Coffee with a friend

I had coffee with a friend this weekend. Not so unusual, except that this was a very old friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. To be honest, it was only the second time we’d ever been alone together.

We’ve known each other for close to two decades. He reads my blog. Mostly I hate it when people talk to me in real life about things they read here, but with him, it was okay.

We talked about things we want. We talked about what it feels like to go crazy. We talked a little bit about marriage, but mostly what we talked about wasn’t important.

Sometimes you have coffee with an old friend and afterwards the old friend feels new again.


cancer-cells_15Around here, they called him fucked up. He was real bad, Sam was. One look’id tell ya that: Cross-eyed, spike-haired, that freakin penguin tattoo on his shoulder. Ain’t nothin right bout Sam, only he was always smilin. He acted real nice so ya didn’t know how bad’e was til he gotcha.

When they got’im cuffed to their table, guards called him genetically damaged.

Sam always said what he got started in a cell. More like it started in his momma’s belly. One minute, sweet little baby growin all nice and then – wham! – ya know? Things get outta control in a hurry. That Sam, he bad news.

Sam used ta tell us bout his momma and him, and ya know, I’m gonna spare ya the story. His momma did him real bad, that’s all ya gotta know. Genetically damaged, remember that. I’ll spare ya the nightmares.

So, ya know, from time he was a kid, that Sam was real fucked up. That crazy momma of his never teach him nothing but crazy, and ‘fore long Sam was in deep shit. Killin little animals, settin fires, and worse. Makin a rabble, ya know.

That Sam liked to tell us bout his trouble-makin. It started real young and it ain’t stopped, even now. He love to talk, that Sam. Can’t ya just see’im up in’is cell, up ona top bunk holdin court like a king a fuckin England? Tough shit, he thought he was, Sam. Only’is penuin tattoo didn’t add up. He’d be loud a nuf so ya’d hear him down the block. His cell couldn’t even hold’im. He’d be spreadin around, for sure. Seepin out.

He liked ta tell this one story bout what he’d done ta get in prison ta begin with. He’d tell that goddamn story all the fuckin time, so’s it got ta the point I memorized it. I used ta tell’im ta write it down.

“That shit oughta be a movie, Sam,” I’d yell. We were neighbors.

Thing is, he used ta work at the Y. Lived there too, after’is momma got carted off. He was a fuckin janitor but he ain’t never clean nothin, ya know what I’m sayin. He liked ta spy on the ladies, that Sam. The time he got caught and thrown in here, he was hidin in a locker watchin the girls get dressed after Zumba, and lo and behold, some lady opened his locker.

That Sam, don’t ya know he got caught with’is dick in’is hand in front of a dozen half-naked girls in the locker room? Damn. It’s so funny I laugh every time.

Thing is, way Sam tell it, it was funny the first time, too. Those ladies didn’t scream none, nah, they busted out laughing at crazy Sam. And those ladies real strong, don’t ya know. They yanked’im outta the locker n tied him up with their bras.

Sam always liked ta say that when he got out he’d go back and get those ladies. He wanted a have’is way with them, and he had a special fuckin plan for each one a them. He’d always be talkin about it, spreadin hate from’is cell, gettin the new guys ta laugh, gettin us angry, getting us horny. Damn you, Sam.

Thing is, Sam talked a good deal, but he ain’t do nothin but spread hate like a disease, from one cell to another. Boys in there for real hard crime had more remorse than crazy Sam. And don’t ya know, Sam just talked all that remorse outta them boys. By the enda the day, Sam’d be sure all them boys be hatin those half-naked girls. Even me.

That Sam real fucked up. I don’t know why, but gettin laughed at by a buncha ladies really did’im in. Every day in prison he tried to laugh it off, but damn, that Sam was never the same again.



via DeviantArt
via DeviantArt

In the end it was the girl on the pink chrome bike

Not my steaming coffee

Not the ugly billboard touting chocolate donuts

Not the crossing pedestrians

Not the train barreling past

No, only that pretty girl, yielding, poised to ride


He be alright

mw05-600x400“He taught me how to read people’s eyes, ya know what I mean?” I lifted one a my tools, a heavy-ass poker, and moved toward the roarin fire. Flames curlin outta the fireplace. Damn, shit was hot.

“Nah, you don’t know nuthin, do ya, kid?” Kid cowered where I tossed him on the floor, shaking his skinny little white-boy ass off. He was scared. Real scared.

“Lemme tell ya, kid. My Pop, he a man, kid. A real MAN, ya know?” The tip of the poker got red-hot but I didn’t take it outta the fire yet. Kid whimpered.

“Pop, he work real hard, ya know? He did whatever he hada to keep the groceries comin in. He a MAN.” Kid eyed up the fire and trieda scoot back a little. Welts was comin up on his little ass, his butt-ugly face. Good.

“Pop was real nice mosta the time. He’da laugh at anythin, mosta the time. Momma n him’d be laughin upa God-damn storm mosta the time.” That gave me a laugh, rememberin dat. Poker was headin near orange already. Nice.

“But every once ina while, kid, Pop’d get angry. Somethin’d piss him off and he’d go off drinkin, stay away hours, days, once even weeks. Shit. Momma was half-dead time he took two weeks a come home. Shit.” Tipa the poker was blue. Kid cryin then, sad little screechy sound kinda gotta me. Didn’t stop me, though.

“So, times when Pop’d get angry, he got MEAN. Real mean. You ain’t never seen nuthin like it, kid.” Kid’s face was bleedin where I wooped him.

“Pop’d come bargin in, all drunk n shit, dirty, smellin like a barrel. Thing is, kid, Pop always dressed nice, clean, n he was always laughin, never mad. Till the drink got’m.” Memory kinda got me. Poker was hot n heavy.

“He’d come bargin in and first thing, he’d get Momma. She’d be screamin upa storm, putting upa fight like she did, and there was nuthin nobody could do, ya know?” Kid squirmed and whimpered. Underneath’m, a river a piss. Damn.

“Not nobody could stop him, kid,” I took a step closer to’m, makin a few slashes ina air wid the hot poker. Like Pop useda do.

“Big bro useta try’n protect me and all, ya know. Ya gotta big bro, kid?” Kid too far goneta talk. “He’d tell me go hide n all, but it ain’t never help. Pop always find me.” Swish, swish, closer to the kid.

“This one time, he gotta poker from the fire, like this one I got here,” I waved it right up in his pasty little face. Kid cryin real bad.

“Pop, he angry, he drunk, and he come lookin for me. He find me under the bed all crammed up in the corner. He drag me out, toss me around. Like you, kid,” I shot him a smile but kid don’t get it.

“He standin dere, holding the blue-hot poker, and he smilin. But his eyes ain’t smilin, ya know what I mean, kid? His eyes just dark and angry and fulla the Devil. Shit.” Kid tries to scootch sideways along the wall but it ain’t work. He too scared.

“Why’m I tellin ya this, kid? Ya don’t givea shit.” I gave’m a poke on’is ugly face and he yelped real loud. Another. Another. I went someplace else. I was stabbin him n runnin the poker down his skinny chest and his bony back. The lines showed up real nice on his white skin. I played around with’m, havin fun, laughin like Pop usedta, and I starteda wonder what my eyes were sayin.

northrupWhat are my eyes, sayin, kid? I didn’t ask it, though.  Just kept havin my way with him, makin him sing his sad wails, makin him piss again, makin him cry, over and over, everythin the same.

“Don’tya worry, kid,” I boomed in Pop’s voice. I laughed Pop’s laugh. “I ain’t gonna kill ya, kid.” Nah. Pop never killed me, did’e? Nah. Once a kid all marked up real nice, red lines criss-crossin and repeatin like mine, I all done wida torment. I cleaned off the poker like Pop useda, n put it away so kid don’t see it.

I cleaned’m up real nice, like Pop useda. I even sang’m those old spirituals, like Pop did. Everythin the same. I put the fire out n took’m back where I found’m.










oldmapYour A says ah while mine says eh

Let’s plot our vowels

Let’s seek latitude by degrees along that all-too-familiar axis

Me due east
You north

Let’s seek the longitude of our respective consonants

And see where our differences take us



Copyright Ted Strutz
Copyright Ted Strutz

Dr. Ricardo Abramowitz, DDS, rather enjoyed the view from his office window. He had long admired the view of the calm water, the prickly pines in the middle ground, and the low-slung mountains beyond. The clutter in the foreground wore on him: the stilted vacation houses, the candy shop, the gawker-laden cruise ships, all of it.

His patient sat up to spit in the small sink, and something caught Dr. Abramowitz’s eye through the glass. It was a girl, young enough to be his granddaughter, sunning herself on a porch.  She was topless, and her impossibly large breasts glistened in the sun.

İAy, ay, ay!” Dr. Ricardo thought.


I am not special

I was born special, in July instead of September. I was born special like a gold charm in a velvet case only opened up on birthdays and Christmas. I was born special and I always had a job to do. I had to make up for the past. I was born special. I was always a signifier for redemption.

Special named me after the fucking son of God and special gave me two religions instead of one. Special convinced my mom not to give me up for adoption, and special taught her how to raise a rich girl in a slummy neighborhood.

I grew up so special that I even learned to pick her for myself. Special handed me a wad of rubber and told me to erase my drunk dad from the picture. Special got me a scholarship to an all-girl’s Catholic school even though I was Jewish. Special taught me to pass. Special made me give up my second language, and special made me trust the slippery voice of fate. Special made me shove all my sexiness down into a tiny box and hide it under the bed. Special lured me into a cage and called it home.

Special is a good teacher. She knows all about feelings and she cares about responsibility. She’s an expert at creating reality. She taught me to read and to listen, to watch others. She taught be to be a shape-shifter and to become what people want. Special showed me how to exist only for other people.

Lately, special and I have been talking. I told her that I’m sick and tired of her. I told her to get out of town for awhile. I bought a big mirror and I broke a few of her rules. I started doing some of the things I always wanted to do. I started hanging with unspecial.

Unspecial never pays any attention to me. Unspecial doesn’t care how I look and she lets me have my way every time. Unspecial lets me wander in and out of rooms that used to be boarded up and she lets me leave the doors open behind me. Unspecial doesn’t expect anything. Unspecial could care less about the past. Unspecial let me pick my own name. I like her.

Hanging with unspecial makes me miss special, though. Special and unspecial are both funny. They’re quick and sly and smart. I need them both but I don’t trust either one.