Everything I post here I have previously published on the many other blogs I have had. This is a place for my favourites to rest. These are the wings that taught me i could fly and that there is life waiting, far beyond the ridge.
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Sunday, December 30, 2012
I used to walk down that old cut road and see her there. That red scarf tied around her raven hair bandana style, like a sixties hippie. Hell, she had a big black peace sign in her window and I guess maybe she was. Her name was Mary and the story went that her young husband went to the Nam and never came back. If there was more, no one ever told me.
It was the kind of road, gravel, with gentle curves and red-winged blackbirds on the wires looking
for mischief. It was a good walk in the summer, only a mile to town.
There were never more than two or three vehicles that would pass me and I could've caught a ride if I wanted one, but I didn't, and they knew.
The first half-mile I would think of her, of her thoughts, of her nights. After rounding the bend I could see her place, the small brown house, the falling apart shed, her garden in the back.
That's almost always where she was, on her knees digging. From a distance she looked small, but when you drew near and she would stand up to stretch, you could see she was quite tall and looked majestic in those torn dirty jeans and T-shirt.
She would barely give me a glance as I came into view, but once in a while I thought I saw a smile
and she would take the bandana off and wipe her hands with it before returning it to her head.
I wanted to talk to her, or rather her to me. But somehow I never was able to
bring it about. I'm not sure if it was my fear, or her aloneness, or my fear of her aloneness.
Maybe it was her stature, maybe her ghosts, or maybe, simply, she was too sacred.
I would pass on her side of the road to be near and slow my pace, hoping she'd say hi or isn't it a lovely day or would you pick up some eggs for me when you're in town, but she only tended her garden while surely feeling my look upon her back.
That's how I remember the summer of '72.
Not the county fair, not my father almost leaving my mother, not my first date at the local theater.
Just Mary and her garden.
And I wonder now if she ever moved, ever remarried, ever had children. I wonder if she believed in God and had a mother who missed her. And I wonder had she invited me in, what she might've said. Would she have made lemonade or fired a joint? Would she have cried because someone was finally there to listen? Or might she have kissed me and seduced me as I imagined on so many of those walks. Just like the movie, she would tender my innocence, gentle my shy, take me by the hand and brush back my hair. Then she would hold me like i hoped lovers must always be held.
But that's the trouble with movies, they're so far from what really happens.
As far as I know, no one in town knew much of her or paid her much mind, and by the summer of '73 she was gone. It was like she never really existed. But the square skeleton of her garden told me she had and the red-winged blackbirds told me I should have.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Let's call it Acme, Ohio. That's close enough
I recognized the town as I pulled into it. A railroad and a US highway criss-crossed through it and
main street sported several beauty shops, a grocery store that had fed generations, and a bar called the
I had come to deliver and pick up, no more, no less, and I was told I could park at the factory that whizzed out Ford parts to keep America going.
So that I did.
First thing I noticed, is that I had no cell service, I smirked to my old friend AT&T, tucked it away and wondered what I'd do in Acme, Ohio at seven PM on a Tuesday night. It was crystal cold, the snow was heaped high on the boulevards, but I decided to take a walk anyway.
I started noticing things. The train whistle howled forlornly but the train never came, and the locals seemed accustomed to this as they crossed the tracks as if they didn't exist.
I noticed that the traffic on the U.S. highway drove through like there was a Rottweiler chewing on its own ass.
And the houses wore thin curtains showing my way to the lamp next to the couch where papers were read, babies bounced, and nights buried. There seemed to be a million of these houses; blocks and blocks and blocks of them.
The nicer ones had cut their swath with a snow blower, the darker porch-tilted ones had shoveled with whatever was available, or not at all. There were three pizza places on main street, as there always is in a town like this, and Kayla's Beauty Salon was up for rent.
Kayla had had enough.
I was cold but only because I hadn't dressed for this.
See, this is where I grew up, a thousand Kaylas away, and the flood of forgotten broke the dam and washed me over the rapids, driving me to shelter at the Hunter's Brew.
It was the canker on Acme's ass and I felt uncomfortably at home.
The bar maid was a fifty something we'll call Tina because in another life she had been Tina, but now she just was. There was a guy with too many miles on his dreams and two not-pretty-enoughs singing harmony. There was a girl maybe thirty-five decked out in silver shine and tight jeans trying hard not to look desperate as the guy she was desperate for struggled to make his escape.
And there was me.
I ordered a beer which came in a can but only cost a buck and a half as NCIS played on the scratchy TV.
The flood built and breached the banks as I remembered.
The guy played a few songs on the jukebox and I watched Tina sway and move to the rhythm on her inside bar stool, as a patriotic song played about some soldiers giving all. I watched her eyes close and her lips were right on time to whatever it was that was plucking her sad heart's g-string..
One of the not-pretty-enoughs asked me if i wanted to share their garlic bread and I politely said no.
See, you have to be careful not to take their bread or they'll butter the night with your soul.
I stepped out back in the alley for a smoke and a look around.
I saw cars that were gonna run if the friend of that friend ever got out of jail. There was a yard fenced in where some mongrel sensed my presence and barked to let the town know it had been found,
and there were those apartments; the ones up rickety steps where a person could shack cheap if they had no where else to sleep.
And also, there was the Dodge Stratus. Tina's ride. Her last hope that had really died years ago and I wondered how she made the payment
I went back in, finished my beer and walked out, back through the blocks of nowhere.
Christmas lights were still blinking two months after Christmas and it all might have been serene if not for the flood and the knowing why.
See, I lived in those apartments. I fucked Tina. I threw sticks at that dog. And that guy never showed up to fix my car.
Forty five percent of graduates of Acme High would find work in one of the local factories. Forty five percent would marry them. At best, they'll have a few kids, join the volunteer fire department, and get one of the better houses on one of the better blocks.
There'll be softball leagues and parades and family reunions and now and then the guy will show up and the car will get that timing chain it needs. But in my book, they're going no where in three-quarter time.
I know, I came from there.
I don't know yet where somewhere is but I keep looking down Highway 224 and I keep waiting for that train to catch up to its whistle.
That's not to say these people aren't happy, just that i can't be one of them.
When the girl with the silver trinkets had realized the guy who wasn't her husband wasn't coming back, and the guy who was must be wondering, she said to Tina, "Well, I guess I'll go back to my prison. Fuck, my life sucks." And walked out.
I had walked out just a few steps behind like a ghost who had lost his amnesia.
Tomorrow I'll be in another town, maybe a city, maybe a Gulf Coast beach, maybe on a mountain top somewhere in the Rockies.
I haven't found my somewhere yet but I'll keep looking.
Tomorrow night Act II will begin where Act I left off at the Hunter's Brew with the same players with the same lines minus a ghost with amnesia.