Trouble in Mind by
(168 Stories)

Prompted By In Trouble

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Sure, I’ve been in trouble. I was the only kid out of uniform, crossing my eyes for the annual Cub Scout portrait. The local cops busted me with incriminating rolls of toilet paper after I Halloween festooned our 18th century New England cemetery. I’ve crashed cars and motorcycles, drank myself woozy outside high school dances, been hit on the head, thrown into a paddy wagon and hauled off to jail. All this trouble melted into the past, leaving scars, lessons learned, and good stories to tell.

After decades, I’m in trouble again.

After decades, I’m in trouble again. I’ve been drawn out to fight blind by taking our flawed democracy for granted. I’ve been baffled by unprecedented predation, rendered apoplectic with rage, and saddened by the suffering inflicted upon the planet by a feral, bling-adorned, kitsch-cheapened administration currently residing in what used to be called the White House, re-named The Eagle’s Nest as an homage to Hitler’s lofty retreat in Bavaria.

I’m in trouble because, no matter how hard I hit the streets, I return empowered but am quickly surprised and rendered breathless by the unbridled aggression, psychopathology, and malice of this shock- and awe-empowered snake nest whose denizens slither between Congress, the intelligence community, and the media, reptiles doing the bidding of precariously placed outsiders who randomly attack what courage, compassion, and intelligence has wrought through a collective consciousness that once embraced the human spirit, science, the rule of law, love and cause and effect. The flow of history is being rapidly digitized into disconnected bits of disinformation that assault our shared memory.

I’m in trouble because I feel our communities reel under the unprovoked assaults of a lunatic who has created a national health hazard.

I’m in trouble because I must choose daily whether to (1) stand as an informed witness to a cabal that operates with a desperate, teen-age “drive-it-like-you-stole it” mentality — put the pedal to the metal until you run out of gas, crash it, or get busted; or (2) close my eyes, cover my ears and shout “la la la la la” to drown out hysteria’s din. If I fail to balance these options, I risk madness, my heart and mind poisoned by the mind fuck these vandals scatter like a rapist’s semen

I’m in trouble because, despite my proudly collected knowledge, skills, and experience, I didn’t recognize how deeply and broadly working- and middle-class America had been decimated by those who came before — the perpetrators of the real-estate collapse, the bankrolling of corruption in Congress, and our relentless foreign wars where we sacrifice our children and funnel public tax monies into the private-profit coffers of weapons manufacturers and oil companies, faceless, avaricious corporations granted the rights of the individual by the highest justices in the land.

I’m in trouble, crazy when I wake in the morning with mind and body infested by nightmares and adolescent fears, crazy at night when I close down my obsessive search for signs of resistance.

We will beat them. We’ll cut them down with our collective sense of justice, while they — weakened by the toxins of bitterness, hubris, myopia, and power lust — will fall under the onslaught of a multi-pronged counterattack by the courts, our families, the universities, by the artists, social media, a phalanx of committed public servants, and — above all — a burgeoning and joyful resistance of the people, for the people, and by the people.


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Profile photo of Charles Degelman Charles Degelman
Writer, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. He's also played a lot of music. Degelman teaches writing at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Degelman lives in the hills of Hollywood with his companion on the road of life, four cats, assorted dogs, and a coterie of communard brothers and sisters.

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Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Wow, this piece leaves me breathless! Love those sentences that go on for a full paragraph, they are so powerful, building momentum as they describe the horrors we are witnessing. As always, your metaphors and adjectives are amazing. Then, to arrive at your last paragraph, full of optimism, was like the sun bursting through the clouds after a torrential storm. I hope that your conclusion is right, and we will conquer!

  2. John Zussman says:

    Rant on! If you—and others—can channel that rage, it is the cabal, not you, that will be “in trouble.”

  3. rosie says:

    This reminds me of how Whitman writes when he is in an intense hurry to pour out all the facets of his wishes, fears and hopes in his poems. In addition, I have been living in a familiar world and when I read what you write, I also feel the frustrations and the hopes that you express.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Indeed, we are all in trouble, but with you and your brilliance at our helm, perhaps there is hope. Just today, my husband was asking if I’d wear a blue ACLU ribbon in everyday life. These unjust, puny people cannot prevail. We won’t let them. Your writing inspires me.

  5. Charles, I’m just now penning a – much lighter, can’t get much darker – piece for this past IN TROUBLE prompt, I read yours.

    So much better reading it now post, not peri the madness. How we got through it and overcame is a blessing but we’re not unscarred, are we?

    • We are scarred and I think of the trials and assaults yet to land after I posted this picture daily incoming rounds, building to a year of plague and an attack on our capitol. I look forward to reading your post!

      • Yes, how could we know back in 2017 how very much worse it would get, and Covid to boot!

        But thanx Charles for tempering your righteous rants with a dose of optimism!

        • Looking 👀 for your post!

          • Ah C, it’s a draft so I realize you can’t see it yet. As Suzy requests I’ll hold off until Mon or Tues to post it in New stories/Old prompts feature rather than on Sat.

            And you realize I saw your 2017 In Trouble story in the Stories missed feature. So much to read!

            And by serendipity my husband was poking around on a ledge under the coffee table where we keep our millions of unread New Yorkers and he just said, What is Bowl of Nails? So that’s where it was, now will read!

            • Okay, Dana. I’ll look forward to reading it! And yay! How ignominious for my ‘back to the land’ resistance novel to be buried in New Yorkers, as much as I LOVE and read that mag! Delighted to know you’ll read it! I’m working hard on my third resistance novel. Yep, it’s a trilogy, set in the radical theater world of the 1960s. It’s taking me away from Retro a bit and I MISS YOU GUYS! But I’m around.

  6. We miss you too Charles!
    Getting to know all of you thru our shared personal stories has been sweet, so much commonality. I told Suzy that post-Covid fears we should come from both coasts and meet somewhere in the middle, like Chicago!

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