Friday Firesmith – Alien Abduction

Odd thing, the plague, it really is. During the lockdown, a friend of mine was working from home, and so was the guy she lived with at the time. Of all the things that could have happened, her boyfriend became sick, not with the plague, but with heart troubles, and he died. She went into a state of grief, and stayed there, for many months, and finally emerged.

Now, the internet is the perfect ways-and-means to reconnect with old flames, and she rediscovered a guy she went to college with, who lived half a country away. Perfect. This way she could ease into the idea of dating without there being someone right there all the time, and if she decided it was too soon, breaking up would be a lot less messy. She told her old flame all of this, laid her cards on the table, and was totally honest about her state of mind.

He countered with this gem, “I know what you mean, since the abduction, I haven’t really been the same, either.”

“Abduction?” My friend was aghast. Had this man been held hostage for money or something?

“Aliens,” he said, “but I don’t like to talk about it, yet”

 My friend decided quickly her old flame wasn’t interested, and the alien thing was his way of scaring her away, so they ended the conversation with cheerful goodbyes and she thought that was that. Clearly, no one in their right mind is going to just blurt out they were abducted by aliens, and she went back to knitting with her cats.

Two days later, he calls and wants to know what she isn’t responding to his messages. It was then and there she realized he wasn’t trying to get rid of her, and he actually believed he had been abducted by aliens.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Shall we? Beam me up!

Okay, if I was really and truly abducted by aliens, there are about two people I could tell and have any hope they would believe me. A random former lover who hunted me down on the internet would not be someone I told, at the end of a text conversation that had lasted just ten minutes.

Personally, I wouldn’t believe me. I would very seriously have doubts about my own sanity, and I would think it more likely I was delusional than grabbed by aliens wielding an anal probe and Christmas lights while wearing ET merch.  

So what does that say about someone who would tell that story? If they’re lying, man, that’s one hell of a lie to try to pass. It’s like one of those jacks we played with as kids, being a kidney stone and trying to pass that through your urinary system. I went through the people I knew who could tell me that story and I would believe it, and honestly, I have more thumbs. It’s a hell of a lot more likely that my friends are insane than targets for galactic anal probes.

Show of hands who would believe me if I told you that story? See what I mean?

So my friend told the guy it was too soon, and she wasn’t ready. He said he understood, and it’s been a few weeks since she’s heard from him. I knew this guy from the mid-’80s, and you know, he never seemed the alien abduction type, not that there is that type. But really, if I was picked up by aliens, I wouldn’t tell a soul. I’d keep quiet about it, maybe write about it, call it fiction, and go on with life. At the end of the day, you have to keep some things to yourself. Maybe, however, there’s a guy out there who got kidnapped by aliens, and he’s sitting there wondering why no one believes him, and that’s what the aliens want us to think.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


Friday Firesmith – Hospice

When Hospice arrived, we were sitting at the kitchen table, waiting. That’s what her brother and I have been doing for a couple of weeks now, and nothing makes it better. He’s older than I, doesn’t get around very well, and can’t do any lifting, but he is fully retired, and he can stay for long periods of time.

The nurse is a young and perky woman, devoid of the misery and exhaustion we are clothed in. She tells us that her company isn’t offering treatments or cures, because she has to tell us this. We nod slowly, for we no longer hope for a miracle, just a silent and painless end.

Palliative Care, just making the days better until the last day. Just making the nights more livable, and the hours less long. The long trip of a short life is now beginning to make the last turn.

By the time next Friday slips into view, this all should be over, and I will have nothing left to say on the matter. There will be a small memorial, and then we will return to our own lives, and feel regret and relief.

There’s an empty feeling, a sense of loss already, and there’s exhaustion, a never-ending, crippling, overwhelming, exhaustion. No one is rested. No one feels anything but the lack of energy, and the desire to see this to the end now.

Hospice leaves, and there are four people now, a niece, a son, a brother, and there’s me. We’ll do this in shifts, we’ll eat at random times, we’ll bathe and shave, and we will take care of our patient, a woman who is between life and death now.

She’s quit eating, quit responding to us, stopped seeing us as who we were to her. This breaks my heart, every time, each and every time, for there is no recognition. What we had, the love, the memories, all of who we were is gone or locked away. It belongs to me alone now, and alone I will be able to live in again, in my head, only.

Fellow Travelers, my friends from this place, those of you who have followed along, pay attention, in case you find yourself in my shoes. Ride it down, take a bullet for this sort of thing, crash and burn, because it’s the only way to make peace with someone dying. Make sure you spend every minute you can with her, because there will be a day she looks at you, and looks past you, and looks right through you, and you’ll know she’s gone.

Soon, Death, soon, she will be yours, for she is no longer mine. But she never was, really, we are all on loan, temporary fires, too soon to run out of fuel, or run out of time.


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


Friday Firesmith – Legacy

Before a slow death was an enviable given, the decision not to tell the world about the tumor was made. No social media, no mass emails, and if possible, no one who didn’t have to know would be told until the recovery was in full swing. But that was before the tumor began to grow faster than the doctors could make promises that the treatment was working, and soon it became clear it was a matter of when, not if, and sooner, not later.

She was an art teacher in grade school, high school, and everywhere in between. We couldn’t go anywhere at all without a former student, some of them with kids, who remembered the patience and the skill, and the love. I got used to the idea we would never eat in a restaurant without someone coming over to speak with us, and quite frankly, I enjoyed every minute of it.

But now, there are those who have come to say goodbye. A dark woman with reddened eyes arrived and curled up on the bed with her teacher. Unashamed sobs racked this woman’s body as she tried to make sense of what was happening. I closed the door and left them alone, student and teacher, for one last conference. Another arrived to speak to me about arrangements, to tell me stories about classes, and how there is no justice in this world, that the good die, and the indifferent live. Yet another had called to make a visit and wants to know if she can bring her kids. Yes, yes, please do, and so there are more former students on the way.

There is a tribe of fierce and passionate women, all guided by the same hand, all taught in the same manner, all armed by a woman who lived the life of an artist, and her charges return to her, in tears, but determined. All of them tell me the same thing, that this one person changed their lives forever, and there is no accounting for the loss here. All of them tell me about those who cannot make it, names I have heard before, packmates to this family, and I realize they have adopted me, too.

This is larger than my pain, much greater than my grief, to be the doorman, to bear witness, to the passing of this woman. My life as a solitary creature, and my vocation in construction give me no insight into the pilgrimage I receive, in someone else’s name, and passion. There are those who send texts each day, telling me when someone is coming by, giving my number to those who would call, and I am unable to look away, even were I willing.

I tell them to come, I ask them to call, I give them my email, and I invite them to stay as long as they need, it doesn’t matter, no, it’s no trouble at all. It’s a lifetime of achievement in the arts, painting, drawing, sketching, beadwork, jewelry, pottery, metallurgy, indigo dyeing, and a multitude of other arts I know only in passing.

The dark woman calls and wants to, needs to, bring her children, and I say yes, of course, it is no trouble and it is not. I am the gatekeeper only, the portal to the legacy, and I will never think to match this even if I had a dozen lifetimes.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


Friday Firesmith – Before Lunch

My girlfriend is gone. She slipped away, like the air in a balloon, and all that is left is the shell of what once held her life, and enough inside to keep her body in motion, such that it is. Steps are treacherous, but there isn’t enough time left to create a ramp of some sort. What we are doing now is kicking the can down the road, gaining a month, maybe more, with treatment, but with each passing day, the more time we have the less of her is left for us. We’re cheating ourselves, and we’re cheating the memories of this woman’s life.

It’s her son’s call, to keep the treatments going, and how’s one to know when a mother’s life is to end? You have to allow a son to do this, to play all the cards given, to hope for a miracle even though such an event would leave us with a person of diminished capacity.

So this morning I get up two hours before the appointment, move her from one side of the bed to the other, change the sheets on the bed because she doesn’t have the control she once did, and the diapers leak, the pads won’t catch everything, and begin the process of treating her like a toddler trying to get ready for school.

She fights against me getting her out of bed, getting her upright, doesn’t want breakfast, does want breakfast, doesn’t want to go to the bathroom, wants to go to the bathroom right now, and then there’s getting her cleaned up and dressed. She bats at me with arms that are thin and weak, and she yells at me in a voice that is the ghost of the one I knew. There are sounds that come out of her, like those made of an angry child, and she screams at me, “No, no, nooooooo, no, I don’t want to go, let me sleep,” and I wonder how many parents go through this each day with a small child.

I sit her in a desk chair that has wheels to get her to the front door, and she fights against me carrying her down the steps, but there is no other way. She refuses to comb her hair, and she slouches in the wheelchair at the cancer center like a petulant teenager.

What day is it? What year is it? Who is the president? How do you feel? And none of the questions burn through the haze and she shakes her head in anger. The treatment, full brain radiation, is supposed to shrink the tumor but after a week of this, I can tell no difference at all. Who is in there? How much is left? What will life be like if the tumor is killed? Who knows? Now I have to drive back to her house, fight her to get her out of the truck, carry her back into the house, and get her back into bed again.

There’s a flicker of recognition in her eyes sometimes, like she realizes I’m still the man she once knew. That’s everything and that’s all, but it is enough, before lunch.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – Death By Committee

In the beginning, there was one doctor, and that was the one person we had to deal with. She was a neurosurgeon, a good one, and she was going to cut a hole in the skull of my girlfriend and do a biopsy, and we would know what was happening.

That was right around the 7th of January, 2021.

We went to see another doctor, Doc2, and he was there to tell us what treatment we would be offered, and only then were we told it was melanoma we were dealing with, and this was a week later. We were told about the miracle of the Gamma Knife, which was a silver bullet, and a cure, and this would all be over with before the end of the month.

That weekend, my girlfriend crashed out, became disoriented and this was the beginning of the end of the person I knew. The state which she entered would become permanent. Times, dates, appointments, and schedules for meds all became impossible for someone who taught at the University to handle. We met Doc3, who told us treatment would be delayed until the infection cleared up.

The next day, Doc3 told us there was no infection. We still have no idea why he thought there might be.

Three days later I called Doc2 and Doc3 and tried to figure out when the Gamma Knife treatment would begin. No one knew. We made an appointment with Doc1, and she told us she had no idea why the treatment was delayed. We finally had another appointment, two weeks after the initial diagnosis.

At this point, my girlfriend couldn’t walk more than a few feet without help. She didn’t know what day it was, and could barely speak.

We arrived at the Gamma Knife treatment excited that the beginning of the end was near, but Doc4 delayed treatment for another four days. Doc4 did another MRI and we went home and waited.

Four days later, Doc4 was no longer optimistic at all. The Gamma Knife would work, maybe, but there might have to be more treatment because the tumor had grown between the two weeks plus that the committee hadn’t done a damn thing. The treatment went well, and we were sent home without a follow-up for another two weeks.

Doc5, the doctor who was supposed to be really good, and really great, met with us and more or less just ping-ponged from one idea to another, and didn’t seem to know what was going on. He both promoted immunotherapy and then shot it down, and then said it was a good idea. I recommended another scan to see how much of the tumor was been killed off, and how big it was. He said that wouldn’t take place for “several weeks”.

The very next day, my girlfriend fell, and tried to fight her brother as he tried to help her get up. An ambulance was called, and after she refused to go with them, she fell again, so she was admitted to the hospital. They did a scan which revealed the tumor had grown rapidly.

Okay, Doc1 said we would begin immunotherapy. Doc5 said we would begin whole brain radiation. In between, we got various and mixed messages of when it would happen, how it would happen, and no one was in charge.

Yesterday, the 8th of March, two full months after the tumor was discovered, we were told by Doc1, radiation would begin that day, followed by immunotherapy, and my girlfriend would be discharged from the hospital the next day, or maybe even the next day. That was at two in the afternoon.

At four, Doc6, a man we had no idea was involved in the process, called me and told me radiation was in process and someone needed to pick her up by six in the afternoon. I asked him what condition she would be in and he acted like he had no idea.

Her son picked her up and took her home. There wasn’t any chance the person he took home and spent the night with had any chance at all of living alone, or being able to attend basic functions without someone there.

We have more treatment today, but no one can tell us what time to get her there, how long it will last, or which one of the half dozen members of the committee could tell us.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – Sweat and Alcohol

Generally speaking, my go to solution to stressful times falls into one of two categories; alcohol or sweat. I started drinking too much after I retired, and while that wasn’t what landed me in the hospital with diverticulitis, it likely didn’t help anything. After getting out of the hospital I went back to work, knowing whatever I was stupid enough to do, drinking on a construction project would never be on the list.

The plague kept me from going to a gym, kept me out of Yoga classes, and kept me from finding a way to work out the way I really need to, except in the yard, which isn’t a bad work out. The stress going on right now is greater than my fear of the plague, so away I went, and I joined a gym.

It’s a huge spacious thing, with high ceilings and an enormous open space. I’m not sure about their marketing strategy, because to pay for this thing they’ve got to get a hell of lot of people in that building, but it may work. I’ve had both my plague shots, ought to be fairly safe, so in I went, and away with sloth and alcohol.

My first Yoga class was both painful and embarrassing. I have more work to do than I thought I did. Positions that once came easy are now impossible. There’s another class today, and I’m going in for more punishment.

I put five miles on a treadmill listening to Yes, and Taylor Swift. It was a slow affair, no more than a fast walk, but I needed to put myself in motion for a while, to walk the way I once could, for periods of time that made a difference. I miss walking for long periods of time in the woods and on the road. I miss being in shape.

Things here at home are like being in a wind tunnel with an Exlax experiment going on above, with outhouses lined up to dump through the ceiling. I can honestly say that what is happening in my life right now confounds me. I have no answers because there are none. I have no solutions because there are none. I am not doing the right thing because there is nothing to do that will make a difference.

I get into a groove on a treadmill, or in a Yoga class, and for an hour, or even more, there’s music and pain and a box where the outside doesn’t exist for a while.

Outside again, I do the things I have to do, and hope they make a difference, and I hope that when all of this is over, I don’t have to lift a lot of regrets from my heart or soul. This is the long haul of adulting, the thing you can’t prepare for, the stretch of road where any breakdown will put you in the middle of nowhere without a spare.

After a certain period of time with nothing but bad news, the reality of the situation sinks in, and you stop thinking there will be a positive outcome.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


Friday Firesmith – A Day of Cancer

To begin with, we had no idea when the fall started. Her son and I went through what we could find and there seems to have been a slow decline about two months ago. She had just started a new job, got rave reviews from her employer, who wants her to return, but at the same time, little things were pushed aside, never to be picked up again. Dental appointments, any bill not on antopay, and we had no idea that the power wasn’t on autopay until the lights went off yesterday.

Now, I think we’ve gotten everything back on the right path, but there are still the day-to-day life events that have to be handled. There’s cat litter, dog meds for fleas and heartworms, there’s house cleaning and there’s laundry. I have to go through her phone every once in a while and call people back, schedule appointments, but the Nurse Navigators, and I had no idea there were such people until now, are beginning to realize I’m the best bet for information and scheduling.

We went to pick up meds yesterday and there are a half dozen in one day. Pain meds, steroids, meds for nausea, meds for diarrhea, meds for nausea again, and three supplements. I’ve learned to give B-12 injections, and I am the proud owner of one of those old people pillboxes that have days of the week and times of the day. I use all of them, and Amazon’s Alexa reminds me of when all the meds are due.

Because we’re not married, there are issues with me picking the meds up from the pharmacy, and it’s hard for them to understand that they can call her, and she’ll tell them she will pick the meds up, but she can’t. I’m not sure she understands she can’t, but at the same time, I have to get a wheelchair and roll her into the store, pick the meds up, and roll her out again. Some of the people behind the counter are beginning to recognize the situation, and they tell me just to have her call before I get there, but the pain meds are a different animal.

Meanwhile, Mom is back home fretting about all of this, and unable to get out and about because of the plague. I’ve got to get groceries back to her, get dog food and dog meds, and it’s been three days since I’ve been able to get back. Both Mom and my girlfriend have mobility issues, but Mom, at least, knows what’s going on around her and can do some housework.

We went to an oncologist yesterday, and after thirty minutes of me telling him, “That’s not factual” or “That’s not correct,” he stopped asking her questions and started listening to me. These are the meds she’s taking, this is the food she is eating, this is how her body is responding to the meds, these are the symptoms that are worse, and please for the love of Inanna, listen to me when I tell you what’s going on here, Doc, because the patient doesn’t know.

The doctor asks me to step out of the room but in two minutes he asks me back in. Simple tests; does she give the same answers to the questions asked in other forms? She does not.

After the oncologist and the pharmacy, there’s lunch and she sleeps. Fourteen to sixteen hours a day, waking up to eat and take meds. Long naps are in order. Sometimes when she wakes she is lucid, and the woman I love is with me for a few minutes. Other times she tells me there’s another dog in the house, a cat in the closet or someone has called her, but there is no record of that conversation on her phone.

Death by cancer isn’t the hard part. The end isn’t what kills everyone around the patient. The real pain is watching someone be deduced in their own life, to be diminished and dimmed, like a signal fire being extinguished by a hard rain.

Take Care,


Friday Firesmith – The Gamma Knife

Written Wednesday, 2/16/21…

A couple of months ago my girlfriend started having a problem keeping food down because she felt nauseated. Normally light on her feet, the woman began to shuffle and stumble a bit. As time wore on, there was fatigue and listlessness to go with the other symptoms, so she went into the doctor’s office, and after a bunch of tests, a scan was done.

Seven years ago, they removed a patch of melanoma from her arm, and they told her it might reappear, and so it had; a tumor was found in her brain. The growth of the tumor was causing pressure on her brain and causing the symptoms.
If you’ve never heard of “Sundowners” it’s a condition usually found in dementia or Alzheimer’s patients where confusion sets in as the sun goes down. The lack of light, isolation, and other factors worsen their condition. My girlfriend went through that one night and wound up being hospitalized. We then discovered there were some issues going on in her life no one knew about.

There were dropped appointments, unpaid bills, a lost wallet, forgotten responsibilities, and a host of minor problems she had simply forgotten. Reality had changed, and the tumor was controlling how much of reality she could interpret. Her son and I had to get together for the information needed for the financial part of treatment and found her records missing or in disarray, even though she had assured us it was all there.

There was one person, a teacher, an artist, someone who a University had sought out as an instructor, a mom, a sister, and my girlfriend, who was witty, competent, knowledgeable, and loving. Then there was someone who was evasive, forgetful, irresponsible, and at times nearly a zombie. They were both the same person, and oddly, at the same time.

We’ve had an interview with a doctor in Thomasville Georgia who will operate, maybe even as you read this, with a device known as a “Gamma Knife” where a couple of hundred gamma rays are fired into the tumor to kill it. It’s supposed to be a total cure. My sense of optimism has been damaged in the last two weeks or so, but this is all we have.

Tomorrow, which will be Thursday, we’ll go in at 6:20 in the morning, to get yet another scan, and by the end of the day, the ordeal will end, and normalcy will reappear as the swelling is reduced by the dying tumor.

Anything that affects the brain will change the person you love, and all there is to do is to hope you can find them at the end of treatment, like looking for someone lost in the woods.
Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


Friday Firesmith – The Great White Out II

Part Two…

Why Richard? Oh, Richard, why?

I was home, peacefully eating breakfast and drinking coffee when Richard returned. His face was speckled white, his hair was splattered with paint, and he was grinning like a child. Also, his feet were white, and I ought to have asked more questions, but the first was this: How in the hell do you plan to get all that paint off your clothing without getting it all over the apartment? Outside, with a garden hose and a brush used to wash cars, I got the gist of what he had done. Richard had spent the better part of an entire day painting the apartment. He thought Mish was going to marry him. Once again, I found myself trying to lower Richard’s expectations as to how a woman would react to his actions.

Sunday arrived, and short of breaking in using the same path as Richard, I was reduced to sitting on my girlfriend’s sofa waiting. Mish came over early and we heard her screaming obscenities. I hadn’t said a damn thing to anyone, because I didn’t want to be caught up in whatever was going to happen and happen it did.  My current and ex, and my ex’s current, and myself, all rushed up to Mish’s apartment to discover a winter wonderland.

The walls were done well enough, I mean, how can you screw that part up? The ceilings had been painted. But the hardwood floors had been painted, too.  Ever see Kilz applied over thick polyurethane stain? It was not pretty. The tile in the bathroom? As white as snow. The antique tile on the fireplace? White. The doors, the handles of the doors, the kitchen cabinets, one ceiling fan’s blades, all as white as County Music. The built-in bookcase made of black walnut was white walnut now.  Worse, Richard had started painting at the front of the apartment, painted himself into the bedroom, and then had to walk out through wet paint. His footprints extended down the stairs. (Why he had scaled the porch with the five-gallon bucket yet used the stairs to get out was not a conversation I was willing to have.)

Of course, no one knew it was Richard, but me. But I knew if I didn’t say anything, Richard would mention I said it looked great, or it was a good idea. I allowed that Richard had come home covered in white paint, and I thought it might have been him.

Despite my warnings, and pleas, and death threats, Richard went over to talk to Mish, and she screamed at him. He was banished, by popular vote, from ever setting foot in 214 again. (I voted against him, I admit it.)

The landlord came over on Monday, to see how the work had progressed and nearly died of a heart attack. If you ever had to explain Richard to anyone, trust me, the first time is truly difficult. There were a lot of four-letter words and a lot of tears, but at the end of the day, legal action didn’t seem worth the bother.

Mish stopped speaking to me after moving a chair one night and its legs left paint peeling off the floor, reminding her why her floors were Kilz white. She forgave me because I took a razor blade and scraped the paint off the fireplace tiles, and we all did a little here and there to get the worst places back. It took a very long while to get the bookcase done, but we saved it.

Richard moved out a few months later. The 214 thing caused me a lot of trouble, and honestly, people were beginning to blame me for some of the things Richard did, even when I didn’t know about them. Richard wasn’t mean, or evil, but the destruction he did, and his inability to discern how people felt about his actions, was a burden. The last time I spoke to someone who still knew Richard, he was still single, and working in warehouse.

The guy I was talking to told me Richard had painted his apartment a weird shade of red and I had to grin.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


Friday Firesmith – The Great South Georgia White Out

Part One…

Richard meant well, he really did, and when he was sober, which was two days a week, somewhere between Tuesday night and Thursday at noon, and he would and he could follow his best intentions through. Having Richard as a roommate was sometimes fun, always entertaining, but it was like living with someone whose brain worked differently than anyone else’s.

A Physics professor almost tossed Richard out of college, and the fact Richard was there at all was a testament to his never-say-die spirit, but also his lack of situational awareness. Richard had been mauled on his first physics exam and went to protest for a better grade. The PhD level professor couldn’t believe a freshman was arguing that one of the two men in the room didn’t truly understand the Laws of Physics. Richard had drawn a graph of one of the problems on the exam, and according to his drawing, Richard’s answer was correct. The professor was unmoved by the artistic endeavor and offered to drop Richard from the class. Richard was undeterred. Ten minutes later, he offered to drop Richard from the college.  Richard’s inability to understand when he was wrong was a serious weakness.

Alcohol was also a secondary weakness for Richard, with the first being women. Any woman would do, and it didn’t matter if she liked Richard or not; he was going to try to woo her as best as he knew how, and he didn’t know how at all. Richard was not only socially inept but clueless as to the depth of his incompetence. His full-frontal assault using what he assumed was charm came across to women as creepy and stalking. More than once I had to intervene and explain to Richard when a woman was threatening to issue a restraining order it was time to stop showing up at random times at her door with flowers, or alcohol, or bad breath. Or all three.

Mish was an enigmatic woman, dark of hair and eyes, a smile that slayed, and as cute as she was diminutive. Out of Richard’s league, measured in light-years, Mish moved upstairs into the infamous 214 apartment building. 214 was an ancient house divided into four apartments. Downstairs, my current girlfriend lived across the hallway from my ex-girlfriend, a situation that was fraught. Mish had a boyfriend who she had dated for almost a year, and she would date him for another year, until her husband showed up to reclaim her. But that’s another story. 214 generated a lot of stories. This is one of the few that doesn’t involve sex.

So Mish, when she first looked at the apartment at 214, got the landlord to donate a five-gallon bucket of Kilz, a thick white paint that could cover the hideous color the apartment had been painted in before.

“I’m going to repaint the entire apartment, top to bottom, and just start over,” Mish said as we were all sitting around drinking on the living room floor, the apartment had a reddish-pink paint covering all the walls. It was like being inside of a red blood cell. I live for the day someone can explain why the whole apartment had this color, but it did. Most of us agreed to help and the date for the paint party was set for that Sunday. Mish would move in officially Monday, so the worst of the fumes would be gone. Richard had a look in his eyes that meant the wheels were turning, and I should have known it.

Why Richard? Oh, Richard, why?

Richard had a plan. He would scale the porch, get into Mish’s apartment from an open window, spend the entire day Saturday painting her apartment, and win her heart in the process. In his defense, Richard could be a hard worker when alcohol and women were involved, but you can see why his judgment couldn’t be trusted to babysit an anvil in a padded room, can’t you?

But his plan went without a hitch, almost. Yes, Richard had gotten into the apartment undetected. He had left his car at home, a mile or so away, so no one knew he was there, yes, that had gone perfectly. The fifth of cheap whiskey Richard had tied to his leg, please don’t ask me why, had not fallen during his climb, and so during his painting adventure, Richard had plenty to drink, of course, this went as planned. Richard worked feverishly until he had used up all five gallons of Kilz, snuck down the stairs, staggered home, went and got another five gallon bucket of the stuff, climbed back in carrying the bucket, and finished the job. The whole apartment had been totally painted.

End of Part One.

Your guesses as to what happened?

Take care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.