Well I didn’t really know what he was talking about until I walked through Thompson Woods at SIU myself after being assigned to Los Angeles AFB as a space systems analyst and what happened during acquisitions training in Texas and here it is almost Veteran’s Day the students stand in line to vote in the Student Center built when he graduated in 1960 it’s been uncommonly warm up until now and the paths behind Faner Hall are crisp with colored leaves the trees not quite naked yet and a fine time to be walking in the woods so when my father told me about them on the levee in New Orleans during a Taj Mahal concert this my senior year some twenty years back at Tulane 1997 after my piece of shit Ford Escort broke down in Memphis on my way to school from St. Louis (had to give two blacks twenty bucks and bought them a six pack to take me to AutoZone and fix my starter at a gas station in Horn Lake) but the oil was leaking too and like a dumbshit I put too much in then the fuckin’ rods started knockin’ on the causeway right at the I-55/I-10 interchange and if you know that’s pretty much a long bridge over bayou with nothin’ had to get it towed the rest of the way and had it dumped in front of our house on Burdette Street and now my father had driven all the way down to haul it back (he should have never bought it from that ex-con conformed Christian from the barber shop fixing Fords out of his garage) anyway he said he lost his mind in those woods his senior year and ROTC and examinations were getting to him and I guess he decided to tell me this because I had dropped acid before the concert (he didn’t partake and it was my first time got 5 tabs from a genetics major I roomed with freshman year in the Honors Dorm I took a tab with my father then I used the 4 other tabs with two ROTC buddies and my roommate) and my father being a retired Air Force Colonel watching us students with our blankets in the grass digging the blues on the outdoor stage (I highly recommend Taj Mahal) took a walk with me down to the muddy shore of the Mississippi where the barges were tied up and the driftwood mingled with the lines the music above us and behind and that’s when he told me about Thompson Woods and what happened there but then you need to know a little about my father he was valedictorian of his high school and during his speech in Taylorville the cops came to arrest him because of a joy ride he took with his brother in a stolen car a white trash background to say the least his father a carnie and a drunk dead when my father was seven the family name an alias William Akley my grandfather beat a man to death in a fight and changed his name my dad’s step-father no better a drunk too and at sixteen he moved out leaving his some 14 siblings and half-siblings with one pair of blue jeans he washed every day hating hominy for the rest of his life always refusing the milk the teachers tried to give him in the school cafeteria so when the principal of the high school came to talk to him about a scholarship to SIU while he was busting out a field I wonder why he went he told me some things but I guess you don’t really talk about that and my mother said he was different before he went to Vietnam (he volunteered after being a nuclear weapons officer in the Netherlands his peers said it wasn’t a very good career move my sister was born in Germany I was born after he came back from Vietnam while he was at the Pentagon) anyway he wanted to pursue a graduate degree in psychology while he was at SIU (he was an English major) and he wanted to be a counselor in fact he did just that with returning prisoners of war but he met my mother in the school cafeteria where he was working as a busboy and she spilled her coffee to get his attention and ROTC and the military would provide the stability he never had growing up so despite the visits I remember to his family (they were always moving but to me it was always like “The Jerk” the same yard out on a back road with junk in it mange dogs running and you better know how to run the power lines his mother before she died in bath robe varicose veins above the slippers sitting on a badly upholstered couch that didn’t seem to change Sis and Pud and Rosie just out of jail for writing bad checks always asking my father for money since his mother’s Social Security and Pud’s disability didn’t quite cover the bills) you can’t really escape that my father couldn’t really escape that they say a man’s character is his fate but where does a man’s character come from so it is funny taking a walk through those woods Thompson Woods where my father lost his mind back in 1960 holding my ex-wife’s hand on a Saturday night before Daylight Savings Time watching our children run ahead (it’s still not Veteran’s Day yet not even Election Day she stole my mail last Thursday while I was at SIU finishing up Delbo’s Auschwitz and After and viewing the dystopian movie “District 9” but she made chili she wanted a bud if I wanted my mail back and it’s fine weather for chili for a walk in the woods and she’s wearing the ring my father gave to my mother just on the wrong hand) it was a purple sunset and I guess the marching band had practice we watched them walking back to their dorms with their instruments but see people want the fucking end of the world so let me tell you about my ex-wife about how our children catch us fuck as I put my suitcase against the door and she says I should get a fucking lock on the door but against Delilah’s denials we were married once and how the fuck do they think she and Bell got here and so let me just do a rundown of the last week since Daylight Savings Time since I saw the soldiers stand with their heads bowed on campus Delilah turned ten the day after election day I won’t talk about her birthday let me just talk about Veteran’s day I locked Delilah’s phone the Walmart special smartphone I gave her for her birthday then fuck Leonard Cohen died and my ex-wife admitted she cried hard so I turned Delilah’s phone back on and she texted they were going to Toys R Us to use her birthday money and I said come get me I don’t know how many lip balms she made me smell from all that aisle from young girls I had to get a shopping cart her favorite purchase the poop emoji pillow and she promised to give me the six dollars she went over at the cash register then we took a drive in my ex-wife’s new Ford Fusion (she hasn’t had to make a payment yet but a tax refund is coming gotta love that child tax and earned income credit) listening to Beethoven from a CD left in the car she rolled some doobies from my weed and I tell you what God made some beautiful weather as we drove past Devil’s Kitchen where the road is closed right now and headed to Giant City my ex-wife wanted to climb the water tower at the Lodge and the girls came down the stairs on their butts after seeing the cross way over on Bald Knob and we met a man from one of my previous stories a veteran himself his son killed himself out by the Herrin Lake Reservoir a couple years back (that’s how long I’ve been writing this book) he was climbing up with a pair of binoculars I said that was a good idea and his daughter Bell’s age said they were hers then instead of eating we took the trail at Devil’s Standtable the girls noticed a lot of fucking bird feathers under the rock overhang I handed my ex-wife one and said, “Birds of a feather…” she just laughed and mentioned it later after we read the sign about erosion and a glacier from a million years ago then we went back to the Lodge and ate the chicken I love how they have books about the Shelton Gang in the gift shop as my ex-wife said, “Good old Charlie Birger…” and she talked about Leonard Cohen again how she was lonely and listened to him a lot and Delilah asked me about the first time I heard him it was back at Tulane I bought his CD “Songs of Leonard Cohen” from a music store on Maple Street and my roommate from New York stole it from me and laid in bed all day listening to it and as my ex-wife said he was a gentleman and a poet and then we came home because I was expecting a package from China and Bell chose “Superstar” on Netflix and it made me cry because yes God does work in mysterious ways after my ex-wife and I both told Delilah to shut off the Vine compilations on YouTube and read a book even though it is creative but exhausting and futile and Delilah and I talked about how they’re shutting it down anyway then from the hard-on my ex-wife could feel at Castle Park as I was rubbing her back (the neck dissection she went through while were married a vascular tumor grew from hormones because of the pregnancies that and finances fucked up our marriage) Delilah texting me “LOL” because she heard her mother saying a muscle was stirring and after faking sleep well we fucked and it was stinky and good (I fucked her tell she came got tired and since she’s too old to get on top she had to suck me off with her stench on her) and it’s happened many times before and there were stains in the bed the girls had to sleep next to me in after she left (we listened to Leonard “You Want It Darker” and danced to “Traveling Light” before Delilah interrupted us with a broken earing of the Eiffel Tower) she’s working and I have the girls this weekend and Delilah wore her monkey ear muffs and sleeping blindfold Bell the first one up this morning watching the lava lamp (another purchase from Toys R Us) as I listen to Leonard Cohen already drunk waiting for the liquor store to open at 0900 and as I write this Bell gives me a hug because she chose the movie “Nine Lives” last night before we went to bed and Keven Spacey is fucking good and that’s all I have to say right now but then another fucking week goes by I’ll be really pissed when Willie goes and as I told my ex-wife at Castle Park young girls are out and a woman my age is gonna have kids which means my kids have to get along with her kids her ex with my ex and then whoever they meet and it just gets really fucking complicated and if they don’t have that kind of baggage at our age something’s wrong with them and she says I’m her porn when she masturbates but men are visual and I’ve planted my share of trees for PornHub while she just says, “You’re an oak alright…” and goddamn sure a woman can be the boss when it comes to love but when that’s all they want to be it becomes a business and if she wants to be treated like Uriah’s wife a writer of Proverbs to her son as she listens to her preachers on the smartphone I got her she should know sure you are forgiven but there are consequences and living off a veteran’s child support and food stamps for over three years while he works at a VA hospital ruling the roost of her own household but ex defacto dating him and fucking him on his days off leaving his bed empty at night and smoking his weed well that’s not very lady-like and when I grill pork steaks Sunday night after her two day 12 hour shift ordeal is over and Bell asks which one is hers and she says, “It’s all mine…” there’s something fucking wrong which is why I resigned my position at the VA and enrolled at SIU where my father and mother met thinking about getting a MFA in creative writing it’s been an enlightening experience and I ain’t no master planner (just like I’m not a master debater) but I’m looking forward to the spring semester and I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen one door closes and another opens I could become a traveling lab tech again or I could just head back down to New Orleans and live off my VA disability there’s just the children to think of and it’s a shame I don’t know if it’s my daughter Miss Blue texting me or my ex-wife I bought “Suicide Squad” on Amazon Prime last night Delilah is a big fan of Harley Quinn she’s been following the trailers for a while now and as pointed out on YouTube in one of the things she looked up the relationship between The Joker and Harley Quinn is a comic book story we just read all kinds of shit into it and I think Harley Quinn is awesome (“You don’t own me…”) it’s the enchantress who’s a real bitch anyway their TV is hooked up to my account and we texted as we watched it so let me tell you about the trip I took with my ex-wife to Du Quoin last Monday after Veteran’s day after she worked the weekend she wanted to show me again the lake she visited many times growing up her grandmother Marguerite had a house there my ex-wife really does have a beautiful soul and just like Jack in “Easy Rider” jokes about the marketplace where people are bought and sold ending it with “I tell you one thing I’ve never done is talk to bull frogs in the middle of the night… Swamp” who knows what happened out in the woods in Freeburg where she grew up there is a lot of Cajun blood in the family and the stories of witchcraft they dabbled with (supposedly Shannon was baptized in a demonic ritual when she was born and her mother still thinks cats talk to her even though they gave it up and went back to church her father becoming a deacon and leading a prayer group for the men at the Baldwin power plant at least until the kids were grown then they started drinking at the bars again I met her mother for the first time playing with a dildo they have a clubhouse Shannon’s father built and invite many friends over basically good country folks her mother married her father when she was fifteen and didn’t get a driver’s license until past thirty though she drove anyway she took care of the house and Shannon’s father worked the night shift for many years Shannon would sometimes stay up to talk with him before he went to work buttering his bread diabetes eventually got to him and they had to amputate one of his legs a couple of years back a good man he would sometimes wink at me but then Shannon’s grandmother her mother’s mother Rosie had a big part in raising her she was a whore of East Texas Papa Frenchie still lives out in the swamp and I wrote about their origins near the Sabine and Hemphill and walked with Shannon along Holly Beach (when she was my wife she wasn’t a whore but she does like her fountain sodas from her days of doing coke and working at Casey’s and she has though eyes and a lot of spunk) anyway her grandmother her father’s mother Marguerite lived in Du Quoin and my ex-wife would go there for Thanksgiving she liked to put ham on rye and eat from the olive tray and in typical fashion it was a cousin who showed her her first dirty magazine and her older sister is really wild and gave her her first joint out of a cutout Bible when she was 13 then she took a whole sheet of acid and sat in the woods for three days and nights watching the sun and moon pass her older sister trying to feed her ding dongs and she took me to that lake and she said after we drove around it it seems small now and I held her hand she doesn’t like drinking she had some bad experiences with alcohol (when we first met and she read my first novel she said I should be raped) so I can see why she didn’t like fucking me when I was drunk I stopped drinking for a while when we got married (yes we committed adultery but she married young) but then nothing happened with my writing and our children were born and finances became strained as I traveled from one lab tech job to another trying to hide our weed habit (when we first met she wrote me a lame poem about a flower and gave me a joint then started selling weed to me she got from her older sister’s retired biker husband he works at a meat market in Fayetteville now) and I turned to drinking again as a crutch the divorce was volatile and ugly and at first I thought it was just because of finances and for God’s sake half of her neck was cut because of a vascular tumor but maybe it was something more though as you get into the semiotics of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose you realize sure there’s always something more because there’s the maximum of confusion achieved with the maximum order a sublime calculation and we will always be on the inside and we do not know its rule having found it already made and the creations of art only retrace the operations of the artificer not the creations of nature which are not the work of our minds so when the cops were called in the day before Thanksgiving it just seems sudden I got my girls Tuesday night Shannon already nesting on her couch with her comforter asking for a few hits from my spliff (I order wax or shatter off the darknet get it mailed to me dissolve a little bit in some highbrow vapor by nuking it in the microwave which was the mail she stole before Veteran’s day I order it because it doesn’t have diacetyl in it and if you’re looking for that other ingredient you won’t find it there) and she admitted they started calling her Harley at work she was scheduled to work the nightshift over Thanksgiving at Anna Union County Hospital and she was talking funny because of a head cold she passed on to Delilah and stupid me I got drunk that night watching them feeling vexed by Shannon who yes I pushed down after our trip to Du Quoin no excuse for that but I man can get physical when a woman exasperates him and he loses his words and I left after she came after me with a baseball bat but she still needed me to watch the girls over Thanksgiving and when I woke up Wednesday I put on “I Saw the Light” in the bedroom while they blared “Rio” to their elf on the shelf (they went back to Toys R Us without me) the volume high on Delilah’s Samsung tablet a birthday gift from Shannon’s father and it just reminded me of how Shannon turned up the volume to “Marie Laveau” on my Pandora account the Bluetooth speaker hers during Delilah’s birthday meal of pot roast and mashed potatoes and it sickened me and yes I yelled at them to turn it down and discussed their mother to children who are not of age and I made Delilah cry which made me cry and I left them to get some Pall Mall cigarettes at the local Hucks I guess Delilah texting her mother while I was gone then Shannon called me on my phone talking about how Delilah’s phone was off and the voicemail wasn’t set up she called twice again the last time seeming to confirm my address and she goddamn knows good and well my address Bell dancing with the peace sign necklace she said could be a weapon and Bell knew when the mailman showed up I received a next day verified letter which got the girls excited because the monocle revealed I got the code to this prize giveaway event at a Chevy dealership in Herrin and I was on the phone to call it in at the girls behest when Bell said the cops were at the door I had already apologized to the girls about my outburst I just want them to be happy and laugh and not have to deal with shit like this anyway three cruisers showed up and it was raining two cops came inside while “Alice’s Restaurant” was playing on Pandora the younger cop saying “Damn I can smell weed in here…” he took the Dixie plate of shake out of the cabinet after I showed him where it was and left the orange lighter and I told them I get it in the mail from mom and pop growers here in the good ‘ol USA off the darknet which was created by the United States Navy TOR the onion router it helps you stay anonymous if you’re a journalist or a political dissident or want to dabble in the black market but shit buying bitcoin ain’t anonymous (well unless you go to Western Union) the older cop asked about K2 and I said spice was awful I went outside with him while the younger cop talked to Delilah (Bell had to put on some clothes because she likes to run around in her underwear she told the older cop not to look at her and he joked about her skivvies) we stood in the rain for a little bit talking about different beers and military assignments then went back to my patio with a tin roof to get out of the rain the younger cop came around knocking a dead hornets nest down in one of the eaves with his stick and we stood there for a while talking about the situation then they left as I waited for Shannon to leave work and come get the girls though I texted her not to get fired it’s okay here when she showed up in her Ford Fusion she wouldn’t talk about what’s next I told her I hid nothing and she said “Jason, they already know…” she left with them so I decided to drive back to O’Fallon (my dad retired out of Scott AFB before he died of an inoperable brain tumor maybe from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam) spent the night in my mother’s guest bedroom after fixing her Roku and watching “Fletch” and “Fletch Lives” she fed me a nuked ballpark hamburger patty and a baked potato (she tried to feed me old lady food and I hate to say it my mother does more harm than good though with the best of intentions) got a good night’s sleep and the next day we went to my sister’s house in Collinsville for Thanksgiving their dog Cooper has gotten big and almost broke my sister’s middle finger keeping him in check as we brought in our dishes and it was good that my nephew Dalton was there he’s graduating this year out of Rolla (my father’s brother who he took a joy ride in a stolen car with before his valedictorian speech lived there he died just a week before my father of lung cancer) Dalton is getting a nuclear engineering degree and has already got a job lined up in Charleston to teach the protocol to navy men on submarines after an exhausting sixteen months training I asked him if he’s got a girlfriend and he said no all he’s got time for is to study and at least he doesn’t drink or take Adderall like most kids Justin wasn’t there he’s assigned at Fort Campbell working on diesel trucks his first holiday really away from home the meal was good my sister worked really hard on it but as she admitted you put all that time into it and it just gets eaten in a matter of minutes and while we were waiting on the turkey to get done I ordered some more Ego battery chargers from China on my smartphone (it really has nothing to do with politics or patriotism it’s more a matter of free trade after the FDA started regulating the e-cig industry the prices went up that good old trickle-down theory and when you can get the atomizer cartridges for a dollar while they cost five dollars here it’s a matter of common sense though sometimes the parts are defective after all they work for ten cents an hour over there and I’ve met students at SIU who make their own vape apparatuses there’s how-to manuals on YouTube they’re awful bulky though doesn’t fit in your pocket that easy) so after the meal when we didn’t watch football and the talk turned to politics after election day I got mad because all politicians are salesman they all lie to you (in one of Bob Dylan’s songs he says “Somebody just asked me if I’ve registered to vote…”) so I left and came back to Marion and no goddammit California shouldn’t fucking secede that’s what my father said to me down on the bank of the muddy Mississippi during that Taj Mahal concert we don’t really need another civil war and as the cops told me without giving me a ticket I probably could get a medical marijuana card (Shannon could too) if I think it works better than taking a pill and as my dad told me it was my mother that helped him get off his and that’s all I really have to say it’s Black Friday now and Delilah and I texted over the holiday and about this weekend (I got a dog on Saturday a lab mix puppy her name from the humane shelter is Carrie but the girls said I should call her Rosebud she’s as sweet as can be inside sleeping in my bed at night but take her outside and put her on the purple harness and 20ft blue cable I got from Rural King with the girls the bitch is wild she tore up the soggy pillow and teddy bear out there and goddamn I enjoy watching her regal with her muscles sleek and twitching) I haven’t had a chance to talk to Bell and sure there will be a cyber Monday (all it did was fucking rain here) and sure I still don’t know what the fuck is going to happen so let’s just keep singing our songs people.