You Should Slap The Devil & Sleep With His Wife

There is a strange dichotomy that lies between trying to bare your soul online without sharing all of the skeletons that make you look like a raging asshole in dire need of anger management.

Don’t know where this post will take me or what sort of truths I may or may not let loose, I can only tell you that I just popped open a single bottle of Shiner Bock and that it will be the only alcohol to pass through my lips tonight.

*****

Have you ever noticed how you can take an instant like or dislike to a person based solely upon a split second look at or introduction to them?

Well there is a pasty-faced fellow who is about two years younger than I am, a guy that I really only know of and about that fits that bill.

It might not be right or fair of me to feel like I could improve his appearance by kicking him in the teeth and punching him in the throat but that is just what his stupid looking expression brings out of me.

I have more than his “is so pale he would be sunburnt in a cave” looking face to help me feel like I could do a better job on him than any plastic surgeon.

Yeah, I have a solid reason for wanting to demonstrate what it means to get this kind of special attention from me but I am not going to share that here.

Not going to give you more specifics because if you have any ability to feel the energy radiate off of a page you already are blanching and if you can’t, well consider this one man’s hyperbolic expression.

I Just Wanted To Make You Jealous

Got my beer sitting next to one of the meaty paws I call hands, headphones streaming Ray Charle and Count Basie singing Come Live With Me and in just a moment they’ll move onto their cover of The Long and Winding Road.

Images of a girl/woman I once knew float through my mind, her voice telling me how she just wanted to make me jealous and the fire that flowed through my veins because of that.

A mix of frustration and pure anger knowing how and why she was trying to manipulate me and the awareness of how badly I wanted to rip him apart for getting in between.

Frustration with myself because what I knew I should and must do required more self-control than normal.

You see, I knew she wanted my attention, wanted a particular response but didn’t quite understand that in this particular instance it would set me on fire.

And I knew that if I was face-to-face with him there was a chance I would manhandle him in the kind of way no man ever wants to be handled.

He would be a rag doll and I would be the bear.

I never saw him. Never met him. Never spoke with him.

It was intentional.

I wanted to be angry with her.

Wanted to show her my back as I walked away. No response and no reaction for her.

She would learn the hard way I wouldn’t tolerate any of that nonsense, except I couldn’t be angry, at least not for any length of time.

I loved her far too much and the idea of just walking was more painful than saying we could work through whatever hiccup we had encountered.

So I sent her a note, thanking her for breaking my heart multiple times and for proving women weren’t to be trusted.

She told me I overreacted.

I told her not to try and make herself feel better by saying my feelings weren’t valid.

“I loved you before. I love you today and I’ll love you tomorrow. But I hurt. I ache and I burn. Maybe that is my fate. Maybe it is not. I don’t care. Don’t take advantage of my love. I see and know more than I say. You’re worth it, even when you are a giant pain in my ass.”

who is sane

You Should Slap The Devil & Sleep With His Wife

They wrote about a song about my friend Johnny and what happened when the devil got bored and decided he might con him into taking a bet he couldn’t win but they never told you about what happened when Old Scratch decided to match wits with me.

Never told you about how someone suggested I should slap the stupid out of Lucifer and sleep with his wife.

Nah, they don’t share that kind of tale with you because it is not the kind of thing you want your children to imitate.

Nor would they present me as the standard role model of good character and fine moral standing because I don’t fit their very particular standards.

Of course if you want someone who knows how to get things done, a guy who can move the needle, dance in the fire and walk through a storm well then I am him.

But most people don’t want to open Pandora’s Box and discover that it is empty because all that crap they fear getting loose already walks among them.

You’re probably curious how I know this to be true and the answer is simple. I opened the damn box.

Yeah, I popped that sucker open and took a hard look and confirmed what I already suspected.

Fragments Of Fiction

If you read all that came before this and are still here I’ll say congratulations and offer to shake your hand but I won’t tell you what is fact and what is fiction.

This piece doesn’t follow the conventional design nor is it supposed to be interpreted as modern art. There is no symbolism here, at least not intentional.

What I can confirm is sometimes I need this to serve as a mind dump. It is why I opened up the Medium blog and why sometimes I just empty out the proverbial closet onto the page.

It is part of a concerted effort to find out what I really think and believe.

I tell my children to work on understanding who they are, what they believe and why they believe it.

I want them to try to understand why they act as they do because I think it will help but it won’t change certain parts of life.

Doesn’t matter if you understand why you love or why you ache because the heart doesn’t respond like the brain.

Won’t matter if you get all of the science between heart and head because we’re not made to be automatons.

But it might help them get through some of the hard times with less stress…maybe.

And it might help them laugh, love and live a little bit harder and longer. That ought to be worth something.

Love Between The Lines

The great loves of our lives change us.

Sometimes they make us into bigger and better people than we once were because their faith in our abilities is so unshakable we don’t question whether we can reach that next rung.

And sometimes they break our hearts and leave us wondering if there was really a time when we could feel the warmth of the sun upon our backs and laugh wholeheartedly.

The common mythology makes some of us long for love at first sight because it makes for a great story.

“The moment I saw her I knew I would never want to be with another man/woman.”

But not me, I never cared or needed that.

Maybe it is because the few great loves of my life were unsought and unexpected.

They caught me off guard and unaware and blew me away. They taught me things about life and myself I never could have otherwise learned.

you mustexperience

The most important things I know about sex, love and true intimacy came from those experiences.

The knowledge that if you truly gave your heart to someone they could level you and make you feel like the lowliest worm was eye opening.

I never believed such a thing was possible. It had sounded like the hyperbolic claims of writers of cheap romance novels and weak people.

And then I was one of those…weak people.

Heartbroken, confused and lonely, unsure of what had happened but aware that something had.

Time passed and I figured out how to put my heart back together and learned to enjoy the sunlight and laughter.

I figured that I would take some time off from the whole love thing, I’d have fun and it wouldn’t be a big deal because I wasn’t in any rush.

Love would come again…one day, long from then and I’d deal with it when it happened.

But then it happened faster and sooner than expected, can’t say how much sooner ‘cuz I hadn’t mapped it out.

Hadn’t tried to really plan it out, just figured it would be a while.

Unsought and unexpected I was ensnared again.

“We were together. I forget the rest.”
― Walt Whitman

If you haven’t been there you might not understand it. You might not realize that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it together.

You might not understand the ache that comes from separation and how silly you both feel because you are old enough to know better because you have loved and been in love before.

Sometimes in the quiet moments you look at each other and ask in a soft voice if it sounds stupid to say it feels as magical as the first time, but better because you appreciate it more.

And this time, this even more surprising and more unexpected time you decide you are going to go for it, you are going to lay your soul completely bare and give them the chance to really wreck you.

Because you know from experience how magical it is and figure that you don’t get that many turns at bat so you need to live and love hard.

But it has to be now, not later, but now because life is fickle and shit happens so you don’t know, cannot know what might happen.

You share more poetry, that of those who are considered masters.

“Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you/ That you may be my poem/ I whisper with my lips close to your ear/ I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.” ― Walt Whitman

As well as a few words by someone who never says aloud but secretly hopes that maybe one day he’ll be considered such as well.

So he’ll whisper the words and hope that a soft warm wind will send them into the ears of those who will best appreciate them and say he dared to fly higher than Icarus.

Dared to rise to the places where the sun might melt his wings because the hope and promise of past moments might be enough to make the fall that would come less painful.

And when that fall came, it took a while to dust himself off.

When he decided to stand again he figured it was best to remember the lessons and smile at the memories.

No reason to do more than that.
The Lonely Blogger

And though he was ready to just walk away his heart refused to accept what was fed to his ears.

Heart and head battled for a while until he came across an old story and remembered.

Reasoned

“I never should have kissed her. The memory of her damn lips and that electric spark….”

He walked off into the sunshine not knowing what he was going to do but knowing exactly what he wouldn’t.

He wouldn’t just forget and wouldn’t just pretend that nothing had happened.

You may not know when love starts but you always know when it is really over and when it is not.

Editor’s Note: A short while ago I decided to start a blog on Medium because I heard it can be an effective tool not just for writing, but for promoting our work.

Since I am an advocate of learning by doing I have tested it  by putting out some original content there, that is how Love Between The Lines was created. I took 15 minutes and wrote this story, but used a different headline.

I am also using Medium as a place to test out headlines and small changes in my content so if you were to read posts over there you might recognize them from their time here but with the small changes I mentioned.

Not to mention that since I don’t want to be a digital sharecropper I make a point to include posts I have written elsewhere here.

The 983rd Greatest Story Ever Told

time and loveI could hear the echo of my father’s voice inside my head, “Boys don’t ever hit girls.”

He ignored my protests and told me he didn’t care what my sister had done. It didn’t matter if she hit me first or what she used. I was a boy. We weren’t allowed to fight back that way.

I told him again it wasn’t fair and he shrugged his shoulders at me. “We are bigger and stronger. Use your words to settle things. They will.”

He was right and so was I. Thirty-seven years ago they didn’t fight fair and they still don’t now.

I suppose the big difference between then and now is that it was much easier as a young boy to look at them as “annoying people” whose sole purpose was to bother boys.

Puberty changed all that. Those “annoying people” cast a magic spell on me and suddenly I went from not noticing any of them to having trouble focusing in school.

Hormonal overdrive and young love kept me from recognizing the kind of trouble that lack of focus could get you into.

But I found out.

Her name was Tammy. She was a tall blonde with bright green eyes and an electric smile. At 14 she was two or three inches taller than I was and quick to lord it over me.

She spent our freshman year of high school doing her best to tease and torment me. I tried to give it back to her and almost got my head taken off.

I don’t remember exactly what I said but I remember she was angry. When I told her she was acting like my sister she lost it. She stopped talking to me. When we passed each other in the halls she just looked through me, it was like I didn’t exist.

You would think that I would have appreciated the respite from the teasing and the incessant comments about my height, but I didn’t.

We didn’t speak again until November of the following year and to this day I can’t tell you if she even noticed, but I did.

Her refusal to speak made me so angry that I walked over to her. “You aren’t as special as you think you are!”

She just laughed, “look who finally grew.”

Until she mentioned it I hadn’t noticed that I was finally taller than she was. That wasn’t

I wanted to yell at her again but that laughter and the smile that accompanied it took the fight right out of me.

We went on our first date two weeks later and three months after that we lost our virginity in her aunt’s pool house.

It was young love and a healthy dose of young lust.

Her father almost put the fear of god into us. He came home early one day and surprised us.

We heard him and I tried to jump out of bed, but Tammy was fearless. She told me to relax and said there was plenty of time.

That became our line and our little joke. Life was filled with plenty of time and much laughter.

When it came time to go to college we ended up attending different universities. Neither one of us was worried about our relationship. We thought it was strong enough to survive anything, but we were wrong.

I don’t know when she slept with him or how many times she did but I know it happened. I wasn’t blameless either.

The girl I hooked up with was just as tall as Tammy and had those long legs that I loved, except she was a brunette with dark eyes. The moment I kissed her I knew that things had to go farther and that something else was dying, but hormones don’t care about relationships.

Within six months or so we had both acknowledged that it was time to go our separate ways.

It was painful but also somewhat exhilarating. Tammy and I had done almost everything a couple could do together and I was excited to be with other women.

That 18 year-old boy felt like a kid in a candy shop and for a while I really enjoyed it, but I noticed very quickly that these girls didn’t respond like Tammy did.

She would do anything and they wouldn’t. Hindsight makes it easy to recognize that love was the difference but that kid didn’t know it.

By that time Tammy and I rarely spoke and if we did we usually found ourselves fighting but it wasn’t like those days in high school.

Eventually we just stopped talking.

Five years passed and then I ran into her at a New Year’s Eve party. At midnight we kissed and it was like no time had passed.

Thirty-five minutes later we walked into my apartment and stayed there for three days.

Two days later she left for a two-year Peace Corps assignment in Africa. When she kissed me goodbye she said she loved me, laughed and told me not to worry because there was plenty of time.

She never wrote me.

Twenty-five years passed and the silence continued. We were just a memory.

Last week there was a knock at the door and I saw a beautiful blonde standing on my porch. It was like being transported in time, there was my Tammy, except it wasn’t.

She said her name was Heather and asked to come inside.

“My mom said if something happened to her I should find you. Her name was Tammy and I think you might be my dad.”

“What do you mean her name was Tammy?”

Her eyes filled with tears and so did mine. I guess we never did have plenty of time.

Important Moments
I wrote the story above this picture a few years ago during a period of time when I had far more time on my hands than I do now.

People have asked me more than once if it is a true story.

My answer to the question is always no but every now and then someone insists that I be honest with them so I admit it is truth and then wait for the 298 other questions that follow and make up more answers.

Yeah, I am bad that way.

If I give you an answer and you don’t accept it and continue to engage I am quite likely to decide to use my imagination to mess with you.

It is a bit juvenile but if you push me after I have responded then you might deserve what you get or maybe that is just a poor way of rationalizing bad behavior.

But I will also share this, parts and pieces of that story are based upon experiences I have had with some of my former…flames.

Her eyes filled with tears and so did mine. I guess we never did have plenty of time.Click To Tweet

I haven’t had enough time to write the way I want to write. All I have had is time to place a few words down upon the page and though it has helped me scratch the itch it hasn’t fed the demon that lives inside.

That beast is hungry and he requires far more fodder.

Ever since I saw the trailer for Suicide Squad I have heard I Started A Joke playing in my head. Not the Bee Gees version but the one from the video.

Music is often a trigger/inspiration for my fiction and it is always tied into my work. In a perfect world I would write my stories and use various songs to help illustrate the tell I want to tell without concern of having to pay for the rights to it.

And of course I would be paid to write these stories, but I digress.

The 983rd Greatest Story Ever Told

I have mentioned a few times that my teenager is growing like a weed and that he is as my mother would say, feeling his oats.

My little man makes me smile with some of the goofy crap he pulls partly because I remember doing the same thing and partly because he is so damn happy when he does it.

There is a lightness about his being that I just love.

Early this evening he took that lightness and jumped on my back and tried to pull me to the floor. I laughed and told him he had only received a partial share of his Steiner Strength and told him until he gets the full dose he has no shot at winning.

And then for good measure I used only my left arm and won our match. I almost switched to the right so I could use the Princess Bride line about smiling because I am not left handed but we didn’t have much time and I wanted to talk to him about life.

Mainly I wanted to remind him to be willing to take chances and to try not to be afraid to step outside of his comfort zone.

“Dad, give me an example of what you mean.”

“I didn’t want to move to Texas. I wanted to stay with what I knew. Some of it was because I was afraid of change and some because I felt like I was being chased away and I don’t get pushed out or run from people or things.”

We went back and forth for a bit longer and he asked me what I think about my current job. I was honest and said that even though I am good at it, this is not what I want to be doing.

“If I told you why, it might bore you. It is only the 983rd greatest story ever told.

Why Not Dad?

The answer to that was simple.

We think we have plenty of time but we never really know for certain if we do.

If we look at our lives as being similar to the arc of a rocket ship mine is probably close to the highest point it will reach and then after a bit it will start to point downwards.

I don’t know how long I have before that happens so I prefer to make the most of my time and not make the mistake of the past of thinking I had endless amounts.

Sure, I can always start over. I can pivot, step left right, duck and then jump over the fire pit. Hell if I fall in it I can always dance in the fire but it doesn’t mean it is smart.

So I am doing my best to set things up so that I can live the kind of life I want to live. It is really not all that different from how I want to write or blog.

It Is What A Blog Should Be is very similar to the philosophy I try to live my life by.

I follow my drummer and dance to the beat I hear in my head. I hope my kids do the same and that they recognize the truth in old Doc Graham’s quote.

If you aren’t living the way you want to live do something about it because you never know when the last tick will tock.

Where Fire Meets Water

Are you ready to go on a little trip? Traveling Jack is getting warmed up now, stretching a little bit here and there. He has some ideas, oh yes he does. Here are a few excerpts from existing fragments and some music that might go with them.


Where Fire Meets Water.

Tunnel Of Love– Bruce Springsteen

“The stormy weather matches my mood. It fluctuates between pensive and irritated. Flashes of light streak across the sky followed by deep booming noises. It reminds me of places past and present. Twenty-five years ago I walked down the streets of Jerusalem and watched a soldier react to the sound of dynamite exploding.

He threw my friend upon the ground and brought his weapon to his shoulder, eyes scanning the highway for signs of danger.

Seventeen years ago violent shaking woke me from a restless slumber. Women and children screamed, car alarms shrieked, glass broke and the earth issued this incredible rumble. For a moment I feared that I would be thrown from my bed and then the moment had passed.

You are out there somewhere. You were always out there. When I walked those streets of Jerusalem and made plans to leave America you were living your life elsewhere. And again you were there when the earth shook and I wondered if this was the moment when the ground would open up and swallow my home.

There has never been a time or moment that you weren’t there. Only moments of ignorance and lack of awareness. You weren’t on my radar or a gleam in my eyes. Perhaps you were a dream that I never wanted to believe in. A dream because I didn’t believe that someone like you was out there.

It is funny in an odd sort of way. I can hear you telling me that you’ll never forgive me for not finding you sooner. I can hear you calling my name…”

Lightning Strikes Twice

Visions of Paradise– Mick Jagger

“It is no secret that I have spent more than a few minutes thinking about you, wondering what you are doing and who you are doing it with. If I listened to theexperts you’d never hear a word from me or about me. I’d be nothing more than a ghost in time, a memory of someone you once knew.

And if my past was any guide than that is how it would have gone down. We would have said whatever it is two people say to each other before they leave and then I would have walked out of your life and found whatever was waiting for me. That is how it had always gone before so it was more than a little shocking to me that it didn’t happen now.

But who am I kidding, this thing we share has never been conventional, ordinary or normal. It has always been something….more. A moment in time that never yellows with age or withers with time. I don’t have to close my eyes to see…”

Echoes of The Future

And So it Goes– Billy Joel

“Can’t remember the last time I signed into the good old Instant Messenger and there you were. I wondered if it was a sign or just coincidence.

Anne Stacey. There you were. A little picture of your smiling face flashed up at me and I smiled back. For a moment I just stopped and stared. Watched and wondered what to do. You told me to give you some space and I had done that. But the truth for both of us is/was that space is a funny term.

Throughout the years there have been a few brief moments where we felt that we needed some time away from each other. Moments of anger and or frustration. Moments of confusion when we tried to catch our breath and figure it all out. But throughout it all we always found that it was impossible to completely forget the existence of the other.

It is a hard thing to explain, but we always feel better when we allow the contact. And when we are separated intentionally or otherwise we have a tendency to seek the little things that connect us. There is a comfort in those things. We passed the point many years ago when…”

Instant Messenger

Nights In White Satin– The Moody Blues

“We’re standing on the balcony staring out at the sunset. You’re barefoot wearing nothing but that sun dress I like. I am in my usual shorts and a t-shirt. Our drinks rest on the table next to us while dolphins play in the sea below us. Great splotches of orange, red, blue and magenta are painted against the sky. Your hand fits perfectly inside of mine and I wonder if I have ever been so content with holding hands. A silent smirk creeps across my face and I catch you staring at me. I know you. I know that look. You want to know what I am thinking but I remain silent.

You look at me again and I raise my eyebrows and smile. In return you give me that look that says that you are somewhere in between content and exasperation. I try not to smirk. I tamed you when no one else could. You know it and I know it. I am trying…”

I Know Things

Bookends– Simon & Garfunkel

I once knew two liars.

A girl and a boy who came of age during a time when science was considered truth and magic was considered to be the province of con men, charlatans and snake oil salesmen.

The two of them grew up in separate towns, went to separate schools and for a very long time lived separate lives.

Lives that were filled with the normal ups and downs and experiences people have. They loved and lost and lived and laughed.

All of these things were done apart from each other which made perfect sense because they grew up in separate worlds and had no reason to be aware of the existence of the other until the time came when they had no reason not to.

The intersection between their lives turned their worlds upside down and inside out. It forced them to reconsider all they once knew as true and made them question all they thought they were as individuals.

Had they lived during the age of magic they wouldn’t have questioned any of these things. They would have accepted the things their hearts knew as truth even when their heads questioned them.

But they didn’t grow up during the age of magic so they relied upon what they knew to be true…science.

A Partial Tale of Two Liars

Thank You– Led Zeppelin

She Saved My Heart

Those four words should be enough. They should be enough for any person or so the Greek poets might say because some of them love their tragedies.

They love a hero with a tragic flaw. They love to tell a story about magic and magnificence destroyed by some simple and obvious flaw.

But there are other poets and other writers who dare to paint a different picture. Ones who understand that a heart can be broken and rebuilt many times and that there is more magic in the night sky than that exposed by small slivers of moonlight.

Some dare to walk upon the long and winding road because they know they are the kind of person who takes the long way home.

Those who dare to be more, to have more and to do more have to accept the burden of walking through the fallow fields as well as the green. The only way to get to the other side is to go through.

And once you accept that you survived the moments that you thought would stop you in your tracks and understand how to read the map upon the scars, well then you are on your way, aren’t you.

She Saved My Heart

dream

I have gone to the place where fire meets water not knowing what it is I seek or expect to find. Gone solely because I follow a path only I can see while listening to a song only I can hear.

Such is the way of the world but few people know this to be true. Some ask why and all I can offer is that not everyone walks their path with their eyes wide open and heart ready to hear the song only it can recognize.

Maybe it is because to be so naked is to risk devastation or maybe it is nothing of the sort.

One can pay Charon’s price to cross the River Styx in search of the person who sings their song but very few will risk never finding their fellow minstrel because the consequences of failure are too dire for their hearts to handle.

And there are those who will talk the talk and pretend to walk the walk only to reach the edge of the abyss and fear what happens if they should fall over the side.

I suppose it only fair to say that my pilgrimage to the place where fire and water meet only happened because I was one of those who took the plunge into the abyss.

But don’t let me fool you into thinking I did so with intent or desire because no such thing took place.

I slipped, tripped and fell.

It wasn’t an easy fall either.

My body slammed into every outcropping of rock and bounced off of every prickly bush down the side of the night covered hill.

I’d tell you the fall made me mad and that it made me hard. I’d tell you it made me more determined to do what I had set out to do but I don’t know what that is any more.

Now I just follow that path that only I can see and I don’t worry about where it leads because there is joy in the journey.

It matters not to me whether anyone believes that because I am not selling my thoughts or trying to ransom my heart. I am just living the life I have hard and fast.

It is all I know how to do.

Rock and Roll– Led Zeppelin

Or maybe it is for none of those reasons. Maybe it is for all of those reasons. I really don’t spend much time thinking about how and why because this is not a math problem or some sort of scientific formula that must be followed or needs to be answered.

If I had to answer the question I would tell you to shut up and kiss me. Stop thinking and do. And when you did you would remember and you would know.

You would know that love is wild and that love is real. You would know that sometimes it is like standing in the eye of the storm. Everywhere you look there is wind, rain and lightning, except for that one place that we are standing together holding hands.

And sometimes you find yourself standing inside the storm and find yourself searching for shelter but if you can hold on long enough you always find it in the same place it was before.

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Gold Dust Woman– Fleetwood Mac

Some people never know the moment.

Some people know the moment and lose it never to capture it again.

Some who lose it seek second chances because that is what has to be done.

And some just sit in silence and none can say what it is they think upon, about or remember.

Heart and soul is more than just a man or just a woman.

Six Minutes Of Wool Gathering

puck


Editor’s Note: Couldn’t sleep on a Saturday night so I adapted a piece I put together here.

Faking Your Own Death Is Problematic

Forest dream!

“He is dead.” Three words. That is all they had for her. “He is dead.” Flat, unemotional and yet they still echoed inside my head. She didn’t cry. She didn’t scream and She didn’t flinch. She didn’t do anything.

Several years ago a man was convicted of murdering his wife. The jury foreman said that they had found the defendant to be lacking in remorse and that he had not acted like a man who had just lost his wife should. The foreman said that it was this inconsistency in the defendant’s behavior that had really sealed his fate and that if he had shown some emotion and acted more like a human being they might have voted differently.

That bothered her because she knew from experience that they could not know how to act, would not know what a normal response would be because there was no normal response to death, especially something that was sudden or unexpected.

What you see on television or in the movies is not necessarily what happens. The fainting, screaming and or wailing is good drama and it makes it easy for a screenwriter to cheat but it still doesn’t mean that it is real. And reality is the point of this.

See the issue is acceptance and all too frequently the mind refuses to reconcile the truth that is placed in front of you with reality. “He is dead” is not something that you automatically digest and consume. The mind has numerous methods of protecting us from things that might harm us and one of those little items is need to process the information, to sort through it and absorb it.

Or maybe not. Maybe it is all a lot of crap that they try to sell you so that psychologists can make more money. Back in college in my basic psych course she had studied this guy named Festinger who had coined the term “cognitive dissonance” as well as some kind of “Cognitive Consistency” theory. Basically they referred to behavior that was either inconsistent with your stated beliefs or some kind of B.S. that said your attitude adapted to adjust to your behavior.

Whatever. It really didn’t matter what she knew for certain was that people would justify their behavior no matter how heinous or how nice. People would always rationalize their actions and few would think twice about what they had done.

Under the bright blue North Carolina sky it was easy to remember the day they called. She was confident that her mother had made the arrangements to call her and to tell her that the boy was gone. She would have done it with love and affection with the sole intent to help her little girl move on but it was one more foolish mistake in a series of missteps between mother and daughter.

Unlike her mother she did not accept life at face value and did not believe everything that was handed to her. At one time she had been that innocent and there was a certain joy in holding onto that kind of naivety. But she had been stripped of it.

The boy was responsible for that. It was hard to love and care for a drowning man and not change and she had. That period of her life had forced her to learn a number of hard lessons and one of them was that people lie. They deceive, they dissemble and they manipulate things to fit their reality.

So when the call came it was easier to just listen and not react. Because what do you do when your biggest nightmare walks out of the closet and into the daylight. Even so it still felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach and for an untold amount of time she had laid on the floor listening to angry cries of a busy signal from a phone that had not been hung up.

It was the incessant beeping of the phone that made her get up and move. The call had left her feeling completely unsettled, but it hadn’t made her forget the hell that the boy had put her through or the anger. And that anger made her determined not to waste any more tears on him until she had details of what had happened.

Two long distance phone calls to old friends were it all it took to confirm that the boy was still alive and that the phone call was fake. In spite of the good news and her vow not to waste any more tears she still found herself staring at a tear streaked face. The call had done nothing to help her move on. If anything it reminded her that sometimes our past can still reach out and hold onto us in the present and that was not a lesson she was prepared to learn.

There was an old saying that people plan and god laughs. In the old days when he had believed in god he would shake his head at people and say they just didn’t understand.

When they would ask him what he meant he told them they couldn’t possibly be smart enough to understand god’s plan and then he would talk about how silly a remark it was to make.

Even though he believed in god he never believed in the kind of benevolent hands on god the people talked about. In his eyes god was more like the Federal government, a being that provided an infrastructure and protected the people from bigger stuff.

The bigger stuff had always been like alien invasions and asteroids or other catastrophic moments. Of course if you had asked him to explain why that didn’t cover war, pestilence and terminal illnesses he wouldn’t have had an answer.

But that is what happens when you ask a young adult with limited life experience to offer explanations. Sometimes it is just not well thought out.

*****

The plan to fake his death wasn’t one of those things, at least not in its entirety.

It was a combination of good intentions gone wrong and plans that went sideways.

The point had been to protect her, to keep her from getting caught up in something stupid that he couldn’t avoid. He had been young and dumb when it had all started and never expected to be concerned with someone else.

She had met him during the middle of it all but he had done his best to make sure she didn’t know anything. It hadn’t been easy and there had been more than a few times where he wondered if maybe he hadn’t been as good at hiding things as he had thought.

“Women always know when men are trying to hide something from them.”

“Baby, I have nothing to hide from you. You are my girl and you always will be.”

She had smiled and hugged him back.

He knew she wasn’t stupid and was probing but he was certain he had calmed her nerves and made her comfortable. If she hadn’t been she would have keep pushing. Her temperament never would have let her relax and eventually he would have asked her if she intended to nag him to death.

It would have been a joke. She would have made a face, he would have smiled and they would have moved on like they always did.

But it didn’t go down like that.

Maybe if there would have been more time it would have, but that was the sort of speculation people who looked back used and there was no time for that.

But then again maybe he was wrong.

It was hard to think about that time. Hard not to feel robbed of opportunity and something special.

Things had moved so quickly then, there hadn’t been time to think everything through. All he had was enough space to figure out how to make sure she was protected.

He had moved quickly to make it happen and then done his best to disappear.

And now all these years later he was back, wondering if there was a way to reclaim his name again.

Editor’s Note: I took part of a post I wrote years ago and added to it. Haven’t decided if I’ll leave this fragment alone or do more with it.