Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sand in Strange Places

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that most of the coastal area of Peru is a desert.  

In our quest to get out of the city for a while, we headed south of Lima by bus, to a tourist settlement called “Paracas,” which is a word from the ancient language of the Incas.  It means, “Charge double for everything if your customer is a white guy.”

This applies to hotel rooms and buffet meals, as mentioned in the previous installment, Cheapskates and Stingrays, but honestly, the pricing structure of things to do is pretty reasonable, in the case of the below-mentioned activity, about $30 each.

We all piled into a van outside the hotel, where the driver romped on the gas like he had just stolen a family of Americans.  It seemed like none of the other cars on the road were going fast enough for this guy, and no-passing zones here are like…wait, there aren’t any, so I can’t compare them to anything else in some bright flash of literary simile.

After twenty minutes of a thirty minute drive, we arrived at our destination. 

A small building, with a covered pavilion, sat next to a structure which looked like a giant white beehive.  I speculated that a miniature Jabba the Hutt lived inside, and I guessed that he wore a sombrero and only spoke Spanish.  “Que pasa grin goh…ha ha ha haaaa…” 

Out to the horizon was a sea of sand dunes that gave me a flashback of Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, without the camels.  Our van driver handed us goggles, and we strapped ourselves into a dune buggy.  Mr. Fast and Furious climbed into the driver’s seat.  That explained a lot.

Within minutes, we were speeding across the sand, and up and down the dunes.  There was no rhyme or reason to our route, the purpose of which seemed to be only to instill my wife with terror.

“I’m gonna throw up!” yelled my older daughter.

“That’s why you’re in the back!” I answered back.

Finally we came to a stop at the top of one of the taller dunes, the driver shut off the engine, and we disincorporated ourselves from the buggy.

I seized a teaching moment.  “Your great grandma did this about six months ago.  She’s 87.  If she can hack it, so can you.”

“But I’ve got my whole life ahead of me!” answered my teenager.

At that point, personal responsibility went off the chain.  The second part of our activity consisted of riding a sand-board to the bottom of the dune in question.  It’s probably most similar to sledding, except hot, dry, incredibly fast, and with a much greater chance of open fracture.

Which of course meant my youngest and I were all for it, while the other child and the spouse would agree to participate if we didn’t die in our attempt.

After checking to be sure there wasn’t a Sarlacc pit at the bottom, I planted my tush onto this thing and hung on for dear life.  The total distance of the slide was maybe a hundred yards, and a pretty fun ride.

What wasn’t fun was the walk back up the dune in loose sand.  If you have a place like this in your back yard, there’s no reason to waste your money on a Stair-master.

After a few trips down the hill in this manner, the whole family was tired of walking back up.  One more trip down, and the driver would pick us up.

As we climbed back into our buggy for the trip back, I assessed the value of today’s activity.

“Did you guys have fun?” I asked my daughters.

“I’ve got SAND in my teeth,” the older said.

“If that’s the only place you’ve got sand, you’re doing all right.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cheapskates and Stingrays

I was irritated.
My family of four had just sat down to a mediocre buffet lunch at the Hilton DoubleTree in Paracas, Peru.  If their defense, we were all stuffed, read: buffet.  The meal had cost me 132 of my hard earned United States dollars, and did not contain any traceable amounts of puffer fish, caviar, or other expensive raw materials.

I decided to sit down in one of the 30-dollar Chinese-made beach chairs which were free.  Well, they were included in the room price, which wasn’t cheap, either.  At least the heavy beach umbrella shaded me from the equatorial sun as I relaxed.  I don’t see how Paris Hilton could expect me to relax after she just pulled such a grand heist.

That’s when I noticed the red button.

Right there on the shaft of the umbrella, there was a clear plastic housing, which contained an oversized red button.  One would have to raise the plastic cover to press it, so I expected that this was actually the nuclear launch button.

Doesn’t that make sense?  If you were going to hide the button that, when pressed, was sure to bring about flaming Armageddon, wouldn’t you hide it in a place that no one would expect?

Admit it, that is the last thing you would expect on the side of a beach umbrella near a stupidly overpriced hotel on the beach in Paracas, Peru.  This is the logic I used, to determine that this must indeed be it.

So, irritated at having been ripped off for lunch, and knowing there was no way the Republicans were going to win the Presidency, I lifted the cover, anxious to end it all in a great blast of radioactive fire.  So long, world.

Instead, there were three smaller buttons: a diagram of a man with a drink tray, something that looked like a credit card, and a large X.  What could this mean?  Could I really apply for a credit card right here on the beach?

This was confusing.  Obviously, it was something placed by the Soviets during the cold war.  The great Game Over button had once again eluded me.  I wanted to push this decoy button, but I had the feeling that the only thing that would vaporize would be more of my cash.  It was a brutal marketing technique to sell substandard margaritas.

My youngest daughter was trying to get my attention, she had spotted something near the water while she was wading.

It turned out to be another small scouting force of other-worldly creatures.  The size of dinner plates, a half dozen stingrays lurked in the shallow water. 

“Do you know where the launch button is?” I asked them.

They didn’t answer.

“Which one of you is in charge?”

Again, silence.  So I picked up a rock and plunked it at one of them.

Lesson learned – never, ever, plunk an invading alien with a rock, especially an armed one. This thing was so fast, it just jerked and moved almost three feet, like a little underwater UFO.  Fortunately, its path was straight forward, so it swam away from me, but I had had enough.  Anything tough enough to kill Steve Irwin was not something I wanted to mess with, and my superior interrogation skills weren’t yielding anything.

I went back to my beach chair to ponder how I would defeat the fascists and the aliens.  Eventually, both would come, and I intended to be ready

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Alien Invasion is Coming

Those of you who are my friends, or who have been following me for a while, know that I love a good adventure almost as much as telling the story that follows.  When I grow up, I want to be the Dos Equis guy.

Over the long weekend, my family and I had decided to head to Paracas, a tiny coastal town about three hours south of Lima.  We looked forward to spending some time on the ocean, but the primary goal was escaping the hustle of the city.

Without a clear plan of activities, we headed straight down to the beach behind the hotel, to walk along and enjoy the ocean.

That was when we discovered the first signs of alien invasion.

A half-dozen orange jellyfish, or malaguas (It means “bad water” in Spanish), were waiting for me just a few feet into the shallow water.  They obviously had some way to communicate with the others, who had told them that I would be coming, and to send reinforcements.  I should clarify that I am not talking about the wispy cute little jellies that you see in the zoo.  These had heads about two feet across, with tentacles between four and six feet long.  This is what the invading force had sent for me.

Part of my obsession with this particular species of alien is my quest for payback.  In late December, when I first tried surfing with my family, I encountered one of these evil beings while paddling out to catch the next wave.  I basically stuck my hand in the middle of the thing, and was stung mildly on the left hand.  It hurt a bit for a few hours, but served to teach me that I didn’t want to get wrapped up in one of these things.

Since one definition of “sense of adventure” is the lack of the ability to leave dangerous stuff alone, I began searching for a stick, and found a piece of plastic pipe about two feet long.  My children and I approached one of the beasts with caution.  The tentacles swirled around it with the current, so timing would be important, I didn’t want to step on one of those.

As the slow, almost invisible wave turned the jelly’s weapons away from us, I stepped forward and poked it with the stick, jumping back immediately, since I wasn’t sure what kind of psychic abilities it might have to sense my location in the water.

It did nothing, so I poked it again, and dragged it a few feet to the very edge of the water, so I could stand on the sand and torment it further.

Still it did nothing, which made me suspicious, and I looked around for signs of reinforcements.  Once it was out of the water a few inches, I poked it again, and even lifted one of the tentacles with my stick, er…I mean my war club.

I had tried to pick it up with said war club, but there were two things that prevented that.  First, the lack of solid structure meant that its body would either not be supported, or it might tear.  These things look exactly like jello that is cooked just a bit too long and has gotten a little rubbery.  Secondly, they are heavy, and you wouldn’t think so, but I estimate this one weighed about 10-12 pounds, more than a full eight-pound jug of milk.

Enter the real villain in this story – a little girl.  She was the child of one of the guests at the hotel, and spoke Spanish and English with equal precision.  Obviously, she was a trained operative.

This little girl walked right up to the alien and almost stepped on it.  I blocked her with my stick, and told her to be careful.  She stepped around my stick and slapped the alien on top of its head.  Splat.

I again to her to be careful and not to touch the tentacles.  She then said something to me in Spanish which I’m pretty sure meant “stop acting like such a little girl.”

She then lifted one of the tentacles with her bare hand, lifting almost to her shoulder height before the weight and the sliminess of it pulled it from her grasp.  She obviously had some kind of peace treaty with the aliens, and this was a trick to get me to touch it.

“It’s dead.  It can’t sting you if it’s dead, silly.”  (In little girl language, “silly” means “stupid *$#@% idiot.”)

I still don’t know how she knew, but I expect this is all part of a broader conspiracy.  I am sure the aliens will be back for me.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


            In the title, I do not refer to the concept of cooking a man, but the art of cooking as performed by men.
            It is a well known fact that men don’t cook well, yet the best cooks in the world are men.  Explain that.  Cooking isn’t always considered manly, but I will give you some of my thoughts on it.  There are basically two principles of man-cooking to which you must adhere:
            1.  You don’t measure stuff.  Quantities like “pinch,” “some,” and “enough” are perfectly acceptable in man recipes.  Measuring things creates additional items to wash, and unless your lady-friend does your dishes, you don’t want to.  It’s an assault on your manhood.  The real reason for rule #1 is that it makes you appear to have more skills in the kitchen than you actually do.  This is important for impressing lady-friends.
            2.  Ingredients are simply suggestions.  This is a matter of practicality, because you might not be in possession of the items called for.  You must be reasonable, however, and understand that you can’t substitute Crisco for cheddar cheese.

            Here is an example of a man-recipe that I make occasionally.  It doesn’t have a name, because it doesn’t matter what it’s called.  You are going to basically take a thin steak and put some stuff in the middle of it, and roll it up inside, and cook the whole thing in the skillet in some sauce I’ll tell you how to make.  It’s easy, or it wouldn’t be man-cooking.  And cooking stuff in the skillet is only slightly less manly than grilling outside.

            Start out with steak.  Because steak is manly.  It shouldn’t be super-thick, but it isn’t that pansy stuff you make sandwiches out of, either, you won’t impress anyone with that - it’s real bloody red beef.  Maybe about 3/8 inch thick.  Guess.  You can’t measure without violating rule #1.  Sprinkle on some black pepper and garlic powder if you want.  You need to be careful with garlic, because even though it tastes great, your lips won’t taste great to your lady-friend later, and that’s the purpose of all this anyway.  Men didn't learn to cook to keep from starving, they learned because chicks dig it.
            Cheese – mozzarella works best, but any kind of white cheese will do.  You could use yellow cheese I guess, or even that Velveeta stuff that looks like cheese but is made in China.  Cut a couple of pieces the size of your little finger, then cut those pieces into thin strips.  Do this for each piece of meat.
            Other stuff – by this I mean I like to use red bell pepper, carrots, or asparagus.  Slice the whatever it is into long thin strips and put a little of each of these in there, too, and roll the whole thing up tight and spear it with toothpicks so it don’t come apart.  You can substitute other things if you have them, like maybe spinach leaves or a piece of tomato, but don't go crazy, since the idea is to add a little color, because your lady-friend will like that.  The real reason is that you are also creating the illusion of a third food group in this dish.
            Put something in your skillet to grease it up, just enough to keep it from sticking.  Whatever kind of oil you have will work.  I mean of course oil for cooking, not oil for the pickup truck.  Maybe you have more sense than that, but I need to cover myself for liability purposes.
            Put in some ketchup, about twice what it would take to do a large order of fries.  Yes, I said ketchup.  Shut up, it’s manly, and I bet you’ve got some.  If anyone asks, it’s “tomato sauce.”
            Next put in a little red wine, but don’t overdo it.  You can use the stuff the homeless people drink if you want to, but it needs to be red wine.  Beer won’t work.  Trust me on this fact.
            Throw in a (that's ONE) sprig of fresh thyme.  It’s more manly if you grew it yourself.  You could also use oregano I think.  If you have to go for the jar stuff, go a little heavier on it.  Garlic would work, too, but see the previous warning above about too much garlic when you are cooking for your lady-friend.
            Turn the heat on medium-ish and stir up the sauce.  Put your steak roll-ups (Hey!  There’s a name!) in there and COVER.  Apparently red wine and ketchup make some kind of thermonuclear reaction when heated, and it will mess up your stove big time.  It’s okay if the sauce boils a little while the steak is cooking.  If it looks like it’s going to boil dry, then put in a little more wine.  That can’t hurt anything.  You'll have to turn them over so they are done on all sides, but cook them until they're done enough.

            When you are ready to put it on a plate, pour a little bit of the extra sauce on top and serve it up with a baked potato on the side.  If you don’t know how to make one of those, then learn before you try the above recipe.

            There you have a man meal, in probably less than 20 minutes if you don’t have to run to the store first.  There is a warning that goes along with this, though:
            This is a man-recipe.  Most women can’t understand man recipes, and if she does, she's a keeper.  Maybe if you’ve got one that’s willing to try, you’ll be tempted to give her the recipe.  If you do, you should be prepared for her to ask you, “How much wine should I use?” in which case, don’t just tell her, “Enough,” because that won’t stop the line of questioning.  Make something up.  A quarter cup, a half cup, something around there.  And remember it’s tomato sauce, not ketchup – she’ll freak out if she thinks there’s ketchup in it, especially if she's already eaten it once.

            Good luck.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I arrived at work yesterday morning at seven, about a half hour early.  I’ve found that that little extra boost means that by the time everyone has arrived, I’ve already had my morning coffee, pulled my case files, and am diligently working with some momentum.
            I dropped a coin into the coffee machine, only to hear a loud CLUNK of the coin dropping into the return tray.
            “What?  My 50 centimos isn’t good enough for you?”  I said loudly, enjoying another advantage of being in the office alone.
            “Se Necessita Servicio,” it taunted me with its LED display.
            Not willing to engage in further conversation lest I start swearing at it, I went back to my desk, a little grumpier for the wear.  I jiggled my mouse and my computer sprang to life.
            Or at least it pretended to.
            I soon discovered that the software I normally used for casework locked the second I tried opening a case.  Thinking it was perhaps a temporary glitch, I checked a few e-mails and tried to give it a moment.  I discovered that one of the only messages I ever wrote that ended up being forwarded to Washington contained an embarrassing error – I had referred to a “Marine from the Special Forces Group,” but I must have been asleep when I wrote it, and my Army friends already know why.  Special Forces Groups belong to the ARMY.  I spent 20 years in the Army, and I have known this fact for at least 18 of them.  The desk officer had kindly brought this to my attention, and ironically, he and I chewed some of the same dirt in Iraq in 2005.  At least the error would have no consequences other than my own embarrassment.   My decaffeinated morning was trending further downward.
            To clarify, I work in immigration.  The mission is to facilitate nice people who want to go to the U.S. and live, legally, working, paying taxes, and contributing to society.  At the same time, I also want to keep out terrorists, criminals, drunks/druggies, and most importantly, deadbeats.  In the course of a day, I meet a lot of really nice people who I am proud to help on the path to a better life.  I meet a few of the other variety, and I am equally happy to keep them out.  Being able to tell the difference is impossible without a computer.
            A half hour passed, and still no systems.  Some of my staff with more time on the job tell me that this hasn’t happened in several years.  Eventually, we were forced to tell our applicants that they have to come back tomorrow.  For those applicants who lived far away, we gave them the option of calling back in the afternoon to check.
            In the midst of all this, a family is stranded at a port of entry, without some of the required paperwork.  Some of my energy goes to trying to find out whether it was our mistake or theirs, but more of it went to providing copies of the documents they needed to enter.  Detention should be reserved for dirtbags and smugglers, not families with valid visas.
            In the midst of all this, I answer a couple of congressional inquiries, and try to make sense of the court records in another file, written all in Spanish, which since less than two years ago, I only knew “Hola” and “agua,” I think I’m doing pretty well.
            I sent an e-mail to my wife, telling her I would take her out to lunch.  Two minutes later, the systems came up, so I sent a second e-mail, cancelling our date.
            By that time, there were certain things that couldn’t be done as it was late in the day, but I did interview a few applicants who had ridden buses up to eight hours to get here.  I told three others that they weren’t eligible to immigrate for the reasons previously listed.  I’d sent an e-mail to the Center for Disease Control, responding to an issue that we have been working for some time, politely informing them that things weren’t moving as fast as we had been hoping.
            Five o’clock took forever to arrive, yet came and went much faster than it should have.  I started the automated report process on my computer, and  picked up a blue folder from my desk, an international adoption case.
            A girl about the same age as my youngest had been left on the orphanage’s doorstep about eight years ago, filthy and malnourished.  She had been there ever since.  A missionary family who had visited the orphanage had decided to adopt.  I carefully poured over forms, psychiatric exam reports, home studies, and police records.  My job is to review the file and give the stamp of approval of the U.S. Government.
            As I put my pen and name stamp to the approval letter, I thought of a quote, a favorite of my best friend: 
            “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
            I had just had the worst day at work that I have had in a year. I would probably go home to read a news report talking about how overpaid government workers are.
            This little girl had waited her entire life to get parents, and I was signing my name to make that happen.
            How did my day go?
            It was glorious.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Bird, Part II

A longtime friend of mine told me that I should rewrite the story of a few days ago, The Bird, from the bird’s point-of-view.  It may help if you read that story first, as the real events that inspired it compliment this story.

A strange thing happened yesterday. 

I was coming in to land next to the water on a little island, but as soon as I touched it, the island rocked and moved, and I was in the cold water.  I beat my wings furiously, but they never caught air.  I tried again, but tired was the only thing I was getting.  I stopped to rest for a moment, and stretched my neck for a gasp of air.  The air that I could taste, but not fly into.

The water was so cold.  I fluttered again, but it was harder this time.  Each time it was harder, and I was getting nowhere.  I had to get out of this, but I just couldn’t.

Suddenly I was upside down again, scooped up with something held by one of the great two-legged things.  Then I was face-down in the grass.  I tried flapping my wings again, but only the left one worked, and just for a second.  At least I wasn’t going to drown.  I would just rest.  If only I could reach the sunlight – but there were mostly shadows this time of day.

And then the first ant came, crawling up my leg and biting me.  I tried to jerk away, but he bit me anyway. Another followed, and with a few minutes he was joined by a couple dozen of his closest friends.  The first few bites hurt, and I guess the rest of them did too, but I cared less about the ants than I did about the cold.  The cold was going to kill me, and I hoped it did soon, at least the ants would go away.  I had eaten their kind whenever I could scratch them up, and now they would eat me.  That was the way of things, I suppose.

Now I was upside down again, caught by one of the great two-legged things.  I tried to flap my wings one more time, knowing I couldn’t.  It was more of a flex than a flap.  I had no idea what was happening, but the two-legged thing was a little warmer than the ground had been, so now I waited to die from being eaten.  The ants lost interest, running from my cold plumage straight to the talons of the two-legged thing.  I had never given dying too much thought, but I thought about it plenty now.  What was taking so long?

Next came the roar, and the hot wind.  Wait.  That didn’t feel bad at all.  There was a second two-legged thing now, and it was watching me.  Perhaps the first one was going to feed me to it.  I tried to look at it, but every time I turned my head, I had to close my eye against the hot wind.  It was deafening, but it felt good.  I tried to fly again, but only shuddered, which took more energy but felt good.  The cold was inside me.

My feathers were mostly dry now, and I closed both eyes against the hot roaring wind.  I just rested in the clutch of the two-legged thing.  I had tried too many times to move and couldn’t, so there was no point in trying.  It kept turning me upside down, pointing various parts of me at the hot wind - the wet parts.  I gripped the two-legged thing with both talons and held on as hard as I could, but I was pretty sure I would fall if it let me go.  It didn’t.
It pried my feet loose and put me on a branch.  Somehow, it was night now, and I had never felt so tired.  I closed both eyes.  For the first time in what felt like hours, the air was warm.  The two legged thing came back one more time and touched me on the head.  I didn’t care.  It would return to eat me, but now was now.

I woke to the sound of doves, and opened my eyes to look around.  Had it been real?  The cold of last night was gone, the roar of the hot wind was silent, and the idea of ants sounded appetizing.

Heard a sound, one of the two-legged things was coming to eat me.  It was now or never, so I put everything I had into beating my wings, and they caught sweet, cool air!  I shot into the sky, far beyond the reach of the two legged thing, and landed again in a tall tree.

I still wasn’t sure how or why, but I was still alive.  Today was starting out on the right note.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Root of All Evil - Shoes

Yesterday afternoon I decided that I would spend the weekend without shoes.

They are a necessary evil, I guess, but they also represent everything in our lives that we care way too much about – work.  Casting away my shoes for a few days is to cast away the troubles of daily life, and to allow myself the courtesy of relaxing.  As shoes are a symbol, so is my temporary rejection of that symbol.

My coworkers are intellectual people, so when a couple of people asked me if I had plans for the weekend, I said that my plans were to not wear shoes the whole weekend.  The responses were curious, and I will share two of them:

“Shoes?  I’m going spend the weekend without pants!”
“Try not to get pinworms.”

Mere mortals just can’t understand.

An evil thing is generally something that works its way into our lives without our permission, and that is the way I suspect I got my first pair.  I didn’t buy them, someone else probably bought them for me, and I suspect it was my mother, thinking she was doing a good thing.  We would have been in Dewey Parrott’s shoe store in my hometown.  Dewey is my mother’s second cousin, and for many years I associated him with the funny smell of shoe leather.  Like most other small businesses, Dewey was sunk by cheap department store junk made in Chinese sweatshops, but I am willing to bet that lots of people will remember the way that store smelled.

See how enticing the evil shoes are?  You are thinking of some fond memory now of small town wholesomeness.  Back to my previous thought, the way Google works, this page will probably end up with ads for Nike’s Super Mega Just Doits, some computer program thinking it is providing relevant content for the site with advertisements for shoes.

So after arriving home from work early, I decided to cast off the old zapatos for 48 hours.  I had stopped by the store on the way home to pick up some necessities – several packages of jelly beans, and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label.  It occurred to me that my newly found freedom would go well with jelly beans, but in order to avoid the danger of my barefootedness removing all traces of civilization, a couple fingers of 15-year old Scotch at various times throughout my weekend of refection seemed perfectly appropriate.  After all, I’m not a savage.

By the way, you should never, ever, ever, eat jelly beans while drinking 15-year-old Scotch.  The two things are forever separate.  This is a conundrum for me, as these are two of my favorite things.  It’s tragic, but I live with the reality. 

This morning, I am going to enjoy some jelly beans and head out to my little garden to water my plants, and I will enjoy the way I feel in my 20 year old sweatpants with the elastic cut out of the cuffs, and let the green grass massage my feet.  The feeling is fantastic.

The idea of catching pin worms scares me, but only a little bit.  I’m pretty sure the Scotch will kill them anyway.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My First Rejection from Hell

I received a fantastic letter today from another author, David Abrams.  David and I chewed some of the same dirt in Iraq, and we met through a mutual friend.  David had a number of good tips, but the most important wisdom he shared, was that I should be prepared for rejection.

Ignoring this, I sent an e-mail to the editor of Maxim.  Nothing long, just a concise two sentence e-mail, that basically said this is what I’ve got, and please can I have the guidelines for submission.

Why Maxim, you ask? 

I looked at my stories, and my audience.  While I would like civilians to read and absorb the things soldiers experience, soldiers read my stories and they understand them already, and most of them that do actually like them.  Soldiers read Maxim, or at least they buy it and look at the pictures.

I closed my mailbox, and went on to other diversions.  After a few hours, I thought about it again, so I checked it, expecting to see a link or a pasted body of text that would explain exactly what I would need to do in order to have my work rejected, so I could move on to the next rejection.

Instead, I get a reply from an undead called “Mailer-Daemon.”  

Not really an original name for one of Hell’s minions, I thought, but apparently his job was to interfere with my e-mail.  I inferred from the spelling of his name that this was a British demon, so at least he should be polite.  After all, he had sent me an e-mail telling me that he had zapped my e-mail with some of his evil power.

This guy was definitely straight out of the afterlife, because he even typed in some sort of Gothic gibberish.  I tried reading some of it out loud, and I managed to frighten my wife and children.  Maybe it was because I read it in a really low voice.

“It’s okay, honey, I’m just reading this e-mail I got from one of hell’s minions.”

“That’s nice, dear.  Let me know when you’re done so I can play Cityville.”

I guess there is no word in Hell’s dialect for “undeliverable,” and a few other key words, because I understood those parts.

I didn’t reply back to this British demon, because I didn’t really want to be friends with him, and it would be awkward not to accept his Facebook friend request, and next thing you know I've got a whole legion of followers.  So I just left it alone.  I’ll look for another e-mail address, and will eventually find the Maxim editor.

Meanwhile, I continue to write, maybe because I’m too stubborn to give up, and maybe because I like doing it.  You can find several of my short stories linked from my Facebook page, The Pen and The Sword.