Excerpt from EYE SKIN: Menagerie of Death

In the distance, another distant barrage of gunfire. “Sounds like hunters, eh? More business for you.” He quipped, trying to tease a little emotion out of the man in front of him. The sun was nearly gone. Two large mosquitoes landed on Peartree’s elbow, feasting, expanding— he didn’t appear to notice or care. He dropped the armadillo in the cooler, moved past Wholeman on stiff legs up the steps, tossing the grinning dead raccoon aside, and held the screen door open, waiting. “Obliged, Mr. Peartree.”

The stench inside was even worse. It was difficult for Avard Wholeman to breathe. He kept enough of a smile on his face to be sociable, but he began to feel cramped, boxed in by the assault on his nostrils. Every corner and available space was full of preserved creatures, it was easy for Wholeman to see this man was a savant. Every creature of the swamp, savannah and palmetto forest filled the room, half-obscured, hidden in the penumbra, pupils glimmering, the last rays of daylight reflecting red orange crimson. Directly in front of him, a fascinating pose of two white faced barn owls, their cordate faces and v-beaks like warnings, the male standing, wings extended on a driftwood branch frozen before flight. Intent, fearless. Peartree’s mastery caught the moment perfectly, seizing stark survival, the female owl posed feeding a water snake to three of her young still in the nest, necks extended, claiming their share of flesh, a coparcenary swallowing another moment until flight breaks any supposition of loyalty. The owls were immediately over-shadowed by the Anhinga- the swimming snake bird, nesting. Beside that was a pose of small feisty alligators staring back, hyaloid eyes staring forward, ten varieties of heron—white, pink, black-throated; the mammals were displayed in a far corner of the room. An endangered miniature Key deer, two razorback pigs, several good sized boars with sharp tusks, a coral snake on a branch. Like a Noah’s Ark of death, thought Avard, strange.

EXCERPT FROM EYE SKIN – by J.D. Brayton~ Dinnertime at Bogg’s Knoll after One Biblical Ass-kicking

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It’s as if the word Unfuckuppable is a stand alone haiku; thought he, knowing better than to say such a thing a aloud, sitting surrounded by three generations of Boggs, all of whom would, without question, re-tenderize him for using obscenity over the victuals. The conversation was as sparse as the décor in the family dining room. The wallpaper, artfully inked crucifix patterns hand drawn by extinct  proselytizers. The chairs, diabolical instruments of torture, straight-backed and knobby, designed to make meals brief, to the point, and uninterrupted by joy. The long slab table a wonderment, plaintive in execution, covered by a table cloth that must certainly double as a hand-pearled burial shroud with gravy stains. The lighting, pejorative and non-conducive to healthy skin tone, casting long ghoulish shadows under the eyes of lugubrious diners. Considering that he had spent the last four years on the run in Mexico,  squatting by cookfires in Chiapas, this was a callow luxury, and in a primitive way—novel. Subtle languor. Dripping chins. Bloat lettuce. The entire scene a Faulkner-like revelation – how  Protestants managed to upstage Catholics by visual asperity was sheer ascesis. The tacit tradition of sparsity. The only words muttered grunts, requests for murdered vegetables and cauterized pork meat. Mook nearly choked on  a mouthful of pickled mush when the thought occurred to him that the dinner conversation (if one could term it so), was straight out of the lyrics of Bobby Gentry’s ’Ode To Billie Joe’—if Chocktaw Ridge had been transmogrified into Bogg’s Knoll and re-peopled by congeries of ass-kicking, regenerate ultra-orthodox snake-whisperers clad in oil-spattered piss-stained bib overalls. At every place setting, blistered tongues, skinned knees,  and clannish devotion to puckered implosion.

 “Paiss them sire pickles.” Grunted Ezra Bogg the Elder, pointing with his fork. His face looked quite like a rotted pumpkin chewing sand fleas. Every time Ezra Bogg the Elder, or his wife, or any of his progeny over the age of twenty moved, there was a not so subtle stridulate chorus of bones rubbing, heavy chewing, nose breath, hiss burping, chairs squeaking, forks clacking, spoons scraping, knives plunging, dish binging and the predictable clearing of post chow-chow phlegm.

“Yawl lookin’ fer nuthah biskit? Gwan n’ try you Mother Bogg’s gravy mister Mook.”

The offer brightened the humor around the table considerably. As if electricity had suddenly come to Bogg’s Knoll, Alabama. It was Lucien the homunculi offering biscuits, having barely spoken since their first acquaintance, two hours before dinner, as he lay prone and shit-kicked in the Alabama red dirt. Mook accepted the offer, though it hurt him to arch his eyebrows in civil acquiescence. The biscuits had his confidence— mushy in the middle—hard as snapturtle shell on the crust.

 “Very kind, Lucien. And thank-you Mother Boggs for baking such flaky well-corralled delicacies.”

       Mother Bogg continued chewing as if deaf to the preternatural grammar used by Edsel Mook at her dinner table. She didn’t roll her eyes. She looked at the wallpaper and ground down a piece of chittlin’ and turd sauce she may not have actually invented, ignoring his presence as any rural gingham-tortured illiterate child might try to wish away shadows or the boogieman. Mook noticed that she resembled a sun-seasoned over-ripened striped gourd more closely than her spouse’s unkempt pumpkininity. Cute couple. Truly, the seed and ovulate has dried at this juncture.

Mook smiled and buttered his biscuit with what looked like home churned cow cum.

 

Highway- excerpt from THRIP

Southwest Georgia is like a dystopian public service mash-up from a Make-A-Wish Foundation telethon. ~ J.D. Brayton – THRIP

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   She didn’t talk much as Hale drove up state road 82 toward Albany. He had a cold tallboy of Budweiser kept between his legs, nursing it as they rolled behind a straw truck spitting whisks and dried splines in slow-motion all over the highway, causing traffic to slow to a crawl. Hale seemed satisfied to hang back and sip his beer, glad to spend time together, listening to a Top 40 station, singing along. They stopped at a vegetable stand just before Ty-Ty, bought some fresh tomatoes, a basket of peaches, and a mess of okra. She felt too sick to consider eating – but just handling the fresh produce made her feel more energized somehow. After a nap she wanted to make Hale his favorite dinner- fried chicken, breaded okra, and a home-baked peach cobbler with cinnamon-nutmeg seasoning.

   These thoughts buoyed her until they cruised slowly through the tiny downtown strip of Ty-Ty proper. It was a strange mixture of ramshackle wooden rectangles and newly funded municipal buildings constructed of plain brick, left languishing by the side of a forgotten state road, a ghost of old Georgia; architecturally squat, unadorned and utilitarian – tiny, secretive, unannounced, save by the white municipal signage pocked through by .22 shot. A whisper town, hemmed like a forgotten Jim Crow funeral jacket –tarnished buttons portrayed by farm trucks, bent Coca-Cola signs, broken bottles, empty plastic soft-drink jugs and rusty machines. Easily forgotten; if it weren’t for one shameful family of serial killers. A blink in eternity. Jesus choking on a fishbone. Pee-stained bib overalls covered in wisps of soy and tobacco seed. She and Hale had never actually stopped in the town or spoken to anyone. She had never met Thrip face to face. Somewhere off to the north, on one of the languorous back tar-top rural roads her star pupil sat, cogent, alone in a room with his pet dog; inscribing the entropic vision of freedom. As they traveled past the last town-limit sign, and the speed limit increased, she watched the dead-end dirt roads push out to the west- like straight cracks in the old dusty firmament, out where they praised God, the Son, the Father, the Holy Ghost, humming hymns intoned by the pitch proffered by John Deere, warbling under the whispering redemption, the thumb-faced redneck everyman conjuring soybeans, tobacco, okra, beans and pigs. Out where tractors groaned and smoked like robot dinosaurs – scarring and suturing loam, divided, parenthetically, by a godsend of pine, southern oak and lob-lolly left to provide green pauses for wicked winds pushed hellishly ahead by the sun, gusts strong enough to vibrate banal dirt-merchant homes, chaffed, chipped, standing alone like catafalques of un-discovered Yankee derision, watered by sulfur scented wells, surrounded by skeletal irrigation rigs spraying the straight numb inculcate rows, infinitely numbered, sucking the water table dry, sip by suck, hunkered and hunched behind endless caustically injected hectares, sewn with bland raw commodities –but here and there lay hidden swatches, whispers, left by wise old stewards, dreamlike golden grasses bedding forest  meadows, which supposition dictates only skeletal freizes, biblical clans, and spotted deer know exist, an Eden between seasons of slaughter, dripping chins and comestible tornadoes. Out there where Breedlove and his wife’s last dying breaths still mixed with the Georgia dioxide – air heavy with rancid August sweat, manure, chemical fertilizers, insecticides and stubborn resignation.

 And everything, EVERYTHING permeated by the omniscient stink of caramelized pig shit.

I may cook tonight, she thought, but I won’t be eating much.

   Hale trolled slowly, sipping the can of beer, glancing surreptitiously side to side as they rolled through the known hog-town speed traps of weedy Poulan and time-creased Sylvester. Once free from all constraints, he pushed the pedal to the floor for the last remaining twenty miles of flat, straight road to Albany. He maxed the A/C, rolled down the tinted windows, pushed the engine up, pegging 85 miles an hour; the fields blew by as one solid conjoined, empty heartbreak that Deidra Brook was now, perhaps forever, content to leave behind. The sound of the engine lulled her into a hypnotic trance, where she traded worry for dreams of rebirth; innocence, a childhood uninformed of death or infirmary, gentle Mississippi gulf vistas, the clean hopeful parable of fresh, pan-baked, peach cobbler; the poetic inclusion of ingredients were – mistakenly, undeniably, and without proper explanation, left out of the 23rd psalm.

WOKE (3rd degree)

WOKE…

~ (JD Brayton)dscf0040

…the spork chiseling on a stranger

Seltzer terrier terrified of tenure gasping unilaterally and

Allies of post-volcanic kings past kinship

shipping

Two heartloads of writhing tumescent grey-toned cousins

Escaping the metastasizing gaudiness of Mother’s orgasmic shriek:

ARE.                                   They.                         Twins. ? .

Some freak circuses may never be photographed

A fierce internecine battle for a tub of wilted brown celery sticks

Whoring for a Mary, Bloody, otherwise ensconced

In pearl gimlet.

Later, as a waiter

I found myself sitting beside tepid cannibal coffee

Engaging in philosophic torture with a truck driver from

Lizard’s Thicket, Insomnianna.

His teeth, (he informed me, proudly)

Are entirely new –bought and un-paid for

bathed now in a peppy, twisted neon beer burp apparently

re-imagined by illumination

FREE PARKING FREE Barking: FREE DARTS:

(incidentally —> (you’re bleeding).

So? Sweet potatoes?(sour) Do they squirm?

I found and entered some cactus

Thankfully, there was nowhere to sit

Lectures are best served—>? STANDING ? <—

Mulling tense and tensely mulling

Mumbling down the hellish hall of a vestibule,

immune to it all

looking from the first available window

From which to spit.

Pause —> I REMEMBERED  <—

My 4th grade Snenglish teacher Mizz Smith sitting, culling

Straining muck coffee through her mortgaged dentures

Pointing at the squatting red flag on her desk

Poised fangs baring

Whenever I tried to speak beyond her aching head

past creatures mummified with extreme prejudice

sweaty heat and salty rain

crenelated inside a 10-year old’s

gutter snipe pockets –bristling for natural identification

thoughts feasting and crushed beneath

Discalced uncalloused digits

cheap peanut-brother crackers. Nude Testament.

Squint.

The Day expands with each constant blink

(Blink <—

—> Blink)

B (lin)K <—

FOCAL YE: ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,

WHO CAN KNOW IT?’

So the Crème Janes’ Bible shouts from the aquarium city

Babylon, Sylvester, Poughkeepsie, Tehran

Be  Satisfied and Certain

Secrets Will Kill You

Why?

Because What You Need To Live

Will Kill You In The End.

 

PBS- Ken Burns -Country Music Series- another perspective.

What I’m posting is certain to piss some people off, make some uncomfortable, and cause some to cry foul.
RE: PBS Country series.
First: Ken Burns is a Nat’l treasure. 2. There is some Country music I love, some I utterly detest. 3. I consider the cultural evolution of Country Music woefully lacking. 4. Glossing over the truth doesn’t make history go away.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM= (this is goes under the Bill Maher trope- I can’t Prove it, but I know it’s true)—>
The music selection for the after lynching barn dances was most certainly NOT Little Richard, Miles Davis or Sachmo- ALL of whom were active, to some degree, during the ‘Golden Age of Country -1940’s -50’s- 60’s.
The unwillingness of the Country Music establishment to deal with racism head-on, or discuss much past ‘momma, diddy n’ the farm’ or ‘don’t get above yer raisins’ is pretty telling.
Artists, I generally give a pass- except that Country music artists seemed pretty unwilling to buck the system, (yeah- even with Charlie Pride) past the bottom $$$ line. Until ‘Outlaw’ and ‘Americana’ came along, the societal evolution within the Country Music industry was practically NON-EXISTENT. Few, if any, Country Artists can claim to have openly fought, wrote or performed in solidarity of Civil Rights.
Fight me, but you’ll lose on this.
Money generated by myth was the God driving the Country Music industry.(Sadly-IMO- It drives the entire Music industry in every genre, at present.)
The one thing setting Country apart from Jazz, Blues, and R&R is the unwillingness of Country Music to speak the uncomfortable TRUTH in defiance of ‘up-bringing’ and the assumptions governing ‘appropriate conduct’; or use of our right of freedom of expression in alleviating the suffering of another race, another country, another RELIGION.
I don’t harp on this to get ‘Woke’ credentials or snowflake trophies- it’s simply the truth.
In this country it takes guts to speak out as an Artist, or a citizen and defend an unpopular position. Imagination and innovation are rarely rewarded by established power structures.
Go forth, my friends, and be fucn BOLD. The Arts are our last best hope for speaking Truth to ‘Power’.
Let’s not piss it away on jive trivialities, myths, or quotidian comfort.

Letter To Achilles- excerpt from THRIP by J.D.Brayton

Aiai! My name is a lament!
Who would have thought it would fit
so well with my misfortunes!
Now truly I can cry out — aiai! —
two and three times in my agony.

Aiee, Ajax! My name says what I feel;
who’d have believed that pain and I’d be one;
Aiee, Ajax! I say it twice,
and then again, aiee, for what is happening.

~Ajax by Sophocles

 

He sat in the deer stand high in an oak tree as the last light of day bathed the tops of the trees in an electric apricot orange. In the distance he heard thunder, if it rained, he didn’t care. The cold rain would help him feel something, even if cold meant alive. He wore layers of camouflage, it could be Noah’s down-pour, he would abide, sit out here all night, until the time was right, staring at the spots of dried blood on his pants from last month’s kill. Rain would never wash it out, neither would washing powder or the oily sweat of a night terror. Sitting, his back against the tree, holding his rifle, barrel aloft; the rest of his guns and knives stowed underneath him in an earthen pit reinforced with slats of old barn lumber salvaged over time, camouflaged so well that it was undiscernible as ground scrub. He built it over the past two years, a place to keep his hunting equipment and rustic gear on those long nights spent away from Deidra – an elision, an escape from routine posing as a fake- normal man, clawing through a fraud-normal existence in abnormal circumstance punctuated, linear, prevarication. Since her cancer returned, he spent far less time out here; sometimes he came out for a few hours in the day while she was working, just to smell the open woods, listen to small sounds of twee night creatures, squirrels, field-mice, wild dogs, birds, hawks or anything imminently more trustworthy than any human being. He kept his hunting license current in  rarest chance a Game Warden happened upon his makeshift stand out in this desolate stand of trees;  he rarely discharged his firearm. He usually kept his rifle un-loaded. A six-pack of Budweiser, a few joints, a couple juice-boxes and cinnamon graham crackers could hold him for 12 hours if necessary, not that he had any real appetite on this, his last twilight on Earth. He smoked a lot more weed now, since the V.A. stopped his meds because he piss-tested positive for marijuana. Government policy. Weed and beer calmed his anxiety, eased his painful headaches – maybe not as succinctly as the oxycodone, Risperidone, Xanax, Ambien, Ativan – but at least he could get up and down his deer stand without nodding out or losing balance. At least he could feel – back when he was loaded on the V.A. cocktail, before Deidra’s cancer returned, he would leave for days at a time, would always bring a strap and buckle himself to the trunk of the oak in case he passed out while perched above terra firma. The silence of the woods eased the pain in his head and the metal plate they used to rebuild his skull. The alloy didn’t vibrate or hum as badly as it did around the city –all the cars, televisions, buses, street-lamps and radios. Worst of all, he hated supermarkets. The lard cans, mush vegetables, scented deodorant soaps and candy all vibrated with the same frequency of the florescent lights. Reverse magnets. He could never focus for more than five minutes at a time. It drove him batshit. How do you explain to a V.A. shrink or a civie or your wife that you could smell and taste light? That you can hear skin? That computers and cell-phones made your skin itch like poison ivy? Beer and weed, clamped jaw and solitary hours were enough. They slowed the static hum to a passive trill. He decided long ago that he would die here when the time came. And he was here waiting for that one last sure sign that this was the moment. Maybe a hawk would circle and sound, maybe the cicadas would speak directly to him. Maybe the ghost of his parents. Maybe the ghosts of his interpreter Mazzo, Wally-O and Frany and Paunter. Hale Brook – war hero, vibrating. Magnetized. This was the night he would reflect ALL. This was the night he would review every scintilla of eidetic fear, love, anguish, pride, terror, brutality and gentle flora –the way his new shoes smelled when he was ten years old, the jack-knife Uncle Terry gave him, the teachers who spanked him, the horse that threw him, the fish he caught gutted ate. The hot orange Georgia sun slaking the salt from his skin, and the breeze after a rain that came in answer to a prayer. The scent of his wife’s skin after sex, the taste of her lips and her concupiscent breath. Also, her breasts, her stomach flat, heaving from the remains of culpable lust. DEIDRA- MY TECMESSA. Scars. Ribs. Also, his beloved dog, Commotion, a funny-ass mixture of hunting breeds, a cur with razor sharp ears and a four-mile nose, kept everyone awake all night, baying at the moon-shadows, deep into the night, hearing and sensing phantoms only dogs can understand. Commotion taught him everything about the stillness between bays, barks and whimpers – because it was in those fleet moments life was an enveloping breath, a wise silent and recondite symphony, a tease from beyond the grave that we all share just by blinking, chasing blood, shitting, laughing, touching wet air, breathing out.

Those fake people. Their guns. Their clubs. Their pretension.

None of them will ever know how close he came. Slaughter them all.

Their cows. Their sheep. Their dogs, concubines and horses.

One. Last. Time. I. Am. Ajax.

When all this was done he would whisper his love for Deidra, ask her forgiveness for his cowardice, my dearest Tecmessa; the Lord’s forgiveness for murdering his fellow man on orders of a malicious corrupt government, the creatures he killed to assuage his appetite, offer the gift his remains to carrion crows and fishing worms, stick the barrel of his rifle in his mouth and pull the silence right out of the first gentle morning star.

My dearest Tecmessa, forgive me.

It’s better this way.Abstract1

Thrip’s Sermon

Dear God, I stand here before you, shoulders hunched, a rack of bones grappling sin everlasting. Reciting chapter and verse. Make my heart contrite, Oh Lord. Maketh me drown in the still waters.

Passionate, dedicated, correct, soulful and attired in clunky → Awkward puce.

And our children, having been beautifully born, begin to ripen and die slowly before our eyes. They osculate, perpetrate an unnecessary discalced pink rabble, unable to hesitate or move forward without base sustenance regurgitating rote glory. Bought and sold dancing in tandem sung in a happy thundering hundreds, bringing twee jingle music to accompany the restless slaughter of human-cousinkind. Pithy. Oozing.

To some, a reward. Toast and jam. To others, pestilence and worms. I doubt The Supreme Creator is much more than a spent deity with a nearly empty bourbon bottle, tending a roulette wheel, his only begotten Son a 2000 year old blind piano player, nimble still, with only the black keys to pixilate.

Fact → Flat the third and you are left with the unknowable blues.

Hungry congregations. Eyes shining with purpose. Passing aghast.

A meme. A black and white photo of death-by-other. Tears. Emaciated, ribs clearly visible. Palm out-stretched, pooling acid rain. Be humble. Have gratitude. 

Or simply eat, sleep, fuck, shit and respect the repeating pattern of a wallpaper horizon.

Be genuine.

The conductor will be along directly to punch your gnarly ticket.

And yer little dog too.

Excerpt from upcoming novel: THRIP by J.D. Brayton

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Friday. It was to be a day of doctors with prognoses; some good, some less than optimistic.

Deidra Brook sat in the waiting room holding hands with Hale at the Stropshrift Cancer Center waiting for her doctor to call her back. Before she stepped through the door, she knew that the results from the tests were not good. Her body told her so. Her bones spoke to her at night.

She moved closer to his ear and half-whispered; “Hale honey: now you did remember to tell the folks at the V.A. that you don’t want any more of the Ativan.  It makes you feel wrong all day,” She squeezed his hand twice to get his attention. He had been staring at the ceiling instead of the other patients sitting across from them – his way of being polite. A fluorescent bulb was flickering out of phase. She could tell it was starting to drive him crazy.

“You assume anyone ever listens over there.”

“One would hope.”

“Yuh, hope is what we need more of darlin’”

“You shouldn’t drink with it.”

“A beer or two ain’t a thing.”

Deidra decided to drop it, this was not the place to rekindle arguments about mixing his anxiety meds with alcohol. Never went well. He always gives a flip answer, clams right up. Be lucky to speak the rest of the day. She tried to stay positive before trips to the V.A. office in Columbus, a two-hour drive. It was the nearest facility capable of serving combat Vets suffering from P.T.S.D. and traumatic brain injury. It took up an entire day to travel just to be seen by a doctor or case-worker. The backlog was purely shameful. Deidra and Hale decided to make a full day of it, a Friday date to kick off a long weekend – first the Cancer Center, lunch on the road to Columbus, then the V.A. where the wait could be three hours.

As long as we’re together, he’ll be alright. On the way back we’ll stop at the Rib Shack.  Fresh Hush Puppies. Warm cornbread.

That always cheers him up.

“Yuh think I could reach that fixture if I stood on this chair?”

“They have janitors for that sort of thing, Hale.”

      He sat there a few more minutes. He still had the Gun and Ammo magazine he’d picked up from the stack on the table when they first arrived; hadn’t even opened it.  In an effort to make the waiting room more cheerful, someone painted a scene of pus green trees and bile yellow flowers being carried aloft by peace doves that resembled clumsy duck-chickens. There was a message of hope rendered above in a neo-biblical version of calligraphy.

GOD’S PLANS ARE BETTER THAN  OUR OWN PETTY CONTRIVANCES

   Deidra always had to force herself not to laugh. The script was barely readable. A cynical sense of humor seemed out of place in a cancer treatment facility; mordant humor, part of her secret nature, amplified now by her esoteric correspondences with Thrip, made her see suffering less as a result of the grueling courses of chemo, but of good intentions of those trying to soften the blow by hiding their personal relief that it was your suffering, not theirs. Kindness offered up by endless guilt pie, baked sugar shame cookies, bargained bible quotes and penurious art. It was an extreme sense of personal ascesis keeping her from tumbling off the precipice of humility and mocking the absurdity. Ah, the shambolic and well-intentioned candy-stripers of humanity. They are just trying their best to help me die with a smile on my face.

   “Well, hell…let’s see…”

   “Hale! Don’t you dare!”

   Hale broke free of her grip, pulled the chipped waiting room chair with into the middle of the floor and stood on it at full height, arm outstretched, hiking himself the few inches higher by putting his boot on the arm rest, trying to reach the receptacle with the improperly cycling bulb.

“Hale, you get down this instant!” hissed Deidra, trying not to laugh at his random acrobatics. He was being comedic- the quiet clown, the dry practical joker. He is so rarely like this anymore. Falluja baked the childishness right out of him. Madcap veniality – the very character trait she loved most of all about him, practically nonexistent since coming home, being wounded. If anyone could pull off harmless dead-panning, it was Hale. Before he went to war. Before the plate in his head caused the massive migraines. Before he went dust devil.

   “Al-most… got… it…” He was straining more than necessary just to crack her up. He tilted his head and grit his teeth like a charging boar. His face was turning red and the veins in his neck bulging out with his piercing blue eyes. The other patients in the room weren’t sure whether to laugh, offer to help or call security. They sat and looked up at Hale who had pulled an ink-pen from his pocket, adding the two inches necessary to reach the light cover, began to pry it upwards.

   “Sir? Sir! Can I help you? What chawl doing?” A receptionist with a blonde puffed out helmet hair-doo stood holding a clipboard looking up at him. He paused and looked down on her. Clearly, she wasn’t amused. He looks at her, wide eyes; mocks her rural Jawja accent.

   “This’n blankin’ light is fitt’n to make me fall faward in an epilepsy. Yawl gotta taller ink-peen?”

   “No, no, no…please don’t worry. Yawl get down please. I’ll call the building engineer directly. It woont dyew for yawl to get bad hurt doing sometheen that ain’t your job.”

   He stares back. “Too late.” He says, cryptically.

   “Sir, yawl please get down. Insurance regulations, you understand?”

   Hale smiled slightly, put away his ink pen, got down off the chair and pushed it back into place, right next to Deidra, whose eyes were beginning to tear up from repressed laughter. He sits back down, splays both feet out like a drunk on a prison bench, resumes his staring at the blinking bulb.

“Never volunteer for anything.”