The mimeographer

An Exobiography: True Stories Told Well

These are true stories. They’ve been shared with me in conversation, and I’ve rewritten them as vignettes. For more about this project, including an explanation of what an “exobiography” means, please read the foreword at the top of this page.   

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The Mimeographer

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There are times when it seems everyone you touch dies. Like the day of the big snowstorm. I was new to the force, riding with Martin in the cruiser, when a woman flagged us down at Oppenheimer Park. She was crouched before a half-capsized Home Depot shopping cart that formed the west wall of her shelter. The rest looked mostly plywood. She had these old acrylic blankets and blue and orange tarps over the whole thing. When we approached, she screamed at me. Said she couldn’t take her cart into a shelter. Said she was cold, needed a light for her candles. Martin passed her his lighter. Keep it, he said.

Three hours later, end of shift, we heard about a fire at Oppenheimer Park. We shot back there and sure enough the shelter was in flames. She was inside, but from the smell we could tell it was over.

A Monastery in Cappadocia

We were two young women away from our families for the first time and we were eager and reckless. In Cappadocia, we rode with unknown men on dirt bikes to an ancient monastery. They gave us a silent tour because they didn’t speak English, but it was interesting and it was beautiful. And then we had tea. One man fetched a radio and they danced—not with us, but for us. Later, we danced with them.

That night, they brought us back on their motorcycles, kissed us on our cheeks, and left us wordless in the dark.


One time, I was crawling around this dead escort’s apartment trying to find her pet rabbit that had escaped into the walls and all I could think was, are you fucking kidding me?

A Safe Ride Home

One night, I get this girl in my truck and she’s wasted out of her mind. I gotta tow her car all the way to Aldergrove from Vancouver. She has a hissy fit because I won’t stop the tow truck on the side of the road for her to go. She keeps yelling about the “little girls’ room.” Anyway, we’re on the Pattulo Bridge, so it’s just not safe.

But she’s crying, yelling, so once I’m off the bridge I pull over on the side of the highway by 160th. She jumps out of my truck real fast, squats beside the door—and takes a shit. Now, a drunk needing to piss is not unusual but crapping on the side of the highway’s a new one.

When she’s done, she’s like, “do you have any paper towel or toilet paper?” And I’m like, “No—that’s why I told you to wait for a gas station.” So now she’s in tears again, but she pulls em up and gets back in the truck. And then the smell hits me.

I just want to get her home and out of my truck—it can’t get any worse. But sure enough, once we start driving, she rolls down the window and starts puking. You gotta keep in mind that I’m driving at speed on a highway, so all that puke sprays way back, misses my truck, and covers the side of her car. Which is only fair.

Thing is, in the beginning she offered me sex. Really: she did. You’d be surprised how many offers we get from tow customers. But I’m a gentleman.

A Hospital in West Virginia

One time, a shootout happened in the maternity ward because the husband and the boyfriend both arrived during the birth. They shot at each other while she delivered someone’s baby.

Chihuahua Blood

As a young criminal attorney, I once defended a guy charged with felony animal abuse. The trial hinged on blood splatter. My client’s girlfriend claimed he had twisted off her Chihuahua’s head and chucked the animal at her while she was standing on the porch.

The judge couldn’t stop laughing because I entered pictures of the porch and the bloodied sidewalk into evidence.

Heat Seeker

The parents kept the boy locked away till he was five years old so he didn’t know what to do in wide open spaces. No sense of boundaries, you know?

Anyway, after he was removed from his family and placed in protective custody, some dumbass staff member brought him to a field to play hide and go seek. It took helicopters with heat-seeking cameras five hours to find him.

The Submariner

I spent twenty-five years in the navy and fifteen of those years on submarines. Once, aboard the USS Lincoln, a nuclear sub, I took a nap after we collided with a cargo ship and sank to seventeen thousand feet. Another time, I spent days staring through an undersea camera as we glided under polar ice near the Arctic Circle. On account of the refracted sunlight, the ice looked green—like miles upon miles of well-trimmed, upside-down lawn.

West Virginia Penitentiary Riot, New Year’s Day, 1986

Another guard and I were on the tower seven roof when we heard screamin. Screamin and screamin. It was, like, real upsetting. We didn’t know who it was. Later we learned that three inmates died that day. One man was cut from sternum to cock for being a snitch. He lived, but they opened him up good. So, yeah. It is what it is.

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