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Aimee Mann on Her New Album Mental Illness and String Accompaniments

So is it just me or is Aimee Mann like about sixty (60) now? I mean, you can barely tell. That’s pretty awesome. I loved Til Tuesday when I was in High School and since then have just been so busy with college and law school that I never noticed that Til Tuesday’s singer had done what most brilliant people eventually do, which is to go it on your own.

Aimee Mann’s solo career has been brilliant and fun and funny and now that I have a little time to listen to her new album, Mental Illness, I’m floored by how great it is. Her voice is as beautiful as ever, and so is she, and her writing and composition is just stellar. But don’t listen to me, listen to her.

And String Tracks!! Did I mention the string tracks and how she describes them, even her description is sublime. Not to be confused with the band of the same name, although they’re pretty great too. Being married to a string player has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. So, mad respect for anyone who can play and anyone who appreciates them and uses them to enhance their songs and album, such as Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness. Heading to iTunes right now to find it and add it to my collection. 🙂

Leap of Faith – Some Leaps Are Faithier Than Others

Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. Like it or not. Everybody knows that.

You take a lot of them really. When you choose your wife or your husband. When you pick out a house in the remote little beach town of Costa Rica, California because your company has just found a position open for you there. When you find out you’re about to be a father, twice on the same day. Or if you’re going to be a mother, perhaps, especially if you’re going to be mother. When you pick out a kitten from the pet rescue, you take a little leap of faith each time.

Perhaps most especially when you pick your church, even though it turns out to be a forty- minute drive to the other side of town. Because the pastor is a track-star from some forgotten-Olympics, blond and a touch of gray, who owns three Vita-Nutrition stores also has a dynamic personality and the voice of a seraphim, you take your leap. But wait that’s not all, of course not. He also plays guitar with the acuity of a Hendrix during hymns and choir, and your athletic wife says “he plays divinely.” What’s more, although you think she sings like a goat, she has joined the choir, and so you take the ridiculous leap of faith because forty minutes each way isn’t so long if the services are good. Happy wife, happy life. But then again, maybe it’s more like a cliff-dive. Some leaps are faithier than others.

So this then, is your real-life wife, you took the leap of faith and married her, Denise, and she loves you with her whole heart. She’s lately taking up weight lifting to lose weight. This is your real house on Smarteen Street in the City of Costa Rica, California. Your kitten is your real kitten, not just a kitten that you hope for, but you in fact can see her mewling at your ankles for her favorite treat, your lunch. You’re not crazy, she’s really there at your ankles doing figure eights and she loves you with all her little cat-heart . . . at least until someone else is eating a hamburger freshly grilled and spiced with a little season-salt. Mrs. Catsandra Clare who you imagine is the author of the Night Hunters series, book one, Bowl of Bones, book two, Bowl of Dust Bunnies and in progress, she’s working on Bowl of Lost Soles.

And this track runner and body builder with the blond hair and a little rhone, and with the four-door Porsche and the family support payments the size of my salary is the real pastor of the Real Life Forgiveness Church. Forgive me, but I could use a drink, oh, I mean, I accept You into my heart, and voila; forgiven. I do accept You into my heart but I don’t like this guy, forgive my . . . not liking my pastor. I guess I’ll get used to it, but I could tear my hair out, or his, if I wasn’t so pudgy and un-fit from many years of bringing home the bacon, eating it, and then going back to ten and twelve-hour work-days to bring home some more bacon, and eating it again and again and again.

Denise’s church calling as congregation secretary requires her to work so late counting tithing, offerings and seeing after the building and the billing to the utilities and arranging food deliveries to the poor and whatnot, that sometimes she comes home later than I do. Sweaty too, very sweaty, she’s found an all night gym so that she can make sure to work out after working late and of course she says that I should try it too. Why not? There’s a branch of that gym near my office. So I checked it out, indeed it’s open all night which makes sense because of all of the office buildings in the area.

Denise also makes sure that the orphans are fed, and the widows are clothed and Bibles and magazines are sent to the member-inmates in the local jails and prisons. Although there aren’t many, Pastor Chet likes to make sure that they are looking forward to coming back to their wives and children once released. So he also sponsors work-out programs and exercise for many of the wives so that their husbands will have someone to look forward to seeing after their time inside. Other husbands who must work late find little reason to stray, says my wife. “Don’t you think?” while modeling her new bikini for me. So I think, so I think indeed. That’s a good day, and there are good days, many of them, just fewer and fewer and sometimes it’s starting to feel like the good days are days after having a fight and we’re making up again. You have to be careful of those days or you end up in the PTA for a fat lot longer than you expect.

Denise mentions casually that an awful lot of the tithing and offerings that come in, also go right back out again to “Chet’s” ex-wife in the form of alimony and child support. Yes, the widows and orphans are clothed and fed, “but they can be helped so much more if only his ex and kids were more reasonable.”

I answer, “he should find an attorney and ask a judge to make it right.” But anyway the church lights stay on, it is cool in the summer and warm in the winter and his Porsche loan is never late. Okay sure our van was once late once last year, but whose fault was that, I was at work all day? I’m about to reply that his suits are tailored from the floor up instead of pulled down from the rack like mine but hold my tongue instead, why bother? She sees me sometimes but rarely hears me anymore.

On just a few occasions I leave work early and drive the hour to the Real Life Forgiveness Church where my wife labors away as his nearly free certified public accountant, or at least as his glorified bookkeeper. It isn’t Denise’s favorite when I show up unannounced, she prefers to work on numbers alone because noises and people distract her.

Depression gestates into coronary cancer. I miss my family, and when I get home from the gym now later than ever, the girls are always asleep and Denise is either not home yet or already fast asleep herself. How long can I wait this out? I suggest moving but am shut down harshly, “the girls change schools again, no way!” So in a round about way I convince Janie and Jilly’s pediatrician that they need a dryer climate away from the coast. It works so well that he even recommends it to Denise a few weeks later on without any prodding from me. She picks out a different pediatrician within a week instead. Goodbye, Doctor Early and hello Doctor Shumway who, turns out, is a friend of Pastor Chet with an office even closer to the beach than the church is.

Eventually my emotions fall so low, that my ex-brother-in-law would have said that I’d hit Rock-Bottom, which is why he is my ex-brother in law. Because as my Denise’s sister likes to say, “He is a all too familiar with rock-bottoms,” she finally left him. This is Aunt Jilene’s huge leap of faith, I tell my daughters, dumping him. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a plunge I ought to take myself. Without the kids and the cat, just me off on my own in a new country, perhaps with a new name, in van near a lake never seen before. I’m going to leave her to her Secretarial Calling and her track-star pastor, and apparent chiseler of all things tithing and taxes.

As the depressed fugue-state cankers in my heart, I watch that moment of surprise direction and dumb-blind-luck which takes you from the failure you are to the heights of success you always dream of reaching. Chet Richards, the rock-star Pastor, Pastor Rich to most, Pastor Chet to the few who are chosen, slips on a stair right in front of me while heading up to the altar during one of his Thursday practice sermons. Denise had been going to every one of them as part of her secretarial duties, and today, I phoned in sick to the firm, to come be with her. Rosa the receptionist thinks it sweet, she also mentioned that a couple of SEC regulators had been looking for me and I hope that I don’t know why, though maybe I do but how the hell do they know, my firm’s clients don’t, so how the hell do they? But really, it’s just another reason to take a long vacation, whatever it is. My Denise and I had bumped into each other in the parking lot and walked into the church together. I had tried to hold her hand but she pretended to scratch at her earlobe.

I had been considering taking Janie and Jilly with me but I’m not interested in going to prison for kidnapping my own children, kind of an ironic way to defeat the purpose really. No, leave, take a break, eventually come back after things blow over at work and then file divorce, like everybody else. Deal with the regulators later if it’s even still an issue which isn’t likely.

Yet, there he is, falling on his face going up to the altar. Chet, the rock-star Pastor, or Pastor Rich to me because I don’t have a calling and I’m not one of the chosen few in his inner circle of close friends. Chet Richards, the guitar playing Crooner for Christians, tripped on a stair. No one else is here, no one else has come to the practice session.

Upon entering I catch that little look his face as he glances from me to her again after he sees me walk into the chapel a few paces behind her. That crest-fallen look of a cake that deflates fresh from the oven because you bounce it too hard while setting on the stove top. I see her hair shaking in the wind in the chapel . . . where there is no wind. I must have paled because he asks me, “you’re looking a little green there Kiddo, is everything alright? Maybe you should head on home?” Maybe he has a medical license I don’t know about and has diagnosed my stomach churning under my chubby belly, or he’s projecting.

In watching his face turn sour and her hair waving back and forth in the non-wind, I wonder why I ever confessed anything to him, ever. I want to tear all his blond hair out and leave only the grays. Again, that prison-thing doesn’t appeal to me so I let it go.

At the time of choosing this church anyone could come to the practice sermons and help him choose a turn of phrase or make things clearer or more understandable and rarely but just so often, less offensive. Not many, but at least a few always participate. “Aren’t practice sermons on Wednesdays?”

“Those are pre-practice,” says Denise.

“But you’re always home one Wednesdays?” I lamely ask like a boy scout trying to sell girl scout cookies.

She only glares at me.

But here now, here today, there is no one, just us three, and as he slips in slow motion before my eyes, and his guitar flies in one direction, and his other arm protects his face, the hand and face slam the carpet together with a thud. Somehow he manages to not get a visible drop of blood on the carpet. Not that I can see. I’m wearing a red shirt which I take off and hand to him, making sure to place the front of the shirt towards his face as I do. We get him to the bathroom nearest the altar to clean him up.

“Thank you,” he half smiles, “I appreciate not having to scrub that out of the carpet, and of course, I’ll buy you a new shirt. Of course. Maybe several.”

“How about just two. That’s about what carpet cleaners would cost,” answers Denise.

“Hmmpf.” Is all I can manage. Two shirts and you lay off my wife, how about that?, I think but not out loud. Besides I’m leaving anyway, aren’t I? I mean more than ever I am leaving anyway and California being a no-fault divorce state, what difference does it make now? When he reaches the sink, he hands me the shirt back.

Shirtless, in the stairwell, alone, my Denise seeing after her Chet in the bathroom, the door hinge shuts the door automatically. All I can do is shake my head at that arrogant door, shutting me out like that. I pull my shirt on and rub the now-flowing tears on my cheek with the soft collar. I slather one hand in his blood and crack the door open a little. It’s quiet, except for a quick giggle from Denise far down the stalls, but I hear the water running through the pipes of the building and into the sink still. Still washing his face and neck apparently. I run my bloody fingers over the door handle inside. Letting the door close again, because my wedding ring is on my left hand, I smash my nose with my right. I wince, croak like a little frog and start whimpering and crying. It hurts far more than I’d expected. It certainly hurts far more than he makes it look like it hurt him. Another reason to hate him. Through bleary eyes, I rub my blood on the other hand and silently breach the door a second time. I lightly slip my fingers over the handle and the door jamb. Quietly the door fits into his frame, and then I heave all my weight against the long metal handle I’m holding in my fists as though I’m holding it against a tidal wave.

I run soft-footed up the stairs to the roof, smearing our blood as I go. At the roof door, I smeared our blood on the jamb, knob, door, and heave myself against it hard on the outside. Digging my feet into the gravel in front of the door, I run in the treadmill gravel under my feet leaving a deep skid mark. When I peer over the edge of the little flat roof five stories high, I realize I’m on top of a crenelated castle. Below two men in suits step out of a long sedan and wave to a passing police car. They point at the front of the church and the police vehicle parks up on the sidewalk far below. I kick up the gravel all over the place while screaming my heart out, “Chet no! Please! Chet! Stop! Chet No, I don’t want to die!”

I snorted black drops all over, smear his blood on the top of the little wall then slide into third base on my knees in the gravel, smash my shin and grind up my side. Taking a few steps back and I bolt for the edge.

Twisting in the cool air like Mrs. Catsandra Clare so that I’m falling with the wind at my back, my wife Denise and her precious Chet arrive at the roof’s edge. Turning my head, I watch the police storm the front door, guns drawn.

Chapter 4: Annika’s Grandmother

As we drove, Annika explained that we were going to meet her Grandmother for breakfast. She made a look on her face that almost resembled a smile. “Everyone in the family has to meet Grandmother Sissel. Even Marty had to take his girlfriend to meet her. Grandma Sissy hated her.” Annika’s face broke out in a genuinely happy grin.

“And if she doesn’t like me?” I asked.

“No worries, she’s going to love you.” I’m her favorite granddaughter. “Now she’s very old and I want you to be prepared for a couple things, first, she’s very very old.”

“You said that already.” I quipped.

“Yes, but she’s very very old. Over 110 but we’re not exactly sure because there aren’t any records of her birth that anyone can find. Second, she’s losing it a bit, she thinks she even older than we do.” Annika turned to me and smiled, “you’re going to love this place, it’s a Swedish restaurant so the food is like heaven, the my mother used to cook.”

We parked in front of Dansk. I sat in the car and blinked my eyes. Annika asked, “What is it? Is it the name, is says Dansk which means Danish but the owners are Swedish.”

“Oh, it’s just that, um, this is where I ate after I met with Martin about the insurance.”

“Oh, Makes sense, his office is only just down the street.” Annika wrinkled her nose at me and sucked air in her nostrils hard. “Sorry,” she added, “I don’t mean to snort at you, I just had an itch in my nose.”

Asking for a table outside, we were shown to the same table where I’d eaten yesterday. But something happened here, didn’t it? Something weird, but I couldn’t remember, and my head hurt to think about it. I gripped my glass of ice water, then lay my forehead in my palm. When I looked up there was an elderly woman wearing a full length sable coat. Over her head lay a thin shawl. Reaching both hands up, she adjusted her shawl slightly out of her face so see me better.

It seemed to me that she’d just sprung up out of the seat that she was sitting on. I know I was staring in disbelief, I’m sure that I’d never met anyone so old before. Somewhere in the darkened cobwebs there must have been eyes. I was searching for them.

She extended a withered hand to me, and I felt that the only thing to do was to stand and then gently bend and kiss it. Icy, it reminded me of frost on a windshield which reminded me of waking in my car and the migraine returned.

“Bra,” the old woman said and slowly she turned to Annika and said, “han är söt.”

“She says you’re cute.” Annika translated.

“Men, kanske vi kan låta honom veta nu?” Annika asked her without offering me any translation this time. But I was busy closing my eyes and resting my forehead in my palms again. From far away I heard the gentle tapping of a spoon on a glass. Maybe there was a wedding party about to have a toast. At least my migraine had downgraded suddenly to a mere severe headache. I heard the tapping a second time and my headache went away.

When I looked up Annika was grinning and the woman as old as stones was staring at me severely. She didn’t look a day over 98 to my eyes. I saw the side of her mouth twitch a micro-smile for just a splinter of a moment. And then I remembered the beautiful raven haired woman who had sat in front of me yesterday. Her face was porcelain and her eyes were golden brown with more golden than brown. And in another 100 years that gold eyed brunette would look just like this elderly matriarch sitting in front of me.

“She’s my daughter too,” said Grandma Sissel.

“I’m sorry, who is?” I asked.

“The woman you met yesterday, here at this table, she’s my daughter too.”

“Grand, um, granddaughter? Yes?” I stammered.

“Daughter, granddaughter, granddaughter’s granddaughter, it’s hard to tell after a while,” said Grandma Sissel.

“Call me Grandma Sissy.” And okay, I thought, I’ll call you anything you like. I was remembering more bits and pieces from moment to moment.

“She slapped me.” I said.

“Who did?” asked Annika.

“The black haired woman with the gold eyes who met me here yesterday.” I blurted it out so fast that I half couldn’t believe myself. “She slapped me. Then she said, ‘come with me’ and we went just like that to some sort of a forest or whatnot and, and then she slapped me again and was shouting catch me, and running away.”

Now Grandma Sissy was grinning and Annika giving me a hard stare. “Did you catch her?” asked one of them, but I don’t remember which. I had to think to remember before I could answer.

“No, I chased her but I never tried to catch her. Thing is I was like born in that moment, born to run in circles, to run after her, but I felt like catching her would be wrong. But I didn’t know why it was wrong, so I never even tried.”

“Bra, bra pojke, gott hjärta, hör hans hjärta till dig.” Said Grandma Sissy. I must have been staring because Annika waved her hand at me. Either it was American sign for “Hi” or Queen of England for “stay away from the royal carriage or my guards will mow you down.”

Annika wiped a tear from her cheek and said, “she says your heart belongs to me.”

Grandma Sissy added, “och blodet alltför.”

“What was that?” I asked, and Annika just said it meant “forever.” Well my great great grandparents were Swedish but I didn’t know any myself. “But who was that raven haired woman really, and how did she make me forget, who I was, or where I was?”

Annika shook her head. Running her fingers through her hair, she said that we’d get to that but that she had a question first. “Tell me where you were this morning?”

“I woke up in my car in the driveway . . . in the passenger’s seat.” Finally I could think about that frosty white baby’s hair all over my windshield without feeling like I was about to have a stroke. So, I told them about the frost. Annika turned a bit of a paler white than her usual Caucasian self and Grandma Sissy, screamed something that sounded like “fawn”. But I couldn’t see what a young deer had to do with anything. Grandma Sissy followed up with a couple of what must have been expletives that sounded rather like a spitting sound.

“Men, at least we know certain that you two can be married.” Grandma Sissy said. Annika sobbed quietly.

“What, what, what? What is it?” I asked but Grandma Sissy answered with a bunch of questions while Annika continued to cry. Starting with my last name, my parents names and my grandparent’s names. Six of my great grandparents were English and I couldn’t recall their names. But two were Swedish. Great Grandpa Lyssna had been married to Grandma Ane Brun Lyssna.

Grandma Sissel clapped loudly and said, “she är min daughter också, also.” I must have looked perplexed because she continued, “Granddaughter’s daughter.” The old lady smiled and launched into a brief but detailed description of Grandma Ane.

She knew that my grandma’s little fingers on her right hand were bent outwards because a bull had stepped on them when she was small child. She knew that Ane’s favorite food was lingonberry jam over pancakes. So what, I thought, find me a Swede who doesn’t like that. She also knew that Ane hated her parents and had killed her cousin Arne when he was attacking her in the hay barn. That was why Ane left Sweden. She came to America with a small bag of gold, that I learned for the first time in the garden patio of the Dansk restaurant, had in fact come from Grandma Sissel herself.

I leaned back, Annika had a tear stained puffy face. Using the tree’s branches I counted from my dad, to grandpa Lyssna to Grandma Ane, to the daughter of a granddaughter who bore Ane into the world. Grandma Sissy was claiming to be my sixth great grandmother. Best guess, she would have had to be born about 1780ish give or take 20 years.

“Forget it, it’s a bunch of bull.” I said as I moved next to Annika and put my arms around her and her hair rested in my face. I could feel her sobbing again. “What is it? What’s wrong?” I pleaded with her, but she didn’t answer.

Grandma Sissy growled at us, “Doesn’t matter, done is done. You get married today, right away. I will fix it. She will be punished.”

Annika whispered in my ear, “it’s good you got the insurance when you did.”

Until Later . . . 

Chapter 3: Waking In My Car

Shivering, I awoke in my car. Parked in my driveway, the interior smelled of autumn forest. Sort of a rotten pine scent with overripe blackberries. So cold. Raising my seat to its nearly upright position, I realized that the steering wheel was on my left. Since it’s not an English car I began slowly to worry about what had happened since lunch. Or even at the restaurant since I couldn’t remember having eaten . . .

Outside my car window it was dark and fuzzy or foggy. I rubbed my eyes, it was foggy since I could see my hands clearly enough. Fully dressed, freezing and prickly beard, I looked like I woke up late and wasn’t going to make it to work on time.  Keys in the ignition made a tinkling as I tried opening the stuck shut door. I grabbed them. Putting them in my breast pocket, I pulled my cell phone out first and checked the time.

On the face of the phone it was 5:05 am and the app displayed a picture of the moon with no clouds around it. The door didn’t budge, but leaning into the driver’s seat, I lashed sideways with my shoulder and it burst open. In another life I must have been a fire fighter. Cool morning air rushed in, yet it was much warmer than inside the car.

I welcomed the morning, and stumbled out of the car falling to my knee. Stiff and cranky I stood up and stretched. My back cracked in 3 places which was unusual. Turning to shut the door, I noticed frost on the window, door handle and hood of the car. It was on the roof and doors and as I pulled the door open again, it was on the inside and outside of the windshield. What was that about?

I shut the door and clicked the fob. My grass wasn’t icy. My walkway was clean and dry. Passing to my neighbor’s car, it wasn’t covered with frost. Just mine. And it was hoar frost. Like my windshield was covered with short wispy baby’s hair.

Inside my little house in Camdten Gardens near San Diego State I stretched and felt rested enough. Made sense I guess since I must have slept since late afternoon yesterday. But where had I been. Thinking about it gave me a headache, but not thinking about it, made me feel at ease and free. That made me uneasy and anxious. So I set to wondering about why I didn’t care where I’d been and that gave me less of a headache than thinking where and what I’d in fact been up to since yesterday afternoon.

Placing my thoughts directly on the frosty hair that had been on my car gave me a migraine complete with swatch of plate glass window running through the upper right side of my visual field. I was going to have to find an answer in a more unconventional way. With the volume down I turned on the TV and switched over to Netflix. Perhaps an episode of Voyager would give my headache a rest. I closed my eyes and listed as Captain Proton saved the Galaxy from invasion yet again.

Suddenly I was back at Dansk, a young dark haired woman sat down in front of me as I was devouring my pancakes and those wonderful sausages. “You don’t want to raise your cholesterol like that, besides, it’s time to start your diet.” I put down my fork and finished chewing and swallowed. Wearing a Donna Karan business suit not quite à la Ally McBeal, she smiled at me. Dark wavy hair caressed her shoulders and lay across her clavicles. Golden brown eyes stared into mine. I believe she said, “I can see why Annika likes you.” But the sound of it to my mind was like it was fading away as she spoke or did her lips even move. Between my ears it echoed for a couple of moments saying “Annika likes you, Annika likes you, Annika likes you over and over.”

If I answered her I don’t remember it. If she ever said anything else I don’t remember it officer. But there were no police, I was interrogating myself. I could feel my body was running free now, like in a dream when you’re running across a field of grass just before you start to fly away. Not like the dream when you run and run but you go nowhere, but like I was running and running and there was a beautiful woman and either I was chasing her or she was chasing me. But I don’t remember what she looked like. Sandy blond mane or black and wavy, it seemed to me that there were both in my dream.

Maybe I was chasing one and the other was chasing me. I began to think it was more like running in a circle so that you are simultaneously doing both; chasing and being chased.

Door opened and I awoke. Annika walked in and laughed at me. “It’s 10 in the morning and you’ve missed half your work day?” Which was true, I usually started at 6am in order to handle the east coast business before starting on the central, mountain and pacific times.

“What?” I almost shouted at her.

“Don’t sweat it,” she said, “I called at 6:30 to see if you wanted to do breakfast and they said you weren’t in yet. So, I waited a couple of minutes, called back and said you were sick today and that you wouldn’t be in until tomorrow, so you’re cool like school.”

“Really?” I was gradually remembering the prior day and my head ached less for having slept through half a season of Captain Janeway’s trek through the Delta Quadrant of our Milky Way. I wanted to ask about the stethoscope but thought the better of it. Perhaps the preferred mode of inquiry would be to help with the wedding planning and see how much of had in fact been done.  Were we really going to the Wedding Chapel by the Sea, was there really an Italian string quartet coming to play her processional music down the little chapel’s aisle?

But she was so beautiful and she was here and smiling in scrubs with little . . . were those flecks of blood on her shirt? She caught me staring, “Oh that, I was visiting with a friend in the E.R. and got blood sprayed by the gsw victim of the day.”

“It’s not ketchup?” I asked.

She let out a maniacal laugh continuing, “you got me, dang I thought you might fall for it, yes of course it’s ketchup and I’m sure I’ve sat on mustard too.”  As she turned and showed me her butt there was in fact a yellow spot not unlike what you might expect if you had sat on mustard. Pulling her light cotton pants tight, I couldn’t help smiling. I felt a bit more relaxed, and embarrassed, and those didn’t usually go together but just now for the first time, they did.

“Listen, I’m going to go and change, then we’re going to go have breakfast.” Peeling as she walked away, I clicked off the TV and watched her reflection disappear down the hallway.

“I’ve got your back!” I yelled out.

“What?” she answered walking back into the hall wearing a tan sweater.

“I’ve got your back,” and I thought curses foiled again.

“Oh, great, I guess.” She headed back into the bedroom. No, she hadn’t yet moved in, but as a fiancée she’d taken drawer privileges even though she was a traditional girl and when she visited, I was appointed to my slumber on the couch. My friend Scott gave me the book called, She’s Just Not That Into You, but I haven’t read it yet. I was pretty sure he was wrong anyway, women who aren’t into you don’t make wedding and honeymoon plans.

“Dude, she is, she totally is, but she’s a traditional girl.” I’d handed the book back but he wouldn’t have it, he just shoved it into my briefcase instead.

“If she doesn’t want you before the wedding, she won’t want you after either. She’s up to something.” He’d said. But what? I’d wondered. I’m not rich, not famous, not going to be. I’m lumpy dumpy and kinda funny, so maybe just maybe she was really in love.

Momentarily the dim and distant memory of seeing her kissing the used Vampire Insurance salesman was edging in on my good feelings. There she was leaning over my shoulder from the back of the couch pressing the bell of a stethoscope on my chest. “You’re alive!” She cried out.

“Where did you get that?”

“From my boyfriend.” Smiling she continued, “there was this young doctor that washed out of the program and he gave all of his gear away to hospital staff before he left making sure not to give any of it to any of the doctors or other interns.”

“What?” I asked, well that was odd coincidence.

“I heard you met with my cousin Martin about the insurance.”

I felt such a relief. Then I felt a creeping anxiety coming up my spine. Why should I feel relieved that all this set of coincidences should come together all at once. And I still couldn’t think about my car without the swatch of glassiness spilling across my vision like spraying and freezing water on a windshield. Damn, there it went again.

My right eye squinted shut, “your cousin is our used vampire insurance salesman?” I asked. My head began to feel better.

“Yup.” Annika furrowed her eyebrows at me, “he thinks you’re paranoid and told me to marry someone else. He’s an ass but he’s family. How did you find him bytheway? That’s an odd coincidence.”

“I couldn’t have said that better myself,” I said. “He’s like, I don’t know, cagey about everything, he even said that he didn’t know you.”

“Oh, hmm, how did you get to ask him about me? That’s even weirder . . .”

“I was I don’ know, embarrassed. So I was looking for an insurance agency out of the way, you know, off the beaten path and found him.” I said. Yawning I stretched, and saw that she was still waiting for a more comprehensive explanation. “Well I heard him on the phone say that he’d just gotten a referral from Annika his best referrer. So, I asked how he knew you and he said he didn’t and claimed he’d said Anita. But I know better, he plainly said Annika.”

Annika tied her hair in a pony tail and asked, “Well, did I tell you to go to him?”

“No, I found him on my phone.”

She crinkled and sniffed hard, “well, he’s an a-hole, and I think he’s been in sales for too long. Come on, I know this great little restaurant.”

And I still couldn’t think about that car anymore.

Til Next Time . . . 

Annika

“We’ve got a live one, yes from Annika, she’s our best referrer.” Martin Springafalt looked up surprised to see me walking back in.

“Um, you have an Annika who works for you? Is that my Annika, I mean that’s a rare enough name.  You know.” I asked. I was nervous, pausing too long before adding the “you know” but my Annika, how could he know her?

“Oh no,” he smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “That’s Anita. What can I do for you?”

“Well I had just gotten to my car and noticed that the binder says there is an exclusionary period of three months.” His mouth smiled again. “What’s that about?” I asked.

“In case you’re related to a vampire or have a good friend who is a vampire and you’re both trying to buck the system . . . it prevents fraudulent collusion, that’s all it is.”

“What! What do you take me for?” I asked but he just continued to smile like nothing was amiss.

“Mr. Lyssna, it’s sort of like the suicide exclusion on page 7 of the policy and two paragraphs down on he binder’s page 2.” He said.

“But I’m high risk.” I protested.

“Exactly why you should go home and forget about the binder and in 90 days you’ll be covered. If you don’t start the policy today, then your 90 days won’t start until that later date when you do start it. You know I once bought a dental insurance policy with a 90 day exclusion and was angry that I couldn’t get in for a cleaning for 3 months, just like you. On the 95th day, do you know what happened, bam, broken molar. I was sure glad I had that policy.” Leaning back he smiled a relaxed smile and put his hands behind his head and interlaced his fingers. Was he trying t to fly away? Teeth cleaning? Really? Does that work on everyone? I guess it probably did because it was working on me. But I was starting to think that Mr. Springafalt was no more than a used vampire insurance salesman.

“Where do you work?” he asked me.

“Conway Ritter Financial Systems downtown office. I’m uh, an accountant there. Annika works the hospital across the street. She manages the cafeteria, that’s where we met, in the cafeteria at the hospital, across the street.”

“That’s nice, and if you’re truly concerned,” That’s nice I thought, if I’m truly concerned with my next dental cleaning. Nope, I’m more concerned with my next hematectomy, you know, dialysis by vampire. He continued “then spend a lot more time at work. A well lit public building downtown is not the kind of place that vampires are going to haunt, even for your blood type.”

“You seem to know an uh, an awful lot about vampires.” I said to him. I remember specifically looking him in the eyes while saying it. That he knew more than the general public and it seemed to me that he also knew more than the average vampire insurance salesman.

Smiling again but with a sense of utter peace in his eyes, he said, “well, I do take my continuing education very seriously. But I do have a new appointment arriving soon so if there’s anything else?” Mr. Springafalt stared at me hard waiting for me to leave.

“Referred by Anita?” I asked, I could feel my heart racing. I was still sure that he’d said Annika but the door was creaking shut when I was walking in, my own foot falls could have masked the sound.

“Yes, that’s right Ms Chavez, that agent is our best referrer.” He sighed and confessed that he had some errands to run before his new appointment arrived. So, I left with my binder that immediately covered property damage, and my 90 day exclusion and my high risk factors for vampire attacks.

I drove around the sleepy village of La Mesa looking for a Starbucks. Maybe if I joined the coffee achievers I’d feel revved up and calmed down. Of course if I changed my mind they do have great hot coco and they do have garlic bagels.

Finding a restaurant at the base of a hill called Dansk, it had an inviting outside dining area covered with trees near the sidewalk. On the sign read, Scandinavian Breakfast. That sounded good so I parked and went inside. Once sitting I noticed the Starbucks was located across the street. Okay so I’d sacrificed good coffee for what was clearly and even greater plate of pancakes and sausage. Somewhere in heaven surely there was a lonely angel leaning over a cloud and soaking up the aromas from this little cottage restaurant among the La Mesa woods.

I ordered a coco. I didn’t feel like achieving much except to eat breakfast for lunch and to try to sweep away the uneasy feeling that I’d just been had for $102 and 51 cents.

As I sipped the not so bad coco and waited for my meal, tall tanned and Thor-som walked up to Starbucks and flicked a cigarette into the street. I leaned back in my chair to put a tree trunk in between us.

Looking into the windows he was pulling out his iPhone and checking messages. Annika walked up to him and putting her hand on his shoulder they kissed each other cheeks French-style and walked into the Starbucks.

So there it was, Annika wearing full scrubs and a stethoscope around her neck was his star referrer. I had just thought that everyone in a hospital wore scrubs but . . . a stethoscope? Since when do you put one of those up to a dishwasher?

She’s like a really specialized ambulance chaser. Sifting the high risk blood types and sending them to the used vampire insurance salesman, I wondered how much of a commission he paid her. I wondered if he was her boyfriend, husband or cousin.

Kissing on the cheeks isn’t normal in La Mesa, not among everyone but foreigner’s do it enough. Still I didn’t guess they were French. Afterall, his name was as Scandinavian as my breakfast.

Clearly I was a mark and not a fiancé. So why was she hiring caterers and a string quartet? Maybe she did want to marry me. Perhaps she didn’t hire anyone and only said that she did.

Well I had no idea, but after spending $102.51 I couldn’t afford to miss breakfast. I thought I’d just finish my food first and then jaunt on over and just walk up and sit down with them. Say nothing and see what they did. That was my plan.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

More Later

Vampire Insurance

I entered Martin Springafalt’s Vampire Insurance Agency at about 10:00am thinking that I must be safe, it was a bright Summer day and the place was well lit. Besides the garlic bagel with garlic cream cheese should ward off even a swarm of tourists from New Jersey.

“Good Morning.” From behind the big desk the tall blond man greeted me. Square jawed and thorlike, his golden hair swung into his face as he stood up. From the desk the little sign flashed that his name was Martin Springafalt. “It’s nice to meet you.” His large right hand waved at the seat in front of me.

“Well, I’ll get right to the point . . .” but he cut me off.

“You want vampire insurance.” Martin smiled and pulled a couple off brochures off the reception desk’s display and lay them in front of me. I was aghast, this was going to be more expensive than I’d thought. Along with the usual property damage rider and undead riders there were werewolf and faerie riders as well.

“I was just looking for the standard policy really, I . . .” was cut off again by Martin.

“Look, Mr?”

“Lyssna, Johnathan Lyssna.”

“You’re in a high risk category Mr. Lyssna?”

“Yes, well, AB-” I said. My voice shook as I did. The last thing you ever want to do is shout out at midnight that you’re taking a thousand dollars from an ATM in downtown LA. Or that you’re AB- when vampires have been reported in the area.

“Then you already know how important coverage is. Let’s take a little time because even the standard policies have major differences now, new wrinkles. We’ll have to go over those before you know what you’re looking for. Are you married Mr. Lyssna, have children?”

“No children yet, but soon to be married, my fiancée, Annika, would like to be sure that we’re covered immediately. Because well . . .”

“One never knows.” Mr. Springafalt opened a brochure describing the main types of standard coverage. “Pay special attention here, of course you’re getting the property damage rider, it’s cheap and the amount of property damage from vampires is typically minimal. Sometimes you cannot even tell how they got in.” Clearing his throat he pointed at the 3rd page. “You see, up until here the policy is your standard term life insurance policy, but from here, you see three contingencies.”

I could clearly see them. “Option one, I die and the standard term life pay out goes to my beneficiaries.”

“That’s correct. But see here?” Mr. Springafalt pointed at option two with his long fingers and lightly tanned hands. “What if you live?”

“By ‘live’ you mean as an undead, is that right?” I asked.

“No, on very, let’s say extremely rare occasions, you just live, you’re not undead, you’re not dead and you just live and they don’t come back and finish the job. Perhaps the vampire in question is himself extinguished or doesn’t like the taste of your blood, who knows. In any case you’re alive at least three weeks later.” He smiled and was shaking his head at the same time. “Apparently they don’t like leftovers.” Martin paused and looked at his fingernails for a moment. “But what kind of life would that be?”

“I, I uh, I don’t, I don’t know.” I had this momentary vision of, what if Hugh Grant were a lonely chubby fat guy with a fiancée buying vampire insurance in a farflung suburb of San Diego. I had to get a grip on myself.

“Most people experience acute hemophilia for the rest of their lives including joint pains, head aches, muscle pains and difficulty maintaining your weight.”

“Really, sign me up for that one.”

Martin Springafalt smiled and quietly said, “as I said it seldom works out, my mom made that same joke but when the vampires got her she died.” He looked out the window for a moment and a single tear ran down his cheek. “Listen, it’s the least likely outcome but the most expensive, so it’s the first coverage I always recommend, it’s not going to add much to the policy because it’s so unlikely.”

I felt fidgety and darted my eyes from brochure to brochure to keep them busy. “Now if I end up joining the ranks of the undead does it still pay my fiancée?”

“Of course it can, but recent legislation which has already passed through the courts gives us two more options.”

“What? Really?”

“Yes, you can have the policy pay to you directly, to your undead self, as a secondary form of viatical contract. As a member of the newly undead, you’ll need a bit of scratch to get yourself started out. Nice quiet country estate, your own little bit of grave yard, heavy duty security systems, of course complete privacy, and 100 head of cows or if you prefer, sheep.”

“Are you serious? I think I saw a ranch like that on the way into town today. Do vampires really eat cows and sheep?”

“No, not at all, but most people don’t know that.” Mr. Springafalt rubbed his nose. “And that ranch is the old Draklesayer ranch, perfectly harmless. They have a graveyard there because that’s how old the ranch is, it predates the cemetery in town.” I must have looked incredulous because he continued, “yes, the livestock in the plan are just for show, unlike our neighbors down the road.”

“What’s option number three?” I asked.

“You’re going to like this, option three is a combination of one, where your beneficiary is paid a percentage of the pay out, plus then the rest up to 50% is used to hunt you down and stake your undead corpse to a tree where you’ll be crucified to the sun the following morning.”

“Does that hurt?”

“How should I know, but you’ll be dead anyway so what would it matter. I have heard though that they scream for hours and hours, most of the morning in fact. It takes quite a while to burn a vampire with sunlight, even longer if it’s raining.”

Explained as fast I could that I was truly shocked. I remembered that a woman two weeks earlier had accused her husband of being a vampire. Her boyfriend had him staked to a tree and burned him the next morning with gasoline. She almost got away with it because the boyfriend was the local firechief but the sheriff smelled the gas and that was that. “Did they have one of these policies?”

“Um, well yes, the Vastras, I sold them the policy. And I’m glad to say that we didn’t pay a penny on that policy to Mrs. Vastra. We paid the 50% of the policy which would have gone to Mrs. Vastra directly to her children’s guardian after she went to prison.”

“I think I’d rather have the money and the sheep.” I mused outloud.

“A wise choice,” answered Mr. Springafalt. “Now the faeries really are quite rare enough and we’re nowhere near England, and the werewolf rider is probably also something you can skip without more thought as the nearest forests are at least an hour away in the local mountains and they don’t drive when they’re changed.”

After punching numbers on an oversized calculator he said, “if you want a binder right away, as you stated earlier, then the policy downpayment is $102.51 payable in cash. You’ll be immediately protected that way. When you see your Annika next you’ll be safe in the event of any untoward encounters with vampires. What duhyah say?”

“And if I do, maybe I’ll get lucky and I won’t live through it, and I won’t die either.”

Mr. Springafalt smiled, “I hear it’s all a matter of if they take a liking to you.”

To Be Continued . . . .

5 Nit Picks on The EVENT Tv Show

Nit 1. Besides all the obvious nits that many many others have already pointed out like, it jumped around so much that you couldn’t follow it, the characters were too shallow because of the jumping around so that the viewers could never “relate” to any of them, I still liked it.  Sort of.  I’m going to just lump all of their criticisms into this one nit.

Nit 2. The real problem with the show is that they never even talk about The Event whatever it is until the end of the first season, and even then, it wasn’t until after the producers knew that it was already cancelled.  So we don’t have the foggiest idea what The Event is supposed to have been, except that it wasn’t the thing that actually happened.(See Below) Of course, that was partially why it was cancelled.

Nit 3. They only used one helicopter to take out 3 buses and that guy couldn’t shoot more than one sidewinder at a time without repositioning to shoot the next bus, huh?

Nit 4. Supposedly the aliens, as it turns out, are in fact from the Earth, but are a different slightly more advanced species of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, perhaps Homo Sapiens Smartipantsiensis. Supposedly they are smarter than we, live longer than we, and have much greater experience and knowledge of physics and technology than we.

Nevertheless, they decide that the best way to save their 2.5 Billion inhabitants of their planet from death by Nova, is to bring not just the inhabitants of their planet to the Earth, but to bring their planet to a near Earth orbit.  It appears to be approximately the distance from Earth as the Earth’s own moon-ish.

Okay, so first, Earth’s moon is going to smash into this other planet killing billions.

Second, if you think the tides are high when earth’s moon goes by, wait until you see what happens when a moon the size of a planet goes by causing not just higher tides that will submerge coastal cities and plains, but also ripples in the Earth’s crust or size 12 earthquakes.

Third of course is that the new planet is not whizzing around the earth in orbit.  If it were up that close and pretty for everyone to see, then you’d have to see it moving to know that it was in a stable orbit.  And therefore, they are going to fall together and destroy all life on both planets.  Eventually after forming one bigger planet and several moons, maybe in another 5 Billion years there might be life on the Super Biggie Sized Earth.  The End.

So, clearly not smarter than we are after all.

5. Why go through the whole exercise of trying to kill off 98% of human life on earth so that you can make room for the people from your planet to take over when in fact your method of bringing your people from your planet will in fact kill all the people on your planet?  Oh ya, because the producers already knew the show was cancelled and therefore it didn’t matter what they did. I guess they weren’t interested in making a The Event movie.

The EVENT TV Show on NBC has been cancelled, no duh.

5 Nit Picks for Revolutions TV Show

1. My 8 Year Old’s Nit Pick: “Why did the airplanes fall out of the sky straight down, shouldn’t they be falling forward in the direction they were already going?”

You’re absolutely right Kiddo, Go Get ‘Em Tiger!

2. No one has figured out how to build a steam engine even though the torches do in fact burn. (Okay, it turns out this one was a nit pick against the Monroe Republic only.)

3. Bio-Mechanics wasn’t coined for nothing, how come all life on earth wasn’t extinguished?

4. Why is there still lightning?

5. I suppose that after 15 years of farming and wood burning stove cooking and all the mending, making, and hand washing of clothes, that none of these characters would be half as good looking as they are.  While they don’t have to be the mud crusted peasants from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, where’s the early homeless look?

Revolution on NBC TV

Lines

© 2011 by David L Nelson, All Rights Reserved

It’s raining. There is a lot of movement in the other room. They are finally taking the Christmas tree down. I enter the bedroom and see the Christmas tree falling towards me from the corner directly opposite where I stand. It misses my feet. Suzie and Lina tell me to be more careful. Against the far wall is seated my boss on a folding chair. The card table in front of her has a semi-circle row of dominoes on it and a pile of books in the center.

“Mr F.” she says, “have you read Carlos Davis Smith’s Regt und Rent?”

“No I haven’t, not yet,” say I.

“This is your homework then, read it by Monday and hug your boss.” I lean forward to hug her, but she cringes, crossing her arms over her chest and recoils. I stop short. “And move this bed and that night stand away from the fireplace.” I turn the bed and night stand she has mentioned.

“What a stupid place for a bed,” I think to myself. Lina comes and helps me. “Move this bed towards that wall.” I say. We leave just enough room to stand on the side of the bed. I am leaned over the bed and as my butt touches the wall I see Lina drop away at the other end of the bed. Through the floor, a hole in the grate allows her to fall into the basement. Her face holds for a fantastic instant, a look of surprise. I come around the bed and glance at my boss; she is playing with her dominoes.

“Can you find Lina for me Mr. F thanks.” She asks. I turn my head to the floor; there in front of the fireplace half of the floor grating is gone. It had formerly covered a floor heater, which is also gone. In fact the metal casing underneath and around the floor heater is missing too. The cellar is exposed and a cool draft floats up to my face. The only sign of Lina is the blood spot and bit of hair stuck to the half remaining grate. I drop a lighted match, as it hits the floor it ignites a small pocket of methane, a little fireball lights up the whole cellar. The familiar eight doors, two per wall show up quite clearly as well as Lina’s clothes scattered and strewn about the floor most of which has now caught fire from the small blast. Then comes the faint smell of burning hair. I finally see a clump of smoldering blond hair all by itself in the middle of the floor. At least Lina is not attached to it. I turn to my boss and explain the situation.

“Sure okay fine,” she says, “just read your book and make sure to air out this place it stinks, thanks.”

I walk around the hole and lie on the bed. The book has a tan leather cover and on the top left of the front the words, Lines and underneath that, Regt und Rent have been burned into the soft skin. I open to Lines. In tiny hand written letters I read: “Davis Smith tore my throat out and left me to die which was just as well because my life was worthless and I would have ended it myself, but now it has taken on new meaning, I WANT REVENGE ON DAVIS SMITH!” On the inside of the front cover is written: “It was the sad story of a young man who begged his best friend to end his life, because he felt so depressed and hopeless, wanted to die and end it all for good. Such sadness. But how could he do it himself, so he had enlisted the help of his best friend. His best friend however had a mean streak and no pity for the wretched, so he picked a painful way to die for the man he had loved as friend and confidant for so many years.”

A mouse running along the baseboard stopped and voiced his tiny complaint: “I WANT REVENGE ON DAVIS SMITH!”

“Perhaps Regt und Rent is a better story,” I say, I turn to it and find only pictures. Distorted blackened bodies are nailed to a wall around a doorjamb. Bright red blood drips down the door, and one bright red hand print glistens off the door handle. On the next page is a picture of Lina, her feet and hands tied to the bed posts. He her bald head rests on a plank. A white plastic sheet covers all but her hands and feet. Tears are streaming down from her tight shut eyes. Momentarily a nun walks in, kisses the index and middle fingers of her left hand and touches the cross above the bed. She has a straight razor and a pan of water. Steam comes up from the water. Lina shudders and begins to squirm under the white plastic sheet.

“There there now,” says the nun, “you wouldn’t want to make things worse than they are, would you?” I watch in horror.
“You have to have your neck shaved dear; Davis Smith likes them that way.” Lina sees me, she screams at me to do something.

“Khoda Hafez!” I scream at the nun. The nun turns to me wide eyed, mouth open and runs out the door. I turn the book over and bang on the back cover with my hand. Lina falls out onto the bed. She is bald, tangled in the white plastic, eighteen inches tall and sobbing. I turn the page. The view is from below a table looking up from the floor. A man with a fish bowl over his head is looking down from the top. There is a gaping whole where his larynx should be. Rot and puss drip from its edges.

“I WANT REVENGE, I WANT REVENGE!” He is screaming from inside the fish bowl. Every vein in his face forehead and neck pops out. Maggots crawl out of the festering hole and fall up, out of the page. I just barely get out of the way, they stick to the ceiling. I slam the book and throw it down the grate in the floor. Left over smoldering hair catches fire to the book. Lean over the edge of the grate I see a Surgical masked face followed by a bloody butcher’s apron is crawling out of the open page. Quickly I light a match and drop it down. Methane explodes again. The man’s hair is on fire. He drops back into the book and tries to shut it, but it is too late the pages are already burning. I turn to my boss who is still sitting at the card table.

“I found Lina,” say I.

“Good” she says, “tell her to answer the phones for a while. Have you read Carlos Davis Smith’s Regt und Rent?”

“I am sort of . . . looking over it” say I, “but it’s hard to read.”

“Well read it before Monday and hug your boss.” I lean forward to hug her and she strokes my hair, kisses my cheek and puts her index finger in my ear.

“By the way Mr. F. please move that bed to in front of the fire place and shut the windows it is getting chilly in here.”

“You know,” I say, “I have to go home early today, I have an appointment.”

She looks at me angrily then smiles, “okay,” she says, “but remember to take one of these with you, and you can download it from Amazon if you lose this copy.” She hands me a tan leather book with the words Lines and Regt und Rent burned into the cover.

I leave the book and my Android on the bed and pick up Lina on the way out; “my niece’s Barbie Doll clothes might fit you now.”

“Really?” says Lina, “I think I might be too tall.”