The Real Jihad (Nov. 5, 2003)

I’m an atheist.  There, I’ve said it. You want to make something of it? I know a guy who’s a bit of a bible-thumper. He’s accused me of being “militant” about my nonbelief. I disagree. He calls me that only because I’m not shy about speaking up. I don’t obey the usual taboo against uttering […]

No Country For Old Women (Part 4)

I don’t keep a ringing phone in my bedroom. Whatever it is, unless it’s an invasion from Mars, in which case it wouldn’t matter, can wait until I’ve had a night’s sleep, I figure. One morning, just when I was beginning to relax a little, I found the light blinking on the machine. It was […]

No Country For Old Women (Part 3)

Arrangements are made to send her back to the home and put her in hospice care there. This is good: she goes back into the hands of people who love her, and when she slips another notch, they’re no longer obliged, legally or morally, to rush her to the hospital. I meet with the hospice […]

No Country For Old Women (Part 2)

I arrive at the little nursing home to visit Berna. In the foyer is a TV. Three old women, two in wheelchairs and one propped up on a gurney, are watching, but they turn hungry eyes to me when I come through the doors. “Hello, there. How are you?” I say as I breeze by, […]

No Country For Old Women (Part 1)

2008: I’m driving a stolen car. Not technically stolen, but it feels stolen. My guilty conscience clatters along everywhere I go in the car, like the tin cans and old shoes honeymoon-bound brides and grooms used to tie to their rear bumpers, minus the festiveness. The car, a beige 1988 Ford Taurus, had belonged to […]

Bad Boys

The Time: Autumn, 1958. The place: the playground of the Washington Consolidated School, Washington, Connecticut. A big crowd of kids are in a circle around two fighting boys. Jimmy Tompkins has his arm hooked around Billy Dils’ neck from behind. Jimmy’s got Billy on the ground, a leg also hooked around Billy, so Billy’s trussed […]

Teenage Wasteland

When I was a teenager, older men followed me on the street, offering me drinks in the middle of the day, occasionally muttering obscenities in my ear. Something about me, some kind of vibe I unintentionally gave off, made them think I was sexually jaded and much older than I was. When I was fifteen, […]

Strangers On A Train

We first spotted him when we came up the stairs to the second deck. He was hard to miss. We were still in the station in L.A. on a gorgeous sunny morning, all-aboarding the Coast Starlight which runs almost 1200 miles north to Seattle. Mitch and I would be getting off that evening in Oakland. […]

Requiem For A Pasha

The year is 1990. I’m standing on the Amtrak station platform in Lafayette, Louisiana. We’ll be here for ten minutes and then roll on to New Orleans. I sniff the air and wonder which direction the cemetery is in. How far is it from the station? I was in Lafayette once before, around 1980. That […]

Kemgas? Thanks, But No Thanks

November 28, 2012, morning: I’m sitting at my desk working. Along about 11:30, I hear the front gate click, and onto the property walks a man. Instant assessment: not a Jehovah’s Witness, not a Mormon, not a process server, not a Fuller Brush Man, not a cop. If I’d been expecting anyone, I would not […]