12 August, 2012


Yuri and Pancho ducked into Joe's Diner.

It was about 3am.

Pancho tucked their skateboards behind the service station while Yuri went behind the counter and poured "coffees" for the two of them - the coffee consisting of half actual coffee, at most, and half chicory. Joe was cheap, and chicory was a coffee substitute used in prison.

"If anyone asks, we've been here for hours," said Pancho, still panting.

Wanda looked on bemused. Mike sat at one end of the diner with a couple of friends. James and his girlfriend at the time sat at the other end. It was 1995.

Wanda was the unofficial late night den mother for all the wayward teens of Parkland Heights. She'd give out free coffee when they came in penniless, and often feed them if they looked starved (a lot of latchkey kids from lower income neighborhoods would come in late at night).

And if ever there was trouble, the kids in the neighborhood would get Wanda's back - more than one robbery attempt had been thwarted simply with cold looks from LSD crazed teenagers.

Sure enough, Parkland Heights police were not far behind Yuri and Pancho - who had "been there for hours" as everyone attested.

Officer John Blackman knew better, and took the two outside to the parking lot for a more thorough investigation.



The first time was a dizzying blur. Adrenaline?

Mike had boosted a great many things before: candy from the grocery store, porn magazines.

One time he chatted up the clerk, some teenager just like him - a townie girl - while stuffing an entire carton of Marlboro Red's up the sleeves of his leather jacket, one pack at a time.

On leaving the store, a gas station, he got in his boarding school roommate's Jeep and said "Tom, I just boosted a whole carton of smokes," as he unpacked them from his jacket, "let's get the fuck out of here."

Tom laughed. They pulled out. The clerk was none the wiser.

But this time the alarm went off from the Walkman tucked under his backpack and security was on him immediately. The rest was dreamlike: the back room, cops, the ride in the back of the cruiser, the jail cell, the florescent lights, the unsympathetic looks, the paper work, the phone call, the disappointed father.

Everyone asking, "what have you learned?"

To be a better criminal? Jail sucks?



"Whenever I write the novel... you know, the novel I never actually write... in the story I'm usually, no, I'm always the bad guy," said Mike as he spun a half-full tumbler of whiskey in his right hand, shifting in his bar stool.

"What does that even mean?" James was becoming impatient. He sipped the last of his Newcastle and shot a glare at the bartender, socializing with friends, at the other end of the bar.

"It's not that I'm romanticizing antagonism... it's just that after all these years I just don't think I'm a good person. And when I try to be, I just fuck everything up. In fiction, I at least don't have the luxury of guilt."

Guilt. James pondered that momentarily, puzzled why anyone would choose to antagonize.

Gillian Welch came on the jukebox: "...I wanna do right, but not right now..."

Mike swallowed his whiskey. "It was nice to see you James," said Mike as he stood and started to walk away, turning, "keep fighting the good fight."

"Yeah," James said to the bar, "whatever that means."



One thing most adults have in common is that they've had sex at least once.

Kids run around, totally ignorant of this other, hidden, adult world of sex for years... at some point they become cognizant that adults are shielding them from sex; but also from a great many other realities.

That's biology - sex is supposed to happen at a certain time, a time that's "right", for every person.

And no one is ever prepared for it, no matter how much "sex-ed" they get.

But at any time, a person, young or old, can encounter death.

Mike encountered it, but in the abstracted world of funeral parlors: the dead were made up, laid out, and caked with make-up to look as if the corpse were sleeping.

Others aren't so insulated.

Jame's uncle Fat George took himself out with a round in the heart - he was kind enough not to blow his face off like Kurdt Cobain. If you looked past the blood soaked shirt and the pool of blood on the floor, you might think he was just asleep at his desk. Until you got close enough to smell it.

No six year old should have to experience that.