Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The following is a draft of Chapter 22 of my post-oil novel AMERICAN CRUDE. Comments have been disabled. If you wish to comment, please go to TheKunstlerCast at and join the discussion.


--Innocent Byproduct


I walked out of the bathroom in a towel with my hair still dripping. I headed for my futon: a long snooze on a Sunday was at least half as good for the soul as church, or so I always imagined.

Before unfolding the bed I busied myself with sorting through the dirty laundry of discarded work clothes and the bag that held my Friday street clothes. When I picked up my dark blue work pants, I pulled my wallet out of one pocket, but then something else fell out of the other pocket. It hit the hardwood floor with a soft metal clinking. I looked and saw the same dog tags that I’d pulled off of Catherine’s neck on Friday night.

I picked them up and examined them. They were not metal because the Army had abandoned metal dog tags decades earlier. Instead they were plastic and each contained a computer chip. The only thing metal was the chain.

I thought about returning them to her. But Doctor Tuxedo’s threats loomed heavily before me. I wondered if she could even operate that freight elevator anymore without them. I stood there with the chain dangling in my hands, and finally turned to look at my wall of Desert Storm memorabilia.

After coming home from the Gulf War many years earlier as a young and unmarried man, I hung my sparse assortment of military treasures on the wall of my first apartment with a careful and proud arrangement. That was a war to be proud of (or so we thought). We got in, we did our job, we got out, and hardly anyone on our side suffered any injuries (at least none that were apparent right away). I initially took no shame in my participation of that war. But when MK and I started dating and eventually moved in together, she demanded I either get rid of everything or hide it all away. She hated warfare and weaponry and didn’t want any of it in her house. Only after the divorce did I unbox it all and place it on display again.

My own dog tags dangled motionlessly on their chain there upon the wall. I had bought a very large and ornamented brass tea cup hook from a hardware store and used that to hang my dog tags. The tags were not the actual centerpiece of my display, but because they were the only one of their kind and because I had nothing else of a similar shape to balance it out, I wound up hanging them just below center.

After hesitating a few moments with Captain Warren’s dog tags in my hands, I decided there was no better place at the moment than my wall. So I gently draped them onto the same hook with mine. If Catherine wanted them back, she could call me at her convenience.

I then sacked out on my futon and slept like the dead.

-------------------End of Chapter 22--------------------