Jello Salad

    “I want to tell people about us.”  I was lying on the bottom bunk facing the top bunk.  My hands behind my head on the pillow.

    “What are you saying?” The Monopoly (registered trademark bullshit) board was between the floor and Tyler’s bare back.  He had a red plastic hotel still clinging to his thick, straight, black hair.

    “I want to tell people about Mormons, like in a movie or book something.” With my right arm, I turned on the indoor Christmas lights surrounding the window next to the bed.

    “They already have all those Church videos about the restoration of the Gospel and stuff. Plus, you’re going to tell people about us for two years when you go on a mission.” Tyler had the silver dog drinking out of the caterpillar embossed scar, from one of the big surgeries on his chest below his right collar bone.

    “I know that. I want to tell people about like how we eat Jello Salad and have a pot roast every Sunday after church.”


    “I mean maybe not that…”

    “Who in the world cares that we eat jello salad with all kinds of fruit and whip cream on Sundays with our pot roast? You think Mormons are the only ones who do that?” 

    “Aunt Sally is funny.”

    “Sure, Aaron, aunt Sally is kind of funny.”

    “OK, remember when we were at her house and Elijah was running around in his diaper and his face was all wet and sloppy and blue and Sally snagged him as he ran by and pulled gum out of his mouth like it was one of those magician’s handkerchief things that never ends?  She kept pulling and pulling on it and she looked down and saw in his fist every single wrapper for the whole pack of Bubbblicious.  She was holding Anne on her hip and I think she was pregnant with Sam.  She threw the wrappers in the trash and she grabbed one of the little kids’ pretzel sticks out of the bag and started acting all shaky like she was on drugs and stuff and she was like I NEED A CIGARETTE!  Remember that?  The cigarette broke in her fingers as she was shaking.”

    “I think she was pregnant with Elijah. Anne wasn’t born yet and Sam was the one with the gum.

    “Whatever- it’s kind of funny, isn’t it?”

    “Yeah, but do you think anyone else is going to think it’s funny?”

    Meg Ryan busted into their room and looked at the boys on the ground.

    “Hey Mom, Aaron’s gonna write a book.”

    Meg Ryan looked at me, lying supine, flipping the Christmas lights on and off in July.  “YOU’RE CRAZY!” as she slammed the door and left, as quickly as she came.

    “What did she come in here for?”

    “I don’t know, she’s crazy dude.”


Journal August 22, 2007

Journal august 22, 2007. Emy told me to write something while I was playing on the computer. She was reading Harry Potter 7 and I was playing SimCity. She’s still reading Harry Potter.

Jeff and Alice were over today and we played the new Nintendo Wii she got for her birthday. I haven’t written in a while. I contemplate moving to New York. A couple of days ago I was going to move to a place by Queens College. That would have been about three weeks from now. I would have left in the old Prelude, sans legality, to NY to start my life over because I can’t have people telling me to go to church anymore. That’s what I say anyway. Emy looks really pretty lately. Her Acne is mostly cleared up. A few days ago, I went to the accounting firm where she interns and gave her a snickers bar, but it turned out I left it on the wrong persons desk.  She was off at a client’s all day. A different girl got it.  “Emi, present for you.” The snickers bar was placed between that statement and “Love you, Aaron.” 

5200 dollars in credit card debt.  2300 in the bank. Damn I’ve gone a while without writing and there are things I’ve been forgetting. Not really writing, not really writing the great American novel, and not really doing anything other than blabber to the computer. New plan: Stay here in SD, Move to North Park area, go to city college, buy a motorcycle. Always wonder how I will pay. Pay with credit card? Finance it? I’ll probably have less bargaining room if I finance it. 

I called Jeff the other day, asked him again how it just “comes out”- the whole not reading the book Ray and Jane sent me. They sent me a stupid juvenile book that I read about 5 pages of, and Jeff felt the need to tell them that I didn’t read it. After Jane met Emi, she told me I was too good for her, which is like the biggest bunch of bullshit I have ever heard in my life.

The other day Jeff and Alice came over to my house and went through my stuff. They read an ending to Jr College that I swear he’s already read before, or I’ve discussed it with him. But he was saying,

 “Gwar you write things, you write things Gwar… Ok, we were here to let the dog out and Alice went snooping and she swears she’s just like you after reading what you write man and you write some good things- you walked out of your Jr college class and you stared at the lockers because it’s just like high school I was thinking about making a short film out of something you write and giving it to you for your birthday or Christmas or something.  That’s the only thing I read. I swear.”

 My mom was in the hospital for her hysterectomy. She was in bed on the phone with insurance and she told them her name “Meg Ryan.” My brother and I immediately looked at each other and smiled. She shook her head in anger and disapproval at us. I was going to write all these things about how she’s no longer especially desirable or anything and how that gives me more power or something, like it’s a huge weakness for her- and I can blossom now. I have to give that more thought because I think it’s bullshit.

Enter Title Here



We went to the cemetery on Saturday. Earlier we went to see Emi’s aunt Judy at the building where they keep all the coffins stacked up like a glossy morgue.  We went and part of me wanted her to cry so I could squeeze her and feel her tears on my cheeks. She had cried over Judy before. Judy was a wonderful aunt who took her to swap meets.  Emi planned that day out the night before, at my Mom’s house.  It was the last day of Christmas break before she drove back to Cal Poly. She was so good at those agendas.  She accounted for sleeping in and her leisurely pace perfectly.  She planned for a 10 am wake up, but didn’t have us run the first errand until noon. The night before when she was planning, as she penciled in a 1:30 visit to the cemetery to visit Judy, she casually asked me if I wanted to visit Tyler. Of course I said sure. I should see his grave anyway.  I hadn’t seen him since before I left on my mission.  I went with Jeff, who had to find is. I can never find his grave on my own. I just remember the hillside he was buried on. Memory told me it was just before the the road split.


Emi and I pulled up just before the split. I thought he was about three- five rows up from there.  I walked straight up from the spit and looked at the gravestones starting at the third row.  I checked three graves to the right and walked back three graves to the left.  I did this on the fourth row. And the fifth row.  Then I abandoned my little pattern.  I walked around for a few minutes.  I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to be Aaron at that point. Didn’t need to be. I just wanted to find his grave recall a good memory I hadn’t thought of in a while and hug Emi for a bit and go back to her house and finish packing. Her parents don’t like me.  I need a real job. I need to finish college. I know these places are bullshit and this practice is primitive.  I don’t think it’s absurd to think that we need reminders that the person is no longer living and breathing and walking around with us. I didn’t plan on this, on not finding his grave  I didn’t want to tell my family that I walked around looking for it and have them laugh at how typical that was for me. I don’t want to call my mom. I don’t want to hear her cry about me visiting the grave. Nobody needs to know about this. No hoopla. I didn’t want material for a story, I just wanted to see that grave.  What did my mom have engraved on it?  “Lived in Glory, returned with Honor.”  Some bullshit slogan. I refused to let my anxiety get me. I decided to be calm. I walked way past the part where the road split and walked up and down in columns every two stones so I would be sure to find them.  Emi was way off, way past the road split.  Could I yell back to her?  Can you yell in a cemetery? I can’t yell. She can keep wandering. I’ll find it soon enough. I kept going down the isles. I never found him. Why am I seeing names twice?  Why do I recognize Louis Fielding 1939-2000? Why can’t I just find Tyler’s? I began walking in furiously in serpentine lines. Every minute or so I stopped to look around. If this were a movie the stupid camera would have circled me and my face to show dismay or frustration or helplessness. Why that shot?  Wow?  That’s so amazing?  Where’s the fucking crew?  The fucking director and the best boy and the food table? That shot is so fucking incredible. I can’t fucking believe it.  I’m so fucking impressed with Hollywood. They are the real heroes. My columns were getting choppy. Emi needed to go home to pack. She wasn’t going to get upset with me for this is she?  She’s not allowed, right?  I was looking for Tyler. I never make a big fuss over Tyler. I’m not high maintenance. She came over to me.  We’re way out there. Never been to this part of the cemetery. The tree we were near was definitely too far. I told her I don’t really care for this place. I called my mom. She tells me it’s about 15 feet up from the road right before it splits. She was wrong. Fifteen feet up is the first row. Maybe fifteen feet falls between the first or second. If it was she would say first or second row. That’s what you would remember. It’s really about fifty feet up. Right in the middle of this enormous hill. I could see all those people from my life and how surreal it was. The pretty girls I was afraid to talk to in high school were at my brother’s funeral. I watched them play volleyball. Now they were here. Everyone was here. All three of my mom’s husbands. Every fucking body was fucking there. People I hated and loved. Hundreds of worlds. The Mormons. Tons of Mormons. I was still Mormon back then. I hadn’t gone on a mission. I was wearing the suit that was purchased to be worn on my mission.  I had a small laugh with Jeff when I almost tripped. I stepped on the AstroTurf and slipped down a foot because a hole was dug for the purpose of laying that fucking thing into the ground.  I had a laugh with Jeff and abruptly stopped to ask myself if what I had done was wrong?  I was allowed a laugh right?  This was my brother, right?  Do these people think I’m heartless?  I can have a laugh.  I’m allowed. 

 A older lady approached us.  She was Asian and had broken English.  She could tell I couldn’t find the grave I was looking for.  She asked for his name. Tyler Litchfield. 

 We got in Emi’s car. Right after we exited the cemetery, I told her to pull over.  She asked why, then she saw the tears. I threw myself across the seat and wrapped my arm around her neck and I told her that he wanted me to play baseball. He was so mad when he found out I didn’t try out my junior year. I told him I wasn’t good enough and he told me I was full of shit. Junior year you have to make varsity. The previous two years I got cut from JV. He told me to have some damn confidence. He played catch with me and he got furious when he could tell I was taking it easy on him.  I threw a hard one and it hit him in the neck. That was so scary. I wondered for a second if I broke something. It hit him in the neck and he just went inside. I asked him if he was mad at me. He told me to shut up.



Narragansett Bay

Those nights in Kansas, the first area of my mission, I would dream myself to sleep- just seven years into the future.  I’m moving into a nice three bedroom house on the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.  I had visited Rhode Island when I was ten, and then again when I was fifteen.  Tyler came the second time.  He came a few days later because he had cancer camp- as he did every summer.  {he loved that place}  I remember watching him walk off the plane.  It was a small plane, so he walked down the stairs like I had seen and envied in old movies.  We saw him from the window.  Why was this such a good memory?  Tyler in his Hawaiian shirt and backpack.  My Grandparents and I had the luxury of looking at him before he knew where we were.  He was looking around, taking things in.  All the while we knew everything. We had plans. He didn’t need to worry.

He looked good.  This was the healthiest he’d been in years.  We walked around Newport together. Both awed by gorgeous tanned women in their early twenties.  We were both hopeless with women. It was there I saw the couple in their fifties on an immaculate little sailboat.  The man knew exactly what he was doing with the ropes and things. Lines, Grandpa would correct. Once a rope enters a ship, it becomes a line.

That was my goal.  I would work hard all my life, to have that pretty wife and shiny boat. The Narragansett Bay was perfect. It was solidified a few months later when I read in English class that John Smith was all over the very same Naragansett Bay. I was born to have that house, a high quality three bedroom, but not gaudy. 

I wasn’t going to pour all my money into a huge mansion.  I was going to spend money on things that made me and the family happy. The boat that sat in the water just beyond the back yard.  House, lawn, and boat in the water. Why in the world wasn’t this everybody’s dream?  The freedom of immediate transportation on both land and sea.  The kids would BEG me to take them out on the boat!  We would take that boat everywhere, the open ocean!

At the beginning of my mission, I would dream myself to sleep thinking about this house and my new wife.  She’s toned and tall.  There are boxes on the floor of this empty, wonderful new home.  She takes a break from unpacking to squeeze me.  I pick her up and hold her there.  She makes her calves parallel to the hard wood floor.  They don’t have hard wood floors in California. She loves me so much.  I am a stockbroker.  We have been saving for this house.  I am going to toss wiffle balls to our son as he perfects his swing on the back grass.  He will be more coordinated than I. The reflection of the sun is a spiderweb on the Narragansett Bay.

Mostly just the squeezing in the living room of the house though.  That’s the dream.  She loves me so much.


Seven years later, just before before Sinco De Mayo, I’m on the couch with my roommate Lillian and I tell her I know what will be on the cover of my book- a picture of a missionary (suit and tie) with a bikini top dangling from his fingers as he gawks at a topless blond.  I tell her this is for the sensationalists, this is to sell it, the American Pie version of my story. They can make a movie about it, I don’t even care if they bastardize it anymore. Just pay me. Daring, shocking, laugh-out-loud. I explain to Lilly that I will be listed as the author, though in smaller writing, it’s clear that I needed some assistance from a ghost writer compiling this tell-all: With Lillian–  She  loves it.  It’s so neo-postmodern. I love it. I  am attention-starved, impressing my teacher, her approval is addictive.

On May Sixth, she’s at the entrance to my room and the Weezer posters are still on the floor. I moved in almost a month ago.  I call attention to that, tell her I’m not sure what my plan is.  She says it’s OK, it’s so neo-postmodern.

I should have called her Lilly more. Lillian is not lighthearted.


(circa 2008)

I know what you meant when you said shit, Elder F.  I know.  You don’t want to be here anymore, right?  You want to go home right?  I know you go home in two months, but you don’t want to go home to the parade and showers right?  You want to go home quietly, you want to take that bus in the night.  Listen, you know Elder H, the baseball player, he was telling me about his Greenie you know.  He told me that his greenie was cool but that he doesn’t get it, and I just sat there quietly and asked “Get what?”  And he said “you know.”  And I asked “what.”  I was such a pussy, I lied to his face.  We just ended it right there.  We keep writing those letters home and stuff you know and trying to baptize.  We tell them it’s good that so and so is going back to church.  I hear my brother’s going back to church.  Two years ago my mom caught him naked in the hallway and she asked him what he was doing there, holding his junk and he couldn’t find a goddamn reason why she was interrogating him, and now he’s off drugs and everyone’s singing praises and I’m like this authority figure out here, doing the real work, converting people and in my letters, I just nod my head and smile and tell them to thank God . And Elder H, the baseball player, he just kind of dropped it.  You know Elder Harold right, Runaway Harold, they called him?  He got sent home, he was so crazy.  I know why you said Shit. Elder F.  I know why you said shit.  It’s why I cried into my pillow when I was out only a couple of months and I convinced myself it was because I was having trouble learning the discussions.  I know what Elder H, the baseball player was saying when he told me that his greenie doesn’t get it and I know why Harold tried to run away and I know you know too.

    Cuz they don’t tell us anything, do they?  Especially us, the Stateside ones, We didn’t get into BYU and we aren’t learning a foreign language and we didn’t exactly go into the MTC the day we turned 19, did we?  The mission is even more perfect for us, isn’t it?  Gives us something to do, something to accomplish for once in our damned lives, right?  We aren’t condescending to some third-world nation.  They send us right here, might as well send us to the next town over and they don’t tell us a goddamn thing other than they wish they could go again, they say it’ll be the hardest time of our lives but also the best, right?  You ever figure that one out?  They speak of the glory of waking up at 6:30 every morning and studying and teaching and getting doors slammed in our face.  But they didn’t tell us everything did they?  They didn’t tell us that the same rules apply here as on the outside, that salesman baptize and the poor, stuttering imbeciles, well, they try so hard.

    You know what the baseball player was saying right?  His greenie doesn’t get that it’s bullshit!  It’s all bullshit!  There’s no fucking God and there are no answered prayers.  Lets go home.  L can come, We’ll take J, and of course the baseball player.  We’ll all live together, hell, we’re all from California. We’ll start a crazy business like we talk about.  We’ll be stockbrokers.   

Two Christmases

(circa 2008)

After cleanin up all the wrap, we head out door

We’re leavin to meet Mom off exit four

Stop and get a Big Gulp before we meet halfway

Don’t wanna hear your whinin’/ not on Christmas day


double the presents

double the family

double the bad food

double the granny

double the driving

double the fun

Can’t fuckin wait till these two Christmases are done.

Can’t wait till these Christmases are over and done.


 I’d rather be at home or out with my friends

My step-Dad’s step-Dad’s givin’ me the bends

Can I have a burger? This ham really sucks

But I’ve got two Christmases, I’m makin the big bucks!


 You’re so lucky you get two sets of gifts

You’re so lucky/ why you havin such a fit

You’re so lucky you get two sets of gifts

You’re so lucky/ don’t wanna hear any shit

A letter To My Cousin On A Mission

circa 2008

My favorite band you turned me onto has to be Say Hi To Your Mom.  I’m listening to it right now.  It makes me wish I could bundle up and walk around Manhattan all day long listening to them and watching people on the subways and looking up at the cloudy sky hoping to see Conan O’brien and thinking about Seattle and the time we drove to that restautant The Boat House to see David and we got lost, that was when I first heard Say Hi to Your Mom and we passed Wallingford and we both said it in a British accent at the same time and you told me that it actually wasn’t much of a coincidence because it’s natural to say wallingford in a British way and filming stupid video’s with you and Eli (the star of the show, remember when he said “It’s the middle of the night yo!”) and walking down the railroad tracks at night with you & Lizzie & hearing crazy sounds in the bushes and kicking aside empty 40 oz bottles of beer and laughing about how crazy you are like the day you were baptized and you were crazy as usual and you harassed the Ice cream man, banging on the side of the truck accusing him of being a “Joanna Witness” and birthday parties at the family fun center and feeling awkward next to the local Escondidans as we pumped a Venti cup of quarters into Mortal Kombat 27 wondering when they wouldn’t be able to take it anymore and stab us, running off with the silver coins and did a baby drown in the fountain? And did a girl live in the school house or was it a family? And remember how your Dad asked Patty how many months pregnant she was?  I didn’t get into Ricks when I first moved up there and applied because I didn’t send my transcripts or something.  Your mom and Megan took me out to breakfast at a bagel place by the old Acapulco fresh one Saturday morning to discuss what I was going to do. The plan was, I was going to go to BCC. Bellevue Community College. I even took some test.  Megan came into the fun center and told me that I got a perfect score on the English part. I could enroll in any English class I wanted.  A few days later I was out in the rain by the bridge next to the parking lot and there was hay all over the ground for some reason because even though the Fun Center was open by then, there was still all kinds of stuff to do to finish with construction and I get a call over the radio from your Dad telling me to come to his office all serious and I go up there and he tells me to have a seat and he tells me I got into Ricks because Bishop Mugleston had a talk with the folks up there.  I went on a couple walks with Mugleston. I always liked him. I remember the first time I met his son Drew he was like twelve and he was always adjusting his hat and we got in the van and went to Marymore Parkor something, Holy Cow you can’t beat the summers in Seattle. He was like “Sister Short, I thought of this invention” and he told your mom what it was and I never in my life met a person who made the most of being twelve years old like he did.  I’ll think about the time we were playing basketball at the church and six-year-old Tucker in the middle of an intense play found a resemblance between me and… “y y you look like the guy from grease.”  You know Tucker’s like a supreme football player?  He plays on both sides of the ball.  He scores touchdowns and after the game at Mcdonald’s people come up to him and say “good game Short.”  When you played baseball you were the only one that swung at anything close, you were like Vlad Guerrero. I remember way back in Mount Carmel days, the summer before my eighth grade, you were six. The summer we planned our trip around the world, that we’d take when we were adults. We went to that park by the elementary school and I climbed up on the dugout with my shirt off and these kids rode by on bicycles and called me Fat Lard.  I remember before my mission Adam was up there in Seattle and we watched Monty Python and the holy grail 140 times and we never stopped quoting it and it even carried over into my letters on my mission for like the first six months.