Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Halloween Story (con't)

Honestly, I couldn’t forget her. Each night I would step out into the yard and look up at the stars and wonder where Joan. No one at the party had known her, or where she came from. Everyone seemed to think we were a great couple, and I thought it too. But Summer came and went, deadlines had to be met, the bills had to be paid, Terry got engaged to Norman, they split up, reengaged, and by the time the end of October was creeping up on me, Terry sent an invitation to the party.  

Ron and Debra rebooted the robots and they looked great. Norman was a knight again, and Terry went this time as an angel complete with wings that flapped by themselves. I went as Elvis. I never liked him much; I thought he was overweight, over rated, and over dosed, but I saw an Elvis suit online cheap and had to do it. It came with an Elvis wig with glue down sideburns, I mean, how could I resist? The party was in full swing when I arrived. I wondered how long it would be before Terry started showing. She wasn’t drinking and that wasn’t like her at all. Norman went to a lot of trouble to be nice to me, and I was really very touched by it. He seemed to go out of his way to make Terry happy and it made me feel good to think she had given him some sign our friendship meant something to her.
“Hello Eli,” a woman said, “it’s good to see you again.”
I turned around and there was someone who looked a lot like Marilyn Monroe.



Joan was five foot even, maybe a little taller, and she weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. This woman was a good five or six inches taller, and twenty pounds heavier. And she looked remarkably like Marilyn Monroe.
“Do I know you?” I asked.
“Isn’t this who you requested nearly a year ago?” She asked.
Did you ever wonder what you would do if you ever really saw a ghost or something like that? I mean, everyone wants to experience something freaky and weird but she it comes right down to it, the average person isn’t ready for anything like that at all.
“Do you know Joan? What happened to her?” I demanded and sure, Joan could have told her about this, but it was the voice.
“I am Joan, Eli, and I’ve missed you, “she said. “It’s hard to explain, but I’ll give you an out if you want. You can either come with me, now, and we can spend some time together, or you can stay here at the party and wonder for the rest for your life what happened to the woman whose photo you still have hanging above you computer monitor. I can’t tell you much, and I won’t promise you anything, but if you thought last year was good, I’ve got thirteen days to kill, and I won’t mind spending them with you.”
“Okay.”

We got some stares leaving but I didn’t care. Elvis and Marilyn together? Why not? It was odd being with her. She was dressed in some sequined out evening gown but she still had the same voice as the woman in the peasant dress. This time she had a suitcase, and had hidden it in the bushes around a tree in Terry’s yard.
“Kinda sure of yourself, aren’t you?” I asked.
“I wasn’t going to stay if we didn’t leave together soon, Eli.” She said. “I’m here to see you, and I don’t have a lot of time to waste.”
She took the evening dress off in the truck as I pulled away from Terry’s house, and she grinned at me.
“Watch the road. Don’t kill us this early in the evening, go east, towards Patterson, then South until you get to State Route 94, and take a left.” She told me.
“Where are we going?”
“To the beach, Fernandina,” she said “I have a house rented for two weeks. Want to stay with me for two weeks, Eli?”
It’s a lonely road, State Route 94, and it’s a place the locals call The Big Empty. There’s twenty miles of road without a house, or a paved side road, or anything at all for that matter. In the twenty minutes it took to get to The Big Empty, I knew this woman was the same woman I was with last year. We picked up on conversation we’d had a year before, and started it again.
“Slow down, turn off the road here, there’s a side road, “ she told me, “yeah, there, I have a blanket.”
It was the same sky. All the stars were in the same place they had been last year, and I watched the shadow of her hand as she traced the constellations for me. It was the same woman. Everything about her was the same except for the fact she looked exactly like Marilyn Monroe.
The sun was coming up so we drove to the house on the beach, and in a pair of jeans and her hair tied back she looked a lot less glamorous but still beautiful.
“This blonde stuff will wash out if you want, Eli” Joan told me, and I still called her Joan. “Or do you prefer blondes?”
“I like redheads, actually.” I told her.
“I was one at one time.” Joan said. “I can be again, if there is a store open.”
“So this is the deal, “I asked.”You’re going to spend the next two weeks with me here, and I’m not going to ask any questions, and you’re going to fall all over yourself making me happy?”
“Yeah, Eli, that’s it.” Joan smiled at me.”Anything you want, everything you want, anytime you want it, and you don’t get to ask me any questions.”
“Tell me your real name.” I asked.
“I couldn’t if I wanted to, and I do want to.”
“Tell me where you’re from.” I asked.
“I couldn’t if I wanted to, and I do want to.”
“What if I held you down and tickled you?” I grabbed her and she offered no resistance.
“What if you held me down and didn’t tickle me?”
The house was in a perfect place and Joan sabotaged the lights surrounding it so there wouldn’t be anything to interfere with the starlight. She seemed to know her way around electricity very well, and there wasn’t anything she couldn’t cook. She knew exactly which store had what she needed, knew where to get a certain wine, and she seemed preoccupied with time.
“You haven’t slept with anyone since we met,” she whispered in the dark, “tell me why.”
“I haven’t had much time.” I told her.
“Time, Eli?” I felt her sit up in the bed. “It’s an amazing thing. You have no idea what it’s like, and I wish you did.”
A week went by, and on the seventh day we walked on the beach until we came to a pier. Joan knew when the original pier had been built, and when it had been washed away by a storm, and when it was rebuilt. I started to ask her how she knew so much about the place and I could tell she didn’t want me to. I was learning. She could, or would, share with me what she could, but there was something holding her back. She had gotten six inches taller in a year, aged fifteen years, and knew the names of all the stars in the sky. Joan wasn’t her real name but she wasn’t able to tell me what it was. Time was running out and I could tell it was hurting her when I tried to get information from her. With a week to go I totally surrendered to the idea this was what it was, and lived for each moment.
She didn’t pack for her last day, but I knew it was here. Joan was incredibly sad, and I was too. I knew not to ask, and I knew she wouldn’t tell me, but I wasn’t going to let her out of my sight, not even for a second. I wondered if there was some sort of cut off time, if she stayed past that point if she would be allowed to stay, or if there was something that might happen, good or bad. I wondered if there would be a flash of light or a puff of smoke. We lay on a blanket on the beach and talked about the stars in the dark and I could feel her beside me.
“Eli, kiss me.”
I kissed her long, slow, and hard, and she kissed me back.
“Take me inside.”
I held her hand until we got to the door, and as I slid the door open I let her hand go, just for an instant, and when I reached for her again, there was no one there.

“You’re two for two the last two parties picking up strange women.” Terry said.
“You’re pregnant.” I told her.
“Yes, and if you had stuck around you would have heard the announcement.” She laughed. “What’s wrong, Eli?” Terry stopped laughing. “My god man, you look depressed.”
“I am.”

It was worse this year. I searched the internet and found every photo I could of Monroe, and each and every one looked like the woman I had spent two weeks with at the beach. The eyes were the same, the curves where the same, and what made it worse was there was a video of Elvis and Marilyn holding hands as they left Terry’s party. I spent each night waiting for a knock on the door, a phone call, anything at all to let me know Joan, or whoever she was, was still alive, or still around, or something, anything. But after a month there was nothing and after two months there was nothing. After Terry’s baby was born in June I decided it was time to stop having a once a year girlfriend. Whatever was going on had to stop because it was making me insane. I didn’t want to say it out loud, I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, but before I could stop the words from coming out of my mouth I looked up at the photo I had of Joan and said, “I love you.”

October 31st found me in Savannah. I wasn’t going to the party, and I wasn’t going to be home. In two years I had spent two weeks and one night with a woman I knew nothing about and it was driving me mad. A friend of mine had an art show, and I was going to spend the weekend going through the gallery, and maybe spend some time writing on the beach. Cari’s paintings were always colorful and there was one hanging by itself, away from the others that looked like a close up of Jupiter, on LSD. I liked the use of dark red against the milky colors associated with the planet.
“You have to admire her use of the red,” a woman said, “It’s a sign of fearlessness.”
She was a thin red headed woman, and I knew her from somewhere. She was in her late twenties or so, and wore a small green emerald around her neck, and that hung down close to her…
“My god.” I whispered.
“Hello Eli, it’s good to see you again.”
“You…you’re Misses Harrison, my kindergarten teacher.”
“The first woman you had a crush on, when you were five, I’ve read most of what you’ve written.”  Joan laughed.
“How in the hell did you find me?” I asked.
“I have two weeks, Eli, same as last year and I’ll offer you…” Joan started to say but a man started shouting. There was a fight right outside the window and we turned to watch as one man shoved another. The second man pulled a gun and suddenly they were fighting for the gun and it went off. I heard the sound a split second after I felt the pain in my gut.

There was a field of stars, an ocean of stars, a sky so wide it seemed as if it curved back around itself and the stars were as thick as berries in the Summer. I lay on a bed and the entire ceiling was made of stars. The room was the size of a cathedral and the bed sat in the middle of the room. It was like floating in space. A woman entered the room and I watched as she walked over to where I was. She looked young, maybe twenty, and she was pretty. She had long red hair, and was a little lanky.
“Joan?”
“My name is Evelyn Smith, and I was born in Nahunta Georgia, in 1917.” Joan began. “I was one of the first female track athletes in Georgia, and I was a writer. In High School they were talking about the ’36 Olympics but my father wouldn’t hear of it. Instead of college he wanted me to marry the boy next door and have kids like a sensible woman. One night I ran away from home, or I just left, me being nineteen and all. I got lost in the woods, and I didn’t care if they ever found me or not. I really didn’t.”
“What happened?”
“The Spiders came.” Joan said. “They are from a Galaxy in the Arachnid quadrant, so that’s what I call them. They aren’t really spiders at all, and they don’t really have a form, not physically. They made me a deal. I would work for them and in return they would set me back down anywhere I wanted to be.”
“So you’ve been here for…”
“Over ninety years.” She said. “The Spiders are real big on being fair and living up to the word of their contracts. They said if I wrote about my life in Nahunta they would use it to study people. I was given a year to write five hundred thousand words about my life, and they would let me go again.”
“And they’ve kept you this long?” I didn’t like the Spiders already.
“I cheated.” Joan laughed. “I stopped writing one day, and they told me I had to stay until I finished. I wasn’t aging, I had the best view of the universe around, and I liked watching other people. My room, my living quarters, not this place, has five monitors I can watch anyplace on earth I want. I watched my parents grow old and die. I watched most of my friend have kids, and their kids have kids. I watched World War Two and I can tell you, Eli, I really didn’t want to go back, ever.”
“And they let you get away with this?”
“The Spiders kept their promises.” Joan said. “They were going to let me stay until my contact was up. If I never wrote another word I could stay forever. No one had ever found this loophole before. It takes a special type of person to want to do this. They decided I was more useful as an observer. They let me go back to earth two weeks a year, and the rest of the time I watch.”  Joan came and sat beside me. “I’ve been watching you for over two years now, Eli, and so have they.”
“So that’s why you couldn’t tell me anything about yourself?”
“Yeah, it’s part of the programming for the body they let me use. This is the real me, “ she said standing up and spinning around, “and they more or less can build any sort of body I want from any time in history. They’ve been watching us since Earth formed.”
I looked at where there was once a bullet hole in my gut and there wasn’t even a scar now. Joan sat down again and waited for me to speak. It was overwhelming.
“I made a new contract with the Spiders.” Joan finally said.
“Yeah?” I didn’t like the way she sounded.
“They gave me a device that lets me bail off of earth if anything weird happened, and there was a failsafe if I couldn’t use the device. The bullet that hit you hit me, and I grabbed you on the way out. I told them if they saved you I would complete my work, and they could release me if they wanted to do so.”
“Wow”
“And they agreed.”
“You gave this up to save me?” I was stunned.
Joan nodded but she turned her head away from me.
“She cares for you deeply.” Joan turned around, and I knew it was someone else, something else in that body. “I am what she refers to as ‘Spiders’. We are a community, and we would like to keep you here, for a while, and have you write for us what you see on Earth. You will be given such things as you need to survive, and you will not age. The term we offer you is one hundred of your years, and then you will be allowed to return.”
“Where is Joan?”
“She is already back on Earth. You may visit her in one year for two weeks of your time. We have given her all she needs to make a new life, so not worry about her at all. She knew you would agree to this, and she did not want to influence you. She knew you would see this as an opportunity that no one could refuse. We have a few rules for your rerun trips back to earth and you will have to be careful…”

The stars were incredible. In the darkest night with no other light around you have to feel small in front of that many stars. My vision blurred, and even through the tears I was still awed by that much starlight. I walked through the front door of my house and I knew where to find her. She was on my bed, crying, where I had seen her just a few moments ago,
“Hey baby, you okay?” I asked.
“Oh god, Eli, you didn’t, you couldn’t have, dear god you didn’t tell them no, no, no, you didn’t did you?”
“Yeah, I told them no.”
“You could have lived for a hundred years, do you know what you just threw away?” She was sobbing but she was also hanging onto me. “Why? Why?”
“Because I love you.” I said.
“I love you too.” Said Joan, and we went outside with a blanket, to look at the stars.


End

Epilogue:

“I did not see that coming.” One of the Spiders said to another, but they were connected to the common community, and all knew their thoughts.
“None of us thought he would return to her, he was perfect for an Observer,” said the other.
“Let us reconsider the operation,” said the first, “perhaps we could have two observers instead of one.”
“Would they not distract one another?”
“With these two? That is a possibility, but we would have much to gain.”
“Let us be patient. Perhaps we should visit them in a pair of  their years, yes, we ought to offer them a contract, and I know of a perfect time to do it.”
“Oh?”
“We should go as the Blues Brothers.”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Halloween Story

The stars were incredible. In the darkest night with no other light around you have to feel small in front of that many stars. My vision blurred, and even through the tears I was still awed by that much starlight.

I had to pick a good costume, and I knew it was important to look good this year. Last year I had gone as a clown, and Terry had helped me put the makeup on, yeah, that thick white caked greasy stuff, and she also helped me take it off when she threw a drink in my face. We had been friends for a couple of years and we ought to have known better than to try to be lovers, but she didn’t and it crashed at her annual Halloween party.
So this year people wondered if I would show up, and if I did show up, would I bring a date, and if I didn’t bring a gate, if it would be awkward. Terry had found someone else, and I knew the guy. He was one of those people everyone likes, and I suspect they were getting friendly before that last drink was served. That’s just bitterness, I admit it, because terry wouldn’t have cheated on me, and I doubt she could have kept it a secret if she had. But I had fallen back into the old habit of not going out, and keeping to myself and writing. A few of my short stories sold, and I got picked up for a few months to write for a zine, for money, so I was actually doing fairly well. But I knew showing up alone at Terry’s party would be kinda weird, but I went anyway. I truly love costume parties. This would be the fifth in a row for me, and honestly, Terry always threw a great party.
I was going to skip out, and my friend Rob was the one who pushed me back in. He and his girlfriend were going as his and hers robots, and man, did he do a great job on the robot suits, but at the last moment he broke his foot so he offered his work of art to me. I think he knew I was looking for an excuse to go, and Rob’s Robot was more than enough. It was made out of plastic sheeting fitted with arm holes and the arms were made out of corrugated tubing. Rob had rigged a DVD player up to a thin screen monitor and a cam so on the front of the robot it looked like there was a hole right through! The helmet was made out of a metal strainer, just to make it look goofy, but it covered my entire head. There were a lot of those tiny LED lights, and somehow Rob had rigged it so anyone who talked to him would also get the lights moving in rhythm with their speech. Most of the people at the party knew about the suit, but some of them didn’t know about Rob’s foot. Terry greeted me at the door thinking I was Rob, and I didn’t tell her any differently, and glided past the question about where Debra, Rob’s girlfriend, might be.
I spent most of the night flipping open the hood to explain I wasn’t Rob, and telling the story about his foot, but I also noticed that Terry and Norman, her latest conquest, dammit I have got to quit that, were doing quite well together. They looked like a good couple. And really, how else would someone named Norman come to a costume party except as a Knight? Terry was dressed like a princess and I knew it meant something for them to plan their costumes together, like Ron and Debra…
“You’re the ex boyfriend, the one on YouTube from last year’s party.”
I had seen her at the bar, and Terry always hired a great bartender, but I didn’t know her. She looked young, maybe twenty, and she was wearing a very simple but very original dress. It was something like a peasant would wear, or a serf but she was stunning in it. She had long black hair and incredible blue eyes. She was a little young for me to be hitting on, but she was very cute.
“Yes, that one got quite a few hits.” I laughed but I wondered how she had recognized me.
“You came in disguised, and you’ve avoided our hostess.” The woman said as she sat down on one of the wooden benches in the yard. “The little blonde in the cat suit told on you.”
“Do I know you?” I asked.
“Joan of Arc,” she said, “And your name?”
“Eli, the Tin Man.” I replied. “Joan, you look great in that dress.”
“Oh, you just noticed?” Joan smiled. “You’ve been watching your ex-girlfriend since you’ve gotten here, and you are just now making contact with another woman, even though you’ve got the best outfit by far. But you aren’t in love with her.”
“Really?” Okay, what does a man say to something like that? “How can you tell?”
“You aren’t drinking enough.”Joan said. “You’re watching her because you’re curious about what is going to happen next, not because you’re jealous.” She shifted over a bit and I was forced to either watch her or Terry. Joan won. “You still care, Eli, and that’s weird considering about this time last year you were soaking up a margarita with your face.”
It was odd how this woman watched people, and how well she did it. She told me that Samantha, the cat suit woman, had been watching the gate all night until I got there, and when she realized who I was, or who I wasn’t she stopped watching.
“So does Samantha have the hots for you or this guy Rob?” she asked.
“Hard to say.” I admitted. “I never liked her much. She talks too much.”
“Did you notice how the guy with the telephone on his leg keep trying to talk to her?” Joan asked. “And why is he wearing that weird suit?”
“It’s polyester and he’s a phone knee.”
Joan laughed hard at that, and I liked her. I noticed Terry was watching so I eased a hand around Joan’s waist. “If I push you away right now you can never come back to one of her parties again, you know.” Joan said.
“If you’ll laugh like that at the phone knee joke you aren’t interested in pushing me away.” I said, and I held my breath a little.
“You’re right, Eli.” Joan leaned over to me and kissed me on the cheek. “So let’s scandalize the party and leave together. “
“Where to?”
“Your place.”

She helped me take the robot parts off and put them in the truck of the car, and we headed out to my house. I live out in the sticks, but that didn’t seem to bother her at all. She didn’t have a purse, or any accessories like most women do. And we talked for hours in the front yard where all the stars are. I went in and got a blanket and we lay on our backs and held hands. She knew all the constellations, and knew the names of many of the stars, and I could see the shadow of her hand as it flitted back and forth between light years of space between stars and star and stars. The sun was coming up so we went inside and she let me undress her.
We spent the next day talking, and she wanted to see my writings, and it occurred to me that she hadn’t said anything about having to get home, or where she was from, or how she knew Terry. She deflected a couple of questions, and I could tell after the third or fourth try she was getting irritated. What to do? A woman twelve years younger than I, willing to spend the rest of Halloween weekend with me, and no questions asked? Yeah, as curious as I was, I didn’t want to push her away. Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, and after dinner on Sunday she went to take a shower.
“Who do you think is really hot, Eli?” Joan asked me from the shower. “Any woman, at any time.”
“Marilyn ” I said. “She still does it for me. Why?”
Joan didn’t answer. I waited for her to say something, anything at all, but there was only the sound of the shower running. I waited for a little while then went to check on her, did me liking Marilyn make her mad? But Joan was gone. The floor was dry, the windows where still shut and all the towels still hung on the rack. But Joan wasn’t there. I called her name but she was totally gone. There wasn’t a sign of her anywhere. I went outside and no one was there either. I was left alone under a sea of stars, and I had no idea if Joan had ever existed at all.
The nest couple of weeks were really odd. Terry called me and asked me who my new girlfriend was, and I told her Joan and I had spent the weekend together and then she had left. I didn’t try to explain Joan seemed to have escaped down the shower drain while I wasn’t watching, but several people had videos up. Joan had existed. I had not dreamed her. I felt as if Joan and I had connected, really connected, but now she was gone, and all I had left was someone’s video of her almost walking into the camera lens. Ron’s DVD player recorded a brief flash of Joan as she began to speak to me, but the recording stopped when I took the helmet off. I printed out a picture of her, and hung it over my computer. By New Year’s Eve I decided I wouldn’t see her again, but I kept the photo anyway. Terry and I had lunch together, a week before Valentine’s Day, and I knew why. No, I hadn’t seen that girl again, and congratulations.

Honestly, I couldn’t forget her. Each night I would step out into the yard and look up at the stars and wonder where Joan. No one at the party had known her, or where she came from. Everyone seemed to think we were a great couple, and I thought it too. But Summer came and went, deadlines had to be met, the bills had to be paid, Terry got engaged to Norman, they split up, reengaged, and by the time the end of October was creeping up on me, Terry sent an invitation to the party.

Ron and Debra rebooted the robots and they looked great. Norman was a knight again, and Terry went this time as an angel complete with wings that flapped by themselves. I went as Elvis. I never liked him much; I thought he was overweight, over rated, and over dosed, but I saw an Elvis suit online cheap and had to do it. It came with an Elvis wig with glue down sideburns, I mean, how could I resist? The party was in full swing when I arrived. I wondered how long it would be before Terry started showing. She wasn’t drinking and that wasn’t like her at all. Norman went to a lot of trouble to be nice to me, and I was really very touched by it. He seemed to go out of his way to make Terry happy and it made me feel good to think she had given him some sign our friendship meant something to her.
“Hello Eli,” a woman said, “it’s good to see you again.”
I turned around and there was someone who looked a lot like Marilyn Monroe.

con't Halloween!

The Possession Of Roy Weatherspoon

“Hear you a mama now” he said. They had sat in silence, as they always did on this day. She hadn’t come back for years, and he had expected that, and when she did come back she didn’t make excuses or apologize and he didn’t expected her to make any.
“Horses look good.” She said looking out over the paddock. “Mare’s pregnant.”  She kept an eye on the mutt that lay at the man’s feet. It didn’t look like it was quite sane.
“Dog’s a good person, just don’t much like people.”
“Does he know who I am?” she asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I think he does, or you’d know if he didn’t.”
“I want to bring my daughter to you,” she said “I understand if you don’t want to see her.”
“Your man know of me?”
“Yes, I told him what I could, and he’s a good man, you’d like him, as much as you could, but he understands very little of this, he just knows this is part of who I am, and what I have to do.”  She make a clicking noise with her mouth and the dog stood up, and almost wagged his tail, shook the dust off his coat and went to snuffle her outstretched hand.
“Mind yer manners, dog!” He commanded and the dog’s tail swished gently.
“Your…man, is he still here?”
“Always, that was the bargain.”
“You regret it any?”
You never asked that before.” He said. “Why now?”
“Got a young’un, Roy, puts a focus on things.” She looked away and then looked at him again. “Owe you, or your man, everything. You once told me I had a part in this bargain. You told me you’d let me know when the time come. I need to know if my daughter has anything to do with this, Roy.”
He pursed his lips and shook his head as if the question pained him. They sat in silence while he rocked in his chair, and she sat with her back to the porch rail. The dog snuffled her face, and licked her, and she pulled his ears for it, petting him.
“He don’t take to strangers.”
“Wonder why that is, Roy?”
“Jill, you bring that little girl here and she’ll be safe.” Roy told her, “But leave your man home, now, and I mean that.”
“What does he want with my daughter?” Jill asked softly.
“Nothing.” Roy said. “I just want to see that part of you.”

“I’m not sure I want you and Maddie going out there alone.” Don said. “There isn’t even a driveway to the house anymore. You won’t ever go out there alone anymore you said you wouldn’t.”
“I wouldn’t be alive right now if not for that man.” Jill replied. “He put more on the line that day than we will by taking Maddie to see him.”
“You ever going to tell me what happened?” Don asked.
“No, no Don, I’m not, and one day, I hope you won’t wake up and realize how much you owe me for not telling you.” Jill tied her hair back. “I told you I wouldn’t married you if you weren’t a man of God, and I told you I would never cleave to any family that weren’t and I told you that God Himself put His hand on me that day. “ Jill picked her daughter up. “But that man out there in that shack with that dog and them horses put his hand on the devil for me, and you owe him for that, even if you never understand it.”
Jill approached the shack even though the dog was barking furiously from inside. The horses whinnied and nickered from the paddock, and Jill felt it again.
“Mommy?” Mattie felt it too. Jill closed her eyes, and the dogs were barking, and the horses were making their noises, and there was screaming.
“Mommy!” Jill screamed

Jill felt the knife against her throat and felt his hands on her. Her daddy was yelling at him, and her mama was screaming but there was that knife, and the point was already drawing blood. He was backing up towards his truck with her, and she knew if he put her in that truck she would never leave it, at least not alive, and even at seven years old, she understood what he wanted with her.
“Put her down.”
Jill knew that voice, Roy’s voice, the loner in the shack, the man her daddy hired to feed the horses and look after the fences. She was always afraid of Roy Weatherspoon and now he was holding a pistol.
“I’ll cut her!” the man said, and this was one of daddy’s friends from work, smiling, well dressed, and one day he had grabbed her, and all hell broke loose when her daddy saw what happened. The man had pulled out a knife, and tried to take her away, but Roy was there.
“Put her down.” Roy said, and his voice never rose.
“I’ll kill her, I swear it, I’ll slit her open right in front of you!”
Jill remembered how her mama screamed at Roy to put the gun down, and her daddy had shouted at him, but Roy took a step forward with the pistol held out, and aimed it right at her eye. She looked down the barrel of the gun, and she knew, she knew, Roy was not going to let that man take her.
“Do it.” She said.
“I’ll kill her…I swear…” the man had yelled but Roy was almost whispering.
“I feel it. I feel what is inside of you now, I feel it too. It’s a bit of freedom, isn’t it?’ Roy whispered.
The man stopped yelling and Jill looked down the barrel of the gun.
“Do it.” Jill said, and she knew if the gun went off right then she would die, but it was better, and suddenly she understood what Roy was saying to her.
“You feel like you have nothing at all to lose now, and I don’t either. You think that this day, what you’ll get from this one day, will be worth it, and so do I. So you and I, we’ll make a bargain right here and now, and one day, we’ll be even.” Roy whispered but Jill didn’t know who he was talking to, or who was talking.
“Do it” Jill said.
“I’m not afraid to die!” the man yelled at Roy, but Jill could feel it. Fear. There was real fear in the man now, more than the fear of death, more than the fear of the gun.
“I’m not going to kill you.” Roy told him. “I’m going to put a bullet in that little girl’s head before I let you take her. And then I’ll save one for me, but before the law gets here, before anyone calls the sheriff, me and that man over there, “ Roy motioned towards Jill’s daddy with the gun, “ is going to take you over to my shack, and I’m going to show you a few things I saw in ‘Nam. I seen some things over there. Take a while, you know, to get to know the place real good.”
“Do it” Jill said.
“Was a night we got overrun.” Roy whispered. “And we had to go, we had to run, and there was Comers, who was wounded bad, and he told me to shoot him, so they wouldn’t take him, and he told me…”
“Do it” Jill said.
“…he weren’t gonna be taken like that, like I seen them take men, and turn them into something else, and I told God I was done killing after I left that place, and I promised him if’n he let me get away from people I wouldn’t kill no more people, but here you are, and I don’t think God is going to help you. I don’t think He even knows your name.”
“Do it” Jill said.
“Charlie showed me, and before I pay for killing that little girl, I’ll make sure you see your share of what I seen, and then you’ll know a bit of freedom too. No fear. No god. No good. No evil. No laws. No prison. No judge.  No nothing out there but you and me, and Charlie.” Roy came close to the man and lowered the gun and took another step forward. “You go ahead and cut her open, Mister, and that way I can say it was a crime of passion, but me and you and Charlie goin’ to my shack…”
“Do it” Jill said.
Roy raised the gun suddenly and fired a shot into the man’s forehead. Jill’s mama picked her up from the blood and dirt and she saw Roy kneeling in the dirt, one hand raised high over his head and other with the gun down by his side. Roy screamed, and it was a sound Jill carried with her as her mother swept her away inside.


“You turn fifty this year, Roy” Jill said.
“Yes ma’am, I do.” Roy said.
“You weren’t never in Nam.”
“No ma’am, I was fifteen when the war ended, I was in High School, first year, too.”
“So that day, “ Jill said, “That was someone else, your man, who saved me.”
“Yes ma’am, it was.”
“I knew then it wasn’t you, and…” Jill hesitated, “…it isn’t you now, is it Roy?”
“No ma’am.”
“Who are you?” Jill asked.
“Just someone needing a place to be, and someone to look after.” He said.
“What did Roy promise you for helping me that day?” she asked.
“Everything, but he and I were already…friends.” He said. “ I just wanted him to feel like his life meant something, and after that day, it did.”
“What’cha want with my daughter?” Jill demanded.
“Nothing.” He said, “But Roy likes to think she wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t done his part, and in a very big way, he is right. Saving you is how he defines his life, and that isn’t a bad way to define who you are, you know.”
“So,” she asked, “me and you, we’re even? You don’t want nothing from me…ever?”
“Come to see him.” He replied. “Let him teach your daughter how to ride horses. And bring that man of yours in slowly. I don’t like much company, but I do like you.”
“Is Roy okay?”
“He’s better off than when I found him. He hasn’t had a drink since that day, you know, because he told God he wouldn’t anymore. Roy was damaged early in life in ways that you cannot guess, thanks to him. It has been a long slow life for him, but he’s better. He’s been flirting with the woman at the feed store for a few months now, and I may have to leave.”
“Where will you go?” Jill asked suddenly. “How come you show yourself to me again, after all these years?”
“I have no interest in you, or in your family, Jill.” He said, and Jill heard the truth of the words.
“Who are you?” Jill demanded.
“Well, I’m Roy, “ Roy said, “say, how’d you get up here without me seeing you, and damn, but she looks a lot like you.” 

Friday, October 29, 2010

And Finally, Rain

It’s was like one of those cheap drama movies where there is a roll of thunder and then the bottom drops out of the sky, and it rains. Rain? We haven’t had a good solid rain in over two months now. I’ve raised a very good crop of weeds and dust and anyone who isn’t irrigating their lawns has been doing the same thing. It’s late in the year for green things, but we haven’t had any real cold weather, so it’s still time to have some plant life of some sort, and late greens gardens. But there has been no rain at all to speak of, and we were beginning to wonder.
I haven’t attacked the weeds with the mower since the first part of September and I wasn’t going to again until it rained. The dust is just too much to deal with for what little good I do this place with a mower. Leaves have covered what grass there is, and I suspect my neighbors wonder if I’ve died in here. But the dryness isn’t as fatal to people as it has been to everything else. There is usually an explosion of late Summer and early Autumn flowers, but this year it’s been more like a sigh. No rain means no plants life and this late in the year, that means nearly everything that depends on the cycle of life being completed, has seen it halt.
Not only has the weather been dry but it has been unusually hot, also. The temperature has hovered around 90 for the last month or so for a high, and it hasn’t dipped down into the low fifties since that cool snap last month. Those insects whose lives are shortened by the cool weather are still here. My last wasp nest is still occupied, and the last dregs of that once proud air force are still threatening me when I pass.  I took several photos of the nest in High Summer, and there were always sixty or so wasps on it. The face of the paper nest was nearly black with bodies, wings at high alert, and pointed at me, as the next victim of the aerial defense system.  This isn’t the largest nest I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the longest lasting. Slowly but surely the attrition of dryness, the lack of prey, and the cool nights have reduced the force down to a dozen or so. The eggs are not hatching, or the fliers not living as long, or food not available, or maybe they are just designed to die out at this time of year, I cannot say.
The Wasp Wars were fierce this year, and I have no idea why. A dozen or so attempts at nest building on the front porch had to be put down, and if you remember, the one nest I allowed loved in peace with me until they grew to be so many they decided they could take me out. I went to work with many red spots atop of me bald head, and thoughts of vengeance brewing underneath the swelling.
It’s over now, as many conflicts are, and I wonder how many arguments I have had with humans that have resulted in a season passed and no more need for the argument than there was three months prior. Of course, I had to remove the wasps, or start leaving the house via the window, but I wonder why we have no yet found a way to peace with these creatures, if there was some chemical we might wear that would identify us as part of their world, and they would no longer view us as hostile. There isn’t a human avenue towards this sort of friendship with wasps, but the shelves are stocked full of poisons.
It’s the same philosophy as the wasps have; kill or be killed, drive away all who are not us, and reproduce blindly those who will do the same. We haven’t evolved away from this, despite everything we lay claim to being. Despite who we might think we are, the rain is still needed, and the sunlight still sustains us, and we are as blind as flying insects when we kill them. There isn’t any other way because we’ve never seen the reason, the logic, in coexistence with other creatures who we cannot eat, or love.
The slow steady rain has continued while I write. There is a cool moist breeze coming into the house from an open window and the sound of the rain, gentle but steady, shadows my thoughts. This isn’t one of the Sumer’s pop up showers, or one of the winter storms, but a gift from nature in the form of water that needed to fall in a place that desperately needed it. Random, perhaps, unseeing, unknowing, rain, with thunder that would still shake the rain from leaves were there no humans to hear it or to fear it but rain.

Only mid afternoon now, twelve hours opposite of the Writer’s Hour, the cloudy sky hides a sun already slipping out of the top of the sky. Were this July, or if this were August, the sun might come out and turn the rain into a white hot fog, suitable for Dragon’s Breath, or perhaps a reminder that Summer still held sway. But this rain cools, and it refreshes. It is a sigh of relief from the dryness that has gripped us. It is a sign of coming cooler weather, and it is a feeling we have not had in a while now. Summer’s last tendrils, sunk deep into very soul of the air around us, are slipping away with the rain. Leaves have been falling for a while now, because of the sun’s retreat, and because of the dryness, but it has been a slow transition. Like the last slow trickle of rain from the room of the house as the rain stops sometime tonight, the last warm weather will go with it, and I already miss it.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fireants and Divorce

It’s been over seven years since I was married, but every time someone I know, or someone I work with starts down the road to divorce for the first time, it’s like watching someone about to get into a fireant bed without knowing anything about the creatures. Fireants are an invasion species of ant native to South America who arrived here in the 1930’s. They are tiny but terribly aggressive and they pack one hell of a sting. They attack en masses, and release a chemical to let the other ants know when to all start firing off the venom. More than a hundred people a year are killed by fireants in The South each year, but I’m betting they are still more enjoyable than a divorce.
When you realize you have fireants on you there is always the off chance you’ve gotten away from them before there are hundreds of them one you, and if you’re lucky there will be one a dozen or so, but it could be you’ve been standing on a nest of them and haven’t realized it. There is the feeling of pain and you know what it is as soon as they start, and then there is that feeling like none other. You know you’re going to have one hell of a time getting the fireants off of you, because they latch onto your skin and sting and sting and sting, and you have to wipe them off, swat them off, stomp your feet to dislodge them, and all the while they’re doing their best to kill you.

If you get far enough away from wasps or bees they will stop chasing you, and leave you alone. Bees can only sting you once anyway. Hornets, now there’s an insect to fear, but when it comes right down to it, you can see them very well. Fireants are tiny. But that make up for it by being suicidal in their aggressiveness, and relentless in their attacks. One moment you’re standing barefoot in the grass and then you’re doing what resembles some sort of rain dance performed by someone stricken by epilepsy while peeing on an electric fence. It doesn’t matter if you’re near a nest or not.  There could be one lone fireant out foraging for food, and you’re it.
People going through divorce turn into fireants sometimes and I lay this at the feet of divorce law in general and divorce lawyers in particular. The way it ought to work, is that everyone takes everything they have worked for, and divide that which was mutually earned, and then everyone goes their separate way, wiser for the experience.
The reality of the situation is the lawyers will sit down and ask their clients, “How much do you have?” and then the two lawyers know how much they can earn from the ordeal, and the proceed from there. Like fireants, divorce lawyers do not care what gets in the way as long as they can sting and bite their way forward, ever forward, and there is never any sense of a symbiotic relationship of everyone getting something out the deal.  You will be left with that the better lawyer didn’t take from you and yours, and everyone else will wind up with less.
It’s an infectious mentality much like someone taking down the walls of a house and the two people inside divide up what’s left by throwing what they can into a truck before the other person gets a chance to grab anything, but the truck gets to keep 90% of what’s in it. You know you’re already taking a loss from what the lawyer is getting, and he’ll be the first to tell you that win lose or draw he’s going to get paid, so you have to go out and squeeze harder, and so does the other person, and it’s no longer the end of a marriage but the beginning of a death do us part war.
It’s hard as hell to kill fireants. The best way is to take the biggest pot you can find in your kitchen and boil water in it, and then pour the boiling water on the fireant mound. No, I am not suggesting you do this to your future former’s divorce lawyer, or your own, but the imagery can be enjoyed somewhat.  If you’ve ever been attacked by fireants, and if you live in The South and haven’t been you’re enclosed in a bubble or you just plain taste bad, the idea of boiling a fireant mound has great appeal. The next day, those that survived will be bringing out the dead, and you could, if you wanted, scoop them up with a tablespoon.  It takes several treatments like this to kill a mound, and while you’re killing off this one mound three more have sprung up behind you. You might think about that before you attack a divorce lawyer with a pot of boiling water; they are making them faster than you can cook them.

A friend of mine going through a divorce is discovering lawyers are going to wind up with more than he, and his soon to be ex-wife is going to wind up with what’s left of that. Like getting into a large mound of fireants, he cannot get them off of him, and he’s being stung all the while. His lawyer, who is practically useless here because there are children involved, is allowing the process to drag out slowly, to get his pound of flesh, and you would think there would be a way out of all this without so many lives being ruined.

Fireants don’t care. They do not care that you’re going to get hurt and that you haven’t done anything wrong, and they don’t care if you’re going to go through a lot of pain and suffering, and they don’t really care if about anything other than biting and stinging, and making sure things continue on this way.
The difference between a divorce lawyer and a fireant is one is a mindless stinging insect bent on nothing but pain and suffering and the other is a fireant.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Of Arrowheads and Bicycles

Back behind my family’s home in Blakely Georgia there were always arrowheads to be found in the field. After a good rain we would walk around in the mud and find relics from a day when people hunting their food with sticks and stones. We always thought of the natives as the people we saw on television, replete with feathers and broken English, and it did not occur to us their lives might have been very much like our own, as well as very different.
You have to think there are those coming of age events in each generation, no matter what culture, when you pass from being part of a younger class of people to an older class of people, and in our neighborhood the big thing was to have a two wheeled bike without training wheels.  The bicycle was the one thing that freed a kid from being able to get from one place to another, and quickly. It was like learning to fly without the feathers. Suddenly, a trip that might have taken forever by foot was done in just a few moments, and at delightful speed.
It seemed as if we lived that age of bicycle travel forever. I remember when the first red bike tires appeared, and when “slicks” which were wider back tires came out. I remember the first time we put playing cards on the spokes with clothes pins to make a sound unlike any other on earth.  Banana seats came out and everyone had to have one of those, too. We discovered wheelies and we discovered that with speed came more scrapes and less blood on the inside of body parts that found their way to the pavement.
Between the City Pool On Westview Drive, and the Little Green Store on Redbud Street, the distance was perhaps a miles, maybe less, and one day I raced the delivery truck that made the run between the two when it delivered coke and Pepsi products. There was no way for me to outrun the truck, but it has to stop for one stop sign, and it had to make two turns, and I could always almost catch up with it. The long stretch of road where Westview headed South to River Street is where I lost ground, but I never lost much. We out ran dogs on our bikes, and it was so natural and effortless to go anywhere on a bike.
I sometimes wonder what sort of rite of passage marked the natives passing from early childhood to that part of life when you are not yet an adult, yet no longer a baby. What sort of social activity occurred so that one part of childhood was more clearly defined as more adult than the other part? When you took the training wheels off your bike, when you dived off the high dive at the pool, and when you were able to climb up on the corn bin without help, you were no longer one of the little kids. I remember kids climbing down from the high dive in shame because they were too afraid to jump. You could see the awe in their eyes when you dove from the high dive, and sliced clearly into the water.
What was it that defined the natives in this manner? Did they have some version of this? The river was a good ten miles from where we lived, and I wonder if going down to the river was a part of that rite of passage event for the native youths. Ten miles on foot is at least three or four hours, and a round trip might take a day, if you stopped to fish.  Did going to the river mean trying to catch fish, and did that mean if you brought back fish, or something else, that was like getting a bike, or jumping off the high dive? Was the river some place that the older kids went and stayed overnight, while the younger ones waited to come of age?
Were there other villages there, with other kids, and was it a marking of passage to meet the new kids, just as we met kids from other neighborhoods when they rode their bikes to the pool. We owned the pool, in a sense, because we lived closer to it, and I wonder what sort of navigation went on to visit the river, and if there was some spot the local kids took their new friends, and if in fact, I have been there, and thought the same place was rather cool?

There was a lot of farming, and a lot of gardening when I was a kid, and there isn’t nearly as much of that as there once was. If you didn’t want to get drafted as slave labor you learned to stay away from adults when they were puttering around in the garden. I wonder if the native children, once guns and such came into existence in their lives on a regular basis, avoided the old ones who still made arrowheads and pottery.  I think I could still hunt and fish if I had to do so, but I wonder how many people these days could not.  I wonder if there was some native at some point who realized his people no longer could live off the land if they had to do so, and knew at that point how much was lost?
We won’t ever know who was the last person in this part of the world to make an arrowhead for hunting, and when that last arrowhead was made, and what happened to it. The skill of shaping stone into tools is a craft long since past. We were the last to use the high dive, because the city took it down due t insurance reasons, but we didn’t think very much of that, until the first set of kids came by who had never seen it. At some point, there was a set of kids who had never seen arrowheads made, but they had heard of it.
I wonder what was lost before them, and if we’ll ever know if they regretted losing that, as much as we ought to regret losing them.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

“No Country For Old Men” A Movie Review

“No Country For Old Men” was one of those movies I meant to see all along but never did, and now thanks to the magic of movies by mail, I can go back and watch those I’ve missed. It’s not a movie for the faint of heart, but real life isn’t either. The story begins when a redneck in Texas stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong, finds a suitcase full of money, and takes it home with him.  Regrettably, he returns to the scene of the crime, either to help out that one last dying man or to finish him off, but the Mexican drug lords arrive, and our hero is on the run with the money.
There are two interested parties that being the people who were buying the drugs and those selling the drugs, and the hunt really begins when the drug buyers send an assassin out, who is a little more than just nuts about killing.
What I do not like about the movie is they stole part of the plot from me. I wrote a short story back in 2001 or 2002 where a redneck finds a crashed drug plane and the money he takes has a transponder in it, just like in this movie.

The results of taking money from people who either buy or sell drugs are very predictable.

What makes the movie is Tommy Lee Jones, who plays the part of an old time Texas Sheriff whose country the drug deal was taking place to begin with. The rapid rise of drug money and the problems that come with it is expertly juxtaposed over Jones’ character’s life, and times. The man on the run manages by pure luck and a little savvy to stay one step ahead of those trying to kill him, but each steps brings him, and his family back home, closer and closer to an end that cannot be escaped by anyone who gets involved with this sort of activity.
Another fine performance is turned in by Javier Bardem, who plays the assassin. He’s dispassionate and mechanical to the point of obsession and though not an imposing or particularly striking character, he is one of the most frightening since Hannibal Lector. Bardem eases through the film and nothing will stand in the way of him and his prey, not the law, or the drug lords, and not even the people who hired him.

Kelly McDonald, who plays the long suffering yet loving wife of the money thief, makes the most of her small part in the movie, and helps nail down an odd ending.

I really liked the movie but I recommended against it being a first movie alone with a new girlfriend movie, unless you’re looking to see her get up and walk towards the door five minutes after the credits roll. This is a movie you’ll slip into the mailbox without any warm fuzzy feelings, and you’ll have this deep feeling that if you ever come upon two millions dollars in the desert, you’ll take it and run, and know better than to make the same mistakes.

The endings, however, are usually very similar.

Take Care,
Mike

Recipe For Writing

There’s a short story brewing, and I have no idea what it’s going to be about, or who is in it yet. That’s one of the most weird things about writing, and I wonder if other writers get it too. It’s that feeling that something is going on somewhere in your mind, and it’s going to land in your brain like finding several ingredients in your cupboard, and you have no idea what you’re going to fix for supper.
There have been times I knew more about what I was going to write before I wrote it, and then there are times something has appeared as if by its own volition, and it seemed to write itself. As I sat down to write this, the first paragraph was more or less planned but this one seems to have slipped in and joined the first, as if I was walking along a wooded path, and discovered a dog at my heel.
Stories are like that, you know, you get an idea, and you push it along, or it pulls you like a puppy on a leash will, and suddenly the leash slips and you discover the idea is off somewhere on its own, and it’s found a friend. Now, it has occurred in the past that the new idea that is tagging along with the idea that you just had becomes the idea you needed all along, and the first one becomes more of an afterthought, running away into the distance to be called back again, perhaps, one day.  But the new idea, the one that was just along for the ride there for a while, is suddenly in the driver’s seat, and you’re impressed with it, like you will be with a new friend, or a new lover, who has some musical talent, or some skill that you couldn’t see or tell from just looking.
But the new idea is a wanderer, just like the last one was, because they all are, you know, and if you don’t know that, you might as well start now in collecting cloud formations, because ideas are a lot like that. So the new one slows down long enough to pick up a friend, and it’s like two clouds that are at different altitudes forming something you never thought of before, and you image the two together makes something much better than either alone, so you take them both and roll them together, and maybe you add a character to the story, or some creature that no one else has ever thought of before, and you like it.
It’s really no good having these ideas unless you have a place for them to live so you start inventing landscapes or scenes and from these thoughts springs the idea that a dream you once had about a house might work here. Your ideas move into the house you dreamed of, and they make it their own, and remodel it a bit, and ideas will remodel your dreams, by the way, get used to that pretty quickly, too.  So you suddenly have someone that never existed living in a place built just for this person, or creature, or idea, and you have something that is going to happen, or perhaps the creature is thinking about attracting humans to the house to eat them, and you had no idea you were writing a horror story, but it is close to Halloween so why the hell not?

So there you are with the creature and the house it built, and damn, okay, it cannot have a house, so it has to have a cave, and the cave is in the mountains, and there has to be a reason for the cave and the creature so you invent a pot of gold hidden in the cave, and when people come to steal the gold, the creature eats them. Of course if the creature ate everyone who came to get the gold there wouldn’t be much of a story and even the creature knows this, and it is doomed as soon as you invent a hero for the story to rescue the woman who was kidnapped by the creature, but no, that has been done before so you have a woman going to rescue some guy that went to steal the gold, and there the new idea is formed outside the norm, and you have the twisty.

So there are three, maybe four of the hero type guys going to kill the creature and steal the gold, but the creature has been doing this type of stuff for a while now, and has hired out the front door to hungry gremlins who eat two of the guys before they get killed, and the one true hero makes it in, but the creature wants to save him for a snack, maybe in a few days. But the hero’s horse returns and tells the woman of the event so she goes off into the mountains with the horse to rescue the guy. The woman and the horse debate as to why guys do these sorts of things, and that gives you a chance to ask some serious question in the story.
The woman leaves the horse outside the cave, because let’s face it, a dead horse by this time would also injury the story, and she makes her way past the dead gremlins, and one of them isn’t dead, but wounded, and she tries to help the poor thing, and in return for her kindness, which it has never experienced, it tells her how to kill the creature. She waits until she hears the creature snoring, and she sneaks in, and tells her guy the only way to kill the creature is to steal the iron pot, and leave the gold, and so they do this, but the guy is greedy and he tries to slip some gold past the creature, who wakes up and kills him. The creature chases the woman, but she makes it outside the cave with the pot, and the creature explodes into flame because sunlight kills it.

Sometimes a story comes to you like this, while you’re waiting for another, and it just happens.

Oh, and the woman and the horse live happily ever after.

And just for Meagan, the woman’s name is Kim.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, October 25, 2010

Up In The Boondocks

There isn’t much chance you’ll remember the song “Down in the Boondocks” by Billy Joe Royal unless you were raised in the 60’s. It’s one of those songs I remember as kid, and it was back during the days when kids didn’t own their own record players or personal entertainment devices. For course, I was four or five years old, and my parents weren’t big on playing music in the house to begin with. Kids didn’t have choices back then in music, and whatever your parents listened to on the radio was just fine with you because you were just along for the ride.
I remember we went to Kolomoki Mounds one day, the entire family of five crammed into a car without air conditioning, but we didn’t know such a thing existed so we didn’t realize it was hot. That was back in the day when paved roads were something that was mentioned when you went somewhere. “Yeah, I think it’s paved, but you might want to check.” Even though it was a state park, the road into Kolomoki was only partially paved. The entrance to the east end of the park was still a dirt road, and the paving ended over by the lake.
Going anywhere in a car was a miraculous thing, a terribly exciting thing, and to let all the windows down and feel the sensation of flying was incredible. The mound built by the natives of this land was an enormous thing, huge and imposing, and overwhelming. The eighty-eight steps up were as if climbing Everest, and to be on top of that structure, to have survived the climb, to be able to look over the park from such a height, at such an age, was intoxicating to a degree that cannot be recaptured, ever. The idea of loading children into a car these days without them being plugged up to something, watching something, taking something with them, without air conditioning, without planning it all out, without having some sort of agenda and without giving them some say in the manner is an alien concept.
At the time, there were dirt paths up the mound, as well as the concrete steps, and erosion had carved deep gullies in the side of the mound, and the rich red clay looked like wounds in the side of a structure likely thought sacred when it was built. But to me it was the first mountain I had ever seen, and I was one of the last generations of children to have free reign over the mound before they cleaned the place up, and restored it. It was a good thing they did this, and I am glad they filled in the gullies and made the place whole again, but the path on the North Slope was so steep it was a sign of coming of age to have climbed it.

There were various paths that might, perhaps, be taken by car, if it hadn’t rained, and if the driver had some skill, but now all of that is asphalt. You had to want to go somewhere to get there for a while, and we roamed the park before the roads were paved, and it was incredible. We didn’t realize any of this, of course, and to us it was just the way things were, just like kids today have never been inside of a vehicle without a DVD player in it. There wasn’t a question of being entertained because you were entertained simply by being alive. The fact that you were away from the house, away from the norm, and allowed to roam free in a place with trees and places to climb was enough, more than enough, enormously more than enough.
That was during the time of extended parental rights.  All adults, by virtue of age, were allowed to say pretty much anything they wanted to say to any child, and there was only a very limited amount of responses any kid was allowed to say back, and “Yes ma’am or “Yes sir” was about it. I truly and still honestly believe my parents took it to extremes because they so closely scrutinized my interactions with adults I was always afraid to speak to anyone over the age of ten for the first part of my life.

As if that trip to Kolomoki wasn’t an adventure in and of itself, close enough to heaven that it was, as we drove back into Blakely, I remember “Down in the Boondocks” coming on the radio, and I had no idea at all what a boondock might be, and my father told me that was some isolated or abandoned part of town or someplace out of the way. Kolomoki was down in the boondocks, I ventured, and to think I had been in the boondocks, just like the song on the radio, was magical. We stopped at a store and got a Pepsi. Back then, that sort of thing was some sort of treat. We kids drank water out of the hose in the yard, and ice was something that was hard to make, and freezer space for ice cube trays was limited. No one bought any sort of cola drink by the six pack, or the case, and we kids never were allowed to have one except on rare occasions like this.
There was something special about the little things, the unimportant things, and tiny things they seem to us all now. Today I looked up that song, and listened to it for the first time in decades, and I still remember how it sounded back then. It was grand then, to hear that song, because there was no way to control or predict when it might happen like a falling star, or a rainbow. The roads are paved, the MP3 player stocked with every song ever loved, the air is cooled, and there are convenience stores on every corner. The boondocks are all gone now, and the song that mentioned them is just another relic, preserved like the mound the natives built long before I was a child.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'll pray for you

The Woman With The Scar

The scar was a nasty looking viscous thing, a man made event of terror and anger, and this was all before there was any sort of skill at surgery to reduce the affects of such a wound. Her husband had held her down, and if he couldn’t have her, no other man would want her either, and he broke a beer bottle off into her face, and ground it in like he was putting out a cigar in the dirt.
People stared at it, because it was hard not to stare, but she didn’t care after a while. It took three bouts with a knife to get all the glass out, and get everything back to as good as it was going to get, but because she was very poor, and because no one has ever cared how poor women looked, she wound up with a scar that defined how people would see her forever.
You don’t think about it right off the bat then you realize that poor women have very few options when it comes to jobs. In South Georgia, there are even fewer opportunities, and the scar weeded out some of those, as he had likely planned. Being a waitress was out, totally out of the question, because people would freak out. Some people really did freak out when they met her for the first time.
She told people it was from a car wreck, and that kept the number of questions down a bit, and that was the first story I heard from her. There was a small bar, really quite just a local place, and she would sit on the corner stool, with her scar side to the wall, and wait to see who would come speak with her. It was an odd thing that I like to watch; men would sit down, buy her a beer, and then at some point she would turn her head and it was as if she puked up a snake. They would make small talk but their body language usually put as much distance from her as they could and more than one fled the scene during a bathroom break.
She and I sat down one day, and she told me what happened, and how it had happened, and how it felt to feel the broken glass hit the bone, and how she could feel her teeth without opening her mouth, and that was when she knew it was bad, really bad. She said when they took her to the ER she knew it was bad because none of the doctors or nurses were talking about it, or talking to her, and she remembered one of the doctors calling someone in the ER to get blood, which she thought was amusing because blood was everywhere.
She and I smoked pot together, and I noticed she liked to sit with the left side of her face away from whoever she was speaking with, so one day I trapped her on the sofa with her scar showing towards me, and refused to change seats with her.
“Okay, stare, take a closer look, poke at it if you want to, okay, just get it over with” she told me, and I kissed her on the cheek, and that really blew her mind.
She would never be beautiful, not in the way most people define it these days, but I thought she carried her scar with a lot of class, and with grace, and the fact that I kissed her caught her off guard. I told her the scar was a lot like a woman having large breasts, and people would star, always, but sooner or later, someone would stop staring long enough to hear what she had to say, and I told her to stop lying about it, and just tell people she had been attacked by an ex.
No, she said, that made people feel sorry for her, or sorrier for her, and she hated that. If it was a car accident that was more of a quirk of nature , and I had to allow that made sense. She told me she wasn’t going to sleep with me, and it was only because I was a lot younger than she was, and I had no idea what I was getting into, and I didn’t understand that then, but I do now. She was only a couple of years older than I but she had gone through things I couldn’t imagine, and honestly, she didn’t have the time to raise me. I had never had a woman call me innocent before, and I understand what she meant now, but then it was just confusing.

We talked for the better part of the night, with a pause for another beer, for a joint to be rolled, or for the album to be turned over, or another one played. She forgot what side of me she was sitting on, and I forgot the scar, or rather it just became a part of who she was, and where she had been. It was one of the first conversations I had ever had with a woman who had been born poor, raised poor, and who had never had a job in her life that wasn’t minimum wage or less. My middle class upbringing was something she thought would have been incredibly happy for her to have lived. She had never lived in a house before, or at least not one turned into a duplex, and she wanted a garden, and a little fish pond, one day.
She changed her mind about sleeping with me, and told me so, and it was one of the first times in my life a woman had come right out and told me she did want to sleep with me, and it was fun, and it didn’t matter what sort of scar she was wearing. But she was centuries older than I, and I was still very young. The next morning she got up, told me it had been nice, but she really must be going.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day Light

I went to work in the daylight today for the first time in about four months. It’s not that I haven’t been out in the sunlight during thing length of time, it’s just I haven’t been out in the sun for hours on in that length of time, and it felt like I was under some sort of laser. I mean, the sun never quits.  It just hangs up there in the sky and blasts away, with no clouds, and no shade, and it just never stops. Has it always been like this? I can’t remember the sun being so bright before.
There should be The One Ring of Power for all this suffering, Precious. I feel like crawling down into the mountain where the sun doesn’t shine and getting the hell away from all of this. I feel exposed. It’s an odd feeling to actually see people I’m speaking with in full light. The realization there are people who are better spoken with in half light, dim light, or very little light is what makes the concepts of bars work. I had forgotten what some people look like first thing in the morning, and I could have gone a little while longer without the reminder.
The roads are a lot more crowded in the morning time than I seem to remember, and people are more aggressive and weird. But all the stores are open, and that’s a little odd. I saw my first school bus of the year, and it was more than a little strange to have to stop for one of those. Traffic is a lot faster during the daylight hours, or so I thought, and then it occurred to me that I can’t see as well in the light, at least when it comes to oncoming traffic.
At night, you can see traffic coming from a very long distance away, because cars at night drive with their lights on, generally speaking. During the daylight, you can’t see a car that is behind another car until it’s right up on you. It’s harder to see in the light because there are no lights. Does that make sense? I know most of the people who work at night, or at least their vehicles because of the lights they have but during the day everything looks the same if you can stand to look at all. The Shiny! It’s everywhere.
Morning people are grumpy as hell, have you ever noticed that? After a twelve or fourteen hour shift, these people appear normal because at that point the world is made of the grumpy, but these people who just got out of bed and are pissed off at the world? I mean, what the hell is up with that? You’ve been asleep while night people have been awake all night! Who has more of a right to be irritated at being up? Clerks at night are a little more civil, if for no other reason there are more crazy people out at night. God knows it’s dangerous being rude to someone who thinks they’re on a mission from talking road kill to save the universe from crystal aliens living under the overpass who are disguised as liquid graffiti spelling out the one true word of truth in florescent orange.  Yeah, you learn to be a little more careful about what you say to strangers at night. These morning people who think seven AM is early need to stay up until that time of day and see what it looks like. Don’t harsh my squee that early in the day if you’ve been asleep in the last eight hours or so.
People don’t crowd one another at night either. If you missed the reason why you missed the one word of truth in any color. These morning people jostle around a bit much for my liking. I do not like human beings within knife range of me. It’s hard to get a cup of coffee without being within gun range of other people in the morning, but hey, at least you can keep the crazies from sticking you if you’re careful. Night people have a tendency to keep some space between one another, just in case, you know? Some of the morning people tell me working at night has made me paranoid somewhat, but I like to think of it as a heightened sense of awareness that everyone is out to get me.

Here’s what I really cannot understand; with all the normal people that work during the daylight hours, where is their share of the loons we get at night? Shouldn’t there be a higher number of people shuffling around with signs proclaiming the return of Elvis during morning rush hour? I feel as if I am on the very cusp of understanding something but it has slipped away from me, hmmm, but it has something to do with mental illness and hours kept.

Come Monday I’ll return to the night in all its glory, and escape the glare of the daylight sun. In two weeks, maybe less, the project will be done and I’ll be a day person again, I think. We’ve been at this since the last week of May and everyone thought it would e over by the end of August, tops. The very nature of human endeavor is procrastination, bad planning, delays because of weather, and downright weirdness. Toss in you’re turning a very large group of people; construction workers, truck drivers, equipment operators, half a dozen subcontractors, two paving crews, and a sundry project managers into vampires for the better part of six months, and you’re lucky to walk away with this without some new religion being founded or worse. Okay, maybe nothing could be worse than a new religion founded by night people, but you get the idea. I don’t think human beings were built to stay up all night unless they are welcoming some interesting changes in their brain chemistry, and with some people, that’s like stirring a thimble with a canoe paddle. I feel as if I am on the very cusp of understanding something but it has slipped away from me, hmmm…
Take Care,
Mike

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Carnivore's Migration


As a child I like the idea of becoming a vegetarian but there wasn’t any way at all for this to become a reality. Almost everything in The South is cooked with some sort of animal in it, and the idea of someone not eating meat was, and still is in some places, being gay, or an atheist. Actually, refusing to eat something someone has cooked for you is worse than being gay or atheist, or for that matter, a gay atheist.  Gay atheist vegetarians are damn near unknown until you get past the Mason- Dixon Line.
As I grew older I tried to escape the limits of my cultural culinary but the same problems presented themselves in different places and situations. The holidays always had a lot of turkey or some other sacrificial animal. Any celebration or get together was an occasion to grill something dead. I experimented with vegetarian dishes but there were lonely meals eaten by myself and most of the people I knew thought it was very odd.
Eventually, you have to be the person you want to be, or you have to be the person someone else wants you to be. American society as a whole advertises a very unhealthy lifestyle when it comes to eating, and I no longer want to be any part of that process. I don’t want to be the product of an industry, but rather the person I want to be. Vegetarians in The South have far fewer choices is what to eat when it comes to dining out, and we have virtually no choices when it comes to grabbing a quick bite to eat at some local restaurant that can serve up a healthy meal without a dead animal in it.
I want to make a reference to those in the Vegan movement who treated me as if I were some sort of criminal for not converting in an instant. This sort of life change will not happen overnight. I have to teach myself how to cook, and shop, all over again. I have to go from almost mindless planning of meals to buying new spices and new things that I never have had to do before, and it will not happen overnight, and it will not be without some problems. Even those of us who want to be Vegans, and who want to change, are going to face some obstacles, and we need your encouragement, not your condemnation. We are discussing here a cultural shift that is going to be fought against by those who make money off meat, and those who simply think that not eating meat is rather sissified.  Having the attitude of moral superiority is going to turn people away, and cause very little but the continuation of the behavior condemned.
Last Saturday I made some black beans and rice, and took it to a party. The hostess is a Vegan, and she likes the idea I’m turning into one, too. I’ve also found support in people online, and that helps. Sunday, still slightly hungover, I looked up a recipe in my brand new Vegan cookbook and made a red bean stew, replete with red bean, three types of green, a lot of garlic, and a handful of spices I had never used before. It was a slow cooker full of meals for the rest of the week, and in the meantime, I’ve been hitting salads and raw veggies, and trying out a few minor things here and there.
I think this has been the first week I’ve gone without beef or pork in my life.


This is not going to be easy past this point nor in fact will it be a definitive separation from meat, I fear, but rather a migration. It took the better part of half a century for me to get to where I am not, and it would not surprise me if it took a few months for my cooking habits to catch up with my new cuisine. I’m a good cook, really, and I accustomed to things coming out very well, or at least mildly edible. There was the recent incident with the vaporization of the Haberneros, but that was a freak accident even if it did cause some mildly psychotropic reactions.

For me to convert to Veganism is paramount to the pope becoming a Pagan. I’m from The South. I’m from South Georgia. This is the Land Of the Fried and Home of the Bacon. I’m not only a Southerner, I’m a male in The South. But I do believe there are many health issues directly connected with our addiction to eating the dead flesh of our fellow animals. We have recently discovered animals who consume feed that contains the remains of their own kind can contract diseases from that type of diet. Is it that far of a jump to consider that meat of any type might actually be poisonous to us in the long term? Worse, all of this may be directly related to the fact we now have industrial farms where animals are more the product of chemicals, hormones, drugs, and spreadsheets than living creatures.
There is a moral issue here, an ethical equation, and as human beings, we have to ask ourselves if we still have the luxury of considering food as a form of entertainment, as a means of destroying ourselves and our earth. We must ask if we ever had that luxury at all, and if in fact, we ever had the right.
My migration has begun, not ended. A week is not a lifetime, and the way will not be without failure, as all endeavors worthwhile always will be. Yet just as surely as one person with an idea can become more than one person with an idea, each meal leads me to another point in time where I can ponder what has gone inside of me, and what it will produce within, and what I will become because of it.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ghosts and Demons

I don’t bother to tell people about Bonnie, well, not the people who I normally have to interact with because it’s more than a little odd a man who doesn’t believe in ghosts is haunted. Oh sure, now it’s a nightmare, and Sue Ellen will be the first to tell you this, but the thing of it is, my life has not been the same since the first dream a few years ago, and I don’t  see it getting back to where I was, and honestly, who would really want that? If you’re going to write fiction then you have to live with the idea there is already something in your subconscious that is working on overtime, and when you throw gas on a fire you just might lose more than an eyebrow.
I was looking back at what I’ve written about Bonnie, and why, and how it all came to be, and I realized that I haven’t seen her since I began work on my Demon novel, and the Protagonist is a red head who carries a gun. Someone, and I cannot remember who, fronted the idea that Bonnie was actually a Demon, but I dismissed that pretty quickly.
I don’t believe in Demons, either.

This sounds a lot like a man buying Unicorn feed, I know it does, but the truth of the matter is I think I’m just a little more tweaked than most people, and I have very vivid dreams. I’ve been writing down my dreams for years now, and even though most of them do not make any sense at all, I am able to remember a lot of what happens because I do this. I write what my mind gives me to write and it isn’t like I have any control over it at all. The only control I can exert is not to write what is there, and just not write at all.
It’s been fronted to by the paranormal people that I am attracted to people and places with odd energy. I don’t much believe in this either but they made a pretty good argument  when they pointed out I seem to attract more than my share of people who politely put, are more than a little left of balanced.

This all reminds me of the story of when a cage full of monkeys stole the keeper’s keys and escaped. They headed for the roof of a building where there was s a bar and soon enough, some guy calls 911 to reports there is a lunatic at the bar. “He keeps repeating, ‘There are no monkeys, there are no monkeys, there are no monkeys,’ and the damn place is full of them!”

Really, I would be as poor a subject for either haunting or possession simply because I would write it off as mental illness or writing material. There aren’t enough people reading what I write to make it worth a Demon’s while to take over my mind, and as far as a ghost haunting me, would there be some form of entertainment in the afterlife that might be a little bit more engaging than waiting for me to come home from work to give me weird dreams?
If ghosts are the spirits of former living people why aren’t we overrun with the damn things? Id there are Demons in my house, why aren’t they dead of boredom yet?

See, here’s where I have such a big problem with the supernatural in as much as things that go bump in the night might be. Most people assume that Demons, Ghosts, and Otherworldly creatures are somewhat inherently evil in nature. I find that hard to bite into to simply because if they were, you’d think there would be some seriously evil things going on, and quite frankly, I don’t think us humans need the help when it comes to evil. Do you really believe with all the war, disasters, starvation, animal abuse, child abuse, and reality television shows going on, if Evil Personified existed, it would be anything but bored to tears for the lack of some corner of the earth we haven’t screwed up on our own yet? 

It could be argued, of course, humans do the things they do because they are influenced by some sort of outside evil influence, but I have never heard a bigger cop out for behavior than that. If you need a good example of what I’m talking about, look at the way the United States came into being. We invaded a land already populated by other people, took their land, brought in salves so we could make money off the land we stole, wiped out the natives until they were just a tiny fraction of what they had been, and when we reached a point where there wasn’t any more land to steal, or any more natives to kill, we declared what we did as wrong, and no one else ought to do such things.
Meanwhile, during the time of the killing and stealing, there was this idea of manifest destiny, and the Promised Land, and all that sort of stuff, and religion played a really big part in the whole process of killing and stealing, but because the natives slept in on Sundays, well, that made them fair game.
There wasn’t anything supernaturally evil about the people who founded this country, and there wasn’t anything supernaturally evil about the people who owned slaves. Likely, there were products of their times, like the people who once used human sacrifice in cultures all over the world. Greed and ignorance are not evil, but once you get enough of the two in enough people, then there will be evil created out of this, I assure you, and it has nothing to do with demons or ghosts.
You’d think with the advanced civilization we claim to have things like slavery and child prostitution, war, environmental destruction and Wal-Mart would have been eliminated, as known evils, things we know we cannot allow to exist if our species is to survive and lay claim to be ethical. Yet here we sit, still wondering if the dead walk among us, wondering if this person or that person is possessed by demons, still looking for Big Foot, and still staring out into the dark, if there might be anything worse out there than what stares back at us from the mirror.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rebuilding Stonehenge


I wish I had known it was going to work so well, and go through so many evolutions, because I might have been able to make an fairly interesting video of it. I still could if I wanted to backtrack all the work, but maybe on the next one I’ll find a camera operator.

The idea that aliens or some extraterrestrial force might have helped build some of the great wonders of the world is fairly ridiculous, and doesn’t address the ingenuity of human beings when they have something to do and very little to do it with. I’m pushing fifty, have little or no upper body strength when it comes to moving weighs, and so when something large falls down in the yard I have to cut it up into pieces before I can move it. This isn’t as easy as it sounds with a chainsaw, but easier than trying to move a whole tree. Yet there are some pieces of trees that not even chainsaws, or at least my puny eighteen inch bar chainsaw, can cut through. There is a very large piece of Oak, about seven feet long, four feet in circumference, and knotted because it came from the truck branched out, that said chainsaw cannot reduce without the real risk of getting stuck. Because it weighs several hundred pounds there isn’t any chance of my truck dragging it anywhere without a serious chain or rope, and besides, what’s the fun in that?

It’s smaller on one end than the other, so I could rock it up and down, back and forth, and move it around a bit, but as far as getting any distance, that wasn’t going to happen. I thought about making a sled of some sort, attaching it to some sort of basket made out of fencing and putting two dogs pulling on one side until it shifted, and then me pulling on the other until we got it into the firepit. That would require training the dogs to pull, which is a great idea actually, but that doesn’t get things done today, does it?

Believe it or not, you can put an amazing amount of weight in a wheelbarrow, if you can just get it upright and balanced. I did that with the last dead Oak I moved, and I was able to balance pieces of the tree off the trunk of the dead tree over the wheelbarrow, set them down on top, then shift the weight off the trunk until it was balanced, and move pieces of wood that weighed a couple of hundred pounds and were eight or nine feet long. As long as the tire holds out, and you can balance the load, you will not have a problem doing this. But this is a piece that is not going to balance easy, and getting it into the wheelbarrow would not be half the fun. I did consider it. I thought if I got it positioned just right I could use a fencepost as a lever, and push the wheelbarrow up with the piece of wood tied down on top of it. But for the lack of a fulcrum….

Fence posts. The smaller end of the piece of wood allowed me to wedge a fence post under it, and that created the fulcrum I needed to life the heavy end up a bit? So? Ah, but then I took three more fence posts, created a small but uneven pyramid, with the top leaning against the heavy end of the piece of wood. As soon as I pushed down on the lighter end of the piece of wood, the pyramid collapsed, and one of the fence posts rolled under the heavy end of the piece of wood.  I then took the other fence posts and line them up long ways in front of the piece of wood, and pushed from the back, rolling it from post to post, with nearly no effort at all.

That was fairly, easy, no? One man, five fence posts, and a piece of wood I could have lifted with three other guys, well, five other guys with my strength. But I had a little problem getting the wood to go from post to post because some of them where different sizes, so I took a metal gate, and wedged it under the piece of wood, creating a much smoother surface to roll along the fence posts. I had to push more slowly now, because with the fate rolling along the posts, even with the massive weight of the wood, it zipped along nearly too fast!  I was able to move it from where my shed is, to where the firepit is, is far less than an hour, by myself. If I would have had someone in front of the sled moving the posts, and more posts, we could have pushed four or five hundred pounds of weight without very much effort at all, as far as we would have had to push it. If I can get Lucas harness trained I can get him to stop and pull as I move the posts so if I have to do it again, it won’t be a problem.
Humans become more and more helpless as they have more and more tools to do a given job, to the point once they have everything they need to work with, they are unable to do anything at all. The right tool for the right job sometimes means taking what you have in front of you, and doing what you have to do with it. The people who built Stonehenge didn’t know they couldn’t do it. They didn’t know they needed heavy equipment, they didn’t know they needed steel cable, and they did not have any artificial deadlines like the ones we attach to everything on earth these days.
Can I explain to you how they built Stonehenge? I can offer you one piece of advice; one man can move a lot more than you think he can, with a lot less than you’d suspect he needs.

Take Care,
Mike