Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The unpleasant surprise

Have you tried looking up friends from your past on Facebook? Maybe old girlfriends or boyfriends? Recently I wrote down a list of names I could remember from high school (Class of '65), and from my two years in the Army (November 1966 to November 1968). I had no success whatsoever finding anyone. It could mean that the people I am looking for are uninterested in social media, or worse, that they are incapacitated, or even deceased.

Warren was one of the guys I tried to find on Facebook. No luck.

We were friends for only a few months, 1967 into 1968. Warren was a guitarist; he bought a guitar near where we were stationed in Germany. We sat in Warren's room where he would play old songs and I would sing along. That seems pathetic, but if we didn’t have passes to go to town we were stuck on base and had to entertain ourselves. As you can see from the only photo I have of Warren he rocked a pompadour hairstyle. I don’t remember what songs we tried to sing, but they were probably along the lines of Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly.

When I didn’t find Warren on Facebook I went to Google, and that is when I found him. That was the unpleasant surprise. Warren was not only deceased, but he had died on July 29, 1968, just a couple of months after he got out of the Army. That seems unfair to me. A guy spends two years away from home and family, and then lives only a couple of months after returning to civilian life.

Warren was a motorcycle guy. My first thought on seeing that Warren was dead at age 21 was that he wrapped his motorcycle around a tree. But there was no information on cause of death.

Something else I remember about Warren is that he was always broke. He was usually tapped out five days after payday. He borrowed from me quite often, but he always paid me back. This little blog posting is a poor remembrance, because it has been so many years, but in some ways it is my payback to Warren for those nights smoking, joking, laughing, singing along while he played the guitar. It made the barracks almost livable.


Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Trump victory: Shock and “awww, sh!t!”

”We won in a landslide!”

It’s been a month now since the presidential election. Are you over it yet? I guess I am, although it was a shocker to my family and friends. On election day my next door neighbor was in Italy with her daughter. She said they couldn’t sleep all night after they heard the news. That seems like a fairly typical reaction; certainly the reaction of my wife and me.

Why did so many vote for Trump? Not forgetting that as I write this about 2.7 million more votes were cast for Hillary Clinton than Trump, yet the election results hinged on Trump’s wins in three states. In the popular vote he lost, in the Electoral College he won. Such is the American system, as screwy as it seems to everyone. Except the winner, of course. Trump has recently been touring, in what looks like a victory lap to thank his voters. He said to one crowd, “We won in a landslide, folks!”  — an untruth so brazen only the most loyal of his followers would believe it.

Early in the campaign it seemed obvious to most of us that reasonable people wouldn’t fall for a huckster, and we expected his fans to fall away once these truths were revealed: he doesn’t pay taxes; he stiffs building contractors; he uses bankruptcy as a business tactic; he treats women horribly. The stories went on and on. In the end it didn’t matter. His fans liked him and what he said, and ignored stories to the contrary.

A piece of commentary in the Sunday, December 4, 2016 Salt Lake Tribune, gave what I thought was a good reason why people voted for Trump.* Kristy Money, a psychologist specializing in relationship counseling, faith journeys and women’s mental health, wrote about “confirmation bias,” which is seeing only what we want to see.

Apparently Trump fans’ confirmation bias was enough that they looked past all of his worst traits to see what they wanted to see.

Yet how was it they were able to accept Trump’s outrageous conduct? You would think that religious types on the right who supported him would have been put off by stories of his immoral behavior, but another paragraph in the Kristy Money commentary explained to me how his true believers could accept a man with Trump’s character flaws: “Decades of social science research attest to how the human mind resists deliberate attempts by others to change our opinions and beliefs. In fact, there is a corollary phenomenon to confirmation bias, known as the Backfire Effect: Simply put, when someone with deeply held beliefs is presented with a counter-argument, their beliefs are strengthened rather than weakened. So there’s a very practical reason to stop trying to convince others: it has the opposite effect.” [Emphasis mine.]

So there you go. The Backfire Effect in action!

*I cherry-picked Ms Money’s commentary for psychological insight to use for my own purposes.Her article was actually about giving support to people who leave the Mormon church. You can read her original op-ed here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fifty years

Fifty years is a long time. Five decades. Break it down: in months fifty years is 600 months; in weeks it is 2600 weeks; in days (give or take, depending on Leap Year), it is an astounding 18,250 days!

Fifty years ago today, November 30, 1966, I entered the U.S. Army as a Private E-1. It wasn’t voluntary; I was drafted.

I had my pre-induction physical in July of that year, and five months later was finally sucked into the system. During the time between the two events I lived in denial. I thought I would get some sort of last-minute reprieve, but the closer November 30 came the more I came to the acceptance that there would be no divine intervention. I was indeed doomed to two years of active duty in the U.S. Army.

There were some benefits; after I was released in November, 1968, I went home and  a month later got married. I was able to use my GI Bill money for schooling. Two years ago when I went to Home Depot to buy a washer and dryer the saleslady asked, “Are you a veteran?” I said I was. She said, "Good, I can give you a discount.” I don’t remember how much the discount was, but if my two years active duty could save me a few bucks decades later, well then, that’s fine with me.

On Veteran’s Day 2016 I got a free entree from Mimi’s Restaurant. They didn’t even ask to see proof I was a veteran.

I had my share of nightmares the first few years after my discharge. In dreams I would be drafted again and I would be loudly cursing and telling officers and sergeants to stick it up their asses, I wasn’t going to go! Brave talk, but just a dream. In my waking life I wasn’t going anywhere near the Army, and they wouldn’t want me, anyway. It took me me a few years for the dreams to end.

I have written before in this blog that I have a near-irrational fear of being accused of something I didn’t do, and going to jail or prison for it. That paranoia may have grown from my experience of being drafted. The Army wasn’t exactly like jail: there were no iron bars, but there were other similarities, especially in the first two months. All activities were regulated, even being marched to the mess hall for our meals. We were not allowed to have any clothes other than our uniforms, so if we went over the hill we could be easily spotted and rounded up.

Hmmm. That is something to think about! But being regulated en masse goes back to kindergarten, when we obeyed the teacher’s orders. Sit down, be quiet, reading time, exercise time. We have all been through it.

Still, there was a feeling when I got the last day of my active duty Army “service,” I did have a sense of an iron gate creaking open, and being able to walk out into freedom.

It sounds like a contradiction, but now that it is long over and done, I am proud to be considered a veteran. I don’t necessarily feel like a “true” veteran, like the guys who faced an enemy. I spent most of my Army career at a typewriter in Germany doing a clerk job, but my Honorable Discharge, in a frame on my wall, says I am a veteran. No matter how I feel about my service it is more than some people who have held the office of President of the United States. I have one up on men like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and now Donald Trump. Commander in chief is much more grand than Private E-1, as I became when I entered the Army fifty years ago today, but I went through something none of those men went through, and so, yes, I am proud of that.

(For my 40th anniversary recollection of my first day,18, 250 — give or take — days ago, which I remember distinctly, unlike yesterday, which is a blur, go to “Draft Day”, posted November 30, 2006.)


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The writer who is ecstatic for the Trump victory

This letter appeared in my local newspaper yesterday.

Copyright © 2016 The Salt Lake Tribune

Ugh. Gloating! I couldn’t stand it. That letter inspired me to write this letter:
Editor:

I thought the letter titled "Ecstatic about Trump" in the June 16 Tribune was satirical. I saw the writer used the German word, “schadenfreude.” I at first believed no true Trump fanatic would even know such a word.

Then I reconsidered. Since the word means to take pleasure in the discomfort of others I thought about the Nazis, who took a whole lot of pleasure in the ultimate discomfort for anyone they deemed not worthy to live in their Aryan world. Consider the Nazi mass murder machine. That reminded me that many backers of Trump are white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan-types who would be very happy to feel such “pleasure” in bringing such discomfort to people they don't want in America.

I then shifted my opinion, and knew the letter was not satire, but from a true Trump fanatic!

Sincerely, Postino

Monday, November 14, 2016

The dog kicker

Yesterday I saw an obituary for a former fellow school district employee, Brent, who died at age 67. Brent was two years younger than me, and he died from a heart attack. Brent was a devout Mormon, so he didn't smoke, drink (liquor or coffee). He was tall and fairly slim. Huh. I thought he'd live longer than he did. Longer than me, anyway. I remember Brent bugged me a lot because when I'd see him he'd get in my face and try to make small talk. He was not a natural small-talker, and as Greg, another coworker opined, "Brent tries too hard to make friends and it drives people away." I could see that. After I saw his obit I thought maybe I should have lightened up my opinion of him. Then I remembered a day maybe 20 years ago when Sally and I were walking into a high school for a meeting, and Brent was on the sidewalk talking to a man. A little dog ran up to Brent, which annoyed him. He hauled off and kicked the little dog and sent it yiping in pain into the bushes. The proverbial red mist floated before my eyes. I stopped and unloaded on Brent, chewing him up one side and down the other. Something a supervisor once told me was, "You have a tongue that cuts like a scalpel." I don't remember exactly what I said, but Brent went red in the face, said nothing, yet after Sally and I walked off he resumed his conversation with the man as if nothing had happened.

The next day I told Greg, Brent's office mate, who said, "Yeah, Brent's old man was like that. He didn't just kick dogs. They'd come in his yard, he'd shoot 'em." After the incident for the rest of the time I knew him Brent never mentioned my loud, angry comments on his act of animal abuse.

Maybe Brent cleaned up his act as he got older. Maybe he mellowed out. But I am sensitive to such cruelty. I am not religious, but it is my opinion that no matter how religious you are or observant of the rules of your faith, if you kick little dogs you should have a long wait to get into heaven.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

“The President Will See You...”

After all of the incivility and trash-talking of the 2016 election cycle, and before that the years of the continuous din of disaffected and disapproving citizens complaining about their president,* it was like a breath of fresh air to read this story by Rog Phillips** from Fantastic Adventures, July 1951.

Aliens invade Earth, and yet when they invading America they are polite enough to observe the laws of the land. That is better than real life, where anti-government clods who enjoy American citizenship occupied a federal facility this past winter and trashed it, and other American clods in the federal court jury found them not guilty.

At least the aliens had the decency to ask that their confiscated tanks be returned!






*I plead guilty to that charge during the Bush years.

**Pseudonym of Roger Phillip Graham (1909-1966).

Friday, November 04, 2016

Jack T Chick takes on the Mormons

Jack T Chick died last month. He was 92, and he was religious in that old-time religion way. He was not shy about telling everyone who didn’t believe as he did that they were going to hell.

Chick got religion sometime after he was married in the late 1940s, following his World War II service. He was a cartoonist, and became (in)famous for little booklets explaining how to be saved...in Chick’s opinion that was to believe in the Bible as the literal word of God (any Bible after the King James version was no good to Chick), and then you had to come to Jesus. He was fairly rabid in his dislike for Catholics, and he didn’t care much for Mormons either. The booklets, of which there are many (dozens? hundreds?)* take a negative tone. The booklets follow a formula: someone believes falsely, and some religious stalwart sets them straight. Since there isn’t much room to tell a story it has to be fast, with the wrong person getting the right information and then miraculously seeing the light. (The ones who don’t get the message end up in the lake of fire being prodded by Satan’s demons.)

In The Visitors a couple of Mormon missionaries get the full Chick-treatment from a (forgive me for using this word) chick, who sets them straight with facts about Mormon theology they usually don’t reveal to prospects being proselytized.

I am not religious, but I am an ex-Mormon, and I spotted at least one error. The booklet is copyright 1984, but repeats the LDS belief that black people are cursed with dark skin, a policy which was overturned in 1978.

The artwork is not done by Chick, but by artist Fred Carter.

Anyone could order these booklets by paying for a special printing with their name on the back cover. They were usually given out by churches and religious organizations, but in this case an individual, Douglas King, a “servant of God.”














*Chick also published a line of full color comics in a traditional comic book format, which had the same dire tone as the booklets...they just had more room in which to issue condemnations.

_____________________________

People who believe the Bible to be the be-all and end-all of any discussion can be hard to communicate with. For instance, while even many pious and devout religious people believe in a scientific explanation of the origins of life on earth, when it comes to answers about tricky things like evolution (people were created when the earth was created, and began with Adam and Eve), or dinosaurs (lived amongst people, and their fossils are wrongly thought to be from millions of years ago) there is no equivocation from the Bible-is-the-only-answer-you-need folks. They believe in Creationism as a valid set of facts about everything.

The Creation Museum is open in Petersburg, Tennessee. You can go there and “see the wonders of God’s creations.”

There are also books published with answers to thorny questions about early humans and dinosaurs cohabiting the planet, not unlike the Flintstones or Alley Oop.*

One children’s book, The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible by Paul S. Taylor, from 1987, attempts to explain the so-called “mystery.” As Taylor explains on page 16: “When God created the world, dinosaurs were one of His creations. God created all the animals (Genesis 1:20-25). God made everything in the entire universe—people, stars, planets and all that there is (Exodus 209:11a Genesis 1, John 1:3). Like Adam, the bodies of the first dinosaurs were formed from the dust of the earth. Man and dinosaurs lived at the same time.” (Emphasis mine.)

As always, click on the pictures to make them dinosaur size.

I will give the author credit for creating a well-illustrated and fun book, but scientific it is not.

The world of faith must be exceptionally strong that so many people can accept the invisible world of the supernatural rather than the visible work of thousands of dedicated scientists worldwide.

*If you don’t know who Alley Oop is, he is a comic strip characters who was created by cartoonist V.T. Hamlin. Oop lives in a place called Moo, and has a pet dinosaur named Dinny. Here is an early (1934) Sunday page.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sally, Mimi, Rosie, iced tea, the bee, and me

Armed with a $5.00 coupon Sally and I went for lunch at Mimi’s restaurant. Our server, whose name I didn’t get, I named “Rosie” in my mind. She was wearing one of those headscarves that we see in the famous poster of World War II's Rosie the Riveter.


“My” Rosie, the young server, was right out of her teens, bright and cute. She had a lot of work; her station was very busy, but despite that she was attentive and fast-moving.

It was not one of my better days. My arthritic fingers were stiff and I dropped my iced tea glass; tea and ice went all over the table. Sally and I were mopping it up with napkins when Rosie saw it. She rushed over with a fistful of napkins. She got the mess cleaned up amidst our many thank yous, and brought me another iced tea.

Later, Rosie apologized for forgetting one of the perks of Mimi’s, fresh-baked bread and a couple of madeline pastries for Sally, and when she realized her error she made it right immediately.

When we were done Rosie brought the bill. I slipped my credit card in the holder, and Sally and I figured the tip, which I wrote in when Rosie brought my credit card and receipt back.

At that moment Sally spotted a bee crawling around our booth. It was lethargic, and she said, “It looks like it could be at the end of its life span.” (A quick check online tells me a worker bee lives about five to seven weeks.) She put a napkin over the bee. Rather than have Rosie pick it up, I took the bee, napkin and all, into the restroom and sent it into the county sewer system. Thank you for providing honey and pollinating our flowers, Mr Worker Bee...and here is your reward! **FLUSH**

Apparently the bee was enough of a distraction that Sally and I forgot something important. We got to our car and were ready to leave the parking lot when Rosie, running full out, caught up to us and gave us back the credit card and receipt. Sally opened the car door and shook her hand.

I wondered if she went back into the restaurant and said something to her coworkers like, “Huh! Old people!” or “I think that old man might have been drunk.” (I don’t drink. I was just clumsy and forgetful. Hey, Rosie, stuff happens!)

As we were driving away Sally read a flyer Rosie had handed to us earlier. “You can get a free entree on Veteran’s Day!” she said. So we have plans to go back in November. Maybe we’ll have Rosie as our server again. I will wear my gloves with little rubber knobs on the fingers to keep a slippery glass from sliding out of my hand, and both Sally and I will be paying attention to the credit card. I will even put an extra couple of bucks on the tab, as thanks to Rosie for watching out for us seniors.
__________

Before we went to lunch we went to a Hallmark store to pick up a card. When I paid for it I used cash, and the clerk gave me back three quarters in change. I looked at the quarters and said, "I think this is a Canadian quarter," then took another look. Oops. I said, “I thought that was Queen Elizabeth, but it's good ol' George Washington, instead.” My eyes were playing tricks on me. 

She said, “Oh well, you know in those days they wore their hair...” and stopped in mid-sentence when I turned to leave and she saw my ponytail.

 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Cul-de-sac" — a ghost story by Postino

     “I won’t give up,” answered Pete, digging again near the foundation in back of the house. “I know the money is here somewhere. You’ve said it is, and that you keep moving it. One of these days I’ll catch up to it and I’ll be out of here.”
     “I wouldn’t be able to stop you, you know,” said Edward, “being a ghost and all.”
     “I don’t know what kind of trip you’re on, but you’re no more a ghost than I am. I didn’t kill you good enough, is all.”
     Edward let out another of his snorts that passed for a laugh. “Kill you good enough,” he mimicked. “Hey, Pete, you kill me all right.” 

 


Pete was tapping the wall of the master bedroom when Edward walked in. “Found anything yet?” Edward said as he sat on the edge of the bed.
     Pete just grunted.
     “Have you checked the living room? Kitchen?”
     “I’ll get to them.”
     “You won’t find anything.”
     “So you always say.” He went on tapping with the knuckle of his middle finger. It was raw, the skin red. He felt it every time he rapped the wall. He would have changed fingers had Edward not been there, but he stubbornly held onto his routine when Edward was watching.     
     He went methodically through the room. Edward hummed a tune, the same tune he always did. It was formless, something had come into his head at one point and he hummed it, even though it was no recognizable music. It made Pete angry, because Edward knew Pete didn’t like the sound of him, reminding him of the presence in the room.
     “How about it? Ready to knock off yet? How about some lunch?”
      Pete was hungry. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. The electricity was off in the house, and he didn’t open the fridge. What was in there had gone bad. Pete wouldn’t even open the refrigerator door. Even though the heat was off in the house he figured the contents would be stinking by now.
     He walked the hallway into the kitchen, with Edward behind him. He opened a cupboard over the stove. Pots and pans, no food. He opened another cupboard door. Nothing there but a package of Jell-O. No good to him.
     Edward was sitting at the dinette table.
     “Nothing, huh,” he said. “Man could starve to death around here.” That made him laugh, a short snorting sound, no humor in it.
     Pete leaned against the counter. He could feel the gnawing in his stomach.
     It was cold. Not cold enough to see breath, but cold enough that they both wore winter coats. Pete was wearing an old parka, frayed at the cuffs. Edward was wearing a peacoat and a black knit cap pulled down to his ears. He looked like the sailor he once was.
     Pete went back to the cupboards and methodically opened each one. He took a short broom from the closet and tapped the backs of the cupboards, listening for any variation in sound. The cupboards were flush against the walls, but he suspected one of them could have been placed in front of a hole in the wall. He finished his tapping. There was no hollow sound.
     “The thing that bugs me, Edward,” he said finally, as much to stop the other man’s humming as to register a complaint, “is that there really isn’t any reason for you to not tell me where it is. You don’t have any use for it.”
     Another short snorting laugh. “Don’t have any use for it. That’s good, Pete.”
     Pete opened the door of the closet, tapped with the broom handle, then put the broom back in its spot in the corner. He walked back into the hallway, then into the bedroom. He slid open the door to what passed in that house for a walk-in closet. There were a few clothes hung up. A suit that moths had been lunching on. At least the moths had something to eat. A couple of polo shirts. On the floor were three pairs of jeans, too small for Edward. Women’s jeans. Edward’s wife probably left them behind when she moved out. She’d gained about thirty pounds and abandoned the pants she could no longer wiggle into, but couldn’t bear to throw away. She was beautiful once, a dancer in a local club, showing guys her tits. After she moved in with Edward and with the boozing and the drugs she lost both her shape and dignity. She’d managed to save some of the latter by leaving him. 
     Pete tapped the walls inside the closet. He saw a couple of shoe boxes and opened them. Nothing but the tissue that came with the shoes. He moved the jeans, nothing under them, went through the pockets of the old suit. Without looking around he said, “This is a total waste of time. Just tell me where it is.”
      “No, it isn’t. It’s fun to watch you look. Knowing you’re never going to find it. A million years, you’ll never find it.”
     “I’ll find it.”     
     “No, you won’t. When you sleep I move it. You always lie down and you fall asleep and I move the money.”
      Pete clenched his fists. “I do not go to sleep.”
     “Yes you do.”
     Pete shut up. This could go on indefinitely, this childish taunting, this game of keep away. He thought, I am so tired. So goddamned tired. He sat on the edge of the bed. The pistol, the army Colt .45 auto, was lying in the middle of the bed. He could move it, lie down, catch a few winks, but not while Edward stood in the doorway with that shitty smirk on his face.
     He closed his eyes, willing Edward to disappear. He opened them, still there.
     “What’s the matter,” Edward said. “Want to catch a nap?”
     “I want you to go the hell away.”
     He looked away from Edward, and his attention focused on a painting, a framed print on the wall of a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean at sunset. A red sun reflected in the water. That’s the kind of place he should have taken Edward, thrown him into the ocean with a half-dozen cinderblocks or an anchor tied to him. Maybe then he could get on with his search in peace.
     “Hey, Pete, maybe you should look out back. You know that old tool shed back there, the one you stuck me in. There’s a lot of ground you could dig up. I might have buried it out there, you know, Captain Kidd, Blackbeard the pirate burying their booty. I might have done that.”
     Edward’s back yard, what a joke. An overgrown weed pile with bushes gone wild. Pete thought about it. He could at least look. Maybe Edward had put it under some bush, or dug a hole under the shed. Anything was possible. Pete got up, brushed past Edward and went into the bathroom. Not only was the power off, but the toilet was clogged, flusher didn’t work. Gross. He didn’t have to pee or take a dump, but when he did he’d probably have to go out back and relieve himself in one of those bushes. The thought didn’t appeal to him, cold as it was. His bare ass exposed to the neighbors, if there were any neighbors. There were houses, run down like Edward’s, but Pete hadn’t seen anybody or detected any movement outside. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard a car go by. Edward’s neighborhood was a cul-de-sac with four two-bedroom houses, dank unfinished basements, behind a paper box factory. An industrial section of town. The houses in that area were mostly rentals. Pete didn’t think Edward owned the house, because he didn’t think Edward had ever owned anything of value in his whole life.
      Except for the money, that is. The money Pete was looking for. The money they got from the armored car when they robbed it.

The plan was they’d each grab as much as they could before they heard sirens, then they’d drive their stolen pickup truck to the back of the strip mall where they’d parked their cars. They’d each take their share, drive in different directions. Cops would be looking for two guys in a pickup truck, not one guy in a silver Hyundai, another in a black Ford Explorer.
     Something real bad happened. The robbery went as planned until Pete drove his car out of the strip mall. He was hyper, his adrenaline pumping. He’d killed a man. His gun went off, hitting the armored car guard in the face. The guy was wearing a vest under his uniform shirt, but he dropped like a stone when the round drilled him just under his left eye. Pete hadn’t gone into the job intending to kill anyone, but then it happened. Later, as he’d done all his life, in his mind he blamed the victim, if for nothing else just being there to be robbed.
     He drove out of the strip mall and was broadsided when he pulled onto the boulevard. He’d driven right into a pizza delivery car, and it T-boned him going 40 mph, crushing in the passenger side of his Hyundai.
     The teenage pizza delivery driver was stunned, sitting in the driver’s seat with his mouth open. He was trying to get out of his car, but the impact had crumpled the front of his car and the door didn’t work. Pete had been hit by his airbag but was okay, just thinking he had to get out of there. He grabbed his gun. The money was in a bank bag, but he had put it under a blanket behind the front passenger seat, and the impact crushed that side of his car, wedging the bag in so at a glance he knew he wouldn’t be able to get it out. He saw other people stopping their cars. A black man was running toward him and he could hear him, are you hurt, hey mister, are you all right? as he got out of the Hyundai. I’m okay, I’m okay Pete heard himself say, and then the man pulled up short when he saw the .45.
     Pete stuck the gun in his belt, hidden by his coat, and ran. He looked over his shoulder to see several people trying to help the kid. He hoped none of them were on their cell phones, reporting him running away from the scene of the accident. He cursed himself for not paying attention, taking his mind off the business at hand, the simple act of driving his goddamn car. He sprinted around the corner just as a city bus pulled up, so he put on a short burst of speed and made it just before the driver turned into traffic. The fare was a buck twenty-five and had that in his wallet, but not much more. He’d left all that money, according to Edward’s calculation, his share maybe a quarter million, in his car. He'd hop off closer to downtown, lose himself in the crowd. He settled into his seat, trying not to look conspicuous...like a guy on the run.  I’m making a getaway on a city bus, he thought. Maybe someday I’ll laugh about it.
     There was no laughing now.
     When they agreed to split up after the job Edward told him, “Stay away from me. I don't want to see your ugly face again.” Thinking he was funny, but really just being a jerk. Edward could be like that, like he was in the house while Pete looked for the money. That is why Pete killed him two weeks after the job.
     Pete had been hiding out. He took what was left of his mother's bank account. It wasn’t much, about fifteen hundred and change. He rented a cheap by-the-week motel room. The wrecked car was still in his mom’s name. Pete had cleaned out the glove box and his mother's car registration a couple of days before the heist. He had swapped the license plates with plates from a similar-looking Hyundai he spotted a couple of miles from his house. But his prints were in the car, and the cops had them on file for prior offenses. They’d put him with the armored car job when they found the money. He couldn’t go home to his mom’s house, where he lived in the guest bedroom. That was okay with him. The house smelled of his mother, of her cancer, of her lingering for months unable to get out of bed, shitting in diapers, before she finally died. He knew it wouldn’t be long before the cops were all over that house.
     In his motel room he watched the news. The story of the robbery was a headline, but they didn’t mention the car. Maybe they hadn’t figured it out yet, or maybe they were just playing it cool, making him think he was more secure than he was.
     But that was it. He’d been counting on that money to get him out of this town, away from the memory of his mother, away from his temporary construction, lawn care and handyman jobs.
     A quarter million would have allowed him to go someplace else—he’d been thinking of Southern California, out of this winter climate. He would start a new life, buy some phony ID, a birth certificate. Hell, the illegals did that sort of the thing all the time when they came across the border. He’d get somebody to tell him what he needed to do to buy a new life.
     But he didn’t have the quarter million, and fifteen hundred wasn’t any money for someone on the run. He had to get to Edward and get Edward’s money. He might have to kill Edward in the process but that didn’t bother him. The news told about the guard he had killed, 33-years-old, wife, two small children, working a low pay security guard job. It didn’t bother him about the wife and kids. He just didn’t think about victims; it wasn’t how his mind worked. He was only sorry the getaway had gone bad and he was out the money.
     His mom had called him psycho a time or two and said he had no feelings for anyone but himself. But she was always bitching about something, so he never listened. She was right, though, because he did only care about himself, and everyone else could be made of cardboard, for all it mattered. He didn’t wait for Edward’s call. He went to his house and found him.
     Edward was stupid not to run, but he didn’t have a record like Pete. The cops had never taken his fingerprints. He bragged about not having his prints on file. He’d told Pete when they met for the first time in the bar that night and got drinking and talking that his wife was divorcing him and he needed money. He told Pete he’d been thinking about taking down a bank or an armored car. What it sounded like to Pete was the guy had been reading novels or watching movies, because he didn’t think Edward had the guts to go through with it.
     But here they were in the house, and Edward a dead man walking and talking. Pete knew, he just knew that it was a trick of his brain, some kind of weird conscience thing or some other kink, because he had killed him and watched him die. After tying Edward to a kitchen chair and blowing off a kneecap, that is, while trying to get him to tell Pete where he’d hidden the money. All he’d gotten out of him was that it was on the property somewhere. And that Pete was a cocksucking son of a bitch and why did he trust him to help him on that fucking job. He was crying with pain and writhing on the floor. Pete threatened to take out his other knee but suddenly Edward lunged for his legs, grabbed him and toppled him onto the kitchen floor. Pete shot. The bullet went through Edward’s heart, killing him instantly. Even so, for long minutes Pete waited. He stuck his finger on Edward’s neck, feeling for a pulse. Nothing. He didn’t move. So he was dead and all Pete knew was the money was somewhere in the house.
     His instinct was to run, but instead that night he dragged Edward to the tool shed. There was a padlock hanging open, so Pete dragged the dead man into the shed. He found a roll of plastic sheeting and some duct tape, wrapped the body, then locked the padlock. He went back into the house and quickly went through drawers, looking for the money. He pulled himself up, calmed himself down; gotta think, he told himself. He didn’t know Edward well; all he knew was his wife had left him. No kids. No one would drop in on him, as far as Pete knew. So if he stayed fairly quiet he could do a thorough search of the house, find the money. He went into the bedroom. Just in case he was surprised Pete took his gun, checked his ammo. The kill-shot to Edward had left him with one bullet, and that bullet he needed.
     He told himself, I won’t go back to prison. If the cops come for me and I can’t get away I’ll use that bullet on myself. He laid the gun on the bed, laid down beside it and was asleep.

It was such a curious thing. He could have sworn he had punched holes in every wall of the living room looking for the hidden money. He’d lost track of time. When he woke the next morning in Edward’s house the walls were back to the way they had been before he put the holes in them. He thought, well, did I dream that or what? Despite his vow to keep it quiet and low key, he had taken a 16-ounce claw hammer from Edward’s toolbox and gone to work on the walls. He looked at them dumbly. Just then Edward showed up.
     “I don’t have much respect for your carpentry skills,” said Edward, looking at the walls.
     Startled, Pete said nothing.
     “You’re not even going to say hello to me? I thought maybe you would have missed me.”
     Edward walked like he wasn’t missing a kneecap. Pete’s mind raced. So was killing him a dream, too?
     “Hey, Pete, I’m talking. Yoo hoo.”
     “I…I…” he stammered. “I thought I killed you. I put you in the tool shed.”
     “And so you did,” said Edward. “And so you did. But I’ve come back to aid you in the search for the money.”
     Pete sat in Edward’s worn armchair. “Come back?”
    “Yes, I thought maybe we could get through this together. That I could shed a little light on what you’re looking for. For instance, when you got the hammer out of my toolbox, did you look in the basement for the money? Lots of places to hide it in the basement.”
     Pete closed his eyes and shook his head. Maybe when I open them he’ll be gone, he thought. He opened his eyes and Edward was still there, a cat-that-swallowed-a-canary look on his face. “Downstairs,” he said, “you’ll see.”
     So Pete, despite an initial inclination to run out the door and not stop running until he was far away from the house, went downstairs with Edward right behind him. “I’d start over there by the furnace, if I were you,” he said. “There’s a lot of junk over there. You can look.” Pete looked. He looked for hours while Edward kept up a stream of conversation. “Maybe I put it under the insulation,” and Pete peeled off insulation, only to find nothing.
     Tired and dirty, Pete said, “You’ve had your little joke. Now where is it?”
    “It’s no joke,” Edward said. “I’m here to help you look. I’m not telling you where it is. I’m just here to help you look.”

Nothing seemed to change. There was no power, no water, no neighbors, no sounds except for the sound of the hammer knocking holes in the walls. Every day Pete would look and Edward would show up to egg him on. Pete could knock down walls, and when he would leave and come back it was like he hadn’t done anything.
     “You know how long you’ve been at this?” Edward asked.
     “I don't know.”
     “Several months.”
     “No, no way. A few days, maybe.”
     Another time Edward asked and Pete said, “A few days,” to which Edward replied, “No, a few years.”
     Time was a concept that didn’t seem to apply, but reality, which had slipped away from Pete’s grasp after a time, was becoming more than a shadow on the carpet stained by Edward’s blood, now fading.

“You ever going to give up?” Edward asked one day. “It seems hopeless, doesn’t it?”
     “I won’t give up,” answered Pete, digging again near the foundation in back of the house. “I know the money is here somewhere. You’ve said it is, and that you keep moving it. One of these days I’ll catch up to it and I’ll be out of here.”
     “I wouldn’t be able to stop you, you know,” said Edward, “being a ghost and all.”
     “I don’t know what kind of trip you’re on, but you’re no more a ghost than I am. I didn’t kill you good enough, is all.”
      Edward let out another of his snorts that passed for a laugh. “Kill you good enough,” he mimicked. “Hey, Pete, you kill me all right.”

There were rituals. Every time Pete woke up and started tapping the walls, Edward would come in the room. “Found anything yet? Tried the kitchen or living room?” No matter how many holes Pete put in the walls, no matter what he did, every day started the same. Edward was there in his peacoat and watch cap, every day the Jell-O in the cupboard, every day the holes miraculously repaired.
     “Tired of this yet?” Edward would ask. “Tired, maybe, want to leave? Move on?”
     “No, the money is here. I will find it.”

One day the ritual varied a bit. It sometimes did, but never anything substantial. Pete stood at the kitchen counter feeling his hunger. And he suddenly wondered why he didn’t eat, why things repeated themselves. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t asked those questions before, but for some reason his brain seemed to have stopped functioning in a very significant way. As soon as he would wonder, the thought would vaporize, only to be replaced with a thought that he hadn’t checked the walls or the flooring in the bathroom yet. If I pull up the linoleum maybe there’s something under there. If I pull the lid off the toilet maybe the money is in the tank, he’d think.
      So that day in the kitchen with Edward sitting at the table and Pete at the counter, Edward said, “I’ll bet you’re wondering why you keep doing what you’re doing, don’t you?”
      “No,” Pete said.
      “I’ll tell you anyway. You do it because you, me, we’re being punished. Us greedy bastards have to keep looking for something that is beyond our grasp. The difference is that I never killed anybody and you killed three people.”
     “Three? No, I killed two people, the security guard and you.”
     “Three. You killed yourself.”
     Pete stood motionless. Maybe if I go down in the basement again; maybe I can take a big hammer and chip away the concrete. He could have dug a big hole and re-cemented…
     “The cops came to get you. My ex told them she thought I might have been involved in the armored car robbery and killing. She said I had talked about it and you one night when I was drunk, that we were planning it. She thought I was just full of shit, which, frankly, I usually was. So the cops snuck up on my house and there you were putting holes in my walls. They said you spotted them through the window, put the gun to your head and blew out your brains.”
      Maybe if I go out in the yard, maybe he put underneath the pyracantha bush, thinking I wouldn’t want to get any scratches on me when I dig.
      “Anyway, blowing your brains out is probably why you keep going through this whole sequence, over and over again. It’s boring as hell in hell, eh?” Another snort.
     Pete said, “I don’t believe you. I‘m not dead. You are dead, you are just a nightmare I’m having. If I keep looking I’ll find the money and get out of here.”
     Edward said, “All right. You’re right. I’m just your imagination. a bad dream. So, have you tried the walls in the bedroom yet?”

Pete was tapping the wall of the master bedroom when Edward walked in. “Found anything yet?” he said as he sat on the edge of the bed.
     Pete just grunted.
     “Have you checked the living room? Kitchen?”
     “I’ll get to them.”
     “You won’t find anything.”
    “So you always say.” He took his knuckle, raw and red from tapping thousands of walls thousands of times, and tapped the wall to check for hollow spots. Edward sat on the edge of the bed and as he had done thousands of times, hummed his tuneless tune.

Copyright © 2016 Postino. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A crazy election can always get crazier

Utah is a true red state, Republican to the core. I’m a Utahn, but I’m a Democrat, which can be lonely. The reason for the strong Republican streak is the Mormon Church, whose leaders are overwhelmingly conservative. Although I have lived amongst these Mormon Republicans and right-wingers, even I can sometimes be surprised by how weird it can get politically 'round these parts.

As I write this we have a couple of weeks to before the general election, and polling in Utah shows a remarkable split in voter preferences. Since many Mormons hate Trump and also hate Clinton they have come up with an alternative. The results of the poll showed Trump at 29%, Cliinton* at 26%, and third party candidate Evan McMullin at 30%. Incredible!


Have you ever heard of Evan McMullin? No? Neither have I. McMullin is listed on his info page (go to the link) as a former CIA operative, a former Mormon missionary in Brazil, and a former refugee resettlement officer for the United Nations. Whew. That's quite a résumé. If it is true. We can check on the UN job and the Mormon mission, but the CIA doesn’t give out information on their operatives, current or former. I get from what information I can glean that Evan is one of those guys who make a big deal out of “religious liberties,” which I always interpret as being anti-gay. Religious conservatives are still bound and determined to put those religious “liberties” over the Constitutional rights of other citizens.But there can be a backlash. Religious liberties being invoked to discriminate means that I can choose not to do business with the discriminators. Most of the rest of the U.S. doesn't have to worry about Evan...I understand he is only on the ballot in 11 states.
____________

It probably doesn’t do a bit of good to call out Trump for his bad qualities, because members of the Trump Cult really don’t listen. I’m sure most Trumpets aren’t sitting in front of programs analyzing Trump’s more egregious defects. They are probably out showing off their latest t-shirt!

Oh, how cute! They’re both “matchy”!
____________

Something I was expecting during the primaries has happened just weeks before the election. It is news of Trump’s “Grab 'em by the pussy” remarks and the women who are coming out to accuse him of taking various sexual liberties with them. Anyone who has followed Trumpְ’s history over the past twenty years is probably well aware that he is a roué. For you Trump fans who don't know what a roué is, it is a “debauched man, especially an elderly one.” If you also don’t know what debauched and elderly means, well, it means he is a dirty old man.

Once again the impact is not as great as I thought news of this sort would be. We have seen candidates in the past suddenly drop out of the race because of disclosures of sexual affairs (Herman Cain in 2012 is one example...and does anyone remember Gary Hart?) But Trump? Maybe his cult members think it is a badge of honor that he feels free to belong to the 4F club. (You remember that from junior high, don’t you? Find 'em, feel 'em, fuck 'em, forget 'em. That is just Trump in a nutshell.) As I write this on Saturday, October 22, 2016, I just saw news footage where he says he is going to sue every one of those women who make such claims about him being obnoxious, sexist, and grabby. He makes a lot of threats, doesn’t he? I have had bullies for bosses who made a lot of threats, also, and usually it’s a bluff. Trump wants to get into expensive lawsuits which he will probably have to settle with $$$? Fuhgeddaboudit!

I got my crystal ball out of storage and summoned the genie in the ball to tell me what will happen after Trump loses the election. (Not "if" but when.) The genie told me that after a decent interval (maybe after President Clinton’s inauguration), Melania Trump will file for divorce from Donald J. Trump on grounds of mental cruelty over his philandering and multiple adulteries, and exposing her to public humiliation. I bet she didn’t know a lot of this about his pussy-grabbin' past until it came out publicly, because I doubt he would have confessed any of it to her. After all, she wasn’t part of his "locker room talk” group.
____________

*I believe Clinton polls that high not because people like her, but because they voting against Trump. I doubt any support by Utahns will make much difference. Six electoral votes? Maybe if it were a really tight, down-to-the-wire election. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won in Utah was 1964, when Utah voted overwhelmingly for Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater. (The election also gave us one of our finest governors, Calvin Rampton, a Democrat, who had three terms in office.) Those were also the days before the right-wingy-dingies took over our congresspeople and senators and the Utah State government.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Weird Tales ghost story: “Professor Kate” by Margaret St Clair

This time of year my mind turns to ghost stories.

“Professor Kate” was written by Margaret St Clair, a prolific author working in the pulp magazines, mainly science fiction and weird fiction. She lived with her husband in Berkeley, California, and they became Wiccans. Both she and her husband were successful writers, and of Margaret author Ramsey Campbell has said, “she is yet to be fully appreciated.”

This short tale is from Weird Tales, January 1951. I found the scans in the Internet Archive. The contents were originally copyright © 1950 Weird Tales.







Saturday, October 15, 2016

The heaviest heavy — the brief, brilliant movie career of Laird Cregar

Laird Cregar had a three-year career in Hollywood during the World War II years. He was a large man, 6'3" tall and weighing over 300 pounds. He was noticed in his first part, and soon became known for his villainous roles.

As you will read in this article by Barbara G. Jackson, Cregar was not satisfied with being the bad guy, and went on several crash diets to slim down for more traditional leading roles. Alas. It was the dieting that killed him. (Remind me to show this article to my doctor next time she suggests I "lose a few pounds.")

The article appeared in Monster Fantasy #3, August 1975, and is Copyright © Mayfair Publications, Inc.









Probably Cregar’s most famous role is that of Jack the Ripper in The Lodger. The full movie is available on YouTube. As always, YouTube giveth and YouTube can taketh away. If you encounter a black screen, well, sorry about that, but it is not my fault. You might be able to find it from other sources, including DVD.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Age catches up

Yesterday I helped my neighbor cut down some trees and trim some bushes. The trees we cut down were on my side of the fence, but the branches were growing over his roof. So I agreed to help take them out.

When we were done I told him I was feeling every day of my age. I am younger than him, but not by much. He's 73 and I have yet to crack 70. Barring a heart attack from heavy labor I might just make it. I went inside my house, took a couple of Aleve and assumed a supine position on my couch. I picked up a book to read: THE QUESTIONABLE MAD, one of dozens of paperbacks with reprints from old issues of MAD. Flipping the pages I came upon a feature I am very fond of, “If Comic Strip Characters Were as Old as Their Comic Strips." In 1962 when I read it in MAD #72, I was a lad of 15.

So the satire made me laugh, as it always does when I see it. I believe my laughing is now more from familiarity with the aging experience. Obviously when I was 15 it was funny that comic strip characters who never aged would become old. But me becoming old was never considered. I never saw myself as — yeccccch! — a senior citizen. And yet, here I am.









Written by Earle Doud, illustrated by Wallace Wood. Copyright © 1962, 1967 E.C. Publications, Inc.