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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our Primary Purpose.

I've been thinking about time lately. I'm pretty sure I've written about time before. Time keeps popping up as a subject these days.

"No time to lose," is what they say.

Others sing about time being "On my side."

Some of the old timers at the Odd Fellows Hall at the corner of Petersen and McKernan Streets, in Muskrat Flats proper, speak of "time being money," especially Sid Bartleby; he is kind of corny like that.

Then there is the big question. Often the question is asked confidently as if the inquisitor knows they are going to draw a favorable response. The tenor of the question can be intuitively modified to be phrased in a sympathetic and encouraging light, based upon the vibe of the situation. In other situations the question can be launched in the muddied quagmire of small talk, only to illicit a strained and sheepish response further sullying an already awkward situation.

This question being ... "How much time do you have?"

Is not such an unusual question. It is uttered in many different situations on a daily basis drawing responses such as:

"I've got five minutes before I have to pick up my kid."

"My schedule is clear. What can I do for you?"

"I'm running late. Perhaps we can do this tomorrow?"

In the "Iron Triangle," (the section of Muskrat Flats where you are perpetually on the other side of the tracks as it is bordered by train tacks on three sides) you may get a different response to this question, especially if you are standing outside of a 12-step meeting clutching a coffee in one hand and a Newport short in the other. Within the bounds of these circumstances, within the triangle, someone may reply:

"The Good Lord willing, I've got twenty years on the 3oth."

or "I've been clean for three days."

or my favorite:

"I was clean for Nine months, but I fucked up last week.

The last one is the response I gave last time someone asked me that question, almost nine months ago. I could have given a new response, one I picked up from on of my sponsee brothers,

"I've got the same amount of time you have, brother, I've got today."

This may sound like a smart ass answer to the outside observer, but when it really comes down to it I really can't ask for much more than that. In my world even one day clean is a freaking miracle and I'm not kidding.

As I watch a friend currently struggling with the disease -- how caught up they are; how the drugs just absolutely warp their sense of reasoning; how the drugs bastardize any semblance of normalcy they may have once experienced -- I remember where I was when I was in the same position.

I remember when I was so strung out that every day was a comedy of errors; a bizarre panorama, a faded and unfocused surrealistic landscape of shame and remorse filled self-loathing. I was a walking zombie on a mission to get high no matter what (If not high, at least to keep from getting sick). It didn't matter to what extent I jeopardized my life, my job, my child and everyone else who loved me and couldn't understand why I would choose to lead such an existence.

The funny part is, in my twisted up self-centered thinking, I couldn't understand why they couldn't understand. I mean, could they not see that I was sick? I had to use! I could not stop, otherwise I would get sicker. I wanted to get clean, but I wasn't about to get sick to do so. I was in the same position my friend is right now: I wanted to get clean, but I didn't want to suffer any consequences to do so.

Time - A dear friend of mine used to say, "You don't want what I got, cause I've got NO TIME."

I've been texting this friend of mine. Right now, my friend, who is struggling, has nothing but time on their hands. And that time is frittering away slowly, day by day. They don't want what I got, cause I've got no time for their shit. There is a simple solution to their problem.

Just Stop Using. That is the one common denominator shared by every recovering addict in the world. Just for one day, they stopped using. And they got up the next day, did it again, and again a third day. It is going to suck. You will feel like you have the worst flu you have ever had, but each subsequent day that you just focus on 24 hours of not using you will feel better. Although stopping is a big part, you also have to do something to to arrest the obsession to want to use and compulsion to go out and do so. That is where 12-step meetings helped me.

I did four medically supervised detoxes. One was an outpatient program prescribed by some quack I found in the yellow pages. I got higher on the shit he prescribed for me than I did with the junk I found on the street.

Since I had no guidance or suggestions from clean addicts as to how I could succeed I damn near killed myself when I did cave in after three days and picked up. A using buddy found me in the kitchen of my apartment, barely conscious, with a spike dangling from my bloodied arm. I am thankful they got me up and walking around instead of stealing my shit and leaving me there.

The next three detoxes I did -- the first shortly after the aforementioned debacle -- were in a locked ward. Sure, I could leave whenever I wanted but I didn't. Each time I got a little further along to discovering a permanent solution to my problem, which was me, not the drugs. I was -- and for the time being remain -- the problem.

In the end, when I finally walked away from the fence bordering that crimson poppy field, I did it cold turkey. I had no intention of stopping. I simply prayed to God and asked for help. Little did I know others were praying for me as well. That morning, instead of going out and copping, I just went back to bed and rode it out. The sweats, chills, the squirts, dry heaves, involuntary muscle spasms ... it sucked, but I did it.

I am praying that my friend makes it, because they know there is a better way to live.
I am praying for them; That is all I can do. No money, no rides, no hand holding. I have a hard enough time working my own program of recovery than to watch a loved one go through the hell of detox, putting myself at risk by being in the company of a sick, suffering, conniving manipulative, self centered addict who will do or say anything to get a fix. That would just be stupid on my part. I am not being judgmental when I say this; it is just the way it is. That is how we are when we are active.

I don't want to sound unsympathetic, but there are professionals out there who can do this ... because I KNOW that I can't. In my fellowship, our primary purpose is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers -- that message being that recovery is possible. However, this doesn't mean that I should put myself in harm's way.

My friend is not responsible for their disease, but they are responsible for their recovery, not me. I am praying for you, my friend. Consequences be damned, because right now they are not that bad. But I assure you, if you keep running, they will get worse. Can't you see that they already are?

The time to get clean is now, because Time is running out.

Yep, the time is running out about as quickly as I am ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Cause I'm not feeling too good, I've lost a lot of blood ..."

Once again the folks in Muskrat Flats are waiting for snow. It has been a tired and turbulent winter for our friends. Not so much from the climate or foul weather, there is only so much you can do about that. Sometimes foul weather can be a savior. Where would Coley Blackstone be had his house been left intact following the micro burst which ripped apart his living room and dining area last August?

His bedroom, with his large comfortable king sized bed, was untouched. The cardboard refrigerator box, in which he slept in his dining room, that is still caught up in a tree about 100 yards into the woods behind his house.

If that foul weather had not come, perhaps Coley, Muskrat Flats' richest resident, would still be walking up and down Petersen St., with his dog Chubby, fishing in the trash for bits of interesting paper. He might still be hanging out on a park bench across the street from the Odd Fellows Hall, smelling the aroma of Iva's blueberry muffins, some of which are grilled delicately in whole butter. How many days he would sit on that bench wishing he had the nerve to cross the street and ask for one of those golden brown nuggets. Instead he sat on the bench lost in the whirlwind of his insanity, scratching away at his black composition notebook, figuring out the interest his fortune was amassing on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. His obsession, driven by a chemical imbalance left him feeling alone and detached, so he figured might as well live like he felt ... homeless.

He was walking through the woods the on his way downtown and saw his box, wedged in the branches at the top of a black birch tree. He stopped and looked up at the box which was glistening in the sun as patches of ice melted away after the previous night's coating of freezing rain. He pulled an ice slicked sapling from one of the lower branches of the birch and stripped the black bark away with his fingernail. Chubby was nosing around in the snow and ice. Corey peeled back the tender membrane underneath the bark and put the wood in his mouth, tasting the bubble gum sweetness of the tender shoot. He rolled the stick around in his mouth, as he gazed up at the box.

"What the fuck was I thinking, living like that?"

As the sweetness of the branch dissipated, he spit it out, thinking that the sap from the maples would be running soon. Iva's muffins must be wondrous with some melted butter and some fresh maple syrup.

Coley was thankful for the weather. Even though it was cold and wet, and he occasionally had to pry balls of ice, wedged uncomfortably between the pads of Chubby's paws, it was severe weather which had exposed his charade.

Now, he felt joy. It wasn't such a terrible thing to let people into his life. His neighbors were making a difference. Perhaps if he walked across the street and asked for one those blueberry muffins, long ago, the good neighbors in Muskrat Flats would have come to his aid. Perhaps they would have found out that he was the mysterious resident who everyone had been talking about. But now he thought that probably wouldn't have made a difference in how they treated him. Yes he was the anonymous donor who kept charities functioning, scholarship funds solvent, social service programs rolling along with full budget. Not bad for a homeless guy. Can anyone doubt that he is the bastard Great Grandson of Samuel Coleman Hawthorne III? But, they would have seen that he needed help and would have assisted him in getting it, of that he was sure.

He gave the cardboard box one last glance, took a deep inhale of the crisp morning air and headed to the center of town.

At the Farm Museum, things were pretty normal. It was quiet with the exception of school groups who would come around for a tour of the blacksmith shop, to see how the animals are cared for in the winter and of course to enjoy the sleigh ride past rows and rows of Sveltie's barren and dormant grapevines.

Sveltie and Jerry were hashing out their problems. They loved each other but each were beginning to look outside of their relationship for the comfort and excitement they should have been providing for each other. Sveltie was beginning to worry about Jerry's drinking. When they were together his consumption seemed to be in check. The last time Jerry "let slip" that he was with another woman alcohol was a factor. She was wondering if it was not so much that he was looking for sex as he was looking for someone who drank like he did. This, of course, made her feel guilty being a vintner, his wife and, undoubtedly, his biggest enabler.

She was in the Blacksmith shop with a group of the school children as Kurt Bartleby was pounding away at his glowing rod ... of metal. Sparks were flying through the air. Behind the spray of sparks stood her assistant, Gina. What a beautiful girl she is Sveltie thought.

Gina was standing there smiling seductively at Kurt, who looked up and winked at her. The group of first and second graders were holding their ears as Kurt pounded away at the metal. He stopped and addressed his young crowd.

"Now, I'm gonna cool this off a bit ..." He plunged the metal into a wooden bucket of water. The metal screamed and hissed like a muskrat being suffocated by a large snake, as it hit the cold liquid, much to the delight of his young audience.

"Now, I'm going to put my rod in the glory hole and its going to get real hot when Gina pumps the bellows for me" He said with a grin

"Oh Jesus Christ!" Sveltie thought to herself. "You two seriously need to get a room." She looked at the Teachers and the group chaperones. Thankfully they didn't seem to catch the double entendre.

As he started pounding away and shaping the metal, the sparks started to fly again. Gina was framed by the the glowing shower of metal and the reflections flashed in her eyes and illuminated her lovely chocolate skin. Under her winter gear she was wearing a dress which exposed enough of her cleavage to make Sveltie want to do a double take.

Sveltie marveled at the sparks and the look in Gina's eyes as she watched Kurt. She thought of the rainbow points of light described by Sheriff Hawthorne in his diary.

Kurt was great with the children. He listened attentively and answered their questions as they fired away.

Sveltie's phone chimed. It was Jerry.

"I'm caught up with the story. Meet me at the hotel after work? Show me the secret room?"

"Of course my love. I've got a surprise for you."


Sveltie and her husband walked into the Sheriff's most recent dirty little secret, outside of room number 10 at old Muskrat Flats Hotel. Jerry began to look around.

This is amazing he thought. He looked at the bottle of absinthe and uncorked it, taking a sniff. The anise infused herbal aroma tickled his olfactory receptors. He looked at the paintings.

"These paintings are probably worth a fortune. They need to be displayed where the public can see them."

He pulled two bottles of Muskrat Flats Vineyard's Reisling, some cheese and crackers. Sveltie should have felt disappointment at seeing the bottles of wine after the conversation they had last night, but she let it slide. She took her winter coat off revealing the costume she had worn at the Fall Festival. Jerry's eyes widened as he saw his wife dressed as Celeste, Sheriff Hawthorne's favorite girl.

Sveltie lit the oil lamp as Jerry peered through the grating into room number 10.

They sat down. He poured the wine and he began to read aloud, one again, the century old words of Sheriff Hawthorne.

"Isabella caused me to feel like I had never felt. There was the danger of the the situation which caused the most excitement for me. Knowing that as delicate and sensual her mouth felt upon my flesh, that mouth also contained those fangs which were capable of draining me of every drop of blood I possessed. As I sat in my office, feeling her mouth on me, feeling those talons raking against my flesh, feeling those mysterious rain drops of burning color soak into my body, I could se my tombstone coming in and out of view as her head slid up and down.

"Here Lies A Man That Made Them Laugh." I read.

"They won't be laughing when they read this, What will they say if they find out about this?" I thought as I experienced a sensation the Padre down the road would prefer I feel for procreation purposes only. An intense wave of pleasure it was.

I was shocked out of my next thought as Isabella penetrated my mind once again to receive the thought.

"I would give anything to feel like this every day."

"Would you, now?" I heard her ask.

I countered this by thinking,

"Why ME, are you ever going to tell me. The carnival leaves in to days."

I composed myself, pulling up my trousers as Isabella lit a cigar. She walked over to the painting
I had behind my desk. She looked at it for a very long time, making sure to blow her smoke away from the art. How courteous, I thought.

"Jean Luc Lemay, a very talented artist. where did he paint this in Paris?"

"No, in this office actually ... you know of Jean Luc?"

"He speaks very highly of you. You made quite an impression on him, Sheriff. A man who would fake his own death to save a town. You seem a little more self-centered than that, but apparently I could be wrong. You did the right thing ... yes, you made quite an impression on Jean Luc, indeed."

I was growing impatient, wanting the answers to question I felt I deserved.

"We spent much time together in Paris. and he accompanied me back to Muskrat Flats. We still correspond by mail."

"He told me I would find an ally in you, that you were different."

I beagn to think about Jean Luc and his habits, he is ...

"One of us, Sheriff. He is a vampire. He should be an example to you that we're are not all heartless killers. Predators we are, but we can always find undesirables who deserve what we are more than willing to give them. "

"Like Caesar? He was an undesirable?" She kept pacing around my office touching my possessions as she spoke before finally settling to the chair. As she sat and took a puff of her cigar, some droplets of light jumped out of her and disappeared.

"Occasionally we find someone we desire, one who we would like to be one of us."

I got a chill as she said this, and saw more sparks leave her body. She shuddered as if she were being pleasured as we spoke.

"Your girl Celeste is enjoying Astrid's company right now. I can feel it."

"Those drops of light, how does that work?" I queried trying to change the subject. She ignored my question as she began to tell me her confession.

"Astrid joined our carnival about a year ago. I was immediately drawn to her, as were you."

"She has that affect on people." I noted.

"Before, she came to the carnival, I felt a presence which I could not quite identify. The Mexicans would always come to me and ask for help to keep away the nightmares. They would describe them to me, but I couldn't read their thoughts regarding the nightmares. It was odd. I tried to help them, but they are so superstitious they didn't fully trust me, either."

She uncrossed and crossed her legs, as my eyes wandered up her thigh. Isabella continued.

As Astrid and I became closer, she told me of a situation which had occurred with Caesar. He kept trying to get in her good graces, About two weeks ago, He tried to force himself on her one night, after they had been drinking. He ended up beating her. I was livid. I wanted to kill him, but Astrid asked me not to, fearing that I would expose myself. I have deep feelings for her she is special to me."

"You are in Love?"

"I don't know if love is what it can be called when you are immortal, Coleman."

"So, you confronted him, anyway?"

"Yes, again, I had that nagging feeling I just described. I tried to read his thoughts and he just laughed.

"You can't get in my mind, little girl." He said. "You saw what can happen when I don't get my way. You don't want to see what I can really do. The deserts we cross are very wide and vast ... a good place to hide the body of an annoying little girl who does parlor tricks with people's minds, a good place for someone - to disappear."

I took a pull of my cigar. She continued.

"The next morning Astrid was feeling exhausted. As if she had no sleep. She described a nightmare she had. She said she was awakened by a sound. Then she felt like someone or something was holding her down on her cot. She saw a purple and green mist which enveloped her and she felt like she was being raped, even though nobody was there. In her mind, she saw horrifying images of snakes."

That evening I went to see Caesar's show. He looked at me leering in a menacing way. I watched him wrestle the snake. During his act, something odd happened. As he rolled around on the stage with the snake wrapped around him, I saw wisps of green and purple. I knew right there what I was dealing with."

"What was that?" I had to ask.

"Caesar was a vampire who is a non-blood drinker, but drains people life force, their energy, their soul."

"He visits people in the night and penetrates their dreams, and rapes them? Like an Incubus?" I asked.

"Incubus? Very good sheriff, I'm impressed. But an Incubus is a demon. Caesar's type have trained their minds to prey on those of others."

I sat there stroking my mustache. She took another pull from the cigar and I said,

"Well, continue, how did he die?"

"Astrid was visited by him once more in the night. The next day I made her one of us. You saw the ritual. That gave her the ultimate protection and the strength for the ultimate revenge.
Astrid told Caesar that she had a change of heart and lured him into his tent, where I was waiting in the corner. She got on his bed and I saw the wisps of green and purple coming out of his body once more. He must have sensed my presence, because he turned to me. The clouds of energy drew closer to me.

"I told you not to fuck with me little girl. You don't know what I am capable of." He advanced toward me as did the clouds of energy.

I just stood there and released my own energy. The droplets of light you see began to pierce into Caesar. He was caught totally unaware. He had no idea what HE was dealing with. He screamed.

"Arggh! What are you doing to me?" He tried to turn up his own energy level but it was too late. I got inside his head and screamed as loud as I could.

Astrid jumped on him and sank her fangs into his neck and began feasting on his blood. I bore my fangs and advanced at him. He was shaking in fear trying to fight off Astrid. I swiped at his abdomen with my hand slicing his flesh. I licked the blood from my fingers. Looked him straight in the eye and said,

"Goodbye, Asshole!" As I cradled his head in my hands and snapped his neck. Then Astrid and I drank."

"Wow, why did you leave him out in the open to be found like that?"

"Astrid had spread the word that he was responsible for the night time attacks. All of the Mexicans described seeing snakes. She said the nightmares would never happen again and she is right."

"What about the energy, the purple and green cloud? Gone?" I asked.

"It is disembodied and we have protection against it. So you have heard my confession. What are you going to do?"

"What can I do, I guess it will have to be the chupabora who did this."

"Chupacabra, Sheriff. With me sitting in front of you, you can't acknowledge the existence of another supernatural being?"

"No, not right now."

"What are you going to do about the other thing, Coleman?" Isabella asked as she sashayed over to me. She smiled and bared her fangs. She sat in my lap, my hand ran against her smooth side cupping her breast.

"What other thing?" I asked coyly, trying to ignore the direction the conversation was headed.

I looked at the painting done by Jean Luc and thought of the portrait he had done of me which now is hanging in the Odd Fellows Hall. How could I have spent so much time with him and not even have the slightest suspicion that he was a vampire?

"I want you Coleman, do you want us? You faked your own death once before, you could just leave when we leave." She was kissing my neck, her breath in my ear, whispering how she desired me.

"I have to think about it." I thought. She continued kissing my neck grazing my skin with those fangs. I began to get aroused.

"Can I at least have a little taste, Coleman?"

I didn't answer. I simply put my head back as I allowed her to sink her fangs into my neck. I was once again bathed in a brilliant malestrom of light as I melted in her arms."

Sveltie opened her eyes to look at her husband Jerry. She was horny as hell and wanted him right then and there.

Sveltie saw the love in his eyes. She hoped that she could return the love he had for her. For she still had some unresolved thoughts on the matter as well as a wandering eye. She wondered why she couldn't just love him like she used to.

As odd a story as it is, rife with sexuality and fantastic forays into the supernatural, the constant in this plane of reality, this miniscule slice of time in the history of Muskrat Flats seems to be that Sheriff Hawthorne is still shaping the lives of Muskrat Flats' residents, descendants of neighbors he loved and cherished in his lifetime.

Perhaps it is time that the folks in the Flats, start to really take a look at the life of Sheriff Hawthorne and put an end to his posthumous meddling. We hear stories of the lives of legends from the American frontier people, like John Henry or Pecos Bill, even outlaws like Frank and Jesse James. They all seem so much larger than life and unreal. But in the case of Sheriff Samuel Coleman Hawthorne III Esq., and his larger than life legend enmeshed in the history Muskrat Flats, the ante has been upped with a sordid story, in an old leather bound tablet, written by his own hand, in blood.

I say they get rid of Sheriff Hawthorne's diary first, before they start ...

Running Hard Out Of Muskrat Flats.

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