A Pathetic Wretch

Crying eye

After her husband left, all she did was cry. Cry, cry cry. Noon: cry. 10:00pm: cry. 3:00am: cry.  Her pitiful bleating would pour through the thin wall between our apartments and drive me out of my mind.

I couldn’t sleep. My work suffered. I stared, eyes wide with restless hatred, at the ceiling in my uncomfortable bed as night after night was stolen from me.

Pounding on the wall did nothing but cause her to cry harder. Calls to the obese building superintendent brought castigation; not to my neighbor, but to me.

“How dare you be so heartless,” the super chided. In the rare cases she wasn’t speaking around a mouthful of food, it still sounded as if she were. “Her husband abandoned her!”

“I can’t sleep. I can’t even think!” I protested.

The thing on the other end of the line huffed. “Get some earplugs,” she suggested, and hung up.

This went on for months. Like any man in my situation, I reached the end of my rope. And, in a way, so did my neighbor.

Continue reading “A Pathetic Wretch”

Caroline’s New Teeth

babyteeth

Caroline came into the kitchen the while I was making dinner.

“Mommy, my tooth feels funny.”

I had her open her mouth and I told her to point to the one that felt different. She did. It was one of the bottom incisors. I touched it with the tip of my finger. It wiggled.

“That’s normal, honey. Remember when I told you you’d get big girl teeth? You’re gonna lose your baby teeth and the Tooth Fairy will give you a dollar!”

Caroline smiled. “I’m a big girl!” she announced.

“You can wiggle it with your tongue if you want,” I suggested. I’d read that helps the process along.

Caroline worked her tongue around inside her closed mouth, then scampered back into the living room.

A couple days later, as she munched away on a chunk of apple, she dropped the piece and gasped. I glanced over. There were a few drops of blood on the plate.

“Was that your tooth, honey?” I asked.

Caroline nodded, then drooled a teaspoon of blood and saliva onto her snack, followed by the tooth.

“Congratulations!” I said. “The Tooth Fairy is going to visit tonight!”

Continue reading “Caroline’s New Teeth”

A Most Welcome Visitor

house

I was nineteen when he visited for the first time. It was very late and the bedroom was pitch black.

“Miles,” he whispered. “Miles. Can you hear me?”

My eyes were wide but only darkness met them. I couldn’t see who was talking.

“Yes,” I whispered back.

“A few more years,” he cooed into my left ear. “Just wait another few years and you’ll learn who I am.”

I reached out, trying to touch the producer of the voice. My hands grabbed the air. I turned over and groped for the bedside lamp and flipped the switch. Pale light poured into the bedroom. I was alone.

I didn’t realize at the time that that would be a constant. A theme.

It’s now been eighteen years since I was visited that night. I’ve spent it by myself.

I wish I could call those years happy and productive. They were, in fact, the opposite. I am depressed. Unemployable. “Mentally ill,” is the official term that lets me collect money for doing nothing but sit at home all day.

Well, not quite nothing.

I daydream. I fantasize about the man who spoke to me that night. I picture him swooping in and knocking on my door, bringing riches and surprises that would heal my ruined psyche. He’d be my guardian angel; a heavenly respite from my day-to-day misery.

For nearly two decades, those dreams went unrealized.

Until last night. Continue reading “A Most Welcome Visitor”

Far Too Much Mold

Mold spores

Previous.

I don’t know why I’m telling this story. Maybe it’s so I can start the process of forgiving myself, knowing that what I did was beyond my control. Or maybe that’s a lie. Maybe I wanted to do it all along. I honestly don’t know.

When my buddy Raul and I heard that the Puerto Rican government was paying people to help clear the abandoned and unlivable properties that got wrecked by Hurricane Maria, we jumped at the idea. After the hurricane, neither of us were able to go back to work. Things were looking pretty bleak until that opportunity presented itself.

We went to the coordination center and got a map telling us the areas we’d be responsible for and what to do with the stuff we dragged out of the ruined houses. It was pretty straightforward – pull all the furniture and carpets and appliances out of the houses and put them on the side of the road. Trucks would pick up the junk, and, eventually, the homes would be properly demolished.

I did my best to not grimace when we were told how to tag and handle any bodies that had been missed by the initial sweeps right after the storm.

There were red X’s on the map showing where other crews were working. One spot on the far end of the grid was unmarked. It was ours.

“You’ll want to bring these,” the coordinator said, and handed us a pair of gas masks. “The mold might be toxic.” Continue reading “Far Too Much Mold”

Deniehyfield, Australia is being dismantled.

cattlehead

Three cows disappeared from John Pierce’s place. He reported them as being stolen, but an investigation of the farm yielded nothing. No forced entry, no damage to the fences, no footprints. Nothing. It was chalked up as “one of those things.”

Six weeks later, two of those three cows were found in the trees of a nearby park. It was clear they’d been mutilated, but their advanced state of decay precluded any definitive answers. Again, “one of those things.” Now, though, people were starting to take notice. It’s not every day that cows wind up in trees. Especially dead ones. Continue reading “Deniehyfield, Australia is being dismantled.”

The Cave in the Lake

undersea cave

A long time ago, I used to scuba dive with my college buddies. It was my passion. It made me feel like an intrepid explorer, charting the unknown and discovering the unseen.

That was way before my daughter. Way before my ex-wife, too. Like so many things, I gave it up when the drive to start a family kicked in. After Penny was born, scuba was just a frivolity I had no right to focus on. And that was that.

Twelve years later, after the divorce, I started looking at the world like I had before it all went south. I could resume the activities and hobbies I’d abandoned. Scuba diving was at the top of the list.

Once everything was finalized, I bought a house two states away from the one I’d shared with my wife and daughter. It was nothing special. It wasn’t the house I cared about when I closed the deal on the property. It was what sat behind it: a lake.

Continue reading “The Cave in the Lake”

My four-year old son woke up with a full head of gray hair.

Sleep EEG

Our little Phillip had complained about his nightmares for weeks. Lisa suggested we take him to a doctor. I resisted. I had nightmares when I was his age. Awful ones – ones that, to this day, I still shudder to recall. It seemed poor Phillip was more like his old man than his mom and I had hoped.

After a particularly wretched night of his howling and shrieking, I caved. I couldn’t bear to see my son suffer from terrors he was too young to understand. Continue reading “My four-year old son woke up with a full head of gray hair.”

I tried to mine some Bitcoins and I think I might have unglued the fabric of the universe.

Bitcoin logo

A little help?

I’m a research assistant working at a science facility in China. We’ve got one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. We had to power it down a few months back to do some upgrades, and we’ve got a skeleton crew until it’s all done. Last night, my friend Chen and I were the only ones on the overnight shift. The majority of the hardware was up and running and we were supposed to be stress testing the nodes.

We had software we were required to run, but I had the bright idea to mine Bitcoins to test it instead. God knows those calculations can stress your hardware.

It didn’t take much convincing to get Chen on board with the idea. If we could make a little extra money on the side from our endeavor, it was that much better. Besides, we could run the regular software after.

Chen downloaded the blockchain, installed everything, and we started processing. Lo and behold, BTC fractions started rolling in. It was way faster than either of us had expected. After an hour, we’d made a couple hundred USD. This supercomputer is something else. Adiabatic quantum emulation, baby. Not quite full QC, but close enough where it matters. When the upgrades go public, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

All that said…I think we fucked something up.

Continue reading “I tried to mine some Bitcoins and I think I might have unglued the fabric of the universe.”

Road Head

Death Valley highway

I won’t bullshit you. I know how dangerous it is to get your hog sucked while you’re driving. But you know what? Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

The woman I picked up by the truck stop the other night was beautiful. Long, curly brown hair, green eyes, and soft, baby-smooth skin. Sexy hoop earrings, too. I love hoop earrings. I knew a girl in high school who liked to put her heels behind her hoops. Now that’s an image.

Anyway, I’m not going to lie and build myself up as some sort of stud by saying my lady friend and I went at it right away. I’m 55 with more gray than brown these days. Got a decent gut, too. The libido’s strong as ever, though. No blue pills needed. Regardless, there’s still a hint of gentleman left in me.

I know you’re already thinking I’m a pig. Well, maybe. I’d rather call myself a “Lothario.” Similar definition but infinitely classier-sounding. Don’t worry. I promise I’m not all bad. Continue reading “Road Head”

Wet Bedroom

In an abandoned house about ten miles south of our high school, deep in the woods, there’s a bedroom that is always wet.

On the surface, it sounds unremarkable. Woods. Abandoned house. Water. Leaks. Wet bedroom.

Go inside, though, and you’ll realize it’s a little more complicated than that. A little harder to explain.

The water in that room clings to the floor and walls and ceiling in heavy, gelatinous globules. Touch one and it’ll break, spilling foul-smelling water on you. I made that mistake the one time I visited on my own. It takes days to get that stink off. Continue reading “Wet Bedroom”