God of Squirrels – Chapter One: Buck

Buck stands in the exam room under the claustrophobic low ceiling and puke green walls with his pants and boxers around his ankles, trying to figure out what to do with his hands. If it had been his wife sitting on the short stool in front of him, he still wouldn’t have known what to do with them. They’d never had any chemistry in the sex department.

Christ, Buck, don’t think about sex while Doc holds your testicles in his palm like a pair of cream eggs, he tells himself. Count the age spots on top of his bald head. Is that the Big Dipper?

“Turn your head and cough,” Doc says.

“Hack, hack.” This is pointless, Buck thinks, looking down at Doc’s bald head. Maybe that’s Orion. What does the state of my balls have to do with indigestion or anxiety? He’d had a panic attack on the freeway and just wanted Doc to give him a quick fix.

“Turn around, please, and lean over the table.” Doc reaches for a latex glove and a white tube of lube. “Now try to relax.” Continue reading “God of Squirrels – Chapter One: Buck”



When the forecast said it was going to be 80, Flora and Lea took the drive out to Rooster Rock and hit the nude beach.

“Is that a tattoo on your butt?” Lea asks Flora as they get settled on their over-sized towels. “I thought you were against them. You’re always going off about how a flower on a teen will look wilted when they get in their thirties.”

“I have a twin sister, Fleur. Whenever she got caught doing something bad, she’d say she was me.”

“That’s kind of rude.”

“Not really. We both did it. Our mom couldn’t tell us apart and we’d game her so much she never knew which of us to punish. She finally got fed up with our antics and convinced a friend of hers to tattoo and x on my ass. We were only six, too young to have it done legally.”

“She really couldn’t tell you apart?”

“We were the most identical twins the staff at the hospital had ever seen, and we remained so as we grew up.” She rubs tanning lotion on the little x on her butt. “And then we weren’t. I had this nasty little x that marked me as imperfect.”

“Let me get that,” Lea says, takes the bottle and squeezes lotion on Flora’s back.

“But when my sister and I looked old enough to pass for eighteen, Fleur got an identical x on her butt and I had mine re-inked. Not that it mattered to our mom at that point, but it did to us. We were identical again, both marked imperfect.”

The Barstool Cowboy – Tall Tales

When I take my seat on the barstool next to McCluskey, he has the newspaper spread out on top of the bar in front of him. He gives it a tap with his fingertips and says, “This used to be an actual full-size paper, the kind you wrapped your dishes in when you moved. Now, at tabloid size, it’s not much more than an advertiser with staples. You might be able to wrap a saucer with it, but not a dinner plate, and totally worthless in the can if you run out of tp, unless you want a bunch of colored newsprint on your bum.”

The bartender sets down my usual in front of me. “But there you sit, reading it,” I say.

“I’m looking to see what lies they’re shilling to the masses today, that and checking the comics. There used to be two full pages of comics and celebrity pinhead gossip, now there’s not even enough amusement to last a cigarette. It used to take me three beers to read the paper, now I’m done before I’ve finished even one.”

“Maybe you just drink faster now with all the practice you’ve had.”

McCluskey grunts.

“So what have you discovered in it today?” I ask.

“Looks like people are pretty upset about this Brian Williams character telling tall tales about his helicopter rides in Iraq, seems he’s told it quite a few times and a few other boppers.”

“His credibility sure has taken a hit. I wonder if he’ll recover.”

McCluskey shakes his head. “What gets me is the number of people he worked with who help him spread and maintain his tails. I mean he had his film crew and editors and support flunkies. The media wants you to think the story is about Williams and whether his career will survive the hit, but that’s just a diversion. The real story is that tall tales are so commonplace in the news industry that it took more than a decade for the ones Williams was telling to accumulate to the point of being out of the norm enough for them to be noticed.” He swigs his beer. “So they drop in another anchor to take his place, but nothing will change, the news culture remains the same. The others will sacrifice Williams to cover their own asses so they can continue to tweak the news here and there to fit what they want people to think.”

I sip my beer. “That’s awful cynical.”

He shrugs. “They should lure Dan Rather out of retirement and he and Williams can be co-anchors. Now that would be a news team worth watching.”


Previous Barstool Cowboy: One Plus One Is Three

The Barstool Cowboy – One Plus One Is Three

“You need to embrace the new, McCluskey. Don’t be afraid of the technology,” I say as I shake off my wet jacket, hang it on a peg and take the stool next to him at the bar. He stops swearing at his iPhone and shoves it in the pocket of his plaid shirt.

McCluskey shakes his head. “I miss my flip-phone. At least I had that one figured out, but no, the wife says get an iPhone, they’re much better, she says. I hold out, but then she gets me one for Christmas, so I’m stuck with it. Whenever I see ‘New and Improved’ I think it’s a con. ‘Sweeter But With Less Sugar.’ Like just because they print it on the box I’m going to believe it. ‘All Natural Ingredients.’ Hell, so is cancer.”

I order my usual and say, “Advertisers are good at selling emotions and vague promises of whatnot. A lot of people get taken in by it.”

I know what McCluskey is going to say, but I wait for it.

“Yeah, well a lot of people are stupid,” he says.

“That’s your answer to everything, more so when it’s raining.”

McCluskey laughs. “But you, old buddy, with all of your politeness and sensitivity to others, have yet to dispute me on it. I think you secretly agree that a lot of people are stupid. But that’s okay, stay in the closet with the rest of the politically correct. It’s only a matter of time before you get so fed up with them telling you one plus one is three that you won’t be able to stomach it any longer and you’ll admit to yourself that not only are a lot of people stupid, but that you’ve been one of them by buying into that politically correct bs.”

“Ha, you are who your friends are,” I say.

“That’s one of those asinine memes to keep the sheep in line. Fear of going against the flow makes people stupid, but when their heads clear they’ll know I’ve been speaking the truth all along.”

“So I’m stupid with fear and a sheep?”

“Consider me a missionary of truth and this barstool is my pulpit.” McCluskey swigs his beer. If we’d been fishing or camping, he’d let a out a loud burp, but he restrains himself as the waitress passes. He turns in his seat and looks at me pointedly. “I’ve faith truth will win out in the end. Do you remember the 80s?”


“How’d that New Coke taste? Or that Dry Beer? I remember you drinking both and nothing but and where are they now?”

“Point taken.”

Mismatched Socks and Poor Fitting Shoes

Standing in my underwear in front of my closet,
Should I wear this or should I wear that?
Who do I need to be today?
But what if no one needs me to be anyone?
I’m lost in a sea of indecision,
Barely able to choose which pants to wear.
Without a goal I drift,
Using inquiry to cut loose false meaning in my life
Like ballast in a listing ship.
Trouble with asking questions
Of what everyone takes for granted
Is that the answers aren’t nearly as forthcoming
As I would expect from what is so accepted.
Likes and dislikes seem irrelevant
When I don’t know who
Is doing the liking and disliking
Though I know it’s me.
Do I like green pants? Someone in my past didn’t, so I don’t.
Just who am I today? Green or blue or beige?
Sometimes I give up and take a break
Because really, what is the point of pants?
Am I not more comfortable in my underwear?
Maybe I’d be more so without even that?


That’ll make me happy,
Or, they’ll make me complete.
I think I want something
Or I want to be with someone,
But when I get it I want something else
And it ends up going to Goodwill
Or we split up and go our separate ways.
The repetition has revealed the pattern.
Now I don’t know what I want
And don’t trust my desires
To be anything more than distractions
Until the next shiny bobble shimmers by.

Black and Blue

The property management lady looks at the signature on the lease. “We rent mainly to young urban professionals like yourself, but we have some older tenants like me who have been with us for years. You should really enjoy living here.” The last is said with a stern stare that says, If you don’t enjoy living here, something is seriously wrong with you.

“I’m sure I’ll like it just fine.” John glances at the keys she holds to his new apartment. He’s signed the lease and given her a check, but she makes no move to give him the keys. Instead, she just makes him uncomfortable by staring at his hairline. “Is there anything else?” he asks.

She pulls her gaze from his hair and smiles at his face. “No, nothing at all. You’ll fit in fine.” She hands him the keys, then rises to shake his hand. “Welcome to the Portland Towers.” Continue reading “Black and Blue”

The Walk-In

Wayne felt slightly off when he woke up and even more so when he realized he wasn’t in his own bed. At 73, he couldn’t remember the last time this happened. The bed had red sheets with tiny black hearts. On the facing wall amongst cutouts from teen fan magazines, was a poster of a boy band, four teenage boys posing petulantly for the camera wearing black rags and sporting black die jobs. They all looked like androgynous twerps to Wayne, more examples of the feminization of today’s male. The swagger of Sinatra had been more his style.

As he lay there letting his old head clear of sleep, the significance of waking in a girl’s bedroom fully struck him. With a hot flash of adrenaline he glanced at the rest of the bed, relieved to be the only one in it. He couldn’t recall a thing from last night, which meant he must’ve blacked out, but he didn’t remember drinking or have a headache or even feel a hangover. In fact he felt really good. “Peppy” described it best and he hadn’t felt peppy since his doctor told him to lay off the triple espresso a decade ago.

He rubbed his face with his hands, wondering how the hell he ended up in this bed, and froze. His face felt all wrong; it was smaller and the skin was soft and smooth, no morning stubble. He felt his head with his hands and found he was no longer bald but had long brown hair and both his ears were pierced in multiple places. He stared at his hands, flipping them back and forth. They were the hands of a woman. Oh my god, he thought in a panic and cupped his crotch. His Johnson was gone. And so were his jewels. Continue reading “The Walk-In”

Swallow It

That first Christmas being back in Portland with my family was my first time being sober through the holidays since I was a teenager. It was raining Christmas, that distinct Pacific Northwest drizzle that is less than rain but more than mist, much like in the Scottish Highlands but without the romance, and we ate Christmas dinner at my brother-in-law’s parents’ house. It was an extended gathering of his family and my sister’s. I knew everyone, but not well enough not to be uncomfortable when the banter faltered. I don’t follow sports, not even the local U of O Ducks, but if I had the evening would’ve been a breeze. This was the fallback topic when there was no interest in the other person, easy conversation for people halfway through their second jumbo box of Gallo’s finest. Continue reading “Swallow It”


Ethan had sex on the brain ever since his girlfriend of two years, Andrea, left Friday for Aruba. He’d been single now for eight days and nights. When they were together, he’d been so faithful to her that if he hadn’t forgotten about other women, he’d certainly inoculated himself to interest in them. But now that she was gone, she had set him free. Everywhere were women he no longer had to stop himself from being interested in, women he didn’t have to look away from. Continue reading “Single”