• young jack kerouac holds forth on death •

But for the green light emitted by the radar screen, it was dark in the wheelhouse that enveloped the sea air that enveloped the two men. The Captain was taciturn, and concentrating on his course correction. Young Jack Kerouac was the greenhorn on the boat. He had been holding forth, now, for a bit yet.
“I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it,” confessed young Jack. “I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the action of the wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water,” Jack opined. “I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled,” gushed Jack. “I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die…” ** Jack paused, taking a long drag on his cigarette. An orange glow illuminated his dark eyes, one green and one red, like the the running lights of an oncoming push boat, bitterly relentless and unswerving. What was the old adage about ships passing in the night? Red right returning.
But for the comforting drone of the twin sixteen diesels down below, a relative silence enveloped the two men. Finally, the Captain craned his neck to take in the kid, perusing him with a salty eye, and half a grin. Jack was slouching against the hatch, silhouetted by the moonlight washing back and forth over his lanky form, draped in bliss and youthful profundity. Jack was blowing smoke rings, and tapping his foot, as if listening to a cool jazz riff.
The captain pursed his lips in his signature expression, sucking up all ‘the silence in the room with withheld witticism, and unspoken irony. After a bit, he picked up his spit cup and spit, loosing a stringy stream of steaming brown treacle, observing, “Talk a lot, don’t you?”
~ Tim Burchfield

** (From Jack Kerouac, holding forth, ‘on death’.)



• by the numbers •

I have always had difficulty doing sums in my head, it’s always been that way, for me. Because, by the time I, ‘carry the three’ I’ve forgot whatever numbers I had (sort of, but shakily) ‘had’, in my mind originally. So I’ve ‘borrowed’, ‘appropriated’, if you like, oh alright, stolen outright, with appreciative impunity, an idea which might just do the trick for me, and that is this: from here on in, when I think of a numeral (that’s ‘number’, to the rest of you ‘number-dolts’, like me) it will have an assigned color (when I ‘picture’ it), and just for fun, a ‘texture’ as well, and, even, sometimes, for memory’s sake, a fragrant (or otherwise) ‘smell’ as well.
So, for the sake of clarity, picture if you will, that from here on in, all ones are orange, with the smell and texture of a citrusy orange peel. Savory One, how we love you, now: how fragrant, how juicy, how delectable, how ‘singular’!
Twos are yellow, and fuzzy, and seemingly everywhere at once, like featherweight baby chicks. Charming yellow tweety twos, tweeting to beat the band, oh, dear! (Oh, and voracious, and insistent, and demanding, and rather smelly, in great numbers, too, if you wanna know. Sorry!)
Threes are chartreuse, and froggy, with big round eyes, and shiny wet froggy skins. ‘Ribbity’ threes, making their creeky sounds.. from ‘down yonder, just past the old willow tree (as all ‘our amphibious froggy friends are want to do), with their midnight thrumming serenade… “three!!… threee!! …threeee!!!”
Fours are more formal, and come in multiples, like polite policemen, sporting their evenness and conformity, in a fetching comfortable serge, like a well pressed uniform, in crisp blue colors, and cool combinations thereof. Of course, there are many blues. Which, did you ask? You choose.
Fives are like the desert, sandy as (heck), and brown, or beige and warm to the touch, and smell vaguely of horned toads, with their round bellies, and flat flinty backs, and horny-toad skin. And little beige eyes that stare undaunted (not knowing what to think), but fixedly, up at you.
Sixes are sexy, in slinky silk negligees, and red as a fire engine, with ‘come hither’ sensibilities, and voices like sensual susurrations in a private suite, for just the six of you. So far, the easiest to remember – go figure, “Hey Sixy, whadda ya say? Hey, you, too, integer baby. Looking good!”
Add one part white to that number, and you get a pink seven. Sensible seven. Yeppers. Seven dwarves with seven pink…noses. (*grins*) (Or whatever, suit yourself, after I’m done here, it’s over to you.)
Just so’s you know, sevens are rubbery, and smell like an eraser. (Sorry, silly sevens, somebody’s got to.)
Eights are plump, like round purple plums, in succulent curvy bunches, with taught shiny skins. Be careful with eights, now, and don’t gobble ’em up too quick, or you might just get the ‘purple eight step’, from what you just ate. Just ate.
Nines are the uptight Victorians of the bunch, buttoned up tight, in their conservative black dresses, up to their long scrawny necks – who peer down at you from their lofty moral perches, and have well groomed, black eyebrows, ‘plucked’, as it were, with which to superciliously lean over you, and think you not at all amusing. (Too bad for you, but who just tolerate me, because of my ability with tea. Am I lucky, or what!)
Oh, nine, we don’t deserve you, but we’re glad you’re here…no really. (*wink*)
Heh, Nines…can’t live with em, can’t count to ten without ’em…whaddaya gonna do…?
Which brings to mind decimals, and multiples of ten, the like of which, as you well know, couldn’t be made at all, without the trusty ‘civil servant’ of the numeral world – the unassuming ubiquitous zero. I like mine in gray (or ‘grey’, if you go that way), I don’t know about you. Very conservative, and unassuming, these. And zeros are amenable, and roll with the punches, if you please. Zeros don’t get easily bowled over. They are the ‘dependables’ of the number set, but don’t add much to the conversation, it must be said, except as a placeholder, and want for nothing, if you get me, but do know their import, and innovation, and universal applicability. Good old zero, always there when you need one, whispering little nothings, that make all the difference. You gotta love ’em!
So now, with zero’s friendly participation, let’s make a ten, shall we?!!
Are you as breathless as I am?!! (Golly.)
Did you picture ten in all of its orange, and gray, glory? Ones are what, again? That’s right, juicy juicy orange, and zesty delicious. Roll that cosmopolitan gray circle right up next to that one, and, voila! A ten, me boyo! Wow! The Bo Derek of numbers, a perfect ten. What a sensation! (I think my knees are shaking. Is it noticeable? Well, color me numeral enthused, I’m cool with that.) The big one-oh! It was love at first sight. Ten out of ten.
So, after that little introduction, imagine my ease with remembering numbers, from now on. And combinations of numbers are so vivid, to me, now, that, believe it or not, I can now smell them, too.
Which are my favorites?
Well, honestly, there are so very many, and how they entice and imbue me with captivating interest, and ‘realness’ – I can count the ways.
My joys are, dare I say it? Multiplied. Now, I’d hate to do a ‘spoiler’, so you do the math. (Now, I can just think about numbers, and get wet. Oh, I’m just exuberant, don’t get upset. Still. I’ll just say this: over fifty, and it gets pretty darn good. Oh, yes, and get this: spritely Seventy will curl your toes!)
Oh, and sixty-nine is a hoot! (I seem to recall.) Oh, yeah…!!
So. Now that you’ve been introduced, I’ll leave you to it. Enjoy your new friends, if you like, now, it’s up to you. Nothing to it.
(Consider all sorts of numerical combinations, a ménage a trois, if you will…or an hundred and one combinations, my little Dalmatians. You can count on me. For my part, I certainly will. )
Happy days! I’m a number devotee, from here on in, and then, sum. An ‘aficionado’, as it were, as they say in Spain.
But I still won’t do numerology.
(Color me credulous, if you like, but I ain’t that dumb! Nosirree.)
~ Tim Burchfield


• in theory •

Self-aggrandizement, deflection of responsibility, blame shifting, obfuscation, and chronic obscurantism are classic symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder. A man (in fairness, all things being equal, this could just as easily be a woman – no, really) with this condition is frequently hampered in situations involving – and, too often, to one degree or another, is found to be completely incapable of – compassion, empathy, emotional stability, consistency of thought or sustained and rational problem solving. Paranoia is almost always an accompanying presentation. Further, given sufficient power and authority, such a person is capable of any forced action, of rationalizing persecutions upon ‘outed’ groups, of deliberately undermining essential infrastructure, and/or any number of established policies, in addition to an unswerving willingness to commit any injustice or atrocity deemed ‘necessary’, all, without any self-doubt, or debilitating ‘pangs’ of conscience.
Now, if a people were to find themselves ‘ruled’, by such an individual, it might well be very worrying indeed. Of course, one could only hope, then, that the ‘checks and balances’ built into a form of governance by the wisdom of a thoughtful group of far-sighted ‘Founding Fathers’ would, be, in theory, at least, sufficient to save (said nation) from the clear and present danger afforded by such an appalling predicament. Would it not then be for these faithful to remain hopeful that the commitment, strengths, and courage of a competent, diligent, and united ,’We the People’, would sustain them through to a positive outcome? In such a case, I would, most definitely, unequivocally be, and, most of all, theoretically, thereafter, remain in their ‘corner’, to my dying day.
Whew! That was a close one.
Kinda scary, I’d say.
Good thing this is all, ‘theoretical’, eh?
~ Tim Burchfield


• bobby daniel’s old man’s cold dead arm •

Bobby Daniel. He had us all scared shitless. Rumor had it, he had already killed a kid. And nobody knew about it. He had buried him that deep. Story goes, Bobby had punched him in the stomach, after school, and the boy had thrown up on his shoes, and, that was it for the kid, the poor bastard, and that’s how it usually went, with Bobby Daniel. And we knew for any of us, at any time, for no reason, even, it could go the same, with Bobby Daniel. You did not want to be on his ‘shit list’, no way. And you never knew what it could be that would put you on it. It could be anything. Anything. You didn’t have to ‘deserve’ it. When it came to dying at the hands of Bobby Daniel, we were convinced, as he had said many times, when threatening death to us all: “Deservin’s got nuthin’ to do with it.” For many a boy (we were completely convinced), that was the last thing he heard on this side of eternity. And then, ‘the big sleep’. The ‘dirt nap’. Most definitely. In any case, you did not want to fuck with Bobby Daniel, believe you me.
Now, we come to, Bobby Daniel’s ‘old man’. Bobby Daniel’s old man, was the kinda guy, that’d kick a dog, yes, even his own dog. For crappin’ on the lawn. Even his own lawn. We had never seen him do it, but then, we didn’t put it past him. He was just that mean. Bobby Daniel’s old man was a real hard case.
In fact, we were pretty sure that Bobby Daniel’s old man was so mean, that even Bobby Daniel was scared of him, and Bobby Daniel didn’t get scared. At least, we never saw him scared. But his old man got his own way. On everything.
Oh, and he only had one arm. Did I mention he had only one arm, yet? I meant to, but, you know, just the mention of Bobby Daniel’s old man, and my brain gets numb, and then, my teeth, and then, I start to shiver, then I lose the feeling in my arms, and hands and feet. Needless to say, I don’t like to talk about it. Still, ‘might as well, get it over with.
Bobby Daniel’s old man drove this truck that had a knob on the steering wheel, so he didn’t need two arms. With Bobby Daniel’s old man, one arm was enough. That, and, from what we heard, by the way he did his own dog, we figured him to be the sort, if you pissed him off, who’d just to kick you to death. But, of course, we kept our distance, and answered everything with ‘sir’, and, ‘yessir’, and like that, and stayed as far away from him as possible.
‘Story goes, he lost his arm, in the war. Which war? I dunno, Korea, maybe? Nobody knew for sure. At least, none of us kids did. And we weren’t going to ask him, that’s for sure.
(Jugglin’ grenades, the way we heard it, how he ‘lost’ his arm, I mean.
Then, ‘way we heard it, one night, while slogging knee-deep mud, in a rain storm, in the DMZ, it accidentally got ‘stuck’, in a ‘tank track’ or something, and got practically, ‘torn off’, at the elbow. And what was left of it, he cut it off, himself, with his own Buck knife, or chewed it off, with his bare teeth, or something, and then, ‘way we heard it, under withering machine gun fire, with the bloody gristle of what was left of his mangled limb between his teeth, and mightily pissed, through the mud, and piss, and shit, he crawled all the way back to base, on his belly, expecting the medics to ‘sew it back on’, and when they couldn’t just sew it back on, ‘good as new’, he beat ’em with it. He beat ’em with his own dead arm, can you believe it? Put three of ’em in the hospital, ‘way we heard it, Army medics, I mean, and I’m pretty sure it’s true. And then, when he got tired of pummeling the poor bastards, cursing God, and the Army, and Korea, and all things animal, vegetable, and mineral, he threw the thing in the mud, and just walked away. His own dead arm. Man, oh, man, oh man. I mean, Jesus.
And now, every time Bobby Daniel’s old man comes out of his house, across the street, and I see that scarred stump sticking out of his rolled-up sleeve, my skin crawls, and then, I picture that muddy, bloody, abandoned arm, in the night, in Korea, and I get the creeps, all over again, and I can’t get it out’a my head. ((And then, there’s a lightning flash, and with it’s wedding ring, and all, gleaming through the grunge, and all, it flexes it’s formerly cold, dead, fingers, now, animate again, and crawls across the ground, of it’s own accord, seeking murderous revenge.
‘Way I hear it, it’s still out there. ‘Way I hear it, it crawls up on a sleeping victim, in the night, on it’s powerful fingers and thumb, real quiet like, up the back of the couch, where the guy who was somehow responsible for the tragic accident, the tank operator, maybe, where the guy was sleeping, and then, it wraps it’s fingers around his throat, and chokes the guy to death, throttling him, in his sleep, and ‘next morning, they find the poor bastard, with his eyes bugged, and his purple tongue lolling out.))
I used to think about that. At night, when the wind blows, and shadows dance on the ceiling, and branches scratch on the glass.
But, I never lose much sleep over it, even if Bobby Daniel’s old man does live right across the street. The way I figure it, even if his dead mangled severed hand was to be out for murderous revenge, I’d had nothing to do with it. I’m just a kid, after all. I’ve never even driven a car, let alone, a tank. And then, any way you look at it, you gotta admit, overall, it’s a helluva long crawl, from Korea.
~ Tim Burchfield


• nature’s balancing act •

It occurs to me, that for our ancient ancestors, that as to deciding whether (and, best, how) to walk, ‘upright’, there came a day, when there was a ‘split decision’, in the community, and, hence, the first, ‘splinter group’, was formed. Some, seeing the example of the meerkat, thought it best to lift the head above the tall grass, so as to best see the lion’s approach (as well as the gazelle, so as best to catch and eat one), and for most, I suspect, the wisdom of the ‘heads up’, approach, must have seemed obvious. But then, for every conformist, there’s the ‘oddball’, who can’t quite feel all is well with the world, unless things are turned upside down. So, naturally, (or, unnaturally, if you will) came, ‘the hand-walkers’, on that fateful day. Yes, everywhere they went, from then on, on their hands, if they must be, ‘upright’, so as not to be like the others, “Those, ‘uptight, squares’,” they meandered, with heads down, and legs flailing.
Of course, things became a bit awkward, for the, ‘heads-up’, crew, as all they could ever see of the ‘hand-walkers’, above the tall grass, was genitalia. Not great for conversation, you might say. And, of course, that ‘hand-walking’ has certain disadvantages on the African savanna, (as you “can’t see past your own elbows,” as the saying went), was indisputable. Needless to say, the saying soon went out of fashion, as the hand-walkers soon became meals for the indigenous cats, and so forth. ((Sheesh, some people, from their uninformed opinions, no matter how you reason with them, or how you inundate them with information (that pesky divider), they simply cannot be swayed. Or, as dear Mr. Vonnegut used to say, “So it goes.”))
So much for that, you might think, and then, there are the ‘throwbacks’. Yes, from time to time, they do still crop up, those who wish to lead with their dicks.
I shouldn’t worry, though. There’s always a need to, ‘trim the herd’, and the good news is, given enough leeway, they almost always do it to themselves. Call it, ‘Nature’s balancing act’.
~ Tim Burchfield

• quizzling •

“Don’t let them do it! Don’t let them get to you!”
She’s very sophisticated, for five. That’s the thing about Thing Two.
Thing One, well, that’s another story.
If she weren’t so – if Nature hadn’t given her – I’m sorry, but, if she weren’t such a bitch. Then, maybe. But no.
It is what it is, and, until further notice, such as it is, such, it shall be.
Our big sister, see, she wants to be a schoolteacher, some day, and our fondest wish is to dissuade her from her folly. Besides, she’s no educator, she’s a torturess. This, we’ve not known, exactly, but we’ve long suspected. She’s evil, Thing One.
She needs to be destroyed, if possible. On this, we are one.
We’ve decided that the happiness of thousands, even, maybe, depends on this, potentially. On us, depends their future happiness. Lives will be saved.
So, what is our plan? See how it goes, but, first, and foremost: be ourselves, primarily.
She’s a big history buff, Thing One. She pores over maps. She memorizes dates. She lords it over us, with her apocrypha. She knows things.
She’s so self-righteous. She’s the bane of our existence. She’s got to go. On this, we are agreed.
“Pop quiz!” she announces, pulling out the the ‘tests’ she has printed up, on the Mongol hordes, and their sweep across the continent of Asia, hacking, burning, raping and pillaging – our favorite things. She knows this about us, but we’ve already decided her fate. This pathetic mitigation buys her nothing.
Quiz eh? We’ll see about that.
“Quisling!” we shout.
“Quisling! Quisling!!” we repeat. “Quisling! Quisling! Quisling!!” we iterate. It’s a happy dance. She knows, quisling, from quizzling. She knows the difference. This kind of thing makes her crazy. It’s the Burning Man, all over again.
Did we mention, she’s O.C.D.?
This kind of thing, really, burns her butt.
She’s told us this, a million times, if she’s told us once, more the fool, she. It’s the Summer Solstice, for us, and she’s ‘it’, Thing One.
Burn, baby, burn. We revel in it’s light. We warm ourselves in the dying embers, over and over again. Funny thing, it never gets old, but then, what do you want, we’re ten.
“Shut up! Shut uuuuuuup!!” she wails, and runs from the room.
“Quisling! Quisling!! Quisling! Quisling!!” we exult, and carry on, until we’re tired, but well before the crying stops, which we can still hear, from afar – from the living room.
“Stool pigeon,” we speculate.
“Narc,” we opine.
She’s telling mom all about it, no doubt. Poor baby.
“I tried to tell her,” laments Thing Two, sorrowfully, as she pockets her Tootsie Roll chocolate lollipops, from us.
She’s a good kid, Thing Two.
We think we’ll let her live. Maybe. Discuss.
~ Tim Burchfield


• evel extravaganza •

Synopsis: An ambitious daredevil makes a deal with the devil, so that he may become the greatest geo-politician in the world: his greatest stunt, to attempt, on a motorcycle, to jump over Donald Drumph’s hair. (He wants, at first, to attempt a leap over Donald Drumph’s ego, but, even at the feasibility phase of the project, unsurprisingly, that enterprise proves impossible.)
The devil gets his due, in a surprising twist, involving Donald’s new wife, Evelvira, and the Caliphate. It’s an all-singing, all dancing, beeping, flashing, soaring – and, needless to say, leaping – extravaganza.
(Virgins will be sacrificed, or their reasonable facsimiles, as, in Las Vegas, at least, none could be found.)
It’s proposed ‘working title’: Something Knievel This Way Comes…
Yes? No? Maybe? Comments not necessarily necessary. Send money.
~ Tim Burchfield