2012, 2016, 2017


For dad’s sixty-second birthday, I send a package. Ten albums of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And a pack of Camel Menthols. Our phone call ensues as if a year of silence hasn’t passed. He complains the music isn’t secular and the cigarettes aren’t his favorites. That’s sixty bucks I’ll never get back.

Mom once told me how she bought him thousands of dollars of suits at Men’s Warehouse for job interviews. He complained they felt weird. He said to her what he says to me. “It’s rude to buy someone something that they don’t want.”

Another sixty bucks buys groceries for the week. Sandwiches, potatoes, pasta, cereal, milk. Checking account balance: $12.79. Days remaining until next paycheck: twelve. Commuting to work costs roughly three bucks round trip. Ten bucks an hour for eight hours. Sixty-four total after taxes. Two weeks of work equals six-hundred-forty. Rent and utilities share is four-fifty. Minimum credit card payment is one-hundred-forty. Chipping away at five-grand. So in two weeks I’ll earn my pay and hand it over to everyone else who needs it, and I’ll have $50.

    Checking account balance in two weeks: $62.79.

Oh, I forgot to deduct gas expenses. Provided I don’t drive anywhere except for work, checking account balance in two weeks: $32.79.

Wait, the Netflix bill came in. $23.80.

The pizza from the other night to celebrate the release date for Rabbit: negative twenty cents.

Thirty-dollar overdraft fee.

The five-dollar breakfast burrito from the other morning to break up the monotony of the same old groceries.

Thirty-dollar overdraft fee.

The cat food. Another week of groceries. A day of feeling sick and throwing up and can’t come into work to make sixty-four bucks. Almost two-hundred in the hole. Put it on credit, maxed out again. Next paycheck. Next time. Don’t worry, it’ll change next time.

The boss says, “You’re doing good work. You have the highest sales numbers than anyone on your team. Do you have anything to share that might help?”

The job entails sitting at a computer with a headset, making cold calls to peoples’ homes and offering Time Warner Cable. Responses include: “Remove me from whatever list you have me on” “Go fuck yourself” “I can barely afford the cable I already have” “My father just died” and silence before hanging up.

The boss says, “As much as we appreciate your approach, can you stick to the script? A team of people worked very hard on creating this script for you to follow. It’s proven to work.”

I say, “Every time I do it your way I get yelled at.”

Next week. Next time. Next paycheck. Six-hundred-forty pays for the gas ride home and a night of drinking bleeding into a weekend of phone chat hotlines and lap dances and a divorced twenty-something from Vegas, women younger than me and older than me. Six-hundred-forty could pay for a Smith & Wesson or Glock 26 with some ammunition, but I figure I’ll go out the slow and painful way. Pour me another.

The boss says, “We’ve noticed your numbers falling. You’ve missed work the past two days and you don’t seem to be making any sales.”

Every time I do it their way nothing changes. Still twenty-three and no closer to growing out of sixteen. They say, stick to the script. Buy a car. Go to college, earn a degree. Go to work, earn a twenty-five cent raise per year. Can’t buy a house? Why not? Every kid your age used to own a house. You must be doing something wrong. We must be doing something wrong. I must be doing something wrong. Pour me another.

“Your card’s declined. Do you have another card?”

Just pour me another.

“If you can’t pay for your drinks, we can offer a payment plan. We can maybe set you up with a line of credit.”

I wasn’t aware bars offered those.

“We also take flesh as payment. One square inch of flesh per hundred dollars owed.”

That doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

Rabbit needs a different ending. Sitting at a cluttered writing desk, addressing an email to the editor the publisher assigned me. I have some additions to include, along with our developmental edits. Multiple endings. Maybe we can work them into the book, show how the author can’t rewrite how things turned out with his dad and whatnot. In between chapters, I listen to Nine-Eleven phone call recordings from the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center Towers. I want to learn their calm.

If I live until twenty-eight, I’ll have lived longer than Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, or Kurt Cobain. 1,825 days remain, roughly the amount of time spent earning a Bachelor’s in English. 180 days and four jobs later, I’m selling Time Warner Cable. At this rate, I could hold fifty-seven jobs and outlive famous musicians by a year.

If I live as long as dad’s lived then 13,505 days remain. If only living equaled currency, I could earn fifteen Bachelor’s degrees. $740,000. Is it really any different from $80,000? Twenty-grand per year for an education, and the new job pays less than seventeen-grand. Come on, how can you not own a house by now? Haven’t you thought of raising kids? Meeting a woman to marry? Buying her a ring? You’d be hurting to afford her dinner, much less flowers.

Maybe I’ll apply for grad school and student loans since the debt’s not vanishing anytime soon. Or go back for Physics this time. Chemistry. Astronomy. Cosmology. Maybe I’ll get a couple years in and get hit by a bus or a cancer diagnosis and it won’t matter what I was returning to school for. Was I happy?

Are you happy?

The boss says, “If you need someone to review the phone script with you, we can do that.”

You can? Oh boy, that sounds like just the solution. Review the script. The rules. The game. The sale. The pitch. The cash grab. Sure, I’ll get their money for you. For my pennies on the dollar. So long as you keep sending me that paycheck, that whopping $640 for 80 hours of my life. I’ll trade you the next thirty-seven years until I’m how old dad is now, and I still won’t be any closer to writing the best ending to our story and how that motherfucker couldn’t just be who I wanted him to be. This is it. And the book’s done.

Catalina highway runs through the Santa Catalina Mountains; follow it to reach the top of Mount Lemmon. Here, father’s father often visited. They spent afternoons relaxing in the midst of cooler winds, a treat for Arizona locals. Lowland desert makes up much of the scenery; throughout it, conifers such as firs and pines are interspersed. Changing seasons nourish mosses and lichens. Following tree-fires, the Snow-flower feeds on their decaying roots. Bird songs fill the space—a mountain chickadee or black-headed grosbeak. Beneath them, coils the Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake. The canyon tree frog calls out, clinging to a ponderosa pine. Dusty-green and worn-red brushes cliff-sides.

From the Mount Lemmon lookout, clouds have sailed in, squished, intermingled. Looming rain-shadows drag over lowlands. The trails you scaled, now beneath, are black outlines. Sun breaks through, the swirls golden, the city caught between a spectrum of rock and atmospheric pressures.

This, father saw.

His father saw.

I will see.


The newest professional assigned to figure me out and fix me, or in their words: assist me with managing emotional behaviors, is a woman in her late thirties, slightly older than Annie. Her left hand bears a ring so she must have some idea of managing emotional behaviors.

I say, “Annie’s been in a lot of pain lately so our current sex life isn’t regular. And that’s fine. I just can’t do anything by myself or my anxiety skyrockets and I start regressing into negative thoughts associated with bad memories.”

She says to try and think of my desires as a mass of energy needing different branches to excel. The core self is full of ambition. That ambition has long ago manifested itself into an energy that channeled into one part of me instead of many parts.

She says, “That happens to us sometimes when we overfeed what gives us pleasure. Would you consider yourself lonely?”

“I’m lonely in my head most of the time.”

She asks, “Do you recall the story of the two wolves?”


“There are two wolves in a person. One represents anger, fear and shame. The other—mindfulness, forgiveness, kindness. The wolf you feed is the wolf that grows strongest. If you choose to feed the second wolf, you must not beat the first. Instead, allow the second to calm the first and sit by the fire as your whole self.”

“Is there anything I can do to try and redirect my desire?”

“You can try doing something small that also brings you pleasure. Drink your favorite drink. Eat a favorite snack. Try to indulge in other things that remind you of your diverse senses.”

On the ride home, I think of buying myself a large pepperoni pizza and some Dr. Pepper. Maybe watch some Golden Girls with Annie or a film we’ve both never seen. Maybe show her a film I love she’s never seen. Or watch one she loves.


I text him, Did you ever feel a ton of anxiety or have panic attacks?


I’m having them all the time. Like I can’t breathe. I don’t know how to make it stop.


I’m arriving home. Annie asks how therapy went. I say, “Fine. How’re you feeling?”

“Same as yesterday and the day before. I just wish it would stop.” Her face crumples into pain, tears squeezed out and down her cheeks.

We sit on the couch in each other’s arms, some of the time spent in silence and the rest in whatever random thoughts pop into our heads. The election results. The depressing Facebook feeds. The news. The shitty weather.

I say, “We should go out on a date. Maybe go to a comedy club.”

She seems to favor that idea. She says, “What was going through your mind that night before you held my hand?”

“Oh, I was terrified and thrilled at the same time. What were you thinking before I reached over to hold your hand?”

“I was thinking that as soon as the show was over and we were outside that I’d kiss you.”


    More nightmares. 2 AM, wake up. Breathing’s fine, just feeling uneasy. Play a puzzle game on my smartphone. Uninstall the game. Read a book, write some.

    5 AM, start the coffee. Before I know it, noon’s rolling in. Then late afternoon. Annie’s headed out for a show. I tell her, “I’ll watch the online stream. Gonna call him tonight.”

    She asks, “How’re you gonna tell him?”

    “I don’t know. Haven’t figured that out yet.”

    She leaves. I call.

Goes straight to voicemail.

I sit and write for an hour or so. The sun’s just beneath the horizon. The gray sky’s awash with a deep, muddy orange.

The phone rings.

“Dad? How’s it going?”

He’s already mid-sentence as if we’ve been chatting. Whatever he’s saying I can’t make it out. I relocate to the living room and sit on the couch.

He says, “I had a really bad night, couldn’t sleep. Didn’t even get out of bed until like three-thirty.”

“Why’re you having such a hard time falling asleep?”

“Cuz my pain. Just my pain. My life has completely shut down…I got to sleep finally. But I just had a really bizarre dream where I was having sex with my mom and my dad walked in on us and caught me. I just knew she was Satan. It was a very upsetting dream.”

I say, “I’ve been having bad dreams lately.”

“Yeah, sometimes those bad dreams are the enemy trying to discourage you. And I just…I just started praying. I fall asleep better when I keep offering prayers.”

He rambles on about his various physical injuries, as if I’m his new doctor and need to hear about the first time he didn’t lift a heavy box properly. And then there’s the first time he slept in his truck. And this time and the other.

He says, “With my hip and my neck and my back out, I can’t do anything. I can’t do laundry. I can’t go to the store so I burn through my money having food delivered here. I’ve lost weight…which I wanted to do anyway. My stomach’s completely down which, that’s a positive thing out of it. Been trying to get rid of the weight. I want to get back to one-eighty.”


“And I have colon problems. Polyps. Diverticulitis. Chronic, what do they call it? Chronic colitis. I have digestive problems. It’s just a pain in my ass. They gotta do a CT scan. They’re thinking of colon cancer. I’m not really concerned. If I get it, I get it. I won’t do chemo. If that’s the way I check out then that’s how I check out. I won’t do chemo.”

“Did they say cancer?”


“Did they actually suggest it was cancer or do any tests?”

“No, when I had a scan done like a year and a half, two years ago, they said there’s an abnormal thing. But I just…I went, I had…There’s some stuff my doctor gave me and you can feel them, like several bumps right up in there. So…Are you still at your same job?”

“Uh, no. I just recently quit my job.”

“You did?”



“I was just sick of it. I would get really bored. Or I would get stressed out. My anxiety would get bad, like I couldn’t breathe. I just felt like it was getting in the way of all the things I care about. I’d rather be doing things that I feel passionate about.”

“I totally get that. You gotta do what you love. If you don’t follow your dream, you know…I flushed mine down the shitter with my drug addiction…So how’re you gonna make it financially? Are you still with roommates or you on your own? Or what?”

“I’m living with this woman I’ve been with for the last year. Things are good with her.”

“Is she willing to support you and help you out?”

“She’s been really supportive. I’ve found some odd jobs I can do here and there. And the mental health program and unemployment here is helping me out in the meantime while I look for another job.”

“Were you saying, would you say…I mean, I hate the word but would you say you were suffering from mild depression?”

“I’d say mild to severe. I’ve gone in and out of depression for as long as I can remember.”

“Yeah, I know. I don’t anymore. I prayed and God took it away. Life has ups and downs but I went through it when Richard committed suicide, my best friend of ten years. Plus, living with my mom and her being a control freak and wanting to argue all the time. And then I ended up in my truck. Yeah, that was the second time…I used to call my mom…I came down with that MRSA virus and almost lost my leg…I just called my mom every other night. I’d say, ‘Mom, I’m gonna end it. I can’t take it anymore.’ And she’d encourage me…My mom was the dichotomy…she was the one who’d say you don’t have to be so hard on yourself. But when she’d get mad at me she’d bring up the past. And I’ve a lot of time to think about things. And I understand I hurt my parents really bad. I really put them through the ringer. And that fact that they didn’t disown me? I’m very very fortunate. I understand her anger now. And a lot of time ago I forgave her. But I don’t even know where she is now. You know my sister didn’t even call me…They didn’t even call me to tell me my mom’s still alive or she’s dead. They moved her from where she used to be. For dementia. She’s not at the same apartments. That was over a year ago. When I was living on the street still she was doing my laundry. My mom saved my ass. As she could afford it. And my sister was pissed cause she was spending some money on me, but if it wasn’t for her putting me up in a hotel for a night or two nights or three nights when it was a hundred-and-five, was brutally hot outside; you know, I ended up in the hospital. Twice. From dehydration. My kidneys shut down. I almost died. Two summers. Twenty-eleven and Twenty-twelve. The summer you came up, I ended up in the hospital again. And I didn’t drink alcohol. They didn’t know what was going on. They really didn’t know what was causing it. But she would put me up there or, you know, only when I was really desperate. I didn’t ask all the time. I just…I would call her. And she did my laundry. That’s the only thing that saved my ass! She…I was getting food stamps, which, uh…they recently…I just got them back this month and I only get thirty-nine dollars a month! It’s worthless! It’s worthless. And I can’t even…I haven’t been to the grocery store in two months. I literally can’t do anything. When I have surgery I’m gonna be up shit creek because…they’re gonna do some rehab, and I’m by myself. I’m alone and I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I don’t know. I’m trusting God to work it out, but, yeah, I got…I’m having to pay two-hundred dollars a month rent, so that leaves me four-eighty, but now I’m gonna have to pick up a bulk of my food costs and I don’t even have a couch. And my chair recliner I just got which is a piece of crap that got donated, it’s broken, it’s leaned to one side and a screw on one side is sheared off, and I have to buy…somehow I have to buy a new couch on craigslist or something, maybe this next month when I get my check, when I get my check on the twelfth of April. Auto deposit it. So…you know, I mean, not alive but I’m barely existing. I’m barely existing. Which I’m thankful I’ve got a roof over my head, don’t get me wrong. I thank God every day. I have AC. I have heat. I have a new electric stove. I’ve got shower. I’ve got a nice refrigerator. You know…I’ve got, you know, I’ve got my big TV and I’ve got cable. You see, I don’t need much. I have the basics…But my stupid CD player! On my stereo…it just quit working. Stereo works but I was gonna play a CD and…I push a button to open the door and it doesn’t even open, it says something else. It’s gone completely haywire and I haven’t played it in months…Bizarre…Bizarre. It broke while it was off. Isn’t that strange?”

“Yeah, that is strange.”

“Yeah, it worked the last time I played it. So when do you start getting an actual check? I know there’s a wait period.”

“They said about four to six weeks.”

“So if you were making pretty good money, are you gonna get like the full unemployment amount?”

“Yeah, I should get the full they said.”

“Oh so that’s good.”

“Yeah, I’m gonna keep looking for work and focus on what I feel passionate about. And Annie’s got her music so goes out on tour here and there. I’ll join her for a few shows.”

“Oh that would be the life! That would be super cool! You know, me and your mom caught a lot of flack for living together and then she got pregnant. We felt guilty the whole time living together. That’s an individual choice. I’d never do it again, obviously, well, I’ve been alone for twenty-three years. And actually I like my life alone. I don’t have any drama. I don’t have any female drama. I’m too old for that. And I still have women who do that. I meet women who’ll just go off on me and I lose it. I go, ‘Hey, you’re not my wife. You’re not my mom. You’re not my girlfriend, so shut the hell up. Walk away. You don’t own me.’ No one owns anybody. But a lot of times when you get married or even live together they think they own you but that’s not how it works. That’s dysfunction.”

“Should be teamwork.”

“Exactly! And if it’s not that then it’s not the right one. And you need to get out. And hey, you know, as far as your mom goes…I have no animosity! I don’t even remember what she…and, maybe it was the…maybe it was some past stuff that she held some animosity toward me that she wasn’t able to forgive. Everybody has that. I understand. I don’t know what was the final thing but…but she just exploded on me like, I told you that. It was in front of you. I saw you standing in front of the TV staring. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, ‘Get the hell out of my effin life. I hate your effin guts.’ She had a couple things, couple of times before that, when she threw out all my clothes out the front door. And I’m like, ‘Calm down! Stop, please calm down!’ I was always trying to be the…calm person. Cause two people doing that, bad things happen. So I was the one getting her to calm down. And she’d go into her bedroom and lock the door for like an hour, hour and a half, and come out crying, saying, ‘I’m so sorry.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my god. Something really heavy’s going on with her. She…She was great to me. She actually supported me when I tried to open my own business. When I did stuff I owned a cellphone business. You know, she helped me out a lot. I still owe her money. You know…so it’s been busy. I learned a lot. And like, when you asked me what’re the top five things I most regret, hah, I mean there’s like twenty-five or thirty things I regret. But…yeah, I…a large part of me, I…you know, I’d stop on the freeway. I was out in the middle of the desert saying, what the hell am I doing? I don’t wanna go back to Tucson with my parents. I need to turn around. But I didn’t. So…you know, there’s that bubbling question—hey God, am I where you want me to be? Or are you just making the best of my dumb decision? You know, and was it meant to be? Or I dunno. I don’t know. Where I am now, is it where, was it where how my life was gonna end up? I don’t think so, myself. You wrestle with those questions all the time. Besides, you’re not even, I don’t even….I don’t dwell on that anymore cause what’s done is done. Unfortunately, you…oh well, we all suffered from that situation, I’m sure. Her. Me. And you. It impacted our lives. For the rest of our lives. You know, and I feel very very badly about that. You have no idea. I…I suffered depression from that. Just wondering, damn…I ruined my son’s life…Cause I, I asked…I wanted to get married! I wanted to be a family. She was a great person. She was an excellent cook. She was so creative. She just…my mom loved her. She was the only one my mom really loved. My mom totally loved her. She’s like, ‘Oh she’s a great person.’ And that’s…”

My cat Jori hops up onto the couch and cuddles into my stomach, laying her head down. Dad rambles on while I scratch behind her ears in little circles. She purrs.

He says, “People are brutal. Even in the church. It’s a hospital. That’s the reason people go to church. They’re trying to get well. I’ve been trying to get well for the first fifty years of me screwed up. I tell people all the time…you should know how to live your life. Which I do now. I am good to myself. I don’t criticize myself nearly as harshly cause I’m an affectionate…you know what? I strive for perfection but I’m not perfect and I’m no better than anybody. Nobody. Cause I’m a sinner. Saved by grace, man. And I’m a…and I’m a preacher’s son! I knew the right way! You know how much jokes I’ve had in my life? Dude, I was born in a church! My mom dedicated me from the instant she knew she was pregnant. Women know. They know. They don’t have to guess. They can feel it. It’s that sixth sense. They know when something happened. My mom knew. She dedicated me to God. So I felt like an overbearing responsibility to live the way I knew how to live. I don’t ever remember not believing in God. I think I became born again at like three years old. But I never…I said something to my dad once and I shocked him. He’s like, wow, that came out of a three year old’s mouth. My dad was sick. The only time I remember him missing work in his life. He was sick in bed. I came up to him and said, ‘Daddy? Why’re you in bed?’ He goes, ‘Well daddy’s sick. Really sick. He can’t go to work.’ And I said, well, I remember saying it cause I was way too young and I have a very vivid memory. Photographic memory. Which they claim doesn’t exist but it does. The so-called experts say…Well, I do have a photographic memory, but they, uh…they, uh…He said, ‘I’m sick.’ And I said, ‘Daddy, why don’t you just have Jesus to make you well? To do that?’ And my dad was like looking at me, like, oh my god, that’s right. Jesus said you gotta have the face of a child. Cause a child will believe everything. You don’t have that adult doubt. You know, you’re not tarnished yet. And you believe anything’s possible. And you believe everybody. You think everybody’s telling you the truth. Cause you’re just a little positive being with belief. It’s the innocent belief. Naivety. Which, you know, is a good thing. And then it gets real when you get older. You know, all the negative crap comes in. But my dad, he…it kinda shocked him that it would come out of my mouth. I said it just matter-of-factly: just ask Jesus and he’ll make you well. And it’s true. I believe that nothing is impossible. Nothing God can’t do. Because when he got me off the street, that’s the biggest miracle. And I’ve seen a lot of miracles, but…and just like when I got my social security…someone told me! I didn’t check. Someone told me, ‘Hey you can get it on your sixty-second birthday.’ And I went, what? Because I had no verifiable income since two-thousand. That’s seventeen years….I survived. I hustled. I…um, eh…and God helped me. I have guilts on some things I had to do to survive. But…I didn’t steal. But…I did things that…that I knew I shouldn’t be doing. But I had to do what I had to do to keep from dying…To keep from not existing. But…you know, I had to ask for forgiveness for that. Like I sold some of my medication. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have made it…”

My cat’s asleep. I haven’t had to say a word to keep this conversation going. I wonder, if I left the phone on and headed over to Annie’s show, would he realize I wasn’t here? It could be the years of drug abuse. Years spent sleeping on the street. Maybe the schizophrenia—my doctors said that’s what it sounded like, anyway. I just want to tell him something. If I can find the right moment.

He says, “You know, I did it with LCD. Just…everything. It’s like…all or nothing, pushing the edge. I O-D’d twice over in Point Loma. When I was in college. I’m shooting up barbiturates. And, uh…I shouldn’t be here right now. So I have a guardian angel. I’ve always had a guardian angel watching over me. All my life. But I…I guess I wasn’t meant to go. This one guy…and I wouldn’t call him a prophet…but this one lady, she told me, ‘You have a very special gift. A very special gift that he wants to use. He wants to use in a very special way.’ So maybe that’s why.”

Another half hour passes. I look at the clock then check the online stream. I interrupt him, saying, “Hey, can you tomorrow? Annie’s about to go on stage and I wanna see her play.”

He sounds deflated. “Yeah. If I call and for some reason you don’t pick up my call just call me back. Or whatever.”

I say, “We’ll talk soon. I just…I wanted to talk to you tonight…I wanted to tell you something.”

“Well what is it? You can tell me anything.”

“Well…You said you trusted me. And I don’t wanna lie to you. I’ve been writing about you. About us. Mostly about me. But you know I wrote a book about it, and I’m doing that again. I can’t not do it. Writing things down is the only way I’ve figured out how to figure myself out.”

Without pause, my father says, “Hey, it’s okay. I totally understand all of it. And now that I know more about your situation I’ll know what to pray for. All I can say is don’t expect any results. And just do your best. I wish you nothing but the best, and I love you. You’re my son. You’re blood. You’re blood. I want you to be happy. I just want you to be happy. So when those negative thoughts come in? Ignore them. Say it right there, ‘I rebuke those negative thoughts.’ Serious. Rebuke it. And only think about positive things as much as you can…Anyway, tell her I say hi. Tell her I hope she does great and I hope you enjoy the show…And her name’s Annie?”


“Well, I’ll pray for her, too…So…just be good to each other. Cause you’re lucky. That’s a blessing. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Okay, talk to you tomorrow. Love you.”

“You, too. Okay, bye.”