Shaved Legs and All: LGBT Pogrom

Snow - By Mizeta Moon 

Snow came early. By midnight the house was buried by frozen crystals blotting out the sky. No stars shone through the windows. A feeble fire flickered in a hearth unable to block the advance of entombment. The feeble old woman huddled beneath threadbare covers offering scant relief from death’s infringement. The Grim Reaper’s footsteps rang hollow on stair treads worn by the passage of time as it entered. When the hooded figure stood by her bedside, she was ready to embrace it. As her limbs grew numb and her breath turned shallow, she remembered a conversation she had with her neighbor several days before. 

“I don’t fear death. I welcome it with open arms. This world of larceny, pain, war, pestilence, and greed has tasked me for longer than any soul should endure. I only wish I could have seen Paris before taking the next step of my journey. Darkness or light, I’m prepared to explore what comes next.” 

“Why didn’t you go to Paris?” Her neighbor inquired. “You had the money and plenty of free time.” 

“I had no one to share it with. Besides, tourism in a wheelchair has limitations. It’s not like wandering the streets at will.”” 

“What if you found someone there? It’s supposed to be the city of love.” 

“True. But a journey is more fulfilling when taken together instead of wandering alone, hoping dreams will come true. And look at me. Who’d want this wrinkled bag of bones?” 

“That seems a defeatist point of view. Living without hope.” 

She remembered smiling ruefully. Scars on her body and heart spoke of life’s cruelty to flesh and spirit. She’d known love as well as abandonment. Success and failure. None of it permanent in a world of constant transition. 

“ Hope.” She snorted. “I always hoped there would be an end to war. That people could learn to share. That children wouldn’t starve and be raped by insensitivity. Instead, I learned mankind isn’t kind and embraces heartless agendas that shatter hope and destroy love.” 

“Then why should anyone bother to aspire to anything if it’s pointless?” 

“Because the experience itself is worth making the best of what comes along. Having feelings and knowing what being alive is all about. Don’t mind me, I’m simply worn out. I need to move aside so younger, stronger idealists can fight the battle.” 

As the snow grew deeper and the hearth grew cold, the dog wouldn’t stop barking. As its master’s heart stopped beating and her limbs grew cold, it nestled against her, hoping to revive joy they’d shared. He knew not of Paris and dreamed of nothing but a full bowl and water to drink.      

  

Disillusionment - By Mizeta Moon 

Since the hippie days, when everyone was on a quest to discover who they were, and find meaning for their lives, I wanted to go to India. Yogis and mystics were alluring with their grasp of eternal truths. Being from Boring, Oregon, I felt left out when wisdom was distributed. When I won a bunch of money in the lottery, I immediately booked passage to the land of cattle worship and smoldering incense. My friends told me about a swami they studied under who set them on the path to enlightenment and could be trusted to deliver results. I was hungry for knowledge and unfulfilled, so I flew to Bombay, prepared to embrace any lifestyle other than what I previously encountered. 

A worn out Jeep picked me up at the airport and transported me sixty miles over bumpy, rut-filled roads to a compound that looked like it might sink into the underbrush if no one stopped its advance. Dung fires filled the air with smoke, and kettles containing unidentifiable substances bubbled while solemn women stirred their contents with wooden paddles. Everyone seemed haggard and thin. Underfed and unwashed. When I alit from the Jeep, I was accosted by a band of ragamuffins who tugged my sleeves and begged for anything I might be willing to share. Clutching my belongings tight, I walked to a building that was obviously the center of activity, hoping to meet the swami I was told about. I brushed a reed curtain aside and stepped into the opposite of what I expected to find. 

The swami wore a dirty robe, and his bony knees were grimy. His matted hair looked like things were crawling in it. When he smiled at me, I saw that his teeth were blackened and rotting. While it was true that I felt a wave of love radiating from him, my senses were repulsed by the conditions he embraced. Was the key to enlightenment ignoring the physical and focusing on the spiritual? If so, how could I accept tenure among the unwashed? 

On his shoulder sat a magnificent green and gold parrot that appeared to be the most healthy and well fed entity in the compound. Its beady black eyes assessed me as I sat my travel bag on the hard-packed dirt floor and waited for someone to speak. I didn’t have long to wait. The parrot said, “enlightenment comes at a price. How many Rupees have you?” To say I was flabbergasted by the parrot’s enunciation would be an understatement. I expected to pay for tutoring, but this was far from the school I expected. 

“How many do you require?” I replied. 

“All of them.” The parrot answered as the swamy ogled me in a way that made me uncomfortable. Would I have to pull my panties down as well? 

The swami reached over and held the parrot’s beak closed. “Stay the night,” he said in a quiet voice. “We’ll talk business in the morning. Please ignore my pet’s abruptness.”  

So, I stayed and supped on the mystery ingredients from the cauldrons, hoping not to get diarrhea. Slept fitfully on a reed mat and had a snake slither across me in the night. Woke to the sounds of water lapping. It turned out the nearby river was rapidly overflowing its banks after recent torrential rains. The water rose six more feet before noon. By then, I was ready to go home. All I’d learned was that buying spiritual enlightenment was a mission for fools. That there is always someone willing to exploit the naïve. I’d come halfway around the world to discover what I could find in my own heart. A sense of me and my place in the world. 

Since then, I’ve planted a garden and watched the process of nature unfold. Embraced the seasons and relished my own existence, no longer trying to find peace through someone else’s point of view.    

Following orders - By Mizeta Moon 

I was young and people expected me to swear allegiance to the flag. To fight for my country and die with valor to protect the dream. I was taught to fire a weapon and kill people I’d never met without knowing their hopes and aspirations. To wipe their blood from my hands with aplomb and trample their essence. Behind my mask I was the juggernaut carrying out orders without understanding the crimes of the enemy. There but to serve. 

Should I die, my parents would grieve and mourn my loss without feeling the agony of families I shattered with my bullets and boots. The rubble I left behind didn’t matter. Only victory was important. 

Losing my limbs in a foreign land turned me into a hero. A wounded warrior. Sadly, I was but a pawn in an ongoing game. In the end I was left to beg for treatment and sustenance. 

The lie continues as new enemies are created and young people enlist to thwart threats to an agenda serving those above the fray. Following orders from generals unconcerned with their safety. Patriots to a country without allegiance to its servants. Killing and dying for greed and aggrandizement. 

Hopefully, my prosthetics will arrive soon and I won’t be charged for them. One never knows when benefits will be denied. Hopefully, I can walk again without suffering so much pain. Hopefully, my son and daughter will find careers that don’t destroy the lives of others.

Dead end road - By Mizeta Moon 

Her children disowned her because she was a crack whore. She’d do anything for a fix; even stealing from souls she birthed. Nothing was sacred. When she came to visit, she had to be watched like a hawk. The man she took up with after their father died was a three time loser who’d spent more time behind bars than free on the streets. His connections kept her addicted so she’d continue turning tricks to feed a horde of freeloaders. She was a puppet and her offspring wanted to save and love her but knew she was beyond salvation from outside forces. If she wasn’t willing to save herself, they couldn’t do anything but protect themselves. 

Taking care of strangers’ needs in dark parking lots and ratty cars, she grew thin as the drug stripped her of flesh and substance. Her heartbeat quickened when the crack swirled from the pipe and filled her failing lungs, but death loomed with each exhalation. Dark lesions tinted her skin and her addled mind assumed it was okay to use anyone in her quest for another puff. Her children pretended to not be home when they heard her knocking on the door. They hated ignoring her and grieved at their inability to save her from herself but realized she’d chosen to travel a dead end road and would be mired until she chose a different path. Though they hoped for such a solution, they’d come to expect the opposite. Their mother seemed hopelessly addicted and in search of artificial ecstasy. When her face appeared on the morning news as a participant in a kidnapping/robbery the kids weren’t surprised. The charted course led to an expected destination. They were embarrassed to be her progeny when cameras and questions came.   

 

Afraid to sleep - By Mizeta Moon 

“Why did you scream?” The nurse asked as she inspected my bandages and checked my temperature. The orderly stood by the door with muscles flexed like he expected to confront an intruder. When he saw there was nothing wrong, he shrugged, and walked away. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s those nightmares again. I’m afraid to sleep because they get more powerful each time and I’m not sure whether I’m awake and they’re real or just bad dreams.” 

“Would you like a sedative?” 

“No. That makes it harder to focus when I wake up.” 

The nurse’s short gray hair was tousled and her red-rimmed tired eyes showed a burning desire for that which I feared. I knew the small hospital’s staff was stretched thin by the pandemic and treating the victims of a suicide bombing was pushing them to the brink of collapse. I felt bad for requiring her attention. She might have finally had a moment to rest before I screamed. 

“I’ll be okay,” I said. “I’ll try not to bother you again unless I really need something.” 

She smiled, rose, and ran a soothing hand across my forehead. “Thanks. Someone will look in on you in a while.” 

After she left, I lie thinking about how I got there. I should have thought about pleasant things to reduce my trauma but images of recent events were too powerful to ignore. If we’d gone somewhere else for lunch, I wouldn’t be partially paralyzed and my wife and kids wouldn’t be dead. Every thought of them brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t try to stifle them even though I could raise my hand to wipe them away. 

The kids wanted pizza. I wanted a big juicy burger but my wife sided with the kids and we went to Sal’s. Parking wasn’t easy to find but the short walk back to the restaurant was made pleasant by autumn colors and a bright sunny day. The kids would be back in school come Monday so my earlier grumpiness about not getting a burger dissipated as I watched them eat what they referred to as their last meal before going back to the torture chamber. Little did we know how prophetic such words were. According to the news I watched when I finally came to, a disgruntled employee Sal fired three weeks earlier packed his car with explosives and drove it over the curb into the huge window we were sitting by. The roar as the bomb went off and the sounds of agony from injured diners still ring in my ears. Broken glass was everywhere and smoke filled the air as flames from the damaged pizza oven spread. I couldn’t move my legs. Evidently, the car ran over them as it smashed into our table and killed my family. I could move my head enough to see their broken bleeding bodies covered with shards and debris. My daughter’s favorite stuffed dinosaur lie stained in a pool of her blood. Eleven people died and a dozen were injured that day. Now, I’m faced with a long rehab and a lonely existence when I can go home again. I do best when I don’t fall asleep because I can eventually focus on something like raindrops on the window for comfort. While dreaming there’s nothing to stop horrible images crowding in. 

     

At the Market - By Mizeta Moon 

I went to the Farmer’s Market to buy refrigerator magnets. They have the good ones there. Not all those cute sayings about how to live, be happy, and that kinda stuff. Theirs have pictures of carrots, broccoli, and the things I should be eating to stay healthy. Of course, they do sell junk food for high prices as well as organic products so I stay away from that area. When I walked into the market, I saw that sidewalk graffiti was everywhere. Evidently, modern day teen monsters found some paint and decided to destroy the beauty of the park with profanity and gang sign. The vendors had to set up or go home penniless, so they’d placed their cartons over some of the most offensive remarks but walkways had to remain open and were still exposed to shoppers with children. Hopefully, the toddlers in their strollers wouldn’t grow up as insolent and destructive as the current generation. I know. . .  I got old and cranky, and things like that bother me. I should probably look at it like cleaning up the mess creates jobs. 

Anyway, I was pondering the magnets at one of the stalls when I noticed the vendor had a portable TV and was watching a breaking news alert. A cruise ship was foundering off the coast of Mexico, and the rapidly sinking boat was being evacuated. When they said the name, I was dumbfounded. My ex-wife had sent me a text three days earlier bragging that she was going on a cruise with her rich new husband. She likes to make me feel inadequate because we always struggled on my salary as a door-to-door spot remover salesman. She considered herself above working and constantly iterated my failings instead of helping out. Why didn’t I get a better job? You might ask. I loved being outdoors and talking to strangers. You wouldn’t believe some of the conversations I’ve had. But getting back to the news. My evil side wanted her to go down with the ship but being a good person at heart I had to hope she was safe. At least she deserved a good drenching for being such a harridan. If her new husband died, she’d be a rich widow and might be good for a loan to launch my new business plan. 

I’ve always loved to Polka. Yeah, she laughed too and would never watch Lawrence Welk with me or attend dances at the Grange hall. So, my plan was to invest in some camera gear and teach people how to Polka using the Internet. My long term goal was to create a group of naked Polka dancers who could frolic in the privacy of their own homes. Once a year I could rent the Grange and invite them to a real life event where we could Polka until we dropped. Anyway, all those dreams went out the window when  I was notified three days later that she’d been eaten by a shark. I guess all I can do now is save and save until I can do it on my own. That, and watch my collection of Lawrence Welk VCR tapes and continually hone my skills. At least she won’t blow up my phone with nasty remarks anymore. As they say, every cloud has its silver lining. 

 

Adversity - By Mizeta Moon 

Her smile was insincere. I could tell she was uninterested in processing our claim but was required to play the game to keep her job. The more money she saved the company, the brighter her future would be. Poor people such as my wife and I meant nothing to her. Only the fat cats with big premiums were worth coddling. She could see from the file in her hand that my wife and I had to scrape pennies together to make ends meet and our renter’s insurance had been a strain on our budget but was required to live in company housing. That the company was unwilling to help was another issue altogether. When she left I knew we’d never see a dime. 

I’d come home from work at the PEZ dispenser factory two nights earlier and discovered our front door standing open. My wife was still at her wrapping station in the shipping department and wouldn’t learn that we’d been burgled till after the cops left. They didn’t give a damn either. Our part of town was treated like a wad of gum on their shoes. I discovered that the burglars took everything but a few old clothes and some outdated foods in the pantry. Furniture and appliances gone. Ratty TV gone. Even our mattresses and bed linens were stripped and carried away. Oh. . . Our toothbrushes lie on the bathroom floor but no toothpaste. A scrap of toilet paper hung limply by the toilet but wasn’t enough to blow my nose, let alone clean my butt. Tears welled up, then fell as I pondered the bleakness of our future. When my wife got home, we held each other and cried more before sleeping on the cold linoleum floor. Even in the face of such tragedy we couldn’t miss work. 

The next day was payday. After cashing my meager check, I paid the utility bills so we’d have heat and not live in the dark but had little left. My wife bought foods we didn’t have to refrigerate and went to a thrift store for a pot, a couple knives, spoons, forks, and a dingy quilt. Thankfully, our stove was bolted to the floor and hadn’t been taken. We ate from the cans, hoping to buy bowls and plates in two weeks. She had enough to buy a bar of soap and toilet paper and a pack of disposable razors. She was beyond menopause so tampons weren’t necessary. Our greatest commodity was each other and we took comfort in that. We would find a way to survive as we always had in the past. 

When I realized we didn’t have the means to wash clothes anymore it was disheartening. Even in poverty I’d always taken pride in presenting a clean person to the world every day. The prospect of going to work in tattered old clothes left by the burglars was humiliating. All I could do was rinse my uniform, hang it out to dry on the back fence and hope it would be available by morning. It was when I was pawing through the closet that I remembered the loose board. It concealed my hidey-hole where I kept anything I didn’t want my wife to know about or find. Anniversary presents, a couple dogeared girlie magazines, some chewing tobacco I could indulge in when she spent the night at her sister’s house. When I pried it up, I was overjoyed. Reaching in, I put my hand around the last bottle of wine from our wedding all those years ago. I hoped against hope that it was still palatable. If so, we could pass it back and forth to numb our pain and kindle a glow of hope for brighter tomorrows. We still had jobs and were reasonably healthy, so things could be worse. I could hardly wait for her to come home. Adversity visits everyone from time to time, but I wasn’t going to let it take us down         

Elements Dance - By Mizeta Moon 

“Get dressed! We need a change. These walls are closing in and I can’t take it anymore. And I don’t want any back talk. You’re coming with me, like it or not.” 

My girlfriend Jana stood in the doorway between the kitchen and living room with her dark hair in disarray and her darker eyes challenging me to defy her. At the time, I was lying on the couch in panties and bra, waiting for the news to come on. Before I could declare my desire to watch the daily barrage of chaos, she said, “You won’t miss anything by coming with me. It’s time I showed you there’s more to life than absorbing other people’s viewpoints and feeling the way you’re expected to.” 

WOW! What could I say to that? I slid off the couch and reached for the dress I’d peeled off earlier. This was one of those times that no was the wrong answer if I wanted to have a girlfriend the next day. It’s not like I’m subservient, but I understand the give and take of long-lasting meaningful relationships. 

“Don’t dress up. Wear jeans, sneakers, and something warm.” 

YES MAAM! I thought, but said, “where are we going?” 

“You’ll see when we get there.” 

When we headed west, I knew we were going to the beach. Jana grew up in Lincoln City and has an affinity for the ocean. Me, I prefer mountains, but have never been unappreciative of why people love sand between their toes. When we parked at the turnout in Road’s End, I was glad we weren’t far from restaurants and amenities but quickly realized she had no plan to visit them. She opened the trunk and procured a picnic basket, a small cooler, a blanket, and a bundle of kindling. Evidently, we were dining al fresco. Did she plan to stay all night? If so, where were our sleeping bags? 

 After gathering firewood and piling it for later, we sat holding hands on the blanket and listened to the incessant roar of waves battering the shoreline. As sunset erupted in an electric fusillade of color, I slipped into bliss generated by the power and serenity of our love. A fusion of heart, soul, and body. Surrounded by such beauty I understood Jana’s message. Our troubles mean nothing to the wind and rain. Every footprint we place in sand gets washed away by the tide. Such transience could seem sad were it not for love. Connectivity leading to meaningful existence. Though brief, splendorous. 

There were no clouds to reflect artificial light that night. Dazzling stars soon littered the sky with diamond-like brilliance. Salt air filled our lungs and we exhaled our sorrows into a playful breeze. We swam in each other’s presence while life’s water cleansed our blood from despair. We had each other. That was enough. What path lie forward would be traveled as one. Jana sensed we were falling apart while I flopped on the couch and fretted over the state of mankind. She did something about it because she wanted to continue loving me. For that, I will remain grateful. We sat there all night. Wet hair from fog that crept in like a shadow. Blanket wrapped around us while we kissed in front of our small but valiant fire. Limbs rubbery when we rose with dawn. 

As we prepared to leave, I saw that a bottle washed ashore in the night. I could see there was a message inside. I ran to it eagerly with childlike anticipation. Grasping it to my breast, I felt its moisture dampen my clothes as grains of sand merged with my skin. I waited till we were in the car and exiting the parking lot before I pried open the cap and retrieved the missive that was cast adrift from where I might never know. I read the message twice, then read it aloud to Jana as she drove us past the river through the trees. She smiled, and I felt joy from viewing her contentment as the words spilled from my lips. 

Elements dance, and life swirls through time wearing constantly shifting facades. What we feel and seem in one moment becomes the next and we are constantly transformed. Yesterday’s sorrow becomes tomorrow’s hope and the past echoes while we experience now. We struggle for understanding and forget what we’ve learned. Souls in eternal transit, on our way to who knows where.

Vanished - By Mizeta Moon 

Rowena pulled the curtain back and stared into the darkness. The silence was so dense she could hear her pulse pounding through her body. Everything outside was threatening since the dog disappeared. She didn’t mind that her husband ran away because she didn’t love him anymore. She was okay with living so far from town as long as her canine alarm system warned her someone or something was in the yard. Now, the mutants could sneak up and break in. 

When they started genetically altering plants, no one expected them to become sentient. Now, they not only thought for themselves, but they could also uproot themself and relocate. Due to the drought, many of them were inhabiting riverbanks and streams as well as ponds and lakes. They were so thick humans couldn’t access waterways for pleasure or fishing. The reason Rowena was scared was that she had over a ton of fertilizer in her shed. The mutants loved to drink it like humans did whiskey. So far, she’d been able to burn them with her propane torch and chase them away but the tank was getting low and their attacks were increasingly bold. There were times she thought about letting them have it and selling the farm, then move into the city, but this was not only her childhood home, NASA was paying top dollar for fertilizer to grow normal food on Mars. These days plants refused to be eaten so everyone was eating synthetic food. NASA felt they could finance deep space explorations by selling vegetables to Earth. 

After a long vigil through darkness, she made coffee, then carried a steaming mug onto the porch, planning to check on the shed. What she saw made her drop the mug and stare with her mouth agape. The shed was missing. Completely gone. Vanished. Only a hole in the ground remained. There were no tracks or drag marks to indicate who took it or which direction they went. Sobbing, plagued by concern over destitution from the loss of her only commodity, she went inside and called the police. 

The policeman was baffled as he walked the property. He’d never seen anything like it. “Were there any strange lights?” He asked. 

Rowena blew her nose on a tissue and said, “no. I stood at that window all night with my torch ready, but nothing moved.” 

Meanwhile, on a cargo ship bound for Andromadea, a planet in a binary-system light-years away, the captain was raising a toast to celebrate their new acquisition. “ I give you Farrah Fawcett 11009 whose tractor beam allowed us to wrest precious libation away from those heathen plants on that tawdry planet we visited recently. Her power assist technology allowed us to access what humans call fertilizer without entering their planetary defense systems’ range.” There was a sound of twigs and branches rubbing together as a slender willow-like woman with hair the color of autumn leaves stepped forward and bowed. 

Raising a cup, she said, “Go easy on this stuff. It’s undiluted. By watering it down and redistilling it we should have enough to keep us smiling till we can replant ourselves in Andromadea’s sweet soil. Three cheers to whomever hoarded it.” The only sound in the room for quite some time was lips smacking together as the good stuff went down smooth as silk.        

Inquiry - By Mizeta Moon 

The coroner adjusted her glasses, then looked at the corpse lying on a cold cement floor. The stench of rotting flesh permeated the garage of a once beautiful house now burned to the ground. She was used to the smell but the detective in charge of the investigation was struggling to not puke. 

“What do you think?” The detective asked. 

“My best guess is that the fire spread to here rather quickly. Forest fires have a way of doing that. The residents were told to evacuate but didn’t, thinking it wouldn’t reach this far. This one counted on the asbestos siding on the garage not burning as easily as the house. What he didn’t think about was the roof. Such a pity. If he’d obeyed the directive he’d be alive even if he was homeless.” 

“So. Death from exposure to noxious smoke and extreme heat? He obviously isn’t burned.” 

The coroner shook her head as if undecided, then knelt and turned the dead man’s head to the side. “See that?” She asked, pointing to a puncture wound in his neck. “How did that happen?” 

“Dunno. Maybe he fell on something in the scramble.” 

“Something’s not right. Let’s get him in a bag and I’ll take a closer look at the morgue.” 

Two weeks later, the dead man’s wife was arrested on suspicion of murder. The puncture wound had been inflicted by an ice pick and the body was placed on the garage floor after the fire. The coroner determined there was no smoke in his lungs and he showed no sign of being consumed by fire. 

At the station house, the detective rolled up his sleeves and confronted the woman sitting calmly, as if unconcerned with the charges against her. 

“Why’d you kill him?” 

“Who says I did? Dumb ass wouldn’t evacuate so he deserves what he got.” 

“I say you did. Our inquiry revealed he’d just won Megabucks and didn’t die in the fire. Did you want all the money instead of half?” 

The woman’s eyes narrowed while she thought about her answer. “Wasn’t gonna get half.” She said bitterly after a pregnant pause. “Didn’t your so called inquiry reveal he filed for divorce right after he won? That he was planning on moving to Mexico with some floozy he met at a strip club?” 

The detective took a drink from a bottle of water on his desk, then tried to play off the fact he didn’t know about that by saying. “So, where’s the money? I checked with lottery and the ticket was redeemed.” 

The questioning went on for hours before the woman admitted to killing her husband at a motel they’d fled to when the fire threatened their home. When the ashes cooled she dumped his body where they found it. Her explanation was delivered with a sigh of resignation. Her plan didn’t work because she didn’t expect the coroner to be thorough with so many deaths caused by the fire. 

“The check was bigger than I expected. I thought he won a few hundred thousand but it was millions. I couldn’t let some skank live a life of luxury after I gave him the best years of my life. You’d do the same for that much money.” 

After saying that, the woman hiked up her skirt, revealing beautiful legs the detective stared at wolfishly. “You look tired,” she said. “Ever think about retiring and spending time with a rich widow?” Watching his eyes told her everything she needed to know. He was hungry and ambitious. They’d have to be cool for a while after the charges were dropped but having a new man in her life could be fun for a moment. If she dropped him later he couldn’t change his story about lack of evidence. Who knew? They might make a good couple. Only time would tell.