This will make you sad, but that’s alright. If you never feel sad, it will be damn near impossible to ever know when you’re happy.
Earlier today my train was cancelled because an earlier train struck a car that was just sitting on the tracks. The women who was driving that car got out, so that’s not the part that you’ll find sad. She didn’t panic, so she got out and she lived. But it reminded me of this one time when someone didn’t. This is your last chance to bail from this post with your heart in tact. Continue reading “A Tuesday Tragedy”
Consider the timeless and romantic figure of the pistolero. Striking in no manner, other than his poverty, he appears at the edge of town leading the haggard old mule that bears his few meager possessions. Ragged pantaloons, a bloodstained, dirty shirt that hangs on his bony frame, and boots that leave nail marks in the hardpan. He has no rig for his gun, so he tucks it into the rope that serves as his belt.
His weapon is simple in design, but it’s accurate, oiled, and balanced. Some of the men in town speculate that the chambers of the large-bore revolver might be empty, based on the stranger’s disheveled, worn appearance—after all, how does a man live past his thirtieth year and have so little to show—but they aren’t making any serious bets on the number of rounds in his gun. Besides, there’s no law against living a life of destitution—or even being beaten down by life, love, and the elements. The pistolero swiftly fades from the consciousness of anyone who has even bothered to notice him in the first place. Continue reading “El Pistolero”
The year is 1918, and we find ourselves riding mostly westward via rail, but on a path that drifts in directions that make sense to neither Man nor God. The long icy train carrying a cargo of cattle, swine, and leathery human beings wends its way upon tracks bent round mountains, over gorges, and through rocky walls. The almanac had predicted a bitter, harsh winter, but the passengers, being the men and women they were, denied nature’s potency—not to mention the acumen of the lily-white college boys out in Pennsylvania who rejected both war and hardship so that they could publish their preachy little weather books. Continue reading “The Year Was 1918: Journey Into the West”
I take a commuter train to work. It has a capacity of about 250, but rarely books more than a 100 riders per trip.
Now, I want you to consider something. What if each of those riders’ lives represented something that you hate: a politician, an activist, a “fake-news” reporter (for the one or two of you MAGA people who might be reading this), a bad musician— whatever. It really has to be someone that you truly believe does harm to the world.
Mind you, the passengers are relatively innocent—the guilt of their lives is representative of a cross-section of society—but if one’s life should end, the corresponding person that you loathe also goes into the history books. It’s not a cruel death. Their soul just flies from their body.
“When people see a man walking with an umbrella in the sun, they look up at the sky. What for? They’ve got an app on their phone ten times more powerful than their dang eyes. What they should be askin’ is, ‘Why that guy have an umbrella on a sunny day? We ain’t had no rain in a spell. What he up to?’ But nah, they never ask that.
You look at this thing, boy. No, don’t touch. Just look. A hook, a stalk, and a bunch of flaring cloth folds. I didn’t make no modifications. I tried. Had a corkscrew in one of my earlier models down at the business end. Kept breaking off. It’s just an umbrella, son. Made to keep the dang rain off your ol’ head. And it do that, too. Continue reading “The Umbrella Man”
When eleven-year-old Melvin started to build model airplanes for kicks, he was just looking for a way to pass the time and beat the summer heat during break. A straight-A student, Melvin diligently read the instructions on not only the hobby shop model kits, but also on the airplane cement that his mom bought him at the five and dime. Melvin knew to use conservative amounts of glue for his projects and only in a well-ventilated area—near a fan or an open window.
But then one day, Melvin stayed up past his bedtime, finishing the construction of the fuselage for a 1:50 P-51 Mustang that he’d bought with the money he’d earned picking up lawn-clippings for Mr. Watson—the owner of the neighborhood lawn service. Melvin, in his enthusiasm to complete his prize model, misjudged his own level of exhaustion, and fell asleep on his desk NEXT TO AN OPEN TUBE OF AIRPLANE GLUE! Continue reading “Talk to Your Kids About Glue”
I spent a lot of time in Moscow before the Iron Curtain came down, but not always. Sometimes, they’d send me over to Budapest or Minsk or Prague, and I didn’t have so much supervision. A lot of time, little assignments like this were a type of reward for a job well done in Russia. Unofficial. Everyone loved to go to Prague. My God, what a time, but even Moscow could be fun back then.
I had one of those black knee-length leather coats that everyone thinks we wore to look intimidating, but the truth of the matter is that we thought they really just looked cool. Maybe our idea of cool was intimidating. I don’t know. But I’d pick some little restaurant with good music and vodka and a little bit of a crowd and I’d make a grand entrance. Continue reading “Confessions of a Former KGB Officer (But Not a Very Good One)”