For the majority of my life, I’ve had issues with self-esteem. The constant feeling of never being good enough at anything, the feelings of self doubt that always seem to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune moments. While most kids were out doing what the typical lets say, thirteen year old would be doing, I found myself in a small room alone drawing. Drawing images I never intend any other eyes to see. I say that not as a cryptic thing, I wasn’t one of those kids who draw scenes of violence or destruction. No one ever questioned my sanity based on that (at least that I’m aware of..!)… The act of drawing was simply MY thing, my escape from a world I felt had essentially rejected me. Deemed me not worthy of “fitting in” or being a useful member of the group. Therefore nobody ever knew of my art, just the way I liked it.

Looking back on that time of my life now from my hermitic cave in Illinois, I can now see that it was I who shunned, and continues to shun the world around me. It’s a strange thing, the subconscious mind. The things we fool ourselves into believing for the majority of our lives eventually become the cages that entrap us. At that point the light bulb goes on over the head, and the fog begins to clear… the lines between self doubt and pride begin to blur.

Jogger/machete cont

Jacob awoke with a start. He bolted upright and quickly looked all around him. The last thing he truly remembers is Amy on his chest, smacking him in the face, leaning forward and whispering those words in his ear. Now he finds himself sitting on his sleeping bag in the tree house, his mom and some stranger are up here as well. Jacob faintly remembers his mother carrying him up the ladder, but his head hurts. Amy really hit him good that last time.

As Jacob looks around the tree house, the stranger goes over and sits down next to his mom. They are talking about going somewhere, Jacobs not sure where. “Maybe the man is a friend of mom‘s” he thinks to himself. They seem to be talking about ways to get to moms car. They also seem to be worried about anybody seeing them. Again, Jacob thinks to himself, “Amy really must have hit me HARD”. As they continue to talk Jacob slides up behind them.

Are you sure this “hermit” is the one who started all this?” the mother said

“Well, no…but he’s been talking about weird stuff lately, and mentioning how he’s getting his cave prepared. Not to mention, I told him me and some buddies were going to visit some people in Iowa this weekend. He said “you’ll stay the hell out of Chicago if you’re smart, trust me bro…” what does that sound like to you?” Butters said

“Well, I guess you have a point there” she said reluctantly

With this Jacob chimes in, “what’s a hermit mom?”

“Oh Jacob honey your awake! How do you feel? How’s your head? Are you scared, son? Everything’s gonna be okay honey!” and with that the mother takes the young boy in her arms, wiping at the face she just cleaned a half hour ago.

Jacob haaates it when she does this, it’s so embarrassing! Why can’t see just leave him alone for five minutes? His head is really the only thing that hurts, and she can’t really wipe away a headache, no matter how hard she tries. Jacob looks over at the man, he’s smiling like he really thinks this is funny. Jacob wonders how this stranger would feel if his mother was here doing the same thing to him. The man now clears his throat and speaks.

“So we basically have two options, we can try to find a way out there tonight or sit here till morning. The night will give us shadows to sneak around in, but the daylight will make seeing any of those zombies easier.” if we go tonight I would suggest we come up with some type of diversion..”

“Hmm…” the mother says as she thinks about the situation. “You said Amy was drawn to sound but it didn’t make her go running as soon as she heard it. Maybe, we can set off some of the car alarms near by to draw any of those things that are close, away from us.”

“Well that’s great, but just how the hell are we gonna set off alarms from up here? You don’t seem like the type to buy her ten year old a red rider bb gun, no offense…Butters says.

“We don’t need one” she says. “We have this”, and she crawls over to a shelf, returning with a metal…slingshot.

“Hey, that’s mine!” Jacob says, surprised his mom knew where he kept the thing. He looks at his mother curiously. . . unsure of what his mother is planning to do with the thing.

“Jacob, you know Mr. Johnston’s white car over there?” she points out the window toward a pearl white Chrysler lhs sitting one house over. “Well do you remember what happened when you accidentally hit it with your baseball?”

“The horn started honking, and Mr. jonston came outside, he was really mad.” Jacob says. It was true, Mr. jonston was mad, and he’s as tall as a basketball player or something. He’s really scary when he’s mad.

“well, if we can hit it with something, then all those people over there should go toward his car, and then we can get to mommies car, we have to stay away from those people honey, they’re bad.” she says.

“Ooooh, I get it, kinda like hide and seek. Jacob says. But… what if they see us trying to hit his car from up here? Won’t they come over here and try and get us? Are those people like Amy mom? What happened to them? Amy was really mean mom; she scared the crap out of me.”
With this the stranger that Jacobs’s mom called Butters chimed in.

“Jacob did you draw that picture up there?” Butters asks, pointing to a drawing of superman. Jacob nods his head in affirmation. “Well buddy, do you know about the fortress of solitude?”

“No, what’s that?” Jacob says

“That’s the place superman goes to be alone, kind of like a base of sorts. It’s the place where he can go to hide from his enemies. It’s where he goes to think about all things he misses from his home planet krypton. He’s the last of his kind you know, and the fortress of solitude is the one place he feels totally safe.” Butters tells the boy, capturing his interest. “This place is like our fortress Jake, up here we are safe from the bad people down there, look, I pulled the rope ladder up behind us. They couldn’t get up here even if they tried. And who knows buddy, we may be the last people left who aren’t bad.”

“You mean that aren’t zombies” Jacob says, surprising Butters

“You know what zombies are Jake?” Butters says with an eyebrow raised

“oh yea” Jacob says “mom says I shouldn’t watch that stuff but…” Jacob shrugs his shoulders. “I can’t believe their real though”.

“I think me and you are gonna get along just fine” Butters says to the boy. Then, suddenly a car alarm begins honking its horn. Butters and Jacob both look over to see the mother with the slingshot in one hand, the other hand doing a fist pump

“Ha-ha got it! Only took two stones! She says. The woman was obviously proud of herself for hitting the car. The problem she and the boys quickly found was, the group of undead that gathered around the car was far more than they first thought would be there.

“Hmm…well, that kinda sucks.” Butters says “I’m not sure we can get around that many. Hey, does that car over there have an alarm?” The man points to a dark maroon sedan at the far end of the street.

“Yea I think it does” the mother says. “But I don’t think I can hit that car, what is that like a hundred fifty yards away?”

“Not sure ma’am.” Butters say, scratching his chin. He looks at the mother, she looks at him knowingly, and they both turn to look at young Jacob.

“Why are you looking at me?” the boy asks. “I can’t shoot a rock that far.” Jacob really can’t believe they think he can shoot a rock that far, but mom knew where he hid the slingshot. Maybe she knew about the birds.

“It’s alright buddy, just try it. What’s the worst that could happen? You miss the car? Oh well, we just come up with another plan” Butters says. The man helps young Jacob up to the window and hands him a nice round stone, about the size of a milk dud.
“Just remember Jake, this is the safest place in the world right now, this is your fortress. Just aim and shoot, if you miss, nothing bad will happen, nobody can get you up here.

And with that, Jacob let the rock fly, it struck the roof of the car with a “clank!”, but… no alarm…Jacob loaded up another rock, slightly larger this time. As the stone flew through the air, the trio held their collective breath awaiting the sounds of success, or failure


Butters gave the boy an enthusiastic high five and the mother gave him a warm hug. It was a happy moment for sure. Up until this point, Jacobs’s slingshot was something he hid from the rest of the world. He sat at that same window for hours at a time. Either setting up small targets in the yard. Or the shooting at birds in the neighboring yards. He had heard a few people living around them complain about dead birds in their yards. This was the reason Jacob hid his slingshot after every “target session“.

“So…” his mother said. “Am I looking at the bird killer?” She looked at him with a wry smile as she gathered their things up, Butters dropped the rope ladder for their departure

“is it bad mom, that I smile when I hear a kaw?’

-----------------End scene----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Throughout my high school years, I was conflicted between the things I enjoy and the things deemed “acceptable” to the community at large. Art and drawing in particular have always been the one thing I’ve had that was mine. The thing that nobody could take from me, or ridicule me for. In high school however, I discovered football. I’m not sure how these things operate in other parts of the states. But here in the Midwest, the idea of being one of the toughest linebackers in the region and being an artist are not things that go hand in hand. So the entire time I was playing sports, and portraying the role of “the jock”, I quietly did the art thing on the side. Hoping to not catch the notice of the rest of the guys. The majority of the team knew I took the art classes and I obviously enjoyed it, but I damn sure couldn’t discuss things like abstract expressionism with them! My work is something I hold very near and dear to my heart. The insults and comments made by a bunch of young, bird-brained, teenage males is not the kind of critism I took lightly. The artist in me tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, and as far as that aspect of my life goes, that’s where it should be. From my experience in these things, the people who almost seem ashamed of the things they create are the ones who take the most pride in their work. It’s amazing to me how the fear of failure can be perverted into an almost overwhelming feeling of pride and accomplishment…

Todd out