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Posts Tagged ‘Corby Anderson’

Editors Note: This letter was initially sent to the two local papers here in the Aspen area, though neither paper chose to publish. The issue in question is whether our small community should or should not vote to approve the taxes to fund a killer new rec center, which I believe is sorely needed in our “mid-valley” area. 

Don’t Believe the Greedy: Working Class Residents of the Mid-Valley Need the Crown Mountain Recreation Center

Bro’s and dudettes,
It is with fierce urgencyness that I write to the editors of this steamed journalistic endeavor in high hopes that my personal evacuations can be spiked into the public record.

Rockers, I urge you all to get your reps in like big dogs and vote often to pass Measurables 4C and 4D and let the mid-valley finally have the sweat factory it needs and deserves. It’s time to stop the bitching and start the lifting you Sally’s!

That wet, white stuff is falling again, and with it I find myself seeking an indoor place to push some iron, shoot some hoops, and make some waves. The prob is, to do so, we working-class mid-valleyerianites have to travel from here to Muscle Beach and back just to use the sweet facilities that our bro-munities have built for themselves. That’s a lot of time on the roads, bros!  We loc’s need the Crown Mountain Recreation Center to get our groove on here in our own burly neck of the woods without wasting all of that fuel and GTL time getting to the rack and back.

Call me kooky, but it seems to me that the greedy yup’s writing to the paper to complain about having to pay $2000 per year extra on their property taxes either made that number up, did the math wrong (what with the published $60 per year per $100,000 of appraised home value proposed as funding for the killer new gym) or, if I did their math right, have houses worth millions and maybe not oughta complain about not being able to pay for their kids’ schoolitation. Like, maybe have the kid get a job at the Rec, yo? That should help get their college fund AND their bod’s pumped up!

We regular Joe Old Snowmastadons, Basaltines, Emmaites, and El Jebelinarians have suffered enough from the migratory greed that has flowed DV ever since The Crippler got 86’ed. Give us and our kids a spot and let’s pass these Measurements and build this prime slice of radness so that we can reach our maxes here at home in the MV!

Sensationally,

C. Madison Anderson

Emma, CO

 

  

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.” – Thomas Jefferson

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48261_301408206640767_665255221_o*Recently I was asked to write a new bio for a musician friend whose music I have long admired. This is the bio that I sent to him. The entire post below didn’t make it though the editing process, so rather than leave hard-thought words flailing on the cutting room floor, I am posting the bio here. The final version can be found at Billy’s website, billyshaddox.com.

Billy Shaddox is blessed with the ability to blend the Western dualities of coastal dreamer and high mountain drifter into his deep, easy flowing songs.

Rooted in stories of love and fortune lost, perspective and enlightenment gained, Shaddox captures the mystique of the West with indelible lyrical imagery and sharply original musicality: the displaced modern man weary of coping with vanishing ideals, the present-minded realist, the uncontrollable jealousy of the downtrodden miner, and the bright-eyed morning traveler setting out to make his mark on the world.

The characters who inhabit Shaddox’s tunesy tales have a depth of personality and situational believability that leaves the listener feeling affected by their being long after their songs have woven their course.

Golden Fate, Shaddox’s newest record, builds on a strong decade of songwriting and musical performance that has now seen two solo records that easily fit into the Americana genre, along with four releases by his powerful, unheralded San Diego-based country-rock band Billy Midnight.

The record is generously layered with Shaddox’s signature lonesome Telecaster twang, picture perfect acoustic guitar and banjo work, and the soulful wail of his homemade lap steel. The lyrics are neck hair bristling at times, captivatingly laced with references to the wondrous powers of nature and destiny, the joys and travails of living simply, and the introspective importance of home and family. It is one of those rare records that, without being over ambitious in an effort to, seems to eerily match the listeners life circumstances in subtle ways that are revealed deep into multiple listening sessions.

Bouncy and evocative like the best Woody Guthrie dustbowl gospels at times, dark and forlorn in Cashesque grandeur at others, Golden Fate verily demands for to be taken out on a long, thoughtful desert drive where it should be played through barely adequate speakers that compete with the crackling of a sage and juniper campfire, echoing on and on off of steep canyon walls.

Corby Anderson

Emma, Colorado

January 4, 2013

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HPIM1667.JPGThe Dying of the Cotton

“Dude, I think that you need a cat.”

Those fateful words were uttered in the middle of another sleep-deprived Colorado night back in the year of Ought-Four. My redheaded lady friend at the time – now my sweet wife – was the utterer. The ancient timber walls of the rancher’s cabin that I lived in were alive with mysterious activities. Every night, the dance of the deer mice began somewhere in the vicinity of the headboard of my double bed, then ran a hidden course that looped all the way around the small cabin in a loud circuit. Small shadows darted about the pine floors. Food supplies, both human and canine, were regularly attacked. The constant scurrying had my old dog Bear in a frenzy of frustrated patrols.

The last straw came when, lost in a pre-dawn codeine stupor while fighting the lingering Crud, I awoke to the tapping of a clammy nose upon my feverish cheek. Cracking one bloodshot eye, I made out the hazy image of a ragged-looking mouse sitting up on my chest. He was holding the keys to my truck in his outstretched hand. “We’re gonna take the Ford for a spin up to the Cardamone place. There’s a mouse party goin’ down up yonder…Cheese, milk, cereal by the barrel…the whole nine centimeters,” the rodent said nonchalantly. “Thought that you might want to know that you’ll probably be late for work today. We’ll be back around 11… Ish…” it added.

“Ohhh. OK. Thanks…I guess. But hey…can you put some fuel in the truck? I’m almost out,” I replied. My head was woozy. The room was spinning. “Sure, sure, bub. We’ll “put some fuel in it” the mouse retorted with a sarcastic wink and the flicking of his rubbery paws in the universal sign of mocked quotation.

When I emerged from my narcotic slumber it was past noon. I looked out of the window and saw that my truck was parked halfway into Miss Carolyn’s prized azaleas. I looked down at the kitchen floor and was not surprised by what I saw. At least a baker’s dozen mice were passed out haphazardly on the linoleum, smiles cast on their milk-stained faces, yellow curds clutched greedily in their awful paws. “Bear! Get em!” I shrieked. The half-Shepherd, half-Chow, half-human leapt into action from his nap at the foot of the bed. The mice all sat up slowly, watching his progress across the 10 feet that separated them with bemused looks, not unlike Monty Python’s French castle guards. Bear growled fiercely as he narrowed the gap, and was about to tear into the mess of them with a year’s worth of pent up, stolen-Alpo doggie fury when the entire stoned colony of mice bolted in every direction at once. All of them, that is, but one.

The Bear stood above him snarling like I had never seen him snarl before – well, other than every day the UPS man comes by that is. But rather than cower at the sight of the relatively enormous monster before it, the mouse produced a tiny white glove from beneath it, methodically straightened out each of its fingers, and then rudely slapped the menacing dog once each way across the nose in rapid succession before hopping off towards a large hole underneath the sink cabinets. Just before it vanished into its hole, the mouse looked back at the two of us, both frozen in stunned silence, and flipped us an exaggerated, arched back double bird, then wheeled and slipped into the darkness. We were still stilling there in frozen astonishment when we saw a creepy ribbed tail emerge backwards from the hole, followed by a hairy rat’s ass. Then, preceded by a discernibly gross, cheesy fart, and there before Jah Rastafari, Bear Anderson, and a shelve full of shocked-looking antique action figures, the Francophile mouse shat a row of shining black poo pebbles onto the kitchen floor. Prior to that moment, I did not think it possible for a dog to wince, but it became clear to me then by looking at the pained look on Bear’s face told me that it was indeed Time To Get A Cat.

Two weeks later, almost as if on cue, a mixed litter of black, white, and grey barn kittens were born in a loft of the ranch where I lived. My girlfriend (and now my wife) had by then moved into the 500 square foot cabin, along with her three beloved ferrets, and was insistent that we claim one of the litter when they were old enough to leave their mother, Muffin.

I had never owned a cat. Never really been around cats other than one that my roommates had in college – an orange tabby named Goat who mostly lived outside with the chickens and the couches. My parents had never had a cat, and I am fairly certain that their parents hadn’t either. I generally mocked those friends of mine that had cats as being soft. The concept was totally foreign to me. But Sharon had grown up with cats and after her own run-in’s with the mousey mafia that ruled our roost, I was assigned, literally, a tiny, bright-eyed white kitten with snappy black patches on its face and one paw and a long grey-stripped raccoon tail.

We brought him into the cabin and Sharon, her ferrets, Bear and I all watched in awe as this little furbearing rocket flew around our house, leaping from dresser to the bed, from the bed to the door sill, performing consistent acts of gravity defiance. Our neighbors Adrian and Susan came over to check on the brother of their two kittens, Pancho and Lefty. We all sat in a circle watching the kitten frolic, drinking Tullamore Dew scotch whiskey from the bottle, and pitching names for the thing. It was Adrian, a native North Carolinian like myself with deep roots across the south, who came up with the name that stuck: Cotton. I would later add an unofficial prefix to the name – Rotten.

Days turned into months and Cotton steadily grew from his initial miniscularity into a fine looking full sized cat. Within weeks of his arrival into our little cabin world, our mouse problem had ebbed into just an occasional brave (or stupid) loner who hadn’t heard the news: There was a new sheriff in town, and he wasn’t taking any prisoners. I have never seen Bear more happy. Finally we could all sleep in peace, except for the occasional sudden midnight flurry, usually followed by a contented sounding CRUNCH CRUNCH from somewhere in the kitchen area. One morning I awoke to find the cat in his customary place –lodged like a shiv, forming a perfect dividing line with the Bear dog between Sharon and I. I was stroking the soft fur on his head when my hand coursed over his face, where something tangibly out of place found my touch. Bleary eyed, I sat up and peered over at him. Sticking out of his smiling mouth was a tiny white glove. Cotton had found his true calling at a very young age. We should all be so lucky.

II.

Cotton lived what I imagine to be the most happy and fulfilling life a cat can hope for on the Shipp Ranch for several years prior to our 2005 move to the clean (but busy) streets of Carbondale, Colorado.  In the winters, he curled up and lounged with us in the cozy cabins. When the snow melted enough that his paws would tolerate the frigidity of the earth, he booked it for the pasture fences, where he would stalk the rails in a low crouch, feeding on a veritable Arc of wildlife – field mice, rabbits, birds of a hundred feathers, lizards, snakes, and the occasional Formerly Sentient Being To Be Named Later.

Despite the anti-camouflage of his stark white coat and his daring do in a heavily hunted predatory zone, Cotton survived and thrived at ranch life. He outlasted his mother and the three of his litter mates that were kept on the ranch, all of whom were picked off by a particularly wily pack of coyotes, though he regularly came home with fresh scars that foretold of difficult battles with larger mammals.

The move to our new townhouse was a blessing for Sharon and myself. We finally had our own place, along with the room to spread out a bit that any co-habitative long-term cabin-dweller eventually yearns for. The “kids,” however, seemed to lose a little bounce in their new city lives. No longer free to roam wide pastures and open space, and confined to the house for fear of the many cars and trucks that buzzed our neighborhood, Cotton and Bear both whined and whimpered at the front and back doors of the house, often one at each, an achievement of stereophonic guilt.

Eventually, we relented. With his regular, mournful moan becoming intolerable, and after a few long man –to-cat talks, Cotton was given the run of Barber Drive. It was not an easy decision. The irony of the name Car-bon-dale was not lost on me. We knew the possibilities that his street walking might bring. In the end, we figured that with the ideal life that he had already led, he deserved a chance to go out (in this case, literally) on his own terms. Survival of the fittest, carpe meow, all ‘dat…

I was not surprised in the least that he took to the dangerous city streets as easily as he did to the predatorily hazardous ranch trails. He was the quickest cat I’ve ever known, with extra cat-like agility. Regularly I would be sitting on the back porch overlooking the hubbub of Hendrick Drive when I would see a white flash emerge from underneath a parked car, dash across the road comfortably ahead of oncoming traffic, and disappear under the cars and trucks parked across the way. And, ever evening, just like clockwork, when the wife or I would go out on the front stoop and clang a tuna can with a wooden spoon, here would come Cotton, just as dirty and bloody and happy as ever.

III.

It was three in the morning in Posen, Michigan when polite knuckles rapped on the door of Sharon’s childhood bedroom door. I was there to meet her parents and multitude of strapping, protective-looking siblings, and, if everything went well, to ask her father’s permission to marry his daughter. Bleary eyed from the late hour and the gallons of pilsner consumed earlier at the bonfire meet and greet, we heard the voice of Sharon’s mother, Rita. She sounded concerned, but ever so politely. “There is a girl on the phone for you Corby. I think that she speaks another language. She wants to talk to you,” she said. Her tone worried me. Her tone worried me. There are, after all,  very few potential positive outcomes when a French woman calls your girlfriends parents house in the middle of the night of your engagement party asking for you.

Thanking my future mother-in-law, I took the call. “Zee cat, eez squieeeshed!” said the voice on the other line. I recognized it to be that of my TV station intern, Cecile, a Frenchwoman who was at our house watching the animals for us. “Zee cat! Eet eez squished…oh no I feel zo tereeebley!” she said again in a Franco lilt. “Eer. Talk to zee veterinarian,” she said sadly, pronouncing every syllable of “vegetarian” with utmost care.

The vet got on the phone and told us that Cotton had been ran over by a car. He said that Cecile had brought him in that night, but that he suspected the accident to have happened earlier, maybe a full day earlier. She had found him after hearing a low moan outside of our bedroom window – usually a sound only heard coming from Peeping Juan, the town pervert. “He doesn’t look good. He’s got a broken leg and pelvis. We can’t know of the internal damage to his organs until we get into surgery,” he said calmly. “I need a credit card for that,” he added.

Sharon was listening over my shoulder. She started to cry, which in turn made me tear up. I repeated to her what the doctor was telling me. She cried more. So did I. “How much is it?” I asked, pondering the impossible question that faces every pet or car owner: how much is your old friend, your family member even – life worth?

I am not a rich man. Never have been. Hope to be someday, like most probably do or should, but at that time to say that my finances were limited is an understatement. The vet told us that while he couldn’t be sure what the total costs might be, depending on the injuries found in exploratory surgery, he thought that $3000 was a good number to start with. The number hit both of us like a brick. When he added that “even with surgery there is a very good chance that Cotton will never walk with his back legs again,” I felt a whole wall of bricks tumble down on my suddenly saddened brain. “Or, I could put him down in a painless procedure. That costs about $200 bucks.” More bricks.

We asked to have a minute to discuss the decision and told him that we would call back in a few minutes. We called Carolyn, the owner of the ranch where Cotton was born. Carolyn Shipp possesses a unique combination of qualities: great empathy towards all living creatures, along with a Libertarian sensibility when it comes to business. We gave her the facts. She paused. Then she told us what we knew in our hearts already: with no easy way to pay and no clear promise of recovery, we should let the vet euthanize the cat.

Fighting back tears, I called the vet back. “Doc, we have to let him go. For all of the reasons discussed before. I need you to ask Cecile to hold the phone up to Cotton’s little ears so that I can say goodbye.”

“Well, if THAT is your decision, then I’ll just see what I can fix and put him up for adoption,” the veterinarian replied unexpectedly. “Excuse me? Did you just sa…” I stammered, shocked. “Yes you did. I’ll repeat it. If you are asking me to put this cat to sleep, I will not do it. I will fix him and then adopt him out to a caring family.” Silence. The weird silence of slow motion bricks tumbling down onto more bricks.

I threatened to sue right then and there. “I’ll have your fucking license for this stunt!” I yelled. Sharon sat amazed, sad. The veterinarian tried to explain what he meant. I countered and shut him down. He tried again. “I’ll tell you what. Let me see what the injuries are and we can figure out the payment later,” he said, humbled. “Well, obviously if he can be fixed, fix the boy. But I ain’t able to pay that kind of money, nor will I, after this bullshit phone call,” I iterated. It pained me to argue for the death of a good friend, but there were principles at play, and I am, if anything, a man of principles. We agreed on surgery. I was connected to Cotton via cell phone speaker to cat ear. “Hang in there buddy. We love you. Bear loves you. Doc’s gonna fix you up good,” I said, expecting that would be the last time I spoke to him. He did not answer. I thanked Cecile and tried to explain to her that she was in no way responsible. I asked that she take care of the dude the best that she could if he made it out of surgery and that we would be home within four days.

I hung up, and we stayed up the rest of the night fretting for Cotton’s life and deciding whether to drive home in the morning or to carry on with our trip as planned. There were elderly grandparents to visit with yet, and I still had a secret, seriously convoluted engagement plan complete with documentary film crew, special after hours private tour and post-yes (I hoped!) catered dinner in a historic lighthouse on Mackinac Island to see to.

To all of our excitement, except possibly Cecile, who had to nurse a partially paralyzed cat for several days, Cotton came out on the topside of surgery. The car had indeed broken his rear leg and shattered his pelvis, but other than a bruised spleen and a hernia, his internal organs had survived intact. Cecile told me to stay on and to go through with my engagement plan/scheme. By the time that we returned, Cotton had graduated from dragging himself around our condo with his front paws to gingerly walking. It was a miracle of sorts. I had condemned a dead cat to being deader. He not only survived being hit by a car, but my own execution order. We kept him inside after that.

IV.

Two years later, on the last days of the year 2007, our herd moved from the frigid winter chill of the Rocky Mountains to the relatively balmy climes of Monterey, California. I wanted to write a book and to find a way to advance my career in media. Sharon wanted to study dentistry. Bear and Cotton wanted some space. Off we went, into the maw of a massive winter storm, our lives jam packed into a U-Haul truck and chase vehicle.

We wound up in a wonderfully spacious ranch-style four bedroom house in the old Army base town of Marina, formerly Fort Ord. The house had a large fenced back yard AND a large fenced front yard. The neighborhood traffic in rural California was perplexingly, and blessedly, light compared to that of the small mountain town in Colorado from whence we had migrated. An enormous sand dune and the four-lane Highway 1 embankment was all that separated us from the glory and danger of the Pacific Ocean. At night we could sit INSIDE the house and hear the ocean roar. Birds were everywhere, much to Cotton’s satisfaction. From little sparrows to cormorants, seagulls to Snowy Plovers — you couldn’t toss a sourdough crumb without a dozen flying creatures clamoring over the score.

After a few weeks of beach life, it was decided that Cotton would once again be an outside cat. Maybe the calm, serene atmosphere of fog and ocean breezes got us to lighten up, or maybe the cats own outdoorsy personality and the telepathically transmitted insistence of his innate need to be Out There won us over, but out he went. Right away he picked up his hunting and general carousing as he had before. His street smarts were evident immediately. We watched him gracefully maneuver Brookside Place and the surrounding feeder roads. Maybe it helped that there was less traffic. Maybe it was that the roads there were built wider enough for three tanks to drive parallel to one another and still have room for a fleet of jeeps to be parked on either side of the road.  Perhaps or boy, by now known affectionately as “the stupid cat” had learned a little something from his run in with the Michelin Man.

Whatever it was, he had the outside cat game fully wired now.

Though fixed, and not necessarily burly by cat standards, Cotton fought like a wildcat with the neighboring cats until it was clear by the noises of each scrap and by Cotton’s studly saunter while leaving each catty scene that he had ascended to alpha of the Brookside pride. He had girlfriends at seemingly every house on the block. When he came home and did not eat his food, we worried some, until we were told by several neighbors that he was wont to visitation and meal privileges in several neighborhood households. He and his buddy, the Bear dog, now visibly aging, tag teamed the local bird population. Not a morning went by that I did not hear my wife’s sing song voice emanating from the living room. “See the birdies?” she would say in her best baby mama voice. It nearly brought the house down every time, with both cat and dog howling in agreeance while clawing into the glass door. Oh, they saw the birdies alright.

Several months later we brought home a soul who was unwittingly to become Cotton’s best friend and worst tormentor. Hondo the dog was born in a Missoula, Montana English Shepherd puppy mill.

It was on New Years eve later that year when I was to realize the sordid nature of his origins, but I should have known. The breeder’s business was called Shady Lane Puppy Farms.  We had looked around all over the regional papers for a pup from this particular breed, but finally were forced to ship Hondo in from out of state. He arrived at the San Jose Airport in a plastic and steel dog crate. He was tiny and scared and visibly confounded by his plight. To comfort him, I had brought along a film crew to document our meeting, along with large photo print outs of his new family. “This is your mama,” I said, holding up a photo of Sharon to the open crate door. He stayed cowering in the back. “This is The Bear, your new brother. He’s the best dog ever,” I said. A tiny, fuzzy black, brown and white painted ear perked, but that was it. “And this, this is your kitty,” I said, holding up the 8×11 color photo of Cotton. YAP! The pup snapped out of his apoplexy, rushing forth to sniff the photo. HIS kitty. It was love/hate/terror/love at first sight.

V.

My intended mission for Hondo was for the youngster to grow to be my old boy Bear’s friend and understudy as he entered his golden years. And while he took to that role with a natural canine camaraderie (though his herding instincts kept the aging Bear on his guard for sneak attack “drive bys”), it was the depth of his friendship with Cotton the cat that surprised us all.

The two were fast friends, literally. Cotton was prone to the “midnight zoomies,” a crack head-like spasmodic reaction to God-knows-what provocation. As a night owl myself, I grew to appreciate these impressive displays of deep-night random energy and strange feline athleticism, but the same cannot be said for Hondo.

Hondo is a weird sleeper. He splays out upside down like a hairy, de-shelled turtle. Cotton seemed to time his evening calisthenics to just about the time that Hondo would grow bored with my Sportscenter fixation, roll over and grunt himself to sleep. Then, with a punk spirit, the Goddamn Cat (Hondo’s words, not mine) would deftly launch himself from the top shelf of the couch down onto the sleeping dogs’ exposed belly, touching down only briefly enough to gather himself and steal a quick catty sneer at the startled pup, before bounding off down to the deck and sprinting off around the far reaches of the house. The poor dog, of course, had no chance. There was no catching a hyped up barn cat with rascality in his blood and evasive maneuvers woven deeply into his sinew.

VI.

We moved a total of four times during the Reign of Cotton. The third and fourth moves were rapidly stacked together, with (thankfully) just two months internment in the California Dutch hellhole known as Ripon, California.

That was the amount of time it took to kill my best friend Bear, who was riddled with two types of cancer and held a fragile football-sized tumor in his poor belly, contract a persistent case of walking pneumonia, pack our beach house up, move the family to Ripon to take a job writing for a couple of TV food show producers who turned out to be the sleaziest, heartless, lowdown scum sucking dirt bags in the history of an industry rife with sleazy scum suckers, drop off the family at our new house before promptly jumping on a plane to the Super Bowl in Dallas for work, find out that my dear Grandma had died in a fall, succumb to the gathering sickness in my hotel room, be excused to go home, fly to the funeral, deliver the eulogy, return to my new home to find out that I was fired, and spend a month looking hopelessly for work in a recession-ridden Central California town that neither Hitchcock nor Steinbeck could have dreamt up.

In that time, Cotton seemed resentful of our move to inner-suburbia. His forays out into the neighborhood were forbidden, as the traffic was regular and the bird-loving neighbors overt enough to let on that cats don’t last long in their hood, a comment that seemed to have nothing to do with the pace and regularity of the traffic and much to do with their Taj Mahalesque bird mansion that measured 25 floors and covered more lawn space than a live oak.

So, instead of his jocular life of outdoor adventures, he was cooped up, whiny, and dispirited. Not even a chance to have a go at the upturned, snoozing pup seemed to rile his mischievous instincts. Gone were the midnight zoomies. Instead, he slept all day, and moaned pitifully at the foot of the door all night.

VII.

Thankfully, fate intervened. One morning, as I teetered near my breaking point in Ripon following an ugly encounter with the neighbor over her perfidious threat to call the cops on us to have my old, temporarily dead 1972 Chevelle towed away as a neighborhood eyesore, I got a text from Dan Shipp, the Mississippi lawyer who owned the Colorado ranch that Cotton had been born on. “What y’all doin?” he asked in his trademark gentlemanly draw. “Pondering a good, old fashioned neighborly fire bombing, to be quite honest. As my lawyer, what kind of time do you think I’m looking at if I torch the neighbor skank’s bird castle?” I replied.

He must have sensed the mounting frustration in my voice, because within minutes he had offered us the chance to move back to his ranch to the little old cabin that we had lived in years before. Within 24 hours we were packed into a 21’ U-Haul, had accidentally knocked off the birdfeeder while backing the attached Chevelle-hauling trailer out of the driveway, and had abandoned uncaring California for the open-armed Colorado. As soon as we had negotiated our long-haul truck and trailer down the narrow dirt road that leads to Shipp Ranch, Cotton began mewing uncontrollably, sparking a mystified Hondo to follow suit.

VIII.

Back on the ranch, Cotton quickly regained his mojo. Now an adult, his mousing skills had sharpened to the point of mastery. Soon, he graduated to squirrels, then small rabbits, along with a steady stream of birds. To supplement his diet, he would throw in a green snake or two a week, a horrendous habit that he seemed eager to share with us by way of dragging the live, squirming snakes into the window before releasing them on our bedroom floor for further examination.

For these field hunts, he often teamed up with his uncle, a grey Maine Coon known as Mister Tigger. It was not unusual to see the two of them stalking a pole fence, one on the top row, and the other on the one below, each crouched low as they scanned the pasture grasses for prey. Inevitably, a family brawl would ensue over the prize, with Cotton regularly pummeling a cat so legendarily tough that it was fabled to have once fended off a coyote by blinding the dog with a vicious frontal Ninja-cat attack.

At long last, Rotten Cotton was back in his element, living what is surely the dream of all cat – wandering open country that was filled with feline delights, dominating the neighboring competition, then returning home to the small cabin at night to curl up under the tall legs of the old wood stove to slumber until his next adventure.

IX.

It was early spring when I got the call. I had started a new job with the local community college, and was in a meeting when my phone buzzed in my pocket. The number was not one that I recognized, but it was local so I decided to excuse myself from the meeting and see who was trying to reach me.

Though I deigned to admit it, I knew the reason for the call even before I answered it.

Cotton had been missing for four days. It was not unusual for him to stay out all night, but he always returned sometime early the next morning. This time he had not. His colleague Hondo had been wandering around for most of a week with a worried look on his brow, standing by the door looking out at all hours of the day, whimpering a bit at night. He eagerly sniffed the bushes on the mountainside beside the cabin on hikes to look for Cotton, both of us quietly hoping not to happen upon any soft white fur, soaked in red.

He was old, Cotton was. Near nine by now. Maybe he wandered off to die, I told my wife in an attempt to reassure her against the doom that we felt looming each night that he did not return. “No, he was fit and healthy. He’s been eaten. I’m sure of it,” she lamented. “Fucking coyotes…” She muttered. I kept a rifle at the ready, in case revenge opportuned.

Just in case, I made a sign and posted it on several power poles around the ranching community where we live. “White male cat with a grey coon tail. Goes by the name of Cotton, missing since Sunday,” it read. I chose two of my favorite pictures of Cotton for the sign. One was a shot that showed his full body, for identification purposes. In that shot, taken in the pitiful Ripon days when the one bright spot in our lives was the addition of a comfy leather couch that we purchased with money sent to us after my Granma’s death, Cotton lay splayed out on the top of the new leather couch, straddling the couch top like a horse saddle. His white fur glistened in the photo. His grey and black-streaked ears perked up and a quizzical look etched on his face as I stood behind him flipping him the bird. It was my way of warning him not to scratch our one good piece of furniture, which, amazingly, he never did.

The other photo that I included on his want ad was one taken in our condo in Carbondale, soon after he had miraculously recovered from being “squeeshed” by “zee car” and then doomed to the vet’s eternal needle by me, before being subsequently saved by the bungling vet.

This photo featured a close up of Cotton’s face as he worked his way into a bunch of historic peacock feathers given to me as a gift by author Hunter S. Thompson’s wife that I kept on my desk. The luminescent green-gold-purple eye of the peacock feather juxtaposed perfectly with Cotton’s own golden eye. The image represented to me everything to loved about the Stupid Cat: his indomitable curiosity, his penchant for adventure, and his mellow, kindly nature. He was not a bastard cat, whining for his way all of the time, clingy or spiteful. He was there when you needed him. Except now he was gone.

The caller asked if my name was Corby. He paused for a second. I studied his voice. It was oddly distressing. My legs gelled.

“Do you own a cat? A cat named Cotton?” he asked. My heart leapt and sank at the same time. Maybe…Maybe he had found the cat sleeping off a big, chipmonky meal in his barn? Maybe he’d finally found his lady cat and set up shop somewhere down the canyon? The possibilities raced through my head, quickly drowning out the budgetary thoughts that had been lingering just moments before.

Cotton had lived through many near disasters. He’d been raised on a ranch surrounded by coyotes that picked off all of his many relatives, hit by a car, condemned to die, and ran the high-traffic neighborhoods of California like a boss. Of lives, he knew many. But surely he had one good life left?

My mind churned through positive outcomes. The caller continued. “I’m…uh. Well, hell, son. I’m not sure how to tell you this…”

 *Corby Anderson is a freelance writer who works from the rickety loft of an old cabin in Emma, Colorado. His stories can be found here, as well as at corbyanderson.wordpress.com, Flipcollective.com, The Aspen Daily News, Monterey County Weekly, Canyon Country Zephyr, and BEER Magazine (the Playboy of beer rags), among others.

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Hating IT

By Corby Anderson

I am being methodically, malevolently denuded of an already depleted mental capacity by a wireless Internet system that taunts me mercilessly and evades capture on a regular basis.

If I could afford the monthly expense (which is to say if I avoided eating, fueling my vehicle, drinking, etc.), I would gladly pay for my own dedicated Internet line to avoid this maddening, odd circumstance that I find myself in – trying to marathon-watch the fourth season of Breaking Bad on Netflix on my shit-hot new iMac via a poached wireless connection that seems to vanish every time Brother Hank the Narc appears on screen.

“IT” – the  appropriately creepy name that the gracious stewards of the ranch that I live on have given their weak-ass wireless signal – wafts in like a mirthful, rotten ghost. IT appears in my available networks list in full-bar force, only to vanish when I wearily discover IT’s renewed presence and attempt to engage in a renewed viewing of a show that I can never seem to catch up on.

Hello, big fella! I’m here! USE ME! IT howls, only to dissipate into a cloud of nothingness, leaving me with a red, spinning wheel of Netflixian frustration to ponder. I curse. I reload. I back the stream up a few seconds. I close programs. I holler. I whimper. I consume more than the recommended daily intake of alcohol (but that may indeed be unrelated.) I plead for technical mercy. I do everything in my limited internetworking experience to cajole IT into action. But like Charlie Brown lining up for a field goal attempt, my efforts end up with me foiled yet again, lying on my back and staring at space.

If the wire-free Internet weren’t invisible, matter-less, and everywhere at once (or, mostly not) I’d stab IT in the groin with a rusty butter knife.

This weekend, as I was setting up the new computer – my long-awaited, first –ever personally purchased machine that I saved every nickel for over the past few months, I went out and bought a wireless range extender – some cockamamie device that is supposed to boost the area’s available wireless signals. Then I spent an hour on tech support with some Linksys agent who prefaced each instruction with “kindly please.”

Predictably, this brain-numbing programming effort worked for a total of about 30 minutes, during which IT appeared on my list of available wireless signals. Approaching cautiously, expecting the virtual football to be yanked once more, I clicked around the link in every direction. IT hung around, all four bars gleaming invitingly into the distrustful rods and cones of my jilted eyes. Finally, feeling like something Technically Important had occurred, I clicked IT.

Then, as if life had always been this simple, the Internet fired right up. Netflix launched into the episode I had previously watched in five-second spurts with dazzling speed.  The extension had WORKED! IT was compliant. I had broken IT’s rebellious spirit.

“Thank the Lord! Or Steve Jobs, or whoever is running the weird spectacle that we all bumble through, because we’ve got high speed connectivity!” I yelled silently. (Better to not to wake the wife. She avoids computers with Luddite passion, reads books and falls asleep at a normal hour.)

I’ve never been a fan of the term “it goes without saying,” mostly because it is generally always followed with a direct contradiction, but in this case it really does go without saying just how important the Net is in our lives these days. Hardly a single job, task, event, duty, hobby, or responsibility can be accomplished without some necessary component of Internet.

And now, thanks to my impressive technical support dialing skills, I had accomplished total, harmonious internetical SYNC with the neighbors’ Internet signal. IT has personally approved of my equipment choices and invited me into IT’s world. Good ol’ Hank was back on his feet again, shaking off an assassin’s bullet to his spine.

In the immortal words of Gilby, the freckled kid from Guam who tormented me in the street games of my youth: “NOTTTTT!”

Just as easily as IT had come, IT went, taking my spirit with IT. Then IT appeared again. Oh Hi! Ca-lick. Then, gonzo…

Brutal, pervasive frustration reigns. Remember dial up? No? Here, let me remind you.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRBBBBBBBBLLLLLLEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPfuckfuckfuckshitgoddamnallIwanttoseearemovingtittiesandit’stakingtenfuckingminutestoloadEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG.

IT makes that crazy-making dialup “speed” of yore seem like a live HD shot from Mars.

I would tether the fucker to my phone, but I learned THAT harsh lesson a few months back, when in a fit of ignorance, perhaps exacerbated by an extended homebound flu, I decided to see what the Personal Hotspot function of my new cell phone was all about by watching the entire show run of The Wire, back to back to back to ohmygodwhatisthis$500billfromAT&fuckingT?

Did I mention that this connectivitease happens only when Hank the Narc is on screen? Isn’t that ODD? What sort of superfreaky juju does THAT character have over me? And why has IT channeled Hank the Narc into my own personal Lucy? Am I supposed to skip those scenes? Is there something GOING ON here? Is the entire internet possessed by some sort of paranoid Meth-crazed jokester?

Or is it just me? Can someone Kindly Please email me an answer? Better yet, mail IT.

*This story originally appeared in the Oct. 2012 release of the literary journal The Flip Collective. 

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Ponder, for a moment, the lowly, oft-used, at times abused, everyday fixture of metabolic necessity – the toilet. It is, of course, a receptacle for all of your cast-off humanly bile and toxic waste. The toilet, or commode as it is known in the south, or shitter, as we lovingly say in the trades, has the singular distinction of sanitarily disposing of an entire species’ collective excrements. Over the years, it has also been the unfortunate splash landing spot for some of my dearest possessions:

Phil the Hermit Crab

My misfortunate, gravitationally-challenged relationship with the toilet started at a young age. Barely past the potty training stage, I was faced with the horrifying act of having to ship my beloved first pet, a  Hermit Crab named Phil, off to greener seas after he/she had made the awful decision to exercise his/her only form of self-defense against the tender skin of my brother’s scrotum.

As unenlightened children, we had for some reason engaged in a form of crustaceous Russian Roulette: taking turns sticking Phil down our pajamas in a timed contest to see who could handle the tickling of his shelly phalanges the longest without screaming. It was after bed time. The lights were out in our room, but this grand scheme had our competitive juices awash with muffled laughter.

The game went on for several “successful” turns, each of us enduring Phil’s weird traverses in our underoos…until disaster struck. In a shocking turn of events, what I had assumed would be some fun, cage-free exercise for my buddy Phil quickly turned into a nut-pinching fight for life that woke everyone in the house after the previously docile crab unexpectedly clamped his formidable left claw on Brody’s testicular region.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the sensation of having your gonads savagely scissored by an enraged sea creature, but judging from my brother’s reaction, it is scream-inducing unpleasantness.  Thusly ensnared in a bony, serrated vice, Brody emitted a sustained, high-pitched primal howl that I have since only heard in Tea Party conventions and small-claims court.

At the beckoning of Brody’s shrieks, my parents came bursting into our room, expecting the worst. Bewildered, they found us gripped with fear and screaming bloody murder. After ascertaining that I was not the afflicted one but rather suffering from empathetic emotions, my father set upon Brody to save him from some unseen demon. “What is it? What in Jehovah is going on?” he demanded. Biting both lips at once, tears pouring down his cheeks, the eldest Anderson son gingerly lifted open his drawers and pointed down to his nether regions with a quaking, inconsolable finger. “Ffff..ffff…fffil got his nads, Dad!” I yelled, reporting for my shock-muted brother.

The Phil Removal Project was quickly underway, and I will spare you the details due the graphic nature of the operation. For the sake of educational purposes (should this savagery ever occur to you or your own bright-minded progeny), I can report that the operation took no less than the use of a D-Cell flashlight, a rusted pair of my grandfather’s carpenters pliers, a jar of salt (Mom’s theory, relating to slugs), a wooden stick from the backyard (for Brody to clamp down on), a splash of hydrogen peroxide, and a large, perhaps overly-gluey Band-Aid.

Phil, mangled from battle, was handed to me to dispose of by my perturbed Dad. The toilet and the mysterious waters beyond offered the only thing close to Phil’s native habitat for which to reintroduce him into the wild. So, accompanied by a river of mournful tears, and with a splash pattern that would make a Chinese diver proud, I cast my best friend into the wilds of the Contra Costa County Sanitation System.

R.I.P. Phil.

Superman Toothbrush

Some time had passed since my sorrowful goodbye to Phil when I was again broken-hearted by dropping a vital possession into the toilet. I was ten then – old enough to have collected a few prized items of my own that did not also belong to my brother. One of those was my electric Superman toothbrush. I may have been a wee little feller and mostly reliant on my parents for food and shelter, but dammit I had electric Superman toothbrush, and together we could conquer the world!

It was near bedtime and I was “scrubbing my pegs,” as my Dad always called it, a strange term for dental hygiene now that I think about it, since at no other time in our youth did he utilize pirate-speak. Like all ten-year-olds, I was excited to get the actual brushing behind me so that I could go read more “Choose Your Own Adventure,” books.

It was in this Adventure-bound frenzy that I found myself rushing Superman’s main chore along. A quick lap around the gums was all that I had time for. As I wheeled to grab Dad’s Listerine off of the shelf next to the toilet, I somehow loosened my grip on ol’ Supey. Down he went, spiraling through the air like a buzzing, spitting, super heroic depth charge. I noted the unchanging, goofily grinning expression on Superman’s plastic face as he broke the water’s plane and slid down along the bowl into the muck that I had as yet neglected to flush.

It was at this time that I chose to let loose an undeveloped but aspirational string of 10-year-old swear words that would have made a drill sergeant blush with shame. Coincidentally, it was at this time that my live-in, elderly grandmother decided to check on my progress. Needless to say, Superman did not make a heroic return to the sink counter. Much to my chagrin, a well-used, tooth-marked bar of soap did, however.

The Only Expensive Pair of Sunglasses That I’ve Ever Owned

You know that predictable asshole named Murphy? The one with all of the Laws and the sick sense of humor who comes around to mock your regular inability to spot malady even when it is barreling down on you like a stroked-out trucker? I do. All too well. He nearly blinded me in 1998.

I was a lift operator at a ski area in Colorado, “living the dream” after my college years. Twenty-five-years-old, criminally handsome (so I’ve told myself), living on a half of a rotten couch for $200 a month, surrounded by impossibly beautiful mountains, adventurous women and piles of mostly illegal intoxicants.

The inevitable late nights of our ski bum existence always seemed to bleed directly into the next far-too-early morning, usually before light actually arrived, when we had to meet our snowmobile hop up to the bottom of the ski lift to start our work day. The sustained lack of appropriate sleep, combined with eye-reddening substances and the brutal glare of sunbaked snow made having a strong pair of sunglasses a vital necessity. Losing or breaking a pair was akin to jabbing yourself in the corneas with a flaming marshmallow stick. So, even though I made a total of somewhere south of seven dollars an hour at the time, I decided to throw down for the latest, most expensive pair of shades possible – a stylish pair of Bolle’s that ran me a season’s worth of oily tuna cans.

Being most of the way up a 12,000 foot mountain and far from a sewage system, the facilities at the bottom of the High Alpine lift consisted of a horrible smelling, freezing cold drop toilet. Using the head was something that was to be avoided at all costs. Everyone on the mountain ate the same disgusting processed food diet, and it proved out in decomposition stage. “Holding it,” was a way of life. Thus, the locker room facilities were often equally destroyed on a daily basis once everyone skied down at the end of the day, but at least they cleaned those. Poor fuckers…

As Murph would have it, you can’t always hold it, especially after consuming half my weight in malted barley and free Crab Rangoon (Phil’s revenge, I called it) the night before. So, off I went, bracing myself with a makeshift turtleneck gas mask to enter the lair of an assy beast.

Now, the thing about a homemade outhouse on the side of a mountain is, there isn’t much light to see your way around with. They were built with as little ventilation as possible, so as to contain the olfactory demon within. After all, nobody wants to pay $80 bucks to ski Aspen only to have their sense of smell permanently deadened by the gaseous emissions of lift-operators. Most days I considered the lack of light a blessing, given the god-awful creature that lived down below the wooden rim. But on this day, proud of my brand new sunglasses as I was, I decided to keep them on rather than stow them away on the bill of my hat. I figured they might work in tandem with the turtleneck mask and form an impenetrable shield against the evil that lurked in the High Alpine shithouse. Also, I was lazy.

Somehow I managed to find myself in proper unloading position without the benefit of illumination. It was on the hasty dismount that I ran into trouble. The elastic suspenders that normally held up my ski pants formed a sproingy lasso when unleashed, and when I stood to quickly evacuate the premises, they wrapped themselves around the iron toilet paper holder, yanking me violently around with enough force to lose my footing on the snowy pine floor.

I landed in a twisted heap on the shithouse floor, face-first on the brink of the death hole. My Bolle’s went hurtling down into the pit, forever sealing them in the mud of a thousand poo’s.

Dazed and dejected, I extricated myself by kicking out the shitter door, crawling to a blinding freedom. I was greeted with a chorus of bellowing laughter from my fellow crew members and cheers from the skiers who were craned around from a half dozen chairs, rising into the skies from the base of the lift.

Later, at the end of the ski season party, I was presented with a pair of sunglasses that were made out of duct tape and cardboard toilet paper rolls, upon which someone had written “Bolle” in fine black marker along the sides.

Cell Phone

Generally, the “five second rule” only applies to non-sticky food stuffs that have been dropped on a relatively clean floor. In some dire cases, this rule has to be applied to items that are both irreplaceably expensive and vital to your working life, such as my first iPhone.

Like many people, I enjoy good reading material when nature calls. It is an unscientific fact that the act of reading ushers along the biological process. In the past, I would go to great lengths to procure reading materials of any kind prior to heading for The Loo. But that was before Steve Jobs made all of our lives better by giving us unlimited options for restroom infotainment, all in a smart little box that fits in the palm of our hands.

And while the iPhone is a brilliant package of mystifying technological magic, I found out the hard way the one thing that it is not, is waterproof. So, when my entire working and social world made that inevitable, ironic plunge into the Bakersfield, California In N’ Out toilet after slipping out of my breast pocket during an unfocused attempt at flushing, I was faced with an unpleasant, split-second decision. Perhaps you’ve been there yourselves, and can empathize with my plight.

Despite what most of my former employers, girlfriends, and teachers would say about me, I consider myself a Man Of Action, an unflappable beacon of pragmatic agency. It is only due to this inner-Chuck-Norris that I was able to utilize my cat-like reflexes and follow its course immediately down into the water and fish my phone out of the fast food restaurant commode before the shock waves that its splashdown had created in the bowl allowed the traditional contents there within to recede back to their former resting places.

Just as quickly as it had entered the toilet, it exited, along with my hand, which did not escape as unscathed as the fetchee. Into the sink everything went for a wash. Fortunately, the In N’ Out had both paper towels AND a power blower, which I promptly forced into sustained usage.

I was just about satisfied with my efforts at drying out my afflicted tele, contemplating where I might find a bag of dry rice at midnight when the bathroom door swung open. It was a pimply kid in a paper hat, peering in on me with one crooked eyebrow, his foot holding the door wide open to the full dining room.

“Dude, are you number 130?” he asked hesitantly. I stared back at him from underneath the blower. “Your order is up and we thought you disappe…,” he added, pausing when he saw my phone in my hand below the air dryer. His oily head tilted to the south momentarily, and then his eyes lit up with delayed recognition. “OH SNAP!” he shouted, snapping the fingers on both hands at once for effect. He was laughing now, his voice rising and squeaking in a crescendo of pre-adolescent dynamic range. “Did you drop your PHONE IN THE CRAPPER!? Dude, that SUUUCCCKS! That happened to my toothbrush once!”

 

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Image

“Dear God. Jesus Lord. Jah…Great Yogi Spirit in the Sky,” I pleaded aloud to all humanity from atop Coyote Mountain, a short hike that terminates at the locked gates of an abandoned Molybdenum mine not far from my house. I was down on my knees, as piously posed as one can be. You know the look: hands pressed together, elbows bent and tucked rib-ward, back straight, my head tilted precisely at 45 degrees, eyes closed to the world but opened inwardly to the possibility of random salvation.

“I. Need. A. Job. Any job…. Work.” I continued, really working up a spiritual lather. I felt my voice subconsciously morph into the staccato pattern (strangely, including an effective high-ceilinged echo) of a Baptist Minister who was reciting a particularly meaty passage of The Good Book.

“I need this work badly, you see. Any paid sort of regular activity will suffice, so long as I am able to pay my goddamned bills.”  I paused for effect.

It was in the pause that I first felt an eyebrow lift uncontrollably towards the heavens – a peculiar reaction. I am generally not prone to facial spasms, and so I took this as some sort of sign.

“Oh Jesus. Was that you? Controlling my brow?” I asked aloud without my typical trepidation for public oratory. What the hell. There was nobody around the old mine that could hear my prayer but me, the dog (who was off wallowing in irradiated mud), a few haggard marmots and The Big Guy Upstairs.

It occurred to me why my brow had twitched. Heavenly disapproval seemed the likely culprit. “Uh. Sorry about the “goddamned” thing.” My brain pinged.

“Whoops! Sorry again. I’ll stop with the goddamn stuff. Er. Yeah. OK. That was the last one. I swear. OK. Well, not anymore. With the swearing. I promise. Semantics…”

The other brow lifted to match its partner. “Whoa. So it IS you, right? With the brow tick thing?” I asked excitedly. I hadn’t officially prayed since 1993, and that was only to see if He might allow me to make out with Jenny Dorrance, a total hottie who otherwise ignored me with all of her pigtailed, freckled glory, on the church-sponsored 7th grade ski trip.

“OK. Well, hell..,” I continued. Looking around to make sure that I was truly alone. Of course I was alone. Nobody else EVER hiked this trail. They were worried about contamination. They read the signs and accepted their warnings as law. HA! I knew better. And because I knew better, I had my own private mountain to hike on whenever I wanted.

“OK. Brass tacks, sir. So, this job deal…I need one. Again. I know, I know. I am really sorry about that last one. I seriously tried to make that work, Dear Lord God. I Gave It My All.

“Unfortunately, my all was too much, apparently. It appears in retrospect, God Sir, that in fact, I gave too much. They said that I was “Over The Top” and that I was ‘Scaring the Customers’ with my ‘Antics.’

“Well, fuck em’, Lord. I am sure that you will agree that the Right Dishonorable Senator Teabagger was laughing just as hard as I was when I “accidentally” spilled that decanter on his lap. I mean….You were there. You tell me!?”

“So. Lordy Lord Lord. God of all G’s. Yahweh the Almighty. Can you help me? I won’t go so far as to say that I am in a pickle because I fuckin’ hate pickles. Too bitter. And all those seeds! Yuck! Why cant they make pickles out of carrots, anyways? See if you can look into that…”

“Anywho…,” I prayed with every ounce of spirit-loving hopeyness that I could muster. “I won’t go that far, but I did have to sell my left kidney to science this week to pay for my weekly massage. Priorities, right? We’ve all got ‘em. I’m sure that you do to. Like this job thing. If you can see to it that this little favor gets shuffled up there on your List above all of those prayers from the goddamned mute Jesus freaks down at the monastery that would be really helpful. Maybe if they did a little less silent prayin’ and spent their time making more beer they’d have something to really talk about ,” I added for good measure.

Have you ever had both eyebrows and your ears twitch at the same time? Well, neither had I, until then. It was as if my entire bedraggled face decided to lift itself without provocation or expensive surgery. But that is exactly what happened to me right then and there in front of the old rusty skull and crossbones sign at the shuttered entrance to the Coyote Mountain Molybdenum Mine. This new, enhanced tick was a sure-as-shit sign that my prayers were working. Allah himself was shining down his ever-loving Light of Destined Employment upon my jobless ass. I could almost feel the heat and smell the smoke of providential change singing my back hair. The facial quivering eased up. I could feel my dog at my side. (He dropped a slobbery rock on my exposed calf.)

Slowly, I opened my eyes. A new heavenly dawn was upon me, but it was dusk as hell, and Coyote Mountain is no place to be after dark. I collected the sacraments that I had spread around me in my prayer circle – old corporation name badges, a half bottle of lukewarm Schlitz, some Redman chewing tobacco, and a pack of saltines – and began the winding walk back down the trail to my truck.

I could feel The Spirit lifting my every step and was eager to get home to see what new job God had assigned me. My mind raced at the possibilities, and I found myself smiling as broadly as I had ever even attempted to smile. As I verily skipped down the path, I looked up at the darkened sky and yelled “THANK YOU LORD GOD THE JESUS!”

“You’re welcome.” My answer came in an echoing crackle that filled the hillside. My heart leapt out of my skull while my stomach rocketed right out of my ass simultaneously. It was He. The Great Employer.

“Is that really YOU?” I asked aloud, my feet no longer touching the dirt. I felt myself floating down the hill like some hillbilly Moses hot-rodding around in an invisible Segway.

“Yes. Come here. I am at the bottom of the hill.” The voice commanded. It sounded like God had gotten himself one of those fancy megaphones. I was not surprised in the least. I’d always heard that he works in mysterious ways, but secretly I had always taken The Lord for a man of practicality.

The dog was going nuts by now and had sprinted ahead. It was clear that he too was Called Forth.

Disbelief crept briefly into my psyche, but was quickly dashed by an incredibly bright light that was now shining up the trail from down below. There was no time for pondering the reasons behind my sudden anointment. I had done the hard work of prayer, even Tebowing on my way down to my prayer position, and this was the result. I had to go with it.

“Do you have a JOB for me!?” I sang aloud in a gravelly voice that I’d only heard Jimmy Stewart use before.
“Yes, Mister Anderson, actually I do have a job for you.” The voice said. I was astonished. HE knew my NAME!

Running now around the last corner of the trail, I prepared myself to meet The Creator. The voice talked me into the blinding light.

“Tell me, Big Guy. What job do you have lined up for me?! What am I going to do? Er…Is there, by chance, health insurance involved? Maybe a few weeks of vacation… without having to wait a year to cash in?” I asked, thrilled at the possibilities, trusting my footing in the white wash of heavenly illumination.

Then my world went dark again. My pupils rioted against the sudden change, clamping down on my spiritualized cones and rods with bank vault alacrity. It took a disorienting moment, but I was finally able to see the slim human form of God emerge in the spotty blackness. Hmm, I thought to myself. He’s skinnier than in the paintings.

“Your job, Mister Anderson, if you choose to accept it…” the voice answered from mere feet away. I steeled myself to receive my Ultimate Destiny, delivered by an Eternal Being. My eyes continued adjusting until I could make out the rig that God stood next to. It was a Chevy Blazer with a Pitkin County Sheriff emblem emblazoned on the side. “…is to move your goddamned truck. It’s blocking my way, and I’ve got to get up that hill to investigate reports of someone trespassing at the old mine site.”

“And leash this fuggin’ mutt, he took a piss on my tire.”

(This story was originally published in the literary website, flipcollective.com in August, 2012)

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CONDORS

Away from the grey, nauseous coast
free wheeling through a great, long valley
burnt to char, closed to overland travel
an easy cab for travel, blue and loud
loaded for bear, some of everything, except Bear
stories fly like ashy mud from rolling stock
until the decisions add up

across the cracked expanse
of the Central Valley
and a bitter, paranoid failure avoided
there is no hope in the Greenfield Sleaze Inn
It’s the Glory Road, minor through dirt road
red pocks stitched across a blank white void
Doctor Know indeed, intuit knew it
leads us to, over the finest night rally track
that I have ever bombed, dark and empty
as all unknown adventures should be
cows gather but stay put, black blurs on the hoof
the risk and reward, to persevere. Per severe ants
Pre-severance, too broke to go, too rich to stay
Pea Knuckle National Mausoleum
void of the holiday hordes that
abhored me on first attempt
shaken and discouraged enough to drive
two unknown hours, thus to sleep
in the cancer flakes of Asbestos Creek

All night loon chatter about a roaring fire
spoons and forks and thought full lines
drawn in the sands of my corporation plaque
blasting torrents of dead stars
tracing hell through the heavens
God becomes the topic de jour
for railing logic, pulled and pushed
until that notion too ascends in smoke
for his own consideration, or emptiness
finally, warm scotch seizes the mind
and turns off the fun receptors
until cold, lonely night locks the scene

And with day is play, this new place, still ours
empty save for a lonely tent that keeps appearing
looping drives to pay our share, but where?
a slow man allows passage into sweet water
the honor system and a giant tabulator
and off for the hills that bleed sand
and know the dark shadow of giant birds
the colors thicken in the falling light, bloom in dusk
it is a well beat trail, the heart knows a good trail
and rushes forth, testing its flow, alive to go
up through the golden spires, stalwart skies
in search of the Condors gliding on warm thermals
and now this rock, quake shot stone
to hold my calm, to hone my soul

C. Madison Anderson
Pinnacles National Monument
12-3-08

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