Because the Road to Nowhere Leads to Me

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Home Is Where the Heart Is — My Move from Maine

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I really have no way of knowing what Heather was thinking after I popped the question. No it wasn’t the big question; the one that involves a diamond ring and the promise of a lifetime but it deserved no less consideration. Imagine you had just met someone a few months earlier. All you knew about them could be written down on a cocktail napkin and that practical stranger had just asked you to pack up everything, say goodbye to everyone and come live with them and their estranged wife because that’s exactly what I had done.

Heather had friends and family in Maine whom she loved but she also had her share of demons there with fresh wounds still festering from her fiancé’s infidelity and a brutal attack she endured as a teenager. She had given me graphic details of the rape and I still fantasize of finding the vile piece of shit responsible and beating him bloody. The rage inside of me lets me know that if given the chance, I wouldn’t stop there.

I remember Heather’s expression when I asked if she would like to come back to South Carolina with me; that look of surprise and disbelief but behind the fear of the unknown, her eyes held a glimmer of excitement for a new beginning. She opened up and began talking about all of the arrangements that needed to be made. She didn’t think her car would make the trip because the chassis had been eaten away by salt on the wintry roads and she would have to leave many of her belongings with her sister to be picked up at a later time.

The move had been set in motion and there was that brief moment where she asked, “Am I really doing this?” Heather was packing up her bags but she had to understand the absurdity of the situation. I was moving back into a warzone, to live with a woman that had made it very clear she didn’t want me there. I found myself grasping for reasons as to why Madison had invited Heather into our home but there simply were no answers to be found. It was absolute madness and between the three of us, I don’t know who took home the prize for being the craziest.

I thought about Heather’s question and answered, “I don’t know. Are you?”

She concluded, “I think I am.”

And with that Heather took a 2,000 mile leap of faith. All arrangements were made and our bags were packed. The back of the Mazda was so loaded down with our shared belongings that the rear window was completely blocked from view.

We had a farewell dinner with her family at one of the local taverns and her sisters threatened me with the usual “If you hurt her, we will hunt you down and kill you” sentiment. They were laughing when they said it but I knew there was at least some truth to their words. They were fine with me being there but didn’t want her to leave and joking about inflicting pain on me was their way of dealing with the inevitability of her departure. I promised to be a good boy and laughed along with them with that nervous uncertainty people sometimes feel when venturing into unknown territory.

I can’t really blame them for worrying about her. In those dark days of the internet before social sites like MySpace and Facebook gained popularity, horror stories involving predatory strangers seemed to run rampant and Heather’s family knew even less about me than she did. They had no way of really knowing me and only saw a guy with long hair, earring and leather jacket before them. All I needed to do was bite the head off of a bat to seal the deal and confirm their worst fears.

As a parting gift, Heather was given a small stitched pillow with the image of a home having hearts for windows sewn across its face. Across the top, it read “Home is Where the Heart is” and though I agree with the statement, I questioned the reasoning behind it. An optimist might have seen it as a suggestion to follow your heart but I suspected that it was to serve as a reminder that if things didn’t work out, Heather could always return home to her family. Were they right to be so concerned or would I prove them wrong by not being such a bad guy after all? Only time would tell.

Hazy Shade of Winter — My Time Living in Maine

Winter Road 1

I started down this road to rediscover who I am through the steps I’ve taken over the course of a lifetime. Through my thoughts and memories of past mistakes and triumphs, I have found new clarity along with some semblance of the man I used to be but the chain of events that came to pass in January of 1998 still amaze and confound me. There were just so many pieces that somehow seemed to fall into place while others refused to fit anywhere and absolutely nothing made any sense.

I had moved to the small town of Oakland Maine after my marriage fell apart. My wife told me that she was no longer in love with me and wanted me out of our house so I packed up everything I could in the back of my car and moved nearly 2,000 miles away from my family, friends, practically everyone and everything that I had ever known.

I had been given an invitation to stay with a friend in her apartment and after seeing no other options, I accepted. I quit my job as a Warehouse Supervisor, said my goodbyes and left my hometown on a Saturday morning. I remember the roads were still dark with just a faint outline from the sunrise on the horizon.

I was scared but I wasn’t going to let anybody see it. I didn’t know the way and only had a couple of printed pages from MapQuest to serve as my guide. I wasn’t sure if my car would survive the trip but quite certain that I didn’t have enough time or money to repair it should it break down along the way. Most of all, I was afraid of the future. I had given up seven years to try and be a good husband and failed before looking to make a new start with my only real direction being north.

I traveled up the east coast, hit a few pitstops along the way and had to stop for the night when I could no longer keep my eyes open. I was in New Jersey and decided to stay at one of the hotels just off of the Garden State Parkway. It was dreadfully overpriced for the most basic amenities but the lure of a hot shower and warm bed was too great to ignore. I called Heather to let her know that I was stuck in Jersey before crashing for the night and continuing on the following morning.

I remember how thankful I was to see the New York state line. I really wish I had more time for touring the sites along the way but I continued driving past the city of my birth into Massachusetts, New Hampshire and finally Maine. The Sunday sun was setting and with the clear roads behind and snow covered roads ahead, I raced to reach my destination before the evening freeze set in.

The sun had just given up its last light of day when I drove into the small Maine town and breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled into Heather’s driveway. I had made the long trip and I thought the worst of it was behind me. My relief was short lived however because her apartment sat atop a very steep hill and after snow turned to ice overnight, it served as a slippery slope for my Rx-7 to slide down while I watched helplessly from inside her home. It was sometime during the following day and we were visiting with Heather’s sister. We were sitting in the living room talking when I heard the ice cracking and watched my car slip backward down the hill. To make matters even worse, the small driveway connected to a very large hill that cascaded down into a main intersection. I knew that if my wheels had turned just slightly, my car may have continued another half mile before it collided into something else and panic took over. I ran out of the apartment trying to catch it but was unable to do so. It slid down the driveway and sat on the narrow two-way street blocking both lanes. That was really the best I could have hoped for under the circumstances but had to work quickly to get it out of the way of any oncoming traffic that may or may not have been able to stop in time. I drove the car back up the driveway, parked next to the curb, turned my wheels and locked the emergency brake to prevent it from happening again.

A new week started and everything was white washed in snow. It was a cold grey day where the temperature barely reached double digits and the night would drop deep below zero. Every day was the same with more and more snow piling up only to freeze into solid sheets of ice overnight and my Rx-7 was getting buried beneath it in the process.

Heather and I got around using her car most of the time. She had a Subaru wagon with four wheel drive and it was much better at navigating the icy roads than my car would ever be. I spoke with some of the locals in hopes of finding employment but the town of roughly 6,000 residents didn’t have any entry level positions for a flatlander like me. I also searched the classifieds but the newspaper only had positions for skilled professionals that involved neither architecture nor automotive mechanic or bodywork; the only viable skills I possessed.

I fell into a depression after being unable to find work and refocused my attention on the tabletop strategy game that I had been designing. I had the apartment to myself when Heather went to work at the mom and pop organic health food store and I poured over the numerous pages I had created to help pass the time.

The two of us would usually sit down for dinner together after she got off of work. It was Heather that first introduced me to free-range chickens, soy based textured vegetable protein and Tofu; foods where the focus was more on the healthy benefits than the flavor. I remember asking her to pick up some ingredients for hot dogs and she brought home a pack of soy dogs, vegetarian chili with beans and a pack of whole grain buns. The bread was decent and the chili probably would have been okay by itself but there was no hope for those soy logs having a texture similar to wet shoe leather and the flavor of spiced cardboard.

Luckily for me, there was a corner store close by that offered the best Italian sandwiches that I had ever tasted. They were huge, loaded with real meats and cheeses and an absolute joy after suffering through soy. Outside of that, I sustained myself on organic cola and wine, usually having a glass of one or the other with dinner and conversation.

Heather and I discussed our past mistakes and she told me about her previous engagement to be married. Her fiancé had an affair with another woman and after discovering the truth, Heather moved into the apartment without him. He still called however because he wanted a continued relationship with both women and it always left Heather upset. After the second time, I asked her to hand me the phone. She did so and I told him plainly to quit calling. I explained that he had fucked up and Heather no longer wanted anything to do with him. I finished the conversation by making sure that he was listening and offered to explain it face to face if he still couldn’t get it through his head. He must have understood well enough because that was the last time that I or Heather ever spoke to him.

I also kept in touch with my daughter through numerous phone calls. She helped keep me grounded and made me want to be a better person. Even if the marriage with her mother had failed, I wasn’t going to give up on being her father and after three months in Maine with no prospects of employment, I swallowed my pride and asked Madison if I could move back down south. I explained how things weren’t working out and how I needed to get back home to be there for my daughter.

I braced for the worst as I awaited Madison’s response. She could have easily refused my request and ripped into me for even asking but she surprised me by saying yes and left me flabbergasted when she asked if Heather wanted to come with me.

Roads Untraveled — My Attempt to Save Our Marriage

Rainfall Road

Weep not for roads untraveled
Weep not for paths left lone
Cause beyond every bend
Is a long blinding end
It’s the worst kind of pain I’ve known
Give up your heart left broken
And let that mistake pass on
Cause the love that you lost
Wasn’t worth what it cost
And in time you’ll be glad it’s gone
Linkin Park “Roads Untraveled”

After my decompression period, I rode the Greyhound back home to my wife and daughter. I could see the mistakes that were made and wanted to find resolution to the problems we were facing.

Madison picked me up at the station but I don’t really remember much conversation in the car. There was still that uneasy tension between us and that painfully awkward moment where nobody really knows what to say. After unpacking, I knew that if anything was going to be resolved, I had to make the first move and asked Madison to sit down and talk with me, no arguing or screaming, just talking. I confessed to my mistakes of not communicating with her and offered her my full attention and devotion. I told her we could get rid of the internet because I didn’t need it to continue working on my game and we could become a family again. I talked about our struggles and how we survived through all the hard times together. I asked her to remember how strong we were when it was just the two of us against the world instead of being against each other. Being one move away from being on my knees, I begged her to please listen and believe what I was telling her but her response to everything was, “It’s too late.”

I remember the tremble in her voice as she fought to hold back the tears. I remember how my own eyes stung while I sat there holding her hands unable to comfort her. She pulled her hands away and told me that the marriage was over. She said it was over the moment I got on that bus and though she still loved me, she was no longer in love with me. Even if I did as I had promised, it wouldn’t make a difference because the mistakes of the past would remain.

I had given it everything I had. My vows to change were sincere and I meant every word that I had spoken but hers were no less important. I tried to explain how she wasn’t seeing the whole picture but her decision had been made and she no longer wanted anything to do with me. I could hear the tone of her voice shift from sadness to anger as she spoke through gritted teeth and clenched fists. She was as certain of her words as I had been of mine and I remember sitting back in the kitchen chair to pause and survey the room, looking at everything around me but not really seeing anything as I sat there absorbing the impact.

For the first time, I was able to see the picture from her point of view. What if she had told me that she wanted to travel across the country to gather her thoughts with someone that I didn’t know? Would my reaction have been any different from hers? I would like to believe that I would have protested the idea from the beginning instead of waiting until the last minute and came to understand that if she had gotten on that bus, we would probably still be having the same conversation.

I asked her how long she knew. Did she stop loving me as soon as I stepped on the bus? Was it something she realized while I was gone? And she answered, “No. I’ve been feeling this way for a while now. I just didn’t know how to tell you.” She broke down and let loose all the tears she had been holding back.

How is anyone supposed to handle that? How could anyone be with someone under the guise of love for any amount of time and not let them know how they really feel? How was I supposed to react to the new revelation after being with her for the past seven years? My mind drew a blank as the past, present and future all collided in a series of incoherent thoughts and after contemplating everything, I knew that our marriage was over long before the bus trip. With that realization, I only had one question left  for her to answer. “So what’s next?”

She told me that she wanted me out of the house and I agreed to leave. But where was I going to go? The majority of my blood relatives were a bunch of pious hypocrites that preached acceptance while practicing judgment. And my friends all had lives and families of their own to care for. I turned to Heather as my only viable option and explained the situation at home. I asked if I could stay with her until I got on my feet again and on the following weekend, I loaded up the computer along with everything else that I could pack into the back of Rx-7 and headed for Maine.

Decompression Period — My Marriage Falls Apart

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We’re walking on thin ice
And I hope it doesn’t break
And I need some space to
Clear my head to think about my life
With or without you
Papa Roach “Decompression Period”

Madison and I continued to argue over the computer and it reached the point of us screaming at each other or extended silences where neither of us would speak a word. I’m really not sure which was worse because screaming until my throat was raw and feeling like an ass afterward was becoming an all too common occurrence. I would sometimes try to apologize for my actions but more often than not, that turned into another argument. And then there were the uncomfortable silences where we would actively avoid each other’s presence. The two of us had been together for seven years and being uncomfortably anxious around Madison was a new experience for me. I remember wondering how long it would be before we exploded again and started the whole process over.

If I had been smarter, I may have sold the computer but I was still holding onto the dream of designing my own tabletop strategy game. That blinded me to the obvious answer like being too close to a picture and only seeing a fraction of it.

I needed to take a step back. I needed to take some time for myself and figure out what I really wanted at that point in my life and I was given the chance through an online acquaintance. I had begun chatting with a woman through America Online and that progressed to the telephone while Madison got her computer time in. I remember a lot of talk about music and I sent her some cassettes of the bands I enjoyed. She liked a lot of 80’s pop but also liked performers like Loreena McKennitt and Enya. I knew about Enya after being friends with Dexter but I had never heard of McKennitt or some of the other performers Heather listened to. I don’t know if it was considered New Age, Folk or something else but it was a far cry from the hard rock Nu-Metal world that I wanted to share.

Heather also knew about my problems with Madison and somewhere along the line, she offered me a chance to stay at her home. It wasn’t an open ended invitation but it gave me the chance I needed to really think about everything without being under the pressure of a powder keg and I took it. I told Madison that I wanted to leave for a week to gather my thoughts and she agreed with the idea, at least in the beginning.

I took some time off of work from the warehouse and purchased a Greyhound bus ticket. Madison drove me to the station and  sat there with my bag packed waiting on the bus to arrive. I heard the bus pull into the parking lot and Madison begged me not to go. She had weeks to talk to me about the trip but waited until the very last moment to actually voice how she really felt about it. I couldn’t comprehend why she didn’t say anything sooner because it didn’t seem like she was holding anything else back. And maybe I was being stubborn or selfish when I refused her request and left her there crying.

I rode several connecting buses from South Carolina to Maine. It was the first week of January and Maine had just suffered a major cold snap from a nor’easter out of Canada. There were piles of snow and ice pushed to the sides of road that stood nearly twelve feet tall and the state’s road crew consisted of old beat up pickup trucks with plow blades chained to the front bumpers. I thought it was just an inventive redneck behind the wheel but Heather confirmed that they were government funded. Temperatures were in the high teens during the day and below zero at night but the strangest thing was how none of it seemed to bother the locals. In South Carolina, a few inches of snow meant that most of the town would be shut down for days but for the Maine-iacs, it was just another day at the beach and they drove across the icy roads without being fazed. I remember Heather turning the wheel of her car way before the connecting road and sliding into the corners while the steering wheel spun beneath her hands.

Heather worked at a local natural foods store and I would sit inside her home thinking about everything while she was away. I thought about Madison, our daughter, our marriage, everything that we had been through and survived together. It was peaceful there, warm and cozy with a winter haze just past the doorsteps. I felt completely at ease but at some point, I realized that I missed my family, not the most recent troubles but all the good years we shared before things started falling apart. I knew it was time to go home and try to make amends.

Land of Confusion — My Marriage Meets the Internet

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

I must’ve dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear the marching feet
They’re moving into the street

Well this is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth living in

Ooh, Superman where are you now
When everything’s gone wrong somehow?
The men of steel, the men of power
Are losing control by the hour

I remember long ago when the sun was shining
Yes, and the stars were bright all through the night
And wake up this madness as I held you tight, so long ago

This is the time, this is the place
So we look for the future
But there’s not much love to go round
Tell me why, this is a land of confusion
Disturbed, “Land of Confusion”

Madison and I along with our daughter lived in the roach infested apartments for three years before deciding we were ready to move on to something better. She was working as an administrative assistant at one of the local textile mills and I was still working as a warehouse supervisor. Neither of us really liked our jobs but there was security in them and we thought that would be enough. We found a small house in one of the neighboring towns that wasn’t much to look at but it was clean and free of cockroaches and after doing the math, we decided we could afford it and moved in.

I had an old word processor that I used to write stories on in college and upgraded to a real computer. It was a beast of a machine complete with Windows 95, a 4 GB HDD, 32 MB of RAM, a 28.8 bps modem and a 233 MHz processor with MMX technology. It was top of the line at the time and only set me back a mere $3000.00 with the addition of a printer. I found another computer just like it on Ebay several years back with a starting bid of $15.00 and nobody wanted it.

I had bought the computer to continue working on a tabletop strategy game that I had been designing. It was a post-apocalyptic setting where multiple alien races invaded our world and brought their wars down upon us. Mankind was all but destroyed until the world united with the Guardian Project. The plan was to acquire the alien technology, modify it for humanity and turn the aliens’ own weapons against them. There were also a number of rebel factions that operated outside of the strictly regulated newly formed world government and played by their own rules of survival. My friends and I play tested the game and it was a huge hit but I never seemed to have enough money to do anything with it.

Madison and I also got our first real taste of the internet using the only 14.4 bps dial-up connection that was available in the middle of nowhere and just as most people did during the infancy of the internet, American Online was the service of choice. Free discs to install the internet service were everywhere from the counter of the local convenience store to your mailbox as the discs were being mailed out almost as frequently as credit card and cellular service offers are today. But it wasn’t the internet we all know it to be now so much as a glorified chat window where sending a 50 Kb file took nearly thirty minutes to complete while we sat there watching and waiting for the transfer to finish. People would get up in the middle of the night to take a piss and turn on the computer just to see if any new e-mails had arrived. There was even a Top 10 list for symptoms of being addicted to the internet and the midnight pisses and e-mail checks made the cut.

Then a new darkness befell our home. Madison and I stopped talking to each other and started spending more and more time on the internet chatting with strangers. If I am to be honest, I have to admit that it was me that fell first. I remember some brief arguments where Madison would want me off the computer so we could spend time together but that gave way to our fighting over the computer itself because we each wanted more time with our newfound internet friends.

I think back to those early days and late night chats with faceless friends and as hard as I have tried, I cannot recall a single conversation that deserved priority over my relationship with Madison. But there it was; two people that had loved each other for years unconditionally, suddenly fighting for time to sit in a room alone and chat with strangers through a $3000.00 telephone.

It’s ironic knowing that I purchased the computer to create a futuristic post-apocalyptic warzone and inadvertently created one in my own home.

Nonstop to Nowhere — Looking Back and Moving Forward

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For my 100th blog entry on Nonstop to Nowhere, I wanted to do something special and share more of myself than I ever have before. I feel I should warn you however that this will probably be the longest entry I will ever write.

I started this blog on September 11th, 2012 and though I cannot recall exactly what prompted me to do so on the anniversary of 09/11, I can say with some certainty that my thoughts were screaming for release.

I chose Nonstop to Nowhere based on the Faster Pussycat title of the same name. If you listen to the lyrics, you will understand why it was a good choice for my blog. And even though I didn’t know it at the time, I had unintentionally laid down the tracks of my entries to be read out as a set list of songs to be played as I toured the road of my life.

I started this blog not knowing anything about it and I still question what parts of me I should share and what I should keep to myself. I read, edit, re-read and edit even more before I am finally ready to push the publish button and more often than not, have to edit the entry at least once more afterward. My only real certainty is that I needed to get my story out there because I could feel it eating away at me by keeping it all locked inside before I began.

I wonder if my life story reads like a severe bipolar disorder after listing the highs and lows and have most certainly made my share of mistakes for which I carry many regrets but revisiting the memories of my past life isn’t one of them. The most important lesson that I have gained from this blog is the reminder of the man I used to be. By revisiting him, I have found a new courage and inner strength that had been lost over the years that now serves to help me be a stronger man today. Thanks to everyone that has followed my story and thanks for the comments you’ve shared. Through them I have found reason to continue writing.

So where does the road go from here? We will of course cross that bridge when we get to it but I can promise you that there is a great deal more of the road left to travel. In the meantime, I have a poem, a dream, a short story and a little something extra at the end of this wall of text that I would like to share in honor of my 100th entry.

I’ve never really been a fan of shiny happy poetry surrounding the sunrise, birds singing, rainbows and the like but I find writing poetry comes easily to me as is it much like writing song lyrics without the music. I’ve mentioned my inner demons at several intervals and this poem came to me one day after searching for a release. But don’t worry. I’m not hearing any voices telling me to commit horrible acts against humanity and it’s not like we share conversations. It is more of a constant anxiety of thinking, planning and worrying as the thoughts continuously crash together. I lie in bed at night staring at the ceiling thinking about the day to day grind and my mind becomes so overloaded and restless that I often have to sedate myself to get more than a two or three hours sleep. But back to the point of poetry being like song lyrics without the music, I hope that the changing tempo can be heard as you read this one. It was intentional and serves as a representation of the different faces, personalities and abstracts of the voices in my head.

Voices

 I hear them calling, taunting, screaming
In my waking hours and dreaming
I beg, I plead, I cry, I bleed
The voices grow louder
And then they feed

The voices feast upon my fears
Wetting their appetite with my tears
Surrounded by faces
In places without ears
The voices have haunted and teased me for years

I open my mouth to release a scream
To wake drenched in sweat from a terrible dream
To flee from a feeling so empty and hollow
But the voices continue to chase and follow

I carry ample anger, rage and madness
Combined with confusion, solitude and sadness
The voices dictate who I am today
The voices whisper ours is the way

I cover my ears and shake my head
While my mind is moved to violence
Cowering like a child beneath the bed
Awaiting a moment’s silence

The time will come
The voices will cease
I will find my own in final peace
I exhale in ease with my body sighing
And relieved by the release of voices dying

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Next is a dream that I had on February 7th, 2014. Most of my dreams are just fragments that make absolutely no sense after I wake up but there are some that are extremely vivid and memorable. Most are in color but I have had a few that were much more muted or simply black and white and even one dream where I was a cartoon character living in a cartoon world. In contrast, I’ve had dreams of video game settings given life as reality and other dreams that were so powerful that they shook me awake in the middle of the night and prompted me to write them down immediately afterward while the memory was still fresh in my mind. This has led to a small collection of dreams that cover anything from hanging out with my heavy metal idols to having casual conversations with various demons and even the Devil himself.

The following dream woke me up around 2:00 AM and I rushed to my computer to compose it. I suppose some people would label it as a nightmare but even though it left me with chills, the images and feelings were very intense and quite intriguing while I walked through the dream world completely captivated by what might be waiting around the corner.

The Evil Within

February 07, 2014

I stood outside the doorway, chilled to the touch as the winter winds whipped and howled around me in the blistering cold. The snow covered landscape was dark and I was blinded by the night unable to see more than a few feet in front of my face.

I waited shivering, heavily bundled under layers of clothing but still chilled to the bone nonetheless and I could hear the ice crunch beneath the weight of my feet as I stood there barely moving, waiting for the door to open.

I heard the electronic buzz granting me entry and a push against the door gave way to the familiar outline of light escaping its frame. When I stepped inside, I was met by an older woman, unremarkable in any way and dressed in muted clothing consisting of a tweed jacket, matching skirt and buckled dress shoes with sensible heels. Her salt and pepper hair was pulled back into a tightly knit bun and thick rimmed glasses adorned her face with little to no makeup to speak of.

The hallway was dimly lit having electric sconces along the dark wood walls that ran alongside deep red carpeting. She spoke to me with the usual greetings, commented on getting me out of the cold though I cannot remember her exact words as she instructed me to follow and led me through the building.

She carried a remote buzzer in her hand that she pressed as we walked from room to room and I instinctively knew that I was in a funeral parlor though there were no signs of the usual décor found in such places. There were no caskets or wreaths and many of the rooms were empty while others only had one or two pieces of antique furniture sitting in the corners. Our voices carried just as the loud click of the remote and the buzz that followed echoed throughout the area.

After navigating a series of rooms and corridors, we came to another doorway. “This is the children’s ward” she explained. “We keep them preoccupied here while the adults mourn the passing of their loved ones in peace.”

She clicked the remote but nothing happened. There was no buzz and the door refused to release. I touched the handle and immediately felt a sense of dread before pulling it towards me.

The door swung open easily, too easily, without turning the knob and I realized that the latch had been broken. “That’s odd” the curator commented. I felt an immediate fear as I shook the handle, repeatedly opening and closing the door, hoping that the latch would catch. But after several attempts, the door fell from the frame completely and I had to brace myself against its weight. The old lady protested against and questioned my actions, “What have you done?!

“Nothing” was my response.

I could now see that the frame had been warped and the door, completely unhinged had obviously been wedged into place. My mind struggled to comprehend the moment. I had been told that this was where the unruly children were held and assumed that a room waited beyond the doorway but the fact that it was designed to open inward told me that it was an exterior door that led to the outside. Still there was nothing beyond its borders. I peered through the opening, feeling no cold, heard no winds or saw no snow. In fact it was completely silent as if a black veil had been set into place and nothing but darkness greeted me. Not even the light from the hallway would cross the threshold and staring into the void, it could have easily been an unlit room just as easily as a still moonless night unreachable by winter’s touch. It was unnatural in nature and I was filled with a new sense of dread. Though intangible and unseen, I knew that something evil waited beyond the doorway, watching quietly from the other side, staring at us while we looked blindly past it.

I gripped the door firmly and shoved it back into the frame, wedging it back into place. And the curator assured me that the necessary calls would be made to have it repaired by morning.

I found no comfort in her words because I knew that whatever it was that sat quietly in the darkness had already made its way inside. No amount of doors or locks could protect us from its grasp and I stood there staring at that crooked door forced into the frame and waited for whatever lay beyond to come and make its claim.

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Next is a short story that I originally wrote during the summer of 1994. I couldn’t find the original but thanks to the prompting from one of my friends here, I decided to write it again from the beginning keeping as many of the original elements as I could recall while updating it to today’s world. It is dark, violent, graphic and gruesome. Thank you Blue for inspiring me to write it again.

Plumb Crazy

…Drip.

…Drip.

…Drip.

Jack’s back ached from lying across the cabinet baseboard with the kitchen sink over his head. All of the rubber washers had been replaced along with most of the piping but there was still that one leak that refused to surrender.

He pulled the 14-inch pipe wrench from his belt and felt the heft of it in his hand. Some of the red paint had flaked off of the cast iron body showing its age and frequent usage but Jack didn’t care about how it looked because it belonged to his father and was one of the few mementos that remained of his father’s legacy. Jack couldn’t look at it without remembering his father along with the times they had shared and even though the pain of his recent death was an open wound that refused to heal, the wrench was the closest thing he would ever have to a family heirloom and much like his father, Jack wasn’t ready to let it go.

He gripped it tight and twisted. That goddamned pipe was going to stop leaking or he was going to break it off completely. The piping creaked and flexed with a groan under the torque. “Complain all you want you son of a bitch! You’re not winning this one.” The wrench shifted ever so slightly, barely moving but it proved to be enough when the dripping stopped.

Jack collected his payment from the old woman after offering her the elderly discount. He didn’t really have a discount for the elderly or anyone else for that matter but knew that the woman had a kind heart and not much else. Her home was sparsely decorated and smelled of mildew. Her furniture was old, mismatched and worn with nobody else there to keep her company aside from the old fat cat she referred to as Mr. Chubs.

Jack loaded his tools into the truck, an old brown beater with a pair of magnetic “Jack of All Trades” business signs on the doors. His father had loved those signs and was so proud to display his name on the truck’s side. “With these, you get to be your own man” he said. “You get to be the one calling the shots.”

The air smelled unusually fresh after being stuck inside of the dimly lit home for the past few hours and Jack removed his cap before raising his face to the sky to breathe it in deeply. That’s when he felt it, the first drop of rain against his cheek. The droplet was warm after falling from the heavens in the summer sun but more began to fall with each one becoming cooler than the last.

The handyman opened the driver side door and felt it catch as it always did with a popping sound and creak but he had come to accept the sound as part of the one thing that he never seemed to have enough time to repair. He removed the wrench from his tool belt and laid it on the passenger side of the bench seat before throwing the rest of his tools into a small plastic milk crate he kept secured with a bungee cord in the bed.

When Jack slid behind the wheel, the springs creaked but the cushion of the seat felt good against his aching back as the rain began pouring down in slanted white sheets. He reached out to pull the popping creaking door close and started the engine with the familiar rattle only to sit there with the truck in park.

His knuckles turned white as he gripped the wheel mentally preparing for the trip home where he knew his wife would be waiting. Their relationship had been suffering for years but recently worsened when Jack decided to take over his father’s business. The textile mill had offered job security, a steady paycheck and had full benefits so she couldn’t comprehend why he would give all that up to follow his father’s footsteps into a business that was destined for failure. The two of them spent many hours arguing before Jack realized the futility in it and stopped. The thought of being ignored made his wife even angrier and she became belligerent barking orders, badgering and belittling whatever sense of pride Jack may have had left in the process.

Jack turned on the wipers and the passenger side blade clawed against the windshield continuing to etch itself into the glass through the arching path that it always followed. The rain cascaded and rippled before being swept away only to repeatedly return seconds later. Jack shifted the truck into drive and made his way back onto the main road. The brake squealed as he eased to a stop at the first sign. “That’s new” he thought. Jack had grown comfortable with the sound of the door and the rattle of the engine but he had never heard the brakes before. “Something else I will have to fix” he murmured speaking to no one but himself.

His home was a decrepit old trailer sitting on an even older lot hidden deep within the woods on the outskirts of town. The rarely traveled roads, faded, cracked and barren of any markings soaked in the rain and became black as pitch refusing to reflect anything as they drink it all in. It made driving especially difficult but there was very little traffic on the old roads as they were only used by those who had no other option.

Every twist and turn brought a shake, rattle and squeal to life as Jack weaved his way through the narrow passages until making his final right turn onto the dirt road that led to his front door. The dirt had already turned to mud and the truck sloshed its way forward. Jack could feel the tires slide when the gravel shifted under its weight as he drove down the hill and with his home finally in view; he crawled to a stop with the squeal of that one final break.

Jack found himself surrounded by darkness and held tightly to the steering wheel with flashes of lightning igniting the shadows followed by the crashes of thunder that rumbled afterward. He struggled to muster the courage to face the hell that awaited him inside, picked up his father’s wrench and ran for the door quickly climbing the three metal steps that clanked under his boot heels. He swung the screen door open and pushed against the white aluminum door only to find it locked. He fumbled with his keys as the stinging rain pierced his bare skin and soaked into his clothes drenching him to the bone before he was able to open the door and step inside the kitchen. His wife sat at the table less than five feet away dressed in her flowered robe and curlers with a Marlboro dangling off her lip and a can of Budweiser in her hand.

“You’re late! What took you so long?!” she snapped. Her voice was grating and Jack had come to loathe the screeching sound of it every time she opened her mouth.

“I had a tough job that took a little longer than expected.” Jack replied.

“Sure you weren’t out whoring? Trying to get your dick wet?”

“No.”

“No, you’re not sure or no you weren’t out whoring? You know it’s okay to tell me the truth. Even if you did find someone that took enough pity on you to offer a sympathy fuck, it’s not like anyone would be missing or getting anything from the deal… unless you paid her of course.”

Jack felt the anger growing. “No, I’ve already told you I was on a job!” He was failing to maintain his temper and his voice grew louder with each word spoken.

“Well take your clothes off. You’re dripping water all over the linoleum and I just mopped a few days ago. Did you at least bring home something to eat?”

“No I didn’t have time.”

“And why the hell not? What was so pressing that you just had to get back here and grace me with your presence? Was it guilt or did you have something else on your mind?”

“Goddamn it!” Jack shouted. “It was just a job! Just a fucking job! I was fixing a pipe!”

“More like laying a pipe… a really tiny one” his wife retorted holding her pinky finger in the air and waving it at him while cigarette ashes fell to the floor. “You still haven’t started undressing yet. You afraid I’m going to smell her pussy on you?”

Jack rubbed his eyes, dragged his hands down his face and interlocked the fingers as if he were praying.

“Well if you’re not going to get undressed, you might as well go out and get me something to eat because we ain’t got shit to eat here.”

Jack turned around to head back into the storm in order to fetch his wife some supper. If nothing else, it would at least give her something to shove in her mouth and shut her up for a while.

“And don’t forget to super-size it this time for crying out loud. Think you can remember that this time or should I write it down for you?”

Jack paused at the door staring out into the darkness.

“Well what the fuck are you waiting for?”

The lightning crackled and Jack sighed feeling the weight of the wrench in his hand. It was heavy and the iron was cold to the touch. His hand moved instinctively to the head of the wrench where he felt the teeth of it at his fingertips. Jack’s hand tightened against the wrench. “Not one more word.” His voice was calm and steady with a low timbre in the tone as the thunder rumbled.

“What the fuck are you mumbling about?! If you have something to say, then say it for fucks sake!”

Jack gripped the wrench tightly and spun around with an outstretched arm, cracking it against the side of his wife’s head, knocking her out of the chair and onto the floor sending the beer can, cigarette and a few of her curlers flying.

She was lying on the floor bleeding from the impact like a wounded animal. Her eyes were open as she turned to look at her husband standing over her. “Jack?” she asked. Even with one word having only one syllable, it was easy to hear the newfound fear in her trembling voice.

Jack pushed her onto her back, fell onto her body and straddled her leaning forward until he was mere inches from her face. “I said not one more goddamned word but you couldn’t hear me for the sound of your own voice. Now I’m going to fix that.” He pressed his left hand against her forehead and held it tight as he jammed the head of the wrench in her mouth, catching its teeth on hers before giving it a forceful tug and ripping away her lower jawbone with her vile tongue still attached. Jack paused for a moment watching the air bubbles burst at the bloody gash while his wife gurgled and struggled to breathe. Her eyes wide with fear and wet with tears, Jack entertained the idea of allowing her to suffocate just as she had suffocated him for years but his unbridled anger demanded immediate gratification and nothing was going to deny him the pleasure.

He sat up straight and gripped the wrench with both hands bringing it down with all of his force against her forehead and cracked the skull wide open. She would never say another word but Jack continued to swing the wrench, burying it in the bloody pulp that was once his wife’s face until bone was ground into powder and the wrench met against the wet thud of the bloody linoleum flooring. There was a puckered suction and with every swing of the handle, the sticky viscous liquid continued to spatter and spray the area around him as the blood poured and pooled around the base of her neck and shoulders.

Jack continued to swing until the muscles in his arms ached and there was nothing left of his wife’s head aside from a collection of bloody clumps scattered about the kitchen. He rose to his feet, grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat down at the table in the same seat she had been using previously. After finishing the beer and enjoying the moment of silence, Jack contemplated calling the police and confessing to his crime. He sat there holding his phone with 911 on the screen, glancing between the green send and the red end button before choosing the latter.

He then pressed “1” and speed dialed his best friend Frank. The phone rang and rang and just before Jack hung up, he heard Frank’s voice answer on the other end. It was low and labored with that grogginess that most people find after just being woken up. “…Hello…”

“Frank, it’s Jack. Listen. I need your help with something.”

“Jack? What time is it?”

“It’s late.”

There was a long pause before Frank said anything else. “What do you need my help with? Can it wait ‘til morning?”

“No, it needs to be taken care of tonight! Right now!”

“Well what is it that is so urgent?”

“Just come over to my place and I’ll explain everything.”

There was another long pause before Frank conceded, “All right. Just give me a few and I’ll be over as soon as I can.”

Jack pressed the end button and laid the phone on the table. Frank knocked on the door shortly afterward startling Jack with his quick arrival.

Jack opened the door and for the first time noticed that the thunderstorm had been reduced to a summer shower.

“Well I’m here” Frank said flatly. “So what’s going on?”

Jack opened the door further to reveal his wife’s body on the floor.

“Holy shit Jack! Did you do this?!”

“Yes.”

“I know you two had been having some problems and she was a bitch and all that but she didn’t…”

“She did. She deserved every bit of it… She deserved to die” Jack finished. It was the only way to shut her up. So will you help me clean this up?”

“What are we going to tell everyone when they ask where she went?”

“We can worry about that later. Let’s just get rid of the body first.”

Frank stared at the corpse lying on the floor and scratched the back of his head. “So what’s the plan?”

“We’ll take her to the cabin and get rid of everything.”

“Alright then, let’s get started.”

Jack told Frank to grab some of the trash bags from under the cabinet while he went to the tool shed for a tarp and chainsaw. He came back into the trailer, fired up the Husqvarna and began dissecting the remains to fit into the bags. After they were filled and loaded into the back of the truck, the tarp was tied down and Jack went back into the trailer with a bucket of sponges, a bottle of bleach and mop in hand to sop up the remains.

Jack got in the truck with the familiar pop and creak of the door while Frank walked over to the passenger side. Jack’s thoughts drifted to the old hunting cabin where he and the other fellows would sometimes go to get away from the world but unlike the many times before, this trip was filled with silence because nobody had something to say.

Jack followed the twisted path to the cabin and the bags of body parts were unloaded just inside the kitchen door. There was a collection of pots and pans there from the past and three of the largest were set on top of the stove. Jack began packing the body parts inside and poured enough salt over the meat to give it a pinkish hue after absorbing some of the blood.

Jack found himself staring at the meat and contemplated the irony of pouring salt in the wounds when he heard Frank call from behind him. “I’m going to see if anything is on TV for us to watch but I’ll be right here if you need me.” The reception in the cabin was always terrible with the old box having a pair of rabbit ears setting on top of it but the rain seemed to help with the picture and sometimes gave them a choice of two or even three channels instead of the usual one.

The red water began to boil and gave way to a brown broth as the aroma filled the cabin being similar to any beef stew or pot roast. Jack instinctively thought of chopping up some carrots, potatoes and onions to go with it but the cabin didn’t have any groceries to speak of and the nearest store was miles away.

Jack sat down on the couch and relaxed while watching an old Andy Griffith marathon. He thought about the town of Mayberry and how simple their lives were; how even their biggest problems could be resolved in less than half an hour and wished that the real world was so easily handled.

Jack got up to check the meat occasionally and when it was fork tender, he emptied the pots into the two large stainless steel sinks to cool. All of the bones, skull fragments, hair curlers and pieces of hair locked within slid away easily and Jack placed the leftovers back into one of the garbage bags before heading outside. The rain had stopped and the ground was drying out with the morning sun on the horizon. “Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day” Jack said while tossing the bag of bones into an old steel drum burned black with ash and riddled with rust after years of exposure to the elements. He flipped the cap open on the can of lighter fluid and doused the remains before striking a match and dropping it on top of them. There was a whoosh of fire followed by a black mushroom cloud and then swirls of smoke as the smell was carried along the air like any barbecue cookout.

Jack turned to find a pack of stray dogs approaching; mangy mutts with their ribcages showing. He crouched before them and held his hand out. Two of the dogs stood back but the third approached with some caution allowing Jack to reach out and rub its head. The other two soon followed the alpha’s lead and Jack had his hands full as each vied for his affection. In a soft voice, he told them “You guys hungry? Wait right here. I have a treat for you.”

Jack rushed back in the house and blurted “I have a great idea” but knew that it had fallen on deaf ears when he realized that Frank was fast asleep. Jack scooped the meat out of the sinks and dropped it back into the largest pot before carrying it back outside. The three dogs were still there waiting with their tongues hanging out and tails wagging. Jack took a seat on the steps with the pot at his feet and began pulling out pieces of meat and tossing it to the starved animals. “Good boys! Eat it up now!” The dogs choked their freshly prepared meal down, barely chewing and kept coming back for more until there was nothing left but the heart and a bit of broth that had gathered in the bottom of the pot. Jack tried to tear the organ into bite size pieces but it was as hard and rigid as ever so he pulled the knife from his pocket and began cutting it into slices taking pleasure in knowing that his wife would soon be the piece of shit that she had constantly accused him of being. Soon there was nothing left but three very well fed dogs that hung around while Jack checked on the burning barrel.

The bones had dried, burned black and become brittle from the flame just as Jack had wanted. He picked up one of the smaller pieces and applied pressure until it shattered in his hands. “Perfect” he thought while turning his attention to the wood chipper. Jack grabbed the barrel with both hands and dragged it across the yard before lifting it to the chipper’s feed tray and dumping the bones down the shaft. He then covered the exit spout with the tarp to catch the flying fragments and prepared to start the engine. “This is going to make a terrible racket” he said having only the dogs as company. The alpha tilted his head with that inquisitive look that dogs get sometimes when spoken to but all three quickly scurried off as soon as he flipped the switch.

Jack was surprised that Frank didn’t come out to help but knew that it had been a long night and decided to let him sleep. He could finish the job by himself and was just grateful to have Frank’s friendship. Through everything, Frank was the only one of his friends that had always been there for him.

The chipper finished the job and Jack loaded the bone filled tarp into the small bass boat that they fished from before taking it out to the center of the lake and scattering the tiny broken blackened fragments across the water’s surface.

Clean up was simple and the drive home much like the drive to the cabin was quiet with the exception of a new storm approaching and the sound of thunder somewhere in the distance. The skies darkened as Jack got closer to his home and the rain began to fall again even harder than it had before.

“Have you figured out what you’re going to tell everyone yet?” Frank asked.

“No not yet. Do you have any ideas Frank?”

The lightning flashed and the thunder crashed as Jack turned to face his friend only to find his father’s wrench sitting on the seat beside him. His trailer stood before him and Jack released his grip on the steering wheel.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now that you’ve read the story, how many clues did you pick up on? Did you notice that the squeal of the brakes ended with the squeal of one final break? That was Jack’s mental break, not the truck. Did you notice that when Jack got back in the truck, his door popped and creaked but there was no mention of Frank’s door making any noise or his actually getting in the truck? Do you realize why Frank was the only one of Jack’s friends that was always there for him? It’s because Frank doesn’t exist. He never has except in Jack’s mind and he was created and given the name “Frank” as the direct honest voice of reason. When Frank didn’t respond or come outside, it was because Jack was acting without the ability to reason. Did you notice that the ride to the cabin was quiet because “nobody had something to say.” It would have been more appropriate to write that “nobody had anything to say” but it was a play on words because Jack was the only one in the truck and any conversation he shared with Frank was all in his mind and didn’t involve a physical body; just thoughts of a fractured personality. Did you notice that Jack gave Frank all the orders but Frank never carried them out? Jack asked Frank to grab some garbage bags but I never wrote that Frank did as he was asked. How about when Jack heard Frank from behind him saying that he was going to watch some television. That was Jack’s subconscious in the back of his mind telling him to find something else to occupy his mind besides watch his wife’s remains boil in the pot. The television picking up more than one channel was also representative of Jack’s fractured personality. How about Jack dragging a steel drum across the yard after it had just been burning for a while? I never mentioned gloves and that drum would have been too hot to handle. Was Jack oblivious to the pain because he had been through so much already or was there no pain because there was no drum? Was the storm real or a perception of Jack’s view of the world? Did you notice it got worse the closer he got to home? And what about the wrench on the seat? Did it trigger the murder of Jack’s wife or did it trigger how he imagined it would happen? If it was the latter, then he never got out of the car after repairing the elderly woman’s pipe and the entire scenario was just a figment of his imagination. I posted a lot of clues but I really wanted the reader to decide the truth of the matter and tried to write the story to work on multiple levels with numerous breaking points as Jack’s psyche became more fractured.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

And now we come to that little something extra I mentioned. When I first started this blog, I had no interest in social websites such as Facebook or Twitter. But since that time, I have created an account with both of them.

Here is a link to my personal Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008281607078

I would greatly appreciate your friendship. If you want to contact me, I will reply and if you want to share my story with your friends that would also be greatly appreciated.

Here is my Theatre of Pain / Nonstop to Nowhere Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-of-Pain/490024797797906

And here is my Theatre of Pain Twitter page: https://twitter.com/TheatreofPain69

I mostly use it to post my blog entries but sometimes comment with other Twitter users.

And finally I think it’s time for all of you to know me by something other than a Theatre of Pain. My real name is James and I thank all of you for reading my life story on the road thus far as we travel together on a nonstop to nowhere.

Wrecking Ball — My Hunt for More Architectural Work

Wrecking Ball JPG

Well I’ve been convicted with and without reason
Tarred and feathered like a piper on a killing spree
And felt the anger of generations
And been the target for the cheap shots of authority

So you think you cut me down to size
Well there’s something you should realize
It’s gonna take more than a break in the wall
To make me smile pretty for the wrecking ball

Won’t beg, won’t bleed
The end of sacrifice is a threat to society
Hard line, you’ll see
Once you’ve made your mark, you’ve made a threat to society
Skid Row, “The Threat”

After being suddenly cut loose from our positions at the architectural firm, both Brad and I immediately began searching for a new place of employment. I updated my resume and drove to numerous firms in order to meet with the partners that knew my work but made very little progress as I found one closed door after another.

The first architectural firm that offered me a position was looking for a manual drafter. I had the skills to fill the position but I detested manual drafting finding it to be extremely slow and inefficient when compared to computer drafting. And even if I did want the position, my visual restrictions would have limited my ability to produce quality work and most likely have gotten me fired from that company too. So I turned down the position and continued my search.

Brad called me one day and told me of a firm that was hiring. He had an interview with them and suggested that I speak with them as well with the hope that the two of us could continue working together as a team. I immediately contacted the firm to set up a meeting and was asked to come in a few hours before Brad’s own meeting with the partners. The new company had no love for the other firm that I had worked for previously and made that very clear as they offered me the chance to work with them. They offered me better pay and more benefits but there was one major problem in that the company only had one position available. I knew that if I accepted their offer, all other applicants including Brad, one of my closest friends and the only real reason I was there, would never get his chance to speak with the partners.

I wanted the position very badly but I had come to appreciate the value of true friendship after my ordeal with the beautiful people and no job was worth risking that. I confessed my dilemma to the three men at the table hoping that they would make an exception and hire both of us. Instead I was told, “We wish we could but we really do only have the one position.” They added that they would really like for me to become a part of their family but I turned the position down and recommended they hire Brad instead before detailing the finer points of his own work ethic. The men were disappointed by my answer but told me that my loyalty as a friend was admirable, wished me the best and sent me on my way.

I called Brad afterward and told him how the interview went, what questions were asked and what to expect when he went in. I did not tell him that I was offered the job however because I didn’t want him to know the truth. I instead told him that they would call after all of the interviews were completed. He went in just as I had and was offered the job on the spot just as I had been and accepted it while I continued searching.

I thought with all of the architectural, computer and office experience I had, something would open up but after a long trail of closed doors, I fell back to temporary work. I was working with six different temporary agencies simultaneously with each one having my resume on file and the knowledge that I was specifically interested in architectural design but willing to consider other white collar positions. Still they kept offering me the same manual labor bullshit that required little to no thinking whatsoever. It got to the point that I dreaded receiving phone calls from any of them.

But then I received a call from one of the agencies saying that a company in one of the neighboring towns had seen my resume and they were interested in hiring me for a management position. I agreed and the agency set up the interview where I found two other men sitting at the table. We each made our initial greetings and got down to the business at hand. I remember one of the first questions asked of me involved my knowledge of Trigonometry. The man wanted to know if I was comfortable with that level of math and I responded without pause, “Absolutely.” I was more than comfortable, I was confident in my mathematical abilities fully comprehending the intricate formulas used in everything from Algebra to Calculus; so much so that I would instinctively know which formula was needed to solve most mathematical problems and begin writing the formula based on the answer I was searching for.

The men were impressed by my response and the interview seemed to be going very well as the three of us discussed my future with the company as equals, seeming more as newfound friends that discussed the position in an extremely relaxed manner. But then the conversation took a turn for the worse when one of the men inquired about my wanting office work after reading my cover page. I confirmed that he was correct and they told me that I wasn’t interviewing for an office position but a warehouse position in which I would spend much of my time driving inventory from one location to the next in the company van.

The mood shifted and a newfound tension filled the air. I grew agitated and voiced my frustrations against the temporary agency. All of the companies had my resume on file for over a month and still failed to read what a potential employer found in less than half an hour. To make matters even worse, I had been lied to and tricked into coming into the temporary agency for an interview in hopes of acquiring something that never existed. I stood up from the table, apologized for the agency wasting all of our time, shook their hands and excused myself from the room. I continued to voice my displeasure as I spoke with the agency’s Office Manager and told her that I should have her job since her primary function seemed to be misrepresentation and that she had proven incapable of performing the duties required of her title. She apologized repeatedly and insisted that her company could still find me an office position if given the chance but I had given them plenty of chances and told her to take my information off the record because I was done associating with them.

I felt that I was better than that, better than what was being offered and that something better would come along but once again, I was wrong. After exhausting all other options, I swallowed my pride and went to work as a warehouse supervisor where I controlled a group of Mexican immigrants that only seemed to speak English on payday. There were still some good people in the warehouse however and I most certainly didn’t have to worry about any office politics but I often wished that I had accepted the job offer in the temporary office that day realizing that I had turned down the chance to be a glorified delivery driver only to become a glorified babysitter. It was a decision that haunted me nearly every day that I worked in that warehouse but I was about to face an even greater challenge that would come from the last place I would ever expect… home.

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