The college student read "The Awakening" By Kate Chopin
It was a slow Tuesday night at Bert's Burgers. KSAU played quietly in the background. The notes of "Hey Jelousy" flutterd, mostly unheard, through the thick hot humid East Texas air. Bert's was nothing more than a shack with a drive up window and a dirty kitchen. The Manager was out at Kroger's rounding up bacon. He liked to call it K-Roger's. The Manager had been a college student for 9 years and had yet to earn a degree.
The bell rung, indicating a customer at the order sign.
"Welcome to Bert's Burgers, may I take your order?" The College Student asked, as he had thousands of times before. He would ask it only a few hundred more. Graduation was a month away.
"Y'all got n'y crawdads?" asked The Customer through the speaker box.
"No sir, we only have burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries and onion rings." The College Student thought about adding that Bert's also carried a selection of soft drinks, but suspected that he had complicated matters enough already. The next utterance from the crackly speaker confirmed those suspicions.
"Uh...(pause)...uh...(pause)...we'll take 4 pounds then."
"I'm sorry sir, did you say four pounds? Four pounds of what?" asked The College Student, bewildered.
"Crawdads." came the answer.
"Uh, sir, we don't carry crawdads." The College Student was a little nervous. He was all alone and did not want some backwoods psycho throwing a stick of dynamite throught the window.
"What do y'all have?" The Customer did not sound angry, just confused.
"We have burgers" The College Student thought keep it simple.
"Oh...(pause)...Y'all got n'y crawdads?"crackled the speaker.
The College Student stared at the speaker for about a minute. A minute can seem like a long time, this one lasted forever.
"No sir, this is a burger joint." The College Student was wondering if this was a joke, he was afraid to stick his head out to see.
"Oh...(pause)...ok...(pause)...we'll take 3 pounds then."
The voice sounded so sincere. This guy wanted crawdads, and had decided that Bert's Burgers sounded like a dandy place to "git him sum crawdads."
The College Student thought about his next response. "Sir, I'd be happy to make you a burger, but I am afraid you are going to have to go somewhere else if you want crawdads." How could he possibly be any clearer than that?
"Uh...(pause)...mm...(pause)...ok, we'll take 2..." The College Student cut The Customer off, "Pull forward please."
A rusty, rust colored'72 Thunderbird, with a lot of rust pulled forward. Did I mention the rust? In the front seat was a dirty mullet, wearing nothing but a pair of cut-offs. Next to him was a large black dog. In the back seat was an old woman in her 80s. She was wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt, leather pants and wraparound shades. The man said to The College Student "I told her that y'all didn't have no crawdads." Her window was open, but she spoke to The Mullet. "Git me a cuppa ice." The College Student handed a styrofoam cup full of ice to The Mullet without being asked. He handed it back to The Old Woman. The Mullet and The College Student watched as the old lady poured Schlitz Powermaster (35% more alcohol!) from a 40oz over the ice. The Mullet said "Thanks man." and drove off.
About 5 minutes later The Manager showed up with the bacon. "Anything happen?" he asked. The College Student looked at him for a moment, thought about trying to explain, and replied "Nope".


I have a migrane. My dad gets them too, so he understands. He lets me stay home so I can try to sleep it off. Around noon I wake up and my head does no hurt as much as when I woke up at 7. My dad says "Wanna go for a drive?" I figure, what the hell? So I put on some clothes. Dad fires up the little red GTI, zeros out the trip counter and we head out towards lake Belton. We stay quiet most of the way out. It's a warm overcast day, and windy enough to blow the car around quite a bit. As we are pulling into the recreation area we see a guy on a bike crossing the cattle guard on the way out. We drive in, stop off at the snackbar for...a snack, and head back for home. On the main road back to Ft. Hood, about a mile from the recreation area, we see the cyclist pushing into a killer headwind. He is not having fun. My dad ask me if I think we should help him out. I say "Sure." So we pull over, pop the hatch and pull back out as the guy approaches. He pulls in behind us and pretty soon we are clipping along at 20-25 miles an hour. I am sitting in back on the folded over backseat, facing backwards, watching him, and he is clearly having a much better time. About 15 miles down the road we are approaching civilization (and traffic) again I reach up and pull the hatch closed, give the cyclist the thumbs up, which he returns, and I climb back into the passengers seat. We continue on home with big smiles on our faces. Life is good. It's 1984.


K says she loves me. My eyes snap open. I realize that I am alone in the cab of my little pickup. There is a foul taste in my mouth and condensation all over the inside of the cab. My eyes are all puffy from crying myself to sleep again. I open the door and step out onto the dirt of the little west Texas rest stop. I walk around the truck and check that no one tampered with it during the night. everything looks OK. I pee, get back in and towel everything off. It's first light and I start the truck up, roll down the windows and crank the heater to dry it out. With this happening I climb up a small knoll next to the rest stop. I watch the sky begin to light up and push back the dark. I turn my back on the sun and watch the last of the stars wink out on the western horizon, holding on to the moment as long as possible. Once many years ago I made love to my wife on this knoll in the pre-dawn minutes that had just passed. Now she is gone and I am alone. Completely alone, and trying to find my way in the world without her. I get in the truck, switch off the heater and head east. I'll make Austin today.


Tom and Ted and I climb to the top of the weird "table" structure next to the Schirn. There are stairs that are kind of hidden, and it feels sort of like we are in an "off-limits" area, but really there is no indication that anyone can't just come up here. The structure is just like I described it, a table with glass bricks as a top and 4 white legs. The Schirn is an art museum, a modern white building jammed in between Frankfurt's cathedral, roman ruins, Roemer square (where they used to crown Teutonic kings) and the Main river. We sit in the heart of one of the most historical areas in the finiancial nexus of Germany and talk about girls and sex and drinking. Below us the toniest crowd in Frankfurt gathers for drinks in the hippest art bar in Frankfurt. We argue about weather we could possibly pick up girls from that crowd. I know I can't, but Tom thinks he can pick up any girl he wants (and has proven that fact again and again). Ted has a girlfriend, but thinks he can if he wants to. Eventually we get tired of looking at stars and talking about girls and sex and drinking. We head for home, tomorrow is a school day, and we don't want to miss the last bus. Life is good. It's 1987.


Tom and I are at the Commisary. We are looking for mixers. As an 18 year old I can get any booze I want "on the economy", but Germans don't know anything about mixers. Tom and I notice the duck-shaped soup crackers at the same time. They are called "Quackers". We are dying. We buy the last 3 boxes and a bottle of cranberry juice. We take my parents Vanagon downtown and pick up Ted and a girl Tom knows. Tom Ted and the girl drink vodka and cran and sit with their legs dangling out of the open sliding door as we tool around Frankfurt on a warm summer evening. It's 10, still light out and we are listening to David Sylvian. We get tired of the Quackers pretty quickly, and start throwing handfulls of them at sidewalk cafes. The crowd is mostly bankers and their offspring. The entitled youth of Germany. Their reactions are uniformly confused and upset, but we do manage to get a few laughs. We decide not to throw them at Japanese tourists anymore. They all look pretty close to the edge as it is, and we don't want a duck-shaped soup cracker to push one over. The vodka is gone, so we park and get the Frisbee out and head to the Alte Oper. We play untill about 1 and I drive everyone home. I paint untill dawn in my bedroom with "Filigree and Shadow" playing quietly in the background. I go to sleep. Life is good. It's 1988.

I wake up on the couch and stare at the TV. Bong hit. 9am comes M*A*S*H until 11 on F/X. Bong hit. I eat something surf the web or nap untill 2. That's when Law&Order comes on A&E. Bong hit. Followed by Real TV. Bong hit, bong hit. 4pm, Police Videos. Bong hit. Sheriff John Bunell is funny when you are high. 5 pm, now is the cream of the day, I smoke up really heavily for the next hour and a half, Simpsons on CBC, followed by 2 more Simpsons episodes on Fox. At 6:30 comes the first Just Shoot Me, bong hit, then last night's Daily Show, on Comedy Central, bong hit, then another Just Shoot Me on the same local network affiliate as before, bong hit. Now is Prime time so the schedule varies untill about 11, but between 8 and 11 it is safe to say that I smoke about a 16th. At 11 comes The Daily Show, bong hit. then I kind of surf around the web and TV untill about 2. Bong hit. Then I fall asleep. At about 5am I wake up. Bong hit. I go back to sleep. I wake up on the couch and stare at the TV. Bong hit.


Suddenly I'm awake. There is a creaking sound coming from the living room. It is the unmistakable sound of a person walking around. My wife is asleep next to me, so it is an uninvited guest. I grab my maul handle. A maul is a tool used in splitting logs. It is much like an axe, only with a wedge-shaped head you swing and lodge in the log that is to be split. Then you use a sledgehammer to drive the wedge through the log, thus splitting it. The handle differs from an axe handle in that it is round from one end to the other. It is more club-like. Mine has a thick peice of 550 cord tied though a hole on one end. I loop the cord around my wrist so I won't drop it. I quietly open my door and look out. I can see a figure rummaging around my desk, making little noise. In four long strides I am across the room. The figure turns as I am on my third step, but it is too late. I am in mid swing. The oak of the maul handle contacts the figure's head directly below his left ear. There is a sick crunch, and he falls in a pile at my feet. A pool of blood begins to form at my feet. I can see that he had been gathering my valubles and putting them in a grocery bag. My wallet, my wife's purse, my PDA. I sit at my desk chair and I wait while he bleeds a little more. He never comes to. After about five minutes I pick up the phone and call the police. Then I go find some clothes to wear, and to wake up my wife. I worry about how I am going to get the blood out of my wood floor.


We called it "The Yellow Monster" after "The Green Monster", a big wall at some ballpark somewhere. I don't follow basball. I would have called it "Mellow Yellow", but that was kind of obvious, since it was a bong. It was clear glass with yellow, but some white drops flowing through it. I don't think I have ever seen an ugly glass bong. This one was prettier than most, and surprisingly light for it's size. I struck my lighter, held The Yellow Monster up to my mouth and sucked the smoke into my lungs. I love pot. I love the way it makes me feel. I love that it lets me forget how miserable I am sometimes. I exhaled the smoke slowly, held the bong up to my mouth and lit up again, this time pulling the stem halfway through so as to not waste any smoke. That last little bit of smoke in the neck is harsh if left too long. Since I was smoking to forget, and smoking alone I kept going. Hit after hit. Pretty soon I couldn't work the lighter. That's usually when I stop, but I concentrated real hard and managed to light up for two more hits. I had a whole ounce of the local green in a sealed plastic food container in front of me. It was good stuff, not ditchweed. It had been over 2 years since I had smoked and a lot had happened. I was moving all of my stuff from Seattle to Austin and I came across The Yellow Monster. Good bongs are the kind of thing that even when you stop smoking you can't bring yourself to get rid of, because they are so damned expensive, and they usually hold some sentimental connection. This was especially true of The Yellow Monster. It was my wife's bong. My dead wife's bong. The one she had bought to replace "The Anniversary Bong", which she had bought me for our 5th anniversary. Little did I know I would only have 4 more, and the last 3 so painful. If I had know then how important her things would become, I would have taken better care not to break The Anniversary Bong. So the Yellow Monster, the ounce of grass, and I sat alone in the underfurnished apartment. I stared out the window at the city and celebrated the first of a new kind of anniversary for me. The first year alone.