Poetry, essays, short stories, sketch comedy, etc.
a wooden line of lovers
like weathered rotted fence posts
each stake more brittle and hollow
than the previous
until the last
completely broken and
serving no useful purpose
—Rick Baldwin @2018
I don’t know how to talk to women. Seriously, I’m 51 years old and still have no clue. Yesterday I was downtown, wearing a nice kilt (Royal Stewart tartan) and I was walking my new puppy. I was on the sidewalk and I noticed an attractive woman passing behind me. She stopped and approached.
“What kind of puppy is she?” she asked.
“She’s an Australian Shepherd” I said.
“Aw, she’s very cute! I used to have one. They’re great dogs. What’s her name?”
“Keely,” I said.
“That’s cute” she said, petting the puppy. “What’s your name?” she asked, looking right at me. I noticed at that point she looked a lot like a young Tina Fey. I’m bad with ages but she could have been 30. Possibly 27. Maybe 32. Young Tina Fey was petting my puppy. And she wanted to know my name. I could feel myself starting to close up. Why did Young Tina Fey want to know my name? I’m not in any shape for a relationship, I just got out of one. And 30 is too young for me. I guess it would be harmless to go for coffee though. I’m going to have to Febreeze my car before we go anywhere. What, does she want kids? Crap, she may already have kids. How can I afford a big house right now? How much does it even cost to send a kid to college now days? I’ll bet that cost will double in 18 years!
“Rick,” I said.
“Oh, that’s easy to remember, that’s my brother’s name,” she said. I looked at her petting my puppy. “Well, have a great holiday, Rick. Your puppy is very cute.”
“Thank you. You have a good holiday too.”
Then Young Tina Fey walked away. I crossed the street, mentally pounding myself in the head. I didn’t even ask her her name. I have no idea if she was interested in me or just being friendly but most likely she was just a nice girl trying to have a casual conversation with a stranger. Instead she encountered a dork. With zero social skills. In a kilt. Walking a puppy.
I felt bad for her. I felt bad for me. I started hoping she would go home and Google “Rick, kilt, puppy” and by some chance land on my Facebook page. She would contact me and I could apologize for not asking her name. I could suggest we meet for coffee where we could discuss Australian Shepherds. Tina Fey. Maybe even how many kids she wants someday.
Good lord, I can’t afford a big house.
Why are dead cockroaches always on their backs? Were they already lying down this way and then died in their sleep? Do they get an intuition a few seconds before they die and quickly flip onto their back before passing away? Do they fall from a tall building and meet their doom legs up? What the bug??
Yesterday when I came home from the studio I noticed drops of blood on my front porch.
I immediately joked “Oh, look! A killer came to visit!” Then I thought of my pets inside the house. What if the house was broken into and my cats and dog were harmed? I opened the door, checked the animals and found everyone sleeping, unscathed. I looked around on the floor and carpet for signs of more blood but saw nothing. It seemed to be confined to the outdoors. I went back out to the porch to examine the blood drops and noticed on the white porch post, right above the hand rail, a huge blood splash. The kind of splash you’d see if someone took a blood-soaked sponge and flung it against a wall. Now it was looking more serious. I walked across the porch to a wicker chair in the corner and noticed the seat of the chair was covered in blood. It appeared that someone with very bloody pants had sat there for awhile. Huge blood drops were also under the chair and splashed all over the front window. This was starting to look like a crime scene.
I tried to determine what would cause all of that blood. I didn’t even want to consider it was human. Did an animal get hurt and run onto the porch for shelter? It would need to be an animal that could somehow get up on that handrail. But there were no bloody paw prints. It could have been a bird, I suppose. There was too much blood though. Do birds even have that much blood in their bodies? I guess a couple of birds could have had an MMA-style melee on the front porch. Still, no signs of feathers, prints, drag marks, anything. Just lots and lots of blood.
I decided in order to be safe it would be a good idea to call the police. There might have been an incident I didn’t know about where one of my neighbors had been murdered in the night and the police would gain additional information knowing what direction the murderer went after committing the crime. It could be the killer pondered knocking on my front door to… I don’t know… borrow some Lava soap and a Tide Stick then had a last minute change of plans. It does sound silly but, contrary to popular speculation, I have no idea how an insane person thinks.
I dialed the police and the dispatcher did seem somewhat concerned. I didn’t want her to think I was just some nut, so I tried to play up the part about the blood. It’s difficult to impress a police dispatcher so I felt I really needed that prop in order to be taken seriously. I think it might have worked. She said an officer would be out soon.
I wasn’t sure if I should meet the officer out front when he/she arrived. I’m not sure how alarmed he/she would be when the “bloody porch” call came across the radio. Maybe they would send two cars. Or three. I didn’t want to appear overly anxious or suspicious but I also felt like I should help the officers in locating the house. When I saw the squad car come up the street, I went onto the porch to wave him in.
There probably isn’t a more suspicious looking picture than a 6′ 5″ hairy man in a kilt standing on a bloody porch waving at the police. In fact, I think it’s the very scenario they use in Police Academy for determining when it’s okay to fire your weapon without giving warning. The officer cautiously got out of his car and walked up the driveway to my house. I explained the whole situation to him and showed him each giant blood pool. I thought we’d bond a bit if he knew my detective work was solid so I told him I had already checked for bloody fingerprints around the door and windows but found nothing. I think I may even have used the word “perpetrator ” a couple of times. While he looked around I cleared away some of the junk on the porch to make room for the mobile crime lab technicians that would soon arrive. I’m sure they use a lot of big, fancy equipment.
Almost immediately I began getting the feeling the officer wasn’t impressed with the rivers of blood flowing from my front porch. In fact, I think he would have been more concerned if the porch was dripping with marshmallow creme.
“It was probably some animal,” he said in an exhale; the kind that usually precedes “you dumbass.” “Maybe a fox or a coyote drug something up there.”
“Like what, a roadrunner?” I asked.
I mean, I didn’t ask that but I wish I did. I started feeling sorry for the family who had been ghastly murdered the night before and would not be getting a proper police investigation. I wondered which house they lived in and if they had mowed their lawn more recently than I’d mowed mine.
At that point it hit me. I could see it in the police officer’s eyes. I was going to be that guy’s story down at the station for the next several weeks. All the officers would be standing around their cars telling crazy perpetrator stories about arresting meth-crazed homeless men and drunk, braless women in filthy, “beater” tank tops. His new kilt story would top them all.
“Hey, here’s one!” he’d say. “Did I tell you about the guy in the skirt who called in because a sparrow cut itself shaving on his porch?”
They would all cackle loudly and instinctively grab their holsters to steady their gun butts, preventing the wobble of their bellies from accidentally firing off a round. “Judging by that dress he had on maybe it was just ‘his time of the month!'”
That would be the evening’s big closer joke. They would roar again, toss down their cigarettes and get in their taxpayer-funded police cars to drive home for the evening. Most of them would take a few moments to look up my website so they could get an actual image of the person they were cruelly laughing at. Seriously, people this kind of police bullying has got to stop!
Early this morning I awoke remembering that “a criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.” I got out of bed and quietly walked to the living room window that overlooks the front porch. There on the stained wicker chair was a big, orange cat staring up at the bird feeder on my porch. His eyes darted around the sky every time a fat little morsel flew around the feeder. He was clean. Must have been unlucky in his hunt at that point. I opened the front door and he quickly darted off. He hid behind a tree and stuck his head around to give me a final look. “Go on!” I said and he scampered away.
“Mystery solved,” I thought. In a flash, a hooded man sprung out of the bushes and plunged a knife into my heart and upper torso. Probably around 37 times. Blood pulsed all over the walls of my porch, the doors, the windows and on that stupid wicker chair. My limp body dropped onto the porch and the stranger ran off into the night.
That last part didn’t happen, of course. But it’s the story I’m telling next time I have to call the police dispatcher.