Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Pain”

Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – “Do I Have A Roman Nose?”

Throwback Thursday From September 2016 – “Do I Have A Roman Nose?”

Do I Have A Roman Nose?

rome1

THEY SAY THAT CAESAR’S IMPERIAL ROME had the best system of water delivery in the Ancient World. There was a series of aqueducts, canals, pipes, and fountains that covered hundreds of miles and kept the city of Rome clean and quenched.

I think they could have learned a thing or two if they’d been able to study my sinuses in the morning.

rome3

When I wake up every morning the entire function of my body seems devoted to the movement of fluids. It’s a good thing that I can blow my nose with my left hand clutching a Kleenex while my right hand is assisting me in doing an impression of the Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Is Paris Burning?”) Fire Department.

By the time my initial purge is done I feel five pounds lighter and the Wabash River is three inches closer to Flood Stage. I don’t know where it all comes from. During the night am I transformed into a sponge? Is my body taking moisture from the air like a fern? Am I the “Quicker Picker-Upper?”

rome4

If my first geyser activity was it I could just dismiss it all as, perhaps, Tidal Action – like the Bay of Fundy approaching low tide. The trouble is that this can go on for two or three hours where the only thing missing is a fish ladder. I go through a box of tissues like…like…like a box of tissues.

rome5

When my nose sends the signal to my brain that, “The dam has broken!” I grab the nearest tissue, handkerchief, or (embarrassingly) pancake and brace myself for the flood.

It ain’t Mrs. Butterworth, I’ll tell you that.

Having to deal with this for a couple of hours can be exhausting. I just got up two hours ago and I already feel the need for a nap. My nose is turning red from all of that tissue business, my skull is feeling like a used piñata, and I’m going to have to go buy some more tissues.

First, it’s one nostril. Then, when that one raises the flag of surrender, the valves open on the other. I didn’t know that noses could do that.

I’m impressed as well as depressed. My sinuses can operate as smooth as the locks on the Panama Canal. I guess that makes my upper lip the north coast of Colombia.

rome5

Once I get through this morning ritual the rest of my day can proceed as it will, but until then I can understand how the Egyptian Pharaoh and his Chariots must have felt when he decided to chase Moses and the Israelites into the Red Sea – five minutes too late.

Things could be worse. Despite all of this every morning nonsense when things eventually dry out I still have a nose. I still have sinuses, and my stock in the tissue company continues to go up.

old-faithful-geyser-o

I’m Not Dead

 

TODAY IS A SPECIAL DAY FOR ME. It is yet another birthday. This one marks the end of my 73rd year on this earth.

Each of those years has had things worth remembering – and things that have merited forgetting. I’m sure that holds true for everyone. It’s part of the ongoing flow of life.

This past year has been much like many of my recent years. It held joys and sorrows, hopes fulfilled and hopes filled with disappointment. Dreams and nightmares, laughs and tears.

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Throwback Thursday from June 2016 – “When Furniture Attacks!”

When Furniture Attacks!

Chair 2

SOME PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ANYWHERE NEAR A MANUFACTURING PLANT. They have an idea and they find some stooge to put up some cash, backing their endeavor. The end result is a product that, in a civilized society, would be outlawed immediately.

Case in Point –

Recently, my wife, the lovely and temporarily monoplaned, Dawn, and I stayed in someone’s

Chair3

home for a few days and they insisted on showing us their latest purchase – a “Massage Chair” that was guaranteed to relieve all your aches and pains leaving you refreshed, invigorated, and halfway on the road to being the next Dalai Lama.

Our hosts raved about the chair to the point that I thought they were going to consider adoption.

They finally talked me into giving a try.

Big mistake, bordering on criminal. I should have followed my instincts and not gotten within ten feet of The Chair, let alone into it.

First of all it looked like a Modern, Hipster, Steampunk version of something left over from the Spanish Inquisition. One should never trust a chair that has control buttons, dials and flashing lights. The only thing missing was a telephone on a nearby wall in case the Governor called with a last minute reprieve.

chairA

Sitting on a chair should be a relatively easy thing to do, since our knees control which direction our legs fold, chairs should be an object where form follows function. You stand up. You sit down. Easy. Not with this “Massage Chair.” It took me three minutes to be “properly seated” according to the instruction book.

A chair with an instruction book.

Once in the chair “properly” and with all of the buttons and dials set, we plugged it in and hit the Launch button. It took me about three seconds to realize that I had just made a major life error.

The first thing it did was deliver a punch to the back of my head. That hurts. I don’t know why the chair

chair4

attacked, but after a nasty kidney punch it started pummeling my spine from top to bottom. If I didn’t know better I would have thought that I was being mugged.

“Isn’t that great? Can’t you just feel the tension slipping away?” asked the owner/keeper of The Chair.

The only thing I could feel slipping away were a couple of my lumbar vertebrae. I was beginning to know what it must be like to take part in a British soccer riot.

chair1

Eventually my screaming and cursing convinced somebody to; literally, pull the plug on this adventure. They had to help me out of The Chair. I sank to the floor and kissed the ground. If they hadn’t rescued me when they did I would have followed through with my thought to file Assault and Battery charges against that piece of the Devil’s Furniture.

Our host swears by that thing – that it makes him feel like a million bucks. At that moment I felt like about $3.25 in coins. I checked my wallet just to make sure everything was still there. I was pretty sure that, at one point, I felt The Chair trying to pick my pocket.

After a mouthful of Excedrin and some time in an overstuffed chair I was able to calmly express myself about The Chair.

“I don’t like it. I don’t want one. I think it is a tool of Satan.”

I offered to get rid of it for them – if they didn’t mind their house being destroyed in the process. They declined my offer.

I don’t think I’ll be buying a Massage Chair any time soon.

I think that I would prefer a cushy recliner that comes with a cup holder, remote control rack, and a built-in refrigerator (with freezer). That kind of a chair makes me feel better just thinking about it. chair6

Throwback Thursday from June 2016 – “The Difference Between Jet Lag And Death”

The Difference Between Jet Lag And Death

Lag 2QUESTION OF THE DAY – What is the difference between Jet Lag and death?

I’m going to have to think about that for a while – as soon as I am able to think again.

(Musical Interlude while brain cells attempt to realign themselves. This could take awhile.)

OK – let’s try to answer the question before the assembly – “What is the difference between JetLag 4 Lag and Death?

It is said about Death that “You can’t take it with you.” The same thing can be said about Jet Lag – in particular if you are flying with United Airlines. You may check two pieces of luggage, but you can’t take them both to your destination. Two bags checked in Dublin with Aer Lingus, the Irish national air carrier, sent to Washington DC along with our bodies. In Washington, however, is where United enters the picture – they get one bag, but for some reason the second bag, that looks just like the first one, mystified them to the point that they left it in the bowels of Dulles Airport while putting the bag number one neatly in the cargo hold of our flight to Indianapolis.

It took us two and a half hours to get through security in Dublin. They even photographed our bags and got them to the correct plane. I suppose that the one hour layover in Washington and the task of taking both bags from one plane to another was too vexing for them. Oh well, after luggage_large_1xfiling the proper missing luggage report with “Untied” Airlines we received an email from them celebrating the fact that they have found our bag – in the bowels of Dulles Airport – and that they will be delivering it to our home today. They are going to have someone drive to Terre Haute (That’s French for, “We don’t need no stinking baggages.”) to deliver our wayward suitcase. And Wall Street wonders why airlines suck as investments.

Still trying to find the differences between Jet Lag and Death.

Well, how do I feel today after 8 hours of flying and a five time zone shift? I feel disembodied. It is as if I am seeing the world from about three inches to my left and nothing seems to fit into the frame.

Never having died I cannot truly compare the two on this aspect. Death is the ultimate in being “disembodied,” of that there can be no doubt. Yet here I am feeling the way I do in addition to the fact that my feet hurt today. I’ve never heard of that being a side effect of Death, but who knows? Not me. Maybe the late Dr. Scholl knows, but he’s not talking.

We arrived home from our trip at about 10 PM. It had already been a 22 hour day. I went to bed. My eyes popped open (something else that rarely happens in Death) at about 5:45 AM and I knew that attempting to roll over and go back to sleep would be futile. So, I did the perfectly normal thing – I got up, dressed, made out a shopping list and went off to the Kroger store. After Lag 3seven weeks there was nothing left in the fridge that anyone wanted to eat.

There I was tooling around Kroger’s at a little past six in the morning detouring around clerks who were trying to stock the shelves. Shopping at that time of day is surreal – or at least it was for me in my altered state. While looking over the “Jams and Jellies” selections I wondered if this was what Purgatory was like – looking for Peach Jam, but finding nothing but Apricot. Eternal browsing and perpetual frustration.

After rereading the above I am beginning to arrive at the rather sketchy conclusion that there just might not be any substantial difference between Jet Lag and Death. Maybe Jet Lag is like a Temporary Death and Death is like a state of Neverending Jet Lag. And behind it all is United Airlines playing Hide and Seek with our luggage. I’m going back to bed.

Lag 1

Summertime, Summertime, Sum, Sum, Summertime!

AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED SUMMER STARTED ON SATURDAY. I don’t care what the calendar or a gaggle of astronomers say as they look at the motion of the planets. When we flip that page, either paper or electronic, into June we are there! It is Summertime and I’m going to struggle to keep it there until the snow begins to fall.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

To make everything official I have broken into the Sacred Vault of Hawaiian Shirts and Beachfront Attitude. The sand in my eyes each morning is now a residue from the shores of the sunlit ocean.

It is all so Jimmy Buffett.

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Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three

 

Fiction Saturday — “Boxer” — Part Three

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“Now I know why tigers eat their young.”  —  Al Capone

 

Once the night faded away the streets were wet and the sky promised more. Terry Jarosz was at his Boss’s office at 8:30. He had slept on Gloria’s couch for a few hours using the three grand as a pillow. He dreamed that the money was his, but he knew it wasn’t and now he was at the office to turn it in and get his cut – five percent. The Boss was waiting for him.

“Did you get it all, Terry? Three grand?”

Terry nodded and emptied his pockets out onto the desk.  The last two dollars was in quarters. “I got it all, Mr. Walker.”

“Good job, Terry.” He looked at the Boxer’s bandaged fists. “Jesus H. Christ, what happened to your hands? Was he hiding the money in a meat grinder?”

Terry looked at his bandages. They were feeling tight. He was swelling.

“No. He got physical with me, him and one of his boys. I’m OK. I’ll take it easy for a day or two and I’ll be OK.”

“I hope so. You look like you went twelve rounds with the Marines.”

“I’m OK, Mr. Walker. A hundred-fifty dollars?”

Walker peeled off a couple of wrinkled Fifties and the rest in Twenties and Sawbucks.

“Five percent of three thousand – a hundred-fifty dollars.” He threw in an extra Twenty. “A bonus – to cover the cost of your bandages, Terry. Take your girl out for a nice dinner.”

“OK. Thanks Mr. Walker. I’ll do that. I’ll be ready to go again in no time.”

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Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 -And A Side Order Of Comfort Food, Please

Throwback Thursday from Nov. 2015 –

…And A Side Order Of Comfort Food, Please

LOOKING AT THE SKY THIS AFTERNOON I see what looks like a winter sky. I know that winter is not here, officially, until just before Christmas, but my body does not know that.

I saw an old guy recently who was wearing a T-shirt that read, “Getting old ain’t for Sissies.” I have come to truly understand that that is true, in Spades, a solid gold, cold hard fact. Ya gotta be tough.

As the temperature drops the sinews and skeletal structure of my body begin to react in a way that, if I were a car they would have me up on the rack for a tune up and a check of my suspension – and maybe new shocks. But, since I am not a car, I get a bottle of Excedrin. I’m an old model and it is hard to find parts for me anyway.

Right now my spine is trying to dislodge itself and go to Florida. The attached muscles and other human bungee cords are twisting to counterbalance my spine’s attempts to sneak away when I’m not looking. And, Mamacita! It hurts.

Modern pharmaceuticals offer a variety of substances that alleviate pain, but they do so at a cost. I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about side effects. All medications have side effects – ALL OF THEM. Some are innocuous, some are enjoyable, most are tolerable. These side effects are there because all medications are also poisonous – ALL OF THEM. The trick with medications is to have you take them in such a dosage that it will achieve the positive, intended goal without killing you first. You can OD on anything.

I knew a fellow who, for various psychological reasons, tried to commit suicide by taking his entire month’s supply of antidepressants at one time. Doing so lifted his spirits and made him forget about offing himself, but those meds had the side effect of completely shutting down his kidneys. Fortunately, the ER doctors were able to save him and his kidneys, and the emergency catheterization they had to perform made him even sorrier that he had taken all those pills.

When my body begins to ache, and get downright punitive with me, I try to avoid taking any pain medications. Most of the OTC things are no more effective than a bag of M&Ms and not as tasty. The ones that do help either upset my tummy or make me feel like I’ve downed 32 cups of espresso. The happy medium, for me anyway, is Excedrin Migraine. I don’t have migraine headaches, thank you, Lord, but it seems to be the most effective with body aches. Go figure.

I came to the realization, decades ago, that these seasonal changes are unavoidable no matter where I lived, and so were the pains that came with them. I have also accepted that there is not a damn thing I can do about the pain, unless I want to take prescription pain medication and put my brain and personality in a box until summer. Some of those heavy-duty pain meds are the equivalent of a lobotomy in a bottle. Why on God’s green earth would I want to do that when my brain is just about the only thing I have that works?

Some years ago I had a nasty case of Shingles and my doctor gave me a prescription for Vicodin. Sweet Jesus! I couldn’t feel the pain, along with my head, my tongue, the Western Hemisphere or the Milky Way. It was like getting hit in the head with a ball-peen hammer. It turned me into a side of beef with shoes. After a couple days with that I opted for the pain. At least that way I knew I was alive.

So, here I sit, typing away, having downed a couple of Excedrin Migraine. It helps, a bit. I think that the best thing I can do for myself, and those around me, is to stay warm, eat some comfort foods, and watch the World Series on TV.

Now, if I can just find a bowl full of chocolate covered endorphins.

Trust Me, I’m A Doctor

SOME MORNINGS WHEN I CAN’T GET my regular seat in the corner at St. Arbucks (Cursed interlopers!) I am forced by circumstances to plop down next to a group of early morning Geezers and Geezerettes. They are nice enough folks but I’m not isolated enough to do my writing uninterrupted.

A couple of that group are in the medical field and work at a nearby hospital. When they start chatting about things medical I can’t help but eavesdrop, big time. As a result I have picked up little bits and pieces of information about obscure medical conditions – and you know what they say about little bits of knowledge. I am now, officially, a dangerous man. I now feel qualified to make snap diagnoses on everyone who walks through the door.

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Nothing. I Got Nothing.

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. At least that was how it felt to me. While it was comfortably warm and calm outside inside my body it was “Batten down the hatches, and furl your sails!”

I was sick.

On Friday I felt relatively well and spry for a man of my age, but by Friday night I was feeling a bit off kilter. I was sneezing and had no appetite. For me that is a rare occurrence. I began to fear that something ugly was afoot.

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Throwback Thursday -from 2015 “When Furniture Attacks!”

Throwback Thursday – from 2015 

When Furniture Attacks!

Chair 2SOME PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ANYWHERE NEAR A MANUFACTURING PLANT. They have an idea and they find some stooge to put up some cash, backing their endeavor. The end result is a product that, in a civilized society, would be outlawed immediately.

Case in Point –

Recently, my wife, the lovely and temporarily monoplaned, Dawn, and I stayed in someone’s Chair3home for a few days and they insisted on showing us their latest purchase – a “Massage Chair” that was guaranteed to relieve all your aches and pains leaving you refreshed, invigorated, and halfway on the road to being the next Dalai Lama.

Our hosts raved about the chair to the point that I thought they were going to consider adoption.

They finally talked me into giving a try.

Big mistake, bordering on criminal. I should have followed my instincts and not gotten within ten feet of The Chair, let alone into it.

First of all it looked like a Modern, Hipster, Steampunk version of something left over from the Spanish Inquisition. One should never trust a chair that has control buttons, dials and flashing lights. The only thing missing was a telephone on a nearby wall in case the Governor called with a last minute reprieve.

chairASitting on a chair should be a relatively easy thing to do, since our knees control which direction our legs fold, chairs should be an object where form follows function. You stand up. You sit down. Easy. Not with this “Massage Chair.” It took me three minutes to be “properly seated” according to the instruction book.

A chair with an instruction book.

Once in the chair “properly” and with all of the buttons and dials set, we plugged it in and hit the Launch button. It took me about three seconds to realize that I had just made a major life error.

The first thing it did was deliver a punch to the back of my head. That hurts. I don’t know why the chairchair4attacked, but after a nasty kidney punch it started pummeling my spine from top to bottom. If I didn’t know better I would have thought that I was being mugged.

“Isn’t that great? Can’t you just feel the tension slipping away?” asked the owner/keeper of The Chair.

The only thing I could feel slipping away were a couple of my lumbar vertebrae. I was beginning to know what it must be like to take part in a British soccer riot.chair1

 Eventually my screaming and cursing convinced somebody to; literally, pull the plug on this adventure. They had to help me out of The Chair. I sank to the floor and kissed the ground. If they hadn’t rescued me when they did I would have followed through with my thought to file Assault and Battery charges against that piece of the Devil’s Furniture.

Our host swears by that thing – that it makes him feel like a million bucks. At that moment I felt like about $3.25 in coins. I checked my wallet just to make sure everything was still there. I was pretty sure that, at one point, I felt The Chair trying to pick my pocket.

After a mouthful of Excedrin and some time in an overstuffed chair I was able to calmly express myself about The Chair.

“I don’t like it. I don’t want one. I think it is a tool of Satan.”

I offered to get rid of it for them – if they didn’t mind their house being destroyed in the process. They declined my offer.

I don’t think I’ll be buying a Massage Chair any time soon.

I think that I would prefer a cushy recliner that comes with a cup holder, remote control rack, and a built-in refrigerator (with freezer). That kind of a chair makes me feel better just thinking about it. 
chair6

The Old Soft Shoe

SOMEONE ONCE TOLD ME THAT I’D BE MUCH TALLER if I didn’t have so much folded under for feet. How does one respond to that – short of something rude, crude, and socially unacceptable? All I did say was, “Oh?”

I’m not a big fan of feet. I have two of them myself and neither one is all that aesthetically pleasing. The best I can say about them is that on most days they both reach the ground.

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Throwback Thursday -June 2015 “The Difference Between Jet Lag And Death”

Throwback Thursday – From June 2015

 

QUESTION OF THE DAY – What is the difference between Jet Lag and death?

Lag 2I’m going to have to think about that for a while – as soon as I am able to think again.

(Musical Interlude while brain cells attempt to realign themselves. This could take awhile.)

Read more…

Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter38

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 38

 

A fresh batch of tourists were getting off the train and heading for the border. A few walked toward the McDonalds, but saw the yellow crime scene tape and turned back to join the flow to the crossing gate.

Laura flipped off the light switch and closed the Cambio door behind her. They looked up and down the street. Nobody was paying them any attention. Laura took Davis’s arm as they casually crossed the plaza. She idly swung the plastic shopping bag holding $180,000 worth of forged documents and the file folder from Molina’s office. They looked just like a couple of tourists heading home after a day of shopping in Tijuana. They made a beeline for the nearest open door on the waiting red train.

They started to step up into the car when a uniformed San Diego police sergeant started coming down and blocked their way. Laura and the officer made eye contact. After what felt like an hour, the officer stepped back up into the car.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 36 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 36 Continued

pull-tijuanaOutside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.  

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 35

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Five

 

pull-molinas-waitingIt was time to take care of present business and to move on to whatever the future might bring. She climbed the stairs to the second floor of Molina’s building and stood in front of his door. She was tired. She was spent physically and emotionally. The constant stress of waiting for a bullet in the back was pushing her toward the edge. She opened the door to Molina’s studio and walked up to the speaker hanging on the wall.

“I’m back, Molina. Get out here,” she shouted.

“I’ll be right there, Señorita. One moment, please,” came the tinny-sounding response.

She dropped down into one of the wooden chairs and felt all of the air leave her. She closed her eyes as she leaned her head back against the green-painted wall. Sleep was all she really wanted right now. Sleep, a long soak in a warm tub, a massage and maybe a good long cry.

“Señorita? Miss Lovejoy?”

She jerked forward, disoriented for a second or two. Then her instincts took over and all of her senses were focused on Ernesto Molina who was standing in front of her, his hand on her knee.

“You are alone?” said Molina,

“For the moment, yes.”

 “Very well, come with me, Señorita.”

Molina led her back down the hall into the studio where they had done the photo shoot. There was a large plastic shopping bag sitting on the bed, the kind of bag you can buy for a dollar in every shop in Tijuana. The comforter had been pulled down and the bag was resting on the white silk sheets that Molina favored.

“I have everything you’ll need, Señorita—a complete package. Please, let me show you. I’ve done an excellent job, if I may say so myself.”

Standing beside the bed, Molina showed Laura each of the fake documents he had created. He took pleasure in pointing out the details that made them look totally authentic. None of the items looked brand new. All were more or less worn—lived-in, he called it.

“If you will notice, Señorita, I even put in a few customs stamps on both passports. It looks like you and the Señor have been to Ireland and England a few times. It adds a touch of realism.”

He was like a proud parent showing off his children to an appreciative stranger.

“Also, as you requested, Miss Lovejoy, all of the negatives.” He held up a sealed Manila envelope.

Laura was silent throughout Molina’s show. She didn’t know if what she was buying was really as good as he was claiming. It all looked real to her, but would it hold up under scrutiny?

brass-bed“Everything you asked for is here, Señorita. Very authentic, very first-rate and also very expensive.”

Laura took her eyes from the bed and looked at him. “You want your money now, don’t you?”

“Yes, please, it’s been a very stressful day for me.” Molina took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. He was sweating.

Laura shook her head and said, “You don’t know the meaning of the word, Molina.”

“How are you planning to get back into the U.S., Señorita?

“We walked here, we’ll walk back. Why do you ask?”

Molina looked at her, somewhat astonished.  “Let’s be honest here for a moment, if we may. Señorita, if you are in need of my products then, obviously, someone is looking for you. Am I right?”

“Yes, of course.” She wondered where this was leading.

Molina shook his head.

“Then, Miss Lovejoy, walking through one of the most watched border crossings in the western hemisphere is suicidal. Frankly, I’m very surprised you got this far.”

“We’re fine, thank you,” she said, not believing it herself. She just wanted to pay him and get out of there.

“I can get you back across the border, no problem. I have established an underground railroad of sorts,” he said. “I can get you both back right under the border.

“Under—a tunnel? Are you serious?” she said, genuinely surprised.

“Actually, I have several tunnels, yes, and all I have to do is simply open a file drawer and get you a ticket. I’ll even drive you to the ‘station’ if you’d like.”

“For an additional charge, of course,” Laura said.

“Of course, Señorita, I am a businessman,” he said, ignoring the sarcasm in Laura’s voice.

“I’ll pass, Molina. Let’s settle up and I’ll be on my way.” This was making her nervous.

“As you wish, Señorita, but if you come back later, the price of the ticket goes up.” He shrugged, as if he was adding of course.

“You don’t ever take no for an answer, do you, Molina?” She started to gather up the documents off of the bed.

“Rarely, my dear. After all, many times a person says no when they really mean yes.” He moved closer to her.

“Like I said before, Molina, do you want your money now or not?”

“Have it your way Señorita. Please, yes.”

She moved away from him and started to undo the buttons on her blouse to get at the money taped to her body. Molina’s eyes narrowed.

“Señorita, I normally deal strictly in cash, but I’m not against a little barter.”

He moved close to her again, reached out and grabbed her belt, licking his lips.

“Get your hands off me.” She pushed him away.

“Oh, Señorita, don’t be coy with me. Let me show you what a real man is like. Not that pale rabbit you had with you earlier today.” He moved in again. This time he was not going for her belt. He smiled and his right hand flew out and slapped Laura hard across the face. She stumbled and backed away several steps. Her hands closed into fists. As Molina stepped toward her again, Laura lashed out and hit him square in the nose with a hard left jab followed by a right cross to his jaw. He reeled back and fell to the floor. Her uncle, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull”  Gravano had taught her that combination when she was nine years old.

“Don’t you touch me. Do you understand me, you little pig? I’ll kill you right here,” she said. They were both breathing hard.

She moved toward the bed to finish getting her merchandise. Molina gathered himself and sprang to his feet, putting himself between Laura and the bed.

“You want to get to my bed, Señorita? Let me oblige you.”

He charged at her. His momentum knocked Laura off her feet and they both fell to the floor. Molina punched her hard in the stomach. The bundles of cash dulled the impact, but it still made her gasp. She tried to get to her feet, but Molina was faster. He jumped up and grabbed her from behind, around her waist, and lifted her off the ground. He spun and threw Laura onto the bed, on top of her new identity. She bounced on the soft mattress and before she could react, Molina leaped onto the bed, covering her with his body.

“Stop. Stop it, you cheap little ape,” she hissed at him.

He slapped her again. She felt the heat rising in her face.

“I’m not a cheap anything, darling, and neither are you. We are both very expensive.” He laughed, thinking that he had her right where he wanted her.

As his left hand held her down on the bed, his right snaked inside her blouse. The fear she was feeling left her and rage poured in to take its place. She punched him hard in the face again. He stopped his groping to hit her with his fist. She could taste blood in her mouth.

He smiled at the look on her face and said, “You might want to put some ice on that later.” He was enjoying this, she realized, and that had to stop.

She hit him again, aiming for his eyes with her knuckles. As he recoiled from the pain she pushed with all her strength and managed to roll them both over. She was now on top.

She looked down at him. He was grinning again.

“Ah, now you’re getting into it, eh, Laura Lovejoy?” He wrapped his legs tightly around her waist.

“You could say that.”

He laughed. “Kiss me, Laura. Besame.”

She also laughed and started to bend low over his face. Molina closed his eyes and relaxed. His smile closed into a kiss. He never saw her reach down, lift the cuff of her jeans, and pull at the tape on her calf.

“Ernesto,” she whispered

“Yes, cara mia?”

He opened his eyes just in time to see Laura driving the ice pick downward. He didn’t have time pull-icepickto scream as the tempered steel shaft skewered through his left eyeball, punched through the thin orbital bone, and plunged deep into his brain. He was dead before Laura pulled the ice pick out and jammed it into his right eye.

Then she  vomited on him.

 

***

 

The taxi with Davis and Tomás screeched to a halt outside of Molina’s building. Davis jumped out and headed toward the door.  He saw Laura slumped against the wall inside the lobby.

“My God, Laura, what’s happened? Are you alright?”

“Let’s get out of here. You’re going to have to help me.” She looked pleadingly into his eyes. “Help me, Davis.”

Tomás rushed over to them, took Laura’s left arm and scooped up the plastic shopping bag. Together he and Davis half-carried Laura back to the taxi.

“Tomás,” said Laura. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve got to think.”

“Good God, Laura, what happened? Your face…?”

“Molina tried to–he got out of hand.” She was not going to allow herself to cry. “I won’t take that from anybody.”

“I’ll kill him,” Davis said. “Tomás, wait here.”

“No!” she cried out. “Don’t do it. There’s no need…there’s no need. Tomás, I paid you to give us a tour, so drive.”

Davis’ anger faded as his concern for Laura grew. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and tried to wipe Laura’s swollen lip and jaw. She pulled away.

“No, I’m fine, please. I love you, but I’ll be fine. Give me a few minutes and then let’s head back to the border.”

“We can’t,” Davis answered. “The border is closed. There was a gun battle with the police and some drug smugglers. The whole place is shot to pieces.”

Laura closed her eyes. She went inside herself to look for more strength, more resolve and more personal anesthesia. Her all-too-human engine was running on fumes. She slumped back in the seat. Her mind was struggling to think rationally, to go over the lessons of her past that might help them. She was looking at everything that had happened to her, everything she had seen and heard. She knew that the answer was filed away somewhere inside her memory. After about thirty seconds, she opened her eyes and leaned forward.

“Tomás, Turn around. Take us back to Molina’s.”

Tomás did a U-turn and had them outside of Molina’s building in minutes. On the way, she told them about the underground railroad and the “ticket” that Molina had tried to sell her.

Before they got out of the cab, she needed to prepare Davis for what he was about to see.

“I need you to come up with me to help find the tickets. They are somewhere in his office.”

        “You think Molina will still sell them to us?” Davis was not anxious to see Molina again. He was still angry enough to want to hurt him for what he had tried to do to the woman he loved.

“Davis…Molina is in no condition to bargain. I need your help, but I want you to understand and forgive me for what you’re going to see up there.”

Tomás said a silent prayer, thankful that she had not asked him to go upstairs with them.

“To hell with Molina,” said Davis. “Let’s get those tickets.”

Tomás waited in the cab wondering again what he had gotten himself into with these two strangers.

As soon as they walked into Molina’s studio Davis understood Laura’s words of warning.

Molina’s body was sprawled face-up on the bed. His eyes were two black, oozing holes. The bedspread and sheets were soaked with his blood. It was an ugly death.

“Jesus, Laura.” Davis was stunned. It looked like something out of a cheap slasher movie, only this was for real.

“Davis, we don’t have time. You can get sick later. He said the tickets were in a file cabinet.”

pull-fike-cabinetsThey looked everywhere in the studio. There were no file cabinets anywhere. Davis saw a frosted-glass door by the far wall. He tried the knob and it opened into a back corridor. Across the hallway was another glass door and it was open. He could see a workbench, a draftsman’s table and two rows of five-drawer file cabinets.

“Laura, back here. File cabinets.”

She hurried toward his voice.

“Bingo,” whispered Laura. “We’re looking for tickets or something that mentions a railroad of some sort. Let’s get started.”

Starting at opposite ends of the first bank of file cabinets, they rifled through folder after folder.

Ernesto Molina’s files contained blank documents of all sorts, from at least a dozen countries. He was able to create new identities in such detail that it would make real people look suspicious to the authorities.

Laura pulled out files, flipped through, and discarded them on the floor. She noticed alphabetized folders holding copies of documents and negatives. Half of the infamous missing persons in North America were in that file cabinet. Laura stopped when she saw her name typed on a protruding tab—not Laura Lovejoy, but Beverly Deltino. It contained another set of her photos and negatives. She took the folder and slipped it inside the bag holding her documents.

Halfway through the third file cabinet Laura grabbed a folder with a label marked “Ferrocarril.” Inside she saw sheets of paper, signed by Molina. At the top of each sheet was a line drawing of an old-fashioned steam locomotive.

“Davis, I think I’ve got it. Did you ever take Spanish in school?”

“I had two years in high school. Let me see it.” She handed him the folder.

Davis scanned the papers as he searched his memories of Mrs. De La Vega’s class in eleventh grade.

“It’s a permission slip. ‘Let the person with this ticket travel through the—something. I don’t know this word—ferrocarril means railroad. I’m sure of that. Here’s an address for the estacion. It looks like a ticket to me.”

There were a dozen copies, all signed, in the folder. Laura took two and stepped over to the worktable. She plucked a pen out of the coffee mug pen holder and carefully printed her new name in the blank space provided. She then printed “Davis Lovejoy” on the second sheet.

“Now, let’s get out here,” she said, as they headed for the closest exit.

They opened the door and found themselves on the landing outside of Molina’s studio. Davis looked at the door they had just used. Stenciled on the glass was “Geronimo Morey—Abogado.”

Laura never stopped to look. She was already halfway down the stairs to the street. Davis took the steps two at a time to catch up with her as she crossed the sidewalk and reached out for the door handle on Tomás’s cab.

“Tomás, do you know where 162 Avenida de Negocios is located?

“Sure, Señorita. It’s right up by the border. Lots of warehouses and small maquiladoras, little factories, not much there.”

“That’s where we’re going, quickly,” she said. “When the people at the railroad hear about Molina, they’ll shut it down.”

Driving as fast as he could without killing anyone or getting pulled over by one of Tijuana’s many motorcycle officers, Tomás took his cab through the city’s side streets near the border. They were less than a half-mile from the carnage at the San Ysidro crossing.

to be continued 1

 

 

A Pain In The Neck

THE LAST PERSON WHO HAD A STIFF NECK like mine was back in 1873 and hanging from a tree in Arizona for being a “Hoss Thief.”

I woke up this morning when a lightning bolt of pain shot through my neck when I rolled over in bed. I did a quick check – no rope, no pair of gnarled hands around my throat, and my head was still attached to the rest of my body.

The Verdict: I slept funny.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 30

Fiction Saturday

 

Chapter Thirty

 

pull-motel“Kids, I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.”

Vivian was near tears.  Davis was numb.  Laura was torn between comforting Vivian, trying to keep Davis from going into shock, and keeping watch on her own boiling pot of anger and fear.

“Vivian, I don’t blame you,” she said.  “It was just bad luck.  We’re all safe.”

But she did blame Vivian in a way.  She blamed herself as well, for accepting Vivian’s dangerous invitation in the first place.  She thought that, maybe, they weren’t all that safe, not any longer.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 29- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Twenty-Nine

 

escherHorton Plaza looked like the love child of Rube Goldberg and M.C. Escher.  Seven levels high with a hundred and forty shops, restaurants and touristy boutiques, all connected by stairs, escalators, ramps, and glass elevators.  The entire structure was painted in a full palette of pastels, with multicolored banners, flags, and flowers fluttering in the soft ocean breezes.

High up on Level Seven, in a choice corner location, was The Captain’s Table restaurant.  It had everything that a family on vacation from Nebraska could ever want—a  six page menu offering seafood delicacies named for every exotic locale on the globe, several tons of nautical-looking adornments made in China, and decals on the front door promising the acceptance of all major credit cards.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 28- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

atlantaLaura gathered up the dishes as Davis toweled himself dry in the bathroom.  She had showered first, standing under the steaming water for fifteen minutes, crying there so Davis wouldn’t see her fear manifested yet again.

“Davis, while you’re getting dressed I’m going to take the dishes back to Vivian.”

“Okay,” he called from the bathroom, “and thank her for me too.”

Vivian saw her coming across the parking lot and hit the door buzzer to let Laura into the small office.

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Do I Have A Roman Nose?

rome1THEY SAY THAT CAESAR’S IMPERIAL ROME had the best system of water delivery in the Ancient World. There was a series of aqueducts, canals, pipes, and fountains that covered hundreds of miles and kept the city of Rome clean and quenched.

I think they could have learned a thing or two if they’d been able to study my sinuses in the morning.

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