Purple Rain

Yesterday, Prince passed away, completely surprising and saddening anyone who’s listened to the radio over the last 30 plus years. Celebrities – actors, musicians, comedians, and the like – pass away all the time. They are, after all, human. And usually I’ll look at an obituary, think damn, that sucks, and move on. Honestly, I didn’t know those people. I appreciated their work, but we didn’t have a personal connection.

Not that I had a personal connection to Prince. I wish. But his death gave me serious pause because I felt like I did.

I had an odd childhood. Most people that know me know my mother was a junkie and an alcoholic. She died at thirty-six years old from cirrhosis of the liver. I guess that happens when you prefer Milwaukee’s Best to Folgers. And the childhood I had, with her, is what you’d imagine watching a junkie go downhill. Think needles in the arms, shady drug deals, violence – all the crap you see in the movies and multiply that by a thousand. I’m not asking for sympathy, I’m just telling you where I’m coming from.

Despite her drug addictions, my mother was a pretty interesting person. She spoke five different languages. She was a nurse, and a damn good one from what I remember, until the drugs took her away. But above all else, she had a great appreciation for music. I probably could have fallen into the small North Texas town mode of only country (not that there’s anything wrong with that). My grandparents, who mostly raised me, would never have listened to the kind of music that mom did. My mother just loved music. And fortunately for me, she loved good music.

Earth Wind and Fire, the Commodores, Jimi Hendrix… there were many. But I’m not sure any of it really stuck with me until Prince.

I’d heard 1999 and a few earlier of his works, but never really thought, holy crap, this is good, until I heard Purple Rain. And then I was blown away. I had the cassette long before I ever saw the movie and, even back then, I listened to it all the time. It’s one of those rare albums that every single song on it is good.

And then I saw the movie.

It was actually sort of funny how it worked out. About the time it came out on VHS was about the same time we had a video store in Breckenridge, Texas. I remember they even rented laser discs. Mom had a copy of Easy Rider and went and rented Purple Rain. She returned Easy Rider in the box. Weird that it never came up, but that’s how mom rolled.

I cannot tell you how many times I watched that VHS tape. I’m pretty sure I wore it smooth out. I related to Prince, in the movie Purple Rain. Not because I was the child or mixed parents, or I was a budding singer, or anything like that. Because in that story, he grew up in a shitty home. His parents sucked, succumbing to alcohol and drugs. I saw myself in those situations. You’d be surprised how violent a ninety-pound woman can be. Put the movie with the album and I was hooked. Though we came from completely different worlds, Prince and I had things in common.

Move forward 30 years. I don’t listen to music all the time. Not like a lot of people do. My wife gets annoyed with me because I’ll drive long stretches in silence. She doesn’t know I’m watching movies in my head. But there is an exception. Three, four times a week I listen to the Purple Rain album, all the way through. It’s one of my go to records in those times I do need something to listen to. I’ve long said it was one of my favorite ever.

I wasn’t expecting Prince to pass away. I don’t know that anyone was. He was, without a doubt, one of the most talented musicians we will ever have the privilege of listening to. I can only hope that the rumor of some 2000 unreleased tracks is true. There will always be talented musicians, but there will never be another Prince. Dude was just an inspiration.

I’m going to keep trying to see the world through lenses of Purple.


Marriage is Like a Cast Iron Skillet

The wedding of my second oldest son, Jeremiah Burks, to the love of his life, Kristi Board, was interesting to me for more than just the obvious reason that two of the finest human beings I have the pleasure of knowing getting hitched.

It was a serious melting pot. My eldest children come from a racially mixed background. Along with many other members of their family, they are part Hispanic and part Caucasian. My new daughter-in-law’s family is the same, though instead of Hispanic, they are mixed Filipino.  There were something like 200 people at the wedding, many of mixed racial backgrounds. I have no clue how many different religions were represented. It was awesome and, to me, exactly what the American Melting Pot is all about. One big happy family that now I have the absolute honor of calling my own.

I just seriously enjoyed this wedding. I’m a sucker for them anyway.

The day before the wedding my son let me know that I was to make a toast at the reception. I wasn’t exactly prepared. But what I had done was written them a note with the gift I’d bought them. See, I’m not really good at gift giving. I’m the guy that bought the wonderful Lulu dishes for her birthday. Fellas, unless they ask for them, don’t buy dishes for your significant other for their birthday. So I wanted to do something special and maybe lose the title of worst gift giver in the world.

So I got the kiddos an iron skillet.

Not just any iron skillet. As far as I can tell, it was made sometime in the 40s. It was made during the time my grandfather and his brothers joined the Army after Pearl Harbor. It was around turning the 60s and I can imagine a hippie somewhere cooking on it as Janis Joplin played in the background. It was around during the 70s, when I was born. It was here for the fall of the Berlin Wall and so on and so forth. Imagine how much history that old iron skillet saw. If only it could talk and tell stories of the family dinners it was around for over those many decades. It was absolutely pristine, one of the finest I’ve ever seen.

But I didn’t just want to give them an iron skillet (as cool as I thought that was). So I wrote them a little note which is below. It’s what I ended up reading for their toast.

Marriage is a lot like a cast iron skillet.

A cast iron skillet starts life as a cold, formless chunk of iron. It’s inconsequential and useless until forged. You also started life, before your love, as a formless nothing, a nothing waiting for the opportunity to be formed into something stronger. But like a cast iron skillet that is forged in the hottest fires and tempered with the hardest hammers, your love is born of blazing passion.

But like a cast iron skillet, that love and passion has to be prepared and maintained in order to last a lifetime. You can’t just get married and stay married. You have to work on that marriage.

  • A cast iron skillet is a commitment from the get go. It’s a different way of not just cooking, but even washing dishes. You have to love the cast iron in order to put forth the extra effort. Same with a marriage. You’re either committed or you’re done.
  • A cast iron skillet needs to be seasoned before you use it. You have to treat the metal in order to make a cooking surface that will last generations. A marriage is the same way. You can’t go in without being ready.
  • A cast iron skillet is capable of cooking anything you can imagine. From steaks to eggs to vegetable dishes, it’s very versatile. Your marriage will have to be the same way. You have to adapt to the changes that will, inevitably, come with time.
  • A cast iron skillet will be enjoyed by not just you, but your friends, and family. A marriage is the exact same. You’re not just marrying each other, you’re joining two families together with all the good and bad that comes with it.
  • Never leave a cast iron skillet dirty overnight. You don’t want your scrambled eggs tasting like yesterday’s gravy. Same in marriage. Never go to bed angry or, not only will you not sleep well, you’ll wake up in a foul mood tasting like yesterday’s argument.
  • A cast iron skillet can rust. You must clean that rust and re-season it or it will envelope your entire skillet. Same with a marriage. Occasionally cracks will form that, if you don’t address them, those issues will spread. Talk about those problems. It’s the only way.
  • Even a rusted cast iron skillet, left out in the barn for a hundred years, is salvageable. With enough work and elbow grease you can save what others would think was only scrap iron. Your marriage is the same. You can survive anything.
  • Worse case scenario, a cast iron makes a hell of a weapon.

Anyway, it was a great wedding and the world is now a better place with Kristi and Jeremiah as husband and wife. Can’t wait for more weddings and I’ve I’m already contemplating starting a betting pool in anticipation of Grandkids.



Elite Jeeps Project Homeless 2015

Jeeps are fun. There is no doubt. You can go places and see things you just wouldn’t unless you get off the highway. But that’s really only secondary to me to the whole Jeep thing. The more important thing, to me, is the people. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better community of people to spend your time around.

This last weekend I had the absolute honor of participating in Elite Jeep’s Project Homeless 2015. For months Cris and Reg Valerius, owners of Obsolete and Classic Auto Parts in Oklahoma City, and founders of Elite Jeeps, along with Tracy K Neely of Western Oklahoma Jeepers and Neely-Fuller Photography , have been spearheading the gathering of donations and supplies for the event. They put in countless hours of effort into this event and it showed.

The event began as a very personal affair for Chris and Reg. An old friend of their’s had, at one point, fallen into homelessness and they did what they could to help their friend. He lived with them for a time and, for one Christmas, Chris made him a blanket – one of those simple felt, tied at the edges sort of things. It wasn’t huge deal, just a homemade gift from a friend, but the simple act resonated with their friend and the man carried that blanket with him everywhere for the rest of his life. He did not sleep with out it and it was his prized possession, so much so that on his passing, his sister posted pictures on Facebook asking where it had come from. The blanket’s significance to the man had resonated with his whole family.

Sometimes its the very smallest things in life that mean the most.

Countless others helped with preparations and I’m ashamed that I didn’t get a full list of participants to acknowledge here. Donations from dozens of people equaling  I have no idea how many actual items poured in. It was a lot. The Valerius’ were also kind enough to also allow the use of their business as we gathered to put together these backpacks. I think we ended up with something like 200 backpacks that had blankets, gloves, socks, ear muffs, toiletry supplies, and food among other things in them.

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Afterwards we caravanned Jeep style to downtown Oklahoma City and began handing out backpacks.


We ended up staging at a couple of different locations. The backpacks didn’t last long. At all. It’s sad to see in our great nation such a need, but there is that need. There were lots of smiles. And I think we probably learned a couple things for the next time we do this. More socks, less food as it were. Apparently you can’t take food into the shelters. Maybe next time I’ll make a giant pot of gumbo and we’ll just eat right there.

Photo Credits – Reg Valerius, Denny Balsano, and Tracy K Neely and Elizabeth Kay Fuller of Neely-Fuller Photography.


Conned into shopping (and date night)

I hate shopping. I hate shopping even more during the holidays. If God had wanted me to go to the mall, he would not have invented Amazon (which, by the way, is the third greatest of his inventions. First there came the air conditioning, and all was cool. Then came the Hurts Donuts, and all was good. And third came the Amazon, and all was perfect).

But I love donuts. I especially love Hurts Donuts in Norman, OK. I mean, love to the point that I have a t-shirt that lets me get an extra donut. So when the ever lovely Lulu Burks says let’s go to Hurts, I’m not going to turn her down, right? Who is going to turn down a Jeep ride to the best donut shop on the planet? We haven’t had donuts in weeks. I need these damn donuts. We get all dolled up (read: donning the t-shirts) and take off.


We are not even close to Hurts when I realize the horrible, horrible mistake I’ve made. Before we go to Hurts, says the wonderful Lulu, we need to stop at the mall.

The mall… the den of consumerism horrors that even consumers are abandoning in record droves. See, the second oldest of the Burks 4.2 models is getting married this month and it seems the Lulu needs a dress. The dress, it turned out, was the easy part.

It was the shoes… the shoes that took five damn stops.


No… no donuts here.


Who the hell wears this stuff? Seriously? That’s a shoe? It looks more like two pieces of sparkly faux leather stapled to a piece of cardboard.


Damn people and their damn Santa’s. Standing in line without donuts… Hey Santa, you fat bastard. All I want for Christmas is a damn donut. You hear me? A DONUT!


Grumpy John is Hungrier.


Finally, wedding shoes were found and victory was achieved. I forget which of the shoes stores actually had what the wonderful and gracious Lulu was actually looking for, but thank you, unnamed shoe store. And to the little gal who checked us out – thank you for that knowing look we shared. Thank you for understanding the absolute victory you helped achieve as you rang my wife up. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I should have bought you donuts.

The night was not a shopping disaster. First, I did get Fuzzy’s Tacos. I love Fuzzy’s Tacos.


And of course, there was the reason for the t-shirts, the greatest Donut Shop on the face of the planet. If you haven’t had Hurts you haven’t lived and I feel for you. I really do.


**The ever lovely and beautiful Lulu claims she told me well in advance of the trip that we were, in fact, going to the mall. She might very well be correct. Perhaps my brain pre-hid the memories because of the potential trauma involved.



The Dream Thieves

.Cover Large

A slower apocalypse…

Music, movies, games – anything is available to pirate on the Internet. But in the future, downloading and trading memories changes all that. Why download a recording of Jumping Jack Flash when you have a chance to download a memory of actually seeing the Rolling Stones live? Trading your own memories for better ones comes at a price, though. You must upload two memories in order to download one from the Soul 2 Soul Net and once uploaded, your memories are gone forever.

The world descends into ambivalence and begins to grind to a slow death as the vast majority of people spend their lives plugged into the S2S Net, hoping to download that one great memory that will make them happy. The idea of wealth shifts from those who have money and power to those who have a wide range of experiences and memory. And it’s entirely possible to trade away enough memories to become a zombie, a mindless biological vessel. It’s even possible to trade away the memory of how to breathe.

James Knight is a private investigator in a world that no longer needs them. He spends his days locked in his apartment, taking care of his wife Lydia, an S2S addict who has traded enough memories away that she no longer remembers his name, much less her own. He helplessly watches her slowly die as she chases memories of the a daughter they never had, a girl who’s torture is the most commonly downloaded memory on the Net.

When a mysterious client wants to hire him track down the same girl his wife is downloading memories of, a course of events is set in motion that will make him question not only his own identity, but the very idea of what makes a person.

Are you the sum total of your memories or are you the biological vessel you were born into? If your memories are copied to another person, is that person also you? James struggles with these questions even as powerful forces gather against him, forces that will stop at nothing to end his mission to find the Girl.


A bit of a tease

Work is progressing on the second book of Two Moon Dawn – Our Lady of Pain. I hope to have the first draft done sometime early next month.

Here’s the first bits:



In the Beginning There Was Pain


One Week After Worm Fall


Chessney shivered in the slushy black ice, hiding under the Tahoe that had been her and her mother’s home since the world ended. She was petrified as she watched the wolf things chase the young woman, boy, and soldier through the startled survivors that had come to call the Sydney Sherman Bridge over the Houston Ship Channel home.

Not that every single moment since Worm Fall hadn’t been terrifying. Even before getting caught on the bridge over the Ship Channel, trying to flee Houston, Texas to the south and the sea, her father had driven her family to the brink out of panic and fear. Though he’d been sure it would a nuclear attack by the commies or plague sweeping the land, the prospect of a comet slamming into the planet had not been off her father’s radar. In his drunker times he’d even go on about aliens invading. Her father was convinced the world was coming to get them and Worm Fall had only proven him right.

She stood at the bridge’s railing, holding her parent’s hand, listening as hundreds of ICBMs slammed into AGT-1475. She was nineteen and had been, until a few weeks before, been confident she was going to finally be able to escape her father. She was grown woman, free to flee as she saw fit. That was supposed to be how it worked, right? She simply hadn’t run away before because she hadn’t wanted to leave her mother. She’d endure her father’s late night gropings if for no other reason that, if she resisted, her mother would suffer. He’d been quite clear about that. It had been going on so long she was almost used to it.

But when the scientists spotted AGT-1475. Her father no longer hid his evil acts. He’d become convinced that, with the end of the world, he’d be able to do whatever he wanted. He wouldn’t have to hide his love for her anymore, he told her with a malicious grin.

Chessney shivered, hoping the comet, more commonly called Worm Wood, would take her away. Or, if nothing else, take her father away.

Trapped along with hundreds of other people on the bridge, they’d watched as the nations of the world launched a salvo of nuclear missiles at the comet, hoping to break it up in orbit. Her father was drunk, learning at her.

“It’s almost time, baby girl. You know what this means, right? Just me and you, baby girl. Hell, maybe we’ll even get rid of your mom. Bitch talks too much anyway.”

Chessney shook with fear, more of her father than the display of lights in the sky. As always, her mother tried to console her.

“Don’t look at the explosions,” her mother whispered. “Don’t watch them.”


“Just don’t. It might be bad for your eyes.”

Chessney glanced at her father, standing at the guard rail with a beer in his hand, hooting and hollering, cheering on the nuclear strikes as if he were watching a Sunday football game. Then she screwed her eyes shut, refusing to look as the missiles slammed into the celestial body. And then, after the explosions, a part of the comet had peeled off and they watched as it plunged into the Gulf of Mexico.

Moments later people began to scream, including her father.

“My eyes… what happened to my fucking eyes?”

Chessney risked a glance at her father. His eyes had melted in their sockets, a gooey mess running down his cheek. Those who’d watched the nuclear fireworks in low earth orbit had lost their sight. She almost giggled, watching her father probe hollow sockets with his fingers. He reached out for her and she stepped back, pulling her mother with her.

“The water will come,” her mother whispered, unable to take her eyes off her father as he called out for them. “It might have been a good thing we got stuck on this bridge.”

“Should we push him over?” Chessney asked, excited for the first time she could remember.

“No,” her mother said sadly after an awkwardly long pause. “We have to help him. At least for now.”

And the water came. The bridge held, though. For the first time in weeks Chessney thought they might make it. There was a palatable sense of relief among the survivors of the bridge. As they watched the Houston Ship Channel fill with water, pushing semi trucks and even ships north, the survivors on the bridge felt like they might actually make it. The black water, filled with bodies and death, kept surging north and kept rising until it lapped the bottom of the bridge. Chessney looked down and into the gray eyes of the already bloating bodies surging with the water. So many people… so much death.

One of the corpses, a small girl, opened her eyes and stared at her for a moment. Chessney wasn’t sure if it was real or not.

Then there were the gunshots.

“Who’s shooting? Baby girl, why won’t you help daddy?” Her father pleaded. “Please help me.”

She wasn’t sure what to think of Bawker, that first time she laid eyes on him. He was a handsome man, in a rough, bad boy sort of way. But he had a look of evil about him that glowed like a neon sign in a smoke filled bar.

“What the fuck do we have here,” the man asked and his thugs laughed. “Another fucking melter. He, bud, why the hell would you look at that thing anyway? Didn’t anyone tell you it would be bad for your eyes?”

“You have to help me, mister,” her father begged, turning to Bawker’s voice. “My fucking wife and daughter ran off and left me. Ungrateful bitches. When I find them I’m going to teach them a lesson or two. I’m sure you understand. You can help me, can’t you?”

Bawker laughed. “Jesus, man, they are standing right behind you. What the fuck kind of husband and father are you if your family doesn’t even want to help you?”

Chessney cringed, shaking her head no, pleading with her eyes. Please don’t tell him we’re here.

“Chessney? Baby? Help me.” Her father’s voice was distant and hollow with sudden realization.

Her father reached out for her and Chessney stepped even further back. Bawker laughed.

“Yeah, right. They’re going to help you, partner. Any day now.”

Her father stammered, shuffling around in a circle, reaching out for her. It was the first time she could remember seeing him afraid. He was never afraid.

“I’ll give them to you,” he finally said, turning back to the direction of Bawker’s voice. “I’ll give you both of the sluts. The young one is a fine ass fuck, man. There isn’t any better. You can have them. Just help me.”

Bawker burst out in laughter once more. “Holy shit, man. No wonder they don’t want anything to do with you. Shit, what kind of father are you?”

“I’m serious. The little one can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch. She’s your’s, man. You want a pretty young thing, don’t you? Just help me out here.”

A shot rang out and Chessney watched the man who’d abused her for the last ten years fly backwards, the back of his head blown out.

“Man, that guy was annoying, right?”

Chessney stared in shock. Her mother began to whimper.

“So was he right? You suck a mean cock?”

Chessney didn’t answer.

“You’re a pretty sweet looking thing. You can stay if you’re going to play nice with the boys here,” he said, pointing to the gang of thugs behind him. “Hell, we’ll even let mom stay. I’m sure someone like old stuff.”

Chessney began to cry along with her mother.

“Shh,” her mother had whispered. “It will be all right. We just have to take care of these men and…”

Her mother really didn’t need to elaborate. Chessney was only nineteen, but she knew exactly what they were going to have to do in order to survive in the new town called Bridgetown. Her father had, if nothing else, taught her that. She didn’t have to tell her what the leering men wanted from her. She looked back at the faces in the water and hung her head low.

The next week was horrifying. She’d been passed between Bawker’s thugs like a bag of candy. Even what little time she’d spent sleeping in the days since Worm Fall had been filled with dreams of death. Every waking second, under the hard glare of Bawker’s guards, was terrifying. But nothing matched the abject sense of dread she felt as she watched the wolf things tear through the residents of the newly christened Bridgetown, racing after the odd trio who’d come in, guns blazing.

“Stay down,” her mother ordered. Chessney heard her, heard the fear in her voice.

There was something about the girl racing out in front of the wolves. Energy emanated from her body, power surging like lightning. She watched those blue streaks of energy reach and strike the wolves, sending them scattering. There was a power there and the girl ran like a beacon through a snow storm.

“She can help us,” Chessney said, crawling forward in a haze. “She can save us mother.”

“Chessney, no!”

She wasn’t entirely sure what she was doing. She was drawn to the girl and fighting the surging sensation was impossible. The girl represented something powerful and good. She was hope.

She didn’t see the wolf leap over the broken cars to her right. She barely heard her mother scream as she was drug out from underneath the car. Chessney finally turned and watched as the man shaped wolf snapped her mother’s neck in two. The head rolled forward, listlessly staring at her with dead eyes.

“No,” she said with as much energy as she could muster, which wasn’t much, and stepped towards the wolf in order to confront it. It swiped out at her, claws raking across her breasts, ripping cloth and flesh. She stumbled backwards, staring at the wounds and her blood running down into the black snow.


She turned once more to see the strange girl fighting the wolves with short, silver swords and bolts of blue lightning. Chessney watched in slow motion as one of those bolts arched out, towards the wolf that had killed her mother, and struck her instead. She was flung backwards and slammed into the Tahoe. She felt something snap in her neck and watched, wide-eyed, as a bolt of energy from the odd girl streaked towards her instead. The energy slammed into her, sending shots of electricity quivering through her body. She fell forward, to the icy asphalt, her eyes locked with those of her dead mother’s.


Chessney drifted in and out of consciousness, surprised that she still lived long after the werewolves had moved on from Bridgetown.

She had no idea how much time had passed. Days, weeks… it didn’t matter. The skies filled with black clouds, blotting out not only the sun but her sense of time. The only thing that mattered was the pain and the only thing that kept her warm was her growing hatred for the witch who’d left her behind to die like Bawker’s scum.

The awe she felt at the fact that there were real werewolves in the world was only dulled by the sheer amount of pain that arched through her body. Everything hurt. Her body burned with a fever unlike any she’d ever had and had she been lucid, she might have noticed the ice melting away from her body as she lay on the pavement, staring at her mother’s head.

“I’m sorry, mom,” she managed.

In those few times she did manage to wake, she listened to the sounds of distant battle. War was raging to her west, towards downtown, and she fleetingly wondered if it was the trio that had rushed through Bridgetown, bringing the wolves with them.

She’d reached out to the girl for help and instead, the girl had struck her down. What a bitch, she thought. The witch with blue lightning had led the wolves into their camp in the first place. Granted, it wasn’t the best place to live, but they had survived. And the girl… the witch, had destroyed that. She’d brought the wolves which had killed her mother. The girl with the blue glowing energy was what was wrong with the world. In an instant she’d become a single focal point for Chessney’s dying hatred.

“Hello?” someone to her left muttered and, despite the agonizing pain it entailed, she managed to look that direction. A man in the tattered remains of an Army uniform trudged through ice covered Bridgetown. His skin was pale, his cheeks gaunt with apparent starvation. His uniform was torn in wide swaths about him, hanging like rags. Chessney could see his blackish skin beneath, a canvas of wounds he’d received since Worm Fall. A large portion of his neck was just missing, but there was no blood spurting out. Even in her state of pain Chessney knew that the man should not be walking, much lest talking. He was dead, yet another of the abominations crawling out of the shadows since Worm Fall. She should be afraid, she knew, but she wasn’t. There wasn’t any point. She was as dead as he was.

“Is anyone here? Please… please someone talk to me. It hurts… I need help.”

Chessney could barely talk, barely move. But she watched as the the soldier limped towards her. She felt each of his steps, each agonizing strike of the his dead flesh on ice covered pavement. She saw the creature’s pain like an aura about it, hazy golden energy lashing out with each movement. The energy ebbed towards her, seeking her out. And with each surge of his pain she felt… stronger?

“Hey,” she managed, the dead man’s pain coursing through her like an opiate. It tasted good. “Come here.”

The soldier managed to look at her. “Hello? You’re… you’re not afraid of me? All the others ran from me. I saw so many people walking down and they all ran away. I didn’t mean to hurt the ones that got close. I was just hungry. Can you help me?” He paused, looking at her for a moment. “I don’t think you an help me, not with your neck all messed up like that.”

She could taste his pain, feel it as if it were her own. His pain drowned out her own, resulting in something more than ecstasy. The closer he got, the more she felt drunk with his agony.

“That’s right,” she whispered, unsure of what to make of the sensation but not caring enough to worry about it. Whatever was going on was helping her. “Keep coming.”

“I saw him, you know.”

“Saw who?” Less talk, she thought, more feeding me.

“The President. He did this,” the thing said, pointing to its neck. “I didn’t vote for him, but I didn’t mind him. He wasn’t a bad guy. Or, well, I guess he was a bad guy. I mean, he was a really bad guy. The worst kind of guy. A vampire. He’s a vampire.”

The dead thing was obviously a raving lunatic, on top of everything else, yet she didn’t want it to flee. The golden tendrils of energy leapt out between them and each strike was pure erotica.

“Where did you see the President?” she asked, her words gaining strength with each of the man’s steps.

“Colorado,” the thing muttered. Its head darted side to side and with each step it twitched. “They sent us to dig him out. I knew we shouldn’t have left Minot. We marched down from North Dakota after… after it all went to shit. Big mistake. Big, big mistake.”

Chessney had no idea what the thing was talking about, but she didn’t care. “He hurt you.”

“He hurt us all. But I got away when Sergeant Rodriguez shot him in the face. It didn’t hurt him, see, but he went after Sarge instead of me. There was so much blood… do you think it was wrong for me to run? I should go back, right? I should go see if the others are still there.”

Colorado. The thing had walked a long way.

“No,” Chessney said softly, almost maternally. “You had no choice. You had to run.”

“But the blood…”

“What about the blood?”

“It calls to me. I smell it everywhere here. That’s why I came. I… I need it. But your blood… there’s something wrong with it. It doesn’t smell right. Are you like me?”

The thing was dead. It didn’t need anything as far as Chessney was concerned. But she needed it.

“Come to me. Let me take that pain from you.”

The dead soldier finally crossed the twenty feet between them and collapsed in front of her. She felt good enough as the golden energy of its pain lapped at her body, that she reached out and touched his face. The transfer of pain and ecstasy, at that point, was unimaginable. The dead thing quivered at her touch and golden energy rippled around her hand on his forehead. She felt her spine begin to mend in a frenzy of bone on bone grinding. The lacerations on her chest, from the claws of the werewolf, stitched themselves together, the flesh searing together with flame like intensity. She got to her knees, never letting go of the thing’s head, and watched as its face shriveled and aged before her eyes. In another time she might be horrified at the sight, sickened as the man screamed for her to stop. No he was her lifeblood, filling her with not just energy, but unimaginable power.

“What are you doing to me?” the man managed to croak. His lips peeled back, revealing blackened fangs jutting out. “What are you?”

“I don’t know,” Chessney admitted, quivering with the energy flowing through her body. “But I could ask the same of you. Worm Fall brought us all out of the closet, right?”

The power transference, his pain becoming not just her strength, but her ecstasy, lasted only a few more moments. In that time she stood, holding the two hundred pound plus dead thing out in front of her as if he were a rag doll. Her neck snapped back into position, the bones healing in an instant. She’d never known such strength. When the flow of energy finally stopped she dropped the shriveled up husk of a man to the pavement, pavement free of ice because of the heat from her body.

Chessney stood for a long time listening as the black ice laced wind whipped over the bridge. She let the energy wash over her, raising her hand and watching as the small black snowflakes melted away as quickly as they touched her. Her feet had burned through her shoes and she stood in a pool of melting black sludge. She was euphoric, having gone from the pain of a broken back to the thrill of a new rush.

“So good,” she mused, looking at the dark, Worm Fall ruined landscape in a new light. “So damn good.”

She saw hundreds of pinpricks of golden light out in the darkness and knew that those glowing dots were people, huddled in the cold, doing what they could to survive the ever present night. She could taste their pain and it tasted damn good. She wanted more of it.

“You took the hurt,” she heard from behind her. “For just a second it was all gone. I felt… I felt me again.”

She turned, startled, and saw the thug she’d just drained struggling to his feet behind her.

“How did you do that? Please do it again. Take the pain from me. It hurts worse now than before. Help me…” he begged. “I feel like my soul is on fire. What did you do to me?”

Chesty nodded and reached out, taking hold of the man’s face, intent on taking his pain away once more. When she touched him, however, there was no transference of energy. There was nothing pleasurable about the contact. His flesh was cold and wrinkled. He was drained. Whether or not he’d be able to feed her later remained to be seen.

“Please ma’am,” the thug begged. “I can’t take this. It burns inside. It hurts worse than when the President bit me.”

Even as he spoke the sense of euphoria she’d felt began to melt away. Her neck didn’t break again, but the pain of it roared right back through her. She dropped to her knees, crying.

“Ma’am? Please ma’am… I can’t stand this. You have to help me,” the dead soldier pleaded.

“We need someone else,” Chessney mused, desperate to push away the pain and reinvigorate the pleasure she’d felt. If she’d gotten that much rush from a dead thing she could only imagine what something alive might feel like. “Someone alive like me.”

“Yes ma’am,” the thing that had been a man moments before said unflinchingly, surprising Chesney. “And then you will help me with my pain, yes?”

Chessney shrugged, staring at the thing’s exposed fangs. She knew she should be afraid of it. The fangs and black, dead flesh

“Yes, my lady,” the dead thing said, heading down the souther slope of the bridge, leaving Chessney with nothing but time and her pain. She listened as a battle erupted to the east, near downtown Houston. That’s where the woman with the silver swords had gone, she was sure. And that’s where the wolves had followed.

Good, Chessney thought. The bitch abandoned me. She saved them all but me. Fuck her. I hope she dies.

“Are you coming, my lady?” the dead thing asked, its voice a cruel mask of the pain pulsing through its body, a few dozen years ahead of her.

“Why that way?” she finally asked.

“The President is to the north. We don’t want to go north. South is better.”


Super Jeeping Friends – Breast Cancer Awareness Month

A few years back I was pretty sure I wanted to buy a motorcycle. I was at a point in life I wanted to try something new. I grew up around bikes and bike culture. I remember bikers not like the over the top television and movies you’ve no doubt seen, but as a great big extended family. It was something I was looking forward to.

My youngest son, in one of those interesting moments of childhood brilliance, asked my wife who would raise him if something happened to us on that motorcycle. It was one of those questions that has an interesting way of changing how you look at things.

Instead of a motorcycle, we ended up buying a Jeep.


The Jeep was cool. It was fun to take the top off and drive around. We didn’t really know what we had, back then, and we didn’t really know what wheeling was all about.

A few years later, after we moved from Houston to Oklahoma City, we began running around with other Jeepers and doing a bit of wheeling off road. Things went downhill from there. This stuff is an addiction. We went from the above picture to this:


But the addiction goes way beyond adding lift kids, bigger tires, and winches. It’s really an addiction to the people you meet wheeling and the absolute fun it’s been being allowed to share a small part of their lives. A fellow Jeeper said it best. It’s the family you choose.

So October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I couldn’t have been prouder of the guys and gals in our Jeep group. To show their support, members spent the better part of two days pulling tires and plasti-dipping them pink.

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One of our members is a breast cancer survivor, so they did something special for her rims.

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After painting, we were fortunate enough to ride in the parade in Yukon, Oklahoma, sporting our pink wheels. I can’t tell you the number of looks we get driving Rubi May down the highway wearing pink. It’s garnered a lot of smiles and thumbs up and, when asked why we did it, it’s been a great opportunity to endorse saving the tatas.

It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal and, in the grand scheme of things, I guess it isn’t. But having spent a lot of time the last few days around these guys, I just have to think how lucky I am to have this huge, extended family.

It’s nice to run around with people who care about things other themselves.