Thursday, November 03, 2011


Old Zeke was a jerk, there was no doubt about that. A list of his redeeming qualities would be shorter than his temper, shorter than his nose hair, and certainly shorter than his rap sheet.

But here was the thing: Zeke was the best pest-removal man in the county, the best I’ve ever seen. Folks would tolerate his limited people skills and disgusting personal habits because they knew they could count on him to get rid of everything from ‘possums in the attic to mice in the kitchen. And the critters never came back; I don’t know what he did, but it was effective. It was not something you wanted to watch, people said.

For years, I was able to keep my distance from Zeke. My place was mostly pest-free, nothing I couldn’t handle myself. Our paths rarely crossed, and when they did, I tried my best to avoid eye contact, or anything else that might set Zeke off.

Everything changed last week, when something ate my dog one night. Beau was a good dog. He slept on the porch, and he was a better security system than any alarm. I had just drifted off to sleep when I heard Beau start to bark. I think that’s what he was trying to do. It was a weird sound, and then it just stopped. I could hear something moving around on the porch, and then out in the yard, so I grabbed my shotgun and opened the door.

I think of myself as a pretty tough guy, but I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for the carnage I saw in the front of my house. Suffice it to say that there wasn’t anything left of Beau to bury. I knew right away I was gonna have to call Zeke.

As I explained the situation over the telephone, Zeke interrupted. “Don’t touch nothin’. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.” And he was, rumbling up in his ugly, old green pickup truck. He stepped out of the truck, and I could tell by the smell he’d been drinking - and not bathing.

He limped around my yard, pausing now and then to lean down and pick up a piece of Beau. He’d sniff whatever it was in his hand, eye it closely, and I’d swear he licked one piece. Finally, he sat down on the porch steps, coughed into a red bandana for about five minutes, then looked up at me.

“Zombie ate your dog.”

That’s not what I was expecting to hear, let me tell you.

“Zeke, what the Hell are you talking about? Zombie my ass!” I hissed. “Wolves, maybe. If you’re not gonna take this seriously...”

Zeke stood and stared me in the eye so long that I blinked and looked away.

“You don’t have to believe me,” he said quietly. “I’m not gonna explain it to you. Not gonna tell you about the type of punctures left behind in the dog meat. I know it was a zombie that done it.

“You want me to take care of it or not?”

I nodded my head, feeling a little too freaked out to speak.

Zeke nodded too.

“I’ll come back tomorrow night,” he said. “You make sure everything’s locked up tight, and don’t come outside ‘til the next morning. Then you can go get yourself another dog.” Without another word, he got back into his truck and rumbled off.

As you can imagine, it was hard to concentrate on work the next day. I kept thinking about what Zeke said.



Night finally rolled in, and I did like Zeke said. I locked all the doors, made sure the windows were shut tight and the curtains drawn. I sat in a chair with my shotgun to keep me company, waiting.

Just past midnight, I heard Zeke’s truck coming up the drive. He killed the engine, and I could hear the rusty hinges of his door swinging open and shut. Then, nothing. Crickets, for a long time. Pretty sure Zeke was sitting on the front steps.

The next sound I heard will be with me to the grave. A moan? Was that what it was? It was low, and sounded painful. Did Zeke make that sound? Or something else? Pretty soon I heard it again, only now it was coming from the side of the house, sounded like. Then there were two moans at the same time, and it was all I could do to keep from screaming myself.

I’ll always be glad the curtains were drawn, because I did not want to see what made the sounds I heard next. The moans were replaced by scuffling sounds, and something that sounded like a ripe melon hitting the ground. Then ripping noises for a long, long time.

When morning finally, blessedly, came, I slowly opened the front door and peeked outside. It looked a lot like it had the night before, so I went around back to get the hose. There were scratches all over the front of the house, and Zeke’s truck still sat in the driveway. Blood soaking everything, of course. I tripped while rounding the corner of the house, and when I looked down, I saw a hand. Just a hand. Clutching a red bandana.

We never saw Zeke again, but no one in the county could truthfully say they missed him. Come to think of it, everyone’s pest problems pretty much went away about the same time. So maybe Zeke’s still out there.

Me? I went and got another dog.


Postscript: This was another exercise in Flash Fiction, directed, in particular, to the Three Word Wednesday blog.

They Wore Short Shorts

Once upon a time, basketball players wore really short shorts. 

...That's the message you'll probably take away from this photo, which I dug out my archives on the eve of college basketball season.

But there's more to the story.

Fresh off a season of photographing Oklahoma State football from the sidelines, I decided to try my hand at basketball photography.

Dec. 10, 1987 was not just another home game for Oklahoma State. It was the home opener, and the debut of the newly-renovated Gallagher-Iba Arena. (Note to OSU fans: this was the refurbishment that spiffed up the old Gallagher Hall, but retained close to the original seating capacity. The massive overhaul came much later.)

The Cowboys were in the second season of Leonard Hamilton's tenure as head coach. It was Hamilton's first head coaching job after serving as a Kentucky assistant, and at that point in his career he could recruit...but that was about it.

Notable players on the 1987-1988 squad included talented drug flame-out Richard Dumas and future New York Knicks stalwart John Starks. Naturally, I didn't get a single good photo of either one of them.

The arena looked great, with shiny brass railings and new seats that were more comfortable than the old ones, but still afforded leg-room only to children and amputees.

With my trusty Minolta in hand, I grabbed a piece of floor along the baseline. I quickly learned that basketball photography would be more uncomfortable than football had been. That hardwood floor is brutal on the knees, and you really can't stand up during the game and move around. You're surrounded by other photographers, and you have to watch out for stray basketballs and players flinging themselves out of bounds.

I focused on the space in front of the basket, and hoped for the best. This photograph was the best I had at the end of the game -- which OSU won over Tulsa University, 66-65. It would also be my last basketball photograph until I became an actual sportswriter in 1990. I'll leave those stories for another day.

Even though it was a close contest, plenty of Cowboys got into the game. This photo features backup guard/forward Mike Peterson scoring one of two baskets he recorded in 9 minutes of action. Also in the photo are starting center Sylvester (Sly) Kincheon (#42) and backup center/oddity Alan Bannister (#43). Bannister was from England, and because he was taller than 7 feet OSU gave him a basketball scholarship. He was the most un-coordinated human being I've ever seen. I remember watching him walk across campus, thinking he looked like a marionette - his limbs seeming to be under someone else's control. He played basketball like that, too. Finally, that's Derrick Davis (#11) in the background, who I don't remember at all.

And yes, they all wore short shorts -- because we didn't know any better yet.