Visual Flight Rules Excerpt

The Hungry Ghost

A novel by

Michel David Lowe


I do not step on cracks.

It’s not what you think, that stupid nursery rhyme about breaking your back.  Not even the one where you break your mother’s back, either.  Trust me, my mother’s back was fine till the day she died.  Now if they had one about step on a crack and your old lady’s liver will pickle like a kosher dill, I might put some stock in it.  It’s a cliché to say she drank like a fish because I’m pretty sure fish don’t drink Old Crow or Old Granddad or any of that five bucks a gallon rot gut.  Not that she limited herself to cheap whisky.  She’d drink anything that came from the package store.  I think my mother would drink lighter fluid if it had a tax stamp on it.  Make a nice screwdriver.

But I digress.

This isn’t about drinking or my mother’s drinking or her liver or even her back.

It’s about cracks.  Cracks on the sidewalk, cracks on the floor, I don’t care – I just don’t step on them.  Sometimes you can’t help it.  Like if some ass wipe backed a cement mixer over a driveway, there’s no way to miss some of them.  But there are policies, methods and procedures, little rules that you live by.  And that’s one of mine.

There’s all kind of rules.

Don’t let the flag hit the ground.

Don’t play golf in a thunderstorm for Christ sake.

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape; you don’t spit into the wind.  Blah blah blah.

Here’s another rule: it’s the water spray that cleans the bowls in the dishwasher, not the detergent brand or the spot remover or some kind of magical ionic spew.  Stacking a plate in front of a bowl – you just know that bowl’s gonna come out of the dishwasher with baked on oatmeal.


Vincent Vega, no mean philosopher he, said there’s a rule against fucking with a guy’s car and that’s true.

And here’s another little rule ‘o life: don’t shit in your own nest.  Seems obvious, but at the same time awfully underappreciated if you ask me.

What’s the first rule every rookie cop learns on the job?  Look for the boyfriend.  Look for the girlfriend.  Look for the kid.  Look for mom and dad.

Something happens, the perp is most likely somebody real close to the victim.

The TV’s missing and nobody’s seen young William Robert all week?  Well…it could be some random burglar just happened to pick this roachy little apartment for an afternoon B&E.  But then Billy Bob turns up in the park and he’s crack-fucked out of his tiny little brain.  Shocked.  Shocked!

Now Bobby’s got a .38 caliber hole in his chest, check the girlfriend for GSR.

A book of blank POs is missing from the purchasing department and Mary Beth in Accounts Payable is driving a new BMW?  You-know-what in the you-know-where.

It’s a rule.

Don’t step on cracks.  Big rule.  And I don’t step on ‘em.  I don’t shit in my nest, either.  But there’s really no connection between cracks and nest-shitting.  I’m just giving you some examples of rules, my rules.

When I was in college I had this lit class that should have been called “Existentialism 101.”  It was nothing but Hemmingway and Camus leavened with Joseph Conrad and TS Elliot, a little ee cummings on the side.  I guess today Cormac McCarthy would be in there, too.  Heroes and nowhere men.  But the thin red line that ran through the whole semester was you have to have a personal code of conduct.  Rules, in other words.

So here’s another one of mine: you stick up for your friends.

If a person is your friend, you watch his back, you take his side.  Even if he deserves to have the shit kicked out of him, when a stranger is beating down on your buddy, you rescue the poor son of a bitch.  He’s your buddy.  Go listen to the Who’s Behind Blue Eye” sometime.

You disagree?

Sorry, and fuck yourself.  It’s a rule.

So sticking up for your buddy is how I came to be a murder suspect and a murder victim.

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