Jesus Would Take The Middle Seat

September 7, 2015 § 42 Comments

I’m on a plane right now

Houston to LA

and I’m thinking

Jesus would take the middle seat.

He’d give me the window so I could see the clouds.

Maybe clouds bore him.

Maybe he sees his own face in a cloud

Or on a wall

Or a muffin

And he thinks it’s a miracle.

Jesus doesn’t put his seat back.

Because there might be a Roman soldier behind him with bad knees

And Jesus forgives everything.

Jesus listens carefully to the flight attendant’s instructions

Jesus asks for water, but when he touches it, it turns to wine.

The stewardess says, that will be five bucks and Jesus pays for it without complaining.

I don’t know what to say to Jesus

But I need to say something because, Jesus.

I say he looks considerably darker

than his likenesses on Etsy watercolors

And he says, there’s been a bit of pigment revisionism going on in recent centuries

Which sounds cool when Jesus says it

And I say, you know they darkened OJ Simpson on the cover of Time Magazine during his trial,

And Jesus nods

Because maybe he’s followed the trial

Or maybe he’s just being polite.

I start rambling on about how impressive it was to me that he forgave douchey mankind

And ask him what happened to the lamb on his lap in the paintings

And if he took that lamb to heaven

Where it is currently still young and still cute.

A bead of sweat rolls down my face because I’m sounding like an idiot.

I almost ask him if Mel Gibson is like the embarrassing friend you have to invite to parties,

But I stop myself and say instead, “Kanye West thinks he’s you.”

Jesus smiles.

He has a nice smile and he smells like a feather would smell

If lambs had feathers

Flying like Jesus is like flying with the biggest celebrity in the universe

like, three Oprahs

I want to ask him if he’s mad that I never could quite commit

and if dogs and fish see him at the end

and if he always flies American.

I always pictured him on Jet Blue.

And I don’t want the plane to land

Because I never quite believed.

And now I do.

I believe I believe I believe.


Scared Straight For Cats

November 5, 2014 § 11 Comments


Sonny Boy, a sleekly pelted purebred douche with a horribly entitled disposition, has driven his mommy and daddy, two humans who trumpet their mental instability to the world by calling themselves his mommy and daddy, to the brink of insanity.

His demands have grown incessant and nothing has worked, neither cat whisperer nor Feline Calming Spray nor Douche Camp.

Now it is time for a visit to the Ventura County Last Chance Cat Shelter, where Sonny Boy will be introduced to their hardest cases in an effort to scare him straight.

First he must complete the intake form:

Which breed do you bring dishonor upon?




___No one know what the hell you are or from what boiling witch’s pot you hoisted yourself as the witch screamed and renounced her sins.

___ How many times in the past month has your name appeared in the same sentence as the word “divorce?”

____ Is the shoe thrown at your head usually thrown at night or in the morning? (trick question)

Has your fixed, contemptuous stare grown

__less fixed, more contemptuous

—more fixed, less contemptuous

___more fixed more contemptuous

___less fixed less contemptuous yeah right then you wouldn’t be here asshole

When did you first realize that you had driven Mommy insane?

___She cried when cleaning litter box.

__Pupils became unnaturally large.

___Diagnosed with “exhaustion.

___ Began to use heroin

___Became a prostitute

When you drag some poor innocent creature you killed for no reason into the house, what are you thinking?

___Here’s a gift for you, Mommy and Daddy!

___I hope it was magic and would have brought great blessings.

Which part of your owner’s body would you eat first upon their death:

___ Hands



____Adrenal Glands

____Back of Neck

___ Would not wait until death.

What is your most frequent nickname?

__Senor FurryDouche *

__ Entitled Bag of Fleas and Evil

___Shut up!

If you could reverse your neutering and populate the earth with millions of you to destroy civilization and every single baby bird ever fallen from a nest, how many heartbeats would it take you to embark upon this diabolical path?





After completing the intake form, Sonny-Boy is taken to the showers, where he is encouraged by a snaggle-toothed old Exotic Shorthair not to drop the soap.

He is de-flead and paw-printed.

His mugshot –One to the left, one to the right, one straight ahead — takes five hours.

He is led into the main chamber, where the hard cases live.

His back is straight. Head high. Pelt sleek.

He has no idea what awaits him.


* copyright Linda Birkenstock

I Have a Career and a Cat, But I Lean In.

July 17, 2014 § 9 Comments

sunny july 16

It’s true. Women in the modern age can have it all, a thriving career and a cat.

It’s hard, it’s like herding children, but it can be done.


I get up at the ungodly hour of 8 am and am greeted by the cat’s loveless stare, his eyes like two koi ponds of indifference. Then it’s a race to get ready for work, put down his food, and check his water. They say these are the precious moments, to stop and savor them. They lie.

10 AM

I’m at my ad agency, Circle of Hell & Co., where I am busy and important. I’m not interrupted by a call from the pet sitter, because I don’t have one. But I could, and she could call to interrupt this very crucial meeting.

But I lean in.

5:16 PM

Tampax Tampons is a slightly more trusted brand because of my work today. I drag home, exhausted. But still I have to check the cat’s bowl.

Needs more dry.

I’ve got to go through a brief on Diet Coke, and also throw a toy mouse across a room.

He brings it to me.

I have to throw it again.

He brings it to me.

I have to throw it again.

And I have a brief to read.

“Lean in,” my mother tells me on the phone when I call her in tears. “You can do this. You can do everything.”

“But he’s so high maintenance,” I wail.

“Suck it up,” she answers, “I raised three Pekinese by the time I was thirty five.” She hangs up on me.


I call the feline help hotline, 1800-URCATSADOUCHE.

“You know,” I tell the volunteer, “I was told only the good parts of having a cat. The monthly purr, the dead lizards left in my bed, having someone there to eat me when I die. But I’m tired. I’m very, very tired.”

“What kind of cat do you have?” the gentle voice asks.

“A Burmese.”


The phone goes dead.


I’m planning a relaxing evening after a hellish, nearly 40-hour week, when my cat decides to get in a fight with a neighbor cat.

He comes in. He’s got a scratch on his nappy, uncaring, dead-eyed head.

And I have to stop and say, “you’ll live.”

When I go back to the wine, it’s warm now.

This is my life.

Calls, meetings, eight hour days on flat heels, cleaning the litter box twice a week because it’s one of those new fangled spinny things.


The litter box breaks and I have to clean it by hand. I die a little.

My friend Nicole comes over and finds me digging Xanax from the bottom of my purse.

“This isn’t you,” she says. “You used to keep your Xanax in neat little foil packages.”

I am bedraggled, sleep deprived. My cat has kneaded me in my sleep twice in the last month. And one night I dreamed he shedded his face like an iguana and I woke up screaming. It’s too much, a career, a cat.

Nicole grabs me by the shoulders. “You can do it! You can have it all!”

“I can’t,” I insist.

She slaps me. “LEAN IN!” she screams. The cat cuffs me. I’m going to be okay.

Death Bed Regrets

December 4, 2013 § 16 Comments

That I spent so much time staring into the middle distance, neglecting the scenery of the near distance and far distance.

That I did not admit I thought “Gravity” was stupid because people would think I was talking about gravity, the force.

That in my twenties I dated many a low-tide organism believing their personalities could be worked on later.

That I didn’t live in the now, except on my deathbed which kind of sucks at the moment.

That I did those glute exercises that were supposed to make them smaller but instead made them into monsters that terrified a small Japanese town before they were destroyed by a missile.

That I didn’t stop and pet more ugly dogs and let them drag their grateful tongues down my face and wear that sticky sheen like a Boy Scout badge.

Same for lepers.

That I let booze, drugs and prostitutes fill the empty void when Facebook was free.

That I watched the video “Blurred Lines” just once, but God saw.

That I never once shot a bottle rocket into a children’s choir.

That I did not train a bunch of squirrels to form a ball and put them under my shirt and tell my mother I was pregnant and did she want to feel the baby kick.

That I didn’t finish my antibiotics and now everyone’s going to die.

That I used plastic and now everyone’s going to die.

That I was not a vegan and now everyone’s going to die.

That I regularly took the 405 instead of just shooting myself.

That I did not lovingly raise a Siberian Tiger and teach it to attack only when it hears a toilet training story from a new parent.

That I was not less tolerant.

That my mother outlived me and spent my money on a suicide vest to wear to a PETA meeting.

That “you can’t take it with you” also applies to this morphine drip.


August 31, 2013 § 18 Comments


This past week, my mother has been at Burning Squirrel, a pagan ritual in Louisiana where elderly Southern women drink margaritas and dance before a large burning squirrel effigy in the hope that, in the coming season, the squirrels spare their garden vegetables and don’t strip their pecan trees.

My mother, of course, denied that this is where she was going, even though I could see the body paint peeking through the polyester sleeve of her blouse.

“I’m not going to Burning Squirrel,” she said. “And if you think I’d join that bunch of squirrel-butt-kissers and window-box gardeners begging some heathen varmint god not to raid my tomatoes, you’ve got another thing coming. I’ve got a shotgun. That’s my form of prayer.”

“Swear you’re not going.”

“I swear on my Uncle Luther’s grave.”

“You hated Uncle Luther. In fact, I hear you spat on his grave.”

“That was a beautiful funeral” she admitted. “But I’m telling you I’ve never been to Burning Squirrel. I’m going to the great annual Southern Women’s Bridge Tournament and Outraged Disapproval of Youth Culture Extravaganza.”

“Sure you are.”

“We’ll be having a mock twerking competition to the music of the great Tennessee Ernie Ford. And if you’re writing that stupid blog again, don’t think you can use terms like ‘twerking’ or ‘blow me’ and think I won’t look them up on Wikipedia and box your ears good.”

“I won’t,” I promised.

“And don’t have me do ridiculous things like pretending my hands are pistols and twirling them around the air like Yosemite Sam,” she added, as she made pistols with her thumb and forefinger and twirled her hands around in the air like Yosemite Sam.

“Fair enough.”

“Now get out my way. I’ve got to finish packing for Burning Squ — Burning Bridge. The bridge tournament.”

“You’re going to Burning Squirrel and you know it. Remember when you came back last year with your blouse worn out in the elbows and your flapper shoes scuffed at the tips and the front of your home permanent singed?”

“That was a tough tournament.”


“Nonsense! I’m a Christian woman and an upstanding member of Sinners Vamoose United Methodist church.”

“Then explain this!” I shouted, opening her suitcase with a flourish to reveal a margarita machine, two pairs of clean socks, and Desperate, her calico cat, who looked up at us indifferently.

I glared at my mother. “Don’t tell me you were going to sacrifice Desperate this year.”

“Fine, fine,” she said as Desperate jumped out. “The squirrel god would have been pleased with such a fat and furry sacrifice, but never mind. I’ll just use a signed first edition of one of your novels.”

“So you admit you’re going.”

“Yes, I’m going! When you have a garden, you do what it takes. Besides, I’m going to win the volleyball competition this year. I have the vertical leap of a cheetah.”

Just then, I looked out the sliding glass doors and saw a squirrel furtively tiptoeing toward her pecan tree.

My mother ran to the door, wrenched it open and screamed: “BLOW ME, SQUIRREL BASTARD!”

The squirrel froze, his eyes two terrified saucers, until a brave comrade darted out, grabbed him under the arms and dragged him away.

My mother looked at me. “Just getting it out of my system.”

She zipped up her suitcase. “See you in a week. And make sure that damn calico doesn’t jump the fence.”


(Burning man image © Aaron Logan)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Twerking is a dance move that involves a person, usually a woman, sliding back and forth in a graceful movement resembling a waltz or box step. Twerking is only done by the highest classes and is a gesture of refinement, good breeding, and music appreciation.

The word “twerking” is of uncertain origin. Possibilities include a contraction of “footwork“, or a portmanteau of twist and jerk.[1]

‪Blow Me

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedi

Blow Me is a southern expression used mostly by women of a certain age to politely tell a squirrel to vacate a garden, pecan tree or fruit-bearing bush.

The word “Blow Me” come from the Latin Word contraction of “Blowus Meus“, or “Squirrel Be Gone.”


August 19, 2013 § 12 Comments


Lizzie Borden took an ax, and gave her mother forty whacks/ When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.

What could have possibly driven the New England spinster to murder her parents on that fateful day in 1892?  Recently I did some research on that infamous crime, and realized something:  She killed her parents on August 16.  The height of summer.

Swimsuit season.

I have carefully reconstructed the events of that day, when a trip to Macy’s and a book on oceanography collided with truly morbid consequences:

August 4, 1892

Lizzie Borden heads to Macy’s on a horse-drawn wagon and is ushered into the swimsuit department, where she finds rack after rack of mismatched bikini tops and bottoms.  The tops are too small, and the bottoms are in that V-shape that threatens an inexorable crack-crawl that will begin the moment they are drawn around the buttocks, but collectively the bright colors and cheerful labels mumble promises of glamour.

The Scopes Monkey trial, and its bold assertion that finding just the right swimsuit is an evolutionary process originating in simian groups, is a mere thirty-three years away.

Lizzie selects several items and skulks into a room to try them on. Macy’s, a true pioneer in the art of crushing self-esteem, has already installed dressing room mirrors that add ten years and twenty pounds. In the coming years, all other department stores will follow their lead.

The lighting is grim, eye-deadening, flaw-exposing, reaching past the epidermal layer to expose the future trail of each varicose vein that will emerge in the coming decades. This lighting will later be used at the Nuremberg trials and, still later, on The View.

On the walls of the dressing room, the maddened fingernails of women who tried on swimsuits in years past have scratched messages like “Tell Albert I love him,” and. “Please help me put out my own eyes.” And down near the carpet, as though clawed by a prone woman with her last strength, is written: “I swear to God it’s water weight.”

Lizzie hangs her purse on the hook and begins to undress. Finally she stands in nothing but a pair of Chlorox-spotty granny panties, staring at her own reflection. She is not an obese woman or even a heavy one. But in this magically evil mirror, in this chamber where the self unravels like a Walmart scarf in a tornado, she finds herself pale and enormous. Her breasts, supple and proud by dawn light of that same day, have slumped downwards and now rock gently as she shakes her head in disbelief. Her hips have settled. Her post-pregnancy weight has come back, even though she has never been pregnant.

She slides on the first bikini. The bottoms slump over her pelvic bone, exposing a large bristle of pubic hair no man has ever breached, and she feels the fabric across her hindquarters make an effortless slide toward her crevasse. Meanwhile, the bikini top manhandles her breasts like a TSA agent groping for contraband Xanax.

Each bikini she tries on brings its own indignities. Lizzie stares at herself, fighting back tears, certain that she will remain a spinster forever, certain that the time she slept naked and her cat went under the covers, stretched sleepily and accidentally fisted her will be the closest she will ever come to sexual intimacy.

She has just tried on the last bikini when she senses a presence. She glances in the mirror and finds that two winsome boy-girl twins, about six years old, have craned their heads under the dressing room door and are staring up at her.

“Dear God,” says the boy. “What is that?”

“It’s a bikini,” says the girl.

“But why does it leave mounds of cellulitic cheek-flesh exposed?”

“The fabric has taken refuge in the crevasse.”

“That reminds me of the time a hurricane drove one of grandfather’s work shirts off the clothesline and up the hind quarters of his favorite dray mule. It took three strong men to pry it out.”

Lizzie cannot bear it anymore. She aims a large foot at their heads and lashes out savagely, expecting to feel the satisfying crunch of twin-flesh but instead connecting with empty air as the children beat a hasty retreat.

Lizzie quickly abandons the final bikini and turns to the last refuge of those who linger like cornered queens on the chessboard of retail fashion: the one-piece.

She stands looking at herself.  She doesn’t look too bad, she decides. Perhaps she will walk away with her last shred of dignity intact.

Then she realizes that the mirror can be unfolded into a three-way.

“No, no, not the three-way, you self-sabotaging fool,” hiss the ghosts of women past.

But Lizzie does it anyway, though even as she unfolds the creaking mirror she can hear three-way mirrors unfolding one by one in the other dressing rooms, followed by screams and the thumps of bodies hitting the floor for a round of desperate crunches.

Studying her body from all sides in the three way mirror, Lizzie feels her last modicum of self-belief whirling down some unseen drain.

Just then, she hears the voices of the heinous twins, who are once again peering at her under the door.

“I hope I don’t look like that from behind,” says the girl.

“Nonsense,” says the boy. “It’s all about genetics. We are Paltrows, a wonder tribe of tall, lithe, fatless blondes living on acai berries and denatured silkworms. Generations from now, we will annoy people with our self-righteous juice cleanses and vegan colonics. But the pale, amorphous parents of this poor woman are no doubt to blame for how she looks in that three-way mirror, which is an absolute and faithful, Honest-Abe reflection of how she looks in real life.”

“My parents are to blame,” Lizzie murmurs, nearly fainting from the damning realization. “Of course.  It makes total sense. I should murder them with an axe.”

She tears the tag off her swimsuit and throws her shirtwaist dress on over it, fleeing the dressing room.

“Here,” she says as she hands the tag to the clerk, “I’m wearing the swimsuit under my dress.”

“Would you like to open a Macy’s account? You can get 10% off today’s purchase.”

“No, I have too many credit cards. Besides, I’m going to go home and murder my parents with an axe.”

“Oh,” the clerk laughs, “If I had a dime for every woman who comes out of that dressing room wanting to murder someone, I’d be a rich for sure!”

“You don’t understand. I have a specific plan to give my mother forty-whacks, and then once I see what I have done, to give my father forty-one.”

“If you ask me, dear, anything over twenty whacks is overkill.  Now, do you want your receipt in the bag?”


Lizzie’s father, a property developer and president of the Union Savings Bank, sits reading his coffee table book of oceanography.

“Something’s wrong with Lizzie,” he says to his wife. “She’s grown distant. Cold. She barely acknowledges me.”

“She’s a teenager,” says Mrs. Borden.

“She’s thirty-two.”

“You should try being warmer to her,” she advises.  “More playful.  Maybe give her a nickname.”

“A nickname?”

“Yes. My father’s nickname for me was Little Squirrel.”

Just then, Lizzie enters.  Her hair is a bit disheveled. Eyes a bit wild. Anyone standing behind her would notice, through the fabric of her dress, the seams of her swimsuit bottom sliding ominously toward the crevasse.

Her father takes a quick glance down at his book and then back at Lizzie and says, “Hey, there… Orca.”

His wife shoots him a withering look.

Lizzie stares at him a long moment.

“I’m going to my room,” she says finally, and disappears up the stairwell.

“Now look what you’ve done,” Mrs. Borden scolds her husband.


“You called her a whale!”

“I called her an Orca. They’re the lions of the sea. I’d have been proud if my father had ever taken the time to thumb through an oceanography book and give me an aquatic nickname.”

“Go apologize to her. Women are very delicate after they have gone swimsuit shopping.“

“Fine, fine. I’m the bad guy. Everyone dog-pile on the father.”

He stands up.

“Wait,” says the mother. “I’ll go with you. You’ll just screw it up.”

He mounts the stairs two at a time, his wife close behind. He tries out new nicknames for his daughter as he ascends.

“Come on Libster,” he calls. “Daddy didn’t mean it!”

“Come on Liz-dog!”

“Come on Lizzorama!”

“Come on Little Squirrel!”

My inner critic earns a pathetic “C”

August 8, 2013 § 4 Comments

“You’re not good enough,” I told my inner critic. “And you will never amount to anything.”

“Wait, what?”  She cried. “ I’ve been doing my job, calling you a hack and stuff.”

“A hack and stuff,” I repeated. “What are you, fourteen? My friend Dawn has the most awesome inner critic.  Her critic quotes Rumi when she tells Dawn how bad she is, and uses complicated phrases and lovely metaphors and verbal gymnastics. Which is probably why Dawn jumped off a bridge yesterday. Sadly she took her inner critic with her. I wanted that magnificent beast for myself. Instead I have you. Trite, hackneyed, ineloquent you.”

“I can make you jump off a bridge!”

“You could not make me jump off a doghouse. You are simply a terrible inner critic, your work means nothing and you might as well just give up.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I really try to criticize you and tear you down! What happened to our beautiful relationship?”

“I don’t know. It used to be so natural. To talk about forever. But used-to- be’s don’t count anymore. They just lay on the floor til we sweep them away.”

“That’s beautiful,” murmured my inner critic.

“That’s Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond, idiot!” I screamed. “You don’t deserve to be in the murky radioactive seawater of my hindbrain or in the bottom of my glass of straight tequila. Your insults are as weak and flabby as the colon of a dead squid.  Why don’t you spend a few days with my mother? Maybe you’ll learn something.”

“That’s just mean,” said my inner critic.

“Go away,” I said. “I have to write.”

She leaned in close and whispered, “This is all a cruel façade. None of the men from the pool of twenty-five will love you after the cameras have stopped rolling, and at least half of them are gay.”

“Wow,” I said. “Channeling the latest Bachelorette’s inner critic. You are getting desperate.”

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