By All Indications, She Arrived Intact

Blue-sky boulevard and green sea
the one route (bus) glides interface,
shivers, rumbles, diesel spent
over miles, concrete, reflective paint.
Asphalt ubiquity and texture,
time In the lapse pluperfect (pre-past)
mythos method enter intermission;
pretense insects intersect intent,
awhile underground submarine
evading memory and probability,
cache come, caught, and cursory.

[Must update my news reader, Seven thinks
to himself as he pushes smudges around
the dirty screen of his smart phone.]

To the land rust/lust and sand soft,
where wind at her shoulders rustles
fair hair and song lucre lend
barrow sail, AC generator sparks
gap consequence and ghosts,
stagnant sweet sweat repose.

Heckle, Jeckle, and Leopoldo
on the wind wing wander
the lackadaisical largesse whisper
wisp zephyr black coat, black
eyes, and black heart, vilely viscid,
alight airless on scrub scrap’s edge.

Waves ripple, crash, and swish
Love and machine wash mécanique,
repeat cycle cylinder certitude
syncopate certificate and synapse,
snip, snap, tap, clack, and click.
Call yourself on the phone, anodyne
methadone, nirvana-done make believe.

[Seven (VII) sips the tequila,
then two full gulps of the hops, dank.]

Click clavicle clavier clear enough
penumbra pale ale aberration piper,
calaboose less than cold and less
than full ice melts as ice often does.
Cuticles consummate in colors captivate
rich skin tones and chemical cure
while chills challenge ceaseless slack
and boots befit their fetterless feet.
Dreamers do the same as they always do,
sand castles under hat in a potato sack
or flame on sticks to not pick up quick,
existential bits and trick tar/-bytes.

Nicotine null bee stumbles at sunset,
so back on the one (bus) route recruit,
reality in the verity veracious spin spun
spent wink wonk recall peck probable
pollen to honey to pollen to honey echo
blossom myth of insects in perpetuity,
and (repeat.)

[“Hello,” VII says as she bumps him with her large case
while sitting down on the stool next to him at the bar.
“Sorry,” she blushes and stuffs it at her feet.]

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It Always Starts in a Bar

Boat tail comic book angel(beta)
summer into autumn treble
castanets and silver under toe
pistol plank the walk willow
too fallow and too frequent
barley bumps and bluster crisp
pause through the window blouse,
and wash out the anima mundi.

[What are you drinkin’?]

Red wing cattail reed,
her hair hangs like heat and
hurricane-eye of the storm,
drops to her shoulder glimmer,
sure sign sequence soliloquy
salute a conquistador’s uproar;
sympathetic, symphonic, symmetry
as remains and remnants revel reveal.

[Rattle dice, slam cup.]

Scrape shoe leather laminate,
probable patterns permeate
philosophy and pink churn
Summer wanes in rains of
wailing asphalt, ozone, oil,
burnt tire rubber residues.

[Tequila neat and a beer, well, Seven answers.]

Mescalito, the scorpion point period
(God) guards golden gossamer
windmill threads of consciousness.
spectacles, spats, splinters, spurious
glee, and sulfur cream delight.

Vinyl cracks under weight undulate
(under-verse) wooden creaks, groans
gobble pretense selfie smear lips
stick smack napkin nod nearby.

[Cazadores?]

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I have chosen my side.

Some family, friends, and acquaintances may be upset with my anger toward the election outcome. That is okay. You are welcome to un-friend me, un-follow me, or re-group me. I will not be offended or hold it against you. If Donald Trump had been a respectful person who understood and appreciated the honor it is to serve this county and it’s strengths, then I might be disappointed, but I would give him the chance he deserves to succeed.

Donald Trump is not that person, and I am as angry as a walloped nest of killer bees. I have had quite enough hate speech and hateful opinions and religious bigotry to last a lifetime. I will no longer placate or turn away from it, but will confront it directly with humor, with facts, with all and everything in my ability. If you cannot handle that, then don’t keep company with me. It’s a win/win as far as I am concerned.

I am not a perfect person. I have many flaws and work everyday at reducing them. I try to keep my mind and heart open. I see no other way to be a better person, not just rich or popular or powerful. To me, “an unexamined life is not worth living.”

The GOP have obstructed President Obama at every turn, and disrespected him and his family as well as the office of the President. I may not always agree with Obama or his policies, but I know his heart is in the right place. By not hearing his SCOTUS appointee, the GOP has shown their contempt for the Constitution and all the citizens of this country. I used to respect the GOP as a group of fiscal conservatives who put country above ones self. I hoped that they would disagree and debate based on the tenants of their party and compromise appropriately. As beige as it may seem, I’ve never joined either party. I tend vote for positive solutions to real world problems facing all of us. I believe in a two or more party system and that good government requires compromise. Opposing sides sit down and debate to a mutual conclusion that will work for the most Americans, not just special interests, single agendas, single belief systems, or even their own constituents. Not an easy thing in my opinion, but no one has ever claimed that it would be. Now the GOP just wants to starve the government and the common good, while robbing it of its resources and making themselves rich. The other party has a corruption problem as well, and my belief in both has weakened substantially.

Trump is a narcissist, a white supremacist, a misogynist and a menace. He is too quick to anger, too quick to react, seeks revenge instead of persuasion, builds walls instead of bridges, and holds all and any difference of opinion with absolute disdain. He has never had to deal or accept personal responsibility for his failures. He has never served anyone, but himself. Government is about service not profit. Instead, he derides our diversity, our multitude of customs and languages; our personal spiritual beliefs that make this country strong, to divide, manipulate, and exploit us. It’s rigged; it’s beneath him; it’s just words. No, Mr. Trump, words matter and have consequences; and the words of the single most powerful person on the planet have far reaching consequences.

I will give to Mr. Trump and anyone he associates with or believes in the same amount of respect he gives to veterans, the handicapped, to women, to the LGBT+ community, or to anyone who is not his race. I will no longer tolerate or roll over to bigotry, racism, or misogyny. If the tin-pot dictator with the little fingers was looking for a fight over civil liberties, he’s got one, and I’ve chosen my side.

Posted in It occurs to me... | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

33 Wild Is the Wind

Joel dances with a clown who has long Raggedy Anne’s type hair; it’s a slow dance to a slow song, Wild is the Wind, recorded by David Bowie in 1976, and written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington in 1957. The two are holding each other close. Their face paint smears to a colorful Rorschach test as they kiss, deeper and deeper. Joel moves his hands down the middle of her back and cups her buttocks. She blows into his ear.

Ethan looks up at them and back at Bridget. Cochran is still studying her phone, trying to place where she has seen the person in the photo. She’ll have a better image soon. She looks up and Ethan looks away. Suddenly he is dodging her glances, but she is too caught in a search of her own memory to notice.

“Would you like to dance?” Bridget asks Ethan. Before Ethan can answer the music stops.

“The Argonauts are going to take a break, and will return shortly. Please welcome to the stage, Mr. Magisto.” Bixxter announces.

A middle-age man in black tux from the 70’s, ruffled shirt and cuffs, bright pink cumber bun, and pink sequin shoes walks into the stage area. He wears a pink top hat and bows for he audience. Mr. Magisto is carrying a vintage, leather bound suitcase. He throws the case forward, parallel to the ground and four legs pop out of it. The case opens lands softly, like a street salesman’s sample case.

Phoebe returns to the table with a larger glass of wine and a pitcher of beer. She sits next to Bridget. Emily is tapping on her phone and doesn’t notice. Seven grabs the pitcher and fills his glass. He offers to pour for everyone else.

“To start, I’ve an old trick that everyone has seen before. I will pull the definitive rabbit out of my chapeaux.” Mr. Magisto bows and his top hat falls forward into his hand. He twirls it across the brim and displays the empty hat to the audience. He turns it and stops it on all sides to show it is free of hidden compartments. Mr. Magisto sets it on the suitcase with one hand and raises the other hand to the sky. A wand appears in his raised hand, and he waves in several circles, first above his head and then above the hat.

“Shim shim, abracadabra, sis boom, beer mug.” The magician pulls a full mug of beer out of the hat. “Oops,” he raises it to the audience, “a toast to our most gracious host.”

Everyone that is watching stands and follows his suggestion, tipping a glass in Phoebe’s direction. She stands and waves.

“Really guys, I love having all of you over. It’s a marvelous thrill.” She curtsies and bows her head.”

Everyone is clapping, cheering, clicking, snapping or toasting.

Mr. Magisto waves his wand over the chapeaux again and says, “hipity, hopity and mopsy, flopsy and fuzzy tail.” He reaches in and pulls out a white rabbit with long pointy teeth. It’s a hand puppet and the magician struggles with it as the puppet tries to bite him. “That’s the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rabbit that I’ve ever seen!” He yells in a deep booming voice. “It’s got a vicious streak a mile wide! It’s a killer!” He yells.

The partygoers laugh and clap. They recognize the vicious rodent from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Mr. Magisto continues to struggle with the puppet to get it back into the hat, but the rabbit has him bent over backwards, just at his throat. Tail fuzzy, floppsy, mopsy, and hippity hopity,” a flash of light appears and wall of smoke obscures Mr. Magisto.

The magician reappears with a small hand fan blowing the smoke away. “Phew, folks, that was a close one.” He looks down and realizes that his pants are missing, showing his pink sequin boxer shorts. “But not without its due.” He bows.

The audience roars with laughter as a string of toilet paper hangs out from one of the legs of the shorts.

“Thanks Seven” Bridget stops shuffling her cards and hands Seven her glass. “Would you like me to tell your fortune?”

Seven thinks she is talking to him, and as he is filling it, he says, “Yes. Def…”

“I think our wonderful hostess is first.” Bridget replies.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to sit for that long.” She shakes her head. “I may need to organize another beer run?”

“I can do that?” Seven offers.

She sighs, “Give me a moment. I just want to sit for a few breaths.”

“I’m going to find a bathroom.” Ethan interrupts and stands.

“It’s inside,” Phoebe directs, “through the kitchen, to the work room and turn right.”

“Okay.” He turns and walks toward the house.

“I can do a single card reading, if you like?” Bridget says.

“Do I have to think or say anything?” Phoebe asks.

“Not really, you just need to think about your question, touch the card cut, and then draw one.” Bridget instructs.

“Sure.” She answers. “I’d like a full reading, maybe some other time though.”

 

Steve McSwain’s phone rings, “damn it,” he yells to his windshield.

“Are you going…?” Selena, distribution manager with Vanilla Shed, asks but is cut off.

Before Steve can respond, his phone’s speaker setting stops working. He stops in front of a driveway and picks it up. “Sorry,” he is still connected, “my phone is acting up now.” He shakes his head, “What did you need?”

“Are you going to make it?” Selena repeats.

“It’s going to be close,” he says.

“I just wanted to let you know that my boss has authorized double time, if you need to work tomorrow.” She explains.

McSwain sighs, “I didn’t say I would?”

“I know, but it will be worth it to us, if you do. Otherwise, we’ll have to find someone else to pick the order up off of your truck.” She says. “I mean, either way is fine with me, but you’ll have to be there for the exchange.”

“Damn, I hadn’t thought of that.” Steve chuckles. “I had plans, but I guess you’ve got me either way.”

“That’s right.” She replies. “Vanilla Shed appreciates your professionalism and work ethic.”

“So, I get the same as today, but twice as much plus mileage tomorrow?” He affirms.

“Yes.”

“Okay, okay, but I’m still going to try and make the train tonight.” He pulls back out into traffic and guns through a stop sign in a less then California Stop.

“Thank you. Thank you Steve. You’re a life saver.” She says. “I owe you.”

McSwain sighs, “I may still make it tonight.”

“Go Steve. Go.” She cheers.

He smiles to himself and pushes harder on the accelerator. I’m going to make it, he thinks to himself. He turns a little to fast onto 5th Street in Berkeley. His tires squeal and he breaks quickly to slow enough to make the turn without stopping fully and without pitching the truck over. “SHIT.”

 

Lieutenant Emily Cochran’s phone beeps; it is a text message. “GOT HIM. Img nxt.”

Cochran smiles, clinches her fist, and pumps the air in a down stroke; “yes,” she says out loud.

Everyone’s at the table turns to look at her. Seven turns and says, “Well, hell yes. I think?”

“Sorry. I just got a break on the case.”

“The one you not working on any more?” He replies.

“Hey, it’s not you on the video from BART.” She answers.

“Phew,” Phoebe exhales, “I thought it might be me.”

“Is it the person that pushed someone onto the BART tracks?” Bridget asks. “I read about that this morning; it sounds horrible.”

“Ye…” Seven starts to say.

Cochran punches Seven in the arm.

“Ouch,” he looks at her sternly. “I was going to say, yeah. I don’t think chief dick-n-boots is going to appreciate it.”

Cochran shakes her head.

“Here, pick a cut.” Bridget says to Phoebe. “Think about your question.”

Ethan returns to the table. His face is covered in clown make up. Everyone looks up.

Bridget laughs out loud, “you’re so cute; like Picasso on meth.” She riffles the two cut stacks together and pushes them into a one. She separates them into unequal stacks and farrows them again, and repeats.

Everyone laughs at the joke and Ethan turns read, highlighting his clown face. “I ran into my friend, Joel and could not escape him or his new girlfriend.” He sits back down at the table and Cochran’s phone beeps again. She focuses solely on its screen.

“Are you thinking of your question?” Bridget asks Phoebe, and cuts the deck again. “Choose.”

Phoebe chooses the stack on the left and Bridget farrows them. She fans them out on the edge furthest from here, face down, and instructs, “Think about your question and choose one.”

Phoebe pauses for a moment and touches several of the cards as she watches Bridget’s eyes. She pulls one out of the deck and lays it down on the table in front of her.

Bridget flips over the Death card. It is facing Phoebe.  RWS_Tarot_13_Death

The picture from the BART station camera comes in full onto Lieutenant Inspector Cochran’s phone and she looks up at Ethan. He is watching her closely and as soon as their eyes meet, her pupils constrict. The clown makeup is not enough; she recognizes the person in the photo.

The blood drains out of Ethan’s face as Emily reaches for her belt. Ethan jumps up out of his chair, knocking the spool table forward. It topples onto its side, knocking Lieutenant Cochran and everyone else out of their chairs. It rolls over Seven and he laughs out loud. The near full beer pitcher hits Cochran on the chin. She sees stars.

“ETHAN,” Bridget screams as she joins Phoebe on the ground; both are covered in wine.

Phoebe’s knife is lying in front of him and he quickly bends down to retrieve it. Phoebe is the first to stand and looks over the mess. Seven can’t stop laughing as his torso is under the empty wind area of the spool. He grabs hold of its inside edges to stop it from rolling further.

Ethan turns to run with knife in his hand in front of him; and bumps hard into Phoebe, knocking her down, and landing on top of her.

“OH MY GOD,” Bridget yells.

Ethan rolls off her, stands up, and looks down at Phoebe. The knife handle is upright, titled towards her feet with the sharp end embedded just below her ribs. Her mouth and eyes are wide open as she looks down. Her body shutters. Blood is flowing out of her wound and soaking the front of her top.

“NO.” Ethan shouts and runs for the door. The party goes silent as he enters the house.

Lieutenant Inspector Cochran is up fast and after him. She pulls the black 9mm semi-automatic out of her belt, and pulls its slide back to chamber a round as she runs.

Chili hears looks to the ruckus and lunges at Ethan as he sprint by him. Ethan is too fast and a glancing blow leaves him on his back.

“911, someone call an ambulance.” Bridget screams and rests Phoebe’s head on her lap. Her face is pale and paler. Bridget motions toward the knife, but doesn’t know to remove it or not.

“My Love, NO.” Comma screams as he comes upon the scene. He grabs her hand and reaches for the knife, but stops. “NO, NO.” He cries out. “Stay with me. Don’t leave me.”

The party is silent and the guests gather around the scene. Smiles and cheers, jokes and magic, music and revelry are replaced with reverent whispers and an eerie quiet. The face paint and smell of beer, the buzzing of an amplifier and pressure sigh of the calliaphone turns the once happy affair into a nightmarish shadow. A breeze picks up off of the bay.

Phoebe takes a beleaguered breath, she tries to talk, but can’t get enough air.

“Quiet, quiet, dear love. Save you strength.” Comma says as tears begin dropping onto her torso.

Phoebe tries to focus, but her eyes are more and more blurry. She tries to breath again. “I, I love, I love you, Comma.” She manages in a whisper.

“No, no, save your breath; don’t leave.” He repeats.

She tries to draw one more breath and looks up. Her eyes are wide open and focuses on his. She tries to speak, and her eyes go quiet.

“No, no, how could this happen?” Comma’s voice quivers. His face is covered in tears. He takes her head out of Bridget’s hands. He kisses her on the cheeks and mouth, and hugs her head close to his heart. Comma sobs.

 

Steve McSwain’s phone rings again. It’s Selena. “I think I am going to make it.” He shouts and laughs into the receiver. He doesn’t give her a chance to respond and hangs up. McSwain rushes through a stops sign, a little short of a California stop, and pushes hard on the accelerator again.

 

“Oh my God,” is all Ethan can repeat as he makes his way out of the house’s front door and towards the street. Where do I go? What do I do now? He thinks to himself as his legs open up to a full sprint.

“STOP, STOP.” Cochran yells as she clears the kitchen and sees his back in the entryway. The bent-wire outer security door slams shut. “There’s nowhere to go.” She shouts and aims her 9mm. pistol. Can I hit him through the door? She questions herself. It’s too risky. “STOP, POLICE, STOP.”

Ethan turns to look at her as she steps through the front door with her gun raised.

“WHAT THE…” McSwain slams on his brakes pushing his chest hard against the seatbelt.

The screech of rubber raises a cloud and then a loud thud. Ethan Tremblay lets out a gasp as his rib cage compacts, his neck snaps, and he flies through the air. He lands on the asphalt and tumbles several feet in an unnatural flail of arms and legs in opposite directions along bad angles. He lays crumpled on the ground. His eyes are full open and the makeup on his face is pitted and smeared on one side. His heart was stopped in a single moment.

Lieutenant Cochran down paces her dash and drops her gun to her side. She shakes her head and holsters it. Seven, Bridget, and Joel are the first through the front door.

“This is Cochran,” she says into her phone. “Chief Cummings, I have some unsettling news about the Fitzgerald case. She walks over to Ethan’s body and leans down to check his pulse, but it seems pretty obvious that he is dead.

An ambulance arrives and the techs stop at Ethan’s body. Cochran motions them to the backyard of the house. “This one is gone.” She says. They hand her a white sheet from the gurney, and she covers Ethan’s body.

Sweat replaces the blood pumping out of Steve McSwain’s face. He is breathing fast and gripping his steering wheel tight. He doesn’t move.

More of the party streams out of Comma’s house as the emergency technicians dodge them in the opposite direction. One holds the door open for them.

Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran stands, “Yes. It is he. I am sure Chief Cummings.”

“I’ll contact the Berkeley Police and be there in half an hour. Don’t let anyone leave.” The Chief instructs.

“I’ve an ambulance and a victim on scene. I know her and will send her on.” She answers.

“Good work, Cochran, but Internal Affairs is going to have questions.” Chief Cummings adds.

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll bring them with me, but do not say anything until we talk, understand?” He commands her.

“Yes sir, yes.” The consequence of actions settles on Emily Cochran; she weeps.

Posted in Shuffle the Cards | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

glister

rush
pile and ruffle,
[crash in slow around the edges]
dunes of a turquoise sky and cloud
rise up along the empty curve.
orange and yellow ochre wisps
remember when we first met lips
and knelt along the barbwire moon?

sticky pecan blooms and salty skin
cicada tymbals snap and pop [repeat]
fingertips soothe the heat and muscle;
an anti-lullaby out wails the wind.
high beam headlights illuminate
dirt reflections on asphalt paint,
along the midnight tango and pass,
Creole embrace and sunflower rasp.
Morpheus’ breath is on the burgeon hoof
[as shadow billows grumble of electricity]
a smile and casual exhale, no pretense,
ruby eyes, cheeks, and tongue,
a flick of the wrist,
glister.

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32 The Seven of Coins (reversed)

       Bridget pulls the reading into a tighter formation. “We should finish during the break,” she picks up the deck of ignored Tarot cards and and offers them to Ethan.

       “I don’t see how you can concentrate on that at this party,” Seven adds.

       “I didn’t think this would take so long.” She answers. “This party is too fun.

       Emily looks up from her plate. “Seven, don’t be rude.” She smiles at Bridget.

       “I didn’t realize this party would be so intense.” Bridget answers.

       “I don’t mind.” Ethan says. He takes the top card off of the deck and after Bridget places the deck on the table, he hands it to her face side down. She flips it over and places in the ninth position, to the right of the crossed cards and directly above the 8th card. It is the Tower.

The Tower

The Tower

       “That doesn’t look happy,” Seven comments. Everyone at the table looks at him. Oh shit, did I just say that, he thinks to himself. “Sorry. I’ll shut up.”

       “That’s the best thing you’ve said all evening,” Emily says and takes a drink from her soda.

       “People always assume the worst with cards like this one, but it rarely means what the image implies.” Bridget explains. She smiles at Ethan. “First, this position of the reading is your inner thoughts and emotions…”

       “Upon the ground.” Seven says and laughs. He bunches his brow and his smile goes flat. “I’m still thinking out loud.” No one laughs, “sorry, sorry, it is a bad, a very bad habit.”

       “I will poke you again,” Emily adds and points her fork in his direction. “Shut the fuck up.” Everyone at the table laughs.

       “As I was saying, the ninth position represents your inner thoughts, emotions, hidden desires, and anxieties of the future. But importantly, as you can see, you are not alone.” Bridget points at the card.

       “Yes. Two of us are falling to the rocks.” Ethan says.

       “Not you too.” She looks sternly at Ethan. Emily offers her the fork, but she shakes her head, no. “Those rocks are around and associated with the tower itself.” She explains. “The Tower represents the status quo, and it’s destruction just means that something new is in your future.”

       “Oh.” Ethan acknowledges.

       “The lightening bolt from the right is the path you’ve been on, and it destroys your perception of your progress, the crown or the status quo.” Bridget continues. “The two people, a man and a woman are falling into unknown space. They are not falling on the rocks. We don’t actually know what they are falling into, but whatever their path was, it is no longer valid.”

       “Why lightening?” Seven asks.

       Everyone looks at him again. “Good question.” She answers. “You’ve been in a rut in a sense and the only way out is a naturally violent or sudden change of the future.”

       “So, dramatic change is a now?” Cochran asks.

       “Exactly. It is neither right or wrong, bad or good; it’s just going to happen very fast and obliterate everything from before.” She finishes. Perhaps they will be together, perhaps not. They are on opposite sides of the tower, but are falling out of the fire. See starlight around him?” Bridget points at the card.

       “Yes.” Ethan says.

       “She’s falling out of hers, so safety and the hearth are not the right direction. The man, the prince, the king, whatever is his role; he is surrounded by positive change. Change can be abrupt or violent, but doesn’t mean the future is dark.” Bridget explains.

       “I’m a little foggy on this card,” Ethan inquires. “Obviously violent change is not always the safe thing, and not necessarily a bad thing.”

       “Yes, yes,” Bridget bends over and kisses Ethan on the cheek. “You’ve got it perfect. This card is about change and you should not be afraid.” She adds. “Change, even violent change, is usually positive.”

       “I see.” Ethan leans backs, stiffens his neck, blushes, and smiles.

       Lieutenant Inspector Cochran’s phone beeps. It’s another text from Officer Sergeant Rice with BART. “65% not long now.” And, a photo is attached to the text. Emily downloads it to her phone and opens it. Seven notices what she is doing and leans over to see. The picture is a man in a letterman’s coat with a couple of pins on its breast, his neck, and the bottom half of a face just to the tip of the nose.

       Emily studies the photo for a moment and looks up. “Hum,” she says to herself. Something is familiar? I can’t quite place it? Then, her eyes scrunch up and she frowns. I thought I was off of the Fitzgerald case. Seven is watching her intently.

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross

        Bridget sips from her beer and offers the deck again to Ethan. “One card to go,” she says. Everyone at the table watches as Ethan draws another card. He hands it to her face down. She flips it and sits in the 10th and final position, directly above the ninth. It is the Seven of Coins, reversed or upside down.

       Another text comes in from Senior Lieutenant Inspector Randal Cummings, Cochran’s boss. “See it? 20?”

       

       Steve McSwain creeps slowly to University Street off of I-80 and exits. I’ve got to make some time he says to his self. He lifts the GPS off the floor of the cab, reboots it, and places it on the dash. It is slow. “Work, damnit, work.” He says out loud to the device and swats on the far side. The GPS rocks back an forth on the dash a and reports, “acquiring satellite,” and a progress bar shows on the display “YES!” He shouts. He creeps up to the intersection at University, and the light is red. McSwain clicks on the GPS screen and taps to his saved locations. He picks the Amtrak station on Horton Street in Emeryville.

       “Acquiring satellite,” it reports again with a progress bar.

       “Shit, finally,” he says to it.

       “Turn right on University to 6th street, then left.” The GPS’ voice is soothing and reassuring.

       I might just make it he says to himself as he rolls though a yellow light and turns. Traffic is moving steadily, as he turns left on to Addison. “FUCK ME!” McSwain yells out and bangs his fist on the steering wheel. He backs up to a queue that is two blocks long. He can see two CHP patrol cars on opposites sides of the street with an Emeryville local and an Albany local as back up. Each car has two officers. What the hell is this, he thinks to himself.

       The California Highway Patrol (CHP) directs cars to pull up to the officers. After rolling down their windows, drivers are politely asked how they are doing and where they are going. A sniff and quick observation, blood shot eyes or nonrestrictive pupils are a sign of DWI or DUI. Seatbelts? All in eyesight of the officers is fair game for estimation of sobriety or other indiscretions. If the driver or passengers hesitate, sweat, or are suspicious in any way, CHP will ask for identification. No real sign or indication of intoxication from the driver, but any deviation or disgruntlement insures an ID check. It they ask someone to pull over out of the queue, CHP will run their ID, issue citations, or search with further scrutiny; but they say it’s not out of spite. The other officers back up the CHP; they watch and overlook you and your vehicle for any other obvious violations. It’s the law in California that if a trooper asks, you have to show your driver’s license.

       The queue moves steadily, and perhaps, I was over anxious. Steve thinks, relax. However it is inevitable that someone will be an ass. A belligerent, petulant child will want to know who the hell these cops think they are? Why don’t they catch the real criminals? They don’t have to show my papers to anyone. Two cars ahead, an older gentleman in a suit begins tussling with the officer at the window. The outcome is always the same.

       The hydra of blue arms pulls him out of his seat (no seatbelt). He’s a dumbass. He takes a swing at an officer, is immediately tased to the ground, and handcuffed. I don’t know where they came from, Steve wonders, but 4 more officers take him to a waiting white van. The trooper signals the next car to come around as another drives the car onto a side road.

       It is almost impossible to subdue a hydra. Cut one head off and two more take its place and so forth and so on and on. This asshole is taken into custody or just subdued with a very expensive ticket. It’s the CHP’s discretion, but some self-righteous ass always slows the line down. I wonder what the statistics are on it? The costs? Steve thinks. He taps his fingers on the wheel.

       Steve McSwain rolls down his window as Officer Williams steps up onto the Harvester’s sidestep. “How are you doing today, sir? Where are you headed?” He looks around the cab as Steve McSwain answers.

       “Hello,” McSwain smiles, “I’m trying to get to the Emeryville Amtrak station to make a delivery connection for Vanilla Shed.”

       “Do you have a BoL?” Officer Williams ask for a bill of lading, which describes the contents of the truck and its destination.

       “Sure.” McSwain reaches over the seat to a Manila folder and sits it on his lap. He ruffles through it, and then offers the sheet through the window.

       Balancing on the step while holding the rearview mirror, the trooper takes a quick look and recognizes the Vanilla Shed logo. “That won’t be necessary,” he says. “You’re a little too soon off the freeway?” The officer inquires.

       “I’m tying to catch the train at this point, sir.” Steve says, “It’s going to be tight.”

       “I see,” Officer Williams takes one last look at the cab, takes a deep breath, and looks long into McSwain’s eyes.

       “Are you searching for someone?” McSwain asks and smiles.

       “No; nothing like that. We’ve had reports of several intoxicated drivers from large parties in the area. We’re just trying to keep everyone safe, sir.” He says. “Thanks for your help.”

       “Always, sir.” Steve answers and nods his head in agreement. Shit. Don’t sweat, he thinks and stiffens up. If he smelled my lunch dessert, I would already be out. Relax, relax, and breathe.

       Officer Williams steps down as McSwain’s phone rings. “You’re not going to answer that are you?” The officer shouts in a friendly manner up to the cab.

       “No sir. I always use hands free or pull over to the side of the road.” Steve shouts back.

       “Good work. Drive safely.” Officer Williams signals McSwain to continue on his way.

       Steve McSwain looks in his rearview mirror to see if the officer is watching. He pulls over to the side of the road for a moment to check his phone. It was Selena from Vanilla Shed. Shit, he thinks to himself. Did I say yes? I can’t remember. McSwain sighs and dials The Shed.

       “Hello, Mr McSwain, this is Selena.”

       “Yes.”

       “I have some bad news. The train has made up time, so where are you?” She asks.

       “Damn, you’re not going to believe me, when I tell you. I just got stopped at a sobriety check point.” He answers.

       “Already? Seems kind of early?”

       “I’m never going to make it.” Steve says then wonders if the Samoan brothers followed him off the interstate. Shit, I hope not, he thinks to himself and looks again in his rearview. There is no sign of them.

       Selena sighs and is quiet on the other end. She holds the silence, waiting.

       

       Emily shifts in her seat and types out a reply to Cummings’ return to the office. ”10-4.” It’s standard, old school, cop-book talk for yes, but it has same number of characters.

       “The Seven of Coins, reversed,” Bridget says, “ is the summation of all influences of this reading.The cards together cast a possible future.”

Seven of Coins

Seven of Coins

       “Okay.” Ethan replies. He looks at Seven, waiting.

       “I’m not saying shit here,” Seven blurts out. “I see coins and my name.”

       “The image on Seven of Coins reversed, means that all though positive change with a little upheaval is in the air, be sure and check yourself, so not fall through it complete without any self-awareness.”

       “So, fight the change?” Ethan asks

       “No. Change is inevitable, and potentially catastrophic.”

       “Catastrophic?” The pitch in Ethan’s voice rises.

       “No, sorry, I guess I mean tumultuous. You know, quick and extreme, but not necessarily bad.” Bridget repeats.

       Inevitably, “catastrophic, how can Seven,” Seven points at himself, “and coins be a bad thing?”

       Emily nudges him and raises her fork. Her phone beeps again.

       ”See the questioner is resting his chin on his staff contemplating, staring at the bush and its fruit. The coins can be physical gains or experience. His legs are open, so be open to what you have gained in the past. The green bush is upside down on the right; your riches or experiences of the past should not be totally ignored. One coin has fallen to the ground to the left, to the future where we all must go; so contemplate the changes coming, but don’t forget what you have gained or learned in the past.” Bridget interprets.

       Ethan smiles and nods his head. He listens as he maintains eye contact.

       “Overall, your outlook is change.” She gestures at various cards as she continues. “We’ve seen that something traumatic has awaken introspection in your life. She points at the Chariot, the Fool, and the Knight, all reversed. You’ve had an encounter and it has reawakened passed desires and signposts to your progress. Bridget motions toward the Lovers, and the Queen of Wands, and the Ace of Swords. You’ve stalled a little, and your friends, new and old, will help you complete the changes in your path or re-energize old plans. There are new people in your life,” Bridget smiles, touches the Lovers, and bats her eyes, “and they may be the spark of new energy and a new way.”

       “@75%, +speed. Full n hour.” Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran reads the text from Sargent Rice with BART. A photo is attached and she opens it. Her phone beeps.

       “Busy tonight,”Seven says. “I thought you were off except for paper work?”

       “Embrace the change, even if it is dynamic and intense.” Bridget continues. “But, don’t forget everything that has gotten you to this moment.” She points at the Seven of Coins, reversed. Don’t forget your plans, your relationships, or your gains. Keep them in mind as you work through it. And know, that you are not alone.”

       Lieutenant Inspector Cochran’s phone beeps again. “20?!?” The message is from her boss, soon to be chief, Senior Lieutenant Inspector Randal Cummings. Emily ignores Seven.

       “Is everything okay?” Bridget asks Emily.

       Emily opens the photo attachment. The nose is complete and all it lacks is hair and eyes. She is quiet in thought. Where have I seen this?

       “It’s this horrible case, we got kicked off of, the Fitzgerald case. Her boss is hot to blame me for a murder.” Seven says.

       “MURDER, whoa?” Bridget replies.

       “Yes, some girl got thrown on the trac…” Seven’s breath is knocked as Cochran punches him hard in the diaphragm.

       “How horrible.” Bridget shutters. “Would you like a reading?” She collects her cards and begins shuffling them loosely.

       “No. I am going to have to go in a minute. Maybe some other time” Cochran smiles, looks across the table at Ethan, then back to her phone.

       Blood drains out Ethan’s face. He pants and sways in his seat as a bead of sweat forms on his forehead. It can’t be he thinks to himself and looks directly at Cochran studying her phone. He turns his head to the left and up then to the right and up.

       “Are you okay?” Bridget turns to him and grabs hold of his arm.

       Joel, Ethan’s friend who brought and introduced him to Bridget, returns to the table. “I’m going to become a clown.” He announces. His face is fully painted and every one looks up at him.

       “Welcome back, the Argonauts.” Bixxter bellows, claps, and points at the band. “Could I get a few clowns up here for some clowning around, and non-clowns, feel free to dance. They play another Tom Waits song. Bixxter sways, skips, silly walks in place to the syncopated rhythm of Big in Japan.

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31 The Circus Is Coming

       “Honk, honk,” Steve McSwain taps his horn, but like the other vehicles around him, it doesn’t help. The traffic is not letting up and the GPS can’t find the satellite. He looks ahead, and although he is sitting taller than most of the vehicles around him, he cannot see what is causing the hold up. If he takes the next exist, he should be able to find a neighborhood route to get to the train depot. His phone rings.

       “How are we doing? Where are you?” the Vanilla Shed dispatcher, Selene asks.

       McSwain hits the speaker button on his phone. “I’m stuck in traffic. It must be a wreck. I’ve not moved in 10 minutes.” He answers.

       “I’ve checked with Amtrak and their ETA is still the same.” She says.

       “I don’t know if I am going to make it. If this traffic doesn’t break up?”

       “Hum?”She sighs.

       Here it comes, Steve thinks to himself. I am so not fucking driving to Sacramento.

       “If you don’t make the train, do you think you could…” Selena starts, but is cut off.

       “I can’t. I’ve got plans. This rush delivery wasn’t supposed to take this long.” He answers her.

       “I know, I know, I’ve already been here for 12-hours and will have to wait with you.” She empathizes. “Mr. Boss is not going to like the overtime, but he said what ever it takes.”

       Steve blows air loudly through his lips. He doesn’t respond.

       “I wonder why it is so important?” Selena says in a low voice.

       “I don’t know.” Steve answers.

       “Sorry, I was thinking out loud. I missed a dinner with my boyfriend and I can’t imagine why the remaining shipment has to be in Sacramento tonight.”

       “I don’t know.” Steve repeats.

       “I’ll make it worth your while.” She adds. “My manager really needs it there tonight, and although this wasn’t suppose to be this difficult, shit happens.”

       “You’ve got that right.” McSwain still doesn’t’ agree to go any further. He knows he’ll probably have to or move down the list of appreciative contractors. Vanilla Shed is a good customer. I can’t just give away my time. My life, such as it is, is important too.

       “I’ll be really, really appreciative. You’ll be my personal hero.” She adds in a desperate and submissive tone.

       He sighs again, loudly, “I don’t know,” Damn, he thinks to himself. He knows he will have to have to capitulate, but he just doesn’t want to. Vanilla Shed is a good customer. The truck inches forward and he signs again.

        “Please?” Selene is watching the train time tables on her smart phone, and “hey, some good news.”

       “What is it?” McSwain asks.

       “Fifteen more minutes,” she laughs into the phone. “The departure time changed.”

        “I didn’t now if it was that accurate?” He puzzles. “If I can exit soon, I may just make it, but remember, I’ve still got to unload.”

        “You can do it.” She cheers.

        “It shouldn’t take long to unload; it’s not but a few large crates.” The jam begins to move slowly, but consistently. “ Were moving again,” he shouts at the phone. “Maybe we can.” He looks in his side view mirror and can just make out the Ford with the Samoan brothers in it.

       

       Phoebe returns to the table carrying a pitcher of beer and a large insulated plastic mug with a lid, something you would buy at a truck stop. Sinclair 77 is printed under the illustration of a green brontosaur. It’s at least half the size of the pitcher. She sits next to Ethan her back is almost to the stage.

       ”That’s a serious beer mug,” Seven says.

        “It’s wine.” She replies and smiles. Phoebe picks up her kitchen knife and jabs the last chunk of cold steak on her plate.

        “A meat-sickle,” Seven says and laughs at the joke. No one else does. He takes a deep breath and sighs; relax, he thinks to himself. You just got here. He chomps another bite of the hot dog. Cochran keeps her head down in her plate. She’s feeling out of place, and wants to be in the office when the final photo of the subway killer comes in focus.

        “Let’s welcome back to the stage on the circus piano, Veronica of the Argonauts.” Bixxter announces. “She’ll be playing a little backup music for the acrobat team of Phineas and the Fogettes.” Bixxter claps his hands and points and claps as he steps off sideways.

       The audience joins in, and two women enter from opposite sides of the stage area with standing aerial somersaults into full split landings. Their arms are full outstretched to their sides, parallel to the ground. A man enters just off of the right of center to between the two with a standing aerial somersault to a stand position with both arms raised in a “V.” It is the three people who where putting on makeup as Seven and Emily came through Comma and Phoebe’s house.

       “I should have told Com to rig some lights,” Phoebe says to Seven.

       “I wouldn’t worry; I don’t think anyone will even notice.” Seven replies.

       The audience claps a little louder.

        “I’m Phineas,” the middle acrobat bellows and bows, “and these two beautiful woman, the Fogettes, are Diana,” she lowers her arms and bows, “and Camilla.” She follows suit.

       Veronica plays an old circus song on the calliaphone; it’s Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite, The Circus is Coming.

       Phineas drops down into a standing sitting position as Diana and Camilla stand and climb onto his thighs as counter balances into a forward flag. Their torsos are facing outwards, one leg on Phineas’ thigh and the other foot behind his neck both arms in the air as a “V” on its side.

       The crowd claps and Veronica punctuates the stance with an additional whistle fanfare, “TA-DA” on the organ. She inserts it perfectly into the song she is already playing.

       The women turn towards each other, grab the other’s forearm, and facing each other, lower the other foot on to his thighs. In perfect synchronization, releasing their grip, the two place their hands on Phineas’ respective shoulders and side of neck, lean in, lift up themselves into a handstand, as Phineas slowly stands upright. The women split their legs to combine a “W.”

       Veronica punctuates the move with another flourish, “TA-DA,” in a higher key.

       Phineas takes a deep breath, exhales slowly, repeats, and calls out, “the flying W.” He then proceeds to slowly, slightly step through a full 360-degree circle, and on conclusion, he shouts out. “The Flying W from any angle.”

       Veronica ends her current song with a foghorn-key “TA-DA,” on the calliaphone and the audience stands to clap with catcalls and whistles.

       The applause settles, and Veronica plays a second circus song. She plays, The Sidewalks of New York.

       The women reverse their ascension and lower themselves onto Phineas’ thighs, in synchronization. He reprieves the sitting-standing counter balance. The women reverse somersault to a dismount, and as soon as they off his legs, he jumps up quickly into a standing backflip. Phineas lands just as the two women somersault back at his side; all raise their hands and bow. The crowd claps politely, and Veronica doesn’t vary the song.

       Phineas turns his back to the crowd and lays down on the ground, flat. Diana runs forward and cartwheels into a handstand on his raised hand, elbows still resting on the ground. She splits her legs and Camilla somersaults through them. The partygoers clap.

       Phineas lowers his hands then thrusts them up at the same time Diana tumbles straight up and lands on her feet in his hands. The crowd gasps as Phineas bobbles his left arm, but Diana counter balances and the trick is saved. Camilla discretely circles them as a spotter, and steps forward at the bobble then back at his recovery.

       Phineas raises his legs straight up at his waist and Diana does a slow rising handstand onto the soles of his feet. The crowd claps. Diana spreads her legs and Camilla flies through forward through them and lands with a rolling tumble.

       Diana tightens her legs together and drops down out of the handstand back onto Phineas’ hands. Before anyone can breathe, he throws her forward and she lands sitting on his feet. The crowd gasps, but Diana smiles and raises her arms in a flourish like a letter turner on a television game show. She pantomimes nonchalantly like she is calmly smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer.

       She lays back into a back angel, stiffening her body as a board. Veronica punctuates the move with a whistle flourish from the calliaphone, and starts a more frenetic, classic circus song. It is Be A Clown. The partygoers clap more loudly, in unison with the song.

       Phineas spins her to her stomach, to her back, faster and faster, till she is a blur. Her arms outstretched become a solid disk. The audience gasps, as he stops abruptly, Diana on her back and then spins her laterally, like a helicopter wing. He stops and rolls her on to her stomach and spins her laterally again. He stops abruptly and shifts her to his right foot, as Camilla lands, stomach first on his left foot. The shift in motion is so subtle that it appears Camilla has landed from out of nowhere. The audience claps and cheers wildly. The two women lock their inner arms and Phineas spins them together latterly. He stops and Camilla rolls over the top of Diana on to her back, as Diana rolls under her in the opposite direction on to her back. The two lock arms and he spins the double reverse angel.

       Veronica wipes her brow as she plays the calliaphone as fast as she can. The tumult stops as quickly as it begin followed with a moment of silence. The acrobats dismount and again stand together in front of the crowd. Cheers, whistles, and all manner of calls accompany their bows.

       “We’ve one more for tonight, but we’re still learning it.” Phineas bellows. “It’s called the Inverted Totem.” The audience quiets down. He sits into a standing squat and both Camilla and Diana step up onto his thighs.

       Veronica starts a new song, The Man on the Flying Trapeze.

       Diana climbs onto his shoulders and Camilla steps out onto the front both his thighs and leans out as a counter balance. Diana bends down and slowly inverts to a full handstand on his shoulders. He exchanges his shoulders with each of his hands, and lifts her up.

       Camilla climbs up onto his shoulders, facing Diana’s backside. Phineas rights himself slowly, stepping backward and forward to offset the dynamic weight shift. Camilla climbs Diana’s inverted torso. She has inverted pockets sewn into her jumpsuit, and they are just loose enough as toe holds.

       Diana’s arms begin to tremble as Camilla climbs onto her feet. She sits for a moment to steady the wobble and then stands. Phineas continues to step to counterbalance, but Diana is just not strong enough. She is only able to hold Camilla in a full stand for a few seconds, just long enough for her to get her arms out straight to her side. Diana’s biceps give way, first the left, and she releases the right. The audience gasps and goes silent.

       Camilla jumps gingerly from her right foot and tumbles as she hits the ground. As if by magic, Phineas moves his head out of the way of hers as it drops to between his shoulder blades, and releases both arms. Diana has the presence of mind to push off of Phineas neck with hers and tumbles down his back into a perfect landing.

       The crowd roars to life with cheers, whoops, and whistles. Chairs fly back as everyone jumps to their feet. No one can believe what he or she has just seen. Even Veronica tips her stool back. The Inverted Totem was not a total success, but the acrobats were able to dismount in such mythical style as to question the foundations of physics.

       Veronica regains her seat and plays song from Star Wars, John Williams, the Throne Room and Final, Episode IV: A New Hope. Phineas, Diana, and Camilla stand next to each other with arms up in “V’s,” with one foot forward, and then all three bow as the cheering continues. Once, twice, three bows, and Bixxter returns to the stage.

        “Phineas and the Flying Fogettes.” He shouts into the microphone and gestures toward the trio as they bow again and again and again.

       The tumult quiets down, “Thank you, what a show.” Bixxter says and continues to clap lightly. “We’re going to take a short break, so fill your glasses and stomachs,” he raises his glass and rubs his belly respectively. “Then, will be back with The Argonauts, and later, don’t miss the magical styling’s of Mr. Magisto.” He claps lightly, “finally, see the terrifying accuracy of axe juggling on fire, The Crucible: Spark and Flame.” He laughs across the microphone. “The axes, not the jugglers will be on fire folks, I think.” He looks for guidance from back of the crowd.

       

       Steve McSwain approaches the last exit for Albany, but the exit ramp is queued onto 80. He should be able to take some back roads. As he approaches and looks down it from the Freeway, McSwain sees several Albany police cruisers in the intersection. They are blocking all right turns and forcing vehicles to stay on the access road or turn left at the light.

        “Shit,” he says out loud. I wonder what is going on down there? He thinks to himself. I’ll have to wait till University Street. Slowly, he waits and pulls the International into the middle lane. Traffic begins to flow a little, but stops abruptly after a tenth of a mile. “I’ll never make it.” McSwain says to himself.

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