Messages in Bottles


Each day, I sit by the window and let another bottle slip from my hands to slide across the shingles, over the eavestrough and into that vast labyrinth of sidewalks and streets that form the downtown core of the metropolis of Freddie Beach. Each day, a tear rips loose from my eye and splashes soundlessly onto the glass surface of the bottle, like breaking a bottle of Champagne against a bottle of words that will sail into nowhere.

The bottles contain messages that will never be read, words that will never be bonded to vision and the cognitive process. The messages are earnest in their meanings: “Help! I’m being held prisoner for my own good!” “I’m following my doctor’s orders, for god’s sake! I’m following the orders!”

I don’t know where the bottles go but I assume there’s a pile of broken glass beneath the window and under an eave that juts out just far enough that I can’t see where the bottles land. I’ve yet to hear the shattering of glass, so maybe something beyond gravity and the things I expect is happening here.

And maybe it’s the drugs.

Have I mentioned that my body survived the 60s but my brain didn’t? It’s true. And it wasn’t just the drugs, it was the experience, the exposure to new ways of looking at old things. That, in itself was the most potent drug of the 60s. That iota of a second in which you realize that the only  thing that’s making you shave today is your refusal to believe that it’s your face can you don’t have to do anything to it that you don’t want to do. For some, that’s a small decision; for others, it’s a career changer.

Seems to me that many of us spend our lives putting messages into bottles and launching them into the safety of god-knows-where.

And that pretty much sums up everything I have to say about the drugs.


Write for Your Life, Biff Mitchell, Write for Your Life

I’ve lost track of the days. It feels like that time I blinked and missed it all, it seems like re-reading Atlas Shrugged and forgetting what page I’m on – over and over. A kind of existential medium is the message. I’ve lost track of my mind. I’m staring at ice patterns on the window.

Steph hat-5

Stephanie is watching me, waiting for me to do something the doctor told me not to do, waiting for me to make a dash for the window and the fire escape, waiting for me to breathe too deeply. She takes the doctor’s orders seriously.

She just found Monte Python’s Life of Brian on Netflix and she’s going to play it. She can quote every word from Life of Brian and Search for the Holy Grail. I’ve seen her do it. It takes true talent and a good memory to memorize an entire movie and recite it convincingly, being all the characters at any moment in all their moods and all their little fears and fantasies.

And she can do this for two movies.

Before she put the movie on, she made a strange request. She said, “I want you to write a story.”

I said, “A story?”

She said, “Yes, Biff, and when you finish writing the story…I want you to write another story. And then another story, and another.”

“But the doctor said…”

“The doctor wants you to write stories, Biff. One story after another. Only through writing stories will you heal.”

Suddenly, I was suspicious. Something wasn’t right here. Something was awry. It was like everything in my world had shifted almost imperceptibly a few pixels to the left. It reminded me of a story I’d written a few years ago for one of the Twisted Tails anthologies called The Man Who Was a Few Pixels Out.

And that’s when it hit me. Twisted Tails. The insidious soul-eating J Richard Jacobs was somehow involved in all this. J Richard Jacobs, scourer of the perverse literary horizon and nemesis of all things sane and merciful in the dank corridors of writers’ hearts and minds. J Richard Jacobs, EDITOR, was on the loose again and the game was on.

Somehow he’d taken over Stephanie’s mind and this was going to bode ill for me, the lowly writer. I screamed: “Steph! J has taken over your mind!”

Her eyes were devoid of humanity and caring as she stared into my eyes and said, “No, Biff, I’m doing this all on my own. You will follow the doctor’s orders or I will kill you. It’s all for your own good.” She patted me on the head and went into the kitchen to make graffiti salad and somehow the world seemed to be a safer place to live.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the drugs I’m on to carry me safely and sanely through the recovery.

The Party

So Christmas is over for another year. Seems like just yesterday that I was unfriending people for starting Christmas countdowns in August. Stephanie is looking for one of her cats. Here’s a picture of one of her cats:


This isn’t the missing cat. This is Mia. I couldn’t get a picture of the other one because it’s, um, missing. But then, I’ve always felt that all cats are one cat and one picture of a cat is a picture of all cats. It has something to do with the eyes. Or maybe in the shadows they cast.


As I mentioned yesterday, Stephanie had a party last night and I was the entertainment. Everyone sat in uncomfortable chairs and guzzled martinis while I smoked strong French cigarettes and told socially insensitive jokes.

Every once in a while someone would yell, “Show us your staples!” and I would turn around, pull up my shirt  and show off my staples. Everyone pointed  and told staple jokes and yelled, “Merry Christmas, Biff!”

It was very strange.

But I didn’t run or sell pencils in the street, nude, so Stephanie didn’t kill me.

Always a good party when nobody kills you.

Selling Pencils in the Street, Naked

It’s been five days and Steph still hasn’t killed me. Either I haven’t been too annoying or I’m doing everything the doctor said I should do.

And not do.

Those are the things that brought me here. When I told Steph that they would be cutting lower half of my left lung out because there was an alien life form growing there, she said, “You’re staying at my place after the surgery.”

I said, “I’ll be fin…”

“You’re staying at my place after the surgery. I know you. You’ll go for runs, dance jitterbug with your imaginary friends, go back to selling pencils on the streets…naked. You’ll do these things the day after you get out.”

I laughed and, in my most reassuring voce said, “Oh come..”

“You’re staying at my place. You’ll do everything the doctor tells you to do. You’ll do it all on time. And no jitterbugging…or I’ll kill you.”


And so here I am. At my best friend’s place. Living in fear that I might accidentally jitterbug or sell pencils in the street, naked. It’s been five days, so it looks like the fear has kept me alive. And now it’s time to blog. Didn’t want to start earlier, like right after the surgery, because I figured I’d be more inclined to just write three or four paragraphs of  “Ouch ouch ouch…” or “Can you please make the stop? Please make it stop. Pretty please make it…” as opposed to something insightful like, “Help! My best friend’s holding me prisoner until I get better!” I mean, that just sounds weird.

So, Steph is having a party tonight and I’m the entertainment. I’m going to show off my stitches and people are going to laugh and point and say healing things like, “Ha Ha, Biff! That’ll teach you go smoke.” and “Gee, Biff…how do they get those staples out?” There’re a lot of staples:


(Photo by Stephanie Diana Durelle)

We’re all going to roll around on the floor laughing and giggling. Except me. I’m not allowed to roll around on the floor. If I do, Steph will kill me. For my own good.

Let you know how the party turned out tomorrow.