Sunday, September 29, 2013


'The men are entirely too scattered to be of any real use, Sir.' Those words muttered by my second in command Wilson, brought me up short. Wilson and I have been together for several years, and despite the fact that I consider him a gloomy bastard, I generally give his advice some considerable thought before I chose to ignore it.  As usual, he was right, he generally is which is the reason that I keep him around in spite of his gloominess. Well, it's one of the reasons, there are several other but I don't want to catalog them all, just in case he reads this, and starts to get ideas above his station. One never knows when the 'loyal' second in command will decided to throw you into a ditch, and take control of the company.

His comment, in the case, did give me pause. A pause that I used to take stock of the company which I was, in theory at least, the leader of. They were scattered, strung out along a line that was entirely too long, and too many of them were clearly not keeping up. When the men of which you are in charge become as scattered, as the men of my company had, there is only (sadly) one person to blame. That person being yours truly. It is not all sunshine and lollipops at the top of the command pyramid. The pause also gave me another moment to consider Wilson. A thinking man's man, thin as a rail, dressed like it was the dead of winter, when it was only early fall. A man that was always cold, and I wasn't sure that the coldness came from the environment, or from inside. Because I was fairly certain that Wilson has a block of ice where his heart should have been. I guess that is what makes him a good number two, coldness is something that helps when giving advice to a fellow (i.e. me) who generally doesn't take it very well.

It wasn't like I didn't know the scattering of my men was a bad idea. I know it's a bad plan, but I am nothing if not a master of making bad plans. Shitty terrain, approaching bad weather (or so Wilson says, he is always saying bad weather is approaching), and a group of men that have trouble taking direction, is an absolute prescription for disaster.  The main problem was how I was going to solve this problem. Scattered men are a lot harder to control than men that who are in some sort of actual compact formation. By scattering them, I had wasted my advantage, and I am the kind of person who needs all the advantages I can get. I realized that I was violating all the 'rules of war' and that scattering my strength was not a good idea. It was just all spiraling a bit out of my control, and it seemed as if Wilson was just not going to being of any use at all.

Maybe he had gotten tired of being number two, maybe he figured that one bone crushing defeat who either get my fool ass killed, or at least have the effect of making the men more agreeable to throwing me into that convenient ditch. Even I wasn't sure why the scattering of my men had taken place, it wasn't like they didn't know better, they just seemed to refuse to do better, and therein lay the rub. A group of men, who are trained better, who know better, should fucking DO better. It is not as if this disaster was hard to predict. The trifecta at the Derby is hard to predict, this, this could be seen coming from a mile away by a man possessing only one good eye.

'Maybe, just maybe, my dear Wilson, the men are to blame for this, and not, for once, me' was my tired reply. Tired because after all these years leading this group of lewd, mouth breathing bunglers, I was getting tired of herding them like so many violent sheep. 'Perhaps, they need to learn a lesson' I said as I tried for the hundredth time to fathom why my second in command couldn't really be trusted. Whatever chemicals he took, and I was fairly certain he took some chemicals no one can stay awake as much as he does without taking something, were probably part of the reason for the distrust. After all, can you trust a skinny guy who doesn't ever seem to either eat or sleep, and drinks very sparingly? Never fully trust a man that you haven't seen drunk at least twice in your life.

  Wilson. I had seen drunk exactly once in all the years I had known him, and even then the only reason I knew him to be drunk was because of the drops, made from a particular type of flower that only grows in a particular place in the world, that I had put into his small beer one night at some flop house of a tavern which we were staying. The clever fellow that I had purchased the drops from assured me that 'whomever drinks this will be as drunk as a lord within the hour, and will wake up feeling as fresh as a daisy.' I couldn't resist that sales pitch, after all, I wanted to know what Wilson knew, but wasn't telling me. Good thing for me that I did because when he became drunk, Wilson told me exactly what he thought of me, my leadership ability, and just for fun, mentioned a few things he would like to do to or with my sister. None of these things did I find particularly pleasant, as for my sister, well that you would have to ask her.

Since that night, I have never felt the need to see Wilson drunk again, and I've also never felt the need to introduce him to my sister. I knew from that one night exactly how far (and no further) that I could trust him, and that is exactly how far I trusted him.  The scattering of the men had been an idea of mine just to see how he would react, and he reacted much the way I expected him to.  That idea was not exactly my crowning achievement, and I begin to realize that perhaps I should have found other, less dangerous ways to test my number two. As usual, wisdom comes late, and in this case, late was bad. Very, very bad. Bad things were about to begin to happen to me, to Wilson, and to the scattered set of fools that were nominally under my command. Perhaps, and it is only just perhaps, that if I survive these bad things I will begin to understand that men are not like hash browns at a Waffle House, scattered, smothered, and covered is not a good way to have them.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Le Batard

"Bon Soir, tu magnifique batard.  Those are the last words that I leaned over and whispered to my recently departed uncle.  Today was his funeral, and I am quite good at coming up with last words at funerals (see "A Lovely Little Secret).  You can learn a lot of things at funerals, some of those things you would rather not know, and some of those things you wish you had known years ago. I attended my uncle Mike's  funeral today with a very heavy heart because the man being buried was my favorite uncle, and after a long illness that was making his life not worth living, he decided to put a bullet into his brain, and bring his time on this mortal coil to an end.

Suicide is, according to a lot of people, a very selfish move. It supposedly the most self-centered thing a person can do to the people that they leave behind. Those of us left on this side of the dirt are left to wonder what if. What if I had done the 'right' thing, and gone to see him during the last week before he died, what if I had at least had the decency to call him, and remind him that he was the single, greatest, live male influence in my miserable life.  What if a thousand other things happened that didn't, the two most dangerous words in the English language are "what if." The fact that he was the greatest male influence in my life is, in some respects, not saying a whole lot, but in others is saying all that needs to be said.  As I have mentioned several times before the paterfamilias was not the type of man that I felt the need to be around for any length of time. When Uncle Mike was in town, and could be bothered to humor his preteen nephew, all was right in the world.

The problem that I have with today's events are twofold. First, I was told by some preacher fellow that my uncle, the hard drinking, hard driving, bastard that I knew him to be, had 'found Jesus' about a month before he died. That may be true, but I (who have yet to find this Jesus of which he spoke) do not want to believe it. There is a school of thought that says that you can live the most dissolute of lives, and convert on your death bed, and find your way to this 'kingdom of heaven' where the streets are paved with gold ( I shit you not, the preacher actually used that analogy today during his 'service').  As the service wore on, I begin to detect a shift in its focus, it became less and less about the guest of honour, i.e. my uncle Mike, and more about trying to convince the live audience to 'accept Jesus Christ as our personal saviour. All well in good, for a Sunday service, but not something I want to hear when I am struggling (very hard) to contain the grief I feel at the death of my favorite uncle. You can proselytize some other day, brother. Today, I want you to remind me what a kick ass fucking uncle I am here to bury.

Secondly, I realized that the kick ass uncle I was there to bury, wasn't the same guy I remember. I remember him as ten feet tall, and bullet proof. Truth is, he was about my height, and as events proved, not bullet proof.  However, that is how I want to choose to remember him. Not the dying man, struggling to breathe that, I like to think, hedged his bets (he was a gambling man) by finding Jesus a month before his death.  He was a bastard, he was not a religious man, and it was because he was a bastard that I worshiped the ground he walked upon.  It took all of my self-control, and I realize it makes me sound like a bastard, to not get up and walk out of his funeral today in disgust. Disgust at the man the preacher was describing, because that man was not my Uncle Mike.

I realize that last line makes me sound like the most ungrateful, unfeeling, nephew in the wide world, but I also realized (about half way through the service) that the man being buried today was not the uncle of my childhood. He was not the guy who taught me how to shoot a gun, not the guy who taught me how to play cards, not the guy who taught me how to play the ponies, and not the guy who used me as 'bait' to attract the ladies in dive bars. No, he was the older, more mature, version of that guy. The guy who had been married to the same woman that he loved beyond compare for 33 years. The guy who was a fantastic step father to that woman's children, so much so that one of them called him 'Dad' in the few words she tearfully recited at his funeral.  He was not the hard living, truck driving manic that a youthful me put on the highest of pedestals (only to watch him fall off of it because no mortal man could have met my 10 year old expectations). 

No, he had aged, and like all of us mortals, age had slowed him down. In many ways, I am glad I moved away from where he lived, it helped me miss that slowing down. It helped me miss my Uncle Mike becoming an premature old man.  He was still Uncle Mike the man who taught me all the things I needed to know, but that persistent cough that I had always noticed, but ignored had become more of a defining characteristic that I realized.  It was that cough that was a sign of the disease that was going to (if he had allowed it) kill him. He knew it, his doctors knew it, and all his loved ones knew it. Uncle Mike was dying, quickly, and there was exactly fuck all any of us could do about it, except, as it turns out, him. Uncle Mike was of the generation of men who didn't ask for help, didn't need help, and belonged to a class of men "who couldn’t be tempted or swayed by the pleasant but boring dream of one day waking up at sunrise in their own bed with no one to run from and no one to apologize to."

That last comment in the quotation marks is from a website called Modern Drunkard magazine, and in many ways my Uncle Mike was a modern drunkard. He was a man's man, someone who you didn't want to fuck with. If provoked he would just as soon shoot or stab you as not.  He wasn't John Wayne by any one's standards, and I am quite sure that some of my recollections of him are quite romanticized, but for all of those things he taught me, he was one of my heroes. Not one of the 366 heroes I have already written about, but a true hero, one that I actually had the pleasure (not taken nearly often enough) of knowing, learning, and worshiping from up close. Those words that I leaned over his coffin to whisper into his unhearing ears, are the truest things that I, no matter how hard I try, will ever say.  Good night you magnificent bastard.