Friday, June 20, 2008


"So you're basically leaking."

"What? No. I'm bleeding."

"Which means you're leaking blood."


"Yes, yes, the blood--normally contained within your body, a mostly-sealed unit, is now leaking out of a hole in that unit."

"Because I was shot!"

"Because you were shot. You're leaking."

"You asshole."

"Hey, man, I'm not the one who refuses to acknowledge--"

"You colossal asshole! You total fuckup! This is why I wanted to take an ambulance, this is why--"

"--and here I'm letting you leak all over the leather in my new car, all because you--"


At that moment, the engine died.


"You king of douchebags."

"I bet it's the alternator. There's been some bleeding in the engine, and--"

"Oh, so the engine bleeds?!"

"It's a mechanical term!"


"We have to walk."

"I've been shot! In the chest!"

"Your shoulder."

"I'm not walking!"

"Well, clearly, you're just sitting there bleeding. The hospital's like a block away, you didn't get shot in the legs, come on."

"Emperor of assholery..."

"Lean on me. We'll be there in a second, god, don't--leak on my suit, would you?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Perfect Moments

A rainbow.

Right out of a storybook, rising from the rumblings of an unwanted storm on a wedding day. It rained just long enough to merit the brilliant arc above our heads, looming intangible and achingly beautiful just above the Mississippi River. I looked through it, to the treetops of my own state; looked behind me, to the reception inside; beside me, to the pretty girl who, thanks to the concrete bench, was for once smiling down at me.

I rose in my tux shoes to kiss her on tiptoes, tears stinging my eyes, smiling so hard it hurt. Around us, the world turned so pleasant and happy it seemed to be applauding.

Congratulations, James and Christine Gregory.


God, the thought of holding him was terrifying. A brand-new, screaming, above-all fragile inductee into the human race, held above me by his father (my brother) who sternly lectures on the proper way to cradle a newborn. My exhausted sister-in-law smiling with that wary look in her eye; we all know I'm the klutz, but he is my nephew and, yes, I must hold him once.

I take this bundle into my arms, and he is so warm, and he is so light. 7 pounds 15 ounces is nothing, and at the same time everything, my arms struggling to be powerful and gentle at the same time. There is no more screaming; there is only soft, almost inaudible breath, the invisible rise and fall of a baby's little chest. And the pride, so thick in my throat that I must swallow, so fierce I must give the baby back.

Michael Fitzgerald Smylie, born June 8th, 2008. Welcome to your life. I am so happy to be in it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

It was 8:13 AM on August 8th, and I was late for an interview with God.

I tried to reason with my editor, pointing out that I wasn't on-duty until 9:30. I could hear the clock on my phone shoot forward. I explained that I only covered local news. My editor promoted me. Desperate, I reminded him of my many (completely inane) appointments--if I could not listen to council meetings and fill the police blotter, who would?

A cold breeze off the river blew open my appointment book. From 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM, in bold letters half a page in size, was simply the word GOD.

Well, you had to give Him one thing. He sure was a stubborn asshole.
Some days, he pondered murder in an almost scholastic sense. The logistics of it. How, if he leapt across the counter at his dead-end job in his dead-end life and dead-ended someone else permanently, he could get away with it. He was not the type to act out of passion; he would never kill someone without weeks, no, months of planning. And yet he wondered, with ten witnesses and a security camera, how he would escape.

It wasn't so much malice as it was distaste. Irritation. The sound of voice after voice clamoring for service, the look of people desperate for service and heedless of the line. Every "uuuummmm..." and "uhhhhhh..." as they stared at the menu added a new dimension of cruelty to their imaginary deaths.

Some days it was more visceral. He didn't consider body disposal, evidence disposal, any kind of disposal except the tossing aside of one suburban bastard's life with a spray of blood and the wet mulching of gore between his fingers. I could kill you with this espresso machine, he thought one day, the image unbidden. It bothered him that the subsequent thought as just, but I'd have to blind you with hot coffee first.

All this behind the bland, fixed smile of retail, and he would have worried if he hadn't heard his coworkers saying the same things.