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    Friday
    Aug082014

    Poems IX

    Dark poems for dark days

    Every human generation has its own illusions with regard to civilization; some believe that they are taking part in its upsurge, others that they are witnesses of its extinction.  In fact, it always both flames up and smoulders and is extinguished, according to the place and the angle of view.

    -Ivo Adnric, The Bridge on the Drina

     

    There once was a world
    Filled with beautiful girls
    Old castles and marvelous things

    Like bridges and songs
    Blue skies and white swans
    Rivers and mountains and seas

    There were churches and bells
    Heavens and Hells
    Men who would die to be free

    Yet these men were slain
    And the world did sway
    Away from a beautiful peace

    And just like before
    The demons of war
    Emerged like a fatal disease

    So the bridges and songs
    Were forgotten and bombed
    And Hell on Earth did man see

     

    Upon dark shores they stood in wait
    Men of Hell and wreckage
    When Heaven fell, the horsemen reigned
    And sealed the Earth in carnage

    image.jpeg

     

    Little by little
    While Death plays the fiddle
    Humanity sinks into the tomb

    Men stand aghast
    Before their hideous past
    Their screams are melodious tunes 

    They are buried alive
    The earth muffles their cries
    And the world begins anew

    Civilizations arise
    Civilizations despise
    And fiddle in hand Death doth loom

     

    I have seen the future in Pompeii
    Where bodies lie in casts

    The eruption of Vesuvius
    Has turned
    Pompeii to ash

    So too the last of men shall perish
    And weep in desperate mourning
    For the civilization that he burned
    For the planet he is burning

    He will beg for bygone eras
    He will gasp for air to breathe
    In the night of a nuclear winter
    He will pray for a day of spring

    Yet nonetheless the ash will fall
    The ash will fall like snow
    Like he who gazed into Medusa’s eyes
    His world shall turn to stone


    The Last Day of Pompeii, Karl Brullov

    Sunday
    May042014

    Aaron's Drawing II

    Sunday
    Apr132014

    Poems VIII

    Writing poems is easy because they don't have to make sense.

    Tito and Tesla
    Two peas in pod
    Drank wine on a death ray
    And talked about God

    They watched as the world
    Flowed into the shitter
    With Mussolini and Mao
    Joining Stalin and Hitler

    And across the Pacific
    All the way in Japan
    Prime Minster Tojo
    Drew up some war plans 

    Tesla loved knowledge
    Tito loved power
    Hitler loved hatred
    Mao golden showers 

    Mussolini loved women
    Tojo loved peace
    But no one understood him
    Because he spoke Japanese

    Stalin loved death camps
    Mao and Hitler did too
    God loved all men
    Except during World War Two

    Mussolini and Hitler
    Bad apples indeed
    Could not talk to Tojo
    Because he spoke Japanese

    Yet nevertheless
    The Axis attacked
    But the Allies responded
    And knew how to do math

    Churchill and Stalin
    Roosevelt too
    Helped stir up the pot
    Of European war stew 

    And over in France
    Charles de Gaulle
    Fought like a Frenchman
    And soon France did fall

    Japan occupied China
    And no translation was needed
    For all men speak war
    The universal language

    When the Japanese left
    Mao rose to power
    And with gun barrels he took
    Golden baths not just showers 

    Tesla and Tito
    Shared a bottle of brandy
    And on the death ray they danced
    The Yugoslav Dandy 

    They watched the Axis and Allies
    Fight the bloodiest war
    It made them sick to their stomachs
    They could watch it no more 

    So Tito took aim
    Tesla fired away
    And as world was burning
    They danced in the flames

     http://greynotgrey.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/europe_after_rain.jpgEurope After the Rain, Max Ernst

     

    There was a man with Google Glass
    Who forgot what he did one day…
    So stared at the screen in his eyes
    Til’ he found what he wanted to find
    And yet he continued to stare
    Until he stood there
    Watching him watch himself
    And on the day that he died
    He seemed not to mind
    For never saw it coming

     

    My name is John Jerry
    I was born in Bel Air
    And I blew off my head
    In a parking lot there.

    Saturday
    Apr052014

    The Prisoner and the Nurse

    Flanked by corrections officers, the prisoners gazed at the outside world as they stepped up the walkway of the hospital in the countryside.  They had come from San Quentin Prison (inmate population 5,256), sixty miles to the south.  The name and location of the hospital was not previously disclosed to them, and the remote town of Sebastopol was unknown to them.  There were a dozen prisoners – donning orange jumpsuits, shackles around their wrists and ankles, chained together like dogs.  They had arrived to receive medical treatment for varying problems.  Most were there for minor procedures, namely colonoscopies, but a few were to receive more serious operations such as having their gallbladders removed or their kidney stones broken apart into small pieces.  Just as the prisoners are not informed beforehand of where they would be sent for their operations and who the doctors that will be operating on them are, the hospital staff is not informed of the names of the prisoners, but instead reference them by their inmate identification numbers. 

                The prisoners walking into the hospital are criminals convicted of murder, rape, or involuntary manslaughter, and are serving sentences ranging from twenty years to life.  For all of them, the day trip to the hospital is the first time in years that they have seen the world outside the confines of the San Quentin.  Among the shackled prisoners stepping up the walkway was James Young, a sixty-five year-old inmate.  He had blue eyes and looked to the bright sky and the tantalizing mountains in awe.  He marveled at the vibrant colors of the fertile landscape with its green pastures and rolling hills, the perfect clouds and little birds.  He yearned to be part of the natural world again, to be free and experience the beauty of the outdoors and to do things right – if only for a day, for an hour – but this he knew this would never be. 

    James was serving a sentence for a crime he had committed in 1983, when he had murdered an innocent man in a car heist.  He was apprehended, charged, convicted, and sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  After the trial his pregnant wife of seven years had filed the divorce papers and made a sole visit to James to tell him what he already knew.  Their final exchange is seared in his mind as a heartbreaking and painful memory.  James and Pauline were separated by a pane of glass.  Tears were streaming down her face as she cradled the bulge of her stomach and wept.  “James, I can’t go on like this.  I have to do what is best for me and my baby.  I’m sorry, James, I’m so sorry.  I love you.”  And with that she stepped away forever.  Only through letters written by old friends was James informed that she had given birth to their daughter, and several years thereafter she remarried.  Pauline now had a stable life, a good family, and a well-paying job that she enjoyed.  She had become a surgical nurse and was working in the post-anesthesia care unit of the operating room at the hospital that day. 

                The prisoners were led into the outpatient room and they shuffled into chairs or gurneys depending on the type of operation or procedure they were to receive and the order in which it was to be performed.  James was told to lie in a gurney and once he did a guard came over and handcuffed his ankle shackles to the railing.  He was visibly nervous about the operation.  His gallstones were to be removed and he did not like the idea of being gassed into unconsciousness, having his belly slit open, and tools inserted into his body to remove something that he knew had to go.  A nurse came over and had him sign several documents related to the operation. 

    “Don’t worry,” she said as she prepped his IV, “It’s a very common operation.”

    “Will there be a lot of pain afterwards?”

    “Some, but they’ll do what they can in recovery to alleviate any pain by giving you pain killers.”

                James was not registering all of what she was saying as he nodded in consent for her to insert the IV needle into a vein in his hand.  As she taped down the needle he contemplated his position amongst these people in this new surrounding.  He thought: “Who is this nurse and what is her life like?  What must she think of me?  I will never be free like these people, like these nurses and guards, like the people I left behind.  I will never get to go out there and grasp that land and breathe that air.  No more freedom, no more love, no more life.  I will never be a part of this world again.”

                He was the first of the prisoners to go.  An operating room nurse and assistant came to retrieve him.  They were all smiles as they wheeled him down the hall, a corrections officer following close behind.  They passed a courtyard and James saw the lush plants and colorful flowers growing outside.  There were two people sitting in the courtyard holding each other in sadness and James thought that they must have lost a loved one, and he too grew sad for he knew that no such grieving by others will ever occur over his death because there would be no one who cared.  

                The double doors to the operating room were pulled open and the air was cold inside.  James peered from side to side at the incomprehensible activity of the busy workers – people who knew freedom and were disciplined enough hold jobs and were dutifully filling their roles in a society where he had but one role to play which was the very lowest – that of the prisoner.  His station in life was lower than that of a slave, for even a slave makes some contribution to society, whereas James made none and would die in prison.

    He was wheeled under the fluorescent lights and into the operating room and tried to understand all the foreign machines in the room as nurses wearing latex gloves and face masks helped transfer him from the gurney to the table and then strapped him down.  He could see in there eyes that they were kind and he could tell they were smiling and he smiled back.  The anesthesiologist placed a breathing mask over James’ face and administered and injection of a milky white anesthetic.  “Alright, buddy, you’re gonna go to sleep now,” said the man.  The surgeon stepped into the operating room as James slipped into unconsciousness.

                James woke up to the loud voice of the anesthesiologist saying, “Wake up, buddy, we’re all done now.”  He had already been transferred back to the gurney and the guard was placing the shackles on his ankles and handcuffing them to the rails at his feet.  James was nauseous and tossed his head as he was taken out of the out of the operating room to the recovery unit.  There, a corrections officer stood by and the anesthesiologist stayed with James for a minute while the recovery nurse confirmed that his vitals were stable. 

    “It think we’re fine, doctor.”

    “Thanks, Pauline.”

    James saw her and whispered her name.  Pauline had not looked into his face but her line of sight ran up this man’s arms and her heart sank upon recognizing the tattoo of a panther on his outer bicep.

    She looked to his face and cupped her hands over her mouth and gasped.  She looked into his face, and the memories and broken promises and heartbreak came rushing back. 

    “Hi baby,” said James, wiggling his fingers.

    “Oh my God, oh my God...”

    “You look like an angel.”

    She clasped his hands and burst into tears, leaning her head toward his chest.

    “It’s okay,” whispered James.

    The guard stepped in and said, “Mamn, is everything okay?”

    “Yes…yes.  I know this man.  Everything is okay.”  She turned to James and asked, “Are you in pain?”

    “Not anymore.”

    Pauline held her head on his chest and wept.  On a desk in the recovery room was a picture of a young woman holding her infant son and they were the living flesh of James himself.  James held the head of his former lover and wife for the last time in his life.  He thought about how it’s a curious thing that peoples lives cross and weave together like thread and then so often glide away thereafter.  Everyone moves off in their own direction, having friends and families, dreams and struggles, experiencing profound and beautiful and melancholy things which are unique to their own lives and independent of those whom they had loved in their past.  And ultimately these men and women will pass away, and so too shall everyone else that we have ever crossed paths with or not.  James thought about this as he closed his eyes and embraced the only woman he has ever loved, and tears streamed down his face.   

    Sunday
    Feb162014

    The Beasts of Genesis

    I had to take a break from a longer short story to write this shorter and more silly one, in part to make sure I still remembered how to finish writing a story.   Admittedly, it’s not that good, but sometimes you’ve gotta write shitty stories in order to write the good ones.

     

    Last month, Oxfam reported that the world’s 85 richest people have as much wealth ($110 trillion) as the bottom 3.5 billion people.  Interrelatedly, last year’s Wall Street bonuses exceed $91 billion.  This comes at a time when hundreds of millions of people across the world are suffering for want of basic goods and services, and many are dying simply because they are deprived of the means of survival which could easily be provided by those who have profited from human and environmental exploitation.  As the burgeoning world rolls forward into the 21st century, there’s less and less room for insatiable avarice, there’s less and less time to behave like a greedy piece a shit.  Alas, Greed is the game on Wall Street, so fuck those banker swine.  This short story is dedicated to them.

     

    Preface to readers:  sorry for all the violence, but in the spirit of Capote, “You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.”

     

     

    The Beasts of Genesis

     

    Tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

                                                                                                                     -Aeschylus

     

    Upon which land doth lie the beast?  The beast doth lie in thee. 

                                                                                                                    -Walter Lloyd Waterson

     

    Play not lest ye be played.

                                                                                                                    -Genesis 69:10

     

     

    Harry and Harriet Paulson stepped out from the snow and into the verdant foyer of the Genesis Spa in upstate New York.  Soothing ambient music coupled with the audio of tropical insects and amphibians resounded from speakers as the husband and wife, both middle-age big city investments bankers, were greeted by a young woman at a desk. 

    “Happy New Year, Mr. and Mrs. Paulson. Welcome back.”

    “It’s lovely to be back, darling,” said Harriet, “The city can be so unforgiving and savage during the holidays.”  She reconsidered, “What am I saying?  It’s a jungle year round.”

    “That’s why we come here,” said Harry, “There are no barbarians in paradise, no untamed beasts in Eden.” 

    “Harry,” said his wife, “How poetic.”  They smiled and kissed.

    The woman at the desk billed their credit card.  “You’re all set.  Have a relaxing stay.”

    The couple walked down the marble hall and stood before the separate doors of the men and women’s locker rooms.

    “What a wonderful way to spend our bonuses, Francis.”

    “A mere fraction at that.  We could buy this entire place if we were to spend a tenth of what we made.”

    “What a lovely idea, Harry.  We could work here!”

    “Work?  Ha!  I forgot how to do that!”

    They both laughed. 

    “Harry,” said Harriet, “I want to ask you in something in earnest.”

    “Yes?”

    “Do you think we should donate some of our bonuses?  You know, in order to help those across the world who are poor and starving?”

    Puzzled, Harry stared at his wife, incredulous of her serious demeanor.  She couldn’t hold it and cracked a smile and they both burst into laughter.

    “Good one,” said Harry, “Good one…”

    They passed into their respective locker rooms, removed their clothes, put on fluffy bathrobes, and met in the bathhouse where they were greeted by a flamboyant male masseuse.

    “Hello there, Mr. and Mrs. P.  Welcome back!”

    “Hello Francis, how delightful to see you.”

    “We have some very special and innovative treatment regiments to pamper you with today.”

    “Well by all means, pamper away, Francis,” said Harry, “I’ve been a very good boy this year.”

    “Oh, I bet you have, Mr. P., I bet you have.”

    “What do you plan to start us off with today, Francis?” asked Harriet.

    “Well, I’m going to first facilitate the loosening of your muscles by having you submerge your bodies in hot mud baths.  During the tension alleviation process, you’ll undergo an exotic, facial exfoliating experience.”

    “How adventurous!” said Harriet.

    “Exotic you say?”

    “Yes.  It’s an ancient method originating from the land of Africa, the cradle of civilization.  I’ll be right back.  You two just ease into your tubs and relax.”

    “Africa…” Harry said, “sounds dangerous.”

    “I’ve heard that it’s an absolutely filthy country overflowing with minorities.”

    Harry and Harriet disrobed and slowly entered the hot mud baths.

    “Wooo, this is hot, Harry.  I can feel my silicone heating up!”

    “Wait til’ the guys at the office hear about how daring and free spirited I’m being today.”

    “You’re the bravest, boldest banker on Wall Street, Harry, and I love you for that.”  

    With their bodies submerged, Harry and Harriet were but two heads sprouting from separate mud baths when Francis returned and approached with a box.

    “Here they are,” said Francis, “The hottest new facial exfoliates on the market.”  He opened the box and pulled out a Giant African land snail.

     “Oh heavens!” cried Harriet.

    “Holy shit,” said Harry, shifting back in the tub.  

    “These bad boys will eliminate all the dead skin cells on the surface of your face, and their mucus contains a highly proactive anti-aging agent.  Your face will be tauter and look younger after this miraculous treatment.”

    “Well,” said Harriet, “that does sound nice…”

    “I think I remember reading something about this in How to Spend It.”

    “Well then it’s got to be good,” said Harriet.

                    Harry had in fact read about it, but it was not in the Financial Times magazine.  There was a passing blurb in the New York Times about invasive Giant African land snails that would eat the droppings of rats and thereby contract an infectious disease called rat lungworm, which could be transmitted by snails to humans through skin contact and induce meningitis.  Harry and Harriet closed their eyes and Francis step forward with the box of snails and placed several on the faces of his clients.

    “Hey,” said Harry, “it kind of tickles.”

    “I can already feel my face getting tauter.”

    “They’ll work wonders,” said Francis.  “I’ll be back in half an hour.”

                    The snails explored the exposed surface of their hosts, whose faces were soon sealed in a slimly film of viral mucus.  Once accustom to the snails, Harry and Harriet relaxed and slipped away into an ethereal realm of abstractions and fanciful daydreams.

    Harry pondered aloud, “Honey, if a house forecloses and the family is put on the streets, does anybody care?”

    “That’s a very philosophical question, Harry, very philosophical, indeed… You know, I was wondering if slavery in America will ever make a comeback.  Do you think it may?”

    “One can only hope.”  

                    Francis returned to attend to the couple, first plucking the snails off their faces and then assisting them out of the tubs.

    “Well that was marvelous, Francis.  I feel so rejuvenated,” said Harriet, her face covered in slime.

    “I feel like a million bucks,” said Harry, “Well, twenty point six million to be exact.”

    “Oh Harry,” laughed his wife, “Stop it.”

    “I can’t,” he chuckled, “I have an addictive personality, I’m incapable of empathy, and I’m probably insane!”

     “That’s terrific, Mr. P. But, oh goodness me, look how fabulously muddy you both are.  It’s time for a skinny dip in the tropical pool, where you’ll receive your next exotic treatment.”

                    Francis led them out of the bathhouse and into a humid courtyard containing an indoor saltwater pool which sparkled in the winter sunlight that flowed in through the windows.  The pool was designed to resemble a beach, and was complete with a sandy floor, aquarium boulders, and shoals of small fish jetting through the water.

    “The water’s perfect,” said Francis, “Indulge yourselves.”

    Harry and Harriet sank into the heated pool and clouds of mud dissipated from off their bodies.  They moaned and stretched as they floated in the water.  As they relaxed Francis was putting on a wet suit.

    “How utterly blissful,” said Harriet.

    “Hey, what are all these little fish?” asked Harry, “I think they’re going to bite me.”

    “That’s exactly right, Mr. P,” said Francis.  “They are going to bite you.  They’re nibble fish, and will eat away at all the dead and decomposing bacteria on your epidermis.”

    “They’re nibbling at my testicles, is that okay?”

    “That’s because that’s where men like you carry the most diseases.”

    Floating on her back, Harriet said, “First snails from the land down under, now exotic fish that eat STDs – I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven!  I absolutely can’t wait to see what surprises you have in store for us next, Francis.”

    Francis mumbled something as he walked along the side of the pool and picked up a metal bucket.  “In here,” he said, “is your next full body treatment.”

    Harry and Harriet were floating in the center of the pool, the dozens of nibble fish pecking away at their submerged bodies. 

    “What’s in there?”

    “These,” said Francis as he dumped the contents of the bucket in the water, “are lionfish.”  Three large lionfish plopped and splashed into the pool.  They checked and oriented themselves in the water, and with their striped pectoral fins splayed out like fans, they swam toward the nibble fish.

    “Oh fuck!” cried Harry, “Those look dangerous!”

    “Stay clam, Mr. and Mrs. P, these are the latest form of tension alleviation.  They’re about to feed on the nibble fish, and their delicate spines with graze your skin.  When this happens, you’ll feel a slight pinprick and a moderate burning sensation and…”

    “Oww!” yelled Harry

    “Oh my goodness!” Harriet shrieked.

    The lionfish devoured the nibble fish in a frenzy, and with their venomous dorsal fin spines erect and protruding, they inadvertently dealt toxic and extremely painful stings to the couple whom were screaming and failing madly in water.

    “Oh my God, oh my God!” they cried, “Get us out of here!”

    With his wetsuit on, Francis hopped into the water.  “Stay calm everyone,” he said, “This is all part of the treatment procedure.”

    “It hurts, Francis, it hurts!”

    “Of course they do, Mrs. P, they are lionfish.”

    “Fuck you!” yelled Harry between his hollering, “I’m going to sue you!”

    “Well that’s not very nice.  You’re overreacting, Mr. P.  Grab my hands.”

    Harry and Harriet seized Francis’s hands and clung on as he pulled them to the side of the pool.  He pushed them up onto the tile where they rolled around writhing and moaning in severe pain; blood dripping from the scrapes on their legs.

    “Why did you do that?!” cried Harriet.

    “They did it,” said Francis, pointing to the lionfish.

     “You’re a sadist!” yelled Harry.

    “I’m a certified health practitioner.  Now let me get you to the massage table so we can relieve some of that pressure in your legs.”

    “It burns, it burns…” said Harry.

    Francis splashed some water on Harry’s legs and said, “Just wait for the neurotoxins to kick in, silly.  You’ll soon lose most of the feeling in your lower extremities and should experience mild hallucinations.”

    “Hallucinations?  Francis, have you lost mind?” said Harriet as she cringed her teeth, her face bright red from the surfeit of blood rushing to her head. 

    “That’s gonna be my defense, Mrs. P.  In a moment you’ll be feeling nice and queasy, and then we’ll roll you onto the massage mats.”

                    Francis removed his wetsuit and stood aside as Harry and Harriet clutched their legs and squirmed in agony, trying desperately to tolerate the throbbing pain.  As the venom worked its way though their bloodstreams and up to their brains, the Paulsons grew nauseous and weak on the poolside tile where they sat, leaning on each other for support.  The intense burning sensation in their legs gave way to general bodily numbness and mental delirium in which their minds wandered into a sea of daffy intoxication.   Harry’s lips were twitching slightly and his wife was drooling on herself as she mindlessly gazed out the window and saw the snow falling upon the field outside.  

    “Harry,” his wife said, “it’s getting hard to breath.”

    “Just take big breaths, honey…  Goddamn, my penis feels numb.”

    “Well, it’s not like you use it anyway.”

    “Oh, that’s not true. “  His words word heavy and his breathing labored.  “I don’t use it on you, but you know, at the office downtown, me and my team, we have sex with a lot of hookers.”

    “Oh…I figured you were getting it somewhere once in a while, hunny bunny, I --“

    “No, I mean a lot, it’s crazy.”

    “It’s okay.  I’m only in this relationship for the money and status.  When I take business trips, I take off my wedding ring.”

    “Me too…”

    Francis interjected as he unfurled two massage mats beside the pool.  “Ready for the massage of your lives?” he asked.

    “Oh sure,” said Harry in a daze. 

    “Let’s move you onto these comfy mats so we can get to work on those legs.”

    Francis placed his forearms under Harriet’s armpits and she giggled as he dragged her onto a mat and set her down.  He then went back for Harry and rolled him across the tile and positioned him face-down on an adjacent mat.  The Paulsons watched Francis leave the room and when he returned they were shocked to see him handling an accipiter goshawk – a large bird of prey – which stirred about blindfolded on the leather falconer’s glove that he wore on his arm.   

    “What is that?” asked Harriet.

    “This here is Ronald, he’s a northern goshawk from Austria, and he’s part of our latest therapeutic massage installment.  You see that blood on your legs?” 

    Harry was on his stomach was not able to get a view of the bird, “What’s happening?” he asked.

    Francis united the blindfold from the hawk and said, “Prepare to experience one of the most hardcore massages you’ve ever endured.”

    “Wait a second,” said Harry, “Is this going to be dangerous?”

    “It probably will be, Mr. P.  This is the fist time it’s been done to my knowledge.  Let’s find out what happens.”  Francis removed the blindfold and revealed the majestic head of giant hawk, which sharpened its fierce gaze on the leg wounds, stretched its wings, and screeched as it flew across the room.

    “Oh God,” said Harriet, “It’s coming!”

    “What’s coming?  The masseuse?”

    The bird first went for Harry’s legs.  “Hey!” he cried as the hawk landed on his back, sinking its talons into his skin.  It goose-stepped across Harry’s rear and tore into the wounds that had been caused by the lionfish.  What were but slight scrapes were shredded open by the bird into major gashes and lacerations, yet due to the anesthesia of his legs, the bites went largely unfelt. 

    “Oh boy,” Francis said, “Look at him devour your flesh, isn’t that crazy?”

    Harriet yelled at the hawk, “Stop it, stop it!”  She was sitting upright and attempted to swat it off her husband’s legs.  The hawk responded by defensively pecking at her hand and then offensively leaping onto her legs and digging it’s beak into her wounds, pulling out meat and skin.  She howled in fear and the hawk screeched back at her.  It took several more bites out of her leg and then Francis called the hawk back, saying, “Ronald, return!  I don’t want them to bleed out.”

    The hawk flew back to its master and Francis blindfolded it.  The couple was distressed and moaning on the ground.  They wanted to go home, they want to go back to Wall Street, back to their steady lives involving computers and televisions and other appliances and amenities, but Francis had other plans for them.

    “Okay boys and girls,” said Francis, “it’s time for the finale.”

    Francis set the bird on a perch, picked up a tubberware container, and walked over to his clients. He stood above them as they glared back in hapless confusion and scorn.  They were exasperated.  Their pupils were dilated, their legs were bleeding, and they had lost most of their motor skills.  They couldn’t think straight – were things going on here awry, or was this all just part of the usual spa package?

    “Look at those boo-boos,” said Francis, exhibiting a pouty face.

    “Francis, what’s happening?  Why are you doing this?” asked Harriet.

    “Because Mrs. P, you need to relax.”  Francis held and turned the container before her.  “Now, what I have here is a fantastic, never-before-tried massage oil, which is actually just bacon grease.”  He put on a pair of gloves.  “I’m going to gently lather this elixir into your legs and patch up all those nasty wounds for you.”  He applied the grease and said, “I’m gonna get you all ready to go outside...”

    “Francis, damn you,” said Harry, “Get us out of here!”

    “You betchca, Mr. P.  A huge part or your relaxation experience is your comparative temperature.  How can you know fuzzy without knowing sharp?  So, what I’m proposing next is a highly advanced climate immersion shift.  That means I’m gonna take you outside, where there’s snow on the ground and where it’s also falling from out of the sky – isn’t that crazy?  That’s fucking crazy right?”

    “What?!” said Harry, “No.  Francis we’re done.  I demand a refund!”

    “Okay, we’ll just do this one last thing.”

    “Oh God Francis, we can’t go outside, we can’t walk!” said Harriet.

    “I’ve got a sled.”

    Francis walked over the courtyard doors and opened them.  The cold air swept in and the couple began to shiver.  They protested and swatted at Francis as he dragged their massage mats across the room and out the door onto the edge of the snow-covered field.  The spa was surrounded by pine trees and white hills and the winter sky was grey and cold.

    “Francis, you bastard!” 

    “Let’s go for ride,” he said, rolling them onto a large sled.

    Snow flakes fell upon them as Francis hauled his clients out the middle of field.  The snow crunched beneath his feet, and bright drops of blood trickled out from the sled and melted into the pure snow.  Once in the middle of the field, Francis stopped and assessed the serenity of their surroundings.  “Alrighty,” he said, “You two don’t go anywhere.  I’ll get the final part of your treatment program started.”

    “I don’t understand, Francis, how is this supposed to be healing us?”

    “Well, Mrs. P,” he said, dumping them off the sled, “This next exercise will be more psychologically consoling than physically enjoyable.  Have you ever heard of primal scream therapy?”

    “No.”

    “It’s not important.  I’ll go unleash the beasts.”

    “What?!” yelled Harry.  “Francis, if you don’t take us back right now, you’re a dead man!”

    “That’s nice, Mr. P.  I’ll see you two in Hell.” 

                    Francis turned and walked away with the sled.  The Paulsons sat back-to-back in the middle of the field, they yelled toward Francis but he continued to walk away and eventually disappeared into the snowy ether in the direction of the spa. 

    “Well, I suppose this is almost over,” said Harriet, “thank goodness.”

    Harry said, “When I get back home, I’m gonna put a price on his head, I’m going to send a hitman out here to kill him.”

    “That’s nice, Harry.  That’s nice.”

    Sleepy-eyed, the couple sat in the snow.  They stared at their greasy and blood-smeared legs and gazed into the white oblivion, thinking of their home and their money.

    Back at the spa, Francis emerged outside holding dual leashes attached to two muzzled and snarling hyenas.  They were incredible beasts whose formidable muscles were visible through their spotted fur.  The hyenas were yelping wildly and sniffing the drops blood in the snow, the smell of bacon in the air.  The thick fur on their ridged backs stood up and they growled in thirst for flesh and blood.  Francis could contain them no longer so he removed their muzzles and the hyenas ran off into to the field, crazed and laughing manically, loping through the snow in great and drunken strides – hairy beasts salivating wildly like demonic minotaurs.  From the courtyard the screams of their victims could be heard as the hyenas feasted upon them, and Francis shut the door.