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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Curs the Fear

First of the Year 2014

Dear Cassi,

I can feel it, the stink of fear welling up in my gut as I put on that blue uniform and make my way to work. My hands are shaking and my body is numb. I looked at my scarred face and remember the events of the previous morning wishing the attack hadn’t happened.

I was injured by a client. I work with the homeless. I work with drug addicts and violent cases and knew that this was a likely scenario. The only thing is that I hadn’t expected the safety measures at my work to fail leaving me alone to deal with the event.

I was injured on the morning of the 31st of December and went to the Emergency Room to get checked out. I came back to work the night of the 31st cursing myself for the fear and the pain. I was cursing myself for the feeling in my gut that made it hard to go on.

I thought I was stronger than this, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Monday, December 21, 2015


The battered old Pork Chop
 sits in the sun.
This is another letter concerning my dearly departed pet Pork Chop who was first found wandering down my street.

Getting these things posted is my form of grieving I guess. I only had the old boy for seven or eight months I think, but I connected with him. We had both suffered so much.

9th November 2013
Dear Cassi,
I took Pork Chop back to the vet today just like they told me to and it was a dreaded expense. I arrived early and so walked the old dog in the parking lot until they open. I bled the wound on his face and got blood on my hands but this was little compared to what was to come.
They told me his weight was because of a thyroid condition and that he had some issues with his liver that need to be watched. That was all and well but they had to take him for the day to perform the operation. I just hope that when this is over he’ll be a happy dog once again.

I came back to the vet at around four thirty and it took them some time to collect my dog. This was all right as I spend my time talking up the receptionist who took something of an interest in me. I should have asked her out, but the daunting cost of vet bills made me think of other things. 
As I waited three young folks came in wanting to see the body of a pet that had passed and was ready for cremation. It was a man and two women that I took to be highs schoolers. The two young women ood and awed over my wounded dog but he did scare them deeply when he shook his head and sprayed blood all over the floor. The two girls gave Pork Chop a few pats and wished him well.
He did this again when he came home leaving something of a mess.  This rather bothered Pickle who recoiled at the sight of blood, but I’ve seen enough blood in my life so that it never bothers me. After all the old dog has suffered I wish he could have a comfortable life but as we both know it is never so simple.

Greet the challenges as they come, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal
A closeup of the dog's face

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Only the Guilty

27th September 2013
Dear Cassi,
I was roused today by Pickle saying that a woman who lives down the street had found a dead cat that they believed belonged to me. He took this to mean Hyde, and I asked him to get the location of the body for my inspection. I drew from bed in a numb way and seeing Caramel un-impacted by the supposed loss of his brother I took to learn the truth before believing.
As I left my door I found Hyde coming from under my car and lifting this beloved animal to my shoulder showed Pickle that he was very much alive. With some relief I went to see what cat they had meant and found a long dead animal on my neighbor’s property.
It was a large, black and white, long harried cat who I had seen from time to time. The body was unmarred by predation and the animal appeared to have died right where it lay.
This was a cryptic reminder of the world we live in. Could it have been that my neighbor killed this animal? Had it died of drinking some car fluid? Who knows? Only the guilty.

Stay safe, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Backett: Review

Some say 'Waiting for Godot' by Samuel Beckett is the greatest play of the 20th century. To be honest I have never read a play as relevant to the common man as this one, and I question if I will ever find it's equal. 

The premise so that of extreme simplicity, two men waiting for the absent Godot as they contemplate the brutality of their world, suicide, and their friendship.

They live in a world where slavery is legal and human life has no value. In dead, we find in this story a master going to fair to sell his lave as one may do an older horse and at least one of the two protagonists, I can't call them heroes, asking about the slave's position with his owner as if he would like to have this lowly state.

This is a play about all of us at the bottom of the world hoping for our chance to go do something better.
Vladimir and Estragon or Didi and Gogo as they call each other, are victims as much of themselves as they are from the hard world they live in and the question is why do they stay together and in this place waiting.

When I look at these names, and the author would tell me my idea is as good as the next, I see to possibilities. Didi and Gogo can be seen as Did I and Go Go or Did it(taking Godot's T) and Go Go. This would imply that the questioning of the self or a statement of gilt and then the push to move even in that question.  

In other words, I believe these to are like most of us waiting to Go Do something in their lives. Haven't we all then been waiting for Godot? Have you ever waited to ask that someone out, or until you got a better job? So many common people spend their lives waiting for Godot but if we should keep waiting is a question only we can answer for ourselves. 

Who should read this play?: All the humans who can.

Total Books Read: 11 of 5,000

Pages: 61

Total Pages Read for 'The 5,000 Project': 2,036

Monday, December 14, 2015

Make the Best of Life

16th September 2013
Dear Cassi,
I was roused today by Pickles calling me to tell me that Pork shop had injured his leg, but when I got out of bed the overweight Labrador was walking fine. I gave the old dog a pat on the head and went about my day as normal.
I took him for a short walk after walking the Doberman and Pork chop could hardly make it down the street. The Labrador could hardly walk when I found him wandering the streets and even now struggles with rising and sitting, so this gave me no cause to worry over the big blob of brown fur.
As the sun set I took it as a time to give the dog an evening walk, but as I stroked his coat to wake him I felt something like mud in his fur. On investigation I found what looked like an old puncture were the skin had died and left a bald spot that now looked inflamed. I probed this some and removed clods of blood stained fur until I could see the skin clearly.
The area was swollen and red looking something like a boil and I pressed it seen blood and infection make its way free until the wound was less bulging. Then on the dog’s leg I found a lump that burst in my hand. A hot pink sludge covered my fingers, but I could tell the wound was still harboring fester, and so I pressed with my poor dog giving out a small whimper.
The gore on my hands was unsettling and my old lab will have some hard days to come but the condition is not life threatening.  This dog has lived a hard life that left him with scars and places that will grow pus for years. Still, he is a happy old thing and that is all we can hope for.

Make the best of life, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Small Soul

Little Moo shortly after being adopted. You can 
see the mucus coming from her mouth and 
staining the fur on her shoulder.
10th December 2015
Dear Cassi,

A small soul has laid to rest this day for the very last time. My black and white cat, Little Moo, has breathed her last. I knew it would be soon as the infection in her jaw proved incurable. No matter how many antibiotics I gave her the mucus would return.

Yesterday morning I found that instead of a green lining round the little cats mouth there was a fiery red expanse. For the last month I had been trying to treat her with flea spray and it had done no good so it was at this moment I had no choice but to bathe her.

I remember the vet having said I should think of putting her down. It didn’t feel right. She was a tough girl and deserved every second of life she could fight through. So I took my sick cat and gave her a warm bath than sat with her for an hour or two rubbing the water from her fur.

She purred to me as the three remaining kittens sat at my feet. As the poor cat dried she seemed to strengthen, and so I put her to bed in the back bathroom where she has always slept.

This morning I gave her the pain medication and found she could hardly move on her own. There was little I could do and I had to take Pickle to his appointment. I got home and slept. I steel keep the hours I kept when I had a job sleeping mostly during the day. I’m not sure why, I just feel more active at night.
Little Moo on antibiotics looking like a normal healthy animal.

When I woke at six in the evening I checked and found the cat dead. Little Moo still had her eyes open and look little different from her state in life save that her body was cold. I picked her up and held her for a long moment hoping that I was wrong, hoping that there was some life left in the frail form, but I found none.

Did I do the right thing, Cassi? I found that cat half starved to death in a parking lot. I took months getting her to trust me and then taking her home only to have to earn her trust over and over again.

In the end I could do little to save the frail cat, but was she so much better off in my home and not in that parking lot? I did my best for that little creature and here she is no different in the end.

So you tell me, did I do the right thing?

Richard Leland Neal

Monday, December 7, 2015


The animal I talk about in this letter is long dead but he died in his sleep. It was

a peaceful death for a much loved animal and I do miss him so.
8th November 2013

Dear Cassi,

I went to the vet today because Pork Chop had a wound on the side of his face. I found it a few days ago as a lump down near his chin and when I put pressure on it the thing burst covering my hand with blood. He’s had bleeding wounds before so I thought very little of this but last night I noted a smell coming from the area.

My first thought was to wash the wound but that did almost nothing. The smell was gone for a few hours but came back before I left for work that night. So this morning when I came home I loaded the dog into the car and was there as the vet opened.

They told me that he had ulcerated tumors around where the pit-bull had mulled him and they had to be removed. This would run me more than a thousand dollars but Pork Chop needed it.

They took a blood sample and told me to come back the next day. That alone ran me two hundred dollars. I have to admit then I wasn’t expecting this but at least I know the poor dog will get what he needs. Ken told me he wouldn’t live this long but well he defied the odds I guess.

It comes to me that people are always telling me my pets are going to die. What’s up with that? Why is everyone so dismal?

Take it as it comes, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Sunday, December 6, 2015

List of Souls

5th December 2015

Dear Sister Margaret,

Little has changed since our last correspondence. I still look for a job and I have still heard nothing regarding my claim with Labor Enforcement. We are still working on our second turkey of the season and I still have three kittens to find homes for. Danny never accepted one and if she truly wants the animal I cannot say. If she does she has not picked her cat.

As expected, I have still not heard back from Raf regarding my script. I have to say it is a sore spot with me how few folks will read my work. They never rejected it because of quality but just never get around to putting eyes to words. It’s the oddest kind of lonely to live in a world where your ideas are shut up in your head even after you write them down.

I feel like a failure, but I failed to make the right friends I guess. Then every time I see some of my oldest friends I feel the failure cut at me because of them. I have a friend who is an actress and I wish I could better her life with my film. I think her work is in insurance, but acting is in her blood, and her advocacy for the homeless is noble. Then I have a friend who has struggled with employment since he lost his book shop. I’ve always wished I could open a book shop for him.

Well, I imagine it would be more of a bookshop with a cafĂ©. It’s one of those fond little thoughts of a fellow who always wanted to find his place in words and never did.

That’s kind of my life, Margaret, just a list of souls calling out for help, and me with no help to give. My dreams to me are like headstones in a long forgotten graveyard, and I just a soul trapped by its iron fence posts.

Stay safe,

Richard Leland Neal

Monday, November 23, 2015


22nd November 2015
Dear Sister Margaret,

My hope is that my last load of recyclables found you easily. I often forget how heavy the bags can be and I still question if I should save them. I wash out my cans and bottles for you out of habit I guess. I have no problem with bringing them down once or twice a month, but I doubt management would be happy about an ex-employee coming by in that regard.  

In related news I learned on Thursday that the company will be fighting my unemployment benefits, likely with some forged documents, and I will not know the outcome until the following week. This may be delayed by thanksgiving or I may get bad news for my holiday.  Either way I spend the day alone and in contemplation.

I have filed a complaint of retaliation with Labor Enforcement and they may rule my termination retaliatory in nature. I can’t say how that will help me. Perhaps they will need to give me my job back or pay out a settlement. To be honest, I don’t know if I want to be back there dealing with all that mess again, but we all do what we do, and life gets on with itself.

Further along, three of the kittens have been homed, and I still have two maybes. If I had room for another cat I’d keep one, but I can’t afford the pets I have. Doing the right thing has never profited me but good men die hard.

The last thing I have to talk about is, well, I don’t like asking for favors, but if you could remind Raf to read the script I gave him I would appreciate it greatly. He promised me his opinion and has been sitting on the thing for months. It’s not that I think he can help me with it or anything like that, but he did make a promise.

My life is so full of broken promises that I’ve learned not to let things like that go. It would be great if he knew who or how to get the thing made, but I don’t think he does.

I hope you are doing better than I,

Richard Leland Neal

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Two Days

20th November 2015

Dear Cassi,

It was yesterday that I learned that the company would fight my unemployment benefits and yesterday that I drew four pages of comics. Then today that I drew another four. I ended my work four Issues away from being caught up on Random Street theater and nine issues away from being caught up on Jonny American.

The sun was gone from the sky and two of the remaining kittens, Bob Denver and
Nimh, slept on my drafting desk offering up another opportunity for a photograph. It came to me that the news of the fight had been great motivation, but I have been here before.  I’ve been to the place where I had everything under control and was a single page of drafting away from being caught up. Then I fell back into depression and had to start over.

Truth be told, it would be better to post late every day than to post everything now and be baron for another few days or weeks. The only real problem is that many of the comics I’ve drawn are Halloween themed and that was twenty days ago. Readers need a reason to come back every day and I want to give them that reason.

Still, I am so tired. I slept part of the day then woke and worked. I slept again leaving many of the hours of sunlight behind me. Two days of hard work when I should have had two weeks of hard work to bring things back to the now. I don’t know, Cassi, may be this art business just isn’t for me.

Well, midnight strikes and I have work to do, so, off I go again.

Stay safe, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Anniversary Angus

5th December 2014
Dear Cassi,
It’s funny how things get turned around. Yesterday Pickle took me out for the anniversary of my birth and, as is my custom, I permitted him to choose the restaurant.
Let’s be clear that he needed me to take him to the store and that when I take him to the store he pays by taking me to eat. I never press this issue. We go where he wants to go and eat what he wants to eat. I just drive. In this manner he cannot legitimately call me overtaxing or a burden.
In any case, Pickle decided on Black Angus Steakhouse because he had a coupon for the place. I shrugged, and said I didn’t care if we went to the Costco food court. I made a few jokes about Angus sounding like anus, and Pickle took offence.
He said I was calling him an anus, and I burst out laughing. A few years ago we had gone to that same restaurant and he had called me the same thing only with far ruder the tone. It was on his birthday and he was having the most expensive thing on the menu.

Some folks take you for granted,

Richard Leland Neal

Thursday, November 5, 2015


4th November 2015

Hay Lee,

I’m not a man to ask for favors normally because they never get done, but I’m in something of a bind here. By now you have to know about the Kittens I got stuck with, well, there were about four employees that wanted one and I can’t go calling them.

Emma and Raf both said they wanted a kitten, the music teacher as well, and Danny. Danny is just not calling me back but the other three I have no way of contacting. I was wondering if you could have a word with any of these folks and see if we could set up a time and place for them to get their cats.

I mean, being unemployed and all I have to get these little fur balls out of my hair before they eat me broke. If I could unload the four I’d only have two left to look after and that would make my life just so much easier. It’s not that I don’t love having them around, but now I need to focus on looking for another job. That and the things are ripping up my legs something awful.

Oh yes, and I save recyclables for sister Margret and I figure I’d still bring them to her but I’m sure I’m not permitted on property. I guess we should be asking what to do about that.

The last thing is kind of a long shot, I was wondering if you knew who could put me in touch with Marni. I have a question that only three people on this earth can answer and she is one of those three. I honestly don’t think you can, but I have to ask to settle my mind.

Thanks bro,


Monday, November 2, 2015

It Happened Again

31st October 2015

Dear Cassi,

Well, it happened again. I’m jobless for the second time in five years and the fourth time in my life. I loved what I did, but hated who I did it with and that’s kind of why I don’t feel so bad. I don’t know, maybe I’m still numb to it, but the world has dealt me another bad hand and here I am working through it again.

They FedExed me a letter letting me know I was no longer an employee with two checks for my last weeks and one my vacation. They had this all figured out, they’d get me eventually. On the one hand now I need a job and on the other they have to live working at that place.

My last supervisor used to say that she hadn’t gotten a raise in eight years. That made her a bitter old nut with anger problems. I imagine all the bits I held in place will fall apart and then what will they be left with?

Still, in a month or two I will be forgotten and that place will still be running like it always has. That’s the world for you. Hard work doesn’t keep a man in this economy.

I know that if nothing else I should be using this time to catch up on things. I mean, If I had kept working all that hard before this maybe I would be walking away with a smile on my face saying ‘screw it, I have better things to do’.

If there is one thing people have said to me it is that one should see the opportunity in every situation, and here is a situation all right. So what do I do? Make all the videos that I have been meaning to make, draw the comics I’ve written, get all that business taken care of like I meant to do all this time.

I guess I should put in that same forty hour work week like I had before only now I’ll be doing the things I enjoy. The only thing is that the things I enjoy have never come with a pay check.

Stay Strong, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Monday, October 26, 2015

Kitten Poop

20th October 2015
Dear Cassi,

The kittens have had problems with constipation and, once I get them going, diarrhea. I woke yesterday morning to find them covered in excrement and trying to crawl out of their box. I set them in a new box which, quickly became soiled, and got an hour or so more sleep.

As I wakened I fed the kittens, but found I needed to mix more formula and, in thinking, decided I would risk giving the things a wash. Well, the sink was full. A result of my poor sleeping and hard work. I closed my eyes and squared my shoulders. There was nothing for it but to get the dishes done.

I must have set a record for loading and offloading a dishwasher. The mason jars I used to mix cat formula were a priority, and the blender I had used the day before had a few tomato stains. I mixed for the kittens a special formula with a small amount of plain yogurt to help them evacuate. 

I first washed rusty and wrapped him in rayon shammy. The orange felt caught the fleas and trapped them but they ran from the wet feline. His near twin Gizmo followed, and the two waterlogged animals huddled together in my arms until I was satisfied that they were dry.

Stripe and Bob Denver were the nest kittens to get the treatment, and so I washed them and held them repeating what I had done before. Bob was the hardest being as he has the worst of the bowel problems. I wiped his end bits over and over getting more out of him until I was sure he was clear.

With the four kittens huddling together and rather dry I washed Nimbus and Nimh then took to watching videos while keeping the cats warm by holding them.

Pickle came home and nearly fellow over dead when he saw only four kittens in the box, but when he came to tell me I showed him the two still in my arms. I packed all six together and set them on my bed trying to get some more sleep.

They woke me again some hours later with cries for food and kitten farts leaving the pet pad in their box brown again. I set at the feeding and cleaning but once again Pickle had stacked the kitchen table with so much that I could hardly put the pet pad down and the thrashing of kittens knocked it off the table from time to time.

I made it out of the house today just in time to get to work but without my water bottle or work ID. Life kicked me in the teeth and reminded me to stay on top of things. Well, I should know that by now.

Stay strong, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In a Name

A litter of kittens just over three weeks old huddling together.

16th October 2015

Dear Cassi,

Yesterday I was wakened by a disturbing text message telling me to bring my cat carriers to work as a litter of kittens had been discovered on property.

Now I can’t talk about the rigors of cats at work, but it is enough to say that I got a group of six, three week old, kittens home at the end of my work day and had to break out the formula. The bottle I had proved useless as the cats would not suckle at it and no matter how many holes I made in the nipple it would not give enough milk.

I fed the kittens with a syringe and then with an eye dropper. Both
Gizmo sits on his brother, Rusty's, back.
were a messy affair, but the animals would not take food from the bowl. One of my coworkers had laid claim to a kitten which she dubbed Rusty.

This fellow was a ginger cat with a brother who we named Gismo. Rather Pickle named him Gizmo as Pickle had never the opportunity to name an animal and was keen to do so this day.

There was a third male that Pickle wanted to name ‘Adversity’ but as we have no intent on keeping this animal I rejected this off hand as being too long and too sad. So he then tried ‘Denver’ in the honor of Bob Denver who played Gilligan on ‘Gilligan’s Island’. I took to calling this animal
Stripe plays as Bob Denver contemplates his existence.
Bob and so he is Bob Denver.

Now the first sister, a sad looking dark tortoise shell colored cat, has an orange stripe down her forehead. For this sister to Gizmo I found the name stripe to be right fitting. Stripe
 is a sad looking thing with pleading eyes that cut into your soul.

In this there was a gray kitten I called Nimbus for her cloud like appearance and her darker sister I called Nimh. Nimbus is fluffy and gray with a lighter voice then her sister Nimh. Now, Nimh, the darkest cat, has stripes that get lost in the dark of her pelt, and I feel she keeps secrets. This is why I call her Nimh as “The Secrets of Nimh” was a beloved story of my youth.

Know what is in a name, little sister,

Richard Leland Neal

Nimbus floats over her sister Nimh.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Moonchildren By Michael Weller: Review

Moonchildren is a coming of age story for a group of college grad students who are facing the possibility of a draft and getting shipped off to fight in Vietnam. 
It accurately depicts the gravity tension and of that time in American life. The story elements are second to character building and skit like comedy. There are running jokes and odd little notions.
The major down side of this play is that it would be hard to produce. There is a working refrigerator, a wall of milk bottles that needs to be real, and a living cat all part of this script. Thus it is more of a script for a film than one for a play.

Moonchildren was a fun read and I'm glad I read it but it still works better and literature than as production.

Who should read this book: Hippies and theater geeks.

Total Books Read: 10 of 5,000

Pages: 85

Total pages read for 'The 5,000 Project':1,975

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sophie the Daredevil by Lara Bergen: Book Review

The most disappointing thing about this book is that the cat on the cover is not anywhere in the story. I mean, that cat knows this is a bad thing from point one.
Come to think of it Sophie never hangs upside down so the whole Daredevil thing is lost with more dare and less devil. Unless you see the devil as being in the hearts of other children.

Well, this is a story for young girls and so I felt a little odd reading it but not so that I did not finish and enjoy the book.
I also feel the end is just too happy for a story for ten year old. The moral of the story is that you should never betray trust but a little honesty can't undo that in a pinch.

All in all, this was a fun read and I'm glad I did the reading. 

Who should read this book: Ten year old girls and people who are ten year old girls at heart.

Total Books read: 9 of 5,000

Pages: 93

Total pages read for 'The 5,000 Project': 1890