Monday, April 4, 2011
These Thirteen (short stories)
These Thirteen ((Selected Unpolished Short Stories) (and Four Poems))
Contents Passage to Elephant Island (A Story out of Antarctica) The Fiesta of Cortamonte ((or, Murder in the Andes) The Brick (A North St. Paul, Minnesota Store) Old Man at Cape Horn (A Story that takes place at the End of the World) Victor: and the Monkey Man (A story out of Lima) A Telephone Wait (A St. Paul, Minnesota Story) The River Change (A Story out of West Germany) Portrait of a Friend (A St. Paul, Minnesota Story) Old Man Stan (A North End Story/St. Paul, Minnesota) Night Train to San Francisco (A San Francisco Story) A Strange Ending (An Alabama, Story) Triumph of a Quail (A Story out of Lima, Peru) An Ordinary Account of Evil (A Story about Evil throughout the World) †
Four Pomes Passage to Elephant Island Hell-of-an-Island By morning Ernest Montgomery from Dothan, Alabama had decided to lay off the sightseeing onboard the cruise ship, last he remembered the ship was somewhere between the Falkland Islands, and the South Shetland Islands, to be exact, he’d soon find out, they were docked momentarily off the north shores of Elephant Island. Ernest had been getting tired of the trip, if not bored, from: Buenos Aires, Port Stanley, around Cape Horn, Chile, docking at Ushuaia, Argentina for eight hours, the principle reason for taking the cruise was to make his life more exciting, and he wanted to be around young women, he was forty-five years old, freshly divorced, and he was discovering, the longer the trip, the older the clientele—it was a fifteen-day trip, and there was only a few stray women, and they were bitchy and older than him by twenty-years plus. With nothing to do but complain, Ernest decided to get as drunk as scotch whiskey would make him. He found a nice corner in the bar and by mid-morning two pints had been consumed. The remainder of the morning he spent on deck looking at an odd island, everyone called “Elephant,” and some called “Hell-of-an-Island.” He went back into the bar bought another pint of scotch whiskey. And he went back out to the deck; the wind was white and raw. Then he heard a voice over the ship’s microphone system, it was the Captain, “Elephant Island,” said the Captain, “is 779-miles West-southwest of South Georgia, and 581-miles from the south of the Falkland Islands, and 550-miles southeast of Cape Horn, and we are now three miles in front of it.” Then he heard him say, “Excursion! those who want to go to the Island meet at…” and then he stopped hearing, and saw a blond, pathetically he followed her to where folks were signing up to take the excursion, he had missed her among the nearly two-thousand passengers onboard the ship, perhaps near thirty on the three zodiacs preparing for the excursion (he simply put an X for his name on the document—a manifest, for those intending to go to the island, he was too drunk to do otherwise). He wiped his hands over his face as if to wake himself up, “What’s the matter?” said the young woman, the very one he was attempting to pursue, his face wet and appearing as if he had been crying, but of course he hadn’t been; and now the ship was even closer to the Antarctic island. She pulled the scarf out of the way from her face, standing in line waiting to board the small craft and getting her lifejacket, putting it on, and clamping the three clamps together, readying to go to the island, Ernest really not too aware of anything, just in heat over this young damsel, did likewise—a monkey see monkey do, kind of thing. “Nothing’s wrong kid,” he said sharply to the young woman, adding, “Why did something go wrong?” he questioned. The girl turned her back, she was hurt, and seemingly one could hear a few sniffles, as if they were sighs. “Say what’s the matter with you anyway?” he asked the girl, “you nuts or something? Let’s get out of here and go to my room instead of this stupid island! Okay?” but she never turned around again, and so Ernest simply put on his lifejacket, as did the thirteen other people getting into the small zodiac-boat—although he hesitated, thinking, perhaps thinking why waste time on this stuck-up chick and this stupid excursion, but before he could deliberate any further—or completely, they were on their way to the area where Ernest Shackleton had made his campsite, in 1916, along with twenty-two of his companions—to Point Wild. The closer the inflated zodiac vessel got to the island, the more inhospitable it looked to Earnest, “Say,” said the young lady, the very one Earnest had tried to pick up, “are you soused?” “No, I’m as sober as a dead rat, what’s it to you lady?” said Earnest. It was as if she was trying to rekindle the candle—figuratively speaking, the one he had lit, and rudely blew out. “That’s right,” he said, “hell, I’m sober enough to swim to the island,” and she laughed, and for once, Ernest took that serious look off his face and laughed with her. But the fact was, and the fact remained, he was nearly soused, and saw only blurs of her, and blurs of the island, but he hid most of those drunken mannerisms somehow. (On the Antarctic Island called Elephant—at Point Wild, a plateau area residing next to a mountain on the northern coast) “Well,” said Earnest, he pulled out a cigarette, sucking deeply on it, walking a distance away from the group, to pull out his pint of scotch whiskey and have a drink—and he’d end up drinking the whole pint behind those dark wet granite walls; the young woman by the name of Pilar, took no notice in where he went, and the rest of the group, didn’t even know he existed—and on the official paper—the document or manifesto (program, indicating who was there, and who was who), the one he was supposed to sign getting into the vessel for the excursion, the very one he had simply placed a smeared X on, one that looked more like a mistake than a name, and there he sat on what might have been a hidden corner where Shackleton himself sat, smoking and drinking, and then he passed out. “Well, I—say, folks let’s board the zodiac-craft and head on back to the ship,” said the young navigator, in charge of the excursion. As they neared the ship, Pilar began to look about for Ernest, said to the man sitting next to her, “Say, where’s that man that I was talking to before, do you know who I mean?” Not knowing his name. And the man pointed to someone at the other end of the vessel, who was seasick, and had his head in his palms and his elbows on his knees—who could have been anybody, and the young woman thinking he was still drunk, simply said “Oh, the stinking drunk. I started to take a liking for him.” And left well enough alone, thinking no more of it. The ship now was at sea, heading for Paradise Bay, Earnest Montgomery, on the island, alone, just waking up. It was pretty cold, and he was having a hell of a time trying to focus his eyes, he dashed out from behind the rocks—unaware of how long he had been sleeping but knowing he had been, and hoping it wasn’t all that long, and noticed the ship was gone. “How in hell can I get…!” he said. And there he stood thinking out loud, “She was so crazy about getting my attention, she’ll tell the captain and they’ll come back.” Then after a long while still standing waiting to see the ship return, he mumbled, “I reckon that cutie likes me, why didn’t she come across quicker, she perhaps…how in the hell can I get out of here!” (It really wasn’t a question, but a disparaging statement.) He looked about—up and down the ice-covered mountainous island (its tallest peak, nearly three-thousand feet), elephant seals were observing him from afar; other than that, there was no significant flora or native fauna, just a few penguins and seals found moseying about Point Wild and its coast, and a fog and snow was coming in… he knew he didn’t have a high cold threshold nor an extreme weather tolerance, and there was no ship in sight, and his pint of whiskey was empty, and he lit his last cigarette staring out into the sea, waiting, just waiting, continuously waiting, bored to death, and nearly frozen to death—not believing he was marooned on an island no more than ten by two kilometers east to west in the Antarctic waters—waiting, just waiting for the ship to return—continuously waiting, and bored to death…
No: 609/3-28-2010/EC Dedicated to my wife Rosa, her personal selection
Fiesta of Cortamonte (or, Murder, at Santa Eulalia Rio) The Poem At Santa Eulalia Rio The Eulalia Rio—is wild today— white waters high, rapidly slapping, rushing, leaping everywhichway from bank to bank, and then some. On the mountain skirts— the village of Santa Eulalia resides cuddled by the Andes of Peru! I love the smooth sound of the Rio as it passes me by, the warm sun, warming my old bones of the late morning, makes me feel alive— A butterfly, flies by, a bee is busily, buzzing nearby— Another day, just another day to be alive… (that’s how it is this morning at San Eulalia Rio). No: 2919 ((3-26-2011) (11:11 a.m.)) The Strange thing was, was that the morning had been so quiet and sedate, not like the afternoon; I do not know why they all didn’t scream at the time. We were in the dance area of ‘Paradise Recreo,’ likened to a countryside restaurant, alongside the Santa Eulalia Rio of Peru ((an hour’s drive from Lima)(it was 11:11 a.m.)), all fifty-two of us, within the group, and there were other folks at this outside restaurant (we all had ordered Pachamanca, a food dish, that is cooked in a fire underground, covered with dirt and hot stones: potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, chicken, pork, lamb, and Humita or smashed corn). We were all on the dance area, after having eaten Pachamanca, drank some wine, the sun was hot, and the Rio was high and the rapids were wild, rushing by—you could hear the sound of the white water rush, it was no more than a hundred feet from where we were. There was a stage to the front of us, a man was singing to background music, and no one started screaming. Before the incident, Manuel pointed to me to give the axe to someone in the group dancing around this tree that was in the middle of the dance area, it had been cut down, and put into a hole with rocks holding it in place, gifts were attached onto the tree branches as were also balloons, once cut down, the fifty of us would rush to get those attached gifts, it was called the Dance of the Cortamonte (also called The Dance of Yunsa, or the Tree Dance), meant each person in the group would get the axe once or twice or perhaps even five or six times like I had it, as one person handed it to the next, and took their swing at the tree. Whoever cut the tree down, that is, when the tree fell down because of that last person’s axe thrust, he or she was the person who would—the following year, pay for the next fiesta. It’s how it worked. Manuel he pointed to me, the preacher’s deacon you might say, and a friend, a most pleasant friend and chap, to my wife and I, said with a smiling face, “You Mr. Evens take it and hand it to someone!” I couldn’t imagine who, then I saw a lady right in front of me, of Peruvian-African origin, and handed it to her and her mate, and she took the first swing. Then later on when the tree looked like it would fall with one or two more axe swings, I told my wife Rosa, “This man is dancing crazy like, swinging the axe everywhichway, we need to back up!” And sure enough he hit the tree so hard, the tall somewhat hefty tree with all the gifts on it started to fall. This man had ran over to the group from out of nowhere, and someone unthinking, handed him the axe, and as that tree hit the ground, he started stabbing, that is, axing people over the head, in the groin area, in the back, legs, torso, neck: eighteen people injured, killing at least seven. Workers from the restaurant and soon after them, rescue workers from the Municipality had gathered to help the injured. “The worse,” he said—that evening on the television, the newscaster “were the women with dead children.” Oh yes, most rigorously, I said to myself. You couldn’t get the women to give up their dead children—thereafter. Nothing you could do about it. Although the gender of the seven dead were not immediately known, with two critically injured, and eleven others were wounded. Manuel told the police, and the media: “The suspect, came here to kill people, none of us knew him.” And some other person told the reporter, “Early on, he sat at our table, and he said, ‘I’m tired of life.’” And still someone else said, “He had rented a car in Lima, drove out fifty miles to the restaurant, and it appeared he just grabbed the axe from someone dancing, and he was jumping, leaping while dancing, and chopping on the tree—all simultaneously, and the next thing he was killing people with that axe, and ran off and into a crowd, jumped into a vehicle, and drove off.” Then there was an old lady, most extraordinary case. I told it to the police, and he said it can’t be true, that I was lying, “There was this old lady,” I said “sitting in a wheelchair, and I couldn’t help but look her way when he ran past her, and just then she died—I assume of fright; he had swung the axe at her, but never hit her, and she went absolutely stiff. Her legs sketch upward automatically, her torso went rigid,” the police officer told the medical personnel, and they told me, it was impossible. But they had taken the corpse out of the area, into the city proper, to its morgue—before I could press my point. It was as if there had been an earthquake or that some sort of thing –a phantom, had appeared in broad daylight, one we never knew about, they never knew what hit them. I had sat by the river that morning, at 11:11 a.m., awaiting for the Pachamanca, to be ready, ordered some cheese and corn for my wife, wrote out this poem called “Santa Eulalia Rio,” The river was up, the wind was blowing my hair—I had grabbed the moment you might say—a poetic moment indeed, I got up walked close along the Rio, saw a dog getting wet, drinking from its fresh cold water from the Andes, it evidently was raining in the sierras, because of the white water. I had gotten so dreamy about things. Surprising how a few hours later, it is all covered over with something else; the darkest cloud hell has to offer. No: 784 (3-26-2011) The Brick (A Short Story Out of Minnesota, 1952) (Kiddy-Corner, Farm, 1952) I was only five-years old back then, when this occurrence took place: the 'brick,' the situation that led to the brick, this is what the story is about, a simple medium sized brick, used for cobblestone streets, or building houses or buildings, or building in some cases, swimming pools. My brother Mike was seven years old at the time, and we were living at a boarding farm called Kiddy-Corner in North St. Paul, Minnesota ((during the weekdays that is, and we'd stay overnight, until the weekends came when my mother would pick us up after work) (she worked at, Swift’s Meat Packing Plant in South St. Paul)). She’d pick us up, and take us to her small apartment on Iglehart Avenue, over on the Cathedral side of town. The antagonist in this story is really unknown, but I will share with you the account, and perhaps we can narrow it down to a few names, if not one. Steve, the owner's son Janet Riddle's boy, was about eight or nine years old at the time, had a sister named Jill, she was ten or eleven years old. Jill used to come into my bedroom: about dusk, I was on the top bunk in the far back room of the large house, so she had a hard time reaching me, but she did: poking that needle or pin into me, she was my anatomist, we all seem to get one or two in our life times, if not more, I got one at an early age. On occasion, her mother told her to stop, and so when she did stop, she used psychology 101 on me, she'd come in with the needle, wake me up, and say she was going to stick me, but didn't, building up a fear factor I do believe, until that got remedied. Jill's mother, Janet who owned the foster farm, a stern and strong, if not bold woman, had to deal with a jealous daughter, to say it kindly, and I suppose it was not much different than many children, seeking her mother's attention. It would seem we stayed at the farm so much, Janet almost accepted us as family, which eventually resulted into being our home, hence, so it would have appeared to an onlooker, let's say Jill. During those days, months and years, at the foster-farm we'd help build a big swimming pool in the back of the farm house; Janet owned perhaps four acres of land behind and around the house, and was forever fighting with the authorities over the right to have us children stay overnight. I never knew quite, what the problem was about, and she never said, it was just a thorn in her side from the county it seemed. But as I was about to get into, Janet decided to make a swimming pool in the backyard, way back in her acreage, by what I called 'the fence,' where the cow meadow started, adjacent to her property. In those far-off days it was not easy to build a pool, you just didn't call up the pool man—back in 1952, when and if you decided to have one built. But you did call in a bulldozer to level the land out, and then got one of those big tractors with a scoop on it to dig out a big hole, which she did in both cases, shaping the pool to look like one of those old cast-iron bathtubs. The water must have been several feet deep at the deepest end, when it was filled up to the rim all along its sides that is. From the most shallow end it was but a few feet deep, and as you swam inward a gradation developed, making it deeper as you went from north to south it would eventually go over my head at the other end—way over my head by a couple of feet. As a result the gradual increasing steepness became a challenge to all of us small kids wanting to swim from one side to the other, or one end to the other. Well, during this process of building the pool, digging the hole, bringing in materials, and so forth and on, I really couldn't do much, or for that matter, remember doing much, but I was allowed to help carry a few bricks, one at a time from the pile to the pool: laying them down on the extending tiles. Let me explain: after the hole was dug, they put some kind of rocks in it, and other things, and then tar if I recall right: then put more tar over the tiles: roof tiles, or so I remember them to be—very scratchy roof tiles at that, and around the top rim the tiles extended outward, therefore, bricks were laid on top of the tiles to hold them down. The pool was perhaps fifteen feet wide, eight feet deep, and thirty feet long. Under the tiles was that black tar again—that I mentioned, and I'd put a brick on the tiles sticking out like weeds, that seemed to bend around the dirt, and tar under it, the tiles that stuck up that is. At any rate, the brick would hold it down, so it would not get ripped, or torn apart, and one rip led of course to another, and bigger ones, and then you'd have to find where the hole was and tar it back up again, and so forth and so on: so it could become significant, should you not use preventive measures. Fine, during the building process, Mike, Jill, and Steve were up their playing around by the pool, trying to help, and so were the other kids: a few of the workers, likewise, and myself. When I looked up this one early afternoon, when I looked up to see what the disturbance was, I saw everyone was staring—and Janet saying, "Who did it, who threw the brick?" Tears came from my eyes; I saw my brother drop to his knees, his hands over his eyes and then his head: blood coming from his scalp. No one said a word (I'm not sure I knew what to do but cry, helpless I felt), but the memory would stick into my mind, as well as my brother’s mind. So, we all survived that awful day, but it was a sad few days thereafter.
Dedicated to Mike Siluk, written 9-29-5 (reedited 5-2008; reedited, 3-2009 And again in 2-2011)
Old Man at Cape Horn (Mid-October, 2010) An old man with brace rimmed glasses and very wet cloths sat stone-still on the backside of the Zodiac, along with thirteen others from the ship they had just left. There was a wooden stairway, perhaps, some fifteen-hundred feet from bottom to top at the edge of Cape Horn, they were in the waters of the north boundary of the Drake Passage, and they were crossing over from the ship to the island. The motor-drawn zodiac staggered as if intoxicated in the rough waters of the Drake, the Captain was hesitate about allowing the Zodiac to have even left the ship, but the old man insisted and there was a slight window of allowance, he would be the first on the island, and last to leave. The old man sat without moving, as the high waves soaked the side of his left hip all the way down to his ankles, numbing his legs with the freezing sea waters. He was too excited to notice it at the time. It was his dream to cross the Drake Waters, and climb to the top of Cape Horn, there were very few people his age, or any age for that matter, that had. “Where do you come from,” asked John, a historian, who had given several lectures on Darwinism aboard the ship. “From Minnesota, but we live in Lima most of the time now” he said, and smiled. That was his home state and so it gave him pleasure to mention it, along with living in Lima, Peru with his wife. “He worked as a psychologist for the Federal Prisons,” mentioned his wife, who was sitting beside him, and John. “Oh,” John said, not quite appreciative. “Yes,” said the old man, “I’ve listened to some of your lectures onboard the ship, Darwin’s theories, correct.” John smiled, nodded his head. The old man didn’t look like a retired psychologist from his side view, thought John, wet cloths and thinning hair, thin faced and his steel rimmed glasses, that had soft plastic going around the ears, and said, “What kind of prisoners were they?” “Various kinds,” he said, and shook his head as if to say, enough of this trivial talk, the craft was closing in on Cape Horn. “I had to leave them, I got ill several years ago.” He was now watching the stairway and the rocky looking landscape of Cape Horn—and the building—up of the tumultuous, and noisy waters of the seas ((the Atlantic and the Pacific both shifted their waters through this passage, along with the winds of this most Southern point of South American)(the winds coming from the northwest, and southern hollows of the Andes, to this point of the Tierra del Fuego, this island, the last in the group, called Cape Horn, owing to the strong winds and waves, currents and icebergs, and fierce storms, a notorious graveyard for sailors)), and wondering how much effort it would be to climb those one hundred plus stairs: he had gone on a diet, and worked out for several months to insure he could climb those steps. They were the enemy to him, and listening all the while to the noises of the motor, and the slashing of the high waves, and hoping the waves would not turnover the Zodiac, in this ever mystifying event that had just begun, and the old man still sat there in stupefaction. As they reached Cape Horn, he started climbing the stairs as if he was flying up them—pert near the moment he stepped off the Zodiac, stopping midway, onto a wooden platform to the side of the stairway. “This is not a good place to stop,” his wife said. “If you can make it to the top, there are wooden walkways.” But the old man wasn’t tired; he was awe struck, looking out at the sea, and the ship, at both sides of the inlet, absorbing the scene, and taking in the moment. “Just wait awhile,” he said, “just a moment, and then we’ll go. I want to see all I can, especially the lighthouse, but first this.” He looked at his wife very excitedly and not a bit tired, then said, trying to take the worry off her face, “I’ll be all right, I’m sure. There is no need to be uptight about this trip. I know the others are ahead of us. But we’ll catch up to them soon.” And they did, he flew up the rest of the stairs as if there were none, as if he was walking on air. After an hour on top of Cape Horn, the group was on its way back down to the Zodiac, and the old man, had stopped by the monument of a bird, after having left the lighthouse, “If you are rested dear, we better go,” she urged him. “You need to walk faster,” said one of the crew members, the winds had picked up, and the waves in the Drake were getting higher, and the old man’s legs, his muscles were cramping up. “I’ll not hurry any faster than these legs will carry me,” he told the young crew member. “Thank you,” he said with a slight sneer. “That was the captain of the ship, who called,” he remarked. “So it was,” said the old man, and the crew member got another call, said: “I think the old man, the one who is always with his wife, is going as fast as his legs will take him; they look as if they are half frozen. There is nothing to do about it.” Then the old man tried to push his legs forcefully ahead of him, and John was behind him, said dully, “Good luck, thought I had problems at my age!” He was even older than the old man. “You want to get ahead of me John?” remarked the old man, knowing John was watching far back of him. “No, I’m fine.” Once back on the ship, he explained, he had some neurological issues, but was fearful of telling anyone, lest they hold him back from going onto Cape Horn. It was still morning, and the old man was very tired and once in bed he’d sleep until lunch. It was a bleak overcast day, and now the waves had rocked the ship to and fro, they had reached fifteen feet high; the doors could not be opened. That and the fact that they had gotten back onto the ship in time, saved them any bad luck that the old man would have caused. No: 661/1-4-2011
Victor: and the Monkey Man ((Miraflores, Lima Peru, 2008) (Based on actual events))
When you’re with someone twenty, thirty, even forty years—work with them everyday of the week, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks every year (minus two weeks the Monkey Man vacationed, not Victor), that someone you can’t help getting to like, you even get to love them (him or her). It’s pretty near like being married to the person—almost! You know when that person gets tired, because you are tired, and you can tell by his walking or talking. You know it, because you can feel it. There was such a person I knew by the name of Victor. He and the Monkey Man (Cipriano) worked in the same park (Miraflores, Kennedy Park) in Lima, Peru. In the park Victor worked as a photographer, the only one in the park, allowed in the park that is—licensed to be there, and the Monkey Man, Cipriano, with his wind-up red and white music box, the very one the monkey was stored in (until he came into the park, and was then taken out of the box, and allowed to play on top of the box all day long), he worked perhaps ten-feet from Victor’s side, had worked side by side for forty plus years. The Monkey-Man would have his monkey take out a piece of paper, likened to a ticket, and it had a happy saying on it, and he’d hand it to the person holding a coin, and they’d exchange one for the other. Victor worked by him twelve hours a day. I met Victor and Cipriano for the first time in 1999, when I first met my wife Rosa; he took our second picture together—in Peru, one evening in the park. Anyhow, one day Cipriano, he just up and died, he was seventy-two years old, a small man, thin, wore a white cowboy looking hat, a blue worn out suit, little eyes like watermelon seeds; he died on a warm day in 2007. The times I talked to Victor after that, it had seemed to me that happening took a solid big chunk of energy out of him, paleness came over his life. It hurt him to talk about his old partner, but he did. He even braced himself when he did. I asked him once if he thought about Cipriano much. He said, “A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of him.” These were hard times for Victor. After Cipriano’s death, sometimes when we walked by him, he was in a glum of a mood—not that he was to us, my wife and I, just that he appeared so from a distance, he’d always cheer up when he saw us, went over to talk to us when we neared him. Anyhow, win or lose, life was different for him now; eleven months after Cipriano had died, we happened to be in Lima again, we stopped—as we often did—stopped by to say hello to Victor, and he wasn’t there this time, not even his standup camera was in place as it usually was, the old one he said was from the 1840s. I asked one of the nearby shoeshine men, who always worked by Victor (there were several of them in the park) “Where’s Victor?” He usually went to eat his lunch about 2:00 p.m., perhaps today he went early, because he was gone, and it was only forenoon. The shoeshine man, hesitated, as if he was trying to figure out how to say, what he had thought he might have said someday, “He died a month ago (he was sixty-years old), we were kind of thinking how to tell you when you came around.” (That was on a warm day also, in 2008.) No: 543 (12-6-2009) SA A Telephone Wait ((Cody’s Invisible dime) (summer of ’81)) He come up to a telephone booth, attached onto a grocery store that was also a gas station, and pretended to drop a dime into the proper slot. I saw from his profile he looked serious, kind of, maybe a little forlorn as he did it, he was playing a half mile away from his home, an apartment building, on York Street, with his brother Shawn, and a few neighbourhood kids. His face was fair, and he did everything slowly as though he was thinking, if not uncertain of something. But when I came to the corner in my car, stopped, rolled down the window, he was still standing at the outside phone booth attached onto the building, talking to someone, looking a wee concerned, this boy of nine-years old. When I put my hand out the window to wave him over to the car, I knew he saw it from the corner of his eye. He appeared as if to know I was going to be right where I was, and there I was when he fully turned about, calmly and ghostly surprised at the same time; if anything, it seemed to be a light form of insight he had. “What’s the matter, Cody?” I asked as he came rushing to the side of my car window. “Oh. I’m all right,” he commented, excited to see me, catching his breath. “You get enough sleep. I’ll see you this weekend, if your mother lets me. Thought I’d go looking for you. So I drove around the neighbourhood.” Then we heisted, both smiling at one another, “What is it?” I asked him. He hesitated, but his body movements told me he was trying to put some words together, looking up into the sky, and down at the ground, then eye level, not quite knowing how to explain it. “Do you need something?” I asked. He shook his head ‘No!’ “All right. If not, do you mind if I ask who you were talking to on the phone?” I remarked. “You, dad!” He said, energetically, with a smile. “Really?” I said. “What did you ask?” “For you to come visit me here.” His face was now bright in wonderment, and merriment; there were bright areas under his eyes. “Oh,” I said, what else could I say? Cody stood still on alongside of the car a moment longer, he appeared somewhat detached from what had just happened. “How do you feel, Cody?” I asked him (he couldn’t say amazed, but he looked it) (he had been pretending to call me on the phone, pretending to have dropped a dime into the phone slot, and all of a sudden I appeared. Coincidence, perhaps, but I doubt he thought so.) I sat back a tinge, in my car seat, smiled, his little hands on the car door over the window slots, I could see his fingers twitching inside the car, as if he wanted to jump in, or open the door: perhaps, thinking I’d stay longer. “Why don’t you try to go join your friends, I know your mother gets mad if she sees you talking to me.” After a moment he said, to me, “Did you hear me talking dad?” “It doesn’t matter,” I said, “someone did.” Written 6-23-2009 Dedicated to that little boy
The River Change ((1975, Munster by Dieburg, Military Nuclear Site) (more truth than Fiction)) He could not weigh up the fragile conformation of what just took place, in what he considered this ambiguous part of the world. An object which seemed to appear and then vanish with a thump, and of so small a consequence, he looked with, and for but a moment, upon the state of affairs and the affliction he had just caused to another human being. He took off so fast he didn’t allow his partner an instant of despair, disregarding all the laws of man. Perhaps there could have been relief at hand; but, he was not disappointed; and now with a dry temperament to wonder and contemplate soon at the bar; and so, let us see as a result, what stimulation we may well draw from the dead and the kindness from our own species, I doubt this coldness even holds true among animals. An interesting aspect in human nature, an observation I had acquired that evening, it has entertained me for years, no more doubts as to if whether our species succumb to the manner of those long lost ancestors Carl Sagan has so well defined, befitting to be called the Neanderthals. Had this been a war, this might have looked less incongruous to me, even pushed into the quarry for safe keeping, but it wasn’t. I was the most unaccustomed to having heard, then overheard, and then having to befriend, and live among the presence of such a disturbing person—even after being myself in a war. I remember the evening quite well, and to my understanding, they had never went back to detect the wrong they had done, to check the reality: one was detached, the other carried by his friend’s weight, went along with his program, the length of it all. Of course by doing what he did or they did, they robbed the mind of the disaster of a horror, perhaps much greater. I do know for a fact, the driver, wouldn’t have been surprised by the amount of paperwork he would have caused about the dead. Making his ultimate plan in a matter of one quick moment, buried the dead before he even saw what he completely looked like. He consequently lay there on the street face down, his bones smashed out of his body—all that paperwork, he saved himself from doing— indicative of an accountant, trying to cut corners. “Okay,” said the Sergeant First Class, “What about it?” “Ummm!” said the Staff Sergeant, “It was bad.” “You mean the accident, or the guy I run over?” “It was bad,” said the Staff Sergeant. “That’s all that I mean.” “Okay,” said the SFC. “Deal with it anyway you like, he stepped out in front of me, I never saw him. I wish to God I hadn’t’ but I did.” “You mean you wish you had seen him. You and I have been drinking all day and night,” said the SSG. It was early evening, and there was hardly anybody in the Enlisted Men’s Night Club on base at the 545th Ordnance Company, in West Germany, Munster by Dieburg, nobody but me and a few others. I was a Corporal back in 1975, and the bartender was a Buck Sergeant, and two black men were playing pool, two privates I believe. It was midsummer and it was hot, and the two Sergeants, one ahead of the Military Police Detachment, SFC Blackwell, and the other sergeant, a Staff Sergeant, CTH, ahead of the Nuclear Surety Program, had been drinking, and were pretty soused, sitting on those two stools, they looked out of place. The waitress wore a thin see-through blouse, and a short skirt, her skin was soft and pure white to her bones, her hair, blonde, was cut as a sparrow, and as she put her slender hand through her golden hair to move it away from her forehead, she avoided listening to the conversation of the two sergeants, that they were having. Both had looked at her a little strangely. “You killed him,” said CTH. “Please don’t get into it,” said Blackwell, he had very large hands, and he looked at them. They were black and near shaking. “Someone got your license plate number, I swear to God they did,” said SSG CTH. “It won’t make a difference; I’ll deny it, nothing I can do about it now!” “We should not have gotten into the car in the first place; we’re too tired and drunk.” “Can I get you another drink,” the girl asked. “What are you drinking?” “I told you,” said Blackwell to CTH, “No one will know, I mean really, just be quiet about it.” “I’m not sure,” he said. Now the girl had come back with two beers from behind the bar, looked at both of the sergeants, gave them the beers, the bartender had taken a break, and put out her hands to collect the money. “Poor old German,” said Blackwell. He looked again at his hands, they were slightly shaking. “No, thanks,” said the SFC to the girl, “You keep the change.” “I suppose it doesn’t do much good to say you’re sorry?” said CTH. “No, it don’t” said Blackwell, and then took a gulp from the bottle of dark German beer. “Nor does it do any good to tell the police!” he added. “I’d rather not hear that,” said the bartender, he had come back from his break, and didn’t want to be involved with a future investigation, and walked to the other side of the bar where the two black male soldiers were playing pool. “I like you a lot,” said Blackwell, “so don’t say a word to the police, I’m sorry, if you don’t understand, I do, that’s trouble for you also.” “Why do you say that?” “Sure,” he said, looking at CTH. “All day and all night we drank together. Especially when I hit the old German; don’t you think you have to worry about that?” “I’m sorry,” CTH said. “Don’t say that, it sounds like you’re going to say something you’ll regret—you know that; don’t you trust me?” “It was a man that died there in the middle of the street!” “That’s funny,” he commented, “Really funny, of course I know that.” “I’m sorry,” said CTH. “That’s all I hear from you: I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but we need to understand each other, there’s no use in being sorry, we did what we did.” “No,” he said, “I think you did what you did, I wasn’t driving.” Then they were quiet for a long while, saying nothing at all, and then the girl asked if they wanted another beer, the barman would not come over to serve them. “Let’s not talk about it anymore,” said Blackwell. “Don’t you believe we are friends?” asked SSG CTH. “We’ll see—you’ll have to prove it.” “You never were like this before; we were like two peas in a pod. You’re not very polite tonight.” “You’re a fine Sergeant, but I’m not going to jail for you.” “You may have to of course, but if you say nothing.” “Maybe,” said CTH, “if I have to, then I’ll have to.” “You’re an amusing girl,” said Blackwell as the waitress approached to ask if he wanted another drink, “and so is the barkeep.” He was annoyed he didn’t serve him personally. “You’re not, Sergeant Blackwell.” She said seriously, she had known him from previous nights at the club, and he drank himself blind. “You have to, I suppose.” He said to the girl looking at the bartender talking to one of the pool players. “Yes,” she remarked. “Too bad I have to, but you know it.” “I hope if you overheard things, we’re just kidding, it shouldn’t make any difference to you though.” “I thought you said to be quiet about this,” CTH said. “That’s not very quiet.” “Just improvising,” he said. “You’re looking great,” said CTH to the girl. “And so are you, Staff Sergeant,” she said with a smile. Then the bartender yelled, “Come over here and give them a drink on the house.” Perhaps trying to make up for his boorish behavior and pretending to be indifferent, but he’d not serve them personally. “Yes, sir,” said the girl. “Be back in a minute.” The two sergeants, turned their stools about, and leaned on the bar some, each lit up a Luck Strike cigarette, then looked back behind them, and over towards the café area, the barkeeper was handing the waitress two beers. “We’ll be better off if you don’t try to explain to her, what she shouldn’t do, or know, it sounds like we’re guilty of something,” said the staff sergeant. “I guess I thought it necessary to tell her, just incase.” “In case she’s pressured by the police?” “That’s what they call it! You know how they can get.” “Yaw, I suppose we both do.” “Okay,” he mumbled, “Okay.” “I’m going to go get some air, I’ll be back,” said CTH. “I doubt it, you won’t be coming back.” “I said I would, I’ll be back.” “If you say so, but I doubt it, I don’t think so.” “Okay, you’ll see.” “Yes, we’ll both see.” “I said I’ll be back, I got to finish the beer.” “Go on then, what are you standing around here for!” “Actually, you’re getting rude.” CTH said, but his voice was pleasant. “Well, are you going or not?” said Blackwell, while looking at the girl who was talking to the guys at the pool table. She had pretty blue eyes, and hard looking breasts, perhaps eighteen or nineteen. Her cheeks were rosy, a long thin neck. “Actually, I doubt you care one way or the other if I go,” CTH said, “you’re too busy to care.” “Yes, yes, we’ll talk when you get back,” said Blackwell a little more settled with everything, and a little drunker. She looked across the bar at SFC Blackwell, kind of quickly, and then rushed the two beers over to him. “You want to go out with me tonight,” he asked her gravely. “No,” she said seriously. Her voice hadn’t changed one iota. “Well,” he said, “I tried.” She handed him his beer and put the other on the bar quickly, she didn’t look at him, but she knew he watched her as she turned around to go back to where the bartender was. CTH had walked out through the door. He picked up the other beer, both beers in his hands now, and left the bar to look for CTH. “Yes, sir?” said the girl to the bartender. “Trouble,” said the bartender to the girl, “he can be a very cold man, Blackwell.” He looked at the door, I suppose hoping they’d not come back, and they didn’t. She looked out the window and saw that they were both walking down the side street towards the barracks. “You’re right,” she said, “he is very cold, I don’t feel comfortable around him.” The young girl then looked in the bar mirror, primping herself. “You do look lovely,” said the black bartender, who also had big hands. “You must have a beautiful mother.” The Staff Sergeant, He never did tell the police that they had been drinking that night when questioned, although he admitted they drove down that way. And the barman said he never over heard anything. And the German waitress’s face was too innocent to question; even though someone had given their license plate number to the local police as being a suspect in the hit-and-run. And the Corporal—that’s me, Corporal Evens, I wasn’t around to be asked, and neither was Blackwell. I had left the 545, in the summer of 1977, gotten out of the Army in 1980; I was a Staff Sergeant then. CTH, whom I got to know quite well, became a Sergeant First Class just before I left—like Blackwell (and to my understanding, Blackwell never made any rank beyond what he had, and was lucky to keep that), and then CTH, had gotten reassigned, and gone to Freiberg, and in the spring of 1983, was hit by a civilian vehicle while he was off-duty walking across a street, and was killed. That’s all that was ever said about it (it was as if there had been a change in the flow of the river, a river change). No: 710 (1-21-2011) (Originally named: Dedicated to: CTH Also referred to as “The River Altered”
Portrait of a Friend (Eugene Monna—a book and art lover) Gene Monna drank a little now and then I heard, never saw him drink, perhaps he did with Tom, he and Tom were better friends, than he and I. Those last few years—before he died (and he just died, the first week of November, 2009), he had diabetes, his leg was to be amputated—or at least it was under consideration; he hadn’t been feeling well, neither. Sitting so among the book readers at Barnes and Nobel, as he often did, gazing across the café, over at me, and who knows who else, potted smugly with a dozen titles against his heavy forearms, his cold restless near boredom eyes, looking across shelves of books as one would look across the Atlantic in a telescope on a ship, waiting for a twilit and nostalgic moment; to add to that, he looks about in abandoned retrospect, around that bookstore as if life had sent him into a trying tumult, and now with lost ambition, resigned to a few friends, no longer young, near seventy, he is thinking of the tireless detachment he seems to gravitate towards, with the world, just getting himself here and there is cumbersome. He remarks on a dog with one leg, we laugh, trying to figure out how the dog gets about, we laugh so hard we have to hold our bellies, lose our composure, acting like kids: as Gene awaits his pleasure with dependable attentive politeness with me, with a character of laisser-faire, that rules his selective relationships, he claims the privilege for his friends himself, and for those who are not, he replies. Here he sits—as he does in his book stacked apartment, in a warm chair of books with words and pictures that mean nothing whatsoever to him, looking at girls in paintings, exciting uniformity in dress and accompanied by men and without men, and he reaches to the next page quietly and lightly and touches the paintings briefly, wondering how the mind of the painter was thinking when he was doing the painting. Gene, with his extreme tastes, gold chains, and large gold rings, solid gold, continues to form his obliviousness to the art work, lots of passionate and distant moods going through him, there he looks and looks and studies the art—in old helpless dismay, thinking how to understand the crudeness of each picture, and its inexhaustible flow of lines, and brush marks and colors, and figures. That was all I knew of him—although I did know he had a wife at one time and, an adult offspring, someplace, somewhere, who never seemed to worry of his existence. That was all he’d let me know of him, perhaps that’s why we got along so well, we never asked questions. No: 564 (1-5-2010) Dedicated to Gene Monna
Old Man Stan (—Big Bird, 2002) Old man Stan had a face that looked coarse. He was for the most part, always clean shaven and his deep rooted eyes, sunken into those eye sockets, I’m sure never saw the bottom of his gaunt chin. His eyes were red more often than they were white, rimmed with sweat from booze, and the large holes that were his nostrils were raw as hamburger. Stan’s two room apartment on Albemarle Street, where he lived his last ten years before he died, in the late evenings you could hear him cursing and yelling and fighting with his demons, as if they were dragging him, or he was dragging them, and the window open in the middle of winter, as if to throw them out of. He was a tall man and never wanted to be bothered much—at the bar, some one-hundred feet away from his apartment, they called him Big Bird (he was all of six-foot six; thin as a string bean). He read the Alcoholics Anonymous, Big Book, he told me he had once; he had it on his shelf, but at the end it didn’t do him much good. But evidently, he had found sobriety at one time and it last a year or so, so I heard from the grapevine. You could hear him all the way down the halls and through the walls, and into the residing apartment next to his (which was my apartment at the time)—when he had those heated fits with his demons. Few people in those days saw him smile, he was seventy-two years old when he up and died of cancer. Made his last rent payment while in the hospital; the new folks that now rent the apartment next to Stan’s, sometimes, they say, you can hear old Stan still bellowing, and he’s got the T.V. on loud trying to drawn the sound of his yelling out. I used to go over to Stan’s apartment when I lived across from him, and tell him to turn the television down, this was in the wee hours of the night, or morning, and when he’d open his door, I’d just look at what a mess he was making of trying to live with his demons in his apartment. He didn’t offer much conversation, he’d just stand and look at me and the hopeless way he muddled about, standing there trying to think of what I just said, and what to say, and he’d mumble something like: “Yaw, the television, I better turn the television down, that’s right, I’ll turn it down—sorry about that, okay!” then he’d turnabout, and pert near, slam the door in my face. So after a few years he got cancer—the awful part about it was, he paid his rent those last two months from his hospital bed, never did return to his apartment, but that was all he had in life, was that apartment, and the Big Book on the shelf, and he looked the first day I saw him, the same as the last day I saw him. Note: written December 25, 2010 No: 643
Night Train to San Francisco When I went to San Francisco, I put my leather-bound suitcase under the backseat of where I sat on the train, and looked out the side window. I couldn’t afford a berth; it was three times the amount of the economy coach ticket. And back in 1968, when I was but twenty-years old, it didn’t make a difference: I kicked my shoes off, and as night come quickly, I couldn’t see much anyway. I tossed my black Swede jacket over me—over my shoulders, took a newspaper I found laying on the open seat next to me, turned on the overhead light and read the headlines, and scanned the front page. “Turn off the light,” said the porter, “Everyone’s trying to get some sleep.” “No,” I said, “I don’t want to. I’m not sleepy, Mister.” “Well, I guess so,” he said, adding “we’ll be stopping in a few hours if you want to get off the train and stretch your feet for ten-minutes…” then he looked down at my feet, “you should put your shoes on,” he grumbled. “No,” I said, “I’ll not put them out in the aisle, if that’s what you’re worried about.” He simply turned his head and walked away. I got up and went to the washroom, washed my face. I wasn’t tired; I walked about the train—although dimly lit in all compartments. (It was my second train ride I had taken one back from Seattle to St. Paul, Minnesota a year earlier where I had visited for a short while)— A few of the windows were left slightly open and the night summer’s air came in cool. The moon was like a big white button in the sky. There were lights in the distance that blurred as the iron horse raced by. We crossed into Chicago now, but soon were outside of it. I looked out the window to see the windy city but all I could see were railroad yards and freight cars lined up to kingdomcome. Then suddenly we stopped—a dead stop, the porter came by again, “If you need cigarettes or anything, there’s a stand outside on the platform, be quick about it,” he said and I jumped up, crawled out from behind the two seats and onto the aisle, and then onto the landing place of the train station. “Where are we?” I asked the owner of a stand, that was selling newspapers, magazines, cigarettes and warm quart beer, on the pier. “Outside of Chicago, why?” he said and asked. “No reason, give me a quart of beer.” I said. “Will Hamm’s do?” he questioned. “Yaw, how much?” “$1.25 plus tax,” he quoted. I paid the fellow, then the train started to move, and I found myself running to just make the train, jumping onto its metal step with one hand on the beer and the other on the railing. And there I stood in-between the two cars, and drank the quart of beer down whole within a matter of minutes. Found a trash can, throw the empty bottle in it and went back to my original seat. An old lady was sitting in the seat next to mine, and I moved on over and round her, to the window side and fell to sleep. When I woke up the train had stopped again, we were someplace high up, it was cold and when I moved my jacket, the old lady pulled her arm back, as if it was searching for something, where it didn’t belong. I gave her a nasty look, one that perhaps said, it wasn’t safe for her anymore here, and when I’d come back she’d be gone. “We’re going through cold country,” said the porter. We were in the mountains now. I put on my jacket, my shoes and reached under my seat to check if my suitcase was still there, it was, and it was, thus, I moved out to find another quart of beer, rushing from one vender to another, then finding a little store on the pier, that was connected to the inside station and halfway out onto the platform. And I could feel the cool air in my lungs, I let a Luck Strike, and walked into the store casual, knowing I was only twenty, still not old enough to drink, or buy alcohol, but I usually didn’t have a problem with that. Hence, I walked inside the small store, two Negros were sitting about on wooden stools, their shoeshine box in front of them “Youall wants a shoeshine boy?” asked the Negro with the black teeth, and open mouth. “No, just a quart of beer,” I rambled. The storekeeper was asleep behind the counter in the corner, his head against a cushioned pillow. “Hay, Ollie, wake up, yous got a customer,” said the middle-aged Negro with the black teeth. When he smiled he opened up his mouth wider showing off his damaged gums, and spit into a spittoon, tobacco he was chewing, his eyes were as red as Marilyn Monroe’s lips; his head was the shape of a football, towards the backend, he was wearing a brown fitted knitted cap, and his ears looked to be the cauliflower type, as if he was at one time a boxer, perhaps forty-five, the other fellow was sleeping on his forearms and knees, back bent. I went back to my seat on the train and she was gone altogether with her things, and so I drank the six-pack of beer without fret. And fell to sleep sometime between the forth and fifth beer, because when I woke up, there were two half cans of beer on the floor and one full one. I found my way back to the washroom carefully, as not to wake up the few folks still sleeping. The bathroom now smelled vulgar, pee and vomit were all over the seats, and no toilet paper. Thereafter, I could smell the breakfast seep all the way down from the dinning car, three cars up. I looked out the window at the plateau countryside. It was forty-shades of green, and lots and lots of telephone poles, and fine looking horses grazing, small hills, patches of forest here and three. Seeing all this appeared as if I had never left Minnesota, but there wasn’t one cornfield, not one, but it was nice looking country anyhow.
No: 640 (6-23-2010) Part two and three deleted
A Strange Ending (The Case of Hermon Hamilton Hunter) Mr. Herman Hamilton Hunter, of Enterprise, Alabama, 1978, had waited until his wife had died, and his children had grown up and left home, he called them: the end of his trials and tribulations, he had stopped drinking twenty-seven years prior, to save his marriage, and his job and raising his two children. He had told his neighbor, he had not gone to bars and lounges and grills of the same clubs, but he knew someday he’d end up drinking again. That had he not wanted to save his marriage he would have went straight into long term drinking long ago. He had been forced to stop. He had buried his wife a week to the day, which is today, still standing in his yard, talking to his young neighbor, a soldier from Fort Rucker, Alabama, a drinker. His elbows on the fence, reflecting those old days he used to drink, and wanting to implement the new ones sooner than later. “I want to get drunk, real drunk,” he told his neighbor who was a sergeant in the Army, and he called him by his rank, Staff Sergeant Crow. “All right,” said the sergeant, nothing is stopping you now. “Give me ten minutes and we’ll go get drunk together,” said Herman, “or tell me the bar you’ll be at and I’ll join you there.” It was in the hottest part of the afternoon. Herman didn’t move from the fence, he said, “Sergeant. Look at me,” in such a tone that the sergeant thrust his whole body up against the fence from where he had been standing, looking across the fence from him. “What is it?” said the sergeant. “I spoke to you in English, you didn’t answer me!” said Mr. Hunter. “I hate for you to go back to drinking, I feel if I agree to meet you, I’ll be responsible for your returning to the booze.” “I’m sixty-five years old tomorrow,” Mr. Hunter said. “I have just exactly the amount of money it will take to supply my drinking wants and pleasures until the dirt falls over my tomb. But when that occurs—I mean the tomb, of course—nothing will have happened to me in all my life, that I didn’t want to happen to me but one thing, and that is having to stop drinking, I’ve been waiting for twenty-seven years to get drunk. If there is any time left here on earth for me, it will be used for my drinking and I will leave only a drunken carcass to be buried, I will, like everyone else, Sergeant, be but a smudge or stain, left on someone’s doorstep, forgotten before the door closes.” No: 786(3-28-2011)
Triumph of a Quail
Inasmuch as I have put to myself the task of trying to tell you an inquisitive story in which I am myself apprehensive—I shall begin by leaving you with some notion of me (3-28-2011). Very well then, I am a man of sixty-three, rather a robust in size and with auburn hair, what’s left of it. I wear glasses. Until five years ago, I lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I had a few different positions, a psychologist for the Federal Government Prison system, and an entrepreneur—of a small sort, and a poet and writer of a small stature. I am married to a Peruvian woman, and have moved to Lima—although I am still a resident of Minnesota for the most part. And have adopted an abandoned Quail. We named her after the preacher that brought her to us, homeless, and have since put her in our house garden, her name being, Marcelina Rose. She has in a way of speaking, a quiet form of smiling, as though to say…we may go into that later. It was a hard jolt for me, to take on a quail, feed her, and try to not look foolish in the process of adopting her, and talking to her, and perhaps even now, after a month of having her, there might be a kind of satisfaction in making myself look silly by telling of it—this story, which is really only an account of how a quail, triumphed. To tell the truth, I felt in the beginning a little foolish that I should be feeding her along with the other birds that come into our open to the sky, garden daily—a special diet, chasing pigeons away from her—they appeared as if they were interested in her, and were following her as if to attack her; as if I am a grand guard standing at the gate to the Garden of Eden like Gabriel, pacing back and forth. “I’ve an idea,” my wife told me. “What?” I asked. “I’ll take your idea of a night light that could heat up a box, and make a box-house for Marcelina, and she’ll sleep in it at night.” Well she did just that, found a big cardboard box, for the plump little quail, that didn’t care to go into the box at first, but sat outside along the glass door on a mat, until I finished reading at night, let’s say, 2:00 a.m. and learning she was afraid of the dark in the process—I had to learn Quail-logy, the tone of my voice she knows now, and I’ve told her it is safe to go into that box house at night, so after I leave my office at 2:00 a.m., she does just that. She’s just a big baby, and shits—or so it seems—as must as one big fat turkey, or as often I should say, as a human baby. She had my sympathies for a while, but to be truthful, it is waning. “Hurry up over here, see Marcelina,” my wife cries out to me, a few days ago. She’s learned something new, I think from the sparrows, or maybe me. “What?” I ask my wife. “Look, just look at her all sprawling body and soft feathers, and kind eyes, laying there.” She actually looked as if she was sunbathing on the Lima beach. So I looked, and she was correct, Marcelina had learned fast how to be lazy. ‘Gee whiz,’ I said to myself, ‘what’s next?’ Well, what was next is this: every time a pigeon comes, she now calls me to come into the garden—breaks my concentration of writing, and sure enough, there is a pigeon. But now she calls me at night because she’s still a little afraid of the dark—can you imagine a quail being afraid of the dark, by gosh, had I not experienced this with my own eyes, I’d would have told anybody who told me: a quail was afraid of the dark, to go see colleague of mine—in the psychotic ward. If anything, I’m getting more exercise these days. I keep thinking of when we go to the mountains where we have another home, and stay there for three months out of each year, what will become of her. Let’s be honest, how long can this go on? My wife is hoping she has a longevity living in our garden. I’m praying she sprouts those little wings (more like fins) and gets married soon, or finds a mate. The good thing is, they don’t get extraordinarily large, the bad thing is, and they don’t get immaculately clean. Now for Marcelina Rose’s story. Yes, my wife Rosa has given her a second name of all things. Anyhow, her story is interesting. Some person in a car dropped her off at the church, of all things. It was late in the afternoon, and a dog had chased her, and evidently he was hungry, and had deadly intentions. And Father Marcelo came to the rescue, he and several young church members, they came waving their arms and calling to the quail—as if the quail was going to march over to them. So the quail of course had three traumatic experiences in a roll: the car thing, the hungry dog, and now the kids waving their hands trying to rescue the creature, and did, and put her in a cloths basket—a wobbly prison for her. Dang it all! Now for the neighbour, that is me and Rosa, so we ended up with her; for the first week, she hid behind the totem pole in the garden, and then worked her way all the way to my glass door of my office—I was hoping she’d silently work her way back to that totem pole, but that also scares her at night. And when she yelps, all the neighbours can hear her, she somehow extends that neck of hers four inches or so—and that’s a lot for her, because she’s not much longer than that, and whatever she’s saying comes out like a rustic bell—echoing like a loudspeaker. All channelled through that extended neck. But I have learned something of all this: big brain little brain, I don’t know what she has—it can’t be too big thought, but she feels pain, and she feels love and she can feel hunger, and safety, and she knows cold from hot. She can learn certain behaviours, I don’t think Carl Sagan would like to hear this but, she’s not as dumb as you might think she should be—she knows who wants to hurt her, and who doesn’t—she can get tightly gripped with the latter. As for her story—she couldn’t tell it, and so I’ve tried to do my best for her, that is to say, I’ve perhaps used the imaginative side of myself to explain her, but it’s the best I can do—and she has, if anything, thus far, triumphed.
No: 785 (3-28-2011) For Rosa, Marcelina and Father Marcelo
An Ordinary Account of Evil
It has seemed to me, often, perhaps too often, war is paralleled with evil, the ultimate of evil, and all the other evil that surrounds man, is omitted as natural observations of the ordinary. We have many accounts of war by Civil War writers, WWI poets, WWII, historians, Vietnam Veterans; coming home mentally disturbed soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. CNN news, and BBC news, and for that matter, all the news media have written of the horrors of war most interestingly and intensely, whereas, the account of the evil men do outside of war, gets a day’s headlines, and then thrown to the wolves to eat and digest, and never to be seen again. Can we not hope to see the real, if not interesting facts about evil lurking out there in our backyards, down the street, wherever we walk nowadays, for more than a day? And punished accordingly? When a young lad was taking a bus ride across Canada recently, an ordinary traveler for the most part, was at one period of his course sleeping and a man, surrounded by people, alone, pulled out a knife and cut his head off, considering this evil, it got one or two days in the paper at most, and over the internet, and on television. And thereafter, nothing appearing to remain in the news he existed, thus lie down and die, and make the most of it, the beauty of this evil did not catch the eye of the news broadcasters for very long. I could not contemplate the evil this man did. Shortly after this, in Argentina, without the blink of an eye, another human being, with admiration for evil to be done, did it, planted, and watered his plan, to perfection in the obscure part of the world; this evil was quickly hushed up, which appears to be because of tourism, and the evil done was a man in a jealous rage who killed his prey, and cut the victim up, put the person into a suitcase of all things, and the media and its world looked to more interesting things after the first day, with unconcern eyes for the Argentina evil, even the news media in Buenos Aires, where it took place… evidently, the situation and suffering of creatures formed after God’s own image, must somehow produce a more lasting despair to keep the publics curiosity. There was a man in Austria, most recently, who had kept his daughter in his basement for twenty-years, having sexual intercourse with her, and producing a number of children by her. His wife and family living upstairs, and oblivious to all this; when he was found out, put into jail, and observed like a rat in a cage by the media, psychologists, and criminal officials, for two weeks, for some reason kept the attention of the media, he protested being called a beast, or alike, and folks looked at him and treated him as inhuman. Here is man who deserves to die, who can’t stand the shame of his own evil, and when looked upon for his evil, as a beast, wants his rights as a civil human being. That’s our society though. It is a shame we need such misery to moll over, showing disregard, and hunger for disappointed evil, evil man wants to digest, and if it is not tasty enough, then it is not worthy the journey to the movies, or reading the second day’s issue on the subject. (Why then do I write suspense stories you may ask? To reminded people in the future, the past was black!) In war the dead are dead and forgotten, like animals, we become a frequently overlooked species, but interest holds because war too often has a certain opportunity to observe, it is in the raw, it is ongoing like a movie, civil life is destroyed around the war, as recently in the war with Palestine, or Hamas, and Israel, it got headlines for 21-days, and even the United Nations cursed the Jews, for killing so many Palestinians, they even started to entertain thoughts, of what really is moral and not moral for the Jewish nation to do, to allow them to do to secure their people, on rare occasions they do that, yet for six months prior to this, the United Nations approved the ongoing rocketing that Hamas did on Israel, and to my understanding, Hamas at times shot 300-rockets a day into the land of Israel (perhaps 10,000, in that six month period), and during the war, it weaned down to 50 or 10 a day. It seemed to the world, and news media, and the UN, a fitting enough sight to watch from the accustomed distance they usually give to Israel, and looked less incongruous there than they would by stepping in and condemning Hamas. Speaking literally, one can hardly say they really wanted to stop evil, per se, rather they wanted to stop Israel from acquiring a lasting peace, had they continued, they would have destroyed the enemy, as we normally do in a war; now, long dead is this peace that could have been. Regarding another case, most recently, in a small village in Peru, a sibling, took a hammer—over sexual jealousy, and pounded her sister over the head with it until she was dead. Again the news media, and the officials involved, accustomed to the sight of death, shocking as it was when it was, it was soon forgotten. I remember, when I was fifteen years old, a boy of nineteen I hung round with, just started to hang around with, this person I quite thoroughly thought was of whole mind, killed his two nieces, one eighteen months old and the other, six years old, in a rampage, it was in the paper for one day. Perhaps the discussing occurrence did not agree with the reader’s reality of horror, it was a quality of unreality, yet fact. It had been so immediate and the event was perhaps unpleasant to write, that was back in 1961, nowadays, it would be in a different category, they would send an expert to obtain accuracy of the observation, to confine himself nearby to get unlimited access to the slayer, and then try to sell the greatest number of papers, withdraw from the project and go onto the next. They do this now so fast; it is bagged and completed before the dead are buried. As time goes by, decade to decade for me—for me anyhow, each day, the races of the world allows more evil to grow unabated, and the dead grow larger in number—stacked high like mounds, I am waiting for the earth to burst open her guts and vomit out the stink. We’ll have to send them in balloons up to the moon soon, they are scattered about like dead maggots all over the place.
Written February, 2009 † Four Poems
Many Windows (A Poem - "Bringing it together" with Commentary on Form and Structure)
If I shine or if I'm dull Little does it matter now? Days fly by like drops of rain As I slip an' slide Past the windows of my life Down the unseen highways! I stand looking out my windows Little do I think or say Blue, yellow, green and white (All the windows of my life) They all kind-of look the same Kind-of look way too plain... No matter where stand No matter what I say No matter where I go it seems A Poet's vanity, will never change Like dirty windows, dirty panes, That constantly needs cleaning! Notes: Poem No: 2662 (2-18-2010): this poem was inspired after seeing the painting By Christine Tulgren, "Bringing it Together"
Mother of the Night Sky (or, My Baby )
Baby there are those roads, believe it or not that feel around in the darkness…that no matter where you are, nor how old you’ll become, should something happen… to you, my heart would be shredded, abandoned, collapse, numb, it would burst—; you are the fulfillment of the soul, crafted inside of me, by hands of Jehovah— I slept restlessly, in the sloping dark, before and after, I gave you life—; confessions, I have none, but I know when I saw you, I had swallowed the earth, the deep hungers inside of me, collapsed, everything I need now is buried, under the sun. How much I love to fly alone in the rain, knowing you are part of the universe now, part of me. So much ecstasy…Alone on the unused seas! I am a mother that can feel her child through all time and distance…I am the seagull that follows the ship, in uttering small cries, to let you know, my long prayers will follow you…my Baby! Gail, you’ve become a mother of the night sky—full of life, it all has come to this. No: 2800/1-23-2010 (For Gail Weber)
Spring Cleaning (A 1960s, Minnesota Poem)
During spring cleaning my mother worked the house as if—she was having a GI-Party: one of those Army clean-up parties where everything had to be ‘Spick and Span.’ Every nook and crack in every inch of the place, clean and shiny. She moved the furniture around—awkward as it was—sofa chair, table and television lifting up rugs—and still having strength and stamina to wash walls clean. And in the midst of it all I often wondered, she never rearranged the rooms. Perhaps because she didn’t want grandpa to become disoriented. Thus, no one had to deal with change. And no one knew the inexhaustible efforts she put out (or if they did no one said a word, nor she). No: 2695 (5-18-2010) ; Dedicated to Elsie T. Siluk
Three Shot Espresso (Moody thoughts for a moody morning)
Every one sees us Betrays us A few stop Breathes in my air Some discreetly Some loudly Some ramming Some hammering Nose-less Mouth-less Perfectly pointless That’s the window I’m looking out Sitting in the Olympic Restaurant Here in Huancayo, Peru (by the Plaza de Armas) This Saturday morning— Feeling moody! So many of us Walking by each other In a clutter (like shovels of dirt!) We shall by evening Desecrate the earth Our hands are on the door Knob…ready to get on!
Written while having coffee at the Olympic Café, Huancayo, and Peru; No: 2872/ 12-4-2010; (Confessional style of poetry) (Dedicated to Andy Diner Flores at the Olympic Restaurant, in downtown Huancayo, Peru)