God of Squirrels – Chapter Seven: Freedom

As Dr. Merkel is suddenly lifted off her feet and levitated onto her back, she thinks there is never any reasoning with these Greys. She rises toward the ceiling and just as she’s about to bump her forehead on its asbestos laded popcorn texture, an intense orange light surrounds her and she passes right through the ceiling and through the building’s roof and out into the fresh late morning air. Cherry blossoms bloom below, scenting the air with spring.

High above her is a saucer ship with an open portal in its underside. As she’s lifted toward it on a beam of light, she says, “All of this is really unnecessary. We can take my car. It’s parked in the building’s garage, and Burgerville is just down the road a short ways. Why always so elaborate? Call my office, make an appointment, we can take my Mercedes. I won’t even charge you for mileage.”

But the Greys don’t respond, and as she brought inside the ship, she takes one last big breath of fresh flower scented air before being enclosed in the stink of their ship and the doors seal closed beneath her.

*   *   *

Buck hasn’t felt this free since spring break thirty years ago in Mexico when he took magic mushrooms and ate the worm out of the bottom of a bottle of mescal. Continue reading “God of Squirrels – Chapter Seven: Freedom”


God of Squirrels – Chapter Six: Side Effects

As Buck sits in his car in the Costco parking lot, a white paper sack full of prescriptions in his lap, he cracks open his can of diet cola and starts popping pills. He reads the directions on the prescription bottles only so far as to learn how many pills to take, and not which play well with others and which should be taken alone. Since the dose is based on the average size person and since he’s packing a few extra pounds around his middle, he doubles the doses of all the prescriptions. By the time he’s done knocking back the pills, his tongue is so blue with artificial coloring, it would make Doc proud.

He’s startles at a knock on his car window. A uniformed security guard stares in at him. He lowers his window half way. “Yes?”

The guard’s face is inches from the window. His breath is minty fresh. “Sir, you shouldn’t take your prescriptions out in the open like this. We’ve had a string of robberies in the parking lot where customers have had their prescriptions stolen while doing just what you’re doing.”

“Really? That’s good to know,” Buck reads the name tag, thinking he should get one for his suit, “Sam.” His skin starts to feel really warm so he lowers the window all the way. “That’s a spiffy uniform you’re wearing.” Buck means it. For some reason that he can’t explain, the sharp creases in the dark blue polyester trousers look really cool to him right now. He’s not trying to give Sam a hard time, but Sam doesn’t know that.

Sam pulls down on his baseball cap, given to him by a strange guy downtown he used to think was crazy because he talked to himself all the time, but not any longer. “It’s honest work, pal. No need to make fun.”

Buck smiles a big genuine smile. “No, Sam, don’t take it that way. I mean it, really. Uniforms are underrated. They give the wearer a seriousness a suit can never match, no mater how powerful the tie is.” Buck fiddles with his own tie knot and realizes he’s babbling. “You’re not even wearing a tie and you look very serious. I get the sense you must really enjoy your job.”

Sam nods. “I stopped a robbery last week. Prescriptions again. Sorry, I thought you were taking the piss.”

“Nah, not me, pants still zipped,” he says and laughs at his own joke, a trait he ridicules in others for doing but it’s like he’s outside his body watching himself laugh. He’s acting like such an idiot, yucking it up with a rent-a-cop of all people and babbling about nonsense, but he can’t do anything about it because suddenly, with a loud buzz in his head, he really is outside his body and no longer a participant, only an observer.

Buck’s body starts up the car and gives Sam a grin so big it looks like his teeth might pop out. “Go for the gold, Sam, that’s what I’m going to do.” With that he puts it in drive and zooms out of the parking lot, his arm out the window waving the whole way.

But to Out of Body Buck’s surprise, he’s left sitting on his keister in the greasy stain on the pavement of parking spot 27. He looks up at Sam, wondering what just happened, and is reassured to see Sam looking down at him, as if he’s still the physical Buck. “Can you help me?” he asks.

Sam shakes his head at Out of Body Buck. “Sorry, dude. You’re the part of him that’s holding him back. You’ve been jettisoned.” Sam chuckles. “Odd really. It’s usually the higher-self, the ethereal part, that pushes the ego personality to love more. But not in your case.”

“How can you know that? Are you some sort of security guard guru?”

“Because he was laughing and happy when he left. How many people do you know who laugh when they drive? Can you remember the last time you laughed? How about the last time you were happy?”

Out of Body Buck can’t remember. He’s been nothing but angry and anxious for as long as he can remember. Maybe Sam is right. “I’ve been going through a rough patch in my marriage, might even get divorced. It’s hard to be anything but sad and pissed.”

“Buddy, looks like you just divorced yourself.”

Out of Body Buck gets to his feet, his surprise and fear turning to anger. “Now who’s taking the piss? Fucking rent-a-cop.”

Sam laughs. “See? I was so right about you. You are the crappy part of you that’s been left behind. The part of you that just drove off seems like a real nice guy. I’d have a beer with him anytime, though he seems more into pills than is my thing, but everyone to their own.”

“But what will happen to me?”

Sam touches the bill of his cap. “Not my problem, pal. I don’t have a clue anyway.” He pulls the cap off and the apparition of Out of Body Buck disappears. They’re much easier to ignore when you can’t see them, he thinks as he returns to walking his patrol beat through the parking lot.

Next chapter – Freedom

Previous chapter – Velvet

First Chapter: Buck

God of Squirrels – Chapter Five: Velvet

“I mean, can you imagine it? Winning the Tour de France seven times?” Buck Junior says. “And in a row at that. Quite an achievement. Whenever I get in a tight spot, I ask myself, what would Lance do?”

As Velvet locks her bicycle outside the building where their pick-up is, she wishes the newbie she’s training would shut up about Lance Armstrong. She doesn’t give a bat’s fart about what Lance would do. “You do know he doped his way to all seven tour wins?”

Junior looks taken aback. “Yeah, I know that. It shows dedication, don’t you think? Winning at any cost? Something this country has forgotten how to do.”

“Spin it however you like, it’s still cheating,” she says, locking her bike.

Junior locks his bicycle too and follows her lead inside. “Maybe, or you could say he was simply leveling the playing field. All of the big names from Lance’s era got busted at one point or another. And remember, he was betrayed by a teammate, not caught, he should be commended for that, for being such a good cheater. He’s just plain good at everything he does. If that Judas Floyd Landis had kept his mouth shut, no one would be the wiser and Lance would still be a national hero.”

Velvet knows it’s pointless to argue with a true believer. They’ll call a dick a clit if it will keep their world outlook straight. She presses the up button for the elevator. “A word of advice, newbie. I get it that he’s your hero and you’ve got a big man-crush on him, but if you keep going on about him like this, especially in front of the other messengers and drivers, you’re going to get tagged with a nickname I doubt you’ll like.”

“Cool, a nickname? I’ve always wanted a nickname. How about Lancet?” he says as the elevator arrives and they get on. “I’ve never liked being called Junior.”

“Junior may be lame, but preferable to Lance’s Apprentice.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

Velvet looks at him. He’s maybe a year younger than her but it seems like a lot more, and sort of dumb in a likable way. “I’m being kind. It’s your first day. Believe me, it’ll be much worse.”

When they return to their bicycles with the pick-up secure in Velvets all-weather backpack, Velvet catches sight of a strange craft hovering silently over the building across the street. “What in the world is that?” she says as she pushes back her skullcap, and as she does, the craft disappears.

“See what?” Junior asks, looking where Velvet is looking.

“I don’t know. It’s gone.” She shakes her head and pulls her cap back on. As she does, the craft reappears over the building. She pulls the cap off and it’s gone. “Fuck me,” she says and tosses Junior the cap. “Put that on and look over there.”

Feeling the dampness of the skullcap, he hesitates. “Why?”

“Because it’s what Lance would do, Apprentice.”

He puts it on. “Holy cow, what is that?”

“So you see it too? Then it’s not some sort of magic mushroom flashback.”

“That’s no helicopter. That’s totally scifi.” He pulls the cap off. “Now it’s gone.” When he puts the cap back on, it reappears, but this time a woman is floating in the air below it. “It’s about to eat some woman.”

Velvet grabs her cap from his head and pulls it on just in time to see the woman disappear inside the bottom of the craft and for it to fly away at immense speed. “It’s gone. It took the woman and it’s gone. I wonder if it’ll bring her back.”

“I want one of those hats.” Junior wipes the residual dampness on his head where the hat was with the back of his hand. “What else can you see with that thing on?”

“I don’t know. I only got this morning. It was a gift from my dog nanny.”

“Dog nanny?”

“Yes, I have a dog nanny. Come on, let’s go.”

Next chapter – Side Effects

Previous chapter – Burger and Fries

First Chapter: Buck

God of Squirrels – Chapter Three: Dr. Merkel

Buck’s wife, Tanita, sits across from her longtime therapist, Dr. Merkel. “I tell you, he’s crazy. I sleep all night long, like a rock, in our bed, and he accuses me of sneaking out to have an affair. Why would I do that? I don’t even like sex. And what does he care? He gave up touching me in that way years ago. All we do in bed together is snore and fart, and that’s just fine by me. I don’t need to seek that elsewhere.”

Dr. Merkel nods her understanding and glimpses at the clock strategically located on the wall behind the patient’s chair. Twenty-five minutes passed ten, only five more minutes of this and then her escort stud of the week will arrive to roger her back to life after being drained by Tanita’s deeply depressing outlook on life. If a negative spin can be put on an Easter egg, Tanita is the woman to do it.

Dr. Merkel notices Tanita looking at her like she should be saying something, so she nods her head some more, then poses with her pencil eraser against her chin and says, “You need to ask yourself if you want to be with Buck or go out on your own. You need to resolve your relationship ambivalence before you can move passed this.” Her favorite phrase. Clients love to move passed things.

She speaks on autopilot while her thoughts are on the approaching encounter with the escort, Ricardo, a new one she hasn’t had yet. He has his own exercise channel on YouTube. She was sold after watching the first few minutes of a video where he bounced a silver dollar off his ass.

The irony of being a therapist to mostly married people when she has never married, nor ever wanted to, amuses her everyday. She wears a ring with a rock on her ring finger and has framed family photos on her desk, but it’s all Photoshop and stagecraft to create empathy and trust. Dr. Merkel is a realist and knows she’s not much more than a human placebo, there to listen and to prescribe the illusion of progress, of moving passed.

Tanita pulls on a strand of hair and checks it for split ends. “But how can I get passed my ambivalence if all I feel is ambivalence?”

“Did you try the meditation technique I suggested?” Few patients did.

“It was awful. I don’t know how anyone can sit still like that.”

“You do every night when you sit in front of your television screen.” Dr. Merkel gave up watching television years ago. It was too much like visiting with her patients but without getting paid. She may have started out as a therapist to help people, but she soon “moved passed” her early dedication and it became about making money. She helped where she could, but she wasn’t going to be naive about it.

“That’s different.”

“Is it? You simply watch the thoughts of your mind as if they are one of your television shows. They’re quite similar, really.” But Dr. Merkel knows it’s pointless to attempt to convince Tanita of this. Tanita insists on constant distraction from exactly what she’s suggesting she face, herself. She decides to bring up the regression therapy she’s been considering for her. “Are you familiar with hypnosis?”

“Like the Mad Russian who hypnotizes people to quit smoking?”

Dr. Merkel smiles at the notion, or bark like a dog. “Yes, something like that, but deeper. With you in the proper state, we could ask your unconscious what it is that you truly want to do with your life. It may even share what your life’s purpose is. Please consider this for your session next week.” At the very least, Dr. Merkel thinks, I’ll hypnotize her into an hour long nap and be spared her negativity for a session.

The intercom on Dr. Merkel’s desk beeps and her receptionist, Johnny, a nice piece of man himself, says, “Dr. Merkel, your ten and a half appointment is here.”

Ten and a half, that wicked boy, she thinks, mildly frustrated that he doesn’t swing her way.

Next chapter: Burger and Fries

Previous chapter: Buck Junior

Chapter One: Buck

God of Squirrels – Chapter Two: Buck Junior

Buck Junior loves cycling so much he has sworn an oath to himself that he’s going to do everything he can to be the next Lance Armstrong. Dope, blood transfusions, doesn’t matter, if it gets him on that center podium in Paris. So last night as he hung out with his best friend, Doxie, smoking bowls of prime Snoop Dogg brand weed, supergluing his feet inside his cycling shoes seemed like a brilliant idea. The logic is fuzzy now in the morning, something about having more time for riding because he’s never waste time searching for his shoes, but it made more sense in the moment and isn’t everyone telling everyone else you need to live in the moment?

He really needs a shower because he totally reeks like a grow house, but now he is wasting a lot of time trying to pull his skinny black jeans over his bike shoes and if he doesn’t hurry this up, he’s going to be late for the first day of his summer job as a bike messenger. He still can’t believe they’re going to pay him to ride a bike, almost like turning pro. It doesn’t get any cooler than that. Scoring this job made him a total believer in a higher power being on his side. He doesn’t know if it’s God, or The Force, or string theory, it only matters that it likes cycling because a career in football isn’t an option for a guy of five feet six inches and 130 pounds unless he wants to be the towel boy.

Well, the jeans aren’t going to fit over his shoes and the shoes aren’t coming off his feet. Shittle fizzle, he thinks, what would Lance do? So with his pants around his ankles, he drags them behind as he goes in search of a pair of scissors and some more dope.

Next chapter: Dr. Merkel

Chapter One: Buck

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”

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.”