Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Uncle Wally was in a concentration camp, during WWII, he talked briefly about it, and so I shall simplify the routine as mildly as I can for the reader; it was not an exterminating center. But a place to break the human spirit. Such camps have ceased to exist, but there are many more that has taken its place. From Iraq, to Afghanistan, Russia, the Philippines, the POW’s of the IS, Iran, China, and so forth.
Private Wally and his platoon had landed on the shores of Normandy, they tried to make it over to where the fighting was going on, he was captured, along with the majority of his platoon, 44-men, and taken to a concentration camp by train into Germany. He was given a number, let’s say it was #905, because it was just past nine o’ clock in the morning when he was captured.
He noticed there was a crematorium, for those who lost spirit and became a bag of bones; the trucks took a trip down there with bodies every so often, not daily, but weekly. What he saw the first days was a miserable heap of half-dead, the dying and starving men, and when he sniffed the air, on the first day he arrived, he smelt roast beef, a tall soldier with horn-rimmed glasses came to his side, pulled him out of line, he was called the Strohshineider, he showed a bored expression, “You’ll be in barrack 18,” then he hesitated, muttered to the side of his ear, “we can handle this differently, we have meat and nourishing food, would you like to come with me, you and a few of your friends, you hand pick them out for me, and…” no one in the line said a word, someone coughed slightly this broke up the Strohshineider’s concentration: Wally recognized a few of his friends, they shook their heads ‘no’, he didn’t know what they already found out but it was a signal that they didn’t want to be picked out as volunteers for this meal, but he didn’t know why. The Strohshineider snapped “Well?”
Wally said, “I’m not hungry sir.”
“Get back into line,” he commanded, after giving him an elbow to his ribs as a warning. It was not an excessively vicious elbow stab, but it bent him over. Uncle Wally straightened himself out. The Strohshineider smiled.
“I’m okay,” Wally told the comrade to right and left in line, although standing straight was difficult. Then the Strohshineider picked out three full-grown men who had become skeletonized, “Take down their numbers,” he told a soldier to his right, and have them report for dinner, after you clean them up. Those three stood frozen as if an avalanche had fallen on top of them. They knew their time was up. Wally grinned. He was hungry, did he make the right decision? Without interest these three went into the tumult, the abyss that everyone else resisted.
‘Was there a way to escape,’ went through Wally’s mind? Standing in line looking here and there. Electrically charged wires everywhere. A triple strand of barbed wire circled the outer rim of the camp. Said the soldier next to him, in a whisper, “We talk only in the fog, when in line usually we don’t, and nearly below a whisper if we do. And never when the wind is blowing against us,” today it was not blowing at all. The voice came from behind hm. “Don’t turn about please.” Said the same voice. “I’m in barrack 18 too, my number is #806, no need for name here!”
“Will those three come back?” questioned Wally to whomever would listen, and never moving his body, lest he draw attention.
“No one ever does,” said an unfamiliar voice.
Now Private Wally checked out the watchtowers, a glance here and there, “It’s dangerous to spy on the towers as you’re doing,” said a voice.
“Why?” asked Wally. No one answered. “Are we supposed to just stand here and stare at each other?” Had someone answered him it would have been more bearable, but no one did.
“Why me,” he asked himself, “fighting the enemy would be better than this!”
“Move them to the barracks” said the Strohshineider, in a matter-of-fact tone to the soldiers guarding the prisoners.
Said Wally, in trek, “There isn’t any gas chambers here, right?” to the soldier beside him he was speaking but a voice from somewhere said: “If they give you a towel and tell you to take a bath, then you need to worry!” and a few of the soldiers shook their heads, as if it was a bad joke, “No,” said another soldier, “not here but if they take you elsewhere, who knows?”
No: 1103/ 7-28-2015
Note: the story is based on Historical Fiction, in other words, the author is filling in gaps, gaps that his Uncle Wally never filled, but who lived it. Wally lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, lived to the ripe old age of 85; he was a survivor.
Interlude Vignette III
Tokyo Tower, Built 1957, model after the Eiffel Tower in Paris
The author went to its top, 1999
(Or, ‘Cain’s Arrival’) 1980-1999
I have always held women in high esteem, to be one of God’s most charming and pleasurable creatures, and I do not speak from any narrow mindedness, perhaps some gullibility in my younger day; I’ve been examining this for a long time, with little conclusion to nat. It may sound a little like a cheap throw at women in general, but in spite of anything I’m on their side, somewhat, —men can be barbaric, and rude and boastful and prideful but with men, women can figure them out after two shakes of the dice; women have too many sides and are too chaotic for a man to figure them out; perhaps one woman to another, and the devil and God can figure them out, and to be honest, women I do believe can even at times trick the devil, but man lacks this ability for some odd reason, my advice for him is to simply get out of dodge, forget revenge, or vengeance, or payback, it has a boomerang effect, when used on a woman, in other words, it doesn’t work, payback is hell.
How many times—I can’t count them—I’ve escaped from their obliterating clutches, wanting to call this Godly creature a menace, I held back, only in fear of God, since he created her for man. So all this jibber jabber brings to mind three women I’ve never talked about, or wrote about in any of my writings, thus, this is their debut. I don’t know why I haven’t it’s been rather a blind spot of mine. And I mean no harm in this small brief, or vignette.
As far as Donkeyland goes, it fall in place perhaps the least of my writings, but it does have its place.
On another note, before I get into the three women, my present wife, now for fifteen-years, has got to be a saint for enduring me, for I am all those things I previously mentioned men have and she over look them, I I’ve never got, she’s a woman! I keep waiting for the hot iron to hit the anvil.
This of course is, and still is, the trying periods in my life thus far, — long-term relationships with women that is. Of course, when I consider all the days of my life, admirable as some were, and I accept responsibility for making them otherwise at times, for demolishing these three relationships, but frankly, I never derived much pleasure from them mentally—when we add longevity into them, and so I cite them only to prove there were other women I was involved with, who held some importance to me. I will try to be as honest, frank, short and bold as I can, that is for a poet saying something, and for a novelist, saying much.
The ability and will to pardon, says Cicero of Julius Caesar that is the height of good fortune and a supreme virtue, I do hope these women, hold no ill-will, and should they read this and figure out who is who. And a word to the wise I’ll put it in a Haiku, right now and here:
Know well the cunning
Nature of the flower be—
For you taste its fruit!
Sharon W., 1980 to 1986; Jean T., 1986 to 1992; and Kikue, 1996 to 1999.
With all three I wore the fig-leaf suite. Somehow I was obliged to go with them for extended periods of time (combined, 19-years, take or give one or two). Had I allowed it to extend beyond those time periods I just mentioned, it would have introduced what? Death! Which is a pity, on some accounts, or mental anguish, or perhaps a breakdown, who’s to say.
With all three I liked the plunge, and coolness of their beseeching ways. Sometimes I think God made women only for scenery, like hippos and whale watching. When I broke up with them, I really had no justification, but I chanced the danger in not breaking up. If not more than that, I have not missed anything, yet Sharon was the good part of Adam’s rib, once I was going to rent out a room from Doug in the Neighborhood, Donkeyland for her, and had second thoughts, it would have been to daring, and careless of me. Jean, she nearly strangled me with her obsessiveness, and jealousy. Let me elaborate with Jean T., a moment, and try to put it in a philosophical poetic phrase, so you’ll get the whole picture at one glance:
Be not jealous that you think
Every bird of the air
Will take your lover away from you!
Such jealousy will make you burn
Lose yourself restraint!
Give way to twisted small tales
Into tall tales.
People are more readily to believe
Evil than good.
Need I say more? And Kikue N., from Tama City, Tokyo, Japan, at the last moment, was most uncomfortable. It was as if she had taken a viper pill, and here I was seven-thousand miles away in one of the largest cities in the world, feeling like I was being extorted mentally, to having to stay in Japan; her family hating me without knowing me. I was on her turf now, having met her in Turkey, several years before this trip to Japan, and to get to know her parents before marriage I stopped in Japan for a week, she had visited America, Minnesota, my home state several times we got along well, — but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say.
Don’t get me wrong, men I realize are different than women, we think different, and we are different, but in this case the difference was too big to overlook. The old saying, opposites attract one another, may be so, but it’s not a comfortable life having to always try to adjust, when you could have selected someone more compatible.
Sharon was fire, fine and noble, educated; she couldn’t save the sick buzzard—me! But she tried. And Jean, was often, too often the despondent lioness; I was advised by Denny one day, a friend, when in need, said, “All I’ve ever seen you two do is fight, and I’ve known you for two years.” But the sex was great, and that makes you overlook things, what a man needs is a little more than pleasure. Denny was really telling me, in essence, that I was too close to the forest to see whatever I needed to see, —and he could foresee—the serpent of the tree had bit her in the leg, and thus, I should avoid her, forevermore.
With all three—don’t get me wrong—I have had many a multicolored times.
But often, too often, it was like riding a horse all night long as fast as one can, hoping to clear the vicinity, only to find, the backyard is too big….
As I reread this, it sounds as if I have named, renamed, this story ‘Cain’s allergies…’ something or another, instead of ‘Three Woman,’ but this is an error in judgment, I simply come to the conclusion females have some of Cain’s blood, most of them anyhow. I don’t want to generalize, so I say ‘Most’ not all! They are akin to fish with big teeth, you put them in the water, they sink, and when you try to save them, to snatch them out, they bite you. Hence, I can never figure out or determine if it’s Monday or Tuesday with them, matter of fact, they are a paradox, inconsistent, a puzzle, some, not all moody, but trying to figure out which one, you end up in a spiral. And the perplexity of this, will never diminish. So what do you do? My advice is to watch the movie: “Fiddler on the Roof” where the Fiddler has a little room to hide in on top of his house, extended out and above the roof, and when his wife gets into one of those ecstatic, or frenzied moods, there he heads.
Revised and Reedited, 7-2015
First, get off your island—
Next, a word to the wise: let your mind’s custodian
Be your guide!
And your pride your folly!
And remain innocent as a new-laid egg,
And you’ll be suitable for anybody!
If need be, compromise, use social comparison:
Ride on somebody’s cultured coattails…!
Learn not to clean your fingernails when you
Eat cake, or lick your fingers, or your chops!
To cover your mouth when you cough!
Nor pick your nose in public.
Trash is trash, and is vulgar in any color.
Three Short European Tales
Ville de Remich
Late Train to Haguenau
He was the same man, I told myself, the one I met in Strasbourg, the one that sat at the bar on a stool, near me, not too near me, but near enough to talk to me and for me to hear him without difficulty. He was in his forties I believe. He wore one of those panama white hats, white with a wide and thick black trim around it. His suite was dark, pressed, and he had a thin light tie on. Dark glasses,
“Can I buy you a drink?” he said, friendly like.
“Sure,” I said, and smiled.
“Where you headed for?” he asked.
“Haguenau?” I said.
“Haguenau, what in heaven’s name is in Haguenau?” he replied.
“Perhaps nothing, but I got mad at the waiter out on the pier where the outside cafes are, one waiter told me to leave the table because I’d not order anything from him, matter of fact, I just wanted to eat my sandwiches with my two twin boys and he told me to move in a rude way, and I should have beat the day-lights out of him but, I didn’t, I just told him …well for get that!”
“You look like a soldier, American soldier, is that right?”
“Yes,” I replied, “on a long weekend with my twin boys, they’re sitting over there at the table drinking a coke.”
He turned about, took a look, “Twins you say, how old?”
“Four years old,” I answered.
“So you got real mad at that guy, haw?” said the stranger.
“I suppose so, why?” then the stranger lit a cigar, blew some smoke in my direction, smiled, pulled out a calling card, it read, in German, French and English “Sam, Gun for Hire!” I started to laugh, but held it back, and he said with a different tone of voice now, “It’s for real, but I use it for a joke now and then, but if you could afford me, would you?”
I smiled didn’t really know what to say, thinking: Would I do what?
“Got to go,” I told Sam and he waived at my two boys as I walked out onto the platform where the trains was waiting. I had tickets to Haguenau, and we sat huddled on wooden benches on one side of the train’s compartment cramped in third class, with chickens and butchers and a number of other farm looking peasants. Several women were about, it was 4:00 P.M., we figured we’d get into Haguenau late, about eight or nine o’clock, depending on how many stops the train would make.
About halfway to Haguenau, a woman who was near us asked: “I see you are going to Haguenau, an American soldier stationed in Germany, is that right?”
“Yes I said, and my two boys, Cody and Shawn, they’re going also.”
“We’ll, by the time you get to Haguenau, it will be late, and the hotels will be shut down, closed for the night. They lock the doors early there. Incidental, I work for the museum there. Your children will be hungry, and so will you.”
“Yes,” I said, and then wondered why she said what she said, and she looked me in the face—somewhat sternly yet concerned for the boys I think, I was twenty-seven years old at the time.
“I know a hotel, my friends own it, and they’ll be glad to put you up for the night, I’ll bring you there when the train stops in Haguenau, if that is alright with you?”
“Oh yes,” I said in reply (trying not to show my apprehensiveness, but not wanting to lose the opportunity of her goodwill should I need it), “that’s quite generous of you…” I added to the comment, and I didn’t quite know what else to say, I was mad at all the French people because the waiter had the nerve to kick me and my boys out of the café area in Strasbourg, but I guess she was making up for his rude behaviour. I had told her point-blank, I had intentions of staying in Strasbourg, but was too angry to, so I simply bought tickets to wherever the train went in France, to be able to say, I was in France (it would be my first trip to France, in later years I’d come back four times, but never back to Haguenau, rather to Paris and Normandy). Then a voice called out: “Nest stop was Haguenau!” (The township had perhaps some 20,000 to 25,000-inhabitants.)
The train stopped, it was 8:30 P.M., and the kind French lady who spoke some English, slurred and broken but clear enough to be understood if you’re a good listener and used to the accents, as I had been being raised in a Russian Family by a grandfather that every other word was pronounced with a ‘V’ or ‘da’ you know what I mean: took me and my boys to the hotel. It was locked as she said it would be, and she knocked hard on the door, someone came and looked though the peephole of the door, they saw her, and opened the door, “These are my friends,” she said to the owner in French, and she spoke on for a few minutes, and the man said, in the little English he knew: “No problem,” and we walked into his domain, and into an area that looked like the main room, it was more likened a three story house (actually a guesthouse), with a small dining area on the first floor, and to the left in smaller room several folks were drinking at a table, and looked towards me and my boys, the stairway to our room was to my left, “You can have room #202, if that’s fine with you,” said the proprietor, and the lady said, in French, the one who introduced us, “Make sure they get something to eat.” But I didn’t quite understand it then, but I would later on. And then she left.
“I’d like dinner for me and my boys brought to the room, please,” I told the owner.
“No dinner” he said, “all closed.”
I insisted, “My boys have to eat?” And he looked at his fellow men sitting at the table,
“You want beer?” he asked me.
“No,” I said, I’m tired, just something to eat.” Then he replied as if he took no note of what I said, “Go to room 202, and see you soon.”
But before I’d go to the room, the folks in the little room at the table invited me in for a beer as they readied the room for us, and I felt I needed to be sociable. Then I went to our room, and to my surprise we the owner had a fine bottle of wine in a silver bucket with ice for me, and three large sandwiches of ham and cheese, on dark bread. The note read in English, “Compliment of hotel!”
In the morning we went to the park, there the boys played around the fountain area: there was this kind of rotunda with pillars they ran around like little gothic knights. And we caught a train back to Babenhausen West, Germany at 1:00 P.M., that afternoon, where we lived.
Originally Written: 2002, reedited, 2004 again 1-14-2009, again 6-2012, and lastly, 7-2015
The Hearth in Amsterdam
Two police men were riding down the cobblestone street on horses, I stood alongside a building watching them, while also glancing at several other folks standing inside a building, sipping on different kinds of wine, and I and my two twins-boys, continued to stare, then looked at one another and one of the two asked,
“Dad, what are they doing?”
“Tasting wine I guess,” I said randomly.
We had just left the center of Amsterdam where statues of lions were, and we ended up drifting along the canals and streets. A young American hippie near the statues asked me,
“Sir…yaw wanta-buy some pot?” and I never answered him, just kept walking.
Cody, the older of the twins by nineteen-minutes was hung onto one of my arms, and Shawn on the other, and I carried them like two sacks of potatoes off and on, the ledge of the lion statues, there was two I think, and then we continued our journey of checking out Amsterdam by night.
It was my first time in Amsterdam, and it would not be my last, I was, twenty-seven years old then, a Buck Sergeant in the Army, living in a little city called Dieburg. I wanted to take my boys on a trip, they never really made much of a fuss on such trips, and Cody was quiet all the way down on the train playing with his toy car and Shawn looking here and there, inquisitive.
I didn’t bring much luggage—I never did, and I suppose I should have found a hotel first, but I didn’t, in those far-off days I was unprepared, I often just picked up and went on a trip without much planning but things always worked out somehow, or I made them so, or the Good Lord was looking after me, or my guardian angel had his work cut out, or one of a dozen reason might have been in place, but all in all, things always worked out, and I felt the boys and I needed some excitement. And this weekend was Amsterdam, and I had liberty to do so, no extra duty on the military base. The railroad ran unbroken from Dieburg to Amsterdam, a hundred stops, but straight through otherwise, no disembarking to get onto another train, hence, life was simplified, the way I liked it when traveling.
It was now late, and the kids were tired, their heads leaning on my thighs, and falling to sleep as we walked, and accordingly, I found a midnight hotel, and I and the custodian talked about the night’s rent, and I argued that the night was half over, so he should give it to me for half price. And he said no, and then he saw my kids, and perhaps was overtaken by that, and said,
“Well, I’ll give you a break, I’ll only charge you two thirds the price, and so we shook hands, and we had our room.
After settling down in the rooms, my tiredness had long sense departed, and I think the twins were also on their second wind, so we went downstairs of the small hotel, there was a fire in the hearth, and I ordered myself a beer, and the boys each a sandwich. Some invisible arm was put on my shoulder, said:
“You come over by the hearth, bring your boys, warm up, and drink with us.”
I turned about and it was an older man, he had a smile with a flow to it, it was contagious, and I smiled back. Shawn and Cody were on each side of me, each on a separate leg, chewing away on their ham sandwiches.
The fact now was, we’d be really tired tomorrow, but the railroad ran back to Germany almost hourly so I felt if we overslept, no problem, I’d catch a later train out of Amsterdam. So, light-headed, I sat with my boys, the fire crackling, warm heat soaking through my pants, my legs being warmed up, the light from the hearth was like sparkling firecrackers, and I could have hugged those three fellows for inviting me over to the hearth.
There were a few ladies in the background, whom seemed to drift here and there, one a waitress cleaning up things, actually the bar was closed and it was just this group of guys by the hearth. A cat and a dog lying near the fireplace, but they kept their distance as if not to take the heat away from us folks. Then a woman brought me a guitar, knowing I could play—I had mentioned it in passing during our conversation, and we sang some songs, I didn’t understand them, but who cares when you’re half lit up.
That evening, I put the boys to bed, and snuck outside for a moment (had a babysitter watch them), found a bar nearby open, and ordered a big beer in a bottle to bring back to the hotel room. Three guys followed me, once out of the bar, then another joined him, and still another. I couldn’t fight all four or five, let alone being half lit, and so feeling incapable of charging these fellows, I simply broke the bottle against a stone wall I was passing by, and now I had a weapon, and they saw it, and they talked amongst themselves, taking their eyes off me for a moment, and I grabbed that moment, I ran down the side streets, couldn’t find my hotel at first, then it appeared out of nowhere. Bells were ringing in my head, iron bells, ‘I made it,’ I said to myself as I ran up the steps to the apartment, and jumped in bed or passed out I can’t remember, and counted myself lucky to have made it back alive in the morning.
The trouble was not unavoidable, had I stayed in the hotel room, and thereafter, I did. I never seemed to challenge fate twice; I was a quick learner in the area of survival.
Written, 5-2008/Reviewed-reedited, 7-2015
Christmas in Luxembourg, 1975
Part Christmas Eve Day
From Germany, I headed west, to Luxembourg, crossed the boards with little to no difficulties. I went by car, a 1967-VW, dull green in color, it was not the best running of cars but it seemed it could make at two-hundred and fifty mile trip—I had purchased the car a few months prior. The road was dotted with quaint, rural hamlets that most people associate with fairy tales. It was midwinter, and winter in Luxembourg, is not as extreme as it can be in nearby countries, and I had been to Europe a dozen times, and during this tour of duty, I was stationed near Darmstadt, Germany. For a land locked country, it had what I would call pretty standard climate. It was a day before Christmas. The trees were filled with crystal like frost, as I drove through an area that seemed the landscape had its share of wooded extremes. A very beautiful and pleasant area, it was brisk in the woods, and when I drove out of it, it was cool, with a warm sun leaning on top of my car. I had my two boys, Cody and Shawn with me, twins; they were five the previous October. I found myself in a little quaint village called Ville de Remich, I didn’t see much of it, I stopped the car to have breakfast, the street was of cobblestone, and the guesthouse, was old Germanic in style, the owner with an apron on, looked at me and my two boys, it was Christmas Eve morning, and no one was in the guesthouse, no guests that is, no one but the proprietor, and he was I fear about to say: we are closed, but his wife walked up, and asked, “…do you need something?”
“Yes,” I said, “for me and my boys, a room for the night and breakfast.” (I noticed all the café chairs were up on top of tables, as if put aside for winter cleaning).
“Well, okay,” she murmured, hesitantly, “but tomorrow is Christmas, and I do hope you will not be staying over that day, we are always closed.”
I assured her we had just come for the day and evening, that we’d like to have breakfast if possible, and we’d be gone early Christmas Morning. In between, we would go to the nearby cemetery I noticed on the way down, and climb those 100-steps up to its domain, and visit the city. And she and her elder husband both looked at each other, then back at my twin boys, and me, “Good enough,” they confirmed, and I filled out a guest slip.
The boys and I sat outside at a squared wooden table, I ordered eggs and bacon, toast and jam, milk and coffee for the breakfast, and all three of us, Shawn, Cody and me, sat waiting, I think our mouths were salivating, we were very hungry. I had thought she understood the order, she brought three pouched eggs, which I did not know how to eat, but would learn quick, I had to ask the elder man him how to go about it, “You just crack the egg on the top with your spoon, the shell,” he said, “then dig out the inside of the egg and eat it.”
I had a hard time doing that for some odd reason, can you imagine the boys. Anyhow, we did not get bacon, but we got bread and butter and jam, and that was that, and the boys did get hot milk and I got coffee, and that again was that, I dare not complain, although I left a kind of empty blank face, when I paid for the meal.
And then we did go on to see that cemetery, and the village and that night I bought two large beers and drank them down, and kind of stared out the windows, looked at my boys, cut, blond hair, blue eyes. They were good boys, never complained much, or cried much, only fought and laughed with one another too much, but not creating any profound disturbance.
Part Two: Xmas Day, 1975
It was Christmas day, and we had said our goodbyes to the owners of the guesthouse, and had that long 250-miles to travel back to Darmstadt, or thereabouts, and then onto Babenhausen. As we got on our way, it seemed to be an extended road back, our brakes were going out, and steel on steel, squeaking and burning up, and you could smell them. The twins knew something was wrong but not exactly what. As we drove further, into a hilly area the sky turned dark, and the transmission was jamming in first gear, couldn’t get it out, thus I drove in first gear for miles. The heaters had stopped working and the fan belt had broken, the car spit and sputtered; when we’d get to a long hill, I turned the car off, and rolled down the hill allowing the motor to cool, and then popped the clutch to start the car again—it was indeed a long and trying morning, and extended into the afternoon, and we got no place it seemed, I mean we should have been back home by 4:00 P.M., but it wasn’t going to happen, we’d make it home by 9:00 P.M., that evening.
It was turning out to be a worrisome Christmas Day. The boys had insulated snow suites on, I had purchased them in Minnesota, oversized knowing they could and would grow into them, and glad I did. Finally we drove alongside of a guesthouse, it was closed for business, but in the back of the building, some lights were on. Actually, we were on a lonely road, deserted somewhat. And I really didn’t know what to do, and I put the hood up, of the car and went to knock on the establishment’s door, and asked to purchase some food for the kids (the woman of the house, brought out sandwiches for the boys and me), and speaking German, along with a tinge of English, and sign language, I got the message through. The middle aged man in the house saw the car, took a look at the motor, knew we were in trouble, and went back to his garage, and found an old fan belt, it was too large for my car’s fan, very loose, to say the least.
“You got to drive slowly,” the German said, indicating if I didn’t and if I went over too many bumps, the belt would fly off and perhaps get entangled into my motor, and loosen up or break my fan, and overheat at the same time.
Well, what could I say but thank you and I had a hot cup of coffee, and the boys got some more bread and cheese with ham, and they would not take any money, it was Christmas, and they felt they just couldn’t. It all took an hour or so, and I felt I was intruding, but in life to get a step ahead, is exactly what you got to do, intrude, lest you die where you stand, waiting for somebody to say something only to find out they will say nothing. And I think they both bit into their lips, wanting to say, “Wish we could help you more but…,” it was now about 3:00 P.M., we had left at about 11:00 A.M., and it was now even darker, gray dark. A snow storm was building up.
When we arrived at our apartment in Babenhausen, Germany (although we had actually left from Darmstadt on the trip), the boys were tired and fell to sleep like two little sheep, and I sat up, had a beer, a cigarette, and was thankful for the trip, and I got rid of that junk heap of a car a week later.
(Vietnam, October 1971)
Dear readers, I have spoken of many escapades on my life, truth mixed with a little rhyme and filling up tightly netted details and descriptions, as best I remember them, with as much truth as I can recall, for these vignettes were left long ago to wither away, to become lost to posterity, but now I wish to tell you of the truth of dreams, which many people laugh at. I intend this to be a very short tale of what happened long ago that made me believe more in dreams than ever.
This is nothing in accordance with Donkeyland, or my old neighborhood per se, although indirectly it has a bearing, for on my way home, once home, I’d become reconnected with my neighborhood buddies.
Anyhow, while in the Vietnam in 1971, during the war, it was naturally very hard to sleep, but one puts up with it, since there’s nothing else to do. Night after night for six months I had this one dream, when you dream you are half asleep, they call it REM-sleep, and in this dream of dreams, I thought I was sitting in the back of an airplane, far back from the other soldiers on the plane, and something caused the plane to start ripping apart, as if the plane was seized by its throat, and this end section I was in, was being dragged along, people screamed for help. What prevented me from having not been cast out into the winds, at 30,000-feet, to an ill-fate I can’t reckon? Right at that point, the dream fell short, cut off, and so this dream had no ending, no real advice for me at the time, that I could see.
Thinking back now, dreams can be warnings. But at twenty-three, that dream was just an ongoing nightmare!
There is an old saying: those who wish ill, dream ill. I have never wished any ill that comes to mind, so that’s a bunch of gobbledygook. Was it to be my misfortune this dream was it to be my reality? I felt there was no realism to it. I’m saying that, thinking you might be thinking that. It never occurred to me. Think what you please as you read on, but I mean well, and advice the reader to look at dreams a little closer, and I’m not trying to frighten anyone. To this dream I was a blind man.
Meanwhile, I’m at the airport leaving Vietnam in Saigon, waiting to board the plane with 250-other soldiers in the waiting expanse, looking here and there to see if my flight number is showing up, and listening for orders to go onto the gate to be prescribed. While I was doing all this a young man came up and sat by me, no rank on him, in green garb like the rest of us, talked on and on to me about God, and other subjects, I had scarcely time to think about what time it was, it was as if I was being held by his conversation, I lost recollection of time passing, prior to this man, time was dragged on, then as suddenly as he had showed up, he up and left. And I got up off the bench, everyone was gone, I asked the attendant, “My plane, when are we going to board?” She looked at my orders, and my ticket, “Sir,” she said, “It left fifteen minutes ago.”
“What is the meaning of this?” I questioned. She replied, “Indeed we called the flight number out several times, as well as the boarding gate, as you can see, you’re the only one left! I’ll pre-ticket you.”
So I sat down by at a table and waited for the next flight, four hours plus, and as I was getting on the flight, I told the soldier in front of me, “Damn, I could be in Japan and on my way home had I not missed the last plane,” and thinking about that person who I somewhat blamed for my delay. This soldier turned around sharply, said, “Evidently you didn’t here on the news, it crashed just before reaching Japan, all 250-dead! You really lucked out!”
From that day on, the nightmare vanished.
No: 1096/ 7-9-2015
The Park Keeper
(A Neighborhood Tragedy)
Just at that moment I came out of the café, a man emerged from the corner of the park pavilion, at Como Park, that stood alongside the edge of the building’s corner. An odd sense of familiarity made me do a double take on him. But the man had done an about-turn, and was walking rapidly the other way, away from me, as if about to walk around Lake Come, a half mile walk. There was something about the slope of his shoulders, and outlying of his short curly hair between his neck collar and slump hat that aroused vague memories for me. I quickened my pace, trying to think those thoughts that formed hidden in my brain about this person. Who could it be in those long and baggy and faded overalls and jacket-shirt that said “Como Park Custodian?” A thin beard and mustache, and sun glasses, it all didn’t fit somehow, his physiognomy was a disguise.
I paused, as he turned about, looked straight into my face, and I chuckled at myself, for I had almost abandon the chase, had it not been for that haunting familiarity of those shoulders, and hair, and lumpy looking body. I now shot a keen look at his face; then I stepped a foot closer abruptly, and confronted—:
(but before I confronted, my mind swiveled backwards to 1965, when Barb and I, the girl from Johnson High School I was dating, when I had my 1959-Black Plymouth all supped-up, the one I raced around Washington High School with, and was told to slow it down. And I had been at this party at this fellows house, and Ace was there, and Larry L., and John L., and Rick, and just about everybody from the neighborhood, this fellow had lived at the end of Jackson Street, perhaps the farthest away from any of the gang members’ homes, per near at the end of the Cemetery, by the Do-Drop-Inn Bar, —Barb, whom I would marry several months later, and to which the marriage would only last 15-months, we were drinking and making out, and now it all came back to me…it was, who I thought it was:)
He stepped back a foot, halted with equal abruptness, and inhaled. A black plastic bag full of leaves from his left hand dropped onto the sidewalk, it burst open, and the leaves fell out all about his feet, and mine, like a flood of potatoes. He looked at me with astonishment and unease, then he appeared to wane away; his heavy round belly, drooped with glumness, which he expressed in a deep moan, had I discovered his secret? Who he was? Again I contemplated taking off his beard, cutting his long straggly hair, and although still somewhat bulky, yet not as fat as he used to be, he was nearly as fat as Reno at one time, now he must had lost thirty or more pounds, which helped to some degree in changing his looks, of course nearly two decades had passed also.
I held out my hand and he shook it, but his hand was all sweaty. He cleared his esophagus in humiliation, and I could see the perspiration starting to pop out of his forehead, thinking no doubt: ‘…does he really know who I am?’ Thinking more rapidly than the NASA probe approaching the dwarf planet called Pluto, his face grayer than its moon Charon.
“Yes, it’s me, he said,” and then I knew without a doubt, who it was, Danny Knight, as I had expected: “but please don’t let anyone know I’m working here,” he begged, “I must be going,” he said looking apprehensively about him as though dreading his discovery, and seemingly wanting to make an attempt to walk on, but out of fear stood his ground. Plus, he knew I was determined, and that it was my intention to stick to him like glue, for the moment, yes he was found.
It was a misshapen event to have bumped into him, the scamp of Donkeyland, he leaned on one leg like a heron by the side of a marsh.
“No,” I answered him firmly, “I have no intentions of telling anyone I saw you.” For a moment, he looked like a war-horse hearing the discharge of a trumpet! Then, he looked at the bag of leaves he had dropped.
“Really,” he said gradually moving his head upward to catch my appearance, his expression indiscernible gave a notion of restless sagacity “Forgive me of my rudeness, but it has been a hell of a life these past fifteen years. If you only knew, I think I’ve turned into a somnambulist.” I presumed he felt for a moment I was sent as a look-out?
“Make yourself easy,” I commented, looking at his cap, and curly hair, stretching out and below that cap he wore, it must be a wig on top of that head, I diligently deduced; concluding it was simply another part of his disguise, remembering he had nearly lost all his hair at a very young age, and to boot, his withered neck, seemed as if it was older than his face.
I knew he had killed David E., in a heat of emotion and drunkenness, that night over at Mary Aldrich’s party when David had gotten into his way trying to stop a fight between him and Big Bopper, whom he wanted to shoot with his shotgun, it was over a jealous feud concerning Mary; everyone being drunk at Mary’s apartment, and Danny running home like a crazy man and getting his shotgun to threaten Big Bopper with, and shooting David by accident, whose intentions were to shoot Big Bopper (and the Big Bopper would live on to be 76-years old, die in June of 2015, of a heart attack, some 40-plus years later: the incident taking place in the late sixties or early seventies, thereabouts?)
Dan looked as if he was going to breakdown, but he pulled himself together and took control.
“Well,” he said, “you’re about the only one not after me. I spent four-years in prison, of course you’d know that.”
I knew it was a sad case. It was terrible. David was so young a man, fifteen years ago, he was but nineteen, I told myself. And I could see he was suffering from the depth of it.
“I must go at once. You understand,” said Dan, as if it was a question-statement, and not wanting any feedback.
I was convinced he was sorry for what he had done, there was no sneer on his face, perhaps an ulcer in his stomach. And now that it’s been twenty-years since I saw him at that park, I figured I can write about it, he’s most likely dead, or in his early seventies, and I as said, Bopper now is dead too. Sorry to say, David E., he never got the chance to grow honorably old, but no need to belabor that.
Convinced of this, I told him goodbye, and in his own exhausted way he appeared to have alleviate some of the social ills that continuously arose in him for the injustice he had done.
No: 1027/Short Story (11-26-2014)
Reedited and revised, as a “Neighborhood Tragedy” 7-2015
David Eye, a fine fellow, who I only got to know, lightly, a Rice Street lad, not part of the Donkeyland Neighborhood, also he went to Washington High School, if this could be a tribute, so be it…