Almost No Regrets



Regrets are Folly, but…

If I had to live my live over again, I would have found gainful employment early and stuck with a job long enough to save for retirement. I would have never borrowed money. Compound interest works in your favor if you let it. It works against you if you borrow.

I would have retired at fifty and spent less of my time working for others. I guess I never really felt like I was working for others, and others probably never felt that way either, which explains why so few of my work experiences ended on a high note. I’ve been fired a lot.

I would have never married anyone for “practical reasons” or because she wanted us to get married. Which means I would have never married. I’m definitely happy to have had the children I have, and would have taken care of them as well as I did, maybe even better, had I not married.

These regrets are minimal, not terribly important, because the good fortune I’ve experienced has far outweighed them in importance. My health is good, I’m living in an affordable place and want for nothing.


Going Solo



The Internet has grown in power and sophistication, tracking potential customers for those looking to find them by linking ads and emails to searches and browsing history. The other day I came across an article about a new form of LSD, called LSD-1. that is not illegal. When I next checked my email, there was an offer from a Chinese pharmaceutical firm who could supply me with this product. I didn’t even have to search for it. They had monitored my browsing.

They also included a map showing my location and asked me to confirm that the blue dot was indeed floating above my house. It was. Then I was offered an overhead shot of my property. There was my motorcycle, right where I had parked it. Apparently, it was a live shot from a tiny drone.

They sent me another email informing me that an attractive young woman who worked for their firm lived nearby, and would be willing to ingest this substance with me, serving as “tripmaster,” in case I wanted to avail myself of this service. They included a picture of a comely Chinese girl in her twenties.

I ordered the legal LSD, which arrived in a week or so in an unmarked black plastic envelope. There were enough doses for quite a party, but I decided to try this experiment alone, so I only took the medium suggested dose, chewing and swallowing two tiny squares of blotter paper.

I had recently purchased a video camera that I normally used to document my motorcycle riding. In case of an accident, the playback might prove useful to show to the police or an insurance adjustor. Once switched on, it ran for twelve hours and then recycled the memory, rolling over the beginning footage. I decided this might be fun to to document my psychedelic voyage, the first one I had embarked upon in almost forty years. Since it was permanently mounted to my motorcycle helmet, I wore that. I also felt the desire to be free of most clothing, so I wore a caftan I’d picked up in my travels to the Middle East.

After about an hour I was definitely tripping. It was a pleasant feeling. Colors were brighter, people seemed witty and kind. Even the most mundane scenes were photogenic. I was glad the camera was recording all this, so I could refresh my memory later, even though I didn’t expect the video to capture the profound beauty I was now witnessing.

I was sitting in a patch of weeds and flowers that grow near my house, when a man and woman appeared coming through a gate that led to a nearby vacant lot. They were dressed identically, in togas. I thought that odd, but since everything seemed odd at the time, it didn’t really stop me in my tracks. I was going with the flow.

As the day was hot and getting warmer, I invited them inside my house for a cool drink. All I had was water, which seemed perfect at this time, for anything sweet or caffeinated would have been too much. Too artificial.

We talked for hours. They seemed as delighted by my company as I was by theirs.

Later, when I viewed the video footage of that time, I could hear my voice clearly engaged in the conversation I remembered, but the field of view only showed a blank wall in front of me.

I guess LSD-1 really works. Maybe next time I’ll ask the Chinese girl to trip with me. I still have some of those blotter pieces left over.

Top of the World



She had a child’s mind in a lush woman’s body and she reached for evil with both hands…


I saw this and it reminded me of my youth. Ann Margaret was a few years older than me, and as I entered puberty in the early sixties, she was already a goddess on the silver screen. Like all pre-adolescents, I was morbidly fearful about being thought attractive and hence “popular.” None of those things came easy for me. I’m not sure even Ann Margaret had an easy time of it. I know Elvis didn’t. He was the pimply, friendless kid at Hume High in Memphis when he dared to sing “Old Shep” to a crowded auditorium of his classmates who were less-than-wowed by his presence. But he managed to turn that around within a few years.

I’ve done all right. It’s been so long since I was an early teen that I can’t remember what I imagined I would accomplish in the time I’ve been given. Probably I would have been shocked to learn that I’ve made it this far. Sixty-eight! Good god! Are you in a wheelchair? Do you hobble around using a cane?

The things I worried about the most, whether girls would like me and whether I would achieve any status at all, turned out to be non-problems. Yes, it’s easy to find a girl to like you, but the real question you should be asking yourself is “which girl?” Impressing other people with your capability or talent is never a complete success. For everybody who’s impressed there’s another one or two who think you need to be brought down a notch or two.

But, as Jimmy Cagney says in the seconds before he blows himself up while standing on top of a natural gas storage tank “Top of the world, Ma!”

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.