Thursday, January 30, 2014
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Voyage from Grodno
to Ellis Island (1916)
(Part Eight—concluding chapter to: “From the Baltic”; Liberty at hand)
((From Russia to the United States) (Non-fiction))
Anton, at the age of 75-years old (1969)
The sketch was taken from a picture the author had
Slowly the ship plowed through the last part of its voyage, through the Atlantic waters, to New York City’s harbor, whereupon, the youthful and somewhat willful Russian lad named Tony (Anatolee, or Anton), saw for the first time, the most famous statue in the world, the Statue of Liberty, and nearby Ellis Island was at arm’s length, the two most celebrated pieces of gossip onboard the ship, it would be where he’d process through, he was like thousands of others coming to America: star struck in some indomitable amazement.
As he would go through the processing at Ellis Island, he would take a physical first, at which time, to his surprise, he would find out he had a rash on his stomach, legs and upper portion of his arms. The authorities, were taken back a bit, and ready to return Anatolee back to the ship and back to Russia—: dismayed, Anton yelled in what little English he knew, and had picked up onboard the ship from the Russians and Turkish Jews:
“No, no scik, excitied, ecited, no scik, no scik! (He insisted, screeched it out in a near panic-stricken way.)”
Yet somehow he maintained a smile on his face through all this, that stretched from ear to ear, which might have been the deciding factor for the doctor at the facility in giving him the benefit of doubt. He looked suspiciously into his eyes, Anatolee almost froze: tears filled the rim of his lower eyelids:
“Okay, O.K…aaaa,” hummed the doctor, a bit unsure of his decision, but nonetheless, waved him on through to the next station, and inspector.
It was an electrifying moment to say the least… Apart from, it was 1916, and WWI, was in full motion.
From there Anton went by train, arriving in St. Paul, Minnesota a few days later, finding the weather much like Grodno’s, where he had come from—; chilled to the bone.
It had been an enduring two years for Anton: he had witnessed his father’s death a year prior (who had fallen off the rooftop of their farmhouse, while mending it; and seeing his brother off to South America). The Russian Military was searching house to house, farm to farm, looking for military recruits, provoking his mother in pushing Anton to go to North America.
Now settled down, in less than a year and a half, Anton was drafted into the United States Military Service, hence, back to Europe, he went, this time, fighting in the trenches, in France as a cook acquiring his citizenship upon an honorable discharge, in 1918.
Note: an eight part short story, this is part of the 8th Part, written July 2006) Grodno is now called Hrodna, Reedited in part 9-2013/ No: 612
((October 7, 1947) (Non-fiction))
My mother and me, in St. Paul, Minnesota, the year I
believe is the summer of 1948—Perhaps 9-months old
It is the big unseen, “Woops,” there I am. Someone says, “It is time now,” and mother pushes and tugs and clutches onto the bed railings.
As I come out of her womb, I hear an echo, far in the background, “It is your time now.”
Who said it I don’t know. There is some bloodshed in leaving this nearly one year cocoon, cozy as it was, to enter these enormously larger surroundings. There are of course several moments child and mother collide, a series of little and final evictions, the nurse and the doctors are there watching all this, ready to sign the birth certificate, and asking what the name will be, one to christen this new being, being born, in this primitive savage way.
I am sure many have written on this subject, spoken on it, much better than I, I seek in brief only to recap it, perhaps for myself. I was born because my mother met and exercised the act of passion with a man called my father, a different father than my brother’s father, but that is neither here nor there, I was born 4:00 a.m., in the morning at St. Joseph’s Hospital, in Minnesota, October 7, 1947. In my case, my father left before I was named, before the certificate was even rolled out of the doctor’s drawer, and whereupon the nurse tried to grab me and replace me with a stillborn baby, so another family might have a live infant, but no dice, my mother saw the scheme, and stopped it. You see she heard, “It’s a boy!” You don’t say that to a stillborn child; and then she never heard another word—and that provoked suspicion, and the other family wanted a boy, and so she kept her eyes half open, demanded: “Bring my boy to me!”
You don’t think things, happen that way, but they do.
Her first baby, some two years earlier, was a boy also, my brother of course, now she had potatoes and carrots. That is, my brother always liked potatoes; I on the other hand, had bright red hair, carrot hair, plus I liked carrots. My brother was christened on the spot. It doesn’t matter how it all began, it all turned out okay—that’s what matters: we were a family, but I wonder whatever happened to that other family, —the two who almost made three, who had the stillborn? I couldn’t say, nor wish to try but perhaps they had better luck thereafter, I hope so, and I hold no grudges.
A Case of Doubt
((The Fall/Winter of 1967) (Part of: Donkeyland, a Side Street Saga))
It is one of those odd or peculiar moments in life, views you have, like a dream (later on turning into a heavy weight), a half-sleep where everything is distorted, so, once you get focused, you must try to keep focused. The evening was bleak; the cold sky looked very high. It happened in late fall (the end of November I believe).
As I tell this story, it seems even at this early point it appears to be collapsing in on me, that is, threatening to collapse in on me, as it unfolds around me. Thus I should try to write this out in one quick afternoon, and rewrite it in the evening, before it does; it took place forty-four years ago, 1967, and I remember it as if it was yesterday.
I stepped outside of Sharon’s apartment (she lived in the housing projects with her two sons; I was dating her: actually we were kind of living together, me with her, more so than she with me, meaning it was her apartment). As I said, I stepped outside to talk to Sid Moeller, my bosom buddy. I felt cold, perhaps by all the icy slush lying about. The cold soaked into my bones, and then into my marrow. As a few cars come into the parking lot area, their tires spattered the muck all about. I looked at Sid, saw that he was serious, and had a stern face. I leaned my shoulder against a pole by the sidewalk.
“Hell of a night,” I said, it was 9:00 p.m. Sharon had stepped close by the door, it was ajar, she was trying hard to listen to our conversation. Of course she already knew what Sid wanted, what he always wanted.
Finally Sid was forced to say what was on his mind. In the distance I could still hear the slush the cars, of other cars, a police or ambulance siren. The projects were a beehive for hooligans—I might have been considered a strain of one of them myself back then.
I stood shaking, said, “Well what’s on your mind, it is cold out here.”
It appeared he didn’t know how to put it, perhaps because Sharon was watching, and she had expressed: she hoped I wasn’t going anyplace this evening.
The street was dark and noisy. Sid usually didn’t have trouble talking me into whatever he wanted to do, whatever was on his mind. He’d even drive up to Washington High School, my last year of school, and just before I’d open the door to go inside for classes, he’d show up, honk his horn, show me a six-pack of beer and say, “Come on Chick, I got some more hidden in the trunk,” and there I’d be, sitting in his front seat. I missed sixty-four days of school my senior year, and still graduated (although I had six-weekends to make it up, or else).
Anyhow, here we were—but a few feet apart, the man next door stumbling about, trying to get his key into the keyhole of his apartment, half drunk on his ass, if indeed it was his apartment. A taxi had stopped at another apartment, and blew his horn; they never got out of their automobiles in fear of some catastrophe.
“Forget it, buddy,” he commented, and walked over to the curb as if to appease Sharon, knowing she was listening, moving closer nearby his car, leaving me standing where I was, knowing I’d join him in a jiffy. In the distance I could hear her two boys fighting, she left the doorway to go investigate.
A wave of near pleading filled Sid’s face. I simply waited for him to say what he needed to say; the cold still sucking from somewhere in my face, sucking it in. A soft cold rain—a drizzle started up. I stood there shivering cold, Sid had had a few drinks before he came over, and had a few more with me, but I hadn’t yet started my night’s serious drinking, nor had he, it was Friday evening, in St. Paul, Minnesota, I had turned twenty-years old, a month prior, and Sid, would be twenty-one in six months. I started pacing the sidewalk some, “I was hoping you’d come to Hudson, Wisconsin, with me tonight!” he said in a pleasant and hopeful voice.
I stumbled about, nearly fell, my shoes and socks got soaked with muck. I concentrated on Sid’s offer, I really wanted to go, he even said he’d borrow me money if I needed some, “I better stay here, Sharon’s been moody lately, awful moody, I’m going to move out soon, I don’t like her demands, but I better stay tonight, plus it’s getting late, too late to take a long drive to Hudson, drink and then drive all the way back, just stay here with us and get drunk.” I hesitated a moment, then added “That’s it, that’s about it, just drive slow if you got to go. It’s a long drive you know.”
My knees were getting cold standing there, and my feet with the slush and muck in them were freezing up.
“I’ll be fine, one of the other guys are driving.” He said.
“The other guys,” I said, “I thought you were going alone?” My voice got gruffly and not encouraging, and then I started to feel the ice rain on my head, forehead, and back. My cheeks getting numb, the drizzle continued.
“Where’d you find these guys?” I asked—; “Whose car you using?”
“It’s all right,” Sid said.
To Sid: “You mean you’re going to let someone else drive, you’re going against your own principles, you’ve told me a hundred times, you never let anyone drive, and you drive only your own car.” (Wherever he had gotten that principle, he stuck to it like glue, and I was shocked to see he was modifying it.) I had peered straight into his face when I said that, “You got to be kidding!” For some reason I felt odd saying that, but I had to say what I felt, and now I felt even more uncomfortable about going, before I had hesitant, even felt a little guilty saying no to Sid. Sid was a good driver. He nodded a ‘Yes’ from me.
“You ought to just let them guys go themselves, and stay here!” I pert near begged.
Sharon was talking to her two kids now, she looked anxious, wanting to get back to the doorway, to insure I’d not take off. I don’t think Sid had expected this, but he wasn’t surprised after he had told me about the two guys—guys he barely knew, and I didn’t know at all, and me turning him down cold turkey now, now that he had mentioned everything there was to mention. For the most part, I never felt comfortable drinking with strangers I didn’t know, they often got drunk and wanted to fight, and I wanted to drink.
“Are you sure you want to go, you always insist driving.”
“We’ve designated someone not to drink too much.” He said.
“You know how that works, it doesn’t work. Once you start drinking, the non-drinker wants to drink and then you’re too far away to say anything, and it isn’t your car, and you are not going to walk back, you’re putting yourself in their hands.”
“Okay,” he said, “I’m all right.”
“You seem all right,” I remarked, “but you will all be goofy drunk coming back, and Highway #94 is not all that lit up, from Hudson to St. Paul.”
I was starting to freeze standing in this one spot, thinking thoughts, perhaps what he was thinking, staying in a warm house, drinking, getting drunk, but he told those fellows he’d go, and he felt he had to go, even though now he had second thoughts on the matter. It’s funny, when you let someone take control of your life, that is exactly what they do but it is not for your betterment, it is in every case I’ve yet to see, under the heading of self-interest.
“No, I told them I’d go; I’d feel funny at the last minute telling them different,” said Sid.
“Well, where are they?”
“They’re waiting for me at a bar!”
We both glanced at one another, oddly, as if he had just discovered we were disconnected.
“No,” I reconfirmed, but I wanted to keep him company. He looked confused, and I suppose so did I to him.
I had left and he had left, and I went into the kitchen to join Sharon, and she took a cold beer out of the refrigerator for me, it tasted marvelous.
“Better go easy on that, Chick,” she said, we only have a six-pack left.
“Six,” I said, “isn’t bad if you don’t drink any.” I had three already, she had one and Sid had two. She liked her beer almost as much as I did. I was upset with myself for not going along with Sid, blaming it on Sharon who had insisted I stay home for once, even to the point of threatening to kick me out if I went. “If you go,” she said, “don’t come back.”
In the back of my head I had plans anyhow to go onto San Francisco in the approaching days.
The News Report
“Wake up,” said Sharon; it was on the 7:00 a.m., news. “Wake up, Sid is on the news!” She shouted from the stairway by the living room; up the stairs came the reverberation of her voice. She said it a number of times.
My head and stomach was the worse, a hangover, it ached as if I had drunk way too much, or too little, or woken up too early too quickly. I rolled onto my side. After awhile, I yelled down, “You said, Sid? What about him?”
“He’s on the news, come and see!”
“Come on down and see for yourself.”
“He had an accident.” Then there was a long hesitation, and I knew I’d have to get up and go downstairs, to find out what all the commotion was about. And so I rolled out of bed. Then I heard her say something like “You were lucky.”
“Yeah,” I said, not knowing why I said, what I said, not knowing what was going on.
By the time I had gotten down to the living room the news was still on, wrapping up, the commentator was going over the local news once more, I felt like a dead fish, hammered on, but getting better, still feeling a little sleepy, nauseated is perhaps the better description.
“Come over here,” said Sharon, “listen it’ll be on next, I saw it three times already.”
I just sat there and watched, she couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me for some reason what exactly was going on, and then she said, “You see!” It was a car wreck. I didn’t say a word, I didn’t recognize the car, and it wasn’t Sid’s.
“Wait a minute,” Sharon told me, he’ll say more about it in a moment.” It was as if she needed my confirmation, to assess if what had happened really happened.
I sat up, my stomach was sore.
“I’m afraid you’re going to get really upset,” she inferred.
“Wait and see.”
Then the News Commentator came on, and said, “Three boys coming back from Hudson, Wisconsin, on Highway #94, smashed into a guard railing, smashed right thought it, breaking out their front window, and having the railing come out through the back window, they must have been going ninety-miles an hour, all tested for having high alcohol content in their blood. All were killed instantly. Sid Moeller, twenty-years old and…”
There was a long pause, my mouth went dry, I almost lost my breath, and I had to gulp for air.
“Do you want me to go get some beer?” asked Sharon calmly.
“No, I should call Paula, see if she knows,” it was his wife, they were separated, and she was filing for a divorce.
“Okay,” she said, “but don’t leave please.”
I did leave, I frowned and moved out of the place, and moved over on the Westside of town, where the Mexicans lived, found a basement apartment, and stayed there until summer (although I did have an incident with a girl named ‘the Shadow’ somewhere in-between all this), and went to San Francisco. I had felt terrible for those months after Sid’s death; I was silent for a long while.
I was never invited to his funeral by his parents—being at the time his best friend (so I felt), matter of fact, I heard, overheard, one of them saying, “Why was it him, and not…” And they skipped over the name and finished the sentence by saying, “The good die young…” In both cases, the implication of me was there, but I guess I don’t blame them, I was to them the wild one, but then so was Sid, they just couldn’t believe he was as wild as me. (Now they all are dead but me, so I can write this.)
No: 716/ 1-25-2011
To Another Country
((Augsburg, Germany, 1970) (A Chick Evens Story)
1970, the author is in the Middle between his two friends at the great wall of Augsburg, built
by the Romans in about 50 BC. In this story the author assumes the name of Chick Evens.
We, the soldiers at the 1/36 Artillery, in Augsburg, Germany, in March, of 1970, understood the war in Vietnam could call us at anytime; we could be put on the allocation list, and so we formed friendships, kind of like to like, to pass the time of day away. My room in the barracks was dimly lit, and the hallways were noisy and smoky, and we had certain hours we could be up and around, and then bed-check, we had bed-check back then; and there were always sergeants checking this and that. On the other hand, people were bringing in girls on the weekends, along with the Mexicans with their loud music, and blacks high on dope, and the whites, drunk as skunks. And all of us to a certain degree took on the behaviors of the others, at one time or another. We were mostly Privates and Private First Class Soldiers, some Corporals, only a few Buck Sergeants within the barracks, and there were four to a room usually.
And I, I suppose I was like a few of the others, patriotic, and I believe a few of my buddies were the same, but not many of us were, we simply were draftees. Two of them were from the south; I think Alabama, and North Carolina. We hung around with the adjectives removed, and just got drunk, walked the parks and streets and visited the guesthouses in Augsburg, Germany.
Perhaps we needed each other, so it seemed at the time, it was kind of a small group we had, and remained friends against outsiders you might say. It had been different there, in West Germany, away from home.
I was not ashamed of my homeland, but the longer I stayed in Germany, the more I liked it, I was getting used to the German soil, the nightclubs, the food, the culture. I could have imagined myself taking a European Out, as they called it, and living in Germany for a year, once my tour was up, but I’d end up in Vietnam, so that was only food for thought for a small period of time.
The three of us, Private First Class Bruce Wilcox and Buck Sergeant, John Sharp, and I, Chick Evens, were seen as almost being attached to one another, the first three months I was in Germany, even Simon, a Private like me, joined the group, as we drifted here and there. And I liked them all, thought perhaps we’d not have to be separated from one another, and we’d spend our time here in Germany together.
When I got promoted to a special project, in the security area this question came up, being separated from my buddies. They had complimented me on the so called promotion, but now our hours were irregular for us to hangout. So they were wondering, as I was wondering, if I was going to accept the promotion, it wasn’t in rank, rather in position.
This all made me think, ‘was the promotion a promotion or a demotion?’ I would get a private room, which normally only sergeants got, my hours would rotate, but be fixed for the most part, and I’d not have to go out to those horrible thirty-day training maneuvers, short for military exercises in the cold wilderness a hundred miles away. But my friends, I said, ‘what about my friends?’ questioning myself.
Sergeant First Class Myers approached me; he was ahead of the Security Force at Reese Military Base, said,
“You have the new job if you want it, I’ve talked to your Company Commander, he was reluctant at first to let you go, but I had the Colonel back me up, it has to be accepted willingly, otherwise your Commanding Officer will request that you come back into his Command, or simply stay in his.”
“I’m trying to work it out in my head; it has more to do with leaving my friends than anything.” I said.
“The more of a fool you are, to let a good chance pass you by that you may never be able to recover. But let your conscious be your guide,” said the willing, Sergeant First Class.
“Why, Sergeant Myers isn’t friendship important?”
He seemed very angry, “Don’t call me Sergeant, I am a First Class Sergeant, that is my title, it took me eighteen-years to get it.”
“Sorry Sergeant First Class Myers, I do respect your rank, and I see your point.” I said, trying to smooth things out.
“You cannot pass up a good opportunity, if you are to advance, here you are subject to me, over at the company, you will be subject to the whims of the Captain, you will not even be noticed among the other hundred and sixty men he has, and forgotten for promotion for good deeds done, in this position you lose nothing, and gain everything.”
I wanted to say something else, and he simply said, “Don’t argue with me private, I don’t have the time, you have five minutes to make up your mind, and then I’ll find your replacement, it’s as simple as that.”
I could not be rude, so I didn’t say another word, rather leaned against the stone wall of the barracks, the security building. Then in five minutes he came out.
“Oh—” he said, “they are biting their lips over at your company area to have you back, they are low on men for guard duty, and kitchen clean up and so forth, I told them I’d be sending you back soon, since it is so difficult for you to resign yourself from your old duty and friends, the soldiers that work here also make for good friends, matter-of-fact, wherever you go in life you will meet new and good friends, and have to say farewell to the old ones, that is simply life.”
“You must forgive me, for being so indolent in my choice, when I had in the first place asked for this new duty assignment. Yes, I will be more than glad to accept it. You are right, an opportunity missed, may never appear again, and who knows what road it will lead to.”
And it was at that moment my confidence in decision making was completely restored.
The River Change
((1975, townships: Babenhausen & 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 unpadded wooden 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 still 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 doesn’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 in case.”
“For fear that she might be 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 out 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” (Reedited 2-2012)
Someone should have Died
(1975, 545th Ordnance Company, Nuclear Site, West Germany)
The structure was built to withstand a nuclear blast. Around the site were high trees, sidewalks that lead to bunkers that had half dozen nuclear bombs in them (see interlude for details). The trees and foliage were high enough that only a small plane at a hundred feet or so if flown over the site could see it, and it was forbidden by the German Government to allow any flights over the site. The young sergeant of twenty-seven, well built, auburn hair, with bluish-green eyes, had just taken over another sergeant’s shift; he was on what was called ENREST (Nuclear Surety, Watchdogs). Each sergeant at the site, who had a Top Secret Clearance, was put on the ENREST roster, as was every officer with a Top Secret Clearance, it was a twenty-four hour duty, once a month, and neither that sergeant or officer was to leave the bunker area. At night the doors were locked and bolted, front doors, one to the bunker, the other to the ENREST room within the bunker, where the orders came in.
As Sergeant Chick Evens listened he could hear the night winds over the bunker. At the same time he could hear a five-ton truck bringing in a new shift of Military Police, who guarded the site, twenty-four-seven. He licked his lips, to moisten them, it was a very hot night, he took off his shirt, only his undershirt on, the fat captain, lay snoring on his iron cot on one side of the room, as he sat on his iron cot, on the other side of the room. The room was twelve feet by twelve feet. The young captain was named Horace Worme. The sergeant had seen his file, and his college transcripts, since he was the NCOIC, in charge of the Nuclear Surety Program Investigations, and often wondered how a captain could become a captain, with 90% of his semester grades being “Ds”. I mean he had more “D’s” than anything else, not one A, or B, a few C’s. He had gone to college himself and had a Bachelor’s Degree, and had gotten one D, and that was fault-finding for him, near shameful.
Evens watched the fat Captain, there was no one else to watch, heavily breathing, sweating, and the wind just kept swirling over the manmade structure, as his perspiration soaked into the mattress. Then he got up and paced the floor, he never liked ENREST. He had told the Captain one of them had to stay up, watch the phones, the incoming data, read the printouts in case there was an alert. It was a two man control process, but only one need be up at a time during the night hours, but he also knew this captain never liked pulling this kind of duty, he left the sergeants stay up all night while he slept it away, but Evens said no to this crap, he was going to do his duty, just like him.
He tried to wake the captain up at 2:00 a.m., for him to take over the night shift, his time was up, but the captain wouldn’t wake up. Matter of fact, the Captain said—nearly bold and clear, “Leave me alone that’s an order sergeant!” And so the Sergeant laid face down on the cot, his chin on the pillow, his arms, stretched out.
“It’s foolish,” he said out loud hoping the Captain would hear “you can’t expect me to take your shift also, and read the data correctly,” messages came in from what was considered The European Central Command all the time. And it had to be translated, it was in code, and one man had to break open a white seal, after reading the message, and doing the decoding, then the other man checked it out, and they would follow procedure. If it was a red seal, then it was for an alert, high priority, and then it would go to a second seal if necessary. A white seal was less complicated. But often a white seal lead to a red seal, and that meant war; and the Cold War of course was with the Russians. Their premise was: if it went to the red seal, the nuclear stomachs (nuclear cylinders)—so I called them—of the bombs needed to be sunk underground.
(Interlude: It is hard to express the makeup of a nuclear bomb and its destructive capacity in a simple paragraph, and I have seen the insides of them, but let me express it in the most fundamental, if not, oversimplified manner: there are two parts to the nuclear bomb I am talking about, some have three parts, the secondary part of the nuclear bomb—about a half dozen of them were stored at the site, this is the part I saw, of a cylinder type design. Those bombs were 9 to 50-megatons-plus, some were Titan II (ICBM), the Titan fleet was retired in 1988; the fireball of one of those Titan missiles, were three-miles in diameter, its destructive forces would most likely destroy all structures in a ten-mile range, or three-hundred square miles. One kiloton is equal to 1000-tons of TNT, kilotons are measured in thousands of tons; Hiroshima witnessed a 15-kiloton bomb; called ‘Little Boy,’ and Nagasaki witnessed a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb called ‘Fat boy’—thereabouts; whereas, megatons are measured by millions of tons of TNT. The secondary part of the bomb is the bottom part; the primary is at the top. I need not say more for this story.)
When the young sergeant woke, it was still dark outside; he heard an incoming message on the machine, printing out for him to read and decode. He stood up, walked over to the desk where the machine was spitting out paper, and a message was being printed out, coming, he went to wake the Captain up, told him, “You got to decode the message, along with me. Or at least read it after I decode it.”
“No, you decode it”, he said, “I’m tired.”
He started to decode the message, and fell back to sleep, without reading it clearly. As was the Captain’s job; one looking over the shoulder of the other.
It was now 6:15 a.m., and the phone rang. The sergeant passed it over the Horace, saying “The Major, wants to talk to you for some reason.”
He stood to the side of the phone, half in a daze, the phone heavy in his right hand, “Yes sir,” said the Captain, “what is it?”
Captain Worme, drew back like a double bolt of lightning, grabbed the decoded message, “Didn’t you decode this last night,” he yelled, to the sergeant.
“Of course I did,” said the Sergeant, “the decoded part is right where the message is, right where you just…”
“Hello,” said the Captain, to the Major, “The Sergeant said he did decode the message.”
“Well didn’t you read it?” yelled the Major so loud, the Sergeant could hear him.
“Yaaay! No, I guess I didn’t, why?” said the Captain.
“Because,” said the Major, “we are the only nuclear site in all of Europe not on alert, and the Colonel wants to know why our gates are wide open, as if it is a normal day. I want to see you in an hour, and read that damn coded message—phone me back in five minutes.”
“So sergeant,” Captain Worme said to Evens, and started to read the decoded message, “it looks like you decoded it properly, why didn’t you wake me up and call an alert?”
“I did wake you up, and you gave me an order to leave you alone, after I told you, you needed to review the decoded message, as it is supposed to be, and you were insistent, and I was tired, and fell to sleep.”
“It was stupid not to act upon the message!” said the Captain.
“Ayee! Be careful captain. I did my duty, and you didn’t pull any duty at all, that can be called duty.”
After the Captain had come out of the Major’s office, he stopped Sergeant Evens, “So what’s going on?” asked the sergeant.
“I’m sorry to inform you, I think there will be some charges against you perhaps a court-martial; too many things to cover up.” Now the sergeant knew how he got past those “D’s” in college, he was a conniver.
“Well,” said the sergeant, “if I go down, so do you! Evidently they don’t know my part of the story; I’ll have to make a report sooner or later and inform them. Did they know it was you who gave me a Direct Order, to leave you sleep?” (And the sergeant knew, a Direct Order, from a commissioned officer, must not be in conflict with established law, and it was.)
“I’m not sure,” he said.
“What is there to be sure of, you told them or you didn’t, and I guess you didn’t.”
“I better go back there and settle this before it gets out of control.”
It was funny, thought the Sergeant, he didn’t blink an eye, and he must have been testing the water to see if I’d take the blame.
“It’s very good, if you do, I’ll just stand here awhile,” replied the Sergeant.
When the Captain had come back, all was settled.
“We are all soldiers,” said the Captain, “the thing to do is just forget today ever happened, and don’t say a word to anyone about this sergeant, okay? If you let this leak out, we’re all dead. We were on an alert, the Red Brigade, some anti German group has tried to storm one of our nuclear sites, and an alert was called because of that, and we screwed up. Had they come here to our site, God only knows what would have happened. The gates were wide open, and they could have taken hostages.”
“Yes,” said the Sergeant (looking over at the gates now closed and secure), standing to his right side. “I never heard of it.”
“Heard of what?” said the Captain. Again the sergeant thought of all those ‘D’s’ the captain had gotten.
“No one will ever hear of it, that’s what!” Said the Sergeant, then he thought: ‘…someone might have died because of our neglect—’ and he just wanted to get away from there.
Note: The 545th Ordnance Company was activated in 1942. In 1950, it was activated in Japan, and in 1959 it was active in West Germany, by Muenster-Dieburg; inactivated in June, 1992; area given back to Germany, in 1994. No: 715 (Written in: 1-24-2011; reedited 2-2012) the 545th was close to Babenhausen, Muster, and Dieburg; the author lived in both Dieburg and Babenhausen during this time period
Night Train to San Francisco
(Part of: Donkeyland, a Side Street Saga) Non-fiction
|San Francisco, 1968|
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 the summer of 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; the first being coming back from Seattle to St. Paul, Minnesota a year earlier where I had visited the city 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, as they often referred to it in the cowboy moves, raced onward.
We angled into Chicago, but before I could see its tall buildings, we were on the outskirts. I looked out the window to see the windy city but all I could see were railroad yards and freight cars lined up to kingdom-come. 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 though,” he said and I jumped up, crawled out from behind the two seats and onto the aisle, and then onto the landing area 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 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 around 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, 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 like, knowing I was only twenty-years old, 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 “You-all wants a shoeshine boy?” asked the Negro with the black and yellowish front buck teeth extending through his 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, the tobacco he was chewing was blacker than his teeth, his eyes were as red as Marilyn Monroe’s lips; his head was the shape of a football, 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 fourth and fifth beer, because when I woke up, there were two half cans of beer on the floor and one full one in my lap. 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 dining car, three cars up. I looked out the window at the countryside; it was now flat, not mountainous like before. It was forty-shades of green, and lots and lots of telephone poles, and fine looking horses grazing, small hills, patches of wooded areas here and there. Seeing all this appeared as if I had never left Minnesota (perhaps I was in Montana, who’s to say), except there were no cornfields, not one, but it was nice looking country anyhow.
No: 640 (6-23-2010) Notes: These short stories were written between January of 2010, and February of 2012 (in a 25-month period). The story numbers are between #631 and #879 (as you may well know if you’ve read the author before, the author numbers his poems and short stories: the first one being “The Little Russian Twins,’ written in 1981, and the most recent, “Distraught” number, 3879, written: 2-29-2012.
A Telephone Wait
((Cody’s Invisible dime) (summer of ’81))
He come up to a telephone booth, one of those half-size ones, 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 the East Side of town, on York Street, with his fraternal twin brother Shawn, and a few neighborhood kids. His face was fair, and he did everything slowly as though he was thinking, if not uncertain of something.
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—his puerperal vision.
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 today. So I drove around the neighborhood.” 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 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?” (Meaning on the telephone).
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, “someone did.”
Written 6-23-2009; dedicated to that little boy (reedited, 8-2013) No: 1020
Night at the Bar
Donkeyland, a Side Street Saga, 1967
The church steeple drifts off into the darkness. The trees in the adjacent cemetery, across Jackson Street, can only be seen by the fleeting headlights of cars. The mist whitens the trees. Everyone is at the corner bars, Bram’s or the Mount Airy. Chick Evens straightens up, takes out a cigarette, a light drizzle of rain fills the atmosphere, as he walks slowly up Sycamore Street, turns—sees the corner bars.
A few run-down looking busses, pass him, but are soon lost, once they turn the corner—he notices a few black faces on the bus, hateful, looking faces (perhaps it’s the times, he senses).
He hears voices coming from both bars, music is loud. He opens his eyes wider, leans his neck back, his belly is a little sour from the drunk he had the night before. A taxi goes by, stops in front of Bram’s, it looks like Nancy, David, Carol and Rockwater.
Now standing in-between the two doors of the Mt. Airy, he can hear the blind noisy street behind him. There are a few familiar faces in the bar, so he notices looking over the western style, swinging doors. He thinks it would have been better had he come later—more people, but he’s here now. He heads for the bathroom, urinates and combs his hair, washes his face. He’s been drinking half the day, up at Jerry Hino’s house, a half-mile past the church (he had been playing cards with Jerry and his brother Jim, and Mike Gulf, and Betty—Jerry’s wife, who had to feed the kids her kids as well as Jerry’s kids, so he decided to leave.)
He comes out of the bathroom, his light jacket laid over his arm, his friend Al Juneau is in one corner of the bar, he nods his head—I mean they both nod their heads for recognition of the other; he’s getting lit up, half drunk. Bill and his wife Judy are in a booth to his left, Bill had just come back from the war in Vietnam. John St. Clair is in another corner of the bar, his girlfriend is by herself at the bar opposite him. Big Ace, close to six-foot six inches tall (the neighborhood mannequin), no teeth, 210 pounds, ten-years everyone’s senior, or thereabout, not all that bright, is sitting next to Doug, singing his weird song: “Twenty-four black birds baked in the pie…” then he forgets the rest of the verse, he always does, and goes into a humming episode, as if lost inside his own head—pert near dancing on his padded stool, pounding on the bar with the palms of his hands, his feet kicking the lower part of the bar some.
Doug and Ace are sitting in the middle of the horseshoe shaped bar, like most everyone else, drinking beer, it would seem a beer fest was going on; but it’s really a normal everyday thing, and on the weekends the only difference is they all get drunker. The bar is not much more than a dive: no, it is just that, a dive. Chick Evens feels a tinge lousy but knows with a few more beers he’ll not feel anything, anyway, that will fix him up. As he orders a beer, drinks it down, his headache disappears. He runs his hand over his forehead, as if to wipe the beer sweat off of it.
The worst thing for Evens is that he has spent all his money but a dollar, buying beer at Hino’s house. He is Not sure how he’ll get by tonight, but there is always someone to buy a fellow neighborhood buddy a beer or two or three…. He’s good for it he tells himself.
He hears Doug’s voice, far, far away—or so it seems, he’s dating Jackie, Evens’ old girlfriend. He now joins Bill and Judy, he knows he can borrow a few bucks from Bill if he has to, needs to. The side window has a light chunk of the moon showing, all around it is a dark sky, and he falls down—purposely, onto the soft cushion at the edge of the booth, by Judy.
This whole business of drinking night after night has made Evens thirsty. Bill notices Chick’s glass of beer is empty. Bill says—in a wholehearted way, “Come on let’s get another round,” he is smiling, waves the waitress over—
“As long as the glass is cold, and the beer is cold, I like it,” say Evens.
These two bars have been a place for the neighborhood boys to drink at —from the cradle to the grave (or for most of them it will be); they are drunks and they don’t even know it, at such a young age too. Chick is but nineteen-years old, Ace is twenty-nine, and Jackie is his age and Doug perhaps five years older, and Roger is Doug’s age, thereabouts (Bill will die before his 40th birthday—electrocuted; Roger at 65, or there about, Al Juneau at 63—in bath cases alcoholism will play a part in their deaths; Don in his early 40s from alcoholism; Jerry Hino in his mid-forties—a car transmission will fall and cave-in his chest; Dave in his mid-sixties from caner; Kathy S., Evens’ old girlfriend will die in ten-years or less, a car accident; Betty will die of alcoholism a short while after her husband, in her 40s; Lorimar at 66 of cancer), and on and on. From the looks of things—should a bystander take notes—the so called Donkeyland Neighborhood Gang, so named by the police, the Cayuga Street neighborhood, in essence, one would think they were all weaned from infancy to infinity at these two bars, on beer, wine and whiskey—and cigarettes.
Inside the Mt. Airy bar, is an inexorable dampness, grayness like a mist that lingers, it reeks (The Great Northern Railroad is down and under the Jackson Street Bridge—and just outside the bar, you can hear the trains coming and going sporadically. On the other side of the bridge are the warehouses). The jukebox is playing “I’m Sorry,” by Brenda Lee (Gunner’s song, whom is now becoming a truck driver, he was the one that likes to gun his car, especially his black 1940 Ford up and down Cayuga Street, racing his pal, Mouse, waking up the dead at the nearby Oakland Cemetery). Now the jukebox it was playing something by Jack Scott, Elvis of course will be playing soon, a half dozen times along with Ricky Nelson, and there after the Beatles—no one really cares for the Beatles all that much in Donkeyland, a group that’s been out a few years—Tom T. Hall is singing something called, PTA or is it something about old dogs and children, not sure. Most all the males in the bar have their shirtsleeves rolled up, past their elbows, some are chewing tobacco—a nosy veracious lot, but more under control than Bram’s across the street—over there, there is a pool table; some of the boys will shift bars later on, as determination, those in Bram’s—bumping into each other as they crisscross Jackson street to reach the other waterhole.
The waitress is in her forties, has a shabby apron on, the Italian owner is her lover, he’s married, but after they close up the bar, she settles down in his office with him, they’ll not leave until close to three o’clock in the morning.
The jukebox goes louder, a few folks are dancing. The bar is filling up, with smoke, multicolor white to pale faces, Native American faces, copper color faces, one Mexican, no blacks or Asians.
Armpits are starting to smell like old rotting fish. Bill hands Evens his beer, Fran, the waitress, just brought it over.
“Shut the door,” a voice yells, “you’re leaving in the flies!”
That was Larry and his wife Jeannie who had came through the swinging doors. There’s an empty booth alongside Evens’, they grab it, everyone shaking hands or hugging one another, as if they hadn’t seen one another for ages, and ages in these two bars are simply days.
“Two bottles of beer,” says Larry, he likes bottle beer, as does his wife, she’s Native American, like Jackie her sister, and John St. Clair, their brother.
The neighborhood factory, “Structural Steel,” its second shift is letting out now, and Jack T, and Danny Knight (in due time Danny will go up for murder charges) the Crazy man (pleasingly plump), so he is known—are now walking through the bar door, Jack is now going with one of Chick’s old girlfriends, a Mexican. Bunches of the neighborhood boys still work at the factory, for most all of them have at one time or another. Old Charlie, even got Evens a job there once, and then Charlie retired, he was Mexican, the only one in the neighborhood.
Now there are more people in the bar, and the fish like smell is becoming undecipherable, it weakens the stomach although, nauseates it.
“What a sickening job,” says a voice, it seems to come from the area where John L is sitting, and his girlfriend Karin. John L, had traveled to California with Evens recently, as Jerry Hino had a year back, went to Omaha, Nebraska, with Evens, and Ace’s brother Keith, had went to Seattle with him; all wanting to rush back to the neighborhood but—but Evens.
The only relief from the squeezing smells in the bar—if you are not totally drunk—is to leave the bar for fresh air, so, Evens picks himself up, excuses himself, he hears the collective voices, the motors and horns coming as he opens the bar doors, that faces Sycamore and Jackson Streets. His ears clear out all the deformed thick noises. His memory fades from all the prominent cheekbones, dead looking, red-eyed drunks, all those drowsy looking bodies that had clustered around him, and everyone else.
He lights up his 40th cigarette for the day and night, he’s working on 60. He sees the accumulated garbage along the side of the bar, in the street. The music from the bar jukebox mingles with the live band across the street. He sees Sonny playing the guitar (Sonny had taught him a thing or two about finger picking, in his younger days: and that’s not all that long ago. He also played for a short while with one of the national Country, Rock and Roll bands)
The door to Bram’s is wide open, he can see his older brother Mike, drunker than a skunk, sitting at the bar—his elbows leaning on the bar, his back to him. He throws the butt onto the sidewalk, buries it under his heel. He had sucked it down to half an inch, a Lucky Strike.
He thinks: why don’t I leave, and never come back?
He thinks: I have dreams, other than drinking myself to death here in these two dives. I want to go to San Francisco. (But he really wants to travel the whole world, and get a college degree, and write poetry, and books but he doesn’t say this—nor does he quite understand his wants and needs to survive in this world, because he’s from this neighborhood and people would think he’s insane to bring such delusions to surface, and can such things really be possible? I mean, are these dreams not for other folks, not like him, folks you read about, or see on television, not really for folks like him; but only time will tell. He senses something, and thus, unknowingly, perhaps he’s willing to wait and willing it to be, even if it takes a life time. He doesn’t know all this remember; only I do—now looking back. He’d like a home by the ocean and one in the mountains, this too seems to come out of the movies, perhaps he can follow his dream and make it come true. Between you and me, he makes it come true, or should I say, the Holy-One listening to him…)
He watches the circle of foam from a pitcher of beer being carried to a table of five people at Bram’s; he sees an old man vomiting alongside the bar. He sees cars in the parking lot disappearing into the night under a gibbous moon.
He thinks: We’re all frightened to go away—to leave forever this neighborhood; constrained by our minds. Defeated before we’ve even tested life; and then we grow old. A thousand times we say: if only. These are not really his words, he doesn’t even know such words yet, but if he could say them, he would have.
The music on the jukebox is playing a sad song, “Lonely Street,” by Ricky Nelson, that’s Chick’s song, and Bill likes it, they’ve played guitars together, ever since they were fifteen years old, in Bill’s basement, they were going to start a band up, called: “The Blue Dreamers,” they figured out the name together, but never did; they practiced Karate in Bill’s backyard together, Chick being the instructor—
His world grows quiet, more intense—he looks inside the bar, stinking armpit smells, and more beer being passed from one hand to another: garbage on the floor, smoky clouds from cigarettes are settling overhead like cobwebs throughout the bar, the same images every night—this weekend night is no different.
This bar is a can of worms, he tells himself, a brain twister, but he walks back inside: as if it were home; although he doesn’t say that, but if he listens to his second self—the voice of the mind, he’ll know the truth, and the truth is, it’s not home (although the devil would like him to think so), it’s just a dive, and that he will have to learn quick, because time is concentrated in the moment; and life is short at best: and dreams do come true if you activate them—follow them, do the work, write out a plan in your head, and if you do not have one, then surely it will never materialize; prayer without a plan is dead, only if you work the dream and follow it grab the opportunities on the way will it come to pass: will he pick up on this? The sooner the better!
No: 631 (12-11-2010) /Also, in memory of my old friend Al Juneau (died, 2011/63-years old)/ an Old Donkeyland Friend and Father Washington
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 old worn-out 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 in his nostrils were red as raw 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 about, and the window often—more often than not, wide-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—he per near lived 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, so he told me, once upon a time; he had it on his built in the wall bookshelf—I seen it there, but at the end, it didn’t do him much good. But evidently, he had found sobriety at one time and it lasted a good year or so, so I heard from the grapevine.
When drunk, 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), —in particularly, 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 the hall 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 in his hopeless topsy-turvy, doughty look, 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 per near, slam the door in my face.
So after a few years he got cancer, his daughter came over now and then and cleaned the apartment now and then and washed his cloths, then he ended up in the hospital—; the awful part about it was, he paid his rent those last two months from his hospital bed, never to return to his apartment, but that was all he had in life: that apartment, and that Big Book on the shelf, collecting dust, and that was all he had but the booze, and that he had no longer; and he looked the first day I saw him, just the same as the last day I saw him.
Note: written December 25, 2010/ No: 643
Portrait of a Friend
(Eugene Monna—a book and art lover—2009)
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: as if awaiting for twilight or an 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 to me, 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 (so he tells me).
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
They Have Not Perished
(The Inhabitants of Easter Island, 2002)
And I got to know them, those who had not perished. Those who had never been further from their island, Easter Island, never left their island other than diving for sport, fare or ritual. I had heard them also, as one hears a whispering in the ear: the first night of my arrival, they would not let me sleep?
The living inhabitants of the island, they were as if they had not yet even seen cell phones. It was as if twilight itself had been frozen over that little island that didn’t hardly even show on a map, that not even a hand full of people out of all the whole world, lived, and more visitors came to visit each week than lived on the island—two flights in and two flights out each week. Without a doubt, no more than four platoons of civilians, looking out into all directions and touching nothing for two-thousand miles but water: never anything bigger, or big enough for a plane to land on—to be remembered.
Here was a place that banshees, and unfamiliar spirits, and the long eared, red haired cyclopean spirits, from the bird cult, of the once and now sunken Empire of Lemuria come to live—breaking waves to reach this most isolated island in the world ((from the scattered islands of the South Pacific) (the spirits of the dead—even returning as cockroaches and flies, coming back to kill but when they came back as crabs, they didn’t kill—so legend says. They named Raraku after a mountain, they guarded their spirits while they slept, lest they be taken from them; many spirits haunted the crater of Rano Raraku, so tales are told)), here is where the spirits live, have lived, and died, and still live on, beyond reproach, for countless centuries have lived on—have lived in and on, and seemingly forever, within the: stones, the streams round the coastal grottoes and crannies, innumerable once upon a time: sleeping places, once burials, small chambers with roofed slabs, cracks and crooks and crevices of the island, this is where the slept-sleep, then and now: walk, and walked, at one time those ancient roads to and around and within the crater Rano Kao, Cooks Bay, Hanga Roa; and somewhere along the unwritten line of ancient languages, built, carved and erected those ancient colossus’ with designs and images showing raised rings and girdle and with what: stone tools? Chipping away the stone in undermining the statue —those excavated statues: at Rano Raraku carving out those stone red hats in an unfinished quarry I visited, where their hats were stamped, marked for delivery: loved, whether they had anything to be remembered for, or loved for, did love and live, but nothing more than spirits of them remain: nothing other than those unmovable stone colossus’ —those who would not perish, they are still there, inside those stone colossus’ as if imprinted with their old spiritual residue from way back when: towering with weights up to ninety tons, without names that are now but shadows of the deeds that made them now silent, men who did the deeds, who lasted and now endure the stones and fought the battles and lost and won and fought again, and again, and again, because they were not even aware they lost, but in time overwhelmed by the world that surrounded them—remained, would not perish did not perish, yet still went on to shape their island: reliving, and simply living their old customs, traditions, as old as those statues, those huge mammoth ancient statues.
I got to know them both—the living inhabitants and those who would not perish, still powerful in their legends, still powerful and dangerous with one another. The unfamiliar spirits hidden in those statues, in the bones under those statues—they did visit me, talked to me, even a witch visited me, and told me what they died for, what they became, just whispers of course, a few words, no louder than a whispering sun-shower, or a murmuring sunflower to another sunflower, even the marrow in their bones talked to me, and the skull in the cave talked to me: we came to an understanding—them and I, that it was Easter Island, and it is just a dot in the South Pacific, and yes, that’s so, it’s all right—to live in stone, in the past, if that is what you want—a near silent and lonely life, but if that is what you want, really and truly want.
Five days later in the late afternoon I flew out from under that island, through the shade of those old glorious stone statues—and those who would not perish, then along the ocean, turning to Santiago, Chile, leaving behind me the old other world—that still is the old other world, that seemingly will not perish.
No: 487 (written, 10-5-2009; reedited, 11-1-2009; reedited a second time, 2-24-2012; reedited a third time 8-2-2012)
“Because of Love”
((For Larry J. Yankovec) (a Tribute)) 11-2012
I guess looking at it, now being an old man of sixty-five, I remember the way Lorimar, we called him Lorimar, his real name being Larry, and how he made me laugh. We had taken a trip once, slept in the State Fairgrounds the police chased us out and we had to walk home three o’clock in the morning, and we walked by a farm, and we stole two carrots, we were so hungry. We grew up together; he lived next door to us. We’d play pool in his basement, playing Elvis Presley records, one song always reminds me of Lorimar, that being, “Because of Love,” there was this album of Elvis’ that just came out called “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and that song was on that album he had just purchased, and the album was sitting to the left of me, on a table, the record player playing that very album on that very table, and that song was playing, and he was playing the album as we played pool, over and over. Oh, I suppose I could talk on and on about Lorimar, “Come on, Chick,” he’d say, stepping up and down on his toes, he had one web-toe, and jogging around the pool table, “let’s get drunk?” And we’d hit the road and look for someone to buy us a case of beer—we were of course underage. Once achieving our mission in getting that case of beer, we’d come back and sit down in his garage- patio, and get drunk. Oh, I’m sure his younger sister Nadine thought we were nuts, and I guess she’d be right, we were. He sure was fun to hang around with around.
Anyhow, last night more like this morning, November, 8, 2012, I had a dream of Lorimar—I had only seen him once in the last fifty-years which was some twenty-five years ago, he would be now sixty-six years old, anyhow, in the dream, we had taken his car and went up into Northern Minnesota, and we parked his car at a hotel, and went down to a bar, and on our way back, in a taxi, we stopped at a gas station, I wanted to get something, and I lost my shoe in the gas station, and was looking for it, and the taxi driver came in to ask what was the delay, and Lorimar took off in the taxi, of all things. Well, it would have been all right, maybe, but we had a car, and I told the taxi driver just that, that we had a car and that I just didn’t understand, but if we went back to the hotel, he’d most likely find his car.
Well, I woke up, that was the end of the dream; in the morning the sun was up and the day was cool, I asked my wife to see if she could find his telephone number and address on the internet, I sensed a need to. We’re in Lima, Peru, and he’s in Glenwood, Minnesota, remember, and again it’s been twenty-five years since we talked, I was a little nervous.
I called the number about 11:30 a.m. there was no response, I figured he was out to lunch with his wife. Therefore, I waited, having lunch with my wife, and after lunch I tried again, his sister answered, I explained who I was, and asked if she remembered me, and she said, “Oh yaw,” I think she remembered the worse park of me, back fifty-years ago, I was a wild one. Anyhow, I said, “Is Lorimar home, I’d like to talk to him.”
There was a near flaw to her voice, as if she was holding back tears. At this, as I was standing outside in my garden, my knees started to bend, legs drop a few inches, and my ankles weakened—I discerned something was wrong.
She hesitated, it was hard for her to speak I had noticed, nearly tongue-tied, hard for her to get the words out, I asked a second time, and she said agonizingly:
“He passed away!”
“When did that take place?” I asked.
She again hesitated, I had to ask twice.
From her came: “August 25, 2012, he had cancer, and other complications.”
Then she went on to explain, his wife had left him for a dear friend of his some eight years past, and she explained ever since, she was living with him: that is, for the past six years she had been living with her brother, and he had many physical complications during this time.
I myself understood quite well, it was twenty-five years since I had seen him last, and he was at that time way overweight and drinking a lot, I had stopped drinking and smoking. Anyhow, at that moment I had gotten a tear in my eye, and the noisy neighbors drowned out some of what Nadine was trying to say, tell me, but she was feeling freer to talk now about this and that, but I had to bid her farewell, I wish I hadn’t there so much to talk about.
I liked him a lot, because, well, just because he was himself, so easy going and yes: he was a lot of fun.
No: 974/11-8-2012; reedited 8-2013
The Demon Hounds of Jaipur
((India, 1997) (Non-fiction))
In the middle of the night, that is, in the wee hours of the night, where there is still more night than expected daybreak, the fifth or perhaps it was the sixth day in India, having spent one day in Delhi, thus far, two days in Agra, and now my second night, and to be third day in Jaipur, which I made my residence upon my arrival (in a five-star Hotel outside the city) —Jaipur also called: “The Pink City”— was slightly becoming familiar to me. I had roamed its streets the night before, as well as earlier the first day I arrived in the city. The night before having witnessed more people lying on the grass around the Pink Palace of the Winds than birds in their nearby hidden nests in the few bushes and trees thereabouts— along with cattle lying idle in the sewer-grooves of the street, if not right in the street, where cars had to circle around them; hence, I had to step over a half dozen bodies, to approach the Palace to admire its amazing craftsmanship, its architecture—: again, —during the wee hours of the night: consequently remembering what Mark Twain once commented, “How Beautiful India is!” but that was of course by day, not night.
In this main plaza area of Jaipur which is shaded by a few fine trees –sparsely, but shaded nonetheless, by night it becomes extremely curious and interesting to say the least: like polar opposites! By night no tourists dare visit (lest they be a tinge eccentric like me). And even with a broad-shouldered guide— that is still daring.
When I visited the square the place was swarming with men and women, old people, and children who were advancing in all directions across the open center, where several roads seem to crisscross into several corners, my guide tried aimlessly to persuade me to leave this neighborhood, if not frightened for me, surely then for himself.
When you drive out of Jaipur along the asphalt road to the five-star hotel I stayed at—some several miles absent of the gate to Jaipur—one may be completely astounded by the sight which meets the eye, pure poverty. And certainly the surprise being, it is all extremely natural.
Let me return to the hotel and the evening of the hounds, those monstrous and demonic like animals. My hotel room became unbearable, although it was furnished well, air conditioned— with splendid amenities, — and yes, even with my comfortable bed I could not sleep soundly, I tossed and I turned constantly: I get bored rather easily, and perhaps over excited when on my trips, it is exactly what the doctor ordered for me—in truth, strange things, antiquity, such oddities are always amply fuel so necessary to keep my interest going from day to day while on my journeys, particularly between a five-star hotel and, across the street, nightmare poverty (for if you look at comfort as the dividing line, there is no comparison).
I was drawn by curiosity from my hotel room, about 2:30 a.m.—thereabouts—up a short ways from the hotel, across a dirt road, there it stood, a gigantic canvas elephant tent, all four sides open to the night air ((it appeared to be a movable pitched camp of some sort)(perhaps hotel workers, construction workers for other hotels nearby, who’s to say?)), — as I had left the hotel I advanced deliberately and steadily and with certain mystic movements towards the tent encampment, which seemed to be a peaceful night, some four-hundred yards away—it struck me with a thrill of awe…
The night watchman—an old man of perhaps sixty-five years old (myself being, fifty-years old at the time), somewhat concealed by a Hindu shrine (having been obliged to dash water over his head lest he endure congestion of the brain from the long night’s heat; the mid-day heat had been 117 Fahrenheit, like a burning furnace I had dropped to my knees, collapsed to the ground, and had to be brought to a café to cool my body somewhat, my skull ready to burst, exhausted, then once back on my feet, tottered: the night but a few degrees lesser: which was not by far an agreeable temperature for me either… long will I remember this day and night)— As I was about to say: the night watchman drew after me, saying in broken English, “Don’t go too far, it can be dangerous out there this time of night. What room are you in…?” (The old man had high cheekbones, with a few un-decorative scars with a broad nose and thick eyebrows, deep black irises, flashing alertness, indicating a watchfulness, with a sly, gap toothed grin…)
Bluntly, I gave him my room number—as I turned a blind eye—and assured him I’d be careful. His instructions were worth heeding, if only I had!
As I drew close to the enormous tent, my pace changed from a trot like walk, to a slow and couscous walk like walk. Noticing as I entered the tent, not even one movement of a hand (and many hands were hanging over their cots, skin dust-stricken and deeply tanned) —limbs, bodies, nor did an utter of a human voice come from the inner part of the tent, a hundred bodies lying on cots, but a few feet apart, and not a stir. I was the spectator—so astonished by all this I kept a respectful distance from the bodies and cots: in this gloomy sour smelling inhospitable den that I gave to admiration.
The longer I stayed, the better I could hear, and I could hear men now snoring away—some men forced to wheeze in their breathing because of the night heat—: dogs awakening under many of the cots, with a low growling, stretching, as if irritated and disturbed by my unfamiliar smell, and compelled to scrutinize my presence (the dogs didn’t seem to suffer from the heat— seemingly made out of carbon—figuratively speaking that is, —for they had a resiliency against the high temperature of the evening, perhaps 106-Fahrenheit. It was as if they were eating the hot air, as it was eating me); thus, there became a snarling as if from one dog to another, as if communicating— ‘an invader,’ it was like a vapor circulating the tent.
Now several minutes inside the tent I must admit, I was admitted to view the awakening of several devil hounds winding up their hind-legs, pressing up on their forelegs, stretching out their paws and jaws and showing off their talons; their tails straight as an arrow, staring eyes near a yellowish-gray, blood circling around their rims, and not one human being awoke. I was lost in amazement, questioning about ‘why’ fell thick and fast upon me, as the dogs, several of them left their positions under those countless cots, side by side, in rows, under no man’s direction, slowly cornering me into a dark and hidden spot within a crook of the tent.
“What, now?” I said as if talking to the five approaching dogs (myself being their formidable foe! Be that as it may, I was ready, yet it was as if Siva, the ferocious demon, the destroyer, was inside those dogs—if not her, one of the hundred and thirty million other deities of this pre-eminently polytheistic mythological country).
This one dog drew closer than the others after me, consisting of two enormous fangs, with a cadaverous look on its face, moving slowly as the others—whom were prodigiously weaker looking, sculptured in every part—as if skeletonized, lagged a few feet behind, as they all moved like soldiers forward, closing in on my space—a sort of encasement which concealed me from the light outside the tent—that was impelled by the moon, stars and ark-lights surrounding the hotel (again I must add: this one dog, it was as if the Demon Maya was in it, as if a struggle between good and evil was taking place—as he approached me, unable to shake loose of the evil spirit: he was the leader).
I told myself, those folks on the cots must be able to hear the scowl and snarl and growl of the dogs, especially their movement by their cots and the wondering about, but not one body on any one cot rose to investigate, nor did any one turn, or rise up to even peek—to see what the commotion was all about.
I drew rocks from the ground, more like small pebbles than harmful stones. I stretched out my left arm took off my light jacket, wrapped it around my left arm, extended it, knowing the dogs would attack the first limb they saw moving. My right arm ready to throw those three or four pebbles I had picked up to strike back, at the first attacker. I knew no matter what, I’d soon be ere long in blood—yet I’d give a fighting battle.
The brave one approached, sure of what he was about, and made straight for me, the others less important, remaining in his shadow, then suddenly at the entrance of the tent was the hotel night guard, that old man, hands full of hard rock stones, a mass of them, and he started yelling and throwing them at the dogs as I did the same with my pebbles.
Victory, I live (so I felt at the time, no longer having any reason to regret my little excursion to the tent, although it would be impossible to describe in detail in future times). The accursed work of the devil-hounds shrieked, those wild inhabitants of the elephant tent scattered as if inside a jungle, as those voodoo rocks like spearheads struck them,—scattered them every-which-way, and as I left my dark hidden spot to the light of the entrance of the tent—allowing the moon the lighten my path, I thanked my Hindu friend
From him: “I heard those dogs,” he said with compassion on his face, “and figured you might be in here, and in trouble.”
As I looked about a few bodies turned to their opposite sides, as if slightly disturbed by the ruckus—a few others stretching as if trying to loosen up their lungs, for better breathing: all seeking no explanation, all ignorant of what had taken place, or if not ignorant, unwilling to interrupt their sleep any further, to hinder the party of the demon hounds of Jaipur, for myself I went with the Hindu to his shrine, and he prayed, not sure whom to, but for me in silent disarray, I thanked Jesus for another day on earth.
9-17-2013/ Short Story/#1012 / Note one: For Father Washington Cruz who commented: I should write some stories about my travels, so here is one! Note two: it should be said, the Hindu after rescuing me went to his little shrine and thanked his deity which was inside a little red wooden box, as I did standing at the little red box, also, thank in silence: Jesus Christ.
The Sphinx and the Demon
((Egypt, 1998) (Non-fiction))
When I reached the seating arrangement, in the grandstand overlooking the Giza Plateau where the three great Egyptian Pyramids and the Sphinx are, it is 10:30 P.M., the show of lights are ready to start, it will end at midnight. The whole plateau is bathed in rainbow colors, lights flashing from one Pyramid across to the others, lighting up each pyramid stretching to the central climatic Sphinx (as one hears in the background in English, the long history of Giza, and even Memphis, the 24-mile burial grounds of the great kings and pharaohs): as one hears also—music, similar to those Rock Star concerts, lightly in the background, to put a transfix mystic mood within every observer’s soul. There I am, perhaps among two to three hundred viewers, sitting on wooden benches, a wooden roof overhead, no sides to the structure, per near completely open aired. All eyes are watching this indiscernible, stupendous show. When it is over, and the jostling crowd of: men, women, children, and old couples are gone— with those facial expressions dazzled by the show they’ve just realized is over, holding tightly on to their cameras—high spirited and all; I’m about ready to move on to my next adventure: ...
Elbowing the weak and strong, I move away from the crowd—my objective is to be: face to face with the Sphinx, and I am waiting for someone. I watch for this someone from the corner of a building—the one next to the grandstand, under an ark light, as the Egyptian crew prepare—as usually I expect—their nightly shutdown of the facility, sweeping the grandstand, locking up doors, and gates, turning the lights off as cars move out of the parking lot.
“What a mob!” I exclaim, as if talking to a ghost, it’s just me standing there alone, remember.
The lights now off, the plateau dark, I told myself it will be a fitting evening to see the Sphinx close up, for the moon is huge, like a giant light bulb, and it is right over the sphinx’s head: what more can I ask for:
“Why not…why shouldn’t I do what I came to do?” I question myself, knowing what I was about to do was forbidden. Forbidden, that is a loose word to say the least; that is to say, forbidden for those with no connections, and unwilling to pay an extra $1400, dollars: so in essence, it wasn’t forbidden, just set aside for the privileged, where money was no problem, but for me $1400, was a problem, to a certain degree.
Let me explain: I had made arrangements with Solomon, who worked at the five-star Sheraton Hotel in Cairo, the very one, I was staying at, to have me taken into the plateau at midnight, to the very feet of the Sphinx, whereupon, once there looking up, I’d be face to face with the ancient relic. This indeed was a rare opportunity, and the pursuit I sought, wanted, dreamt about—yes even to that degree.
At midnight a friend of Solomon’s showed up, he looked real scared, an unsavory kind of fellow—
“I’ll bring you down the dirt road nearby the sphinx,” the guide told me, pointing towards the road alongside the building—the very one where I had a moment ago, stood under the arc light, which had no lights now— from where everything went downstream, thus, I followed him, step by step…
“Sir,” I said, “you appear so uneasy, why?”
“We are done for, if the soldiers get wind of this,” he answered, then went on to say, “it usually cost $1400-dollars to do what you’re doing, paying the police to look the other way, and the several soldiers that guard the plateau, Solomon said you only paid a guide and one policeman, the Captain, if any of the soldiers find this out, there will be hell to pay. You know there are more people than you think buried in the sands out there!”
He was correct I had paid very little, $160-dollars; hence a lot of people were not being paid.
“I’ll be quiet, things will work out all right,” I said to comfort him.
“That’s all right, I owe Solomon, but I don’t like it.” He said.
We passed on through and into the lower part of the plateau together, with comparatively small talk, to long moments of: no talking at all, as the guide preferred.
My ear was struck by a discordant noise—a light tapping of metal on metal (which I would find out later, would be a gold ring on a finger against steel, the center rim of a pistol, the steel frame that holds both sides of the gun’s handle together).
When I appeared, the police captain was tapping his ring finger with his gun handle, “There are a swarm of soldiers out there, in all directions,” he said with a smile that showed some anxiety, “therefore, no lights, no talking, not one word, just follow this guide,” he told me, and he pointed over to a man with a white tunic on, who approached painfully, “it will be difficult to get you out of here if the soldiers figure out your presence, make no sound,” he commented, then said: “Follow me.”
The old (new) guide: a peasant with long fingernails that pointed to the wooden walkway that led to the sphinx, the direction I was to walk in—was under more anxiety than the previous guide, or for that matter the Police Captain—so it appeared. And as I walked slowly and gallantly on the wooden planks, which were making more nose in the dead silent plateau, than the guide expect or wanted, and the closer I got the more briskly I walked, with enthusiasm of course—the guide become more and more petrified, whispering: “Slow down, we’ll get there, the wood is making too much of a crackling noise.”
He was right but no more than his whisper.
Outwardly I had measured the whole distance from the first wooden plank, to the paws of the sphinx—mentally, with a long glance beforehand. I couldn’t help but incessantly walked in a rush, even after trying to slow down, it didn’t work. I think that was the guide’s first peeve.
Then suddenly I was in front of the paws of the sphinx, the so called home of the demonic spirit, called: Seth! Whose legends infer: between the eyes and head, in particularly, the eyes and the head, but to include the: arms or paws, torso, and legs of the sphinx, Seth has as a result of long endurance, embodied: through and throughout these forty-five or more centuries, and some say even one-hundred centuries: flowing like repugnant blood from one end to the other.
His long paws now were to my right and left, as if now cuddling me, no, not cuddling rather cajoling me, daring me to look him in the face, and I did, with that big light bulb just above him, and now he appeared to be annoyed with the fact that I did, my barbarity, or was it my false bravado, whatever it showed in the transfiguration of the face of the sphinx.
I had looked up into the sphinx’s face, in the furnace like heat of the night, stepped in-between the paws even further than I expected, to its chest, always looking up at his piercing eyes, then I tried to climb its summit, and the guide rushed inward, pulled me down, “No, oh no, don’t do that, are you mad, we got to go…” Then he let go, I got my balance back, and for some odd reason, I pulled out my camera, it was dark, the guide didn’t see me do it, forgetting it had a flash, I snapped a picture of the face of the sphinx—which pointed towards the moon—hitherto concealed by the stone structure of the sphinx: the flash darted out of the camera—as if lighting up the sides of the plateau: it was a glorious lamination in the pitch dark and silent night throughout the plateau (other than the moon’s light): this of course, was a sign to the soldiers of the plateau that a violation was in place, and they were not getting any money to look the other way, and they were not looking the other way. This of course was the guide’s second peeve.
I had committed the plateau’s unpardonable sin, and perhaps soon—so I felt—would be baptized (a one way immersion) into the sands of the desert, which was all around me called Giza (for the reader a brief note: we must not confused Giza with Gaza, which is easy to do, one being the Gaza strip, alongside Israel, and Giza, in the land of Egypt the plateau area; Gaza once did belong to Egypt, until the war of 1967). As I was about to say, I couldn’t help but think, the demon Seth was laughing at me now. If not quite laughing, then smirking with revenge for daring to climb his summit, and to dare look him in the eyes as if I was his equal (I said a quick prayer to the Lord, Jesus Christ, for a little backup on this situation: I mean, if He is for you, who can be against you?)
The Young Soldier
So vehement was the young soldier that appeared out from the side of the Sphinx, as if out of the sands of no-man’s-land, as if out of nowhere. All dressed in black.
Solomon’s guide, the one who had been waiting with the Captain for my return from the Sphinx to take me back to Solomon’s café afterwards, ran like hell up that old dirt road, hid beyond the stone wall dividing the one road that led down towards the sphinx, and the one that led up to where the Show of Lights took place—
Now it was me, the young soldier with his AK 47 rifle pointed at me, and the Police Captain with his pistol still in his holster and his hand on the handle as if need be, ready to pull it out, and the peasant guide, who kept his distance, scared as a jackrabbit, with a hound ready to jump upon him—all grouped together.
The young soldier being in his early twenties, the Captain was per near as old as me, fifty. And like two alligators they started tugging at the prize meat—me: each pulled at one of my arms, stretching me out like a rubber hose. The young soldier, staring with his dark Egyptian eyes into mine then into the Captain’s, and arguing with the Captain to release me, whom I knew would soon dominate, so I figured his pull was stronger, and then what? I had plan ‘B’, but would it be enough; it was either that or the making of my fate by this mascot of Seth’s (plan B, being simply several moves I was planning—karate moves, I had learned while living in San Francisco and kept up ever since—; up to this point I had not said a word, kept my cool…)
By definition, I was at present a hostage, and I was becoming a victim—so I felt. On the other hand, from what I heard it was a fashionable death to be buried dead or alive in the lost sands of time for such a desecration or violation of mine. For what it’s worth, I wanted to explain myself, but I came to the conclusion, the face of the soldier would never consider it.
The young soldier stared intently into my face, I made no expression at all, he couldn’t read me… then gasped in surprised at a stranger approaching— (as if out of nowhere) there was a prison silence over the moment, which gave puzzlement to the soldier’s composure, his face and stance…
The young soldier opened his mouth to say something, but in his fence, the stranger with his commanding voice, his tallness, his demure and bright white tunic, in his mid-thirties, showed no fear, simultaneously he disconnected both hands that were wrapped around my arms—the soldier’s and the Captain’s. In a disturbing flood of emotions, the soldier reluctantly let go, it was as if he had suddenly encountered an obstacle.
“You’re an American,” the stranger said to me, and I said “Yes, I am,” my first words.
“Why are you dressed as you are, like us?” he questioned.
“I guess, because Solomon, who set this excursion up, felt it better that I should be.”
He then smiled at me, said with a serious and light tone to his voice, “I think you better hightail it out of here before I lose my influence, you’re lucky I came along.”
I hesitated, smiled, thanked him, and then he remarked, “I’m not kidding get going—fast.”
And I did, like a hound after a jackrabbit, and I being the jackrabbit—without a backward glance… when I caught up to the guide, I told him straight out, “You are one big coward,” and he looked at me, bewildered, said, “Don’t tell Solomon please!”
Note: written: 9-19-2013/ Short Story/#1013 (reedited 12-2013) / Note! This is a favorite story of Diane Horton’s, one she likes to tell to her grade school students endlessly and for a decade or so has; and seemingly has been for about eighteen
Village along the Mekong
((Cambodia, 2002) (Non-fiction))
We had come to a little village by the Mekong, my Cambodian guide admiringly pointed out the uncharted fishing village for its structural design. My wife Rosa, witnessed the inhabitants fishing on both sides of this little strip of land that reached perhaps three-hundred-yards out into the river, the Mekong, my wife came to understand its true function (looking at the dwellings) when the guide pointed them out… My time in Vietnam, in 1971, had already educated me in this area.
The people inside the wooden huts were fishing with strings through the floorboards, by way of pulling their catch through the same holes in the floor that they used to void their personal waste.
The poverty and lethargy of the village, shocked my wife at first, I do believe.
The structures were no more than precarious sheds, made of sticks and interwoven rods and twigs, along the edge of the Mekong River, no bigger than animal pens.
These shed like huts hung out over the water on stilts, some completely in the water. The road between the two sides of the shanties, that parted the river from one side to the other, was no different than the muddy banks.
Some of the women you could see cooking fish, in pans from the corners of their huts—, my best guess, some were selling, yet I resolved not to sample any.
I was cautioned by my guide as I insisted to be left alone for a while as my wife and I roamed the quarter—perhaps not the smartest idea of the day, yet I felt I was being babysat, too much, too closely, yet Cambodia was still at this time, a communist country (so it was to a certain degree expected).
In any case, as my wife and I roamed the surroundings, and as we did, I could see in the eyes of many who looked upon us as we passed them: they saw us as gapers, trespassers, outsiders that didn’t belong here gawking at their impoverishment, destitution, —so I sensed. Some I think had hidden desires (whatever the case, all the locals noticed us).
The gutters overflowed with refuse, and there were half-dozen loose wild dogs that ran rampart through this ramshackle stilt-fishing-village.
The inhabitants were for the most part indefinable—; conversations were taking place as we roamed the street from hut to hut—I say street for there was only one, to and away from the river.
As we passed hut after hut, many of those ongoing conversations came to a halt, turning into a stare of silence. As for the younger children, many were playing and eating fish and rice, out of bowls, naked, half naked, but all were wild-haired children.
This place was like the end of the world. A group of young men were gathering, a few had come up on their motorbikes, parked them, and joined the others, looking my way. I nauseously endured their stares, and turned about to head back to where the guide was, with the driver, at which time he saw my wife and me, and perhaps seeing the group behind us, narrowing in on us—faster and faster: as our guide came forward in a quickened pace, to our comfort of course, before we became hostages. It was with genuine relief that he had taken those long strides to reach. And hence, we left the Village along the Mekong, for another adventure.
9-20-2013/ Short Story/#1016 / Note one: For Father Washington Cruz who commented: I should write some stories about my travels, so here is the second one! Story #3
The Bali Bat Cave
((Bali, 1999) (Non-fiction))
I found in this sacred bat cave in Bali, a matchless spectacle to say the least: let me tell you about it.
I was contented with making a visit inside the cave, more considered a temple… The outside is set up for visitors to gawk and observe, which is a little distance away, but for a few dollars more, you can take your chances and walk into the cave, —it is not recommended, and even the proprietor will try to dissuade you.
Mythology seems to flow with this temple of sorts. The bats cover the walls in particular the ceiling, with its stagnating droppings smeared everywhere possible. This cave—so they say—has its miraculous virtues though, I couldn’t find them, nor would they explain them, but evidently they are there. There are of course many devotees, and so one must not talk too loud of the bats in any negative tone or manner—nor display a nasty face because of the stink, lest they want a reaction, a backlash—save: if you don’t like it leave, I think is their policy.
Anyhow, I was told there was a quarter of a million bats in that cave; when I entered the cave, they covered the mammoth ceiling total, so their figure is perhaps more correct than not, surely they didn’t count them one by one but that would be a good enough guess for me—; total wings folded, hanging upside-down, they looked like a cover of thick black asphalt, and to add to that, a chattering one…
The bats were by no means shut up, as in a cage, or fenced in, they were free to come and go as they please, that is to say: to go deeper into the channels of the cave, chase me out, or visit the visitors—or as they were doing, taking an afternoon siesta from the heat of the day.
Some of the bats flew low as to circle me, some enormous, some small, all nosily disputing over something, perhaps me, or perhaps, snoring—in their sleep while flying aimlessly, who’s to say? To most of them I was merely an upside-down shadow, but surly I smelled with the hotel’s bath soups, and the Bali folk, of course didn’t. Thus, I perhaps stunk to them.
In any case, with a quick prayer, I stayed until I could no longer take it; I was ready to vomit—! That said, I did not stay long, lest they get annoyed with me, and ornery and go to battle alert. When I left, they were making more commotion, more movements.
All of this did not make me regret the visit of course, for here now you have a story to read, on the beautiful island of Bali, of Bali Bat Temple—
Written: 9-21-2013 (#1017) For Father Washington
(Washington High School ’65, St. Paul, Minnesota)
The girl, Gayle Johnson, was one of the sophomore cheerleaders at Washington High School. A nice girl, usual dress for that time. She was fifteen; I was seventeen at the time, a senior, and a hallway monitor during the lunch periods. It was the summer of ’65. She was lean, but shapely, and feminine; smart looking; not real tall, shorter than she was taller, with big eyes, and wavy soft blond hair; an eye catcher. Every day of school, five days a week she’d come walking down that hallway with two or so of her girlfriends. It took all of a few minutes. She never said more than hello, along with giving me a big smile. She appeared to be popular with everybody in school. I’d actually waited for her to come along, and if she didn’t: darn if I didn’t miss seeing her.
She looked like a soft rabbit, and those big eyes, a little beauty, without a name. I hadn’t thought positive about any girl in particular at Washington High, except I could have thought positive about her, and I was dating a girl from Johnson High School on the East Side of town.
It looked to me, the day that girl started school, and pass my area, turning right to enter the lunchroom, we connected eye to eye, once and forevermore, never to forget—; at least halfway down the hallway this eye contact started if not sooner, as if we were white on rice.
She appeared to be shy, but was she, perhaps I was? She was never by herself. Her head was always clumped with other heads. Not looking towards the lunchroom door at all, but at me, as if I was a window, and she was looking out, as I was looking in. It was as if I would kind of drift, towards her, but I never moved from the chair.
I never talked much back then, and didn’t realize she knew more about me than I knew about her. But then, I wasn’t that much of a talking man—as I said, and therefore, hadn’t made the time to learn much about anything but fighting and drinking, and less about words.
I gave someone my yearbook, because some girl wanted to write in it, someone who had no name for me to recognize her with. And had I known it was Gayle, I would have said, she wasn’t shy anymore, she wrote in the book: “I love you!” I think I read it too fast, not knowing the name, and she signed it properly, but it wasn’t that. Boys are different than girls, and I thought: who is this, and a few friends said: a sophomore, yet I couldn’t put two and two together, had I, we could have made a good hoot together, and who knows what from there; I would have taken my pushchair in the hallway and there might have been a romance in the makings—who’s to say; but I didn’t bat an eye. It’s not that she wasn’t worth the time to investigate, the thing is I didn’t take it serious, and to be frank I didn`t think she paid any real attention to me, other than the hallway romance. But in 1994, evidently she reached the point where the boldness came to a head, and she called me up, at work. And I still didn’t put two and two together.
No; it was Gayle Johnson, but nobody told me her name, that it was the big eyed girl. How I found her name out, wasn’t even in 1994, when she called me. I was not a married man at the time, and she wanted to meet, and I had a few bad experiences in meeting with old female friends, so I declined. Hence, there she was, and I say that with all sincerity, and respect. She couldn’t have been more than two years younger than I, and I thought and thought, trying to picture her, and couldn’t.
((I had learned in life—although I think I even knew back then, back in Washington High School, at the age of seventeen, in that hallway, knew what I know now, just I got to know it better, from decade to decade, my discernment got sharper, or perhaps one might say, ‘hogwash,’ should they look back on my life, I had picked out quite a lot of losers, and it gets worse, but I did noticed those girls coming down that hallway to the lunch room, their hips under their dresses, leaving the smell of perfume as they opened the lunchroom doors, as they passed, I just didn’t give them much attention, if indeed that is what they wanted, and they gave me the impression they were just female-dandies.
On the other hand, I suppose I was hard to read. And perhaps they saw in me, something scary, who’s to say, I was a little on the wild side, or rough side of life.
Anyhow, I think a man, or boy, only knows what a woman wants him to know about her: a woman, if she is honest and forbearing and willing to disclose, to a man, the secrets of being a girl or woman—womanhood—is great: because he will never find out in any other way, not even in books, because they’ll never believe it, or understand it, or for that matter, should you learn what little you may learn, she’ll write her own new chapter. I knew that then, and I know that now, I just know it better now. It is not that a woman is good or bad, they just get their PH.D., free of charge in psychology, methodology, philosophy, the day they come out of their mother’s womb, yes, it is as if they’ve been studying nine months in advance, in that cocoon, nine months that will never ever be made up by boys or men, they are born with it, born with their own view points of life, even nature has no control over female systems, because women, and girls for the most part, pay little to no attention to nature.
When those high school girls approached me in the hallway, they’d stop the giggling and laughing, and then as they moseyed on past me, in their simple gingham dresses and silks, and crepe and such, they’d start back up, but Gayle was different, it was like she couldn’t help herself. It wasn’t even her fault—she just didn’t fuss, rather she focused.
I never did talk about her to anyone, so no one could have known my attraction to her—save her: with her face so watchful and bold and discreet, all at the same time.
I never had to look at my watch at all to tell when five minutes after twelve came, or twenty-five minutes after twelve came, because I could tell by Gayle’s lunch routine.
During this time it was like I would be drifting up the hallway without watching myself do it. And be looking out for her: it was the time she’d begin to turn the corner where the stairs were to the lunch hallway.
Boys are different than girls—I know I already said that, but they are: we all know that, but don’t digest it properly: girls get discouraged, boys never do, even at 60 or 70, men are taking a double take on every skirt, and nowadays it more pants than skirts, that has a decent pair of legs under it. Perhaps, Gayle got discouraged, I never made a move, who’s to say: especially when she wrote that line in my yearbook: “I love you,” and never got a response: I think she really meant it. And she was a doll.)(—But there was still something, perhaps that intangible thing: in part, something in her air, her face, those eyes—and there she was dancing with me at the last high school dance of the institute’s year: before this, she was walking and talking in her amicable way, with her girlfriends, whom were surely saying, “Who can know this guy`s thoughts, least of all us, who…” And it was only one dance to be, if I remember, and it was a slow dance, and my face kind of went absolutely impenetrable, and then Mr. Turner, turned up as if out of the blue, and approached me, said, “I hear you got booze on your breath!” I was ready to curse Mr. Turner—with his proprietorial tone—with not a word but a sentence or paragraph, but I told myself why start now, I was bad in many ways but any man can swear; he was fifty or so, my height, thinning hair, eyebrows a tinge bushy: he scolded me and my friends with immediate Anglo-Saxon classic dialect, whom at other times appeared to be involved with school activities, of no certain sort, but all of them. “Yes, yes, I wasn’t drinking 7-Up; beer!” The unpardonable sin at seventeen. —I wanted to say, but didn’t say; and I too wanted to say and didn’t say: “…who’s the troublemaker, the scalawag?” It wasn’t a question really, rather a statement-question he asked, and I wasn’t used to lying, so I said, “Yaw, a few beers,” and he asked me to leave, lest I force him to call the police because he saw my mouth tighten, and I started to grind my teeth, those back molars, mashers, and mashing and mashing, and the Irish blood in me was getting hot: my face perhaps crimson color, and I didn’t have the words, but I had the fighting spirit, and some skills in that area, and there wasn’t much fear in me in those far-off days, if indeed it turned physical, but I left well enough alone: another misbegotten something, opportunity. It was as though there were some intangible and invisible forces working against her and me. Gayle knew for sure I suppose: right then and there: if not known, should have known: I was interested, attracted to her! With that inscrutable female foreknowledge, which is born in, and every woman possess even if she doesn’t us it, which is usable at birth…intuition that says the fish is on the hook.))
And then the year, 2003 came, the year my mother passed on, and I did some housecleaning, I found my 1965-yearbook, looked up her name, went to the page her picture was on, and lo and behold, it was the pretty petite, big eyed blond with the wavy hair. Had I known in 1994, or even in 1965, I would have—most likely would have: packed up my suitcase and…well: let’s leave it at that.
It wasn’t her fault. And it wasn’t my fault that we never met again. And it wasn’t being lucky or unlucky; it is just how it was.
Short Story No: 1000 (January 4, 5, 6, and 2014) / First Short Story for 2014 / For: Gayle Johnson
By Dennis L. Siluk, Dr. h.c. © 2014 “The Hallway Monitor”
The Diminuend T. Ranch (Zaneta’s Ride: 1988)
And there I was on a large horse right behind Zaneta, who was on a large horse, she was all of thirteen, a big girl for thirteen, and simple minded, and her horse had electricity in its eyes, twisted fire in its legs, galloping up this hill and right off into the atmosphere, so it appeared, and several people were on horses in front of her, and her horse wanted to pass them.
Her body frame lay still, perhaps she was thinking about this. Anyhow, after a moment the horse groaned, as if being held back, and it was certainly unlike any groan I had ever heard from a horse. I thought, what spooked you?
All of the horse—save, the rider and the insects, and discounting the hot weather, galloped unflagging up that hill, hoof after hoof, left print, right print in the hard, hardened muddy ground, towards the top, and below the top was the corral, where the feed and water was.
For myself, who at that time was a good rider: my flesh tingled unpleasantly with the contemplation she was going to fly off that saddle any moment?
I rode still, savoring this, as a magical moment in her life, praying: Lord, please put an angel on the back of that horse to hold Zaneta in place, before it becomes fatal, that was my secret prayer.
The horse in his gallop passed the bushes and over laden branches, from side to side, for a moment my world was compressed silence, then it ebbed, the silence cleared, and breathing started back up: I could hear her horse hissing, perhaps it was thinking, while galloping, with its tossing frame, heaving belly, legs swinging, reaching and overreaching, mud slum or not: limp hooves, Zaneta’s soles deep in the stirrups: yet still it gallops with untiring fury and without sympathy for its rider, knowing all along—having so keen an eye when she got on the horse, evolution: he was in charge. Had I been on the horse, a single blow to the beast, he would have retreated, but now he was thundering on though the other several horses as if they were foes, perhaps he was the lead horse, and was angry he was not doing the leading, because he had a thirteen year old on his back, even a horse has pride: something’s are shaped in the mind’s eye, horse or man, or beast—and this pride will never die, even the horse can’t help it, it is in the bones of the horse, cursing inferior riders put onto their backs; and the horse galloped to the top, its destination the corral, or the barn or the feed, or sleep, whatever, wherever, anyplace would do but a better place than having to endure this thirteen year old on my back, any thirteen year old.
But women, or girls can be surprising wise, even to horses, unconfused by reality, perhaps by simplicity, impervious to it, she thought nothing of it.
No: 1019/1-7-2013 (For Zaneta)
Two Stuffed, Priests
It was the night before last, the two priests came over. It was nine when they arrived, they drank their coffee real strong—thought that was all there was going to be, coffee and conversation; slanted dark ebony coffee, in the slender oval cup, and while each held it, like a soldier, the cake and the watermelon, and the coffee itself appeared to go sluggishly down their throats, along with the strawberries. And while they held it down, each a quarter of a large watermelon, and the smaller priest, with three pieces of fruitcake at his side, and the taller priest with his strawberries, his tunic, pushed outward, I say tunic, although it was pants and shirt, and belt buckles. They were both middle aged men, both with bold lean faces, and gave us a surly good evening, in conversation: they, my wife and I.
The taller one took a mouthful of watermelon, then he poured the rest of the coffee down, the watermelon splattered a tinge on the parched table, breathing in for a fading moment. He shook his head, to the ultimate last drop of Starbuck’s coffee, “Salute,” I said, still having a drop in my cup, “Thanks,” he said, and it now was 10:30 p.m., he must have thought: now I must go to bed, having all that stuff in his stomach, because he started to sand and then all of us started to stand.
“It’s too bad you got to go,” I said, noticing the shorter priest, didn’t eat but a bite of his three pieces of fruitcake, so I put it in a Starbuck’s bag, they’re real sturdy. And I asked if they wanted more fruit, not fruitcake, but fruit, “No, no,” they both said in harmony; parroting one another. Well they left, and their path began to descend, now in the shadow of night. The air was intense, filled with the day’s heat from the sun, some light from the arc lights, in the park, and two heavy stomach filled priests, unimpeded; yet I wondered how they got so full, so quick—perhaps a misrepresentation on my behalf.
Well, the next day my wife went to the church to visit the two priests, which is really the next turn of events in this story. The part I didn’t know.
“I couldn’t sleep half the night,” said the smaller priest, and younger priest, “that coffee was so strong, too strong, and I never have coffee after 7:00 p.m.,” so my wife told me he said: evidently, lugging his stuffed stomach back and forth, from one room to another, unable to sleep, and perhaps too stuffed to sleep; he had actually eaten before he came to our home, he really couldn’t eat anymore but nonetheless, ate, for the sake of not having to throw it away: plus the watermelon was refreshing, and he carried the cake home, nibbled like a mouse on the edges of the fruitcake, while eating the watermelon.
And the taller priest, he was full up to his eyeballs with food too I suppose, because my wife said: like to like, they both had dinner before coming over, only God and they know how much they suffered trying to get that last bite down at my house, wanting only coffee and getting more than what they thought they were going to get.
No: 1022 (1-7-2014)
Evils of the Times
The world watched us across the serene and topless ramparts of the seven seas, for decades; we were the deaf, cigarette smoking, thumb and finger licking generations. Our women were stepping into the unbelievable rapidity of the decades, the changing ways of, the: ‘50s and ‘60s, which might have belonged to anybody for the taking. When the ‘60s came around, it was a decorous turn; although for some folks, harsh and sharp. From Elvis to the Beatles; from the Beat Generation, to Aquarius; from the slanting shades of the moon, to complete blindness of the sun. The Beatnik, to the Hippie. The conservative girl, to the daisy loving couples of San Francisco (where I lived for a year in 1968-69), and New York City, and across the globe (lost were the days that female teens learned modesty, virginity, and industry, a crown to their future husbands) (and now were the days, the clergy put away the old stint, ‘For the Greater glory of God’). From the Korean War, right on to Vietnam. The devil owned the earth, and he became rich, because he had two peers trying to outdo the other: hence, he only had to wait and see, not even see, he knew when he stirred the pot of crickets, how it would turn out; let me explain: the ‘40s, don’t count, the devil had that in his back pocket, ever since WWI; that is to say, they were either preparing to go to war, or actually going to war, or one was ending and the other gearing up. You see, the devil took WWI, testing the water for WWII. And then came the Korean War, and then the Vietnam War, which was a simple task (we learned from Japan and China, and the Philippines, we could fight in Asian Waters): war creates jobs, millionaires, billionaires, and the farther away from home the better: in devilish dialectal, it is called: prosperity (or the new invention of evil, to create more and better evil), the very thing Christians and Muslims, and Hindus and all the other religions of the world, sway towards, sooner or later. These last two wars, were a steppingstone of more evil to be: one war for oil, also called black gold, and prosperity, the other out of revenge, which also was used to push industry into high gear, calling it ‘Reconstruction’, and making more millionaires: Iraq, and Afghanistan: all steppingstones to WWIII, otherwise known as Armageddon. You see, the Devil (the brown lean lizard) thinks like King Nimrod who was building the Tower of Babel: a brick, one brick, is worth more than a human life: “Therefore,” says the Devil, “give them bricks of gold, shinning or black, it don’t matter, and that’ll turn men into beasts, and I`ll have their souls.” Today is the devil’s harvest, it has come to that. Men marrying men, and women marrying women. And remember how we all were surprised when they passed the abortion rights, in the ‘70s, the so called in-between decade. Because none of us thought it would come up so soon. And then Evolution, took over Creationism, in schools: when that happened we all sat with our heads bent a little. And the Devil crackled, tittle-tattle with his ears, dancing like geese do. And Obama hid behind Christendom so skillfully, that when he became president, he did everything, every true Christian would never do, we all were quizzical—what happened? Like a letter in the post office, once lost then found, the envelope might look like any other but when we opened it …we found out the holy can be fooled, by the sinful quickly, quicker because they are holy. No, the engagement was over, Satan had his full, that being, no more waiting, and down came the towers in New York City, now called 9/11. We had all thought America strong enough for such yet, but when it happened we were like an anonymous child lost in the post office. God stopped playing watchdog for America. It was not good, but perhaps, as the old saying goes: no pain, no gain, or why rake dead leaves. It was all quite sudden, we were all surprised, but is it not true, the more evil we become, the more evil we are susceptible to. It was like America was helpless against sin, and now God was not giving her any aid. “Tick, tick,” goes the clock. A country without God’s grace, is a dead country, like those dead leaves. Was it a trial, American’s punishment for having been too lenient with her morals? And I doubt the punishment is over if indeed it was a punishment: Satan’s harvest yet to be, has not begun, yet! And still we defy. Have we not learned the lessons of: Babylon and Greece, whom became paupers, as did Rome, and most all the great powers of the world, who were great powers of the world at one time or another, they all became paupers: who never learned modesty or seemliness, forgetting Godliness; America has lost her destination, her destiny, somewhere along the way, and: “Tick, tick,” goes the clock.
No: 1023 (1-8-2014) Commentary
“Something is going to happen”
(A Cosmic Esperance—or What?)
It was like this: the apparatus, had yellowish, pink and orange fire like flames, against this great wall, radiated outward, pulling my arms wide-open, and lifting my body up from my half-awake sleeping position I was in, in my bed, it was 3:00 a.m., It was as if I was in front of a spiral, twisting tempest, and it was pulling at me, and it engulfed me, it engulfed the insides of me, pulling at and through my flesh, as if it wanted to pull out my soul, through all of the other life’s inner mechanisms. Hence, all being pulled outwards towards this bright and burning apparatus; at the same time its emissions, penetrating me like dampness might penetrate through a brick and plaster wall; my mind unsure of how to react; I tried to resist the pull, as if it might simple be imaginary or a nightmare (but was it? —if so it was unlike any other nightmare I ever had in my 66-years on this earth)
In any case, still the apparatus, with its black dotted, dots, encircled by the fiery-flames, came closer, as now I had been pulled up to a sitting position on my bed, perhaps less complicated; the apparatus more visible now yet still in the process of its magnetic pull on my frame. I ask myself: was it some sort of cosmic machine, beyond space and time, I wondered, I mean, no angels appeared, God’s hand or the devil’s hand didn’t appear. My wife didn’t know what to make of it, nightmare, most likely, vision perhaps, something in-between, possible, but what?
I told my wife, in so few words “Something is going to happen,” and in hand gestures, to be silent (whom was now awake and had seen everything, but the apparatus); I had, the impression of I’m sure of unseeingly haste, sensing I had but a few seconds, and no more than that, for I was in the force of its magnetic severity, its draw and drag (it now makes me think we don’t know much about anything, to include death, and perhaps on the latter, we don’t have to know, for time has not mellowed death, even in my old age, it is a startling moment, quietly, or not quietly, ‘Here I go I said,’ then added, ‘Lord, I think I need some help’, now for the pallbearers: but of course it didn’t come to that).
Whatever it was, whatever took place, and perhaps it was reparation, it was put on hold, as sudden as it came, it left. No dark silence, no random jerks, no ghosts, just some cosmic force bumping into me—if indeed it wasn’t simply a nightmare, and it would simplify things if I could categorize it so. But what was its intent? Its message? That might be the more important question! I do not know. I know my wife prayed, and in such cases, that is all one can do. Lest you fall into it like a winter branch in a storm—trying to figure it out, only to end up like grass under the snow.
Under the Rock
I wish I did, but glad I didn’t, sometimes it’s better not to know what is under the rock, that is to say: be it a treasure or a scorpion— That is how I felt, when I was working at one of the St. Paul, Night Clubs, off University Avenue, in 1963, at the age of fifteen-years old, as a busboy, bringing ice into the bar area, and picking up containers of dishes for the dishwasher: when some stranger said to me, a man at the bar: “You`re Chick Siluk, Dennis Siluk, right?”
And I said, “Right!” with a peculiar look on my face, as if to say—but I didn’t say, “How do you know my name anyhow?” but he went on to his next sentence, before I could say or think to say, anything else: “Look across the bar,” he told me, and I did, and there were a clump of heads, all kind of shadowy, as often it is in bars, and I said, “Okay, now what,” and the bartender was looking, and my boss from the kitchen was looking about, as often bosses do to see, whatever a boss wants to be checking on, glancing at me off and on, as I’m having this slight conversation with the stranger—plus I’m supposed to be sixteen years old to work in a bar, and the man went on to say, “Your father is over there, go say hello to him!”
I was taken by surprise, “Really,” he said, and I glanced over again, there were four or five people clumped together, seemingly with dark clothes on, so it appeared, perhaps worn suite jackets.
“Go over there,” he said, “really it is your father, say hello!” and I was dumbfound for words, I knew my father had not even taken the time to sign my birth certificate, I never saw a picture of him, didn’t know him from Adam, and I didn’t even know his name, but I knew my brother and I had different fathers, or I assumed that, I guess I wasn’t certain of that until later years, when my mother finally disclosed her shameful truth, she was dating two mean at the same time, two bosom buddies at the same time, and when she told me this, it was the hardest thing in the world to reveal.
Anyhow, I said, “I don’t have a father,” lost for words, and not knowing what else to say, and had I gone over there what would I do and say, it was beyond me, and then I was called into the back kitchen, and told: “Keep busy, no need talk to the customers,” and when I went to bring more ice to the barkeep, those four or five fellows had up and left. So I say, and I’ve always said this, about this situation, and I’ll say it again: yes, I wish I had went over there to see him, and glad I didn’t, who’s to say, what was under that rock. But I don’t hold any grudges.
Written: 1-11-2014/No: 1025