Monday, August 31, 2015

Write Your Own

I don't have anything witty or funny to say. Please fill this space with your witty comment. Why should I have to do all the work?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ghosts, Part 10

The town of Clement was different once, you know. We had businesses, homes, even our own post office. But businesses failed, people moved away, and we lost our post office to Shumark City. Tornadoes, fires, and time itself leveled most of what was left.

But back then, Clement had a thriving Main Street. And more than enough men to form Cotting's "posse." Larry and Ronald collected about twenty men, none of them armed with more than pocket knives. Cotting made sure there were no weapons besides his and the officers. Cotting wanted no one to steal his shot.

You probably find Cotting's eagerness to kill Simon strange. No bad blood existed between them. Cotting had only seen Simon with the Watts family around town a few times, and the two men had never met. But Cotting, you see, had been itching for a chance to kill another man ever since he killed his brother.

That murder happened like this. Devene Cotting had been jealous of his older brother Levi almost from the time Devene could walk. His parents doted on Levi and treated Cotting like the accident he was. Levi got the new clothes, Devene got the hand-me-downs. Levi received A's and B's in school while Devene struggled for every C. Levi had blue eyes, tousled blond hair, and a lean body made even stronger by football and track. Devene had muddy brown eyes, a tangle of black hair, and a body made by excessive sweets and second helpings of everything. Levi gave Devene plenty to be jealous of.

Until one day, when Devene was 13 and Levin was 15, they walked home from school on the old Crimsom Creek bridge, Levi a few steps ahead of his younger brother. It was report card day, and Levi was bragging about his straight A's while Devene walked behind and hated Levi with a purity only seen in madmen. Levi stopped and looked down at the river.

"What's he doing?" Levi said, not really asking his brother because he didn't care what his brother thought one way or another. He didn't hate Devene. He simply held him in contempt.

Levi had seen Terrance Mason on the side of the river. Mason held a black box and was turning in circles. They could hear that Mason was speaking, but they couldn't make out the words. Levi moved closer to the edge.

And suddenly it was all so clear to Devene Cotting what he should do. He stepped forward and pushed. Devene marveled at the simplicity of it.

Levi fell, screaming until he hit the water. He disappeared under the surface. Devene watched calmly as his brother struggled for a few moments, but Levi had apparently broke something in his fall. He vanished under the water finally and didn't come back up.

Devene watched the whole time. Movement caught his eye. Mason had walked to the edge of the river and looked up at Devene. Only then did Devene get scared. What did Mason see?

Mason looked out over the river and back at Devene. Mason waved to the boy. Mason walked away from the river back up a trail, carrying a black box under his arm.

Over the years, Cotting had decided Mason hadn't seen anything, although he didn't know how the barman had missed what happened. But what was Mason doing with that box, anyway? Probably something perverted, Cotting thought, and if Mason had seen anything, he certainly gave no sign of it.

And that was the end of Levi Cotting. Devene had thought his parents would turn to him, their only remaining child, but instead grief hardened their hearts. He would never measure up to Levi, and they let him know plenty about it until they were killed in car wreck outside Weatherford when Devene was twenty-three. With their money, he lived a good life and finally got the mayor, a beer drinking buddy, to appoint him as chief of police, a job where he got some respect and some authority.

Over the years as his boring life ground him down, Cotting had relived Levi's death many times. As he thought about it, Cotting realised something important, something essential had been missing in the murder. Finally one night while nursing a beer at Mason's Bar and Grill, he realized what it was. He hadn't got to see the fear in Levi's face. Levi hadn't suffered enough. It had been too quick.

He had stuffed that terrible thought to the back of his mind, but it had lurked there ever since. Now was his chance. He was finally going to get to kill someone the right way. For the first time in a long time, Police Chief Devene Cotting felt alive.

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ghosts, Part 9

In the woods, Simon Simple continued to run. Not that he thought anyone was chasing him yet. He just enjoyed running in his newly granted grace. No shamble, no clumsy run that made him look like a flailing chicken. Instead, a clean, direct stride with no wasted movement. He felt like he was flying.

Davey hung to him. The boy had stopped crying and buried his head against Simon Simple. Simon thought the little fellow was about to go to sleep, which would not be a bad thing all things considered, particularly when Simon considered the terrors the night would hold.

As he ran, he began to think. To consider all the possibilities that his previously limited intelligence had denied him. To think about his life and how -- by being his companions -- the Shining Ones had influenced him.

He altered his direction at an ancient oak tree and carried Davey away from the gnarled woods behind the Watts house into a true forest. Trees that had lived at least two hundred years or more. A green canopy overhead. Shaggy moss. The trees grew taller the further he went, and the air filled with mist.

In a small clearing circled by bone white stones, three Shining Ones waited. Simon stopped, catching his breath. He checked Davey; the sleeping boy didn't stir. Simon stepped in the circle. He placed the little boy on a long stone. Davey shifted and opened his eyes, and seeing Simon, smiled a sleepy smile before drifting off again.

"I've had time to think," Simon said, still watching Davey.

Yes? The Shining Ones glanced at each other and waited.

"What if I kept running?" Simon asked softly. "What if I didn't stop until Davey was several states away? Would he be safe then?"

Perhaps, the first Shining One said. Is that your decision? If the Shining Ones had been humans, they would have held their breath.

"Will I lose my ... intelligence if I do?" Simon asked.

The second Shining One shook her head. What gifts have been granted would remain. You could live a good life. Perhaps marry and have children of your own. You could be happy. She paused. We would not condemn you for choosing happiness over pain and death, dear Simon.

Simon looked at her. "If you hadn't made me so smart," Simon said, "I'd choose that. I'd have a good life. Davey would have a good life." He smiled sadly. "But I can see plainly there would be a cost to my decision."

Yes, she said.

"What would happen to Nate and Bettie?"

They would be lost, the second one said.

"And Mattie? Jacob?" He stopped as his mind put together things he remembered but had previous lacked the ability to understand. Those nights Mattie had slipped out and returned early in the morning. Her strange comments at times to the children. Things she whispered under her breath. Her fits of temper and the remorse afterwards. He looked at the Shining Ones with stricken eyes. "Mattie! I didn't realize ..."

Do not judge her harshly, the third Shining One said. She is young and lonely. She is only seeking comfort. She doesn't understand what she has carried into her home. All humans make decisions that impact their future. None of them know the consequences of their simplest choices until time passes.

Simon closed his eyes. "If I choose to be happy, if I choose to take Davey to safety, everyone else suffers."

It is not all your burden, the first Shining One said. They have choices, also. No one future is set. But a handful of futures are more likely if you choose your happiness. In those handful, the children and their parents are irrevocably lost.

"So I must sacrifice myself to save them," Simon said. "This new world, my new future, the limitless possibilities ... I have to give it up."

It always comes to sacrifice, Simon, the third Shining One said. We do not know why humans have to purchase wisdom with pain. Nor life with sacrifice. But that is the way of this world. Simon, you don't have to choose this path.

Simon looked at him bleakly. "Yes, I do. Nate, Bettie ... Mattie, Jacob, they're my family." He half-smiled. "Surely they're worth whatever I have to pay, but before I do this, I require a promise."

If it is within our power, we will grant it, the second Shining One said. The first one looked at her, but did not speak.

"Protect Davey," Simon said.

We will try -- she started to say.

"No," Simon interrupted. "Promise to keep him safe. For me. Let that be my price."

We cannot promise-- the third one started.

We will protect him, the first one said. As we have said, so will it be.

The other two Shining Ones looked at him briefly and then repeated his words. As we have said, so will it be.

"Thank you," Simon said. He took a deep breath. "Now, what do I do next?"

First, we must tell -- now that you've made your decision -- that more lives hang in the balance than you might have realized, the first one said. The fallen ones have chosen this town to wage a conflict. If we fail, the evil unleashed here will spread. It will eat away the morality of thousands and create a nightmare where unspeakable horrors will be the norm. The first one stepped forward. We cannot allow that to occur. We must stand here or there will be nowhere left for anyone to stand.

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ghosts, Part 8

You’re probably wondering about the box, aren’t you? What it is? Where it came from? Who sent it? What’s inside? Well, you’ll learn if you listen long enough. I will tell you this: Humanity has always had a strange relationship with boxes.

Remember Pandora? The myth shows up in many ancient cultures around the world. The details change, but there’s always a box. A box that shouldn’t be opened. Think about all those treasure chests that pirates supposedly hid and guarded with deadly man-traps. We have boxes everywhere. Coffers. Safety deposit boxes.


A few years back, a University of Oklahoma researcher did a test with boxes. He placed three boxes on a table. One box was round, one was a triangle, and one was rectangular. He sent people in and asked them to open the boxes. Everyone of them opened the rectangular box first.

Then he put a lock on the rectangular box and sent in new people. Even though they could see that box plainly couldn’t be opened, they all tried the lock first. He put the lock on the other boxes, and still his subjects choose the rectangular box. He didn’t draw any conclusions from that, and maybe there aren’t any to draw, but I should mention all the boxes were black. You see, his subjects always chose the one that most looked like the Curious Box the Watts kids found in the woods.

One other thing about boxes. We can’t leave them alone. We always want to open them no matter the consequences. I lay you odds if one morning a black box appeared before any human -- and if he or she was told that opening the box would destroy the world -- the world would be aflame before lunch. You can count on it.

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ghosts, Part 7

Terrance Mason watched from behind the bar as Ronald sauntered in, looked around, and walked over to Larry.

“How many you had, Larry?” Ronald asked. “Can you still walk?”

“Get stuffed,” Larry said with no real malice.

“Cotting wants us to gather up a search party,” Ronald said, picking up one of the empties on Larry’s table. Only three so far. “That Watts idiot took their boy and ran off into the woods. We gotta find him.”

Larry’s dead father attempted to get Larry’s attention, but his son studiously ignored the ghost.

“Come on,” Ronald said. “The chief knows you’re drinking. If you don’t show up, he’s gonna fire you.”

Larry apparently considered unemployment for a moment. Larry sighed and stood up. “We need to go by my house and let me get cleaned up,” Larry said. He looked over to Mason. “Put this on my tab.”

“Sure thing, Larry,” Mason said. Not that he really kept track. It didn’t matter how much Larry owed Mason just as long as Larry kept drinking. In fact, Mason had been the one to show up with a twelve-pack after Lisajean left. Mason had also been the one who had given the salesman Lisajean’s address when the man stopped by for a quick drink. He liked to think of himself as Larry’s personal demonic angel.

Mason watched Larry leave the bar. Larry seemed fairly steady, but that was normal for a drunk of Larry’s experience.

Mason pulled himself a draught of Black Dog Lager. He raised the glass in a mock salute to Rod Sr. who stared at the barman with frustrated hate.

Rod Sr. faded out. Mason looked around at the handful of men in the bar. Not as many as he might have hoped, but they would do. He reached beneath the bar and bought out a black box, much smaller than the Curious Box in the forest, but large enough for what Mason had in mind.

“Come over here, boys,” Mason said expansively. “I’ve got something to show you.”

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ghosts, Part 6

The useless men at Clement mostly hung around at Mason's Bar and Grill, although the grill hadn't been lit in years. Mason stacked boxes of beer and liquor on it. On most nights, about 15 to 20 men would shuffle into the bar, play some pool, throw a round or two of darts, tell a few dirty jokes, and do their dead level best to drink themselves senseless with Mason's delighted help.

The bar opened in the early afternoon, but only the real serious drunks showed up that early. Like Teddy Aimes who came back from military service with memories he couldn't live with, Lonny Dewey who started drinking when he was 12 and wouldn't stop until he died when his liver finally gave out, and on the the day I'm talking about, Officer Larry Tweans who hadn't been right since his wife left him for a flooring salesman three years ago.

Larry had built his life about his lovely wife, Lisajean. They had dated in high school, the football quarterback and the blond bouncy head cheerleader. A cliche couple, it seemed. When they married, Larry thought his life was set. He'd work at his father's furniture store until his father retired when he'd take over, Lisajean would raise two or three beautiful children but keep her looks, and they would live in a large house over on Oak Street where the kids and then the grandkids would play.

Larry, as it turned out, should have spent less time on the football field and more time talking to Lisajean. 'Cause Lisajean had no intention of settling for Clement when she could travel and do more exciting things than what Larry had envisioned for her. After a year of being married to dependable ol' Larry, she was ripe for the picking when that salesman showed up and told her his cousin Jack ran a TV station in Oklahoma City and he'd love to introduce Lisajean to Jack as well as introduce her to a better life than she had in Clement.

She left a note detailing Larry's failings. He kept it in his front pocket. He went on a three-day drunk. That was so much better than being sober he started planning his weekends around getting plastered. His father and mother tried to intervene, particularly after a terrible Monday morning when Larry showed up at their furniture store still drunk and threw up on a large three-piece micro-suede sectional couch. Larry quit the next day. The Wednesday following, two men already on the run from the FBI robbed his parents' store and shot his father twice. His father died, the men were never caught, Larry's older brother Rod Jr. took over the store, and Larry decided to become a policeman.

He stayed sober for the year and half necessary for him to take a few law enforcement classes at the vo-tech at Sumark City. He applied for the part-time position at Clement to get a few months of actual work experience. His half-formed plan was to get a job with the Oklahoma City PD as a traffic cop, and soon after stop Lisajean's car for speeding. He was hazy on what would happen after that, but it either involved him discovering a few ounces of cocaine in the trunk of her car or her declaring her undying love upon seeing him.

Possibly his plan might have worked out for him. At least it might have moved him out of Clement. Might have let him discover something else in his life other than bitterness.

It might have happened as he planned, but one night, his dead father started appearing to him. First in his dreams and then when he was awake. His father haunted him all the time now. In fact, Larry's father Rod Sr. was sitting in the chair next to him and would be until Larry drank him away.

Larry knew -- in that way you know things in dreams -- that his father wanted to talk to him. So far Larry hadn't let him. Larry was afraid. Not so much of his father's ghost, but what his father wanted to tell him.

Larry knew like he knew gravity that his father's words would get him killed.

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ghosts, Part 5

If there are always heroes, there are also always villains. Now those people who choose evil for its sake alone are rare and easy to recognize. They do a lot of damage, and you put them down like a mad dog. You don’t torture them, no. You kill them as quickly and as merciful as you can, but you do kill them.

But most aren’t like that. Most people who do evil -- sometimes terrible things -- they always have reasons, justifications, excuses. Police Chief Devene Cotting of our fair town of Clement, for instance, always found the law was a bit too confining. Law requires evidence, law requires work, and law requires you protect everyone, not just the skin color you like.

Clement was larger back then and could afford Cotting and two part-time deputies. Nowadays the county sheriff handles our town if we need him, but mostly we don’t. Too few of us left to do much stealing or carrying on or anything else. See, the life went out of our town forty years ago, and Clement never recovered. Sometimes I think a big fire would be the best thing. Finally put Clement out of its misery.

Anyway, back then, Cotting ran Clement like it was his private whore. A big brute of a man, he strutted around Clement and really thought he was God’s gift to the world when he wasn’t worth a good gob of spit.

Unfortunately, after Nate and Bettie finished telling their poison tale to Jacob and Mattie, and after Jacob and Mattie had searched desperately for Simon Simple and Davey, Cotting was who they called on that phone over there. See, the Watts couldn’t afford a phone, so Jacob ran the half-mile down here to call the police. Back then, old man Fisher owned the store.

Even then, Jacob didn’t tell Cotting the terrible things that Nate and Bettie had said Simon had done to Davey. Jacob still hoped they were wrong, but he was already losing faith in Simon. He was starting to fall. Not his fault. Every father wants their children protected. Every father suffers and blames themselves when their children are hurt. No, it wasn’t his fault at first. The best thing evil does is take good impulses and turn them inside out and upside down. The difference between a saint giving his life for others and a fanatic taking the life of others is razor thin.

Cotting hung up the phone at his two room police station. “Ronald, get your ass in here! That idiot up at the Watts place run away with their boy.” He spit a wad of chewing tobacco at the trash can and missed, the brown wad joining the pile on the floor. “God only knows what he’s doing to him. They should have put him away years ago.”

Officer Ronald Wellans wandered into the room. Cotting regarded him with contempt. Ronald was lazy and slow, but he didn’t give Cotting any lip.

“Where’s Larry?” Cotting asked.

“He called in sick,” Wellans said, leaning against the doorway.

“Drunk, you mean,” Cotting said. “You go over to his house and get him out of bed. Gather up some people and head up to the Watts place. That idiot doesn’t have the brains to go far.”

Wellans yawned.

“GO!” Cotting yelled, his round face getting red.

Wellans sighed and went.

Cotting circled around his desk and opened the gun case. He took down his deer rifle. He looked through the scope. If he got lucky, he might bag himself an idiot today. He couldn’t stop himself from grinning as he thought about it. He had only killed one other person in his life, and that had been his miserable brother. This promised to be even more fun. He headed toward his truck, whistling a little tune.

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ghosts, Part 4

You're back. Well, it's your funeral. Heh heh. But remember this: there is always hope and there are always, always, always heroes.

You recall when I was telling you about the Watts family, I mentioned the father Jacob; the mother, Mattie; the three children: ten-year-old Nate, nine-year-old Bettie, seven-year-old Davey; and one other, Mattie’s brother Simon Simple.

Of course, that wasn’t his name. Well, Simon was his first name, but he got “Simple” because he was. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his throat. Lack of oxygen damaged his brain. He couldn’t talk and had trouble walking. The doctors would have put him in a home, but his parents took their baby boy home and raised him with as much love as they could manage among all those other children. Simon had one gift; the best gift, his mother used to say, and that was he could love better than anyone you’ve ever known. When one of his brothers or sisters got hurt, he’d wrap them in his clumsy embrace and coo to them. It was silly and makes no sense, but he made them feel better.

In the little country school he went to, the other kids made fun of him, and eventually he became Simon Simple. He didn’t care what they said; he just laughed along with them and eventually the name stuck. No one thought much of it, certainly not him. But if those kids or his parents or those doctors could have seen into his mind, they would have been shocked. Because since he was born, the Shining Ones had been his constant companions, and in the gentle paradise that he spent his life in, he was never alone. They patiently taught him secret songs and hidden languages, and with great regret, prepared him for the Trial to come. It didn’t matter what the outside world saw; in his inner world, Simon lived the life of a prince of the sky.

Older than Mattie by three years, he attached to her when she was born, and to the best of his ability, he tried to take care of her. When she married and moved away, he was sad to the point of not eating. When his mother came down ill, the family asked Mattie and Nate to take him. They willing did, and to their credit, even during their hard financial times, they never thought of sending him back. He was a good companion to the children – not so much that he took care of them, but because they tried to take care of him, they didn’t do dangerous things that children sometimes do.

On that hot summer morning, Simon had been attempting to weed the poor garden. Simon had grown up large and strong, still clumsy, but capable of more than anyone would expect. He was trying to figure out if a particular plant was a weed or an onion when a Shining One came to him, and in a voice full of love said, Simon, our love, it’s time.

For a moment he stood there, the outside world snapping into focus for the first time in his life. He looked at the Shining One and smiled, his face full of courage and willing obedience. Then he ran toward the woods, with every stride his clumsy steps becoming steady and straight. Behind him, the Shining One watched and wept as Simon Simple raced to his destiny.

In the woods, Bettie brought the box up to Davey and said, “Open it, Davey. There’s a surprise inside.”

Davey stretched out his little hand, but innocence has its own wisdom, and he paused. Once Nate had hid a frog in his hand and threw it at Davey. Davey liked frogs, but it had still been scary at first. He shook his head.

Nate’s hands tightened on his shoulders. Davey tried to shrug him off, but Nate’s grip became stronger.

“Open it, Davey,” Nate commanded harshly.

“No!” Davey said and began to struggle.

Bettie caught Davey’s hand and brought it to the box.

Davey began to cry. “No, Bettie, no!”

Bettie laughed. She pulled harder, and his hand touched the box.

Davey screamed. He could feel the Curious Box moving under his hand, like a surface made of oily snakes.

“Open it!” Nate forced Davey to his knees.

Bettie shuddered as the creature in her drank in his delicious fear, sweeter than honey, and fiery like pepper.

Davey screamed again. He felt himself going numb, his mind trying to protect him, trying to close his eyes, trying to protect his little boy spirit from things that shatter the strongest adults.

The Curious Box started to open; inky blackness flowed toward Davey.

And then Simon Simple, running like an Olympian, swept Davey up into his big, strong arms and kept running, his passage scattering Bettie and Nate like chaff in a strong wind, the Curious Box closing with an angry snap and tumbling across the rocky ground.

Simon Simple disappeared in the woods before Nate and Bettie could recover.

“So he’s the one,” Bettie said as she picked up the Curious Box and carried it easily under her arm.

“He will be no trouble,” Nate said. “They chose badly.”

Bettie smiled widely at him. “No, no trouble. Particularly not after we tell her the naughty, naughty thing we caught the imbecile doing to our precious little brother.”

Nate laughed. He reached over and took her hand.

They walked toward the house, where Jacob slept and Mattie did the washing, and where worse things were to come.

You see, there are always heroes. Even simple ones.

That’s all for tonight. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow, maybe not. It’s up to you. Remember, too, that people always have choices. Always.

Copyright 2015by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ghosts, Part 3

Let me drag up a chair. Standing up all day is hard on my back. Not that I have all that many customers anymore. Not now that the town of Clement is mostly dead, and folks zoom right past on Highway 17 since it opened ten years back. But I stay busy one way or another. People can always find things to do if they don't give into idleness.

Like the Watts children on that hot summer day. They had been busy, having already played cowboys and Indians -- Nate playing the cowboy, of course, with Bettie taking the role of a fierce Indian warrior and little Davey being an Indian prince -- and knights and knaves with Nate as Knight Nate, Bettie as Knight Rose, and Davey as Prince Peter. Nate and Bettie argued fiercely about her knighthood, but Bettie had no intention of standing around and just being rescued when clearly the fun was in swinging a stick (standing in for a sword) and vanquishing evil.

As his two older siblings bickered, seven-year-old Davey wandered off. Quite content to splash in the tepid water and catch what bugs and frogs he could find, he followed the stream farther into the woods. He found a large puddle and started floating twigs, leaves, and just about anything else he could find.

Bettie ran up to him. "Davey, you're not supposed to wander off," she scolded.

"Yeah, Davey," Nate said. "Bears might get you."

"Ain't none," Davey said, dropping a large rock into the puddle.

"Are to!" Nate said.

"Are not!" Bettie said, always willing to argue with Nate. "Bears live in the woods."

"We're in the woods!" Nate said.

"Not here, dofus!" Bettie said scornfully. "Alaska and Canada and Norway. Places like that." She actually wasn't sure if Norway had bears, but she thought she remembered her teacher saying Norway was cold, and if it was cold, it should have furry things.

"Don't call me that!" Nate hollered and swung his stick at her.

"Dofus, dofus, dofus!" Bettie ran across the creek, dodging her brother's stick and hurrying to pick up hers.

Little Davey ignored them. He watched the large puddle and wondered why it started to bubble. He didn't know enough to be afraid. Who would?

Nate and Bettie battled it out. Nate had a longer reach, but Bettie had a longer stick so it was an even fight.

As Davey watched, a box floated up out of the puddle, the water parting and sliding off its black sides until it was fully exposed. Davey gave a little laugh of surprise.

"Davey, what you got?" Bettie asked. "Stop it, Nate! I'm not playing anymore." She walked over to her little brother.

"I wasn't playing," Nate said, continuing to swing at the dragon in his imagination.

"Where did you get that?" Bettie asked Davey.

"Puddle," Davey said, pointing.

"No, you didn't," Bettie said, looking doubtfully at the puddle. The box was clearly bigger than the puddle.

"Did," Davey said.

"What is it?" Bettie said.

"It's a box!" Nate said. "Even a dofus knows that."

"You would know," Bettie said, still staring at the box. Made out of a black wood that barely showed the grain, the box had no decoration. Just plain straight black sides that fitted together perfectly and a lid held shut by a black metal latch. She stretched out her hand and touched the box. She jerked her hand back. "It's cold!"

"Let me feel!" Nate demanded and pushed her aside. He put his hand on it. "It is not. You're dreamin' things again."

Bettie pushed him back. "Am not."

"Open it!" Nate said. "There might be money in it."

"No," Bettie said. "People don't keep money in black boxes. Don't you know anything?" She felt uneasy as she stared at the box. "This is curious." She was proud of having remembered that word. "It's a curious box."

"Yes, the Curious Box!" Nate said. "And it's ours."

"No, it's not," Bettie said.

"Finders, keepers," Nate said.

"Finders, keepers," Davey echoed.

"Where did it come from?" Bettie said, looking around the woods.

"Someone must have dropped it," Nate said. "Let me see." He tried to open the latch, but it wouldn't give. "It must be locked."

"It doesn't belong to us," Bettie said. "Leave it alone."

"I bet I could get it open," Nate said, looking for a rock.

"No!" Bettie said, having made her mind up. "We'll leave it here where we found it."

"I'm going to open it," Nate said.

"No!" Bettie pushed Nate. He pushed back harder. Bettie gritted her teeth and jumped on him. The two wrestled with Bettie giving as good as she got and then some.

Davey picked up the box. Despite its size, he lifted it easily. Carrying it carefully before him, he started back down the stream.

"Davey, where you going?" Nate broke free of his sister and hurried after Davey.

"Momma," Davey said. He had a little boy's faith in his mother. She'd know what to do with it.

"Let's open it!" Nate said, reaching out to take the box.

"No," Davey said. "Momma."

Nate tried to take the box, but Davey was determined to hold on to it. Bettie ran up and pushed Nate away.

"Leave him alone," Bettie told Nate. "Let's take it to Momma."

"I wasn't saying we shouldn't," Nate said. "I just want to open it first."

"Here, Davey, let me carry it," Bettie said. Davey readily handed it over and walked on. She grunted.

"It's heavy," Bettie said.

"Heavy for a girl," Nate said. "Davey was carrying it easy."

"Dofus," Bettie said.

"STOP CALLING ME THAT!" Nate yelled.

"Dofus, dofus, dofus!" Bettie said.

"I'm gonna hit you!" Nate said.

"Dofus is as dofus does!" Bettie said.

Nate shoved her hard. Bettie fell back to the ground with a shriek. The Curious Box fell, and as easy as that, it opened. Both Bettie and Nate saw inside.

For a moment, Bettie felt like she was in a nightmare, that one where something was crushing her and she tried to scream and wake up, but that only left her with nothing to breathe and she heard her ribs crack and blood gushed up her throat and down her lungs and blackness took her eyes.

Nate felt hot and heavy, like he had a huge meal. But what he ate was still alive and eating its way out of his stomach and his skin began to tear and lurch as the worms gnawed their way out and he opened his mouth to scream and the shiny black worms flowed out his mouth as he fell.

The lid of The Curious Box shut then. Nate and Bettie stared at each other. Their bodies were untouched, but what stared out of their eyes was something oh so different from the children they had been. They both turned as one.

"Davey," Bettie said happily. "Come here."

"Come here and see what's in the box," Nate said cheerfully. "It's really neat."

And little sweet innocent Davey -- who always looked up to his siblings and trusted them only the way a child could -- stopped and looked at them. He made his way back toward where they stood.

Bettie leaned down over the box. She smiled at Davey, but her eyes were empty.

Nate put his cold, cold, hands on Davey's shoulders.

I have to stop here. I'm sorry. I don't know ... I don't know if I can tell you ... Listen, you should go. Go away. Don't come back tomorrow. If you come back tomorrow ... if you come back ... there's more to tell. There's more. And God help ya, I'll tell you. I'll tell you.

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ghosts, Part 2

So you came back? Want to hear more, do ya? Look, you seem like a nice person. This isn't a story for a nice person. Maybe you shouldn't learn any more 'bout it. It's up to you. I'm giving you the choice.

I'm not saying you're afraid, mind you. After all, stories like these are as common as dirt in the Ozarks. Always some ghosts wandering here and there and raising unholy hell. But this story is different. I'll tell you the difference in a bit.

Now, where were we? Oh, yes, I remember. Now before you can understand the story, you need to know the people. The Watts family. Let's start with Jacob. Folks thought of him as a nice man when they thought of him. Nothing remarkable. He had pale blue eyes, a straight back, and a body hard from work. His father Ezrah was a drunk who fell into a pond and drown one night, but not before he gave Jacob the hard side of his hand too many times. Jacob's mother Laura died from the flu when Jacob was five, so Jacob fended for himself from then until his father finally died when he was 15. The next year he met Mattie.

Mattie was the sixth girl in a family of eleven who could only feed five well if that. Despite how poor her family was, Mattie always had a ready smile, and her green eyes and long black hair outshone her hand-me-down clothes. She helped her mother as best she could and knew how to milk the cows and shuck the corn and snap the peas. She had to leave school in the eighth grade to help the family, and every time she entered her family's overcrowded house, she had to fight down desperation.

Mattie and Jacob met at the old Arbor Creek Holiness church during a hellfire and brimstone revival when they were only 16 and 15 respectively. They married the next year, Jacob in a gray suit borrowed from his brother Sam, and Mattie in a wedding dress her cousin Ailene gave her. Their clothes didn't quite fit, but Jacob beamed and Mattie had tiny white flowers in her hair, and they were a right good lookin' couple. Everyone remarked on that.

They moved into Jacob's house up there on the hill. They fixed it up real pretty. Jacob and Mattie were young and worked hard and pinched every penny until it squealed. Maybe things would have gone differently for them if the babies hadn't started coming so fast, but they did. First, Bettie, then Nate, and finally little Davey, one right after the other. On Davey, something tore inside Mattie, and she nearly died. She spent five months in the Baptist Hospital and recovered, but she could never have any more children. And the medical bills ate them alive.

Jacob ran a few cattle on his place, raised a handful of chickens, and planted just about anything that would grow on his thirteen acres. He sold what the family didn't eat, and it had been enough until those bills started arriving. Mattie and him talked a long time about it, but finally he took a night job over at Sumark City working in a chicken plant. He'd work all night, come home, and do chores until he couldn't, then collapse.

Mattie took to sending the kids outside to play for hours so Jacob could sleep. She told them to stay in the yard and near the house, but summer heat drove them into the woods behind their house.

On a hot day in July when the sun blazed mercilessly and no wind stirred the browning grass, the children would go farther into those dark deep woods, and beside a trickle of water in a rocky creek, they found the Curious Box.

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ghosts, Part 1

You'll keep your mouth shut if you know what's good for you. Doesn't matter what you've seen or heard on that old dirt road across from the old Watts place.

It's better, in fact, if you don't go up there. Don't drive up there. Go around the hill and take Highway 17 even though it takes you miles out of your way. That's safer. You'll sleep better at night.

I know, I know. It's just an old house. Two-story farmhouse with more holes than wood left in its walls and a roof that allows the rain easy access as well as the birds if any birds dared to enter and they don't. A broken wooden fence that marks off the old yard, the yard the Watts children once played in until they didn't. Weeds up to your waist. And always the buzzing of two or three green flies.

From the road, during the spring when the black-eyed susan and Indian paintbrush are blooming, foolish tourists stop sometimes to take pictures. It's scenic, they say, having seen the house from the highway. But the photos they take never turn out right, and most people find they don't like the pictures. Some people make the mistake of staring at the photos too long, and they see things in those black windows, horrible things that aren't there when they look again.

We old-timers know about that house. We know what happened forty years ago. We know why it was boarded up. And we're afraid we know what lingers there in the ruins of the Watts family home.

Come close. Even though we're a half mile away, it's better to talk softly. Don't attract its attention. No, I don't know what exactly might hear us, but I don't want to find out. You don't want to find out.

Forty years ago, you see, the whole Watts family was destroyed. Jacob Watts, his wife Mattie, Jacob's brother Simon Simple, and the children, Bettie, Nathan, and little Davey. They were destroyed. Not just killed. Killing would have been a kindness. No, they were destroyed. The adults reduced to raving creatures; the children vanished with no sign of them ever found. Only one of the family survived. Just one. And he's mad. Oh, completely mad, they say.

It's late now. Time for me to close the store, but I'll tell you more if you come back tomorrow. I'll tell you how it began. What the children found and what happened next. No one knows the end of it, but I'll tell what I know tomorrow.

Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


      I've been thinking of you the past few days. Don't know why. I guess I like hurting myself every now and again. I know it's useless. Waste of time. Certainly after all this time apart. Our lives are completely different now. I don't know where you live, what you do. Even friends of friends no longer hear of you. You've been gone now much longer than we were together.

      I don't know if I really remember your face, the way your bare skin felt, the sounds you made. It's been too long. But if the particulars are wrong, the truth is there, buried beneath all this time and all this living.

      Yes, it's useless. You don't love me, and I've learned to not love you. I don't know why you're on my mind.

      Maybe I saw someone who reminded me of you. Or heard someone speak, and in their voice, heard some echo of yours. Maybe because the nights are getting cooler and falling sooner and that reminds me of our time together. When we were young. Or at least willing to believe that love could overcome anything. When we were stupid.

      If you knew that I haven't loved anyone as much as I loved you or been loved as well as you loved me ... it wouldn't matter, would it? We had all that love and oh the passion, and all we managed to do with it was wreck each other and scar everything we touched. If there's a lesson there, I don't know what it is. Something banal about the hottest fire burning out quickly or love hurts or some other useless cliche.

      Funny after all this time that I can't think of you without feeling old angers stir. We fought well there at the end. No mercy. No quarter. We were very good at fighting, there at the end of it all.

      I don't even have any pictures of you anymore. I got rid of them one day last fall. A bonfire in my backyard one night to clean away yard waste. Leaves and paper ash floating up in the dark. When the fire died, I raked up the remains and made sure there were no embers. Then I sat and watched the silent stars come out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


      A few months back, a friend asked how I could bear to bare so much of my life to the general public. A clever question (bear to bare) but he didn't realize how much was left out of this blog. Things happen, and I can't share them either because the other people involved wouldn't want me to or because I am unable to share them for reasons of my own. This is an edited version of my life. Maybe the life I'd like to have.

      Of course, we all do this. Different faces for different people. Sometimes the change is major, sometimes minor. Some people deny they do this. They like to claim that they are same for everyone. I've discovered they are always liars. Maybe that's what we humans are. A race of liars.

      I once heard an upright minister preach about how what drove Adam and Eve from the Garden wasn't disobedience, but rather that they lied about their disobedience to God. The angel and flaming sword were to punish their lying tongues, and that's what would happen to us if we lied, according to him, a flaming sword in our souls. (Later on, that same minister would lose his pulpit and his family for cheating on his wife with the church secretary. I wonder how that flaming sword felt.)

     I don't have any conclusions to draw here. Maybe something about life and the need for illusions or the benefits of a nice, comfortable lie. Maybe about how we can lie our way to a truth, maybe not an absolute truth, but a truth nonetheless. I don't know. Maybe you should lie yourself to a conclusion. It's not hard. You can do it. Close your eyes and open your mouth and lie. That's the way to do it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Of Humor and Halibuts

Been sick, been having computer problems, haven't been on my computer. But I got told tonight that when I don't post, it worries people. So I'm posting so you won't worry. I'm only thinking of you. What a considerate guy I am. Just a saint or something like a saint but with none of that inconvenient goodness and morality.

Recently someone asked me how I consistently came up with these hilarious, intelligent, wise, heart-warming, inspiring, cheery and witty posts. (I'm quoting. No. Really.) I will tell you right now that I am simply gifted. If you buy that, then I will also sell you some expired lottery tickets.

Truthfully I suspect my output is connected to the warped way I look at the world. My mind is given to literal fantasies, if you can follow that, but if not, don't give up. An example follows so calm down.

For instance, suppose someone tells me that his heart raced like mad. For most people, that would simply mean that the person speaking was excited. But my mind instantly imagines a heart riding on a horse, the reins held by its little veins and arteries as it spurs its horse to the finish line. Then I have to wonder what it's wearing its spurs on. And what weirdo would make the spurs for a heart, anyway? And spurs need boots ...

I can while away hours doing this, hours that I should be spending losing weight, cleaning my car, stalking Lucy Lawless, cataloging my ear wax collection, etc., all the fairly normal activities of someone who was dropped on his head just a few too many times when he was a baby by his jealous siblings, but that is another story.

Another factor is that I like language, particularly funny words. Like halibut. I think I've mentioned that before, but halibut is simply a funny word. Say it over and over. But not in crowd unless you just enjoy strange looks from strangers, and no one appreciates it at a funeral.

It also helps that we live in a funny world. Well, peculiar is probably the word I should use there. You can find humor in most things non-Republican, and even Republicans have been known to crack a smile when an endangered species finally croaks. I find that you have to laugh at some things, or you will spend all your time weeping and wailing. Frankly, sackcloth itches, and ashes only get in your eyes, and you can quote me if you are so inclined and wish to send me money since this post is copyrighted 2015.

As for the number of ideas, those come because I read a lot and am interested in almost everything that you can legally be interested in.

I am also somewhat a klutz in the way that President Clinton was somewhat a liar. I can trip over lint in the carpet and have even stumbled due to the pressure of air molecules. This leads to those  experiences that make great stories afterwards -- remember the time I fell on the large nun who has holding her pet cat and she threw it in the midst of all those preschoolers who were eating chocolate ice cream? -- but are painful when they happen.
I also have the rare talent of being able to insert both of my feet in my mouth and occasionally have needed to borrow the feet of passing strangers to fill up that cavernous space that persists in embarrassing me.

Finally, it helps that my family is made up of such strongly individualistic people. Not only do we march to a different drummer, but we have often marched to an entirely different band than the rest of the world, a band made up of flutes, kazoos, tubas, and perhaps a halibut or two.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From Floozy Comes Back.)

Monday, August 17, 2015


       Been a hectic past few days, both physically and emotionally. The gray days are wearing on me. I'm just worn. Can't seem to get enough sleep these days. Oh well, that's life, don't you know?

      Sometimes as I look around at other people, I wonder if they have this constant battle to get out of bed, go to work, keep moving. Some of them seem like they've never been touched. Maybe they hide it better. Maybe they don't whine. Maybe they're better than me. Maybe they can drown on swamp water. Slowly.

      Heh. I can always count on the contrary part of me to kick my butt when I need it. It rises up and looks around and says, "Hey, get up. Don't let them see you falter. Make them sweat, buddy boy. We're a match for anything. Anything." I can't tell if it's stubborn or stupid. Probably both.

      Going to call it a night now. Hope life is treating you well. If it's not, smile as you reach out, grab it by the throat and choke the living crap out of it. Night!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

God and Enchiladas

     "Why do you believe in God?" Ronny asked me. I looked at him over the remains of my definitely not Weight Watchers approved cheese enchiladas.

      "I think I've covered this before," I said. Ronny is my so-called atheist friend. "So-called" because he has a tendency to pray to God whenever he's in trouble, but backs right out of it when he's in the free and clear again. Lately he backs right out into the position of claiming the universe is empty, random, and meaningless. He's a lot of fun.

      "No, seriously, you're intelligent, almost horribly so," he said. "You love science like it's a hot babe. You don't believe in ghosts, witches, vampires or anything else supernatural, except God. Why is He the exception? I don't understand how you can have that one blind spot. It's not like He talks to you."

      I dipped a grease-covered chip into warm cheese sauce and contentedly took a bite.

      "Well?" he asked.

      I sipped my water, regretting that I hadn't ordered a diet root beer. There's just something about root beer and Mexican food that I find enjoyable. Probably the ability to burp non-stop.

      "Why aren't you answering?" he asked.

      I looked at him for a moment. "Silence is a form of communication."

      "What does that mean?"

      I shrugged. "I guess it depends on what you think silence means."

      "I don't understand."

      I nodded. "Yeah, I get that a lot. I used to think that it was because I was weird, but I've come to realize that everyone else is. That's why I should rule the world."

      "You're avoiding the question, too."

      "For one thing, we have about 15 minutes left before you have to go back to work," I said. "That isn't enough time to even begin to answer your question. Two, I believe in God because I do. I don't expect anyone else to justify their beliefs and don’t intend to justify mine. It works for me. I believe it. What's the problem? Three, I've discovered that people who aren't spiritual lack a certain depth and perspective. Four, are you going to eat the last corn tortilla?"

      "No," he said. "So I lack depth? Then why are we friends?"

      "I'm slumming," I said, smearing butter on the corn tortilla.

      "Am I a project for you?" he asked. "Is that why we're friend? So you can make me a Christian?"

      I sighed. "I'm your friend because I'm your friend. I can't make you into a Christian. Everything is your choice. We've got about five minutes so keep up. I believe in God because He believes in me. I don't know how to make it any simpler than that. In my life I have failed many times at many things. I have lied, cheated, insulted, and hurt people. I have a horrible temper. I've messed up personal relationships. I've broken hearts. I've been cruel. I've been vain. I still struggle with all those things. I over-eat." I frowned at the corn tortilla. "Anyway, my point is I'm not very lovable. But every time I fall, even when friends desert me, God still believes in me. He still thinks I can do better, be more, be happy, be a light unto the world, to quote the Bible. He's my best friend. We may fight sometimes, we may not speak for a few days, but when the chips are down, He's in my corner. That doesn't mean that He's willing to throw lightning bolts at my enemies, although I wish He would consider it.  But I know even when I'm at my worse, He's still willing to take me in." I picked up my check and rose. "We'd better go."

      "I don't understand about that silence thing," he said, following me.

      "I don't, either," I said. "But try it sometime and let me know how it works out for you."

      We paid and walked out into the bright sunshine.

      "I don't believe in God," he said.

      I didn't reply.

      We went back to our respective lives.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hamlet by any other name would still be too long

I’m sure you all know Hamlet by William Shakespeare is one of the greatest plays ever written, besides mine. And if you didn’t know that, now you do, and you can go to bed knowing you learned one thing today. Woohoo!

You may be surprised to also learn I am not a fan of the play. Oh, I recognize the genius of it, and it has one of the most famous and moving soliloquies ever written (To be or not to be...) but frankly it doesn’t have a role for Dolly Parton, and I don’t like plays that preclude the chance of casting her.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s almost exactly not like Duck Dynasty. Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, learns that his father, King Hamlet, has been murdered. He learns this from his father’s ghost who tells Hamlet that Claudius, Prince Hamlet’s uncle, killed him. Hamlet (Prince, not King) has doubts about this, particularly when Hamlet (King, not Prince) says Claudius murdered him (King Hamlet) by pouring poison in his ear. (Yes, ear. I’m not making this up.)

Prince Hamlet is confused by this. Uncle Claudius has already married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, which makes Claudius his uncle-father. Hamlet is so dismayed that he doesn’t avenge his father for three more hours, thus angering the audience who want to go home. Hamlet decides he will pretend to be crazy—pretend? He’s seeing ghosts, mind you—AND, because things aren’t confusing enough, Hamlet will use a group of traveling actors to put on a play that will depict a man killing a king to gain a throne by pouring poison in his ear. I wonder where he got that idea.

Meanwhile, Claudius and Gertrude naturally think Hamlet is crazy so they have two spies, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, watch Hamlet. (Much later, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern would have a play written about them; it still ends badly for them.)

When Claudius sees the play within the play, he runs away, but comes back after his agent tells him that he can’t get out of his contract. His leaving, however, convinces Hamlet that Claudius did kill his father by pouring poison in his ear. Hamlet plots to kill Claudius, but not fast enough for the audience. Instead, Hamlet wanders around basically killing innocent people and acting like a loon.

First, he mistakenly stabs Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain, who is hiding behind a curtain in the queen’s bedroom to spy on Hamlet and Gertrude. (At least that was Polonius’s story, but I wonder.)

Claudius has Hamlet exiled to England and sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with him, along with a sealed letter telling the English to kill Hamlet upon arrival. Hamlet finds the letter, changes the name of the victim to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are hung while Hamlet returns to Denmark. The play is loaded with laughs like that.

Polonius, by the way, was the father of Ophelia, whom everyone but Hamlet thought Hamlet was madly in love with. Ophelia, already unsettled by Hamlet’s odd behavior, drowns herself after hearing of her father’s death. Then Hamlet decides he really did love her. Her brother Laetres and Hamlet argue over her body at the funeral about who loved Ophelia more. Funny stuff, huh?

Claudius conspires with Laertes to kill Hamlet in a rigged sword fight. Hamlet kills him, but not before Laertes pokes Hamlet with a poisoned sword. Gertrude drinks poison from a cup meant for Hamlet. Hamlet kills Claudius by making his uncle drink poison and then cuts his uncle's throat, but at least Hamlet didn't pour poison in his ear. And finally, finally, finally Hamlet dies. Thus ends the tragedy of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, and not a moment too soon.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. Excerpted from Floozy Comes Back. All rights reserved.Thank you for reading!)

Friday, August 14, 2015

True Confessions of a Sushi Sissy

I confess freely I’m a sushi sissy. I can’t handle the raw fish, but the cooked sushi? I love delicious spicy shrimp wrapped with sticky rice and seaweed, shrimp tails on rice logs, and crab and avocado also wrapped with rice and seaweed. Yummy! No, really, it is. Don't make that face.

However, I know a hardcore sushi fanatic. She can clear a sushi platter with the greatest of ease and obvious enjoyment. And she likes this particular sauce — wasabi — on her sushi. Lots of wasabi. What I didn’t realize was that her taste buds had been surgically removed many years ago after a freak flame swallowing accident. Now she could drink boiling battery acid and say it had just a bit of fire.

Anyway, recently I bought a sushi platter for me and my roomie and decided that I’d try wasabi. How hot could it be? I would soon learn.

Wasabi is a chalky green. That should have been my first clue, but hey, she liked it so obviously it was good. Never trust women.

So I took a piece of spicy shrimp sushi and ladled the green sauce on. If only I had noticed the plastic spoon was melting, you wouldn’t be reading this, but I didn’t until much later.

Without a pause – which goes to show that my overwhelming brilliance does not extend to survival instincts – I popped the sushi piece into my mouth.

I chewed.


The world went white.

I couldn’t breathe. My entire body shuddered. My tongue actually attempted to tear itself out of my mouth.

You know that little thing that hangs down at the back of your throat? Mine caught fire.

Then I made the mistake of gasping. The wasabi fumes rolled up my nostrils and down into my lungs. My sinuses responded to this assault by producing a flood of snot. My eyes wept like they haven’t wept since Old Yeller died.

My face turned a shade of red that is only appropriate for the butts of lusting baboons.

Meanwhile, the bite of wasabied sushi was traveling down my throat leaving a line of fire. My stomach tried to dodge, but it wasn’t quick enough. It received the food with much grumbling.

After I recovered, I turned to my roomie and with my voice as steady as I could manage, I croaked, “Hey, this is really good. You should try it.”

For some reason, he didn’t believe me. People just don’t trust other people anymore. It’s quite sad, I think

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All reserved. Excerpted from Floozy And Other Stories by Stephen B. Bagley.)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pentecostals, Baptists & Wrestling

My siblings and I were raised in church. That is an understatement along the lines of “Hey, that President Clinton fibs every now and then.” If the doors to the church were open, we were there. I’d like to say we were there willingly – and mostly we were – but there were a few times that we struggled with the concept of going to church when a particularly good program was on TV. This struggle was usually resolved by my father and occasionally Mr. Belt – who never came down on the side of TV.

This is not to say any television show was more exciting than when the Holy Spirit moved and Brothers and Sisters began to dance and holler and generally shout Heaven down. When I was about eleven or so, I invited a friend to our very Pentecostal church, and we had an exciting service with much noise and activity. He turned to me, his eyes wide, and said, “This is better than Championship Wrestling!” It doesn’t get any better than that.

Some people don’t like their churches that active. I’ve been to a couple of churches where nurses wander up and down the aisles checking for pulses and occasionally administering CPR if needed. Personally, I prefer knowing my pewmate is alive and kicking – and in the case of true Pentecostals – running and whooping, too.

And singing. I mustn’t forget that. Pentecostals can sing the Heaven out of song. Don’t worry if they don’t get it right the first time. They will the second or third or maybe 20th time. I’ve seen song services that have taken over the Sunday morning service, moved right on into the evening service, and have started making eyes at Monday morning. Listen, if you want a Pentecostal to stop singing a song over and over and over, the best thing to do is to sing loudly and clap vigorously. They won’t stop, of course, but you will be participating and getting exercise to boot.

Having been raised in such exciting churches, I had never thought much about it until I went to college and met Baptists who regarded the Pentecostals as primitives, along the lines of natives dancing around bonfires. If I had told them we made burnt offerings each Sunday, they would not have been surprised.

These young Baptists were fascinated by stories of our “rites” and would talk nervously about donning pith helmets and venturing to the nearest Pentecostal church. “Is there any night better for speaking in tongues?” they would ask, apparently not wishing to risk their lives for a quiet night. I can only remember one of my college Baptist friends who was brave enough to attend a service with me. He did fine. Last I heard, he is still a Pentecostal missionary preaching the Gospel to cannibals (former, we hope) in South America.

I don’t mean to imply Baptists are stoic and don’t show emotion. I attend a Baptist church and have seen displays of outright emotion that would certainly fit in any moderately Pentecostal church on a very slow night in the dead of winter during a blizzard where only two or three people show up. Just last week, I actually saw a deacon with a tear in his eyes. Of course, he was immediately ushered outside, but it was still emotion.

All kidding aside, we are all children of God, and I try to not get hung up on whose denomination is more correct. While mine is obviously more right than that of other folks, they have the right to get to God as best they can, poor ignorant souls. You can only hope  whatever misguided church they attend at least offers decent church dinners.

Ah, church dinners. A definite advantage to being raised in church is you get to attend many good church dinners. And by good, I mean tons of delicious food and fine company. Strong tea and fried chicken. Homemade pies and cobblers. Children running around. People laughing and talking as fast as they can. Folks gathered around a piano singing favorite hymns and old standards. Through all of that, if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of angel wings. It’s not Heaven, I know, but it’s close.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From Floozy & Other Stories, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, BooksAMillion, and other retailers.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sex & the Single Novelist

A fantasy novel I’m working on is as much a love story as an adventure story. My characters have a couple of scenes where they indulge in a bit of kissing and hugging. I wanted the scenes to seem romantic and charming. I do neither of those well in my writing (I do them fine in real life, thank you for asking) so I thought research was needed.

I went to my local library, waited until right before closing, and then checked out 10 modern romance novels, including several historical romances. I explained to the clerk I was only doing research. She cleverly concealed her avid interest in what I was saying by yawning widely.
I took the books home and opened one. I was pretty sure I’d know the plots of the book: girl meets boy, he treats her badly, they fight the whole book, and then they fall into bed as the last page is turned.

Man, I’m out of date. They fall into bed a lot sooner and more often these days. Many times. The rest of the plot is still the same, but they’re doing the naughty and doing it with a lot of detail. A lot of detail. Of course, they don’t use clinical terms to describe the sex – apparently that would kill the mood – instead we are treated to phrases (and I didn’t make up any of these) like “his throbbing man-shaft of pleasure iron,” “her snow white, silky soft nursing mounds,” and one that I had to read twice to fully appreciate its complete awfulness: “her undulating cavern of velvet passion.”

CAVERN?! My gosh, is her last name Carlsbad? And that undulating couldn’t be good. She needs to see a doctor and fast.

And the way they talk during sex. Something like this: “She spread her arms wide and cried out, ‘I cannot wait! Take me now. Fill my senses with your savage love. Let me fly among the heavens. Let us soar to the stars above, my love, and we will shine among the hosts.’” Look, lady, he’s not the space shuttle.

But instead of running away from this weirdo, he draws closer and says, “Yes, my love! We will outshine the stars! We will blaze like a fiery comet on its journey to the illuminating sun!”
Later on, she would awaken to discover he had stayed awake all night staring at her “pure alabaster body softly gleaming in the moonlight.” Rather than being creeped out, she felt all warm and fuzzy to know he had watched her drool and snore all night.

The historical novels followed the same plot, although they had more pirates and sword fights. The women are all cold and haughty, but hiding a burning passion. They only need a handsome rogue for their passion to be finally released. Luckily enough, the men are handsome rogues, but need the love of a good woman to realize that they always wanted to live in the suburbs and have several children who will carry on their family name (since they are actually the wayward sons of dukes or princes, but not accountants or lawyers).

This is not to say that they were badly written books. At least three of the books kept me reading as the writer cleverly found ways to tweak the conventions that confine a romance novelist. And two of the books were even intentionally funny. Don’t think I’m picking on romance novels.

But I was shocked by the graphic nature of the books. As I read them over and over and over, I kept wondering what’s this world coming to? And these were at the public library. Not in a brown paper wrapper or anything.

Still, reading those books was informative and helpful. I learned what phrases I will NOT be using in my book. In fact, I think the characters in my fantasy novel will have to content themselves with shaking hands and exchanging meaningful glances. Any more than that could cause undulating, and none of us want that. I don’t think we do. Do we?

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From Floozy & Other Stories, available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, BooksAMillion, and other retailers.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Visit To A Naughty Planet

If an alien landed on this planet – his first mistake – and started studying us, he would have to think that sex was a pretty silly way to reproduce and that we spent too much time attempting to have sex even when we’re not trying to reproduce. All in all, he’d conclude, humans are simply crazy.

Then he would attempt to get off this planet ASAAP (As Soon As Alienly Possible), but too late! The Air Force shoots down his spacecraft, and he must flee from the Men in Black (not rappers, the government). He will be aided only by a beautiful newscaster with whom he will eventually mate and create a new race of alien-human hybrids who will naturally want to conquer the world as they don’t enjoy Scrabble and there’s nothing on TV.

The poor alien wouldn’t understand we have a whole society based on sex. Our books, movies, music, art, our lives revolve around it. You can’t turn on a TV without seeing some ad that says if you use their product, you’ll be surrounded by willing males, females, and tax accountants all wanting to enjoy your hot monkey love.

The Internet is partly to blame. Never in the course of human history have so many pictures of unattractive naked people been available to so many people. People no longer streak in real life; they streak online for a much larger audience. Truthfully, clothes are a blessing, and more people should remember that they do not resemble Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie in any way other than being a member of the same species, and that’s not always certain.

Magazines abound and abounce with pictures of barely clad women. Sports Illustrated (un)clothes supermodels in nothing more than drops of water these days, and is making millions selling videos of “The Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” “The Making of the Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” and “Revealed: The Secrets of the Making of the Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.” We have more information available about the Swimsuit Issue than we do about the Iraq War.

Let’s not forget TV’s role in this. I mean, it would be nice if we could, but we can’t. In the broadcasters’ rush to give us what we apparently want, they have pushed the envelope so far that they climbed right out of it and are stealing the stamp as they go. It’s bad enough to even make the Democrats blush – and they would if they could except their cheeks are simply exhausted (Blush Burnout) after the Clinton years and haven’t recovered.

And there’s no rest for the elderly, either. As soon as Bob Dole appeared in that ad for a “male potency enhancer,” I realized that the Apocalypse was upon us and not a moment too soon. Unfortunately, the Four Horsemen are trapped on a tropical island with a bunch of whiny people from a plane wreck.

I’m frankly tired of this over-emphasis on sex. Isn’t it possible that a person could live a happy, productive life without doing the naughty? OF COURSE NOT! I’m surprised you’d even think that I’d think that. Are you unAmerican? We have to have sex all the time every day for hours and hours or we will die! Well, maybe not die, but be seriously unhappy and become Republicans.

And if we can’t have sex, we need to be talking, talking, talking about it. We need to examine it exhaustively – to the point that we forget to eat. We need to treat it with the care and concentration required to make nuclear weapons. Use this simple equation that Einstein wished he had thought of: sex = happy.

I see no signs of this sexual frenzy abating. Our only hope is that the alien-human hybrids will take over the world soon. But I’m afraid they’ll take a long look at our problems and then head for Mars. That’s what I would do.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From "Floozy And Other Stories" available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, BooksAMillion, and other online retailers.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

PTM: It's Monday.

Preaching to myself: So it's Monday. Sun is traveling across the sky. What positive things have you done? That you've seen? That you've enjoyed? If there is no positive in your life, time to create one. Doesn't have to be large. Little things add up in the sum of life. Hey, here's one: I think you are a good person that God loves. He's in your corner along with your friends.
Feel the ground shaking,
Feel the wind blowing,
See the clouds voyage
across the endless sky.
There is everything in life--
even hope and finally joy.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Religion Versus Science

Over at a friend's blog some time back, an atheist wandered by and engaged the group in a discussion. After a hundred or so comments, I was inclined to join it. Here is what I wrote:

As I understand it, (the atheist) is asking Christians to prove there is a God of some sort. That question cuts both ways: (the atheist) could be asked to prove there isn't one. Either way, the answer is the same. You cannot prove the existence or non-existence of God in a concrete, scientific fashion. Many intangibles fall into this category. And since they can't be proved, it is certainly within rational limits to decide for yourself that they don't exist. I don't agree with that decision, but I can understand the reasoning behind it.

Let's not fault science in this. Science isn't meant to prove or disprove matters of faith. This recent incursion into the religious arena is only because religion decided to insert itself into science. The scientists have responded in depressingly like fashion to the attacks that zealots have inflicted on their ranks. This is not to say that science is blameless. Many scientists' obvious contempt for religion only infuriates their opponents. I well remember my college biology profession telling my entire class that "Evolution proves there is no God." Why, no, that's not what evolution proves. That's not what it was meant to prove. You can use it in that way, but it demeans the science involved. Science is supposed to be about facts, not beliefs. But science is done by people, and every person carries a burden of beliefs. Those beliefs influence science. Science, however, tries to be -- and mostly is -- a self-correcting process. New knowledge informs previous theories, and the theories are adjusted. Sometimes this adjustment takes years because scientists like to hold on to cherished beliefs as much as the next person, but the process is unrelenting, unforgiving, and uncaring in its progress. Eventually a new, better theory results.

Frankly, the battle between science and religion is a poor use of time for both sides. People will believe what they choose to believe and then find the reasons to justify that belief, despite all evidence to the contrary. Humans have always been that way, and I don't see us changing any time soon. All that really happens when science and religion clash is that a lot of rhetoric is generated; both sides get to score dubious points; the worst among us insult people of differing beliefs; etc. That doesn't mean that people can't or shouldn't share how they view the world, but as soon as voices are raised and potshots are hurled, it's simply not productive. There are people who make it their hobby to generate noise and fury. I generally find them to be a waste of breath and often think their bodies should be painfully recycled into the earth.

As most of you know, I love science and the church equally. I am a cantankerous Christian, a Southern Baptist with Pentecostal roots with a toe in Buddhism. I am also a rational Christian, if you can fit your mind around that concept. How this translates into behavior is as follows: To pray for healing and to use doctors. To believe God created the heavens and to accept the latest findings about how the cosmos formed. To acknowledge the limits of faith as well the boundaries of science. To remain grateful for the gift of intellect and the gift of life in which to use it. To believe that life is too precious to waste since we will be dead infinitely longer than we will be alive, and while we know there is an afterlife, we also know that we won't be here on earth to help those around us.

I am quite sure this all sounds too depressingly adult. It's much more fun to wave our arms around wildly and claim the earth is 6,000 years old or that the dinosaurs were killed by the Flood or that string theory proves the nonexistence -- or existence -- of God or that God is merely a higher dimensional being (as per Flatland) or that cargo cults are a good analogy for all religious behavior, and so on and so on.

For me, it comes down to this: I know that God exists. He loves me. He sent His Son to die for me. Amazingly and wonderfully, He found me worthy of such a sacrifice. I wish and pray more people had that belief. I think they would be happier if they did. But they have the right not to, and I will not gainsay that. I only require that they grant me the same indulgence as I grant them.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

That Whining Sound You Hear

It’s time for the sounds and smells of summer: barbecue, people splashing in pools, coconut suntan lotion, happy laughter, freshly-mown lawns, all is happy, happy, happy as people rejoice in the sunlight—except for me, of course, since I’ve been hiding in my darkened house as soon as the flocks of mosquitoes started returning from whatever nightmarish place they spent the winter at.

Yes, I know that supposedly they lay eggs that somehow survive the winter’s cold, and those eggs hatch into larva, which grow up to suck blood and lay more eggs to survive the winter, but I don’t believe it. Have you ever seen a mosquito nest? Me, neither. What really happens is they follow the sun to torment South Americans. Mosquitoes live many years, and all of them speak fondly of me, their Promised Land of white, soft skin that conceals the most delicious and nourishing liquid.

Not all of the mosquitoes hunt me, of course. Half of the mosquitoes are male, which only feed on nectar and Big Macs. The blood suckers are all deadly, single-minded females. (They are called Hillarys by biologists.)

Even though I’ve purchased enough insecticide to permanently alter the DNA of my entire town and my downwind neighbors are threatening to file an EPA suit, the mosquitoes remain.
It was perfect weather for them critters last night. No wind, lots of moisture in the stream near my house. They're breeding like ... well, something that breeds real fast. Mormons, for instance. And those little vampires find me mighty tasty.

In fact, I am the mosquito equivalent of French food. My blood tastes rich, creamy, and delicious. When they bite me, they have such a blissful expression on their little insect faces. You can tell they're thinking, "Yes, oh, yes, this is what I've been searching for my whole life!" Sometimes they break into song: "Oh sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you ..." Then I squash them because they can't sing worth a dime even though the orchestra sounds good.

They die happy, though. They had a taste of me. In a very creepy sort of skin-crawling way, it's sweet, even romantic, although if you truly believe that, please stay away from me.

We burn those insect repellent candles outside, but they don't seem to do much, other than help put the females mosquitoes in a more romantic mood. The male mosquitoes would like me to play some Barry White music, too, but even though the males don't drink blood, I still think they're creepy, and I'm not going to help them get their insect groove on.

Naturally I started looking for solutions, including some home remedies, such as these:

1. Wipe yourself dry after your shower with a fabric softener sheet. This doesn’t seem to do anything, but I do smell Ocean Breeze Fresh.

2. Avon Skin So Soft. Many people swear by—and at—this lotion that supposedly functions as a safe insect repellent. Only result for me was that the mosquitoes would tell their friends, “There’s a strange seasoning on him, but underneath is pure scarlet goodness.”

3. Drink a lot of whiskey. My friend Renaldo uses this and was telling me that it works. I stared at him and noticed his arms were covered by bites. I pointed that out, and he said, “I know, but I don’t care.” Later he would collapse from blood loss, but not before hundreds of mosquitoes were unable to fly in a straight line.

4. Eat several cloves of raw garlic a day. This might work. It does keep people away from you, so maybe it will insects.

5. Catnip. Tuck a several twigs of catnip in your pockets and in your collar. This works. You have to run from the crazed cats, and the mosquitoes can’t keep up. Except in my case, I run from one flock of mosquitoes into another. So this doesn’t work; besides, I hate running. God wouldn’t have given us cars if He wanted us to run.

6. The Native Americans used to rub a combination of mud and rancid animal fat on their bodies. Alligator, raccoon, opossum, or bear fat was preferred. Let us know how this works out for you, okay?

7. Mix six drops each of the essential oils of catnip, citronella, lavender, neem, and black pepper into organic soy oil during the waning moon with a spoon made of willow—oh forget it.

Anyway, think of me as I wave at you from behind the sliding glass doors of my house. I may be as pale as the underbelly of a frog from the lack of sun, but come the first frost of fall, I’ll be back.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back.)

Friday, August 07, 2015

Bad Advice

Been told several times that I shouldn't be so discouraged by Congress and all the posturing and fighting by our ridiculous politicians. That's like telling a drowning man he shouldn't be bothered by all that water.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Junk Food

"Catamount" is another name for a mountain lion or a cougar. Bet you didn't know that. Catamounts also are an occasional predator of humans. Mind you, this is mostly caused because the catamount population is increasing due to conservation efforts after years of decline. (If only the conservation groups had attempted to save the last few honest Congressmen, we might have a few left today.)

It's not that the big cats seek us out or lure us to their den with offers of Twinkies and beer. No, it's that they're hungry and we're convenient and look tasty--it's the same situation that a cheerleader confronts when she attends a frat party, although not as risky.

Certainly we humans are the only species that considers ourselves a delicacy. Apparently, after one taste of human flesh, the consumer of said flesh desires nothing else, be that consumer an animal or a man. Notice how many movies show humans as the equivalent to potato chips: Jaws, Grizzly, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Sound of Music, The Hills Have Eyes, Silence of the Lambs, etc. "You can't eat just one." I'm surprised Lays doesn't offer a human flavor; Hannibal Lector would be the spokesperson, of course.

Considering how many chemicals and medicines we consume, we're not health food. Definitely not organic and probably not free range. We should make other species aware of this. When we're walking in the woods and we hear a sound that could be made by a hungry bear or a ravenous sparrow, we should say, "I just had a soft drink that contained large amounts of Red Dye #1 and carcinogenic preservatives. I eat prepackaged foods all the time that are loaded with trans-fats." Naturally, a health-minded animal will turn away, and we will be assured of our continued well being until our arteries explode.

Many people think sharks love to eat humans, but scientists say that isn't true. Sharks are actually shy, retiring, intelligent beasts that would rather stay home and watch Public Television, especially during Festival when they show all the wonderful programs that you don't see the rest of the year. Sharks don’t even like the taste of humans. (Does anyone besides me wonder how they conducted the experiments to learn that? Kind of creepy, eh?) Sharks usually take only one or two bites – maybe three if they’re feeling peckish – and that’s all they can stomach (according to shark researchers Lefty Jones and Shorty Smith). Of course, the problem is those bites are rather large.

Of course, no one is going to make a shark into a pet, but people have attempted that with the large cats. I read a horrible news story the other day where this lady named Constance raised a cougar from birth, and it was as "gentle as an lamb," but then it turned on her savagely, stole her identify, destroyed her credit, and then ran off to Africa with the family dog. The lady was heartbroken, but it's her own fault.

Constance forgot the first rule of pet ownership: Don't let them know your financial information. I'm careful to make sure my fish never get any more information than they need to conduct their business affairs. At the very least, you shouldn't let catamounts drink and drive. Show some responsibility. And don't sprinkle yourself with seasoning before you venture into the forest. That's just asking for trouble.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

PTM: The Only Way

Preaching To Myself: I wish I knew an easier way to do whatever you want to do: write a book, run a marathon, rekindle your relationship with your spouse, achieve your dream ... but the only way I know is by work. Working unceasing and giving up that which doesn't advance your goals.

Life is about choices, and each choice we make closes the door on another choice. It's regrettable, it's hard, it makes me want to howl at times, but in the end, you have to believe that the sacrifice is worth it -- even if you fail.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Burden of Beauty

I just had a sudden insight that I’m sure may have escaped your attention. Well, don’t feel bad. After all, I’m a genius, and you’re not. But you have a sweet spirit and will probably be spared when I conquer the earth. But that’s not a promise. Stop being so needy.

 Anyway, my insight was about The Burden of Beauty. The capitals on The Burden of Beauty should clue you in that this will be our topic. Or really my topic. I’m writing, and you’re reading. It’s good to keep those roles straight.

 Yes, it’s true that beautiful people get the best jobs, make the most money, get better care in emergency rooms and hospitals, receive more respect from their peers and loved ones, and live longer. These statements are all supported by statistics, and not ones I made up, either.

 Naturally, you might think this would mean everyone would want to be beautiful or handsome as their gender may be, but let’s take a closer look at these beautiful people—and I don’t mean by hacking into the webcam on their computer or lurking outside their house at 3 a.m. until they call the police and get a protective order. I miss you, Dolly Parton.

 But imagine, if you can, that you are a beautiful person. You have always been beautiful. In school, you were the football captain or head cheerleader, as your gender may be. You married another handsome and/or beautiful person, and you both have beautiful jobs. Naturally you have two or three beautiful children. You attend a beautiful church and play golf and/or tennis at the beautiful country club. Your life is just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And then you die beautifully and go to beautiful heaven... No, wait, that wasn’t where I was going with this.

 It’s the mirror that trips you up. Around forty, you look in the mirror and discover to your horror that your face looks like a National Geographic relief map of the Grand Canyon. How did that happen? Just yesterday you were crushing some poor ugly person’s heart at the prom as you let him or her down gently.

 Now you look ... old ... older ... not as young as you once did. Let’s just say somewhat less young and be done with it.

 If you’re a woman—and some men— you hightail it to a plastic surgeon who pulls the skin on your face so tight that even mannequins look at you with horror. And you have other body parts tucked, bobbed, lipo-sucked, fat-vacuumed, and generally lifted until your knees are floating around your chest. You sigh in relief—which is the only noise you can make until your face relaxes.

 The bad news is this is all temporary. Well, it’s good news for your plastic surgeon because he needs to keep up those alimony payments to his first through fourth wives. But the bad news for you is that gravity is relentless as is time, and baby, they’re coming for you no matter where you hide.

 Think of what a burden it must be for a beautiful person to always have to fight to be beautiful or handsome as their gender may be. They never get any rest. They have to constantly worry about maintaining their looks. It’s a hard life. Of course, I know. Oh, how I know.

 But you, you happy hideous thing, will never suffer as I have. I would almost trade lives with you. Oh, who am I kidding? No, I wouldn’t.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back.)

Monday, August 03, 2015

PTM: The Burden of Free Will

Preaching to myself: You can't save everyone, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. There will always those who choose to drown, who seek sorrow even as they say they're only seeking happiness. Yes, it's a tragedy, but it's the burden of free will. Some people will choose evil. You can do nothing for those people other than make sure that they know there is another way. You cannot choose for them, and no matter how much you love them, you can't save them unless they want to be saved.

Sometimes you have to walk away. Not without regrets. Not without the accumulated sorrows that come from any failure, but you still put one foot in front of another and walk away.

If you truly tried, then you have done your part. You have used your free will in the best possible way. That is all that is required of you. Sometimes people walk beside you toward the dawning light. Sometimes they don't. That doesn't change the light.

John 16:22 (KJV)  "And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." 

Sunday, August 02, 2015


Was discussing religion and life with a good friend, and he asked, "What makes Christianity so attractive? Why has it lasted?"

Lots of answers to that, I suspect, but for me, it's the rebirth. Not after we're dead, but the new life now. It's the only religion that I know of that says you can be reborn in this life, that you can change by becoming a new person right now. For all the terrible things we've done in its name, it's still offering change, still offering a chance for us to do better, to be better.

It's a reminder that every day is new. Yeah, I guess it sounds naive ... childish ... simple ... but it beats the sad sophistication and empty cynicism that we humans have elevated to an art form.

I make mistakes. I make plenty of them. It's comforting to know that my past mistakes do not define my future, that I am forgiven, that each day I am renewed. And one day we will rise to see the dawning light over the horizon.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Joys Of Getting Older & Other Lies

I celebrated my 54th birthday in July. Well, not really celebrated. Mourned might be the better word. Not that I minded getting older. In fact, other than cold sweats, weeping, wailing, sudden fits, and gnashing of teeth, I was quite calm about it.

Just think: the world has endured -- enjoyed 54 years of me. This does explain a few things, doesn’t it? Global warming, environmental degradation, those CD cases that are impossible to get into without a cutting torch -- I had nothing to do with any of those so why are you blaming me?

What really annoys me about getting older is how my body is wearing out. You’d figure after all this work I’ve done in avoiding work in any fashion, I’d be in better shape. I mean, why would my body be wearing out? It hasn’t had to do anything in years!

But my eyes are going bad, my back wants to fold up like a Republican’s conscience, my waist is expanding faster than a Democrat’s budget, my hair is departing my scalp and moving into my ears, and my brain is forgetting things I didn’t even know I knew.

Speaking of my brain, the other day someone asked me some question and I was trying to remember something when someone else came by and maybe asked the same question and I told another someone about how that first someone was always asking something about something, if you know what I mean.

I’m not saying I’m over the hill, but the view is awesome from where I’m at. I can see for miles and miles and miles, or I could if I could find my glasses. Oh, they’re on top of my head. Who put them there? Someone’s been sneaking in and moving things around my house. Probably those pesky Methodists again.

I blame my siblings for my advancing age: my older sister gets older and she pulls my older brother along, and he pulls me along, and my younger sister pushes me from behind! It’s no wonder I’m not as young as I used to be! If my older sister would just stop, this senseless aging would be over. I’m sure my other siblings wouldn't mind. But she has up a head of steam, and if I know my older sister -- and I do, despite her claims that she’s never heard of me -- she’s not going to stop until we all reach our 90s. Or older.

Well, there are worse things than being only 34. Shut up. No one needs your math.

(Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. From the forthcoming book Floozy Comes Back.)