Monthly Archives: July 2015



Lindsey Graham once asked Donald Trump for money for his senatorial candidacy and handed him a slip of paper with his phone number on it, a strip of paper Trump showed everybody on national TV.

by Talmadge Jarratee

Is anybody anywhere having more fun than Donald Trump? This is a man who loves to create raw abrasions and rub them with salt and giggle with demonic glee. He’s a big soft white slab of cowardice with a bizarre shock of carefully tended and glistening hay atop his head, a blow-hard bringing his fellow GOP candidates to their knees and savoring every second of it. A certified draft dodger, he had the gall to imply revered war hero John McCain was not a real hero because he was captured after being shot down in Vietnam. McCain’s capture and years as a POW made McCain a loser in Trump’s eyes. When McCain caddie Lindsey Graham delivered a sanctimonious speech supporting his hero and condemning the blasphemous Donald, the Donald had trouble remembering who Graham was, then mentioned that Graham once asked him for money for his senatorial candidacy and handed him a slip of paper with his phone number on it, a strip of paper Trump showed everybody on national TV and read off the number, causing Graham to change numbers after he was besieged by crank callers enthralled with the Donald.

According to Trump, Rick Perry from Texas needs an IQ test if he’s serious about running for president and wears glasses to appear studious and smart when voters question his mental capacity after displaying stunning stupidity in past debates. Jeb Bush is a nice guy, but he’s weak, would make a terrible president. There are 15 of these stooges vying for the big enchilada, and they are all distracted from slamming Obama and Hillary because they have their hands full with the bullet-proof Donald, who, unlike his rivals, feels no compunction to show his softer, compassionate side. When he was asked about his three marriages, always a political bugaboo, he softened just a might by adding that they were all nice ladies and still his friends and he loves women.

The Donald is an unabashed rogue. He is a lacerating bully. His vicious verbiage is gleefully out of bounds.

The Donald is an unabashed rogue. He is a lacerating bully. His vicious verbiage is gleefully out of bounds. As a ruthless businessman used to sycophants kissing HIS ass for money, he scoffs at the beggarly tendencies of his competition and announces he has 10 billion and doesn’t have to go skulking hat in hand to billionaires interested in holding the puppet strings. He doesn’t have to read from a teleprompter. He seems so imperious as to be immune from careful speechwriters terrified of insulting one group or another. The Donald doesn’t give a hoot and hell who he insults or humiliates or treats with snarling disdain when they muster up enough nerve to retaliate.

And oh how Trump thrives on retaliation. What he seems to enjoy even more is to watch the carefully calibrated and advisor-plagued candidates cringe and squirm after each one of his rancid salvos so filled with contempt for the common man, and especially Latinos, or, primarily, Mexican immigrants. Next to Trump, Rubio seems a slithering weasel, a little boy, while Mr. Walker from Wisconsin appears to be the whitest white man in captivity, so white he blinds you when you’re forced to look at him, so white in every way that those Obama-hating whites in their 60s and 70s are in love with him, even if he smacks of one of those white kids we all remember hating when they ran for school president.

The 15 stooges have tried ignoring Trump. This does no good, because Mr. Trump has so captured the stage as to reduce them to pygmies if they remain silent. If they maintain their dignity in measured tones, answering the Donald’s insults with judicious dignity, like Jeb, they seem even weaker and more spineless than suspected. If they lash out in outrage, the Donald quickly seizes on the fact that they are politicians with years of hypocrisy behind them while trying to be all things to all people, or at least all things to the tight-asses in their party whose votes they need for the presidential nomination. Does the empire-owning Donald with his OWN jet plane and entourage really care about religion? Abortion? Same-sex marriage? He quickly skims these issues and talks about belting around the Chinese, bombing the hell out of Iran, running the Mexican criminals and immigrants out of the country and building a 2,000-mile wall to keep their greasy asses out, and creating jobs while the stooges slither and stew and plague us with their stiff joyless cheesy smiles of losers maintaining a brave face after suffering a personal thrashing.

As a ruthless businessman used to sycophants kissing HIS ass for money, he scoffs at the beggarly tendencies of his competition.

The 15 stooges and their loyal pundits claim the Donald will eventually fizzle out, because there’s no way this verbal brute could possibly run a country, and people will come to realize this. The pundits analyze the Donald and carefully admit his strength, his popularity, admitting he has touched a sore spot among discontented Americans igniting them, uniting them into one frothing dogpack clamoring for change. Unlike the stuffed shirt 15, who expound on their wholesomeness while sporting their perfect little families, the grinning sexless maiden-like wives, the Donald admitted long ago he likes young women half his age and prefers sex with them over alcohol. What more could one appreciate than a guy who relishes young pussy? Unlike the straight and narrow dullards—Jeb leads this pack—who have craved office all their lives and limited any roguish tendencies in fear they might be discovered, the Donald has always swung wild with no concern for his image of a man who steps on little people and negotiates with those supposedly on his own exalted level, never backing down or back-tracking from his image as the ultimate winner and billionaire American business tycoon.

If the Donald is having more fun than anybody in America—hands down—the Democrats are right behind him, rejoicing as the 15 stooges quail and quiver and look to advisers in a desperate quest for answers as to how to deal with the meteoric and overwhelming and overbearing Donald. Chris Mathews, on MSNBC, grins and glows every evening while the gloom settles in among the Fox News crew of scowling tough-guy gasbags and snide blondes who try to deny the Donald is dragging down the Republican party and exposing the 15 stooges to America and the rest of the world as a disgrace, an absurd rendition of democracy so putrid and unlikable that its citizens wonder how the hell it ended up that we are forced to vote for these assholes. As we repeatedly claim we are the greatest country in the world, what must highly progressive and well-run countries like Sweden and Germany and Denmark and Holland think of the sniveling Republican reaction to the bombastic bilge tossed at them by the Donald? Has the greatest country in the world, as we claim, become a laughingstock to the rest of the world?

Perhaps so. Meanwhile, just keep following the Donald, as he licks his lips and snorts and stomps around like a middle linebacker in the National Football League anticipating another lily-livered Lilliputian taking the ball across the line of scrimmage—his territory. §

Talmadge Jarratee writes about politics and occasional sketches of San Francisco.



After a year in poor man’s Monterey he couldn’t tell if he was any happier or not. Gradually, he spent less time watching sunsets and more time watching the feral cats over by the dumpster. Photo by Stacey Warde

After a year in poor man’s Monterey he couldn’t tell if he was any happier or not. Gradually, he spent less time watching sunsets and more time watching the feral cats over by the dumpster. Photo by Stacey Warde

by Greg West

Sarah had called the town a poor man’s Monterey but Joe moved there anyway, thinking, “I’ll live in poor man’s Monterey and Sarah can live where she lives and we’ll both be happier.” He loaded his belongings into the back of his Ford Ranger and drove to the little town, bought a newspaper and answered an ad for a studio apartment at four-hundred a month, plus a fifty dollar deposit. The apartments weren’t good. They were a poor man’s apartments—a row of sickly blue huts out in front of a splintered two-story in the back.

Joe knocked on the office door. Inside he could hear the audio of a pornographic movie being turned down. Out in front of the sickly huts two police cars pulled up and a red-faced drunk was handcuffed while two red-faced women yelled at him from separate doorways. A skinny bearded man stood in another doorway with a can of beer. He had a tall cactus plant and a lawn chair on his porch. “Sarah’s right,” Joe thought. “It’s not Monterey, but it’s still nice, this town.”

A man came to the door and introduced himself as Yolo, the manager. He was a jittery, lisping man with no front teeth, a head of oily flaking hair, and a long purple nose seeded with enormous blackheads.

“It’s zero-t-tolerance here” he told Joe, leading him up the stairwell of the two-story, words whistling off his gums. “What I mean is, it’s strict. No drugs, no hookers, no dealing, and, and, if you’re a cop, you have to let us know, legally.”

Each stair was about to give, from unevenness or decay, but as Joe and Yolo reached the top, Joe knew he was going to take the place. Through a tangle of cable wires he could already see a bit of ocean and part of the massive volcanic rock the town was known for. He’d have to shut out the courtyard of weeds and jalopies below, and the pride of diseased cats over by the overflowing dumpster—and the noise—it was the middle of the day but people were home. Joe could smell marijuana smoke and hear dramatic debates coming from the units. A woman in a housecoat and slippers was weaving around the courtyard looking lost and distraught. Joe and Yolo stopped at a roll of carpet and some paint cans that were out on the walkway. They looked into the apartment that was for rent.

“This is it,” Yolo said to Joe. “And this here’s Ron. He’s the maintenance.”

Ron the maintenance man was at the top of a folding ladder, painting the ceiling a dark brown. The apartment was tiny—big enough for a bed and a table maybe, but Joe kept thinking about the walkway. He believed it was wide enough for a chair and maybe a TV tray. He saw himself sitting out there with a beer or a cup of coffee and watching sunsets through the cable wires. He could take his phone out there and call Sarah and tell her about his poor man’s view. If he could shut out that squalor below—the jalopies and the arguing and the flea-ridden cats—he’d have himself a little taste of affluence at four-hundred dollars a month.

Ron the maintenance man set his paint brush in a paint tray and climbed off the ladder. He was shirtless and pot-bellied and had a few strands of hair on each side of his head. His teeth worked a billowing Camel.

“Did you tell him about the no tolerance?” he asked Yolo.

Yolo moved his feet and looked away. “I told him. H-he said he’d abide.”

“And you told him no bullshit? No drugs? No sellin’ pussy, no grab-ass? You told him how strict it is here?”

“I told him,” said Yolo.

Ron tugged at jeans that were trying to slide off his assless trunk, and stepped over what looked like a puddle of dried paint but was in fact the dried blood of a man named Eldon Creel, who three days earlier had killed himself in Joe’s new apartment. Ron stopped near the doorway and the three men looked down at the hardened glossy pool.

“He was just another one of those guys,” Ron said. “That came and went. Grocery store, video store, he had his groceries and his videos and that was all he wanted. Never said nothing to no one. We figure he sat about right here…”

Ron dropped to the floor and sat against the wall. “…We figured he sat about here and said, ‘to hell with it,’ and went, ‘one…two…three…’”

Ron fitted two fingers under his chin, pulled a thumb-hammer.


Yolo jumped and shuddered. A flurry of flakes fell to his shoulders. “We gotta tell you,” he said to Joe. “By law, we have to tell you.”

Ron got to his feet, pulled up on his jeans, and began running the flat of his hand along a roughened section of door frame. He pulled out a pocketknife and stuck the point of it into the door frame then showed Joe and Yolo what he’d dug out. Against the silver of the blade it looked like chipped tooth on a dentist’s utensil.

“We’re still finding ‘em,” he said.

“Brain fragments,” said Yolo.

“Skull fragments,” Ron said. “We already got all the brains.”

“That-that’s what I mean,” said Yolo. “Sk-sk-skull fragments. W-we’re still finding ‘em. Everywhere.”

Joe unloaded his Ford Ranger and settled into the apartment and began a daily routine. In the mornings he’d walk down to the ocean and in the evenings he’d sit on his poor man’s balcony and eat TV dinners and watch sunsets. Or, if it was too foggy and there was a fight or arrest below, he’d watch that. The one time he’d called Sarah she’d hung up on him.

Once or twice a month he’d find one of Eldon Creel’s skull fragments in his wall or ceiling and pluck it out with scissors or nail clippers or whatever was around, and after a year in poor man’s Monterey he couldn’t tell if he was any happier or not. Gradually, he spent less time watching sunsets and more time watching the feral cats over by the dumpster. He’d sit out there until dark sometimes, watching them fight and fuck and hunt, and lick their matted coats in the prickling fog. §

Greg West lives in a hole-in-the-wall motel in Nevada where he writes in his spare time between jobs.


PITH.BIRD SONG.2015-06-27 20.07.46


For Daniella

Out in the pasture
today i saw
the noted birds
resting upon
the wire clefs, a
beautiful synchronicity
of music,
lilting, rhythmic, transporting,
rising up
into wider spheres,
black flashes of wing
against the deep blue
morning sky,
their song drifting
down upon
summer yellow grasses.

—Stacey Warde

Black is beautiful

A young American lieutenant, his leg burned by an exploding Viet Cong white phosphorus booby trap, is treated by a medic.  1966.

A black medic treats a young American lieutenant, his leg burned by an exploding Viet Cong white phosphorus booby trap in Vietnam in 1966.

by Dell Franklin

Willie Green come into the 25th Army field hospital in Verona, Italy, and he green all right, he so country he don’t know it, he don’t know what to do, he don’t know what to do with himself, and he slow, Georgia slow, don’t wanna talk, and you can’t tell if he don’t wanna talk cuz he so shy, or he ashamed of bein’ slow and dumb.

Top-kick McCray can’t do nothin’ with this skinny kid, he ain’t but 18, and he all hands, got these big old hands, always wavin’ ‘em around, like he don’t know what to do with ‘em. They send him everywhere in the dispensary, and he useless, he go to mutterin’ you ask him do anything and mope in the corner like a dog been whupped up on with a switch.

McCray, he say Johnson, you got to look out after that poor dumb nigger, take him under your wing, like his big brother, or he ain’t gon make it, they send his sorry ass to goddam Nam in the infantry, fight Charlie.

I talk to my bud Thomas, tell him we got to take care of doofus Green, and Thomas mutter how he from south Philly and don’t like no country nigger, a country nigger from the south nothin’ but Uncle Tom slave bait, Whitey gon fuck him over big time and the dumb country nigger gon kiss his ass while he gettin’ fucked over, and I tell Thomas McCray want us to look out for Green so he don’t get his ass killed in Nam like the rest of us poor niggers.

By this time my good buds are gone—Ruffner, DeSimone, Mills, Lamb, Robbie. I been here longer than any of these troops and officers and doctors, they like me, Top-kick McCray got me runnin’ the shot room and emergency and sterilization rooms, got me a promotion to Spec.4 and damn near runnin’ the dispensary, cuz I know what to do, I surprise myself, knowin’ so much stuff, I can suture, I save a Colonel’s life when he have a heart attack, doctor Stein come in after I pound his chest and give him mouth-to-mouth, and say Johnson, you save his life, you ask questions and are prepared, we trust you with the lives of folks, which is most important. Yes.

I don’t try and teach Green the shot room stuff, cuz he too shaky with that needle. He ain’t no good behind the desk with sick folks and their records, so I take him to sterilization. We got suture kits, minor surgery kits, instruments. I pack and sterilize all kits and instruments in the big steel autoclave, hemostats, forceps, probes, scissors, clamps, I wrap ’em and put ’em in the cabinets in the emergency room, and when a doctor prepare to work on somebody, I do what the docs tell me to do, and if it real busy they tell me go ahead and suture up a dude, or wrap a plaster cast, or splint, or bandage folks, I’m good at it, like a pro. Oh yes.

Now Green, he listen but he don’t listen. He won’t look at you. He look down. I say, “Green, look at me. Don’t be lookin’ down like some whupped up nigger. I be your bud. Come on now.”

Thomas and me, we try and explain that hey, Green, you got you a boss gig here, but he mumble and mope, like he don’t care, like he got no life, and we ask him what he do on the outside and he mumble he a “bree-lay since he 12, and it take a while understand he mean a “brick layer,” work with his daddy and nine brothers, and you see why he got them big strong hands, he wiry from layin’ them bricks, he ain’t muscle-strong like me or lanky big like Thomas, but the dude got some powerful grip, and he got ants in his pants, he ain’t lazy, just confused, so first thing I do, I pick up a little wire probe, and I say, “Green, this here a probe. It don’t look like much, but it important, docs use it to dig poison out of folks, rub out cysts, like a knife got no point. Now it got to be sterilized, cuz if it ain’t and doc go gougin’ around in folks, they gon get a nasty infection and maybe croak, so we got to be careful sterilizing this probe, and all the other stuff in this room, it’s powerful important, most especially to the docs, and the docs, they God around here, Green. God!”

Thomas watchin’, arms folded in his whites, pens in his pocket, cuz he runnin’ the front desk and helpin’ me in the shot room, and he know how to handle himself, despite bein’ a stubborn, contrary ghetto nigger angry alla time, ain’t gon catch him smilin’ at Whitey ‘less he got a trick in store.

I show Green how to wrap a probe. Then I let him do it. He do it all wrong. I say, “Green, watch me do it, you got to pay attention, or you do it all wrong and piss off the docs!”

He make a face and grumble and walk out the sterilization room and go trampin’ around post. I guess he angry and hurt. I run his ass down and bring him back, tell him cool down. I tell him they gon get his ass killed in Nam he don’t shape up. Doin’ all this stuff ain’t that hard if y’all pay attention. So I lay the probe on the cotton wrapper and show him how to wrap it, and then I unwrap it and have Green wrap it, and he do so, like I show him, and I say, “Now Green, keep doin’ it the way I doin’ it, you gon be okay, my man.” He grin, sleepy-like, like he proud, he wrap a little old probe, big deal, yeh, but it a big deal to him, so now I show him how to wrap a forceps, and he do it right, and then I got him wrappin’ all the other instruments, and when he finished we lay ‘em in a row in the big steel autoclave tank, got levers and dials and gauges, and then I show him how to operate the autoclave.

I go step by step, then start over. Green do the first step, and we start over. Green do the first and second and third steps, and I see he getting’ a bit fretful, this is enough for now, I do the rest and get the autoclave workin’, so then I take him to the operating room for minor surgery and emergencies and show him the glass cabinets hold all the stuff doctors need—disposable syringes, needles, gloves, swabs, band-aids, compresses, thread, gauze, ointments, peroxide, soaps, instruments a doc use look in a guys’ ear, or up his nose, look up a guys’ ass, his throat, everything in the cabinets I show Green, and I say, “Green, you doin’ fine, you learnin’ MOLTO BENI, my man, now let’s go eat chow.”

This boy, he eat like he ain’t been fed before, and he stuff apples and oranges in his field jacket after we finish. We go back to the sterilization room, and I say, “Green, wrap me a hemostat.” He do it. Then we check the autoclave. Everything in it warm and sterilized. Then I got him wrappin’ instruments all afternoon and tell him what they used for. He get them all down, he learnin’ now, and when the dispensary close we go to chow and he eat seconds and then in the barracks I tell him he got to keep his area clean and neat, like me, not like Thomas. I learn that from McCray, who can’t stand a dirty troop, most especially a black troop, cuz McCray the cleanest nigger in the U.S. Army. Green nod, say okay, boss.

 “These Italians cool with us, they got nothin’ against us black folk, they don’t care if we peep at them white chicks, they ain’t gon lynch our asses. It ain’t like back home. These folks, they like to talk to us, like we mothafuckin’ human bein’s.”

Next day I say, “Green, run the first three steps of the autoclave.” He look at it. “Go on now.” He place all the wrapped instruments in the tank like I show him, nice and snug, and he do step one, step two, step three, and look at me. I show him the rest, real slow. We keep goin’, and Green go through all seven steps and got the autoclave hummin’. He stand back and listen to it workin’ up steam, cookin’ them instruments, and he got that little grin, and I say, “Green, you bad-ass, yessir, you a bad man with that autoclave machine.”

Thomas come by and I got Green wrappin’ suture kits and minor surgery kits. He goin’ at it like a pro. He ain’t dumb at all.

I say, “Green, the army give us niggers a chance to be somebody. Look at me. I’m a boss. Run the dispensary for the docs and top. Look at big ol’ south Philly nigger Thomas, he boss, too. Top-kick McCray, he boss of this outfit, tell officers what to do. We all bad-ass niggers in this white man’s army.”

“Sheee-it,” Thomas say, but he grinnin’, like he done a trick.

Green, he grin, like he one of us.

Next day I stand back and watch Green wrappin’, runnin’ the autoclave, stockin’ cabinets, he dustin’ and moppin’, without bein’ told like Thomas, and I tell captain doctor Stein, this new dude, he ready for a little on-the-job-training, so when Stein cut a sebaceous cyst out a GI’s neck, I got the gloves on and I swab and sponge up goo and blood, and when Stein say “forceps,” Green hand him the forceps. “Probe.” Green hand him the probe. Green hand him the scalpel cut the cyst open and ooze blood and pus. When doc done he let me suture the dude up like he taught me, and then I bandage the dude, and Green help me like I help doc. Green, he serious, likin’ this business, likin’ it big time.

Pretty soon McCray say, “Green lookin’ good, Johnson. You keep workin’ with that kid, cuz he takin’ your place.”

A week later Green don’t need me in sterilization or emergency. He askin’ docs Stein and Graves questions like crazy. He want know everything. I tell him keep askin’ questions, so he prepared for emergencies. Green, he walkin’ around like a pro now, so I figure, he got THAT down, now I got to teach him be a man.


Come pay day, me and Green and Thomas walk downtown on a Saturday afternoon. Me and Thomas dressed cool, but since Green got no proper threads, we get him some nice pants and shirt in the PX, and he wear the only shoes he own, army-issue low-quarters. We walk along the river to the Piazza Bra, by the ancient Coliseum been here since Roman days, been bombed by the USA durin’ the war. Everybody sittin’ at cafes outside and sippin’ vino or espresso or they paradin’ up and down arm in arm, and I explain to Green Italian customs and what they call ALFRESCO.

I tell him, “Green, these Italians cool with us, they got nothin’ against us black folk, they don’t care if we peep at them white chicks, they ain’t gon lynch our asses. It ain’t like back home. These folks, they like to talk to us, like we mothafuckin’ human bein’s.”

We mosey down to Piazza Erbe, little square where tourists snappin’ cameras at Romeo and Juliet balcony, and we find Bruno’s bar, where dudes from post millin’ around, waitin’ for the whores, so we sip some vino, sit at a table, chum with dudes from the air force base in Aviano. By and by the whores come, and Tom got his regular, Roselee, and he gone, and me and Green watch big blonde Carla come in, she got some fine tittiies and dye her hair cuz GIs like blondes, and she make a big fuss over me, ask why I don’t come around no more, and I tell her I got me an Italian sweetie in town, so then she glance at Green, and he starin’ at her real shy like, and I introduce them, and go off to the bar sit by myself, and soon Green gone with Carla.

I wait. Tom come back with Roselee. We wait for Green, and wait. He gone over an hour. Then when he come out they holdin’ hands, Green grinnin’, Carla grinnin’, noddin’ at me, and alla way back to post Green skippin’ along and say he got a steady woman, he say Carla say she like him and love him somethin’ powerful.

“Green,” I say, “Y’all got to watch out for whores. They don’t love no man. They love money. They love the U.S.A., where it rich, but they ain’t gon like no place a poor nigger live.”

He ain’t listenin’. He get back to post and take his night shower like I train him and next day he gone ‘til midnight, take his shower, and Monday morning he ready to go, waitin’ for me in the sterilization room. He follow me around like a puppy, little brother, friskin’, slappin’ at me with them big old hands. Now I can’t get rid of him. He even come to the gym and play buckets with me and Thomas and though he ain’t played much before he good right off with them hands and the ants in his pants, he everywhere at once, and he got big time hop.

In a month Green a bad-ass medic and a bad-ass bucket man. He growin’ and puttin’ on weight and eatin’ everything and seein’ Carla at night, which mean he getting’ it free. All right! My man.

One day docs Stein and Graves come up to me. Stein say, “Green, he is quite a medic, Paladin. I think he wants to operate next.”

“He has strange powers,” says Graves. “I’ve never seen such hands. Very deft, quite a touch, steady. He retains everything you tell him. He’s amazingly intelligent and a very nice kid.”

“He’s perhaps…an idiot savant,” says Stein. “You know what that is, Paladin?”

“No sir.”

“It’s a person with genius qualities who is backward in most other ways.”

“That sound like Willie Green.”

Stein look at me. He ain’t some dude hand out compliments. “Paladin,” he say. “You’ve done a good job of mentoring Willie. We are all very proud of both of you.” He point a finger at me. “Now you know what doctor Graves and I have been telling you—go to school on the GI bill when you get discharged, and follow up in the medical profession. You can be an excellent nurse. You will earn a good living, you can raise a family, and Paladin, you will be a helper of mankind. I want you to continue with this. Willie, too.”

“Okay, sir,” I say. Because these docs, they are God.

By this time I’m ready to leave the army and go home to my ghetto in Cleveland, Green runnin’ the whole damn dispensary. He givin’ shots, takin’ blood, runnin’ sterilization and emergency, work the front desk, he know how to suture and take an X-ray, he already promoted, and he engaged to Carla.

Night before I leave me and Thomas and Willie party, I already said good byes to my sweetie and friends in Verona I do black market business with, and Willie give me this little beret he buy downtown, hand-made, beautiful beret, he know I want it, and we soul shake and hug, and I say, “Willie Green, you my main man, I so proud of you, love brother.”

He so shy, he just look down and grin, and then he gone to the sterilization room, got work to do, and I leave post and Italy and the army and go home.

Doc Stein write me, cuz he keepin’ tabs on me, make sure I stay outta trouble, go to school. I do. He say Willie marry Carla and re-up. When Stein get discharged he write me from Chicago and say Willie back in the states goin’ to airborne school cuz he wanna be a paramedic, and I write Stein back, tell him I’m drivin’ an ambulance nights and goin’ to nursin’ school durin’ the day on the GI bill. I don’t hear from Stein for a while and then he call me on the phone one night and say Paladin, sit down, I got terrible news, Willie Green killed in Nam. I sit down. Stein, he don’t sound too good, and I ain’t hearin’ too good, but I guess Willie save a bunch-a lives and get a silver star and buried with honors. Shit, that don’t do me no good. I find that beret and wear it for a month. Then I put it in plastic and wear it on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, 4th of July, remember Willie Green. Ain’t nobody allowed to touch that beret, just me. My little brother. §

Dell Franklin is a writer living in Cayucos, Calif., and is the founding publisher of The Rogue Voice.

Rush hour traffic in Fresno


photo by Stacey Warde

by Greg West

“YOU THINK YOUR DICK’S MADE OF GOLD?!?!” Anne yells, bare heels pounding the triple-digit pavement, tears sizzling down veined face, half-smoked Benson & Hedges between trembling fingers, threadbare nightie she’s been in for days, crawling up old white thighs. She’d have kept coming too, if she hadn’t had to stop and cough. She was up to three packs a day.

At the stop sign he looks in the side mirror and sees her stooped and hacking. If he wants an image, here’s one. It’s rush hour and no one’s letting anyone on the road anyway.

The next time he looks in the mirror she’s on the curb, bent over, clutching her stomach, a safe distance away. The whole point in giving her a week had been to avoid something like this, give her time to vent and yell, purge and talk it out, on the phone mostly, with her best friend Kay Miller, the one who’d helped her conclude that he was an incurably selfish man, a coward, that he thought his dick was made of gold, that it wasn’t, and that he was going to fall on his face wherever he was running away to.

He’d given Anne a week and Anne had told him she’d come to terms with things. Anne had even thanked him.

Hearing his trunk shut in her driveway must have been what changed her mind. He had it in reverse when the front door had opened and she’d bolted out into what could have been her first sunlight in days, leaping off the porch and moving across the dead yard like a stalking panther, lips pressed grotesquely together, kicking and pounding his car, reiterating with each fist and heel, her and Kay Miller’s findings about him, mustering enough strength to leave a fist-sized depression in his hood.

Still no opening on the road, he glances in the mirror one last time, and seeing no sign of Anne, breathes and nudges into traffic. It’s bumper to bumper on this road west, this road taking him and his dick of gold away forever and when he tries to remember how he’d ended up in this smothering grid of hopelessness, or even how he’d ended up with Anne, he couldn’t. It would take an hour for him to clear the tentacles of Fresno and even after that there would be miles of dry beige dirtscape, but by dusk he’d be climbing lumpy hills that descended on the other side into cool moist coastal air.


Somehow Anne makes it to his window, and with the tears and sweat of a second wind rolling through week-old makeup, eyes pink with fear, beating the glass with forceful rabbit punches, she reminds him in the heat of that city: “YOUR DICK IS NOT MADE OF GOLD!!”  Forcing his way into traffic, horns blasting, tires chirping, Anne running alongside and punching, he looks at her through the crackled glass and yells: “I NEVER SAID IT WAS!!” §

Greg West lives in a hole-in-the-wall motel in Nevada where he writes in his spare time between jobs.