Vision2 Missing Pieces!

For those of you who didn’t know, a long time ago, in a land far, far away I wrote a book. I thought I was being cute and named it Vision2 (i.e. Vision Squared); however, most computer programs and websites do not like to put it up correctly.  Doh!  Anyway, when I put the book out I cut some of the prologue sections (per my wonderful editor, Matt) because they dealt more with the relationship story and didn’t add to the pace of the adventure that was the main focus of the book…Or some such nonsense 😛

I decided to put up the missing pieces on here just for shits and giggles!  Enjoy!



Roger laughed, his head tilted to the sun.  There were about six of them at JP’s pond.  It was surrounded by a cluster of tall oak trees that provided shade even in the dead heat of the Oklahoma summer, making the pond stay a cool 70 degrees during the glaring months of July and August.

The pond itself was fifteen feet across at its widest point, but it was at least ten feet deep at its center.  This kind of depth combined with the dense tree growth made it the perfect place for a rope swing.  The point was to try and hit the water dead in the center where the pond was at its deepest.  Because the pond wasn’t very wide, this made it even more difficult, and if you missed the center by too much then you could land on the rocks and bust yourself up pretty good.

They had been doing this for three years now, and so far, only one person had ever been hurt.  And that had been a girl, so they just chalked it up to female error and swore never to let any other girls use their rope swing.  Not even the strong ones.

Roger held the rope in his hand and looked towards Mary Beth.  He almost got a hard on just looking at her long, dark legs and shoulder length chestnut brown hair, and she was sitting less than five feet away watching him.  She had told him earlier that if he let her swing out across the lake she would owe him one.  And having a girl like Mary Beth owe him one was way more important than his damn macho pride any day.

As he was looking at her she winked beneath her sunglasses and blew him a kiss.  The movement was so slight that no one else saw.  Hell, he almost didn’t believe it.  Roger tilted his can of Budweiser up as high as he could, draining it.  The last few sips always tasted like he imagined warm piss might taste, but that didn’t seem to stop or change his growing fondness of it.

He tossed the lifeless red and white can off to the side, hearing the empty clink as it hit the ground.  But his mind was not on the environment, he was too busy thinking about the possibility that he might be getting laid for the first time tonight.  And wouldn’t it be something if he lost his virginity to the likes of Mary Beth Palson?

Roger again glanced over at Mary Beth and attempted to flash her a helluva winning smile before grabbing onto the rope as tight as he could.  He ran backwards, heels digging into the loose dirt, and when he reached the top of the small hill he pulled up his feet and flew through the air.  His life was now connected to a thin rope tied to an old tree branch, and he loved it.

He loved the way the wind rushed past his face, the way that the world didn’t matter out here at JP’s, and perhaps more importantly, he loved the consuming thrill that took over as his hands left the slim, frayed security line.

Seconds before he let go, Roger looked down at the sun-rippled water.  Everything looked normal, but it wasn’t.  There had only been one other time Roger had ever remembered feeling so strange about something so normal, and now he couldn’t even remember what it had been.

It was the mirror.

That’s right.  It had been a mirror, but he could no more remember what happened than he could tell you why the surface of the water looked funny.  He let go of the rope just as realization struck.  The water he was falling towards was a deep, moldy green instead of its usual rusted color.

And there were things moving under the water, green microbes swimming through a world of algae.  Seconds before he broke the reflective surface his head filled with the horrified screams of a man that followed him underwater.

The mirror man’s screams.

Except that wasn’t quite right either, and as Roger fell through the layers of sun-warmed water, something important teetered on the edge of his memory.  Then, his left leg caught on a large rock that none of them had ever noticed before, spilling what seemed like tons of warm blood into the chilly cocoon.  He tried to kick his legs out, to push himself up to the surface, but he couldn’t make his legs move right.  Nothing in his body was working as it should.

Just as the panic started to fill his mind and numbness raced through him, he felt her strong hands latch together under his armpits and pull.  He didn’t have to turn around to know it was Mary Beth, and if it wasn’t and this was all some elaborate delusion, he didn’t want to know.  Before long he found himself kicking his way back to the surface with his right leg, his left one trailing uselessly behind.

The memories that teetered on the edge of his consciousness remained lost at the bottom of JP’s pond.  


The raindrops fell in big splattering drops that dotted the windshield with their pregnant weight before running together to form a river and flowing down the glass.  Mary Beth sat tensely in the seat beside him, staring down at what remained of her shredded fingernail stubs.  There had been too many long and sleepless nights between them.  They had gone to the movies to get away, but in the end they just found themselves right back with each other.

When I run from myself, how fast do I have to go?

Roger hadn’t been the same since his mother’s death.  At first he hadn’t seemed any different than before, but the changes came in subtle waves that eventually rushed up and buried the Roger she loved.  Now there was something different in its place, something colder and harder.  She had mentioned this to him before in the dark confines of their room as their sweat-entangled bodies lay open, welcoming the night.  His eyes, deep black-green pools, stared at the spackled ceiling as he neither denied nor accepted anything.

It felt safer that way, confronting her problems in the dark after good sex.  But even in the confrontation, he’d told her it was all in her imagination.  Nothing was different, he claimed.  But he didn’t hold her as often as he used to or entice her into bed with roving fingertips that tickled her pale flesh, and then made it blush.  Hell, he didn’t even talk to her anymore, just at her.  Sex was the only tenuous connection they still had, and she could never put all her faith in sex because anyone could potentially be a good fuck.

After the movie, Mary Beth had told Roger that she wanted to drive and talk.  He had only nodded and driven out of town and onto the country roads, taking one long dirt road that eventually wound its way into another.  She had lived her whole life here and believed that she knew every road by heart, but now she wasn’t sure where they were.  And she was even less sure that it mattered.

“Roger, I don’t think we’re the same anymore.”

“You don’t?”  He looked at her, his eyebrow cocked in that mocking way he had.

“No.”  She was flustered.  “Look, what I mean is, we can’t keep doing this.  We spend hours trying to get away, but we just keep running back into ourselves.”

How fast…How fast do I have to run?

“Who else would we run into, Mary Beth?”

“Stop trying to mock me!”  Her voice rose until it was almost shrill and her eyes were rimmed with tears.  Roger felt the shame he tried to keep at bay well up.  “I just don’t think that we should be together anymore.  We’re different people now, and I don’t think those people like each other very much.”

“What do you mean?  I love you,” Roger said as passionately as he could, trying to convince her and, more importantly, himself.

“No, you don’t.  You only think you still love me because it’s easier that way.  You can keep living in your pretend world where your feelings and emotions are right where you want them to be.”

She turned to face him, and he saw her for the first time in God only knows how many months, saw the pain that was deeply etched into her perfect features.

And who put it there Roger?  Who?

In that moment he knew the truth, he had to let her go.

He had pushed her and reality away, but that time of delusion had passed. Without uttering another word, Roger pulled the gearshift into drive and flipped on the windshield wipers.  He drove recklessly down the slippery roads and flinched when he saw her grip her seatbelt a little tighter and scrunch down in her seat.

He wasn’t mad at her, he was mad at himself.  He wanted nothing more than to tell her this, but the words had been wedged somewhere between his gut and his throat.  If the truth did happen to find a way out of him it would inevitably be followed by tears, and he wasn’t about to plague her with guilt as well.

He swung the car out along the narrow road and slid into her parents drive.  When he turned to her he made it a point to look though her, not at her.  He wasn’t going to let himself back out of this, she deserved far better than what he was giving her.

She deserved happiness and someone to share it with.

“You can come over tomorrow and move your stuff out of the house while I’m at work.  I promise I won’t bother anything of yours.”

Her soft sobs mimicked the rhythm of the rain, the muffled sound beating its way through the car on moth wings.  “I…I never meant for it to happen this way.  I still love you.”  She looked at him one last time, her eyes pleading with him, begging him to say something to stop her.

He didn’t move.

She took his ring off and left it on the dashboard before opening the door and disappearing into the rain.  He wanted to run after her, to stop her and let her know exactly what he felt.  But he couldn’t.  He knew what would happen if he did.  He knew how badly everything would end because she was right, he hadn’t really been with her for a long time.  She had turned into a warm body he could come home to.

When she was gone Roger turned the car around on a skid and sped away from her parents’ house so fast that one of the neighbors was drawn to the living room window by the roar of exhaust pipes just as the car streaked by under an umbrella of rain.  She would later swear to her friends in a hushed voice over their weekly domino game that the car had been driven by a demon.  And by the look on her face, her friends could almost believe her.

Roger continued down the poorly lit streets, tires racing through puddles causing water and mud to fly up and over the car with such force that it would later take Roger three car washes to clean off the ingrained dirt.  When he finally did pull into his driveway he was shocked.  He hadn’t thought he would make it home again.

Part of him hadn’t wanted to.

It was there in front of his house that Roger cried for the first time since losing his mother.  He shut off the car and slumped over the steering wheel, letting the tears he had held back for so long leak out of his eyes.  After a few minutes, he wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand and hiccupped back the remaining sobs.

When he had shut off the car, he had forgotten to turn off the headlights, and they now shone through the dark night like beacons.  The dirt and rain continued to run down the windshield, blurring the world outside until it looked like a Tim Burton cartoon nightmare.

As the water trickled down the window, gathering the mud and causing it to slip down in chunks, a face appeared.  It was like seeing a shape in the clouds, only this seemed more solid, more real than all the times he had ever looked at the clouds.  He absentmindedly reached out to touch the windshield, but a deeply buried memory of his seven year old self perched on the bathroom counter suddenly made him stop.

It hurts.

Roger waited for the mirage to shiver and disappear, but it didn’t.  Instead it grew stronger, taking on more definition.  It was becoming something.  He didn’t know what was going on, and he found that he didn’t want to know.  There were things that lingered in the back of his mind, things that he could barely touch before they floated away, but he knew their truths were cold and harsh.


And he did.

Roger grabbed for the door handle and threw his body out of the car before it could all come rushing back.

Thirty minutes later Roger sat on the couch, a cold bottle of Budweiser resting against his thigh.  He looked out at the car.  It was now just a harmless shape in the rain-filled night and he could barely remember what all the panic had been about.

Chasing Storms

I’ve decided to dust off my older stories and recirculate them in the digital era.  This is another previously published piece that is new to the blog.  This one was originally published in Absolute in the summer of 2005 and it even won a writing award!

Chasing Storms


Once, a long time ago, I was truly happy.  For one short-lived afternoon my capsulated world was perfect and harmonized and I played as if there were no rules, no pain, and no memories to haunt me.  I was twelve, and it was the last time I felt human, the absolute last time I felt whole.

I grew up in a small town in southwestern Oklahoma with my Grandma Carol and her fourth husband, Ted.  I lived with my grandma then.  Ultimately I would live with many people over the course of my teenage years, but that year was spent in Grandma Carol’s bricked up trailer.  She was the kind of woman most people meet only briefly and then walk away wondering what was wrong with the picture.  The deep wrinkles, a head of gray hair, and an obvious set of false teeth made her look like she was over seventy, but she was actually closer to fifty that year.  Most of the confusion about her age probably stemmed from the fact that she’d gotten married at fourteen and had five children by four different men before she was twenty-eight.

However promiscuous her early years may have been, in her later years she’d decided to make herself seem like an upstanding citizen.  So she had Ted buy her the finest trailer and had bricked it up on the outside, adding a carport and a wooden fence to make it seem even more like a “real” home.  Then she’d gone to the best bargain furniture store in town and bought a whole living room set with a sofa, loveseat, recliner, and even an ottoman that we were never allowed to sit in lest our dirty rears wore out the seats cushions.  Every day I would clean that house, scrubbing it spotless for visitors who usually weren’t even allowed inside.

Grandma Carol was a living contradiction, a world of nicotine stains and bar fights wrapped in a bricked up trailer and tied together by a top of the line Cadillac.   It was hard to know what it was she really wanted, hard to know when life would be good enough that I could have her approval for even two seconds.

I would spend all morning scrubbing the wood paneled walls of the trailer, trying to remove the filmy tar coating that had become ingrained into every pore of my very existence with the false scent of lemon Pine-Sol.  By the time I got home from school she would have already smoked enough to give the walls another finish.  My life was tempered by her cigarettes.  I once saw her smoke four at once, and for awhile that made her like some type of superhero to me, able to conquer the evil side effects of smoking with nothing more than sheer determination.  A few years later, when I actually did the math on the number of cigarettes she smoked per day, I understood that by most doctor’s calculations Grandma Carol should have dropped dead over twenty years ago.

The best part of my young life that summer was my friend, Ellen, whose short, frizzy hair, dimpled cheeks and sprinkling of freckles covered her face so precisely it was as if they’d been placed there by fairies.  She looked like a dirty angel; untouched by the worries and pain that often clouded my world.

One afternoon we were outside in the playhouse Ted had made for me from the scraps of wood from some house he’d been contracted to help build.  It wasn’t much, just a plywood shell built over the back half of the tornado shelter, but Ellen and I could always manage to turn those four plain walls into a castle or a grand ballroom depending on the occasion.  I can’t be a hundred percent sure what we were doing on that day, but I think that we were taking turns putting on Grandma Carol’s make-up, pretending that we were finalists in the Miss America pageant.

Ellen came over a lot, and she didn’t seem to mind that my grandma was a little dysfunctional.  Sure she commented on it like most twelve year olds would, but it didn’t stop her from being my friend.  And that acceptance bought her a true friendship that no amount of ridicule in later years could break up.

This was before we thought of boys as anything more than friends.  Before sneaking cigarettes and beer became our favorite pastimes.  Before time and reality distorted the innocence in our lives as if it were nothing more than a station on the television that could be changed with the click of a button.  When I think back at my early childhood I see everything as a two-dimensional picture that has faded over the years, and for the most part it’s hard for me to accept that anything really even happened, that those defining moments were anything more than a dream I had a long time ago.

One thing I definitely remember about that day was that Grandma Carol had tucked herself into the storm cellar and was listening to Gary England’s weather reports.  She was smoking so much that a spiraling gray cloud could be seen wafting its way out the cellar vent as if she were a human chimney.

It was the middle of tornado season, and we were in the pressure cooker that is southwestern Oklahoma.  A place where the heat and rain can build up into a frenzied culmination of childhood fears and nails bitten down to the quick before the weather would suddenly Snap! releasing everything in one giant whoosh of storms that left the charged air smelling sharply of ozone, only for it to build back up again within a matter of days, sometimes only hours.  Storms were the one thing that Grandma Carol was actually terrified of, and she would refuse to emerge from the storm shelter until the all clear had been given by Gary England and the Tornado Watch had been lifted.

She had been down there six hours before we heard anything.  Ellen and I had taken bets as to how long she could remain down there without needing to go the bathroom, and so far she’d held out longer than either of us had expected.  She knew that May was the culmination of tornado season.  A time of year when any normal, bright sunny day can turn into a nightmare in under thirty minutes and the heat and humidity can be as real as a fleece blanket pressing over every inch of your skin.

Just as we were beginning to believe she had turned herself into a shelter hermit for no reason, Grandma Carol’s shrill voice rang through the thick air, warning that there was a tornado headed right for us.  Ellen and I looked at each other, the excitement lighting up our faces like they were Christmas trees.  We’d never actually seen a tornado.

“Marie!  Ellen! You’d better get down here right now.  I’m shutting the doors in thirty seconds.”  I can still hear her voice calling to us from that cement dungeon, but we never made it in.  I took Ellen’s hand in mine and ran to the front of the house, determined to see a real tornado, to look that god-driven fear in the face and say that I was not afraid.

In fact, I felt liberated for the first time in my life, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt as free as I did when we rounded the gravel driveway and saw the thin spindle touch the ground.  Now I know it couldn’t have been more than an F1 tornado, but then it was a giant, the most beautiful and majestic thing I’d ever seen.  It seemed far enough away that we felt safe even when we shouldn’t have.  The wind seemed to have sprung out of nowhere, as if there were a volcano of hot, pulsating air just beneath us.  It circled around us, pulling at our hair and whipping it around our faces, punishing us by turning our hair into a cat-o-nine-tails.

Despite everything we didn’t hesitate for more than a second before we began running through the field, climbing the low-riding fence and burrowing through the wheat towards that storm, sweaty palm touching sweaty palm the entire time, binding us to each other permanently.

I’ve never been able to remember what happened when we crossed that threshold and stood in the embrace of Mother Nature.  Nothing’s ever brought those lost minutes back, and now I’m not sure I want them.  They found us a few hours after the tornado, huddled together and half-buried by uprooted plants and debris.  They took pictures when they found us, the earth beneath our two curled and interconnected bodies the only area of ground not touched by the tornado.  Our trailer had even been partially mangled by the force of the wind, and my playhouse was nothing more than another memory, but our clothes hadn’t even been torn, and not a single cut or bruise graced our bodies.  Grandma Carol proclaimed it a miracle and pronounced me terminally stupid at the same time.

The next year I was traded back to my mother in Maine, and the year after that I went to my father’s house with his new wife and three new kids in Arkansas, and the whole time I was gone I missed the embrace of the wind as if there was a vacancy in my body that I couldn’t fill no matter how many times I tried.   Eventually, I found my way back to Grandma Carol’s.  When I went back to school I found that Ellen, my dirty angel, was halfway to being a harbinger of hell.  Her face was pocked and half-eaten by her meth addiction, the careful dusting of fairy freckles transformed into symptoms of a horribly ravaging disease.  The cuts and scrapes of her tormented soul sewn clearly across her flesh with interconnecting lines and marks that showed more of her insecurity than she ever realized.  I think now that she must have missed the wind too.

Within six months of my return I found myself one of the few people attending her funeral.  I could still feel her sweaty palm pushing into mine.  The hollow roar of the wind filled my ears where the preacher’s words should have been.  The wind was with me for the first time in four years, comforting me through Ellen’s death the same way it is comforting me now.  The same hollow roar is pulsating through my ears.  The unsubstantial weight of the wind cocoons me, just like it did both of us back then.

In the movies, the people standing on a ledge about to kill themselves always draw such a crowd.  That’s not true in real life.  In fact, the only thing that seems to notice my presence is the wind.  It’s been cushioning me, cradling me, and yes, even beckoning me for the last hour or so as I’ve remained here, a living gargoyle on the urban skyline, watching the people below me move across the sidewalk in meaningless patterns; nothing more than simple drones.

I stand up on the ledge and close my eyes, letting the wind work its way into my veins like a junkie begging for that last hit.  There are still no cries from those below.  No warning shouts or screams of horror to acknowledge my existence.  There is nothing, just the wind rushing past my body, the roar in my ears, a small sweaty palm encased within my own, and the weightlessness of worries floating through thirty stories of air….