Now I’m Bored and Old

Like many teenagers growing up in Washington State, I was obsessed with Nirvana. They were my first experience with music. I was late to the game though. Kurt Cobain had already killed himself, the band was two or three years gone, and yet it felt so close. I learned about when the band was formed, when Kurt Cobain’s birthday was (I still remember), when Cobain killed himself, when each album came out, etc. Now it’s all information that I keep stored without even realizing it. If only my memory held other things that well.

Years later, Nirvana still seems to encapsulate those confusing and painful years of puberty that I remember (unfortunately) so vividly. The angsty-teenage years. I still think it’s funny that I stole my first copy of Nevermind from a Fred Meyer while skipping school. I couldn’t wait to get home and listen to the whole album, as opposed to the handful of songs I’d hear on the radio from time to time. I couldn’t get enough. I listened to their albums over and over again on a leftover Discman that either my brother or sister had left when they moved out. I wasn’t allowed to listen to rock music at home, so I was limited to a pair of dorky headphones. It was great. It may have been that I was in love with doing something that I knew I wasn’t supposed to do, but I was having a great time regardless. The music was loud and rebellious. The guitar wasn’t that advanced, the songs were easy to learn how to play on guitar, and there seemed to be nothing fake about it. It was just loud, raw, pure aggression that I wasn’t able to express myself, at least not at home. It felt good to listen to someone else express it freely.

Eventually I stole yet another Nirvana album, this one was a live album, MTV Unplugged in New York. I didn’t know what to expect from it. I’d never seen it on TV, and didn’t remember hearing it on the radio. They may have played a few songs on the radio from it, but Seattle radio stations were more about playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on repeat at the time. It was a song that I’d gotten sicker of after I learned that the band didn’t like it that much, so I had to pretend that I also didn’t like it. Anyway, I put Unplugged on expecting acoustic versions of maybe “Lithium” or “Heart-shaped Box.” But what I got was a live performance that was mostly covers of songs I’d never heard before. I’m still embarrassed at how long it took me to learn what a cover was. The album was soft. It wasn’t loud. They didn’t smash their instruments together. They didn’t really play their big hits at all. It had this weird, almost Western, sound to it. It was not what I was expecting. It sounded so mature, like someone who has just found his place in the world. Finally accepting who they are. It felt like some weird way of receiving valuable life advice from a close friend.

Sadly, I don’t much listen to Nirvana anymore. At least not Bleach, Nevermind, Incesticide, or In Utero. I’m just not that angsty anymore. I’m happy to say that I no longer relate to them. But I still find myself listening to Unplugged every few months or so. It reminds me that I’ve matured and come into my own. I’ve broken free of adolescence and have established myself in a world that actually is as scary and hostile as I thought it would be when I was a kid.

Today marks twenty years since Kurt Cobain ended his own life and subsequently ended Nirvana.

There’s probably some significance in the fact that my favorite Nirvana song isn’t a Nirvana song at all, but I don’t know what it is.

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Just Enough to Barely Work

[Trying to accurately portray restaurant work.  Caution: Profanity ahead]


Gary’s been working at Murphey’s Restaurant since he was sixteen years old. He’s forty now. He’s moved from the dishwasher, the fryer, the grill, prep, sauté, and the salad side of the restaurant. He’s done it all, except work the floor. He has no interest in serving the food he cooks. He secretly loves his job. He no longer flinches when the oil splashes on his forearms, scarring his tattooed arms. He still swears when he cuts his knuckles on knives he sharpens himself. His neck is dirty, also covered in tattoos. One gold tooth flashes as he yells at the servers. The positions of authority are skewed. No one knows who gets to boss who, so they all boss each other equally.

“This New York’s been sitting in the window for fifteen-fuckin’-minutes, Charlene!” he yells as he slaps his spatula on the counter like a judge.

His skin is always dark, almost burned. He wears a five o’clock shadow every day. Interestingly, he’s clean-shaven on days off. His work clothes are always clean. He smokes heavily and carries a cigarette case and a custom lighter. The lighter has some symbol engraved into it. Some military unit. Not his unit. One of his friend’s. One of his dead friends.

Gary works at a breakneck pace so he can clear several five minute windows throughout the night. Each five minute break is spent sucking down a cigarette. He lights each one just as he approaches the back door of the kitchen. He hasn’t been allowed to smoke indoors in over ten years, thanks to what he still calls new laws, but he likes to get his cigarettes lit just a split second before technically smoking outside. He tells people that he’s been at Murphey’s for so long that he can almost do whatever he wants. Everyone, and no one, believes him. It also makes it easier to light the cigarette indoors if it’s windy outside or raining.

After working at the restaurant for more than ten years, the GM put him on salary. This happened after Gary spent a month working mostly overtime. Management put an end to that fast. The harder Gary worked on salary, the less he got paid. That’s how it felt to him. Punished for working too hard, too often. That’s how a lot of restaurants work. Murphey’s was no exception, though most employees think it is. Every time someone brings a broken piece of equipment to management’s attention, a resounding “Welcome to Murphey’s!” is heard, as if Murphey’s is the only restaurant in the South Puget Sound with some pieces out of place, or broken, or fixed just enough to barely work.

Gary comes back in after smoking to find the same New York Steak sitting in the window.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me, Charlene!” he is almost screaming. “I bet if I put a goddamn tip on that plate you’d have counted it twice by now! Do I have to start garnishing each dish with a goddamn dollar? You realize you’re going to have to comp that shit, right?”

“Thanks, Gary!” Charlene grabs the plate, quickly turning around. She lets Gary’s insults roll right off of her. She didn’t used to. It used to make her cry nearly every night, to the point where she requested to never be put on the schedule on nights he worked. But she’s used to him now. It’s gotten better since she’s been filing complaints about him. If he calls her one of two words ever again, he’ll be fired on-the-spot. Random expletives are fine, so long as he is not actually calling her something, or anyone for that matter. It drives Gary insane.

A person would think he would refrain from swearing altogether. But it’s only made him swear more often. Except for now he directs the majority of his profanity at inanimate objects. A dull knife is now a cocksucker. The stove is consistently referred to as a piece of goddamn-fucking-shit, so much so that everyone in the restaurant now refers to it as such. “Has anyone taken the roast out of the piece of goddamn-fucking-shit yet?” they’ll joke. Of course, no one says these things when Gary’s around.

“You forgot the horseradish, Charlene!” he yells as she walks away. “Are you out of your damn-ass mind or something?!”

“No, Gary,” Charlene smiles. “I am not out of my damn-ass mind.”

A hostess overhears and laughs to herself, holding her phone. She’s texting “Good job, u face butt :) haha dam-ass lol!!! Srsly! tht was a good one” to Charlene.

Gary shakes his head, staring into a sauté pan. He knows that Charlene is going to come back any second telling him something about the steak. He swears to himself before flinging the pan in no particular direction. No planned destination. It falls to the ground, splashing burning oil up onto the fingers of his left hand. He’s not wincing from pain so much as he’s simply wincing in general. His ring finger is tattooed with some illegible name, faded. His cursing is louder than the clashing pan as he walks towards the back door. Guests and servers pay no attention. Even the guests are used to him.

“Gary,” Charlene chases behind him. Gary is outside smoking by the time she catches up to him.

“What, Charlene?” he asks sitting down on a wooden pallet. “What do you want?”

“The steak, Gary,” Charlene says calmly. “I’m sure you didn’t mess up or anything, but they’re saying that the steak is not only cold, but too well done.”

Gary presses his tongue against the front of his top teeth.

“What do you think I’m going to say? What the goddamn shit do you think is going to be the next shitfuck thing that comes out of my goddamn-fucking-ass-piss-co—” his speech is rising to an intense volume. He’s screaming incoherently with no logical order to his profanity.

“Never mind, Gary,” Charlene says, checking her cell phone. A text. “You know what I think I’ll do? I bet I can comp it, no problem. I got this. I’ll just comp it.” She heads back inside.

Gary redirects his tirade.

“I fucking, piss, shit told you that god shit damn steak was gonna end up a fucking comp! I told you that when you left the fucking shit in my damn window for five fucking damn hours! Did I not goddamn fucking tell you that th—”

Charlene is halfway to her guests inside the restaurant now. Gary can’t tell that she’s left. He’s still cussing up a storm outside. He kicks a cardboard box before returning to work.

He’s been doing this for years, nearly every day.

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Video Not Related

I can’t write anything. I feel like I’m constantly trying to stop myself from screaming, crying, or having some kind of a breakdown.

Video is not related.


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You Don’t Live Enough

“You really don’t think she’s pretty?” she asked. I’m always asked stupid questions like this. And they are stupid questions. If you don’t think some girl that everyone else thinks is pretty is pretty, you have to defend it for some reason.

“No, I don’t think she is pretty,” I answered. “She may have the capability of making herself look pretty on TV, but I bet she looks like hell in the morning.”

“What about her?” she asked, pointing to the waitress.

“She’s good looking, but she has way too much makeup on. I bet it took her two hours to get ready. Two hours to get ready to go work at a dump like this.”

“So what if she works here? That doesn’t take away or add to how good looking she is.”

I stared across the table. “I think it does.”


“If you are that concerned with how you look, that it takes you two hours to get ready to go to work, I think that takes away from a person’s beauty.” I said it with confidence.

“Then we aren’t talking about beauty anymore then. You are talking about personality.”

“No. You are talking about beauty as if it were some thing you can put on before you go to work. And you are saying that for some people it takes them two hours. To me, that’s not beauty.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked. And this is where most conversations like this lead to.

I can’t talk about this stuff to people. They just end up thinking I’m a terrible person.

“I’m saying that if a person takes two hours to get ready to go somewhere, anywhere, no matter how good they look at the end of the two hours, they are not beautiful to me. There is something wrong with a person that takes two hours to get ready to go somewhere.”

“So, if someone takes that long to get ready, no matter how gorgeous they look at the end of it, they are still ugly to you?”

“Not exactly,” I answered. “They may look gorgeous, like you said. But they aren’t beautiful. You’re talking about something totally different.”

She looked at me like I was a crazy person. I probably sounded like one.

“So what do you focus on first when you see a girl. Tell me what goes through your mind?” she asked.

“Aside from the obvious? I look to see how much makeup they have on. If there’s a lot of it, I don’t much look at them anymore, at least not in a serious way. Yeah, I might imagine what it’d be like to sleep with them, but I don’t imagine that she’s ever read a book that we could both talk about. An airhead piloting a body.”

“Bullshit, and surprisingly sexist,” she said. “What if she’s actually really smart but just happens to wear a bit too much makeup? What if she’s the girl of your dreams, but you just don’t know it? You miss out on her just because she has too much makeup on?”

“The girl of my dreams wouldn’t wear that much makeup. I just assume that there is something that isn’t clicking in her head is all. I feel like that’s usually the case. I like to think that I’ve dodged a few bullets, but who’d ever know?”

“So, what’s your ideal girl then?”

“She doesn’t need a lot of makeup to feel confident. She doesn’t follow fashion trends and wouldn’t know how to if she tried. She knows a lot about something. And not just a lot about some reality TV show either. She has to know a lot about something that she’s passionate about. Something that means something, you know? Something selfless, preferably. She doesn’t say stupid shit on the internet to everyone like I’m so happy I have the best BF ever! and stuff like that. I don’t want a girlfriend that makes me cringe.”

“You are a weird person, you know that? There’s something off about you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You present yourself as perfectly normal, but I could tell the first time we hung out that you think way too deeply about things that other people don’t. You get caught up in all the thinking and not all the living. You don’t live enough. That’s why everything is so hard for you to understand. Because you look for meaning where there isn’t any meaning.”

“Now who’s thinking too much?”

“Seriously,” she said. “You look for meaning where there is none. Think of it this way; just accept that some things in life have no meaning. Most things people do have little to no meaning at all. So if you try to find any, you’ll just either get disappointed or frustrated. You look for meaning, and this makes you limit the things you are willing to try. But if you would just accept that there is no meaning, that some things just simply are, you would be willing to try anything within reason. But you don’t. You’re too stubborn to admit that some things just don’t have any meaning.”

She was probably right.

“So what’s your ideal guy?” I asked.

“I just want a guy who can think about all this stuff, because sometimes you’re right, but I want a guy that can think about it and not let it ruin his life.”


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Thoughts on Teaching

“Here’s the thing,” he said, “you’re trying to live your life in this straight line. You’ve got tunnel vision. Life isn’t a straight line.” He pulled out a piece of notebook paper, seemingly out of nowhere to an inattentive high school student, turned it sideways, and drew a straight, thick line from one edge of the paper to the other.

“Now, I know this is how you think you are supposed to do everything in life: start to finish. No distractions. But I think you’re smart enough to know that that’s not how life really works. It’s more of a curve, several curves, and countless curves really, but then it comes back. Then you’ll see that sometimes it dips a little lower. But it comes back up, or should. You get what I mean?” He always made sure I understood what he was saying.

“I think I do,” I answered. But I don’t think I really did understand at the time. But I do now.

“You think you’re only option is to run off and join the military, the straight line,” he said. “But I can tell by the things you say and write that that’s not what you really want to do. You think it’s what you want to do, but you only think that it’s what you want to do because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. But there’s a difference. You know what I’m saying, the difference between want and supposed?” The paper was covered in lines that ended abruptly and curves that left the paper, leaving pencil marks on my desk. “But along the way, you’ll see that there is almost never just one supposed to do along this straight line. Sometimes these curves become a separate straight line than the one you started along.”

It was always like this in Mr. Jones’s class. It seems like a lot written down, but he talked really fast.

He continued, “Let’s pretend that this straight line is going to take you from this moment, the one we are in right now, and it’s going to take you all the way through high school to you joining the military. But look at this little curve. This curve is the paper you need to write tonight. But you’ll see that there is a small curve before that. In order for you to write that paper, you need to read these chapters of this book. So let’s pretend now, hypothetically, you’ve read the chapters and you’ve typed your paper. Let’s say you pass this class. You get a good grade, or what have you. Now you have a better GPA, now your transcript looks a little better. More curves present themselves beyond joining the military. Sometimes the curves become more important than the straight line. They form new straight lines and eventually you have to cut yourself off from that original straight line or plan. That doesn’t make any sense to you, does it? I don’t think it does.”

He was really confusing me.

“Basically, take the road less travelled,” he sighed. “You don’t want to look back at your life and have a bunch of ‘what if’ moments. Try to take as many scenic routes as you can. You are never limited to just one decision. There are always choices.”


I started trying to write something one of my high school teachers tried to explain to me before I graduated high school. But as I wrote it, I realized that I can’t remember enough about what was actually said. Thinking about it, I can’t remember whether or not I was even thinking about joining the military at the time or not. I can’t remember whether it was during my senior year in high school or my junior year. But the overall message comes through towards the end, I think.

I work with high school kids everyday as I continue my journey toward certification, so naturally I come home and reflect about how the day went and about what I feel made good teachers when I was in high school. I’m surprised how hard it is to pinpoint what it was exactly that separated the good teachers from the bad teachers. But I think that one thing, among a thousand other things that make good teachers, was the teacher’s ability to make me feel as if I were getting some individual attention. Something as small as a two minute conversation let me know that the teacher did care about where and what I was doing and planning outside of the classroom.

I know education is waaaaaaay more complex than this, but I just wanted think about one small aspect of it.


Filed under creative non fiction, Free Writes and Exercises

What Does He Really Mean by “Light” in August?

witty-earnest-hemingway-vs-william-faulkner.jpg.html1Since I’ve finished my undergraduate work, I’ve been trying to do all the reading that I somehow escaped or wasn’t assigned. Somehow I made it through four years of high school, four years in the Marine Corps, and four years of college without reading any of Shakespeare’s history plays, any Faulkner, little to no post-modernism, and the list goes on. Recently I’ve been reading Light in August by William Faulkner and I’m surprised by how much I love reading it (although it is taking me forever as I keep having to take breaks every couple of days). But what I think I love about reading this stuff that they teach in college is that I finally get to read it on my own time and I don’t have to worry about writing a paper about it later. I don’t need to know who said what line on a test, and I don’t need to over analyze potential themes or even look that deep into the characters. I finally get to read all of this stuff through the lens of the common reader. I’m not saying common reader as any kind of insult at all. But I’m just saying that reading something academically and reading something for the sheer enjoyment of it are two different things. There have been a few rare times when I got to combine the two (one such time was during a Beat Writers class). And of course I’m not bashing the academic lens of reading either. But it can take a lot of the enjoyment out of it.

I remember when I was at the Marine Corps School of Infantry and one of my combat instructors told all of us something along the lines of, “After you finish this course, you’ll never look at a Hollywood movie again. You’ll see every mistake they make filming. Their fingers won’t even be on the trigger. That’s not how you prep a grenade. That’s not how C4 works. M16s don’t cause three story explosions,” and on and on. I feel like that a little bit after majoring in English Language and Literature. I can’t hear music lyrics anymore without catching every cliché, or poorly thought out rhyme scheme. God help you if you want me to read any of your poems, and please do not force them upon me on Facebook. I’m not even going to bore you with all of the other things that I could write about Facebook. Let’s not even touch it. I feel like movies have been somewhat ruined also. I feel like I catch on to things that are supposed to be revealed to the viewer way later. If there’s a killer, I usually know who it is just by thinking about the decisions that the writer had to have made. I don’t watch the TV show anymore, I translate the show into the decisions the writer made and what he decided to put down. It’s a really weird side effect.

Now that I’m done with the literature aspect of my education, I feel like I have to tune certain things out. The religious imagery and biblical allusions in Light in August are everywhere, and those are pretty easy to ignore. And if I just leave them there, I won’t have to get into academic mode and try to figure out where the story is going and what is going to happen. I won’t have to wonder if Faulkner is going to repeat certain aspects of the biblical story or if he is going to do something different with them. I shouldn’t have to think of the author filling the role of God, creating things as he goes and being inventive with his use of language (creating new compound words and some of the most grammatical and longest sentences I’ve ever read).  Or the fact that Faulkner created the entire world in which these characters live, Yoknapatawpha County. I shouldn’t have to question the existence of freewill in his characters, or even the author’s godlike omnipotent presence, or the meaning behind Joe’s last name (it’s Christmas) or any other characters’ names. I should be able to just sit down and read, right?


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Music Lessons

You learn a lot about people by breaking into their houses. You find the weirdest things hidden in the weirdest places, as long as you know where to look. The thing about it is you find that the weird things are usually hidden in the same places, no matter how different the houses are from each other. Liquor is almost always hidden in the back of the toilet. Gross, yes, but that’s where they hide it. Teenagers hide their weed in the tower of their computers. That always kills me. It’s almost the parents’ fault for not knowing how computers are put together. There’s almost no way they will ever find it. Hilarious. And porn is always hidden under a mattress or cushion. Occasionally you’ll find it in really weird places though. The weirder the porn, the weirder the hiding place. I kid you not. I don’t much find it in the younger generation’s houses though. It’s only old people with actually magazines or videos anymore. I almost always throw it out when I find it. Unless it’s something illegal. In that case, I usually leave it out in the open and call the cops and run like hell. I’m not going back to prison, especially not for something like that. Honestly, sometimes I think I’m doing the world a favor by breaking into houses.

But I’m not a regular burglar or anything. I’m more of a snoop. I break into houses and all, but I don’t go for the usual kinds of stuff like the TVs or stereos. Those are a dime a dozen. Not worth much. I go for stuff that the owners don’t even know the still have. You know, the retro stuff that’s always tucked away somewhere upstairs or in the basement. They don’t even miss it and usually don’t even report the robbery, as far as I know. But occasionally I’ll take a video game system or two if I think the family is spoiling their kid too much. Sometimes I’ll steal a bottle of wine from the kitchen if I think the family is too snooty and whatnot. Same goes for expensive cigars. And if I think the man of the house is an accident waiting to happen, I’ll take his guns. I’m really a kind of superhero, if you think about it. But really I’m just there to snoop around. Sometimes it pays off and other times it just makes me sad.

The saddest thing I’ve ever found was this set of Polaroid pictures that a wife took of herself. But they weren’t like what you are thinking. These were pictures of bruises and scratches and black eyes. Interestingly enough, I found these hidden in the wife’s shoes. Well, I technically didn’t find them. The dog did. See, dogs are another tricky aspect of breaking into houses. Sometimes they really like you. Other times they really don’t. Other dogs really like shoes. This one liked shoes. Anyway, I gave this one shoe to the dog and he immediately started slobbering and chewing all over it. You know how dogs will shake something all around and go crazy? He was doing that. The pictures must have been tucked under the insert or something. I looked at them for quite a bit. I figured that the wife must have been building a case against her husband or something. If she were to take them with a digital camera, they could just be deleted. Or the camera would be harder to hide and would probably be used by someone in the family at some point. So I deduced that she must have thought about how she would take the pictures and know that the husband couldn’t know that she had taken them. No one would suspect that she was actually using the old Polaroid. Then I realized that I hadn’t actually come across the Polaroid yet. I made it my mission to find it. But first I rescued the pictures from the dog. I checked his collar while I was at it. His name was “Toto.”

Toto and I headed to the upstairs that was more of an attic, where the really valuable things are. In my earlier years breaking into houses I passed over this old man’s comic book collection that was tucked away deep in the far end of an attic. He was on the news the next day thanking “whoever I was” for finding his copy of Action Comics #1. I still kick myself over that one. I take every comic book I come across now. Namely I was looking for typewriters and things like that. Records and record players are pretty common too. Basically anything that falls into the category of the retro stuff I mentioned earlier. And, of course, there’s almost always some type of chest in an attic and that’s where I always start. This one had a chest, they all do. So I hunched down and walked towards the chest with Toto at my heels. I dove right in. Damn near everything in the chest was covered in dust. I never understand how dust gets inside of something like a chest, but it always does. The only thing that wasn’t dusty was the Polaroid camera. Made me really sad. The thing worked like it was brand new, and it probably was. You can buy anything online now. There were probably a bunch of times she needed one but didn’t have this one. I put it back in its spot and sat down next to Toto.

“What do you think I should do, Toto?” I was whispering more to myself, but Toto seemed to like it. “What would you do?”

He did that head tilt thing that some of them do.

“Whatcha think, boy? You think the old lady is brave enough to do anything?”

I started going through the chest again. I felt this nice quilt that had something rectangular and stiff wrapped up inside of it. I knew it was a shoebox or book before I even unwrapped it. You always find diaries and books and things that I really don’t care much about hidden in blankets. Found a First Edition of that Darwin-guy’s book once, Organs and Species or whatever. Almost felt bad for taking it, but I figured I was just fitter to have it. But this one turned out to be the wife’s diary shoved in with a bunch of other useless things in this shoe box. So of course I started reading towards the back of the journal to find out what I could about the pictures. Her last entry was talking about how well her “music lessons” were going. The weird thing was that she put it in quotes and never mentioned what kind of instrument she played. She’d just write “instrument” in quotes. I didn’t see any music instruments in the house either. I figured it wasn’t of much importance to the pictures, so I just kept flipping pages. Apparently she’d been talking to her sister and mother about how bad this guy Gary was (I guess that was her husband’s name) and how he had been treating her and it was her sister that gave her the camera and who took the picture on the Polaroid. I guess I was wrong about her buying it online. She said that her husband checks her phone when she gets home and that he even threw her camera so hard against the wall that it shattered into “a million pieces.” I guess it was a present Gary gave her when she brought Toto home as a puppy. She wrote about how sad she was that she lost all of those pictures.

The further I flipped towards the beginning of her diary, the sadder the diary got. I guess they were trying to have kids or something but nothing was going right. The husband blamed her for it, even though he was the one who refused to make an appointment, whatever that means. As I read the book backwards, everything started to make more and more sense. But, man, I was spending way too much time in that attic and had to start planning my exit. I didn’t find much of anything in the house worth taking and at this point I wasn’t too keen on taking anything from this house anyway. So I decided to start leaving.

I heard the front door open while I was still upstairs and trying as fast as I could to finish reading her diary. I’d made it to the part where they were about to get married. Man, I was almost finished with the whole book. But I had to put it away. I had to.

“Toto!” she yelled, only it wasn’t a yell, really. It was more of a stern whisper.

I could hear her footsteps coming closer to the stairs. I gave Toto a goodbye pet.

“Toto!” she whispered up the stairs. “Did you do that? Did you?” I couldn’t tell if she was really mad or not. But I heard her coming up the stairs. Man, was I scared.

“I guess some things can’t stay hidden forever. Can they, Toto? You up there?” she asked as she was getting closer to reaching the top of the stairs.

Now, I was never a violent criminal. Don’t get the wrong idea. Not since the first time I got locked up for armed robbery. Did five years for that one and decided that if I was going to keep robbing people, I’d do it without them knowing and without any weapons involved. But I was also determined not to go back to jail, so I did what I had to do with this lady.

I got up and hid behind this little door the attic had and waited for her back to show. I was always wearing slippers when I broke into houses on account of how quiet they were. I was pretty quiet about moving around. When she made it passed the door, I got up real quick and grabbed her from behind with one arm around her throat and the other controlling her hands. I let her be able to breathe though. I’m not a monster or anything.

“Now you just keep quiet, alright,” I whispered. “I’m not going to hurt you or do anything else you might be thinking. You have my word on that. And I ain’t gonna hurt little Toto there either. I was going to take some of your shoes, but Toto here got to them before I did. Now reach down real slow and give me your cellphone.”

She gasped for air and I realized that I was choking her a little bit on accident.

“I don’t have one,” she was starting to cry.

“Now stop your blubbering,” I said in a comforting voice. “What kind of girl that lives in this kind of a house doesn’t have a cellphone? Are you lying to me?”

I said the last part a bit meaner than I meant to, I think I even shook her a little. I felt bad about it, on account of her husband probably shook her all the time. But I did have to keep her a little scared. That’s just part of the job, you know?

“Now here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna keep that pretty little mouth of yours shut, and you’re gonna—”

Just then she let out a scream. I had to turn her around real quick and slap her real good across the face. I felt really bad about it, I really did.

“Now, what’d I tell you? Huh? What’d I tell you?” I grabbed her by the front of her flannel shirt so she could see that I wasn’t fooling around. “You keep that thing shut and that won’t happen again. I’m the best friend you ever had right now, you know that? Now you just shut the hell up.”

She was crying real good at this point, but she was doing a great job of keeping from making any more noises. I felt pretty bad cause Toto was starting to act a little scared up there.

“Now how long has Gary been beating on you for? And don’t ask how I know your dear husband’s name.”

She kept looking down at the floor and stuttering. It was really starting to piss me off.

“D-d-d-d-d-don’t just stand there talking to the floor, I asked you a simple question.” I was getting meaner and meaner but I couldn’t much control it. I was almost yelling at this point, which is never a smart thing to do when breaking into someone’s house. “Well?”

“F-f-f-few months,” she got it together and looked me in the eyes, which is never a good thing, but I wasn’t thinking too much about her identifying me later at the time.

“He been married before?” I asked. I really did care. “You’re ok, just answer the question.”

“Yeah, he’s been married before,” she was getting a little more comfortable.

“And where’s your husband now?”

“He’s gonna be at work for a few more hours and please, mister, if you’re planning on doing anything to me just please think ab—”

“I ain’t gonna do anything to you like that, I told you!” I threw her to the ground real hard. “Just answer the damn questions!”

She looked real pathetic down on the floor like that, but, man, I can’t take it when people try to fit in a few extra seconds of conversation for no reason. I was just trying to ask a simple question, you know?

“So sit down on that chest, you’re shaking like you’re scared or something.”

She shut the chest and took a seat. Toto followed her.

“What’s your name? Better yet, toss me your wallet.”

She threw the wallet down by my feet. I bent over to pick it up, keeping my eyes fixed on her. I took her ID out and learned her name and everything.

“You go by Lisa or Elizabeth or Beth or what?”
“Neither,” she said. “I go by my middle name.”

“You have got to be shitting me,” I laughed real maniacal like. “So you’re telling me that you’re dog’s name is ‘Toto’ and you go by ‘Dorothy’? Now that’s ironic.”

“It’s not ironic,” she mumbled.

“What?” I asked. This one was really starting to piss me off.

“That’s not ironic. There’s nothing ironic about our names. My name is Dorothy, so I named my dog Toto. That’s not ironic. It’s the opposite of irony. It’s exactly what would be expected.”

“I don’t need a grammar lesson,” I said. “You said your husband was married before you, right? He have any kids with that lady?”

“What? What are—”

“Just answer me,” I was getting really heated.

“No, my husband did not have any children with his ex-wife.”

“So you ain’t the reason you can’t have kids?”

“Oh my god,” she gasped, “you are completely insane, aren’t you?”

“I’m not the one staying married to someone that slaps women around, now am I?” I said.

“Can you please just leave? I won’t call the police. I won’t tell anyone. I just came to grab a few things from here and get out before my husband comes home. I was planning on leaving this place today.”

I wanted to believe her, but I knew she was lying. People always lie about these types of things. They say they’re leaving and leaving and they just keep staying and staying.

“I seen a lot of weird things in people’s houses, lady. A lot of things I wish I hadn’t seen. But most of them involved people that couldn’t much control the situations and lives they were living. Sad, really. But you, you are in complete control, you know. And you just choose to do nothing. Just cause you’re a woman and all—”

And that’s right about the time she shot me in the foot. The gun must have been hidden in the chest somewhere. Somewhere I didn’t look because I got distracted by that damn diary.

“What the hell’d you do that for?!” I was hopping all around and even hit my head on the damn ceiling. Blood was soaking through my slipper and everything.

Toto darted downstairs.

“Get out of my house! Get out!” Dorothy was yelling all sorts of crazy. “Get out!”

I couldn’t really move around at this point, so I sat down on the floor and held my foot in both my hands.

“Well, I can’t much do anything with my foot in pieces, now can I!”

“I swear to God, I’ll shoot your dick off if you don’t start crawling down those stairs in two seconds,” she said, pointing the barrel of her pistol toward the stairs.

First I thought I was just lucky that she missed my face and hit my foot, but now that I think about it, I think she meant to hit my foot. I think she must have been an amazing shot or something. Someone must have taught her how to shoot.

She looked at me one last time and said, “This gun wasn’t intended for you. Now get out.”

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