Field Notes

One day, whenever and then some, zero-dark-thirty:

At sunrise I was rudely scolded out of sleep. Clacks and squawks erased my comfortable dreamscape. The noises originated from a nest, which I could see through the tent’s skylight. A pair of large blue, black and white birds. Magpies. In Southern Utah.

I had not seen a magpie since leaving Europe many months ago. Maybe they were recent transplants to the American southwest like me. I thought they were a couple of euro-magpies discussing who was responsible for breakfast, or he could be asking for a morning beak-job. Since I’ve been told they mate for life, I figured it was one or the other at this hour.

The magpies chatter made me regret being coerced by yesterday’s weather forecast into setting up under their tree.

Actually, that was untrue. I was happy to find the thicket of brush and scrubby cottonwoods on a riverbank which acted as a much-needed windbreak. That portion of yesterday’s weather forecast was certainly accurate; the tent was almost untouched by wind. Fully awake, I recall the wrong part of the forecast: my frozen ass (literally) waking me at zero-dark-thirty. The weatherwoman was right when she said, ‘35 mph SW gusts’. She was smoking crack when she said, ‘low in the 50s’.

Why did a lower temperature make a difference to me? Because I have a camp bed that folds to the size of a golf bag. Open, it holds an air mattress two feet off the ground. Early in my camping escapades, I learned (the hard way) to put the mattress on the bed only when the weather was above 50. Actually, above 55 was better. Cold air circulated under the bed, infused through the air mattress, then through the sleeping bag, and my skin acted as if I was naked in a hammock (but without an uncomfortable mesh imprint).

For the previous few weeks I had been further north where I kept the air mattress and sleeping bag on the ground (That was north in direction as well as feet above sea level). But, the temperature never dropped below 45 and was in the 50s for several nights. So, I decided to put the bed up. After all, the forecast called for 50s.

So, after a few toddies while watching falling and shooting meteorites, I fell asleep with my tent protected from the gusts as the 75-degree day slowly slipped into the 50s. My asshole.

Could have been used to chill wine.

The toddies had caused my internal rheostat to stop working; I woke only after my brain quit receiving signals from my ass cheeks and frostbite set in. I got up, put the mattress on the ground, re-inflated it (caused by a small hole which I patched the next day) and removed a ¼ inch crust of ice from the top of the water dish.

So, when I say, “low in the 50s, my ass,” understand I’m recalling a painful lesson in: “Give less credence to radio weather forecasts than cell phone commercials”.

I suspect the reason I lost sleep at this wilderness campsite is because I broke 'primitive camping unwritten rule number one': Never set up within visual proximity of other campers. And the magpies were there first.

Breaking that rule would be similar to breaking 'urinal unwritten rule number one': Never take the pisser next to someone. (Never step up next to someone on a wall of empty pissers unless every other slot is full. If you do? Bad karma, meat-gazer.)



Another day, more than two months; I think I lost a day besides:

Traveling to a nearby lake which was more like a puddle, caused me wonder: Is there an acreage-size that makes a body of water large enough to be called a lake? A mound of earth is a hill until it measures a certain height, then it can be called a mountain. Are there similar requirements for a pond to become a lake?

At this time I had been camping at a dispersed site in the Rim Lakes region of north-central Arizona for over a week. Exploring the area, I drove to a nearby lake-pond where I discovered they rented rowboats. Since I could check into a local hotel and take a much-needed shower for the same price they would charge me to sweat over a pair of oars for four hours, I opted to hike with Gus, my cat, instead.

Besides the price of boat rental there was one huge overriding fact I didn't go boating that day: I could drink the lake dry in four hours.

The Parks Department had fifty rowboats stacked on and moored to several docks. I could see seven boats presently in use on the water. Their occupants were being careful not to smack one another with their oars. I imagined all fifty in the lake-pond, making it possible to cross the water by hopping from one boat to another.

When I got back to my campsite, someone was setting up next to me.

O-oh.

They were violating primitive camping rule number one.

I muttered to Gus, "up to now, I was enjoying this spot."

Over eighty wooded sites scattered between three separate areas—covering hundreds of acres—and only ten were occupied (including mine and the site these dumb-fucks were putting-up a tent in, thirty feet away).

I turned my vehicle and backed to the side of my shade-tent. The woman dumb-fuck was clapping her hands, facing me, and shouting in the internationally recognizable ‘calling-the-dog’ gesture.

Double O-oh.

On a scale of O-oh’s, a dog in the next site falls somewhere between: three grade-schoolers and a van full of drunken thrash-metal freaks.

Grade-schoolers will normally have a bedtime and won’t eat my cat. The freaks won’t sleep and may only eat my cat if they run out of Scooby snacks.

Woman dumb fuck was shouting two names, “Logan. Nicky.”

Double O-oh, plus.

Stereo barking. Gus would now lose his roaming privileges of the campsite and wouldn't be leading me on walks (he follows when it’s hot, leads when it’s not).

Three hours of calling Looooogaaaan Niiiiiiickky and I have met the dumb-fucks as they search for their dogs. I help look. After five hours Gus is walking with me to “help search,” because it isn’t looking good for the dumb-fuck dogs.

Two days later the dumb-fucks leave without Logan and Nicky. The dumb-fuck dogs never returned. According to distraught woman dumb-fuck, “They bounded out of the car as soon as we got to the campsite, disappeared and never came back. They always came back in the past”.

I was awarded an air mattress leak, frostbite on my ass, and early morning wake-up calls for violating the rule and I just camped next to a pair of magpies; look what happened to the dumb-fucks.


A great day, climb back a few weeks, but then who’s counting:

I was camping in the vicinity of Natural Bridges National Monument. Wonder who’s idea it was to put both those words: natural & national, in the name of this place; what a snapperheaded mix of words. Try saying it with a few beers in your tummy.

Evening hikes are the best for Gus. The shadows are long, so he isn’t concerned with the heat of the sun and doesn’t walk from shade to shade like he does when the sun is overhead.

This evening our hike took us down over a hundred feet of canyon to a dry creek-bed where Gus became preoccupied with hunting small lizards. They always dashed away. Dozens of pounces and although Gus caught none he seemed to think the very next crack would result in a caught lizard. I stop to watch because the hike was stalled. Not just because Gus was slower than the lizards and didn’t know it, more because I was putting off the climb back to the campsite.

We eventually make it back before dark. The shadows were almost vertical and the orange sun was resting on the horizon. I plop my tired bones into a camp chair and complain to Gus about his unwillingness to climb back up (away from lizard-game). I even had to carry him for part of the return climb, which was not an easy feat because at certain points the climb required all my fingers and feet to grapple for the next higher ledge. I solved the reluctant-Gus problem at those points by throwing him over my head at the next ledge. He may be interested in lizards but when thrown up the rock face, he quickly got the idea to climb on ahead.

The camp chair I plopped into was intended for the beach. Sitting in it I had a comfortable headrest and armrests but my ass hung about two inches off the ground. At the beach, I would lay my legs in the sand. In the campsite, however, I look for something to prop my heels on (so the backs of my legs and short pants don’t get dirt and ants on and up them).

I rolled over a couple of old fire ring rocks. As I put my feet out in front of me I looked at the ground to see if any ants would actually be able to crawl up my pant legs. I see a small yellow scorpion and then a second smaller one next to it. Apparently, they were under one of the rocks before I moved it, about a foot or two from my feet (or, more accurately, the intended location for my outstretched feet. Since I immediately stood upon seeing the pair of scorpions, that was no longer an issue).

I examine them while I mull over my luck in not getting stung when I moved the rocks. I say to Gus (who was in the tent), “At least they aren’t those big black ones I’ve seen in movies.”

The scorpions tired of my examination and found where I moved their shelter and scurried back under the rocks.

I decide, now that the excitement is over, to research scorpion-bites in my handy little wilderness first-aid manual.

My manual relates to treat scorpion stings much like a wasp or hornet sting. It further relates,
‘they are more painful than hornet stings, but no more damaging and the pain and swelling will go away. With one exception: The small, wheat-golden-yellow, Bark Scorpion of the southwestern US (as I read this, my smile fades) this scorpion sting can be fatal to infants and small children and if stung by this scorpion, immediate transport to a medical facility is required. Treat as if bitten by a rattlesnake because anti-venom is required.’
Whew and double whew.

I sometimes let Gus roam the campsite. This evening, because I was going to be building a dinner campfire and becaue it was already getting dark, I had put him in the tent immediately upon our return. I exhale in a sigh of good-fortune for me as well as for Gus as I poke and prod two small bits of fuel into the fire.

Decision Waffling

(the challenge: multiple character article; never identify genders; effectively use past, present and future-omniscient tenses. you be the judge.)

What would you like to see?” said Frap.

“Oh, I don’t know…the suspense one might be OK. I’ve heard it’s really cool. But, whatever you want is fine,” replied Bandy, hoping Frap picked the suspense film.

Bandy wanted Frap to choose.

This was Bandy’s rationale:

- If the suspense film was bad then ‘Frap picked it’.

- If it was good Bandy could claim ‘it was my suggestion’.

Bandy thought Frap looked distracted. Maybe it was because of the earlier traffic. Bandy hoped it was because of rush hour and not that Frap noticed the tobacco smell.

Frap, however, had a strong desire to see the new action film and knew the suspense film wasn’t going to be worth the time to sit through. The trailer they watched last month gave the plot twists away and ruined any hope of suspense, Frap thought.

At this point Frap knew the best thing to do would be to say, “Why don’t you go to that one, I’ll go to this one and afterwards we’ll meet at the car, go get a vanilla shake and tell each other about our respective films?”

Instead Frap said: “Do you think the action film would be interesting? It’s got that guy in it that we both like. What do you think?”

Frap was playing Bandy’s game with a bit more spin hoping Bandy would acquiesce. It would certainly be nice if they both wanted to do the same thing at the same time for once, Frap thought. But if they went to different films—each ending at different times—Bandy wouldn’t have to work too hard to fabricate an excuse to disappear for ten minutes.

“You drove, so I’ll pay. You pick.” Bandy said—putting Frap’s guilt in play.

Instead, Frap said—with slightly tightened throat muscles, “You seem to want to see the suspense film, so I guess the suspense film is what we’ll see.” Frap was no longer smiling much and then let out a breath and turned to give a distant glance at the horizon.

Bandy noticed most of Frap’s unspoken communication (but didn’t understand any of it) and announced—with more breath per word than necessary, “Why do you have to turn this into such a big deal? Now you’ve got an attitude over a movie? Jeezz. We’ll see the stupid action one.” And, not to let Frap’s posturing go unmatched, Bandy muttered and groaned and sighed and waived around melodramatically.

Frap replied, “Attitude I didn’t give you any attitude! You’re the one throwing a fit, getting all angry and loud. All I said was, 'we’ll see the suspense film, because that’s the one you want to see'.” In Frap’s mind this wasn’t a lie because only Bandy used negative and condescending words and only Bandy let anger show.

Frap determined early in their relationship that Bandy was incapable of communicating effectively using body language. Only capable of simple mimicry—in an exaggerated manner—Bandy’s body expressions were without any subtle finesse or effective aplomb. So when Frap resorted to communicating with body language, Bandy’s normal recourse was to point out Frap’s use of foreign language and ‘claim foul’.

“So now your posturing was all in my imagination? It’s all in my head? It’s only me?” Bandy asked.

Frap stood mute. A slight eye-squint and forehead wrinkle silently queried—what ARE you talking about? Bandy only saw a scowl like the one Bandy’s mother used when someone was about to get punished for not doing as she had instructed. Disgusted, Bandy bought two tickets for the action film.

To push it further, Frap said, as Bandy handed the tickets to the doorman, “I’m not going sit next to you through a movie if you’re going to be angry for no reason.”

Now Bandy made an ugly face, which was supposed to say—I’m hurt, fuck-you; but only came off as a funny grumpy-grouch. Frap almost smiled but held it and said, “Go over and exchange them at customer service for the suspense one if it will make you happy.”

Bandy replied, “No way I’m sitting through the suspense one NOW. With you pointing out all the bad qualities? Even if it turned out to be a great film, you’d broadcast to the world that I forced you to watch the worst movie of the decade.”

Frap won the battle, but the war will be lost.

Bandy will forever be incapable of the subtlety necessary to effectively play this decision waffling game—which is never a game couples win as much as one which is poorly played. The game kills relationships over the course of a lengthy war, usually due to the minor infections it carries with it.

Unfortunately it will take the entire two hours of film for each to forget how the other played the game (and who cheated).

The next day Frap will tell a co-worker that Bandy, “…got all pissed off at the theater for an totally imagined affront; then fabricated a reason to yell and followed through with it, for no reason at all.” The co-worker will console Frap by saying, “It might be best if you left before things get too difficult to back out.”

That same day, Frieda, Bandy’s older sister will learn things are still questionable because Frap, “…gets moody over the most innocent things and when Bandy points out the attitude changes, Frap always says the accusations are groundless or imagined.”

“I don’t think I can keep staying with Frap if this continues. I’m beginning to question my own sanity. When I recognize something I’ve said had a negative effect on Frap—but it’s not an obvious thing, right? I try to make amends. I'll ask, ‘what’s wrong?’ And then I’ll get, ‘Nothing, nothing at all.’ Which reinforces my suspicions. There must be something, because if there was nothing Frap would say, ‘Why do you ask?’ Not asking, means Frap knows why, so doesn’t say that. Get it? It drives me crazy. Frap has some kind of emotional tizzy going almost every day. I can’t figure out why and when I attempt, I make it worse rather than better.”

Frieda will tell Bandy to try a serious conversation about the relationship. “Sit down and talk about all the things you’ve told me over the last months. Get it all out in the open. Tell Frap you’re aware of the body language even though you can’t decipher the messages.”

“Oh, I already did that.” Bandy will reply. “Frap never wavered. According to Frap there is never any body language being used and I’m merely pointing at imaginary postures as a crutch to support my outbursts and moodiness. Frap actually said I was the one who was on an emotional roller coaster. That I used, 'invisible ghosts of unspoken expressions' as an excuse for my manic-depression.”

Q: What are their genders?

Q: Were the non-use of pronouns a difficult hurdle for you as reader?

Q: Was the changing of tense done smoothly?

—Veach Glines, December 2004

love note

every read of this message from my paramour stokes a smile inside me...

I love you.

I miss you when I’m away the 6 to 10 hours that take up my life as I go to work to meander about the office and read over inconsequential issues that I will come home and bring with me to harp over until I shake them out of my system like a dog worrying a bone that is too large to comfortably carry but may be forgotten once all the juicy bits have been eaten.

I wake up in the morning wishing that I could roll over and curl myself around you and just stare at your resting face as you doze; in and out of actually waking and sleeping.

But eventually I push myself out of bed and into clothes.

Everyday that I kiss you in the morning before I leave is a better day for me.

Just so you know.

All fun and games 'til someone gets their eye put out

a creative non-fiction story formulated over a decade ago and only recently completed (it still needs some polish)

MEMORANDUM THRU Commander, SHAPE Medical Clinic, SHAPE, Belgium

TO Director, SHAPE Liaison Office, Ambrose Pare Hospital, Mons, Belgium

SUBJECT: Patient Comments/Suggestions

1. After breaking the bone in my upper left arm, I stayed four days in the Ambrose Pare Hospital. I was admitted the morning of 16 March thru the emergency room. I was out of the operating room (after receiving a metal bar with eight screws) and awake by mid-afternoon. I checked myself out, against my surgeon's request, on 19 March.

2. I was asked by SHAPE Liaison Personnel and by Dr (CPT) Shiltie to prepare a comment form, documenting my dissatisfaction. I list here, not only the reasons I refused to remain in Ambrose Pare, but positive aspects of my experience. My hope is this After Action Report is used as a basis for changing the changeable, informing future patients, and commending the commendable.

3. POC is the undersigned.

VEACH GLINES

CW2, USA
AFTER ACTION REPORT - AMBROSE PARE

1. Situation - Contact with Patient Liaison: After a quick examination at the Base Medical Clinic, I was told my broken arm may require surgery and that Ambrose had been called. "They know you are enroute." A nurse said, as she handed me a form to provide to the Ambrose Pare admissions clerk as I walking out to my friend's vehicle.

Upon entering the Ambrose Pare's Emergency Entrance, I approached the admissions clerk who spoke only French. I gave her the form and filled out another, in English. I asked for SHAPE Liaison (SL) assistance. I was given words of affirmation and directed down a hall to an unknown location. Unable to understand where I was being told to walk I stayed put, waiting for SL. A doctor coming to work stopped when he realized my confusion and guided me to X-Ray.

Result: I never met any SL personnel in the Emergency Room, after X-Ray, while waiting for surgery, or in the recovery room. After I was in the hospital more than 7 hours, already in a room on the first floor, I met a SL member who asked if I had any questions. By that time all my questions were moot.

Solution: When the Admissions Clerk greets a foreigner with as poor a command of the French language as mine; it should be automatic that he or she calls the cell-phone or pager of SL and punches a code indicating they have an ER admission who is (as I was) disoriented, in pain, scared and unsure of what directions he is being given. The ER should be given highest priority by all SL personnel. If tied up with something of higher priority (e.g. translation of a conversation between a patient and his surgeon, on the table, seconds before going under the knife) then meeting the patient as soon as physically possible is acceptable. If this isn't SHAPE Liaison Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), it should be.

Comment: I realize the SL has a limited staff and they can only be in one place at a time. They also have only two hands and I know they are very busy. I met every member of the staff during their long (0800-2400) workday on the four days I was in the hospital. I greatly appreciated all their assistance and would not have stayed as long as I did if it weren't for them.

2. Situation - No Communication: Permission to operate on my arm was never asked for or given. Because I am familiar with the US's over-protective system it was quite a shock to be wheeled into surgery and have my body being prepared for operation when I had yet to be told why I was going to need surgery or authorize it by signing a waiver of any type.

Result: I met my surgeon two minutes before I was placed under anesthesia. He spoke enough English to answer my questions and calm me. If he had arrived any later I would have had the surgery with no idea what was happening other than the guess given to me by the SHAPE Medical Clinic personnel hours earlier.

Solution: Add to the SL SOP, the additional priority of having a SL member present prior to surgery.

Comment: This is not a criticism as much as a reminder. Anyone who lives at SHAPE knows as a general rule the local Belgians do not know much English. Just because they are working in a hospital doesn't change anything.

3. Situation - Drug Reaction: My known allergies were Penicillin and Erythromycin. I must now add to that an unnamed morphine-based painkiller. I was given an intravenous drip of painkiller every four hours or so following my surgery. There was no noticeable reaction to this drug all through the day and through the night and next day (other than I fell asleep and felt little pain).

Very early (approx. 0100) on the day after my surgery, I felt very uncomfortable and unable to sleep; I was given a big shot of painkiller. My allergic reaction consisted of extreme spasms to the muscles covering my abdomen. Those muscles affected my ability to breathe (diaphragm), my ability to keep my back and leg muscles straight, and my contortions caused more pain than the drug was able to mask, causing me to involuntarily move the un-protected broken arm.

Result: Unable to relax my muscles voluntarily I called the nurse. She interpreted my actions and hand/arm signals to mean I was in need of a bedpan. I indicated she misunderstood and I didn't need a bedpan. I tried to tell her I was having stomach spasms because of the shot. She brought me a laxative and had me take it, indicating it should take effect in 12 hours or so. I gave up and asked for the SL. The nurse informed me they would come see me after 0800 when they got to work. My drug addled (the drug was still doing it's job, just doing some other stuff too) brain quit trying and spent over two hours of sweating and pain before either the side effect wore off or the painkiller caused me to pass out, or both.

Solution: A booklet or laminated, reusable, pamphlet needs to be prepared that contains the English (and other languages that are needed) and French phrases which may need to be used on a "can not wait" basis. This should contain phrases like, "I am experiencing a bad reaction to a drug causing my (blank) to (blank)." Then include lists: stomach, head, arm; convulse, vomit.

Other phrases, for example: "Please contact my wife and allow me to talk with her." may be useful for a person unable to hold a phone. "Contact my surgeon, there is a emergency or problem with my operation," may be a sentence needed when there is no time to pantomime.

Comment: This seems like a common statement here at SHAPE: every time is the first time for every thing. But, it's all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out (or breaks a bone). I felt like I was the first non-French speaking person to reside in this hospital and have problems. An SL person told me that I wasn't the first person to have difficulties, just the first person to become so agitated and unpleased with the hospital to leave against my doctor's orders.

4. Situation - No Pain Medication (The pain problem continues): After informing the SL of my reaction to the pain shot, I was not given any more pain medication, ever. I requested the SL members to tell the nurses I needed more, just different, pain medication (as I had done the day before when the nurses were being typically stringent with their pain killers). The SL said all I had to do was 'tell the nurses' (not one nurse knew the word "pain", they must have thought my arm was baked bread). The SL also told them for me.

And I cornered the orderly who removed the drain tube from my arm. He knew he caused me much discomfort while removing the tube and he was as knowledgeable in English as I am in French. He told me I had to wait for the '12 hours to expire' then pointed at the medication drip.

Result: I never got any more pain medication (except aspirin and later an alka-seltzer-type dissolving medicine; neither medications touched my pain). From the time I woke from the "bad shot" on day three until I checked myself out the evening of day four, I received no pain medication (except my own aspirin).

Even then, I had to wait until sick-call Monday morning to get a prescription for painkillers from SHAPE. I was unable to sleep Saturday night more than 30 minutes at a time, total of about three hours. Not all caused by pain: a hospital is a busy place, I had a roommate, nurses have checks and no one whispers. Sunday night was home and quiet, but the discomfort caused me to sleep very little.

Solution: If this wasn't just miscommunication or an error in the way the Ambrose Pare's nursing staff normally conducts patient care, then either some direction needs to be given to the nursing staff or SHAPE should reevaluate utilizing this hospital as an authorized care providing facility. Doors to patient rooms should be left in the closed position unless it is visiting hours, allowing the normal hustle and bustle of the nurses, orderlies, and cleaning crews to be minimized.

Comment: My pain was minor compared to someone with burns or extensive trauma. In my opinion, miscommunication and error were not the reasons I was left without painkillers for over 30 hours. I think the nurses need instruction on nursing. As a layman, I would know enough to check on my patients and discover they seem to always be awake when I'm in the room. Then determine why.

Note: I should add here that I stopped requesting pain medication after about 12 hours. I'd asked five or six different people and gotten nothing that worked. I was afraid they would grow tired of my asking (if all six were going to one central person who was refusing each time, as I envisioned) and administer another "bad shot" possibly after SL departed for the evening again.

This paranoia was caused by many different things, some of which may have been drug or pain induced. Mostly, however, it was because I understood a small amount of the nurse's words (and all of their body language and facial expressions) to know one thing: they despised dealing with me.

5. Situation - Orderlies: Morning of day two and I was beginning my first sponge bath by two orderlies who were apparently college girls. Both were visibly embarrassed to be required to bathe a man. I was unable to leave the bed. My broken left arm had a drain tube running from a six-inch incision into a vacuum bottle under my bed; my right arm had an equally large bandage holding the IV needle into which ran two drips.

The orderlies had already begun and informed me the only areas of my body they were going to wash were my legs, arms, armpits, chest and face. No they were not going to wash my hair, back, genital area, or shave me. Before they could wet a cloth, my wife arrived. They asked if she would like to assist. I pictured her doing the parts they refused to do and holding up legs while they scrubbed, things like that. She agreed to help. They left and never returned.

Result: My wife spent over an hour washing and shaving me. Because my wife's complete body wash and shave was so much better than the orderlies' wipe-and-go program. I asked her to return the next day at the same time. She did. And the nurses related she could also return to wash me on day three, which she also did.

Solution: The orderlies are in need of guidance on how to clean a body. If that means having a male orderly wash all male persons and vice versa, so be it. The fact that a patient is using bedpans and bed urinals should be more reason to wash his genitals than any other. The hair and back of a person become so dirty from body oils and sweat that to not clean them leaves one's personal hygiene completely lacking. Again, I recommend a close examination of the patient care abilities of Ambrose Pare. If they are not able to make changes then I recommend placing the hospital "off limits" to all military and their dependents.

Comment: It is possible that other patients who have previously used Ambrose Pare have either not concerned themselves with orderlies abilities, they may have been able to wash themselves (which would preclude noticing this lack of hygiene) or they may not have been witness (as I have with an elderly family member) to the correct "sponge bath technique". Regardless of why, I can't be the only person who would have left with the same dirt on my buttocks that I came in with, if it weren't for my spouse. Prior to this, I was aware how most French-Belgians had a strong body odor and how, in general, they were unclean. I did not know that it extended to hospital hygiene.

6. Situation - Visiting Hours: After my wife finished cleaning me Friday morning, a nurse came and asked if my wife was done. When informed she was almost done, the nurse left. 15 minutes later a different nurse came and told us that visiting hours were from 1500-1930. This was the first either of us had been told of these hours.

Result: My wife left and returned at 1500. Between her (not normally allowed) morning bath and 1500 I had no one to talk with, nothing to do (TV is solely French, I couldn't hold a book or phone longer than two minutes) except concentrate on my discomfort and fail all attempts to go to sleep.

Note: The Solution and Comment portions of this paragraph are combined with those of the following paragraph, because these two problems have similar solutions.

7. Situation - Private Room: After waking in the recovery room, I vaguely remember answering questions from the bottom of a blurry well. One of those questions was (all being asked by my surgeon; I doubt if this is normal either) what kind of room did I want? My answer was a private one...except...also...within whatever the US Military was going to pay for (proving I was merely groggy, not delirious).

Result: I was put in a room with four beds and two roommates. A SL person asked me on Friday afternoon if I, "still wanted to be moved to the private room" and then she told me why it would not be her recommendation.

The SL person said the cost of a private room was about $150 US dollars each day above the cost of the 4-person room which was what is covered by the military; also the hospital and operation room/doctor fees could be increased anywhere from 100% to 200% (not determined prior to receipt of the bill) and all increases would be my responsibility. She used figures in the thousands of US dollars. I opted to remain in the room I was in.

Solution(s): Either military CHAMPUS coverage or Ambrose Pare Administration needs to change the allowable/charged room rates and the "undetermined increase of fees" to permit SHAPE personnel to have private rooms without any additional cost to the service member, because the visiting hours for persons in private rooms are 0800-2000.

Also needed is a "Welcome Letter" from the SL Office, to all arriving patients. It would benefit the most if it were automatically handed out by the admissions clerk (both in ER and at the front doors). This letter would outline all routine functions of the hospital including, but not limited to, visiting hours, room options, clearly defined costs for benefits not covered by the military, services provided and supplies needed. Note: Robes, towels, washcloths or slippers are not available or provided. No water or beverages are provided except during meals.

Note: The combination of alcohol and pain medication is not a concern. I was offered a beer with lunch on Friday. I declined because I was wary of mixing alcohol and medications.

Comment: If my wife were permitted to remain in a multiple-room during private-room visiting hours, the other members of the room could object. However, I witnessed first-hand how this rule was easily bent when it benefited the nurses by permitting them to do less work (not bathe me).

8. Situation - Incompetence: In the early morning hours of day three I observed my drip tube was no longer dripping (when you can't sleep, you look at anything to pass the time). I notified the night nurse. She tried checking the bag; it was operating all right. She attempted to force fluid into my arm by squeezing the small rubber boot attaching the tube to the "T connector" taped to my arm. This failed attempt caused fluid to move in and suck back out of my arm. She repeated this painful attempt two or three more times. The nurse then disconnected a tube from the "T connector", sucked fluid through it using a small syringe, determined the connector was working and then she attempted to force the fluid into my arm by squeezing the syringe. I came up off the bed with more pain in that arm than the other. She quit forcing the fluid and left glaring at me like it was my fault.

Result: She removed the IV. The swelling and bruising caused by the forcing of the fluid into a collapsed vein was very evident. She placed a large compress on the wound, covering the entire wound with some of the most fowl smelling black-tar ointment I have ever had the misfortune to have to breathe.

Solution: Again, if this is the normal practice of the Belgian Nursing community, then instruction and specifically Ambrose Pare's standards should be examined. If this was just a coincidence, and they normally don't cause undue pain to their patients, then that specific nurse should be evaluated as to competence.

Comment: Based on the fact the tube temporarily stopped prior to the bag being empty and other nurses and one orderly also squeezed the rubber boot causing me pain, I believe this is common practice. She just took it further.

9. Situation - Lax Nursing Staff: After removing my "ace bandage" wrap and all gauze bandages in the afternoon of day two, the orderly responsible for removing my drain tube left the room. He returned with a nurse. She examined the exposed arm and then asked me if my wife was returning at 1500. I told her yes and she asked if my wife was still going to wash me. I was not sure what she was asking (since my morning bath was already done for that day) but said yes. She told the orderly my wife would clean my arm later and left the room.

Result: I learned by stumbling through both his English and my French that he had asked the nurse to clean the dried blood, adhesive, and medicinal stains off my arm. The orderly was merely responsible for removal of the tube and then redressing the sutured area and re-wrapping the arm; the nurse was supposed to clean it. He then asked me if I wanted the arm to be cleaned under the bandage or if the bandage should be left off until my wife cleaned it. I asked him to clean it and re-apply the wrap.

Solution: Examine the Ambrose Pare nursing staff and their supervisors. Obviously, none are required to perform to any standard of patient care.

Comment: Again, the nursing staff is culpable of shirking their responsibility. The orderly, however, was quite efficient.

10. Situation - Cleanliness: On day three, in the late morning, I was able to leave the bed and go to the sink in the bathroom to bathe. Allowing my wife to clean me without having to use a pail of water. Some water got on the floor. She used a paper tissue to clean up the water. The tissue was so dirty after just wiping up a small amount of water that I would hate to see how much dirt would come up if a scrub brush and strong soap were used.

Result: I observed how the ladies, responsible for cleaning a room, performed their duties. They used a "Belgian broom" type instrument (sponge with a dry lint adhesive towel under it) to push-sweep the central areas of the room. Not under beds, not in the bathroom, not anywhere the half-meter-wide tool wouldn't fit. Then they used a buffer with an automatic wax applicator to raise a shine in the central areas of the room. Dusting was done on horizontal surfaces (table tops, headboards, etc) No one did anything in the bathroom besides run a brush around in the bowl and wipe the sink. I did observe some wetness on the floor of the bathroom, but it was only enough wetness to cause the dirt to become wet, not to pick up any of it.

Solution: A change is required. This change needs to come from within the hospital. A standard must be enforced and inspections made to insure they are maintained. Give a date to have the hospital "up to code" if they cannot pass the inspection of a chosen military official. Deny Ambrose Pare the SHAPE community's business. (I just hope St Joseph's hospital isn't a carbon copy).

Comment: A hospital is where cleanliness is expected. Allowing our military members and their families to utilize facilities that are below any acceptable cleanliness standards is unforgivable.

11. Situation - Urine Bottles: I was only able to urinate in a urine bottle until my IV was removed on the morning of day three. I quickly noticed that when I used the bottle, and a nurse or orderly dumped it into the toilet, they never rinsed out the bottle.

Let me re-enforce this statement: Not sometimes, not usually, not almost never. NEVER. Not one of the dozens of times that my bottle was taken by one of the Ambrose Pare nursing or orderly staff during my three days of constant IV fluids did the sink in my bathroom get turned on and my urine bottle rinsed after dumping the urine in the toilet.

Result: To use the bottle, I had to open the wet cap of the urine bottle and place the wet mouth of the urine bottle at my groin. Then after filling the bottle, I would place the bottle on my bed-table and wipe my hands and genital area on a towel or on the bed sheet.

Solution: This may be the easiest to fix. Ambrose Pare can make the general SOP change: All urinals are rinsed just like bedpans; I doubt that bedpans are returned coated with feces (although I don't know, I was unable to use a bedpan).

Comment: Common sense (forget hygiene and medical training) tells you to rinse out the urine bottle. My thirteen year old (not known for hygiene or common sense) would probably do it instinctually!

12. Situation - Bed Pans: I was constipated. It was possibly the food (a topic I will not critique here, if there is a gourmet hospital in this world no one I've known has been there). It may have been the drugs combined with lying horizontal for days. Regardless, I couldn't use a bedpan. No nurse commented that I needed to try (except the nurse who mistakenly thought I was asking for one) and, as far as I know, no nurse ever knew that I had gone a minimum of four days without a bowel movement. That added lower abdomen pain was the capper on my good humor.

Result: I requested the SL ask the nurse if I could use my own laxative from home. Initially, the SL person gave her opinion ("I don't think they want you to bring in your own medication") But I persisted and she agreed to ask the nurses. They permitted it. I used it. It also didn't work so I had to resort to the most uncomfortable means of forcing a bowel movement.

Solution: Is this enough "Nursing Failure" comments? The solution is simple. Insure the Ambrose Pare Nurses are not just ladies off the street with pink and white dresses that know how to read a thermometer, blood pressure gauge, and say 'no' to pain medication.

Comment: In the past, nurses I've interacted with the few times I've been hospitalized, were concerned with how much I was "passing my wastes". They also were strict about when and if I get out of bed for fear of dizziness and falling. I got out of bed on day two so the orderly could change my bed linen. Less than 24 hours after surgery and I was dragging the drain tube and bottle and IV's over to a chair without any assistance.

13. Situation - Bed Linens: My wife washed me on day two and since she was not very familiar with the technique, she got water on the sheets and pillowcases. I told her it was no big deal, I saw a stack of clean sheets sitting in a chair and watched through the curtain as one of my roommate's bed was changed, so I knew I'd get clean/dry sheets. But, when I was in the chair, the orderly did not change the bottom sheet (stretching the length of the bed). The only sheets that were changed were the top sheet and a "protection" sheet that was across the middle of the bed under my buttocks. They also didn't plan on changing any pillowcases (one of mine was very wet from hair washing) so he had to go get a clean one, which took ten minutes.

Result: My bottom sheet stayed wet and soiled. It was never changed the entire time I was in that bed.

Solution: Change the hospital's procedures. All sheets are changed every day and more often as hygiene dictates.

Comment: Is this enough "lack of hygiene" criticisms? I was only in one room of one ward for four days; I can't be but just scratching the surface. We need an in-depth investigation with the health and well being of our military members in mind. The focus needs to be on our choice of health care providers and their standards. If they can't bring theirs up, are we expected to lower ours? At what expense?

14. Situation - Duration of Stay: On day three I asked the SL to contact my surgeon and ask him to visit me. When asked why, I told her I wanted to leave the hospital. I saw no reason to remain. I was actually more tense, less comfortable and the hospital, in my mind, was possibly more of a danger to me in terms of possible germs and diseases as well as errant nurses and incompetent orderlies (I left this last comment off, as I had done the entire duration of my stay. It's been my experience that one doesn't stir the pot when one is part of the stew). All I told her was now that my tubes were removed I could conduct all future business with my surgeon on an outpatient basis.

Result: My surgeon told me he wanted me to remain 48 more hours. His reasons were vague, but centered around, "After surgery a body needs to be watched, the skin and nerves, blah, blah."

Follow-on Situation: Almost immediately after my surgeon departed the SL person came, reiterated to me what the Surgeon had just told me and added I was being moved to a different room. When asked why, she replied because I was supposed to be on the second floor. She didn't know why I was put on the first floor. I had been there for four days, but now it was time to move me.

Result: I was moved from a room with one roommate who I had no difficulties with in any way (the second roommate moved my second day) to a room with three roommates. At the time of moving, each of the roommates had 2-4 guests in the room (one guest per roommate is about all a full 4-man room can handle without bothering a neighbor; two, if one stands...this should be a note of guidance in my proposed 'welcome letter').

At this floor, the SL person took it upon herself to ask my 'new' nurses if they were aware my wife had been coming in at 0800-0900 each morning and cleaning me and if that would be permitted on this floor. (I never asked her to ask them if that was permitted). I had learned from the nurse herself (on the first floor) that they were willing to 'look the other way' as long as my roommate didn't complain. I would have handled that situation similarly. She reported to me that the visiting hours would not be broken on this floor and my wife was not permitted to come the next morning.

Solution: I readdressed my surgeon and as tactfully as possible told him that under no circumstances would I stay in this hospital another night.

SUMMARY COMMENT: The SL members are always well intentioned but they allow their own opinions to enter into their conversations. I am fully aware of the difficulty of dealing objectively at all times; but professionalism demands it.

I learned from further conversations that a Belgian Citizen only pays a little over 40 US dollars extra for a private room. The reason is something about the national insurance covering all but that amount. SHAPE members don't have the insurance, so only the minimum is covered and the hospital sticks a large amount of hidden fees onto the bill (because they can).

Further, I recommend the 'Welcome letter' include detailed information on what to do for follow-up care. If you have an outpatient appointment (which can be made through the SL office) you must go to the front desk/cashier (any one of the three) and tell them your name, fill out another form, and receive a sheet of stickers. Then (and only with the stickers) can you get your x-rays and your surgeon's meetings as well as make additional appointments.

A map of the hospital denoting the ever-changing remodeling, and how to circumvent it, should also accompany this letter (words need to be in both French and English on the map so you can relate the map to the signs on the walls in the hospital).

Post Script:

Many months later I learned why if I was touched, even lightly, my arm hurt. I experienced (under the scar as well as near the elbow) excruciating pain, caused by a simple bump or nudge.

An x-ray revealed the eight screws were "counter-sink screws" but the metal bar did not have counter-sunk holes. Therefore, all eight screws had their sharp, angled, edges exposed inside my arm above the bar. Also, three of the screws went completely through the bone and projected their points under my bone near the elbow.

Bump my arm on top and the meat of my arm muscle rubs along the tops of the exposed screw heads. Hit the bottom of my arm on a table edge and the points of the screws try to puncture their way through my muscle and skin.

And I'd thought it was only the nursing staff that was slip-shoddy and incompetent.

Jorge with a cat - Part 1

Mileu-type story future-space

The door in the wall behind him—probably called a portal or some other stupid Navy word instead of door, thought Jorge—slid open. He only caught the opening movement in the reflection off the blank monitor as a blur of silver-gray door disappearing into bland-beige carpeted wall. New air entering the small room made more noise than the door retracting into it's frame.

“Shit,” Jorge whispered, to the orange-brown cat—quiet enough so his visitor wouldn’t overhear, “I was hoping for that zippy-whistle noise the doors made on the Enterprise.” Jorge put on a relaxed posture and added, “Captain Kirk would be as disappointed as I am.”

Because this was Jorge's first contact with space station personnel (not counting the cat) he didn't turn around. After waking up, Jorge had deduced where he was and who brought him here; now he needed to appear at ease in order to learn why and how the US Government had shipped his stupid ass into space without his knowledge.

Jorge inhaled. A recycled, slightly medicinal, taste probed at a possible memory. A small portion of his mind devoted 83 macro-joules of stored energy in a failed, 4.2 second attempt to find and force a lost hospital memory to bubble up from the depths of all-but-not-forgotten-ÆÐ.

The unidentified door opener remained outside and Jorge let whoever it was watch his back. Still attentive to the game, the cat watched Jorge's hands. Jorge watched the cat and noticed the opening of the door did not concern it. In about the middle of the wall, just to the side of a flush mounted monitor, the cat had anchored it's front claws into the carpet. It's rear legs and the rest of the cat's body floated, patiently waiting for Jorge to continue playing the sock rolling game.

Sensing the unseen, Jorge ran his tongue under his upper lip, across his teeth; tightening his mouth, he brushed the bottom of his mustache with his lower lip. Without really understanding how he did it, Jorge decided it was a woman, a small woman—with nothing in her hands.

Even before entering the service, Jorge used his ability (survival-instinct would be how he referred to it now) to quickly scan his surroundings, (a bar, for example) size up his opponents, (other men and dykes) and select a target (attractive, available, hetero child bearer, interested in "yinging the yang" with a balding soldier, carrying a little more weight than height, for example).

Although he knew less about the cat than his current situation and surroundings, Jorge was enjoying it's company. As he rolled the balled-up sock through the air, the cat shifted it's weight, retracted it’s claws from the wall and pushed it’s hind legs down and away. It used only enough effort to move through space as it pursued his sock. Jorge tugged slightly on his left strap and drifted slightly to the right. He tried to make the movement appear natural while affording him a better view of the doorway in the reflection off the monitor.

After waking, examining the door, and deciding it was not operable from this side, Jorge had learned in a little less than an hour (by watching the cat, mostly) to move around the room and use the straps of his suit, hooked to rings in the walls, to prevent flailing and colliding with the walls or the cat. (Especially the latter, since the beast considered almost everything was for it's amusement and Jorge's acrobatics seemed an invitation to be attacked.) The one-piece suit had two elastic straps on each shoulder; when not used the four straps clipped to rings at his waist, like suspenders. Two outside each knee also clipped at his waist, where four others, two on each side, wrapped around him belt-style. He had woken with all twelve tethering him to the surfaces of the room. At the time, Jorge thought he must have looked like a fly caught in a spider's web.

Although he was confident of his new ability to move in weightlessness, Jorge was afraid. He was certain turning and facing the door would make him bounce and spring against the walls and straps, that the cat would stop playing with the sock and attack him again, and then the first impression he made on his visitor, jailer, doctor, commander, interrogator, executioner…Jorge's brain continued to sort through a list of possibilities, based on lost memory…The failed mission in Brazil (explosions, gunfire, flash of light,-ÆÐ) and his present location (the SS Minnow or some other US-operated space station). Jorge gave up guessing because, regardless, he knew the first impression would be that Chief Warrant Officer Jorge M. Hayden was a fucking idiot.

As Jorge waited for his visitor to make the first move, he thought zero gravity was impossible to simulate for this long (at least the part of his brain previously working on who his visitor could be thought so). He also was almost certain he was on a US station. POW's probably didn't get a familiarization hour, or a cat.

(go to part 2)

Lotto Luck

beginning paragraphs of an as-yet-unfinished character-based "problem story"

Shelby blinked. One dollar would have been fine. Perhaps he'd hoped to win one hundred dollars, tops. He could have gotten away with that, sure. But, as he sat in his father's recliner, Lay's Potato Chip crumbs strewn from his lap to the corner of his lips (his right hand still clutching that shiny little card), he knew he'd won much more than a Benjamin.

The lopsided woman's face on the small, glowing screen repeated the winning numbers: "8-22-41-16-3-12-37."

Shelby sat in stunned silence as the announcer signed off and commercials flashed before his widening eyes. Oh, shoot.

Lisa inhaled an old maid.

Ping-pong balls turned up on the silent tube: August twenty-second, forty-one; Ma's birthday. Keeping her watering eyes transfixed, Lisa tried hacking the kernel out of her throat. Sloshing her Michelob, her next number, the age she threw away her cherry--16--popped up. Dad's birthday, March twelfth, thirty-seven, was Lisa's last three. A "3" fell up.

The popcorn flew out of Lisa's neck. She checked her ticket quickly and began to breathe like she was running up a hill. "12" snapped into place. Other patrons of The Pillar were beginning to take notice of her as "37" finished up and Lisa pissed her panties. Fuckin eh.

"Well, Shelby," Reverend Ingersoll sighed over the phone, "you certainly have gotten yourself into a pickle now haven't you."

"Yes, Reverend," Shelby replied with drama in his voice. "But, how was I to know that I'd win? I mean, come on! What are the chances?"

"If it were anyone else, I'd say God had smiled on you. But, Shelby...if you aren't old enough to gamble you shouldn't have bought the ticket. After all, someone had to win sometime. You should have calculated the consequences."

"But Reverend, what will they do to me?"

"Who, the lottery people?"

"No, Reverend..." Stacy paused. "...my folks. You know how my father gets. I'm not sure I can keep this from him. Could you take the ticket to the lottery for me?"

The reverend began to make noises of refusal over the phone as his mind began to convince him that a percentage of the money could be his--maybe even a large percentage--and he could put that money to very good use within his parish. After all, Jack Rawley would just take it away from his son and then throw it away on sins of the flesh. It wasn't greed. Reverend Ingersoll tapped his unsharpened pencil on his stapler and counted his blessings.

"All right, Shelby, I'll take the ticket," Then he sighed heavily, as if it were really a burden. He had already sketched a few mental plans for expansion and improvement within the few seconds it took to accept.

"Great Reverend. You don't know how much this means to me." The phone clicked without anything more from Shelby and Reverend Ingersoll leaned back in his comfortable leather office chair without removing the phone from his ear. "No, thank YOU, Shelby."

"I greased a cat last week, for not payin up. Why I not leave you in this alley, with no blood, ya shit spangled basstad?"

These words should have started Stuart Johnson begging. When the two butt-boys holding his arms began to giggle, Stuart should have gone from begging to babbling. Instead he said calmly, "Jerry." No one called Mr. Stolkes that, it was rumored he killed his mother for using the familiar. "I won the lotto."

Stuart and Stolkes both smiled.

"WE won, I mean." Stuart said.

"How much?" Stokes whispered, his eyes greedy-bright in the moonlight.

"The total pucker is two point seven."

"Ticket?" Stokes asked.

"In my wallet." Stuart replied. twisting his right hip forward.

TYPE 4 Remnant

Intro "snagger" for a space-operatic-type story (written in 1996, just discovered disc)

A remnant had survived.

Collins strained to hear another scrape of fabric or flesh. The rough stone caused the fingers of his gloved hand to tingle, as he braced himself against a roof outcropping. He gripped his other fist, reassuring himself the ceramic blade was there. Turning towards the crawl opening, residual vapors caused his eyes to water. Blinking, Collins saw retinal flashes. He held his breath when he heard the breathing of the approaching remnant.

Two containers of Hydrox should have removed enough of the cavern's oxygen to kill all eight as they slept. Something or someone had failed. Collins sucked a breath from his respirator piece, hot and wet from the frothy liquid that poured down upon his lips.

Pain throbbed to near-paralysis through his lower back as a small spot of hemolymph solution coiled slowly from his pores within his biospheronic support suit. He clutched his blade once more and, regardless of the bolts of pain sprinting throughout his body, held desperately to the spinning astral-meteor cavern's mouth.

Winds from within the cavern stilled as any remainder of oxygen gases bubbled out into the vacuum of space. In seconds whatever wanted to remain alive inside that cavern would wiggle under his psudograv boots. Collins contemplated the cleanest method to extinguish the survivor without fucking up his suit.

In the time it took to exhale, Collins saw the survivor, realized it wasn't a remnant, and decided his sanction didn't extend to orange, fur-covered, midgets, with over-large yellow eyes. He put his respirator to the survivor's mouth.

The cat inhaled.

Re-mouthing the respirator, Collins said, "Harvesters should be within burn soon. By license, they can't mine inhabited rock. Are you coming?"

The cat began to stand. Back in it's mouth, the respirator's translator said, "Is choice?"

The Tobbo Shop (Agent Veach)

speculative fiction short story begging to become a novel

—This room contains three potential threats: the two men sharing a booth against the far wall and the woman standing in the back, who is now approaching.—

‘She’s a waitress; don’t slack her until she gets my order’. Veach smiled to himself, turned around a table near the entryway, and sat with his back to the room. Sunlight illuminated the first few meters of the eat-shop, through a wall of bottles stacked like cord wood and mortared in place. His aug replayed the room-scan, superimposed over the colorful light pattern on the worn and cracked plastic tabletop, then paused to focus, zoom, and capture facial features (one of the men in the booth was in profile). Before the waitress crossed the room to his table, her identifiction portfolio and that of the two men were displayed for Veach to read. His aug began a voice-over synopsis.

—the waitress, Natalie Druj, also Natalie P. Standsberry, has a double shot carbon-oxygen projectile weapon strapped to her right thigh. No outstanding warrants. Is an affiliate member of a local group known as: Consul Lecture, which advocates political reform and—

The aug muted and ID folios faded from view as Veach touched his right rear molar with the tip of his tongue. He looked up and met the waitress’ eyes.

“I can get you a seat in the back if you’d like.” Natalie Druj said in a pre-pubescent voice more appropriate coming from a child than a middle-aged woman. The Hello, my name is ANGELA nametag on her green and white bib-apron was made with red tape from a label gun, which Veach was looking at in order to gauge the size of her chest against the timber of her voice. Nice firm un-bra-supported breasts were observable around the sides of her bib-apron.

“No, thank you, Angela. I prefer to sit in the sun.” Plenty of people don’t use their real name, he thought. ...Annnd now, coming to the center stage put your hands together gentlemen for: Aaanngelaaa. Not a big deal, she’s wearing a pseudonym.

“I don’t blame ya, with what little we get. Do you want a menu or just coffee this morning?” The left crease of her mouth had an old scar that caused her to talk mostly out of the right corner of her mouth. She looked as cute as she sounded. She was Betty Boop, in a slutty, deceitful, packing-a-derringer kind of way.

“A vanilla shake, two grilled cheese sandwiches, potato chips and dill pickle spears, please.” Veach said. Natalie/Angela/Betty Boop opened her mouth to say something, closed it, smiled, nodded her head and turned away. Veach followed her walk to the back of the shop. It was a pleasant not-too-hippy walk. As she pushed through a set of swinging doors into what was probably the kitchen, he tapped his tongue against the back of his lower right front bicuspid, upper, then lower, then upper again.

“....certainly got a better idea than you or I ever had, don’t you think...” a magnified matronly woman’s voice jumped from the back corner of the room. Veach slow-pivoted his head back towards the wall of different sized bottles. “....afford the amount of interest he would...” A young man said from the center of the room and then faded away, replaced by a whooshing of air and a squeaking of hinges: the kitchen doors. Veach tapped his right lower bicuspid, then upper, once more. Betty Boop’s muffled voice: “...lunch time yet, but it ain’t like ya can’t make...” Tapping his teeth a few more times, her voice got louder as the room noise was damped and filtered away. “...a couple of melted cheese’s while I make the shake. For crissake Leo, you act like you’ve got a silverware and china plate restaurant instead of a regular plastic eat-shop.”

An effeminate male sing-songed, “Is thiss coming from my very ssame Angela that growls at the free-refill fuckers and spits at the stolen-food-stamp mommy’s?” A clatter of plates and whirr of a blender; tooth tap, and the male voice was clearer: “Oh no, my child. I maybe walk this exceptional lunch out for you. See for my big self what kind of gorgeous can get my Angela to be making menu exceptionss.”

A little girl’s giggle was followed by Betty Boop’s voice: “Hands off Leonard. You know how I get when blondes with Steve McQueen eyes and a surfer body are dressed halfway decent? Well, this one’s all that and only eats a bag of chips. He can...” Veach flicked the gum below his lower bicuspid and the chatter-volume of the room returned to normal. Again, smiling to himself, he touched the back of his right rear molar. The ID folios returned and the voice-over resumed.

— has been connected with members of ultra-fundamentalist sects: ARMA and SCIONA.—

‘List all aliases. Cross-reference this address. List Angela or variations, like Angelica.’

— There is no record of additional alias. No record of her employment at this establishment. This establishment employs no Angela or variation of same; the owner of which is —

‘Obviously there should be. Add it. Today’s date. My credentials as point of contact.’

— Added as directed. —

Enjoying the smells of bacon and biscuits brought by Natalie/Angela/Betty to another table, Veach perused the ID folios of the two men in the far booth (boys, actually). Brothers: Jason and Joshua, greatly enjoyed residing at Southern Arizona Regional Rehabilitation Community for Youth. They both lived there—on and off—more than half their lives. (What a poor combination of words for a jeuvie-camp, Veach thought; such an ineffectual acronym.) The boys’ most recent offense: armed robbery, explained the projectile and edged weapons they each had concealed under their clothing. Although neither of the boys seemed to warrant any concern, Veach directed his aug to conduct PMS and screen the results. Passive Monitoring Surveillance, what a great acronym for a non-evasive, almost impossible to discover, untraceable examination of someone’s every word and movement.

“Here ya go.” Said Natalie/Angela/Betty, placing his order in front of him as well as a metal mixing-cup containing extra vanilla shake. “Anything else I can get?”

“The food looks great, thank you.” Veach said. “It would be nice to sit in the sun, here, and talk; but it looks like sitting isn’t something you get to do much.”

She rolled her eyes as she smiled, “There’s usually two of us, but not today.” Then in a hushed tone, she said, “I’d love to sit and talk but I don’t see a break coming any time soon.” As she wrote on the bill and placed it on the corner of the table she said—back in her normal Betty Boop timbre—“Thank you and I’ll take care of that whenever.” She turned to clear empty plates behind him and began taking a couple’s order.

The bill, once Veach turned it over, contained a few looped letters (obviously, coded acronyms for his meal) followed by the total: 27.80 and then twelve numbers broken with dashes.

‘Track this number.’

— Personal Auricular Gainsay Echelon listed to: Angela Rachel Montey.... Deceased, July 2087; blunt force cranial trauma.... McFadden Air Car accident in which the mandatory—

‘Connect. After identification tag, disconnect without leaving a message. Go to sub-vocal if actually answered. Also, attempt PMS trace to locate the receiver.’

— Use of government equipment, including specialized augmentations, for personal use is prohibited under Title 28, subsection...—

‘Nothing is personal. Ever. Discontinue all future notifications of this nature—visual or aural. Your assumptions are based upon erroneously templated information. Execute last directives.’

Veach alternated bites of warm sandwich oozing with several types of cheeses with a few salty chips, a sour crunch of pickle and a frothy gulp. It would be a generic metallic-electronic voicemail. He was certain. With one sandwich gone and a mouthful of cheesy-chips being masticated, his aug reported the location: 18 meters west of his current location, followed by one word—connected.

“Hello.” Betty Boop’s voice said, the sound of water splashing on a hollow metal surface in the background. There didn’t seem to be any recognition in her voice. No sub-vocal ability or incoming trace. Odd. Veach wondered if those abilities were unavailable to people who died over fifty years ago.

“Hello, Angela. I. Well...I intended to follow up with your voicemail because I didn’t think you would answer at work.” Veach said swallowing what was still in his mouth.

“Ummm. I don’t...”

“Sorry. How stupid of me. This is grilled cheese sandwiches and vanilla shake. My name is Veach and I would like to meet you after work?”

“Oh Hi. Yeah, that would be great. Maybe nineteen thirty or so?” She asked.

“Sure. You pick the place.” Veach said.

“A drink-shop on Evergreen called Myra’s, how about there?” She replied.

“I’ll meet you there tonight at nineteen thirty, Angela.”

“OK. Peach? Did you say?” She asked.

“Yep, just like that, only with a Vee.”

“See you tonight, Veach.” A giggle and the sound of running water ended.

Veach left two twenties on the table and walked out with half a sandwich wrapped in a paper napkin for Jerry.

‘locate a park or open-air zone. Direct me to it. Have Jerry maintain out of sight optimal circumference.’

— Nearest unrestricted zone is 1.5 kilometers west of this commercial-industrial area. Numerous buildings in the immediate vicinity have public access elevators for..—

‘Directions, visual only; automatic sunglass optics; maintain full bubble; music selection random SC-2.’ Veach tapped his teeth together in a short bite-like motion. Veach’s corneas darkened slightly and his current favorite selection began playing as he followed the yellow arrows that shimmered and disappeared ahead of him like heat waves on the horizon.

There were not many people using the shadowed walk-strips between the buildings, so Veach set a leisurely pace, his optics adjusting to compensate for the lack of sunlight by turning everything an ugly shade of amber. Every so often he would stop and look for Jerry. Once—when Veach stopped and sat on a metal bench—he thought he saw just the side of his cheek and tip of an ear around one corner of a rec-rec. But it was too far ahead of him to be sure and by the time he stood and walked the hundred meters or so, no Jerry.

Veach could see where the open-zone began because a slice of blue sky and white clouds replaced the buildings canyon-walls. As he entered the open zone and his optics darkened, he expected to see Jerry sitting in the middle by one of the trees. Still no Jerry.

There were more people here, enjoying the sunlight. The buildings appeared to be residential-commercial and upscale at that.

‘Move the MAC for pick-up at current location. Have Jerry rendezvous here.’ He scanned around this perimeter of towering buildings and decided on a rocky area used in the day by young children for playing and at night by older children for games of their own. At present, it was occupied by three large blue-white-and-black birds sharing a meal off the ground. As Veach left the shadow of the nearest tree and began ascending the low incline of granite, one of the three hopped in his direction and screeched. A definite warning threat. Veach smiled and looked over his shoulder. Coming up the rise from behind another tree, Jerry was in full predation mode. Slunk low so his belly touched the short grass, ears straining forward in the direction of the birds, his mouth opened and closed jerkily. Veach could hear Jerry chittering.

‘What’s he saying to the birds?’

— This is not a valid question. Jerry is making an instinct-driven noise, not speaking. —

‘I will take your answer to mean: you don’t know.’

As the air car lowered toward the birds, and its shadow slowly covered them, the birds looked up and flew off in unison. Before following Veach into the air car Jerry had to smell the remaining detritus the birds failed to carry off.

“Come on Jerry, I got something for you.” Veach said. Removing the napkin from his pocket and unwrapping it from around half of a grilled cheese sandwich. Jerry bounded into the MAC as the port hatch irised shut.

‘Begin a random false insertion program following unrestricted air-lanes open to all commercial and private vehicles. Once within public air lanes, remove coded transponder data identifying this vehicle as exempt from traffic regulations. Obtain and utilize transponder signature of a private delivery company; identify and mirror a real name and license from an existing company operating legally in this region.’

Jerry mewled up at Veach because he had paused during the process of peeling the slices of bread apart, prior to laying them on the napkin that was already open on the floor.

‘Obey all speed and traffic regulations. False insertions should be locations the principal would have probable reason to visit during a stay in this region. Full bubble at all times. Save all aural and optic scans from false insertion sites. I will reference them later.’ Veach could feel from the ever so slight shifting of his body’s center of gravity that the air car was already moving in the public air lanes.

— The lack of previous visits to this region by the principal prevent a random generation of false insertion points. Recommend map selections. —

A detailed map appeared in his optical aug. Although there were some building names, there were not enough for Veach to know what establishments were located within them.

‘Replace map with a local fine dining guide, pages 19, 21, and 56.’ Find the closest hospital to current location. Land at entrance utilized by general public for outpatient visits unless there is a VIP entrance; if so, use that.’

The map disappeared and Veach was left watching Jerry pull the cheese off the bread with his teeth and tongue the cheese against the roof of his mouth. At least he seemed to be enjoying himself. A color display replaced the map. Pages 19 and 20 contained advertisements. Nineteen for a MAC dealership and twenty for a something called Executive Shopping Plaza (ESP, Veach mused.) Pages 21 and 22 were also advertisements; 21 for a restaurant called: Em’s (the visuals, smiling people toasting champagne, were no assistance determining cost or what type of food they served) and 22 was for a restaurant called Food Shop (listing the catch phrase: For THE Fine Dining Experience!!!). Three exclamation points were sufficient reason to never consider eating there, Veach thought. Pages 55 and 56 contained listings for seven restaurants. They all began with the letter Q. Included after a brief synopsis was a cryptic group of symbols which were supposed, Veach decided, to indicate at a glance: an average meal cost (little knives crossed over forks), average drink costs (little martini glasses), entertainment value (little musical notes), and the last one was probably overall dining value (little colored faces with different expressions). A quick scan revealed that Qwerts on Quail was the most costly and had a little lime green face beaming with a look of adoration or worship.

— Currently on approach. Landing, 27 seconds. Mac Fadden wing of the Mendileno County Critical Care Facility. Because this vehicle now reflects local livery sedan status, Identifiction Portfolio of sufficient credential were required to obtain landing clearance. In keeping with current subterfuge, a local individual of sufficient status was provided. All scans indicate we are not under surveillance or being followed, recommend —

‘Visual aug of landing, on. Jerry remains in the MAC; I will be gone only a few minutes, so don’t rack. Oh, yea, who am I supposed to be?’

The optics changed to a quickly approaching building entrance as the MAC descended. Veach looked down between his knees to help adjust the dizzy feeling he got every time an optic aug view was moving from a different perspective than the angle of his head. A security cover was in place over the actual entryway. About a dozen MAC’s remained in stationary hover near the surface of the roof and Veach could see several people standing outside some of the ones that weren’t racked. Why stand near their vehicles? Personal security was ineffectual if visible outside the air car. Maybe they were actually drivers, waiting to see their principals in order to know when to bring the MAC to the entrance? How quaint, Veach mused.

— Milton Ulysses Gould, 73, retired politician. He lives 163 kilometers from this facility and has been a patient here in the past. He used the livery service currently broadcasting, to deliver him here in December of last year. Chosen because this was supposed to be a false insertion, you did not say you were exiting. —

‘Change of plans. Get used to those. I follow my intuition and since you are along for the ride, so to speak, you do too. I appreciate that you are gaining a sense of humor, though.’ The MAC slowly glided into the shade of the security awning, came to a halt, and Veach got out.

The outstretched hand of a man dressed in an impeccable business suit did not falter like his face did. Scanning the sky and horizon of rooftops for a second car and then looking behind Veach to determine if MUG was going to exit the MAC behind him. “Our incoming network reported Mister Gould was arriving, unexpectedly, but..” He said.

“I apologize for the ruse, my name is Veach. I would imagine your facility is not a stranger to receiving patients who are less than willing to forecast their identity.” They entered through a pair of sliding doors and the man in the suit nodded and shrug-motioned to two men dressed in starched white smocks.

‘Quick scan ID.’

— H. T. Drilbourne, Assistant Director of Public Relations, unarmed, unaugmented. A passive auto request for security personnel to respond has been deleted. —

The orderlies turned away, one pushing a wheelchair ahead of him. The glass doors closed behind Veach in a whoosh of vacuum pressure and an additional pair of sliding wooden doors opened ahead of the orderlies, creating a similar pressure of a smaller magnitude.

In a guarded but jovial manner, the suit said, “Mister Veach, we do have individuals from time to time, who arrive without advance ID. We refer to them as ‘UP’s for Unidentified Persons. But I would have to say it is highly irregular, and quite possibly illegal, to request and receive arrival clearance at any facility—especially one employing security measures as we do here, at the CCF—utilizing a stolen identity! Why it is not only wrong, it...”

“My credentials.” Veach said as they walked through the wooden doors. As he handed Drilbourne the slim case from his inside breast pocket, opening them with a finger to reveal the small gold and blue badge, before allowing the weight of the case to hang open. “You, sir, are Mister Drilbourne, with public relations?” Drilbourne’s face muscles tightened as he read the credentials and handed them back. Veach continued, as he pocketed them, “I think we need to meet with the chief of security as well as the Director of your division. Is that something you can set up immediately without any alarm bells being rung?”

“I’m afraid that is no longer possible. As I said, our security here is exceptional. Once the system didn’t receive confirmation of Mister Gould’s arrival...” Drilbourne allowed his words to trail off as he shrugged.

“Would we have made it this far into your facility, if there were a security alert?” Veach asked. At this point Drilbourne seemed to become aware of the amount of progress they had made—already very far along the carpeted hallway, already passed several glass and wooden doors which obviously connected to branching hallways—and he looked up at the ceiling.

“Well. I guess you are right, Mister Veach. We.” He hesitated. His jovial manner returned. “There would be a small flashing beacon in every seventh recessed panel and we should never have made it through that first set of wooden doors.” Pointing his thumb over his shoulder. “I’ll set up a discreet meeting.” He said in a quieter tone as they approached a bank of tobbo doors.

The meeting lasted long enough for Veach to explain the purpose of conducting an advance security survey of their critical care facility and gain permission to examine the complete floor plan.

Everything he had said was as truthful as need be: It was necessary to familiarize himself with hospitals, itinerary locations, hotels and to plan for contingencies; if he had a severely wounded principal, the time spent familiarizing himself today would be crucial in saving his principal’s life. But, none-the-less, it was a facade. Veach had no intention of bringing his principal here. Yesterday he conducted an advance survey of the Samaritan Trauma Center. It was centrally located to most of the principal’s itinerary locations and hotel. So, Veach figured, unless the MAC the principal is traveling in, gets rockblocked and drops onto this facility, he will never return.

But, he did find something he suspected he would need when Drilbourne allowed him access within the security firewall of their system. Veach manually scrolled, located and memorized an address: TZ 25976213. This address was something his new aug would certainly have found faster, but would probably have saved it to some internal network system. Possibly notified some mother-aug. Good old memory would suffice with something this valuable, Veach thought.

Chapter 2 - coming soon

Patrol Cap Years 1982-2002 (89)

first chapter of a creative non-fiction novel


1981 — early-winter; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; 5th-year undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin —

A friend said to me, after about thirty seconds of reading my first draft, “This should be labeled: Preface.”

I gave her a not too condescending, yet understandable, thank-you-for-criticizing-so-quickly grimace and replied, “Beginning my two-decade identificton portfolio: The Patrol Cap Years, A Soldiers Career from 1982-2002, with the year 1981, is a smooth and tactful way of alliterating crucial information—why I joined the Army—without it being treated the way a morning DJ treats musical intro-stanzas."

She looked at me with a what-is-this-crazy-fuck-saying vacant look. “You didn’t call it a preface because you didn’t want someone to talk over it?”

“Yes.” I said, “That’s it exactly. And it’s working so well.”

Then I moved 1981 to the middle of my two decades.

I read years ago in a how-to book...or maybe I recall from the movie Adaptation (the grizzled speaker at the script-writing seminar) that every story should begin when the main viewpoint character discovers he is no longer happy with his lot in life.


1989 — late-spring; Seoul, Republic of Korea; Military Police Investigator, Sergeant E5, 142d MP Company (attached to the Yongsan CID Field Office, Joint Black-market and Drug Suppression Team) —

Dear Soldiers and Family Members,

The suppression of black-marketeers and the identification of ration control violators is one of the highest priorities of this command. Military Police assigned as Black-market suppression team investigators are over-worked, vigilant, extremely dedicated to their mission, and not, as one person wrote, “lazy, ineffectual and a waste of taxpayer’s money” (Never Any Banana’s, 10 Apr 89).

Additional control measures are being put into effect to reduce the purchasing ability of the “racetrack mama’s who daily buy up every frozen hotdog, bottle of Suave shampoo and bar of Ivory soap,” (Disgusted, 30 Mar).

I have discussed item availability with directors and commanders of the District Post Exchange and Yongsan Commissary. Understandably, some minor distribution problems have occurred. I have been assured, with the recent completion of the new Commissary, that logistics has been vastly improved and sufficient quantities will be available of all high-demand items.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the hard working officers and enlisted MPs in my command who sacrifice countless hours to provide for the safety and security of this community.

- R. W. Powles, Lieutenant Colonel, MP, Provost Marshal


Commander, Eighth US Army

ATTN: Brigadier General Thomas E. Manikins

Assistant Deputy Commander (Movement)

Yongsan, Korea
Sir,

Yesterday the Pacific Stars and Stripes carried a response written by LTC Powles addressing black-marketing complaints which have been posted in the ‘Letters’ section over the past few months. Specifically, the Provost Marshal (PM) wrote,“The suppression of black-marketing...is one of the highest priorities of this command...”.

This statement is misleading and certainly does not conform to the facts.

I am—at present and for the last two months—the sole member of the Yongsan Joint Black-market and Drug Suppression Team (JBM/DST). No matter how much I would like to say my efforts are significant, I alone am incapable of effecting black-market and drug suppression in a community of over five thousand.

Although there is not a current Letter of Agreement (LOA) between the PM and the Commander of the Yongsan CID Office, (delineating the number of Military Police for BM and DST) the most recent LOA, dated 1987, outlines the attachment of ten MPs.

When I began working with CID as a black-market investigator over a year ago, there were eight; four with black-market suppression and four with drug suppression. Through attrition, re-assignment and absorption into the MP Investigations Section (directed by the PM) the JBM/DST has been slowly reduced to one. Me.

I suspect the only reason I have not been re-assigned, and the JBM/DST left dormant, is because my application for training as an Apprentice Special Agent, with the US Army Criminal Investigations Division, was approved last year. I have orders to report to CID school in less than six months.

I am writing this letter now, sir, because until yesterday I thought my numerous requests for more investigators would soon be met. I recognize I am going around my chain-of-command by delivering this letter to you and I am also aware of the risks of affixing my name, rather than sending an anonymous note. I decided you were the correct person to inform because you are the highest-ranking Military Police Officer in Korea. As to why I didn’t send this letter anonymously: I believe an unsigned letter carries little to no weight.

- Veach Glines, SGT, MP, JBM/DST Investigator

“Glines. Hey. How’s it going?” Captain Ruffalo said as I stuck my head in and rapped on his doorframe. I approached his desk and handed him a copy of the letter.

“Sir. I thought it would be wise to provide you with this. It’s not my intention to bind-side you. I know you’ve addressed the manpower issue with the Provost Marshal on numerous occasions and I ...” The captain had already begun reading and raised his finger to silence me.

I sat in one of the green and gray armchairs and looked at the green and gray office equipment which adorned his office just like every other office in the building. The exception, because he was the Field Office Commander, was two crossed flags behind his desk: The stars and stripes and a large blue flag with a gold Criminal Investigations Division crest in the center.

“You didn’t already send this, did you?” He asked, briefly looking up at me. Maybe hoping to locate a big smile on my face which might tell him I was part of a prank.

I was calm and unsmiling. He returned to the page as I replied in the affirmative. I told him how, just before coming to see him, I’d hand delivered the letter to the general’s aide.

“This is probably the ballsy-ist, most-stupid-thing I’ve ever seen someone do.” He said as he put the letter down. “You realize I can’t be much help to you, Glines?”

“I understand, sir.”

“Since you're not an Agent, it's out of my hands. The Provost Marshal has control over all MPs and I’m pretty sure he's going to exert some of that control on you. And it won’t be pleasant to watch.” He said.

Three days later I learned from the CID First Sergeant that I was to report to the Provost Marshal’s Office in BDU’s. Getting told to wear the Battle Dress Uniform was supposed to be the strong hint that my world was about to change because I normally wore civilian clothing or whatever would make me blend with my surroundings.

After a sufficiently lengthy wait in the outer office, obviously intended to make me dread the upcoming confrontation, the MP Command Sergeant Major exited the Provost Marshal’s office and said, “OK, Glines, you need to knock and then report to the Colonel.”

I knocked. The Provost Marshal told me to enter. I conducted some facing movements which moved me march-step from the doorway to the center point of the room facing a big heavy-oak desk. Once centered on the Provost Marshal, I came to the position of attention, rendered a salute and said, “Sergeant Glines, reports.”

My eyes were focused straight ahead over the Provost Marshal at the point where two flags crossed: the stars and stripes and a large kelly-green and gold banner which I knew (even though I could not see without moving my eyes) contained Military Police crossed pistols and a gold emblem in the center. I held my salute for a few long seconds. Once I saw, in my peripheral vision, the Provost Marshal return the salute in a sloppy loose-wristed manner, I dropped my hand.

He then read my letter to me with asides and comments interjected every phrase or so. He made an enthusiastic point of finding two spelling errors and one mistake in grammar. After ten minutes the Provost Marshal slammed his hand on the top of his desk and shouted, “You say here: ‘I recognize I am going around my chain-of-command’. Going around? Going AROUND!? You didn’t go around your chain-of-command, Sergeant, you took out a poncho, threw it over the heads of your entire chain-of-command, and then proceeded to stomp on that poncho.”

His words were closer together. His breath was becoming audible.

I think it was about this point that he became aware of a tactical error he had made at the beginning of my ass chewing. And I hoped it was too late to fix: He had left me standing at the position of attention. He was sitting. Without eye-contact, it was easy for me to just interject brief yes-sir’s and no-sir’s at the crossed flags whenever his inflection raised enough to sound like he needed an amen from the congregation.

I wondered how he got dark wood office furniture when the CID Commander got routine-green metal. I surmised it was because the CID Commander was only a Captain.

He switched tactics. “Sergeant, how many years have you been in?”

“I joined in 82, sir.” I told the crossed flags; which was not an answer to his question.

I would like to be able to boast about mental nimbleness; about how I was so unaffected by his verbal rant, that I instantaneously provided an almost-answer inside of half a heartbeat. Truthfully—though—I was flustered. After my previous one word answers, affirmative or negative, given in response to his querulous statements about the purpose of my letter, my insubordinate tone, and my facts, (which came out: “faacts” by the emphasis in his voice) he had now asked a question requiring more than a simple yes or no.

Answering his question required me to subtract today’s date from the month and year I entered the Army. My brain immediately recalled that date and then instead of doing the math myself, which would require a pause for a second or three—a sign of weakness, I relayed the year alone.

“Are you promotable?” He asked, without slowing.

“No, sir.” I said.

“You should have been promoted to Staff Sergeant in your fifth or sixth year. Why haven’t you gone before the promotion board?”

Uh-oh, I thought. “Sir, for several years CID has only considered applicants in grades E5 and below. This moratorium prevents E5 promotable Sergeants and above from applying to become Agents. I turned down promotion boards because of my goal to become an Agent, sir.”

Even with my extra sir's, he lost all remaining composure. I think he must have been hoping to learn of prior misconduct—the normal reason for stagnation in rank or slow promotion. He shouted, “I am going to do everything in my power to insure you never become a CID Agent!”

I was removed from the JBM/DST and put in an MP Platoon where I held the job of Team Leader (a junior-Sergeant's job, one which I'd held many years prior). I was administered a Physical Fitness Test. I was ordered to be weighed as well as submit to a body fat percentage test. I was directed to piss in a bottle to test my urine for illegal substances. Further, I had to layout all my military gear for inspection.

Over the next two days I performed within standard or passed everything.

In the community there was a housing complex where lower ranking MPs were assigned to patrol and check ID cards because a Korean College was a short distance down the street and students who hated the US military presence sometimes congregated and became violent.

I was a great gate guard.

After a couple of weeks I spoke with my previous CID Agent-supervisor. He told me that there was nothing the Provost Marshal could do to impede my CID school attendance. He also told me six new MP Investigators were already working with the JBM/DST and two more were scheduled to arrive the following week.

Plot Treatment: Vacation Drug (working title)

outline sketch - speculative fiction

I need a favor and hope you’ll help; please assist me with a plot treatment I’m working on.

Your ideas—no matter how improbable, outrageous, twisted, or wonderful—are needed. Ask your neighbor’s mother, your Sig-oh, or your petrified rock if they are willing to assist.

Plot sketch:

Mr. (not Doctor) Milton Rastling has synthesized in his garage laboratory a protein-enzyme-like substance generated by a few thousand neurons (about the size of a cockroach turd) during delta-sleep.

After a short and non-dramatic series of self-inoculations, Milt determines the recommended dosage per pound of his—as yet, nameless—substance: Eight thousandths of one milligram (about the size of eighty water molecules) has the exact same result on his 205 pound body as one night of normal sleep.

Without their knowledge, over six months, Milton “tests” family members, friends, neighbors, pets and co-workers. He discovers the elderly only require a half dose and children require more than their body weight would indicate. The only side-effect is that Milt’s 67 year old mother thought she was going through a second “life change”, complained of hot-flashes, and claimed she would never eat ice-cream after dinner again in her life; which is confusing to Milton, but unimportant—he hadn’t even put it in her chocolate sundae; he put it in her Tylenol one night after she complained about arthritis.

Milton has not needed to sleep for the last six months. If he takes too much, he feels sluggish, but in less than 20 hours he feels tired again. If he takes too little, he feels sleepy and either naps or takes a full dose. About 14-18 hours after a full dose, Milt can either go to sleep or he can re-dose.

The following is excerpted from Milt’s notes and is provided for you to make a clear and informed decision:

…eating a minimum of four meals every day now, sometimes five. I’m certainly doing more snacking, although not gaining or losing weight. Initially, I suspected weight loss would be a side effect…

…between 25% and 35% more active…

…notice my electric bill has increased along with my food bill…

…reading and research that I’ve always wanted to catch-up on…

…so lucky to have fifty more hours a week that I can spend…

…is concerned about what she calls, “my chronic insomnia”…

...seems the only reason I need a bed is for carnal pleasures and self gratification, but I will keep the cot so she will think I nap on it…

…time in the gym now that I have it, but my sore back prevents me from using the treadmill…

You are a member of a government-funded think tank. With the information provided, please provide all factors (in any format you desire) which you believe positively or negatively will affect the nation, its economy, citizens, and its placement within the world social-political arena. Please feel free to think way outside the box.

As a think-tank member: If you believe this sleep substance would bring an overall positive change, then your recommendation should clearly state this. Accordingly, Mr. Milton Rastling will be awarded a patent, the Nobel Prize, and—within a year or so—should be expected to become almost a trillionaire.

If you believe this would bring an overall negative change, then please clearly state this conclusion. Accordingly, Mr. Milton Rastling, and his family, friends, neighbors, and associates will be terminated. At present, it is suspected the loss of innocent lives can be contained to within a twenty-five mile radius of his residence and employment in Gromley, New Mexico. No more than 950 deaths are projected. Use of the scenario: EPTD, Errant Premature Terrorist Detonation, has been approved.

Thank you for any comments you are able to conjure.

—Veach Glines, December 2004