Tag Archives: 1980s


Author’s note: I wrote this in early sobriety, somewhere between the kicking and screaming, on a good day. I post it today because today I have been sober for 27 years.

it’s hard to be who
you are,
standing in the archway
scared and confused.

it’s hard to decide
whether to walk through
the fog ahead,
or turn back.

we wish we could go back
to a place where our way
was all we knew of,
painful, familiar, secure.

But sometimes,
after we’ve passed through
the archway,
we can laugh and smile and share,
and nothing hurts as long.

we can reach out to
because we were once
there, too.

And sometimes, we will see that
whatever lies ahead
will be better than the past,
because we aren’t alone now.


Dogbreath’s Revenge

Gertrude was my mother’s car, and the first car I drove that had a name … and a personality.  There were around 200 cars in town that looked just like her, but Gertrude was always easy to spot among all those copies.  She had a certain “something” about her, a certain aura that made her stand out.  She was a mule in the Triple Crown of life.

When Gertrude was sold, my mother bought Charlie Brown.  Charlie Brown was older, more fickle, and well … more beat up.  By the second day I actually missed Gertrude.  At least she wasn’t embarrassing to be seen in.  I really didn’t have to worry about it much, though; Charlie Brown rarely moved.

Then Dogbreath entered my life.  Dogbreath had push-button gears, no upholstery, and seventeen years’ worth of dents.  It was kind of fun, though, being able to devaluate an entire neighborhood just by driving through it.  It made up for being laughed at.

One day, though, I decided that other people’s taste in cars was doing too much damage to my ego.  So, I set out to buy myself a car:  something with class, something small, and something as unlike Dogbreath as possible.  I guess he took it personally.  I don’t know how he arranged it, but Dogbreath got even.

At the tender age of 22, I went to pick out what would be the first car I ever owned myself.  I brought my Tucson uncle and a friend with me, so I wouldn’t be ripped off.  After ruling out an old mail jeep and a lemon, I picked out an imported compact car.  Being rather compact myself, the car was perfect for me.  And it was so cute!

My guardian angels decided it was a good car except for the brakes, so the dealer eventually agreed to have them replaced.  We could pick up the car that evening.  Two days later, the car was ready.  Before taking it to work, I took it to a garage and had the wheels balanced.  At this point, I’d seen five people look under the hood and find nothing amiss.

My new car got me to work and back fine, and everyone at work came out to see Dogbreath’s replacement.  Naturally, they were all quite impressed.

The next morning, my sister and I planned to drive up to Phoenix from Tucson to visit some relatives.  Since I had never driven further than ten miles, I made sure we had plenty of oil, water, and brake fluid with us.  (I’ll admit it:  I’m a coward.)  My sister, being great moral support, said “Watch.  You got all this stuff with you, and we’re gonna make it to Phoenix OK.  Boy, are you gonna be embarrassed!”  She was partially right.

We left Tucson at nine that morning, and planned to arrive in Phoenix around eleven or twelve.  Finding the highway was no problem, and the traffic and speed didn’t faze me a bit.  We were on our way.  I was impressing my little sister that I was such a pro behind the wheel, even though her seat wouldn’t stay upright.  I was impressed with my skills and my very own, private, personal first car … for an hour.

Then I heard a funny noise and saw steam pouring out from under the hood.  We pulled over to the side of the road, and I determined that the steam was from the car over-heating.  The noise was Dogbreath laughing.  I refilled the radiator, poured in brake fluid and two quarts of oil, and once again we were on our way … for half an hour.

At 10:45, I could feel the car starting to lose power.  It was nothing I could define, just the sensation that my car was dying swiftly.  I turned onto the nearest exit, and let gravity take us down the hill and into the nearest gas station.  I refilled the radiator, added more brake fluid and two more quarts of oil, and tried to restart the car.  Nothing happened.

While I was trying to figure out what to do next, every biker in Southern Arizona suddenly converged on this same gas station.  OK, maybe it was only 20.  My brave sister said “Why don’t you just go ask them for help?”  (My brave sister declined the opportunity to ask them herself.)  When they finally left, I convinced the gas station attendant to jump-start the car.  I called my aunt to tell her that we might be a little late, and once again we were on our way, until Casa Grande.

Now, I was too proud and stubborn to just turn around and go home.  I was bound and determined to show the world that I was perfectly capable of driving from Tucson to Phoenix.  I just forgot to tell my car that.  By now, Dogbreath was laughing hysterically in my mother’s driveway.

Outside Casa Grande, the car started to die again.  An expert by now, I once again coasted to the nearest garage, where I again refilled the radiator, brake fluid, and oil.  The guys we finally found to jump-start the car offered me, between peals of laughter, $50 for the car.  I refused.  Two hours later, I would’ve taken it.

Since it was 1:00 by now, I called my aunt again and told her we’d be there whenever we got there.  She asked me if I wanted my uncle to come get us, but I assured her that everything was fine; I could handle it.  Once again, we were on the road.

By now, I had assumed everything that could possibly happen already had.  How silly of me.  We’d only driven a short while when the keys fell out of the ignition.  I was nearly hysterical.  “Donna,” I shouted, “hand me the keys!”

My sister looked at me with a calmness that even a saint couldn’t match, and said “Why?  The car’s still running.”

Since my taste in cars was surpassed only by my ability to follow traffic signs, I took the wrong exit just outside Phoenix.  By now, it was 3:30, and the car died for the last time.  I managed to get it onto an empty lot, and we hiked to the nearest store to call my aunt again.  She told us to wait with the car while my uncle came to get us.  While we waited impatiently, I told the car what I thought of its parentage and beat on it with the wooden dowel we’d used to hold the hood up.  It didn’t even dent the car or scratch the paint!

When my Phoenix uncle came, we once again looked under the hood.  Two of the parts were held together with a coat hanger, and there was a grease rag jammed into one of the orifices.  Nobody had noticed this until now.

We had the car towed to a junkyard that promised to keep the car for us overnight, apparently to give them more time to strip it.  Then we finally made it to my uncle’s, where we tried to enjoy what was left of the day.  We arrived at his house in Phoenix around 6:00, a mere nine hours after we left Tucson.

I had no trouble naming that car, posthumously:  the Titanic.  The next day, I went back to driving Dogbreath, who snickered every time we passed a Japanese car.  Dogbreath lasted another year until he became a giant terrarium in my yard, but that’s another story.

The Hunger

It was hungry. And without knowing, she fed it.

The woman searched through the scattered papers on her desk, seeking desperately any semi-blank piece of paper on which to write the phone message. When she hung up the phone, she decided to make some effort to clean up her desk. Actually, she would be thrilled just to see a small portion of the top of the furniture piece. She gathered some of the pages into a small stack, opened the bottom drawer of the desk, and laid them on top of the papers that were already in there, leaving just enough room to shut the drawer.

The rest of her day passed rather swiftly. She fielded phone calls and sped through interviews, barely managing to catch her breath. Before she left her office for the weekend, she stared disparagingly at her desk, swept the remaining papers into a large pile, and put them in the bottom drawer of her desk, leaving just enough room to just the drawer. Again.

The desk sighed. Weekends were the worst. While it’s nice to have a respite from people pounding you all day with a pencil while they’re on the phone, it sure was a long time to go without eating. He needed all the strength he could muster to hold up all those files and baskets and papers and books and the phone. It wasn’t a great life, and he was beginning to carry a resentment. The LEAST she could do was to feed him once in a while.

“Kevin, do you know where the McKenna file is?” the woman asked through the intercom.

“I put it in your desk drawer this morning,” the secretary responded.

“Well, I can’t find it anywhere. I’ll look for it later. Can you get me James Henderson on the phone?” And so, by not looking for it immediately, Amanda Forrest missed a brilliant opportunity for panic and terror, and thereby prolonged the story.

Amanda Forrest was having “one of those days.” She couldn’t seem to find anything in her desk. Not that her desk wasn’t full of the junk you usually find in desks, it just didn’t seem to be full of anything she was looking for. This finally disturbed her enough to get up and make another cup of tea, so she could figure things out.

When she returned to her office, however, the phone rang. It came as no great surprise that the call was from her daughter, about the latest crisis instigated by the child’s brother. When she managed to get Alyssa off the phone, she pulled it closer to make a series of calls. Actually, she TRIED to pull it closer. The phone did not seem to want to move any further. It was as if the phone cord had shrunk. Or something.

The desk did feel a little different today. The objects on it didn’t seem as heavy, for some reason. Perhaps it was finally gaining a little needed weight. But this new-found strength did not diminish its hunger in the least. In fact, the desk had all the potential to suddenly become a compulsive over-eater. It had a lot of time and resentments to make up for.

Amanda had good intentions when she decided to try to unravel this mystery she suddenly found herself in the midst of. However, her desire did not exactly coincide with the realities of her duties. She would no sooner catch her breath, when someone would make more demands upon her time. By 5:00, the mystery was unsolved, but not forgotten. However, she still gathered all the papers on her desk and put them in her bottom drawer. On her way out the door, however, she turned and eyed her desk suspiciously. Then she shook her head and went home.

Immediately after she left, Kevin, her secretary, heard almost a groaning sound from her office, but 5:00 was 5:00, and whatever it was could wait until Monday.

At 7:00, Lucas, the “janitorial worker” arrived with his dog, Poughkeepsie. When they entered Amanda’s office, the dog growled at the wooden desk and bit its leg. This was not a brilliant move on the dog’s part.

What happens next? Tune in next time … if you dare.

Lucas, the janitor, was a very industrious worker, at least during the first half of his shift. Then he would greedily drink his dinner, and be fairly worthless for the second half. Even Poughkeepsie didn’t like to be around him then, so the dog took to making his own rounds of the building during this time. Inevitably, his journey took him to Amanda’s office, where the bottom drawer of the desk happened to be open. Although no one (including the author) would be able to come up with a reasonable explanation for why the dog jumped in the drawer, that’s what he did. Anyone seeing Lucas’ condition when he went home early that morning would not wonder why he didn’t notice his sudden lack of canine companionship.

When Amanda entered her office in the morning, it was with a certain uneasiness. She was not one given to taking seriously such abstractions as “vibes” and “instinct,” which certainly would’ve saved her a lot of problems. Instead, she entered and sat at her desk, sure there was a logical explanation for the potentially overwhelming anxiety she was feeling, which had increased as she got closer to the desk.

She looked through her desk, but found nothing amiss. When she reached for the phone to contact Kevin, the instrument was further back on her desk than usual. Again, she was unable to pull it closer. From years of practice, she had been able to reach for certain objects on her desk without looking, and it was because of trying to do this that she noticed the desk was definitely bigger. Not by much, but it was a little taller and a little wider. There was no doubt in her mind that something untoward was happening here, and that unwittingly, she was a part of it.

The desk smiled in satisfaction. The lady knew, and the desk knew she did. Now the fun stuff could begin, because this might turn into a truly great battle of wills, and the desk new it had much more at stake. It was also much more stubborn. Yes, this showed all the signs of being a really good time, at least for the desk.

Amanda could not think of a logical reason for her behavior, but she refused to put important papers in the infamous bottom drawer. Although she didn’t know why, she recognized that papers placed in there were never seen again, although the drawer was always full. At this point, she could still at least reach the phone, even if it was uncomfortable, so she called Kevin and induced him to find her some sort of filing cabinet. Although unwilling to admit she was afraid, she refused to open the desk long enough to remove the papers already in it. So at least for a while, the desk had plenty to eat. However…

A week later, while Amanda was at lunch, Kevin stepped into her office to find a copy of the McKenna file. He opened the bottom drawer, and was a bit surprised to note that the drawer was empty. He was even more taken aback by the fact that all of the drawers were. He had noticed that his employer was acting a bit odd lately, and wondered if the empty desk was a portent.

He decided not to mention his suspicions and findings when the woman returned, but he did ask her if she knew where the file was. She acted rather distracted, and mumbled some incoherent nonsense about the desk. Then she just walked away. The secretary was really beginning to worry about her.

The desk was getting bored. It had run out of stuff to eat, and the lady just wasn’t reacting enough. Deciding that it was no fun to play alone, the desk started formulating a new plan of action, something that would make a real impact.

Amanda refused to sit at her desk any more. Now, she sat in her chair, as far from the offending object as possible, and she used her lap for a desk. The woman was clearly weirding out. She didn’t have the sense to stay out of her office altogether, though, so she was able to witness her phone falling behind the furniture piece. This was not nearly disconcerting as the fact that she didn’t hear it land.

From where her chair was located, she got on the floor to peer under the desk. The phone was nowhere. She was no longer in any condition to panic when she heard the desk burp. She just sighed and went back to her duties, at least the ones she was still capable of performing.

Since Lucas was on vacation, it took him a week to come out of his drunken fog, and notice that Poughkeepsie was not around. He was worried enough that he remembered to look for him when he got to the office that night to clean. He searched everywhere, but all he came up with was a set of dog-tags underneath the desk.

He wondered if Ms. Forrest had quit while he was gone, because there was nothing on her desk. Even the file baskets were off the top, and the desk had been moved partially across the room. Well, he decided, maybe she got a better job. Or something.

What evil lurks in the hearts of desks? Only the author knows…

The desk made one tiny mistake…

After Amanda dragged herself to work, she found it next to impossible to enter her office. Her desk, rather bulky by now, tried to block her path. The room, earned through a great deal of sacrifice and effort, had long ago become her own inner sanctum. She had, many times, successfully fought off people who sought her job and office. There was no way that she was now going to simply turn it over to an unruly piece of wood.

Like her adversary, she decided to formulate a plan of action. She was beyond the point where reasonable people question the necessity of outwitting furniture. This was war, and the woman had no intention of losing, even if it meant that Kevin would continue to question her sanity for a while longer.

The desk was a little uneasy. He was glad that the lady was going to compete with him, but he had a funny feeling about the whole thing. His natural arrogance soon won out, though, as he realized that he held all the cards. And it was a marked deck.

Lucas came in that morning to pick up his paycheck. Amanda conscripted him and Kevin to help her return the desk to where it belonged. Neither one of the men was quite curious enough to ask how it had been moved to begin with. But both were uneasy, and grateful to leave the room as quickly as the opportunity arose, closing the door behind them.

Amanda paced back and forth in front of the desk. She was not the least bit pleased with the effect that recent events were having on her previously unblemished reputation. Finally, in anger, she removed one of the desk drawers and hurled it across the room. That felt so good that she yanked out another one and flung it at the first one. Within a short time, the desk was devoid of drawers. Having pretty much run out of objects to vent her fury on, she shoved the chair toward the desk and stomped out of her office, in search of tea and sanity.

With his boss safely out of the office for a while, Kevin entered the room to determine the damage, having heard the tantrum. However, the room was undisturbed. All the drawers were in place. But the chair was missing. He would have been able to convince himself that the chair had been missing earlier, except for the castor which was on the floor by the desk. He shook his head, but did not leave the room swiftly enough. The desk started approaching him, menacingly, of its own accord.

Amanda ran toward her office as soon as she heard the screams. She opened the door, and there stood Kevin, too terrified to move anything larger than his vocal cords. The desk was moving, and heading straight for the poor secretary. Amanda had to quickly think of a way to stop the desk, as that seemed somehow easier than trying to get Kevin out of the office. She quickly ran and grabbeda basket filled with papers from the top of Kevin’s desk, and threw it, aiming for the top of the desk. Her aim was fairly good; there was enough of the basked on the desk to keep it from falling off the side. The desk stopped, hungry.

Amanda stood there for a moment, fascinated, as she watched the papers and file basket slowly disappear. Then she thought, very hard and very quickly. Since this was an off-the-wall situation, it required an off-the-wall solution. But what?

The desk had, by now, just enough of these little games. His cravings had long since stopped being limited to food. He wanted power, and revenge. Fueled by an overdose of anger, the desk headed for Kevin and Amanda.

Amanda had learned, a log time ago, that enough pain will stop, at least temporarily, an aggressor. This desk was definitely aggressive, and therefore alive. So it had to be able to feel pain. Grabbing Kevin, who was in shock by now, she backed towards the office door, luring the desk to follow her. With Kevin safely out of the office and behind her, she gestured to him what she wanted him to bring her.

Kevin moved too slowly, so when the desk got to the office door, she grabbed the nearest object to feed the hunk of wood, Kevin’s electric typewriter, which was still turned on. In her head, Amanda pleaded with Kevin to hurry. She knew the desk was a fast eater, and that it wouldn’t let a little thing like walls keep it confined.

Kevin finally got there, right before the desk finished its snack. The woman’s intention was to scald the desk with the coffee in the urn, to slow it down long enough to think of something more permanent. But when the hot coffee made contact with the exposed wires of the still plugged in typewriter, there was a horrible sizzling noise, followed by a terrible stench. Then all was quiet for a moment.

The two watched in amazement as the desk returned to its original size. Amanda, shocked but pragmatic, opened the bottom drawer, and saw the elusive McKenna file. She handed it to Kevin, who went to make copies of it before another disaster could strike.

The copy machine made a funny noise. Kevin ran into the room to see what was the matter. He raised the lid on the machine, but the original was gone. The machine burped…