then she was all I could think about. Until I was free of her I blamed her for holding me back. As soon as I was free I was restless, unable to form a plan of action, and now I constantly find myself wondering what she is doing.

Her grip on me is positively demonic. It’s nothing she’s doing, of course, I’m the demon in this case, pretending that someone besides me is to blame. For all I know, she’s not even thinking about me most of the time. In fact, I’m almost sure she’s not, but that doesn’t make it any easier to forgive and forget.

What I’m waiting for is an apology. And for her to tearfully beg me to forgive her and then we can start afresh. No longer the needy wimp, I’ll be the man she always wanted me to be. Strong, self-assured, willing to take charge.

I’ve heard that I’m too late, that she’s already moved on, finding herself an alpha-male who also happens to be rich as well as athletic. I wish them well. No I don’t, I hope they die in a car crash and the sooner, the better. I can’t be big about this. I have to move on and stop thinking about it. It’s very hard to will yourself to not think about something.

Far easier to distract yourself by thinking about something your find interesting or delightful. In my case, that’s impossible, because I find nothing interests me except the desire to get her back so she can apologize and we can finally be happy.

Petty, vengeful, self-centered, demanding? You bet. I’m not proud of it, but it’s who I am. Again, if all it took was an act of will to change my fundamental nature, maybe I could try to focus all my energies and do it for less than a minute, but it wouldn’t last. I know myself. I would be back dwelling on her after than minute lapsed. Nothing would have changed.

Her diary entry:

Even though he hasn’t contacted me, I know he’s out there, waiting for me to give in to his infantile demands. I don’t want to be anyone’s Mommy, or Girlfriend. I don’t like most men, or want them around. A real man, yes, but there aren’t many of them. There are way too many babies whose feelings are easily hurt.

If there’s nothing in it for me, why should I play their game? Last thing I need is some guy expecting me to make him feel good about himself. If you don’t like yourself, leave me alone. Having two of us not like you isn’t going to make you feel any better.

A lot of this current crop of whiners are writing blogs about their “inner life.” They like to talk a lot about spirituality. They remind me of those people who have been to therapy and are now searching for “intimacy.” Give me a break. Get a job that wears you out so you sleep well at night and drop the search for intimacy.



Time for Change


Lucy knew was about to be deported, but she didn’t know why. Try as she might, she couldn’t recall a public incident or offensive comment she might have made about the government on social media. True, she had spent a few nights in the company of some shady characters she met late one night after drinking heavily since that afternoon, but she couldn’t remember any real trouble they had gotten into.

Of course, like everyone, she had heard stories. People who criticized the Sheikh on Facebook and then were rounded up at work, taken directly the airport and forcibly deported without having a chance to go home and pack, access their bank account, or sell their vehicle. The money ex pats made was so good, as a group they turned a blind eye to such events. Summary deportations were not reported on in the news, so one only heard about these things in whispers.

Besides, this was a benevolent government, enlightened almost, at least compared to its history. African slaves had been auctioned nearby as recently as the 1960’s. These oil-rich Arabs were our allies, strong partners in an uncertain and unstable region. When they came to the United States, they rented all the rooms in a luxury hotel. They were big shots.

She, however, was not a big shot. She was a lonely woman in her forties, who had landed a teaching job at a comparatively high salary at a private school. Newly divorced and eager for a change of location, she had jumped at the chance for an overseas posting. The first few weeks were rocky, but now she felt reasonably comfortable here. And now this.

The phone call came early in the morning. The caller would not identify herself, but sounded like she knew what she was talking about when she said there was a good chance they were planning to deport Lucy, and she should take whatever precautions she could, especially visiting her bank and wiring as much money as she could overseas. She should also get whatever cash she could, and take the most precious of her mementos with her when she left for school that day. They would probably come for her over her lunch break or near the end of the school day. That was their habit.

She arrived at school in such a nervous state she was not sure she would be able to fake her way through teaching five classes. Lunchtime arrived and she sat with her usual group of teacher friends. She swallowed a valium she always kept in her purse in case of emergency. That helped a great deal, and enabled her to make it to the end of the day. Still no men had arrived to take her away. As she left the parking lot, she wondered what her next step would be.

Dare she go back to her apartment? What about Eric, the guy she had slept with a few times after late nights out with the gang. If she went to a hotel, they would ask to see her passport, so if someone was looking for her, that would make it no better than staying home. Would Eric put her up for the night? She could ask, but then she imagined telling him why she wanted to stay and she realized that she simply didn’t know him well enough to ask such a favor. She knew him well enough to exchange bodily fluids, but not well enough to ask him to shelter her.

The realization gave her pause. “What kind of life do I really have here?” she asked herself.

If the Middle East was the nice place to wind up, what were the real shit holes like? Were they next on her list? I suppose the International School phenomenon existed in all places where there were horrible public school systems and either rich locals or foreign families. Could she see herself moving down the food chain, towards African or South American posts?

With nowhere to go, she decided to drive to Eric’s building and sit in her car in the parking lot. That would give her someplace to organize her thoughts. Traffic was thick and she arrived as it was getting dark. She could see his light on in his apartment, but she still didn’t feel comfortable calling him and asking him if she could come over. She saw the light vary, which probably meant he was home and moving around.

She found a pack if cigarettes in the glove compartment she had forgotten about since she stopped smoking last month. Fortunately, there was a lighter there, as well, for cars no longer contained lighters or ashtrays. The light faded until the only illumination came from horrible sodium vapor lights that made the whole parking lot seem a crime scene.

As she smoked, she remembered times when things had seemed to be getting better. Twenty years ago, when he left graduate school, she had been strangely confident. Even though she had never been a great beauty, she always had a boyfriend if she wanted one. Now she could find men to sleep with, but it often wasn’t worth the entanglement. Even worse, sometimes it wasn’t even worth the experience. The future no longer seemed rosy.

If there had been opportunities she had passed by, she hadn’t noticed them. If she could pinpoint one moment when she took a wrong turn and then blame how things had turned out on that error in judgment, it might have been easier, but she could imagine no such moment. The divorce had been a foregone conclusion long before they took action to free themselves from their marriage. Whatever sparks had once flown had long ago cooled to ash.

And then there was her drinking. It had crept up on her. What seemed like a harmless affinity for good wine had turned into a dependence on any form of alcohol. Her drinking became secretive. She hid bottles and sedatives. Most of the time she didn’t need to access her secret stash, but it was reassuring knowing it existed. Of course, she often forgot where she had hidden them, and then surprised herself by finding a half-filled bottle of wine and a small baggy containing 5 mg valium pills tucked behind her shoes in the closet.

As soon as she was through with all this intrigue and chaos, she would deal with her drinking. Maybe it would take care of itself, if only she wasn’t hounded by so many problems. She’d get another job, a better job, in a nicer place. Europe. A place where Arabs weren’t in charge.

She saw movement in Eric’s window. It was a woman. Then Eric stood next to her. Great. She was glad she hadn’t called and embarrassed herself, although embarrassment was the least of her problems at the moment. She lit another cigarette. Usually by this time she would be hungry, but the cigarettes took away her natural appetite for food. She felt dizzy and nauseous. Her phone rang. It was Eric. Had he seen her out here in the parking lot?

No, he was calling to tell her that a woman he had been seeing and sleeping with for a while had become jealous when she heard that he had slept with Lucy. This woman had just told him that she had called Lucy that morning, pretending to be from the government. Had she gotten such a call? She had. Hopefully she hadn’t believed the woman’s story. Of course not. I’m not stupid. No, of course not. You’re anything but that. Well, I just wanted to let you know, and I’m sorry for what that woman tried to put you through.

After she hung up Lucy barked out a giant laugh and then quickly followed it with tears. It became powerfully evident to her that she had never felt so alone before in her life. Yes, she would have to make some changes.




I figured out why I hate gambling so much. It’s because I hate to lose. I really, really hate to lose, and whatever pleasure I gain from winning is overpowered by how much I suffer from losing.

Any activity that even remotely resembles gambling produces this reaction. What we call “investing,” in real estate, precious metals, the stock market…to me it’s all simply gambling.

All activities pose a certain amount of risk. If you believe in the magical power of certain prayers, then the time you spent praying was wasted time. Time lost. If you borrow money from banks to make real estate investments, then you’re almost certainly a loser. If you did this in 2008, as I did, then you were an idiot. If you worked for Goldman Sachs, then you were a winner.

Plunging in recklessly beyond your depth is a good way to find out how little you enjoy gambling.

Since I can’t dig myself out of a hole, the only thing I can do to remedy my situation is stop digging. Stop in this hole and in any other holes I might be inspired to create.

There’s a practical reason to narrow my focus besides avoiding the pain of loss from games of chance. I only have so much I can pay attention to. As I grow older, I find the beam of my attention grows narrower. Time grows short, and simply taking care of what’s in front of me is all I can hope for. So no more “investing” for this retiree on a fixed income.

Mandatory Retirement Would Be Good For Everybody



Once you’ve made a certain amount of money in any field, you should be forced to retire and make room for somebody else.  If you want to keep working, you could do so, but only for free. You could mentor someone else until they’ve made enough money, and then they could retire. This would be especially welcome in show business and politics.


Imagine how much more interesting the world would be if the same old clowns were routinely put out to pasture?



Good Luck, Young Uns


I found a news site I hadn’t looked at for a few years. It’s a Google site, and like most things Google, it already knew a lot about me and my preferences. These were news items they thought I might be interested in.

It contained many more listings that the sites I am used to seeing. As I scrolled through the long list, I wearied of ever reaching the end. Only one item caught my interest, about a recently-discovered grave of a child vampire who had been buried in Italy 1550 years ago. That got me imagining the movie that might directed by Roman Polanksy. All the other listings left me cold.

I don’t care about the marital activities of modern-day celebrities. I would be happy to never read about Donald Trump again, nor any member of his family. Brexit problems, the stock market, gold prices…all will do what they do without my input, nor am I likely to be directly affected.

I finally did it. I became an intolerant geezer who feels like the rest of the human race left him behind years ago. Good luck, young ‘uns, looks like you’ll need it.

I’m not suggesting that the celebrities of my day were any more deserving of acclaim that today’s, nor that the world’s problems are any less dire. I just don’t see my place in any of it. It feels like a party I haven’t been invited to. I’m the pauper standing out in the snow, his nose pressed against the window of a restaurant, watching the rich people eat and laugh inside. Except I’m not hungry, I have plenty of food back home, and I wouldn’t want to come inside your restaurant and make conversation. I want to go about my business in my own time, and that’s a luxury that seems dearer with each passing news cycle.

When I was twelve years old, the most important goal I could imagine attaining was to be popular. When I was fifteen, it was that girls would find me attractive. When I was twenty, it was be recognized for being clever. When I was twenty-five, I had already turned inward and didn’t care too much about what other people thought.

Now I’m sixty-eight, and having a hearty bowel movement seems paramount.

Keep Your Head Down



What will the future hold for most of us? Decline, usually slow but sometimes rapid. Anger, blame, disillusionment. At least that’s the way it feels for most Americans and Brits. But does everybody feel this way? Do people in the third world feel as gloomy about their prospects as do we Facebook-addicted first-worlders?

If you don’t have much to begin with, you don’t have much to lose. If you’ve never enjoyed even the semblance of benign governance, then anything that doesn’t involve outright extortion and oppression feels like business as usual.

Banana republics and tinpot dictatorships keep most of their citizens dirt poor and allow a very few to get away with fiscal murder. Since there was never any semblance of a level playing field, the poor and uneducated don’t assume there’s a chance they can improve their lot. Hard work will simply exhaust you. If you do manage to accumulate wealth, your neighbors will envy you and someone, maybe someone in uniform, will take it away from you. So don’t make waves. Keep your head down, and your eyes to the ground.

Most of us have every reason to be grateful for the level of comfort we already enjoy. Life is not a shit sandwich for most of the people I come into contact with. Here in Thailand, which is in many ways like America was sixty years ago, they have a show on TV that is very much like Queen for a Day. Poor people with insurmountable problems come on and tell their sad story. The twist here is that the show requires them to sing in a talent contest and then guess a lucky number. If the judges are lenient and they guess correctly, they win a few hundred dollars. If not, they go away with a box of laundry soap.

This is a Buddhist country, and there is a strong belief in karma underlying the societal ranking. If you are poor, maybe you deserve your status based on your actions in your previous life, so you might as well practice humility and acceptance. The peasant class doesn’t seem to be chronically outraged by their lot. The men who stoop to plant rice, the women who sit patiently for hours a day at a market stall, tend to smile easily. Maybe the men get drunk and beat their wives when they get home, but since I don’t live in a poor village, I don’t see it.

It’s just assumed that the rich will act like the world owes them a living. Nobody is scandalized when the son of a rich man doesn’t have to pay for his crimes. His father pays a large amount to the victim’s family. The son may go into the monastery for a few months and have his head shaved for a photo op. If his family is really, really rich, like the heir to the Red Bull fortune who drove his Lamborghini over a policeman who was attempting to get him to stop, then dragged the body under the car all the way home, he won’t even have to appear in court.

This is the way it is in much of the world. Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East. They don’t pretend it’s otherwise. They have no tradition of a free press or democratic governance, for that would allow dissent and discourse, so those are quickly quashed. There’s too much at stake to risk it. Take the lid off that kettle and who knows what might leap out.

Everybody Lies


First of all, I’m not guilty. Totally innocent. I wasn’t even in the same city when she died. From what I hear, she had lots of enemies. So why pick on me?

I barely knew her. Sure we had sex a few times, but that sort of thing means nothing nowadays. I’m not sure she even knew my name. She kept calling me “big guy,” but I think that was just to cover the fact that she couldn’t remember by name.

She was a troubled person. I never saw her when she wasn’t high on something. Those times we had sex I met her at a bar. I got the impression she was a regular customer. She seemed to have a thing for the bartender. Have you talked to him?

Everybody knew she had lots of guys coming around all the time. I bet she knew some of their names. Surely you can find somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody else and get some real leads on this case. So why pick on me?

You’ve got video? Me leaving her house and throwing the murder weapon into a garbage can? You retrieved the weapon. My prints are on it. Hmm. OK, well that’s different. That’s a whole lot different. Can I talk to a lawyer?

I know what my lawyer will advise. Don’t say anything. So I’m not going to say any more, OK? No, nothing. Not a word. You’re not my friend. We’re not all friends here. You want to pin this crime on me, and nothing you can say or do will make me forget that’s your intention.

It’s hard not to say anything while we’re waiting for a lawyer. I’ll tell you about my life. If you don’t want to listen you can go do something else. You’re free to come and go. Me, I’m stuck here, right?

OK, my problems really began when my father died and Mom starting hooking. She brought different men home every night. They were all my “uncles.” One night, one of my uncles woke up out of a blackout and found me asleep on the couch. He picked me up and threw me out the window. Fortunately, it was summer and the window was open. We didn’t have much in the way of screens. I woke up on the lawn.

Then I tried working for a living, but even I could see there wasn’t going to be much of a future in that. So when I met a kid who showed me how easy it was to buy and sell pot, I followed in his footsteps. Pretty soon, I had enough money to move out and find my own place. Then I got a motorcycle. Then a car. Then a girlfriend who got pregnant right away. By the time I was nineteen, I was a father.

Then we started having money problems, and I discovered you could buy a few days of illusory affluence by writing bad checks. Sure, the piper would demand to be paid in a few days, but that was an eternity for someone who had as little emotional maturity and ability to think long-term as I. The first couple of times I bounced checks I got off by paying fines, but the third time I got to spend a week in jail. You would have thought that would have taught me a lesson, but it just got me to discover credit cards.

I escaped jail this time by claiming that medical bills for the baby caused me to take those cash advances. Another friend of mine ran a chop shop where stolen cars and motorcycles were turned into parts and then sold to repair shops at a sharp discount. Those shops often billed their customers for new parts. So everybody was in on it, to some degree. At least that’s what I told myself in order to not feel like a crumb.

The problem with a life of petty crime is that it’s addictive. I remember talking to a lady who had a job running a halfway house for women who had just been released from prison. She was supposed to get them entry-level jobs in fast food restaurants. They were mostly hookers who had also been drug addicts. They’d get a job at a fast food restaurant and their pimp would drive by and say “what are you doing wearing that funny hat. Get down from there and let’s go make some real money.” So that’s what they’d do. Nobody lasted at their fast food job longer than a few days.

Once you get used to easy money, it’s hard to want to turn around and play the man’s game. And that’s why…oh, what? You say somebody confessed? I’m free to go? See, I told you I wasn’t guilty. What was that videotape story all about? You say that to all the suspects. I see. Hard to tell the cops from the criminals. Everybody lies. I guess I already knew that.

Actions You Must Perform to Leave This Group


You must obtain written permission to do so from a group administrator. If you don’t know one, you must ask around.

If you can’t contact a group administrator, you must petition the National Security Agency for a Ad Hoc Release From Page Membership (form 1099A-EX) or hire counsel to do the same in your stead.

If you are under the age of sixteen, or over the age of sixty-five, you must also ask that prayers be said for you at the Vatican, preferably on Holy Tuesday, a slow day during Holy Week, which as everyone knows, culminates with Easter Sunday.

If you are Vitamin B deficient, or suffer from restless leg syndrome or a transient certainty that nothing matters anymore, then there is no point in trying to leave this group, for we shall never let you go!

If your name is, or used to be, “Barnabas” then you have already automatically been kicked out of this group.

If you have ever attended a Bing Crosby Road Movie Film Festival and found Dorothy Lamour to be more interesting than either Bing or Bob, then write that in block lettering on a four by six inch card and mail it first class to PO Box 35446, Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York 10045. Allow six to eight weeks for processing, and your name will be expunged from this group.






You must be able to swim ten meters underwater on one breath.

You must be able to derive square roots without the aid of a calculator.

You must know which of these three words is not a word: irregardless, irrespective, immaterial.

Explain in fewer than 100 words why most harmonicas are sold in the key of C but most blues songs are written in B flat or E.

You must be able to whistle.

You must be able to recall the seven cardinal virtues and the six deadly sins.

You must be able to find on the map Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

You must not be Vitamin B deficient.

You must be able to discern the difference between the Elmore James songs “Look on Yonder Wall” and “The Sky is Crying”

You must be immunized against Mad Cow disease and Epstein-Barre syndrome.

You must speak at least three languages besides your native tongue.

You must have spent at least a week in Albania.

You must believe that Artie Shaw’s band was at least the equal of Benny Goodman’s.

You must certify that the concept of spending your retirement years “kicking back in some beach community” sounds stultifying.

You must attest that you lost “that Christmas spirit” years ago and find most holiday promotions tiresome at best.

You must wake up in the middle of the night at least twice a month convinced that your body is riddled with cancer and it’s too late to do anything about it.

You must miss the character actors one used to frequently see in movies and on television fifty years ago more than the “stars” who got top billing and most of the attention.

You must admit to yourself and to others that you find the act of yodeling unmusical and watching old men in lederhosen perform it, distasteful.

You must refuse to accept the notion that all religions have some value, and are at least partially good.

You must get down on your knees and beg God for mercy.

You must admit the fact that you are hopelessly addicted to social media, and that its impact on your life has been almost wholly negative, except for providing a way to stay in touch with old friends, but the more you see or hear about them the more you realize there’s a reason you lost touch with them in the first place, and the only reason you log on so frequently is because you have absolutely nothing else going on in your life to fill the seemingly bottomless void that social media attempts to address.