My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Ford man

“I heard it again on the way home, dear,” my dad would say as he closed the door.
“What’s that, darling?” my mother would ask knowing the answer.
“That ping I told you about the other day,” he would answer.
“Isn’t it something you can fix?” came the routine question.
“Well, I can’t quite place the sound with an engine part,” would be the rejoinder.
Every other October with the ads for the new model cars showing up in magazines and on radio my dad would get what we called “The Fever.”
“See the USA in your Chevrolet!” Diana Shore would sing on a Sunday evening during her show.  Pictures of the new models would appear with families riding down the highway smiles beaming from windswept faces. 
“Those Chevies just don’t have the style of the new Fords,” my dad would say just loud enough to be heard.
“Yeah!” I’d shout enthusiastically.  “The new Fords look really great!”
Dad would look at me and smile. 
“Maybe we should take a ride this weekend to see the new models,” Dad would offer.
“You mean it?”
‘Yes, I mean it.  Would that be alright with you, dear?” my dad would ask mom.
“You know you don’t have to ask.”   She’d smile because she knew.
The Ford in the driveway was two years old.  It hardly had a nick in the paint nor rattle in the engine because my dad was one of the best backyard mechanics around.  He’d bought an old Buick when he needed transportation to find a job.  It cost him $200.  The engine was in need of some work and the price was high at the time but he handed over the money.  It was black and had seen a lot of miles.  The paint was scratched all over except those places that were red with rust.  When he drove up into the yard I was there running to meet him.  At the end of the drive I jumped onto the running board as he coasted toward the porch. 
“You should be more careful, son.  The car was still moving.”
“Yes sir.  I will next time.”
He opened the door and the first place he went was to the front of the car to lift the hood, or bonnet as he called it.  He bent over the fender and began wiggling wires and tightening screws.  The engine wasn’t so big.  Climbing up on the fender I looked in and saw the ground beneath surrounding it.  It was attached to a fan in front and a long pole stretched beneath all the way to the axle.  The top was flat and thin with wires poking out and joining at a black cap which dad was manhandling.  He popped the clips off the sides and lifted the wired cap up to show a shining part beneath.
“I’ll have to do some work on this before it will be good enough to rely on.”  His face was drawn up into a frown which meant he was concentrating.  He replaced the distributor cap.  He walked around the door, reached in and turned the key.  He placed his foot on the starter and mashed it.  The motor coughed into action and vibrated on its mounts.  The fan whooshed air into my face and I fell backward.
“Are you alright, son?” my dad asked looking around the door frame.
“Yes sir,” I said and climbed back onto the fender.
“Come around here, son.  I want you to step on the gas feed while I look at the engine run.”  He motioned me into the seat.  I sat on the edge and stretched my right leg toward the accelerator.  Holding onto the steering wheel I slid down off the seat and made contact with the foot feed.  Mashing it I was thrilled to hear the engine roar.
“Not so hard, son,” he shouted above the engine.
I took my weight off my foot.  The engine popped and crackled to a lower decibel.
Dad touched this and that not noticing that my mom had come out and was standing beside him.
“How does it look?” she asked.
Bang!  Dad’s head met the bonnet abruptly.  He moved out from under rubbing the spot on his noggin.
“Wish you wouldn’t do that, dear” he said.  “It’s going to need some work but I think it will answer.”  He continued to rub his head but a smile creased his face and his eyes lit up with the challenge ahead.
He spent several days under that hood.  My contribution was holding the flashlight to provide illumination around the work area in the dark spaces under the hood.  It became my job through the many years he fixed the engines we needed to travel.  When he was finished there was no clang, crackle or pop.  That engine purred.  The ride was smooth, or as smooth a ride as the shock absorbers of the day could provide.  Dad kept that car in tiptop condition until the first fever hit.  The weekly tinkering had grown tiring I reckon, plus his job had given him enough money to consider buying a newer model.  When he took this one in the man who test drove it to suggest a trade in amount was surprised at how well this old model was running.
“Who did you get to work on this old jalopy?”  He asked my dad.
“I work on it. Why do you ask?”
“Well, Mr. Croucher, I’d be willing to offer you a job.  I’ve never driven an old car like this with such a smooth engine in my life.  If you can do this well with this old rattle trap I’d love to get you into my bay to work on our newer models.’
“I already have a job, thank you,” was dad’s answer.
“Are you sure you won’t consider it?”
“I’ll think on it but, as I said, I already have a job.”
“Well, you think about my offer.  As to this trade in, I’ll give you $300 towards your new car.”
The deal was concluded and we drove home in a new car.  Dad decided to stay with the job he had.  I guess he enjoyed fixing the engines but to make it his job would take that enjoyment away.  I don’t really know.
Anyway, back to the nearer present.  Dad came in from work shaking his head.
“What’s wrong, darling?” my mother said.
“It’s that car.  There’s a racket in the engine I can’t identify.  The universal joint is going too, I’ll wager.  I think maybe we better trade it in before it breaks down and I can’t fix it.”
Mom would smile.  “If you think it’s best.’
“Yes, I don’t want to start throwing money down the drain.  How about we go this weekend?”
This visit would be the one.  We’d be driving home in a brand new Ford.  We all knew it.
As he planned on Saturday afternoon we drove downtown to Paul Motor Company the local Ford dealer at the time.
We pulled up front and I jumped out to race inside.  The new models were always inside the building behind glass windows that reached to the sidewalk.  For me there were the new plastic models that sat beneath glass at the counter in front.  I would always go to admire the scale model replicas provided for child collectors like me.
“Hello, Al!” shouted the salesman.  “You know that mechanic’s job offer is still open for you.”  His smile was broad and friendly.
“I’m still thinking about it,” dad would say.  It was a good five or six years now that he had been thinking about it.  “Right now I’d like to look at the new models.”
“OK, Al.  We have the newest models right over here.  They just came in this week.  And look at those lines.  They are lower and longer than they have ever been.  And look at the color choices.  Yes sir, Al, these are the best models we have ever stocked.  We’re proud of what we have this year.  The man who drives this brand new futuristic Ford is a proud man.  I drive that black and white two door parked right over there and a smoother ride I haven’t had since driving that old Buick you brought in back in ’51.”
“Can I sit in it?”  dad was opening the door and sliding in.
“You most certainly can.  Feel that seat and grip that wheel.  Speedometer reads 100, not that you will ever need to drive that fast but it’s nice to know the power is there.  Two-hundred and fifty horses under that hood.  You will love this car.  I do.”
“How about a test drive?”  Dad asked.
“Why certainly.  Would you care to give me your keys and let my man drive yours to give a trade-in value?” 
“I think that would be fair.”  Dad handed him the keys which he took to a mechanic in back.  He came out with a new set of keys in hand.
“Come with me, Al.  I’ve got a beauty out back we can take for a spin.  You are going to love this car.  I’m telling you it is the best Ford ever.”
Dad went with the salesman out the back.  Mom and I stayed in the showroom and waited while they took the new car for a spin.  I ran back over to the model cars trying to figure which one I wanted this year.  I’d know when dad came back.
About twenty minutes later they walked back through the door.  Dad’s smile was a dead giveaway.  We were going home in a brand new Ford.
 Dad smiled at me and nodded at mom as he and the salesman went into the small room to haggle over the price.  Wrangling over price was another part of the whole deal that brought some pleasure to dad.  Their voices went from high to low to higher while the price sparring went on.  The fellow driving our car returned writing on a pad.  He stopped at the office door.  It became quiet.  The driver tossed the keys into the little office and walked away.  The spin for the best price began again. 
In about thirty minutes dad walked out with a long contract and the new set of keys in his hand and a broad grin across his face.
“Honey, you had better go check the glove box to see if there is anything we should take back home with us.  Rickey, come over here. Joe here has something for you.”
Mom went to the car at the curb to retrieve our personal items while I walked over to the display case.
“Well, son,” said the salesman, “which one would you like to have?”
“Do you have one like dad bought?”
“As a matter of fact we do,” he said reaching into the display case.  He pulled out a brand new model Ford that replicated the one we would be driving home in.  “Here you go,” he said.
I took it in my hands.  Inside the seats and dash were perfect.  The finish was bright shiny and without blemish.  The undercarriage was molded to look just like the underside of the real thing.  It was a perfect model to be added to the others I had received each year the fever took hold of dad.
They shook hands.  He reminded dad that that job was open for him anytime he decided to start.  Dad once more politely refused the offer.
“I’m serious, Al.  These cars you bring in to trade are usually as good as the ones you drive out brand new.  I know you are the only mechanic who touches them.  You are wasting your time at any other job.  You were born to be an ace mechanic.  We really want you.”
Dad just said thanks every year and walked to his brand new car to drive home.  Those days were always special.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Black becomes you..

  "Where am I?"
  "You're here."
  "But where is here?"
  "Can't you see?"
  "Well, yeah, I see, but where is it."
  "It's one point in this vast area upon which you stand."
  "Am I near a town?"
  "Town?  What is town?"
  "You know a place where a bunch of people live all together."
  "We all live apart.  There is no way we could live together.  Only one person can occupy a space at one time.  The closest we come to occupying the same space is if we consent to coupling and eve then it is only a small portion of the two of us occupying the same space at the same time."
  "That's not what I'm talking about.  Who the hell are you?"
  "Just a member of the vast spaces you see."
  "I can see we're getting nowhere here.  How did I come to this place?"
  "You were spit out of a great grey wall of wind.  We saw you vaguely through the whipping winds rising rapidly  until you were tossed upward and out.  You happened to land here on this hard surface."
  "How long?"
  "Coupla glics I think."
  "Don't you have glics?  From the start of what I was saying to the ned of it was a clad.  So many clads equal a glic."
  "Oh, we call them minutes and hours."
  "Ah, well, I suppose you were there asleep for 24....hours?  Glics."
  "This happen much? Your finding people thrown from a great wind tunnel?"
  "Never in my lifetime, but our grandparents told us of a little girl who arrived in her ship.  It crash landed on one of our most feared witches.  Her feet shrank and the girl was given her ruby slippers by Glenda."
  "Dorothy?  Are you talking about Dorothy?"
  "Yes, I do believe that's what gramps called her.  Dorothy.  Yes, it was Dorothy."
  "So this is the Munchkin town she started her journey along the yellow brick road?"
  "Yes, you have heard of us?"
  "Uh, yes."
  "Do you wish us to sing to you and offer you lollipops from the lollypop guild and such?"
   "No, that’s not necessary."
  "Well, how about my sister.  She very good and cheap."
  "What?  What are you talking about?"
  For the first time I looked around.  My eyes focused on a rundown village of thatched cottages with broken windows.  The colors had all turned into shades of grey.  The brilliant yellow brick road of the movie had turned to an ash covered yellow tinged deep grey.  There were no flowers nor trees filled with fruit.  It looked as if the life had been sucked out of the entire area.  It reminded me of the pictures of the old Soviet Union or East Germany
  "I'm talking about money.  I need money as does every soul here.  It just so happens I have a saleable commodity, my sister.  She's the best in the area and will give you a wonderful time for any cash you might have with you as long as it is gold.  You do have gold on you don't you?"
  "Gold?   Of course not.  We carry paper or plastic."
  "Paper?  Worthless except to an artist.  Plastic?  What is this plastic?"
  "Plastic is the gold of the future which is now where I come from."
  "If you don't have gold then we will have to take you into custody.  You can work off your debt to us."
  "What debt?"
  "We allowed you to sleep here for 24 glics.  You think this is something you can have for free?"
  Hundreds of little folk were venturing out from behind bushes and dead trees.  The doors on the shacks were sliding sideways bringing into view hundreds more from the shadows of the wrecked shelters.  I was reminded of all the movies written about the "Living Dead."  These mini people shuffled along with fixed stares and fixed smiles filled with teeth filed to points.  Everywhere I turned they were slowly inching towards me.  The little man who had held me in conversation grabbed me.  He held my arm in a tiny vise-like grip.  I tried pulling away and making a break for it but his grip was solid.
  I came out of my jacket turning to run when the first of the advancing zombie-like munchkins reached for me.  They latched on wherever they could grip. Tiny hands found my arms and legs.  I saw the dusky yellow teeth bared and the maws behind widen as they moved in for the flesh and blood on my skeleton.
  "NO!" I screamed.  I kicked and squirmed as the foul smelling little munchkins moved in for the kill    With all my might I began to throw the hideous little creatures in all directions.  I kicked and squirmed as the foul smelling little munchkins moved in for the kill.  I knew I couldn't hold out much longer and then...
  They began to move away with their forearms covering their eyes.  I looked in the direction from which they hid their eyes.  It was a bright light which seemed to grow larger.  No, it wasn't just growing larger it was approaching me from the sky.  It was a bubble of rich golden color.  The entire area was bathed in the golden warmth beaming from the ever nearing bubble.  There was something inside.  It was a woman with a stick in her right hand and a crown on her head.  She smiled behind the round enclosing wall.  Her eyes twinkled as she held my gaze.
  The golden globe touched the ground and disappeared as she stepped lightly to the yellow-tinged grey brick road.  Her foot step blanched the brick upon which she tread.  It turned a rich warm beautiful yellow.  Each advancing step widened the technicolor effect.  She continued to smile as she approached and the sea of golden bricks advanced along her path.  Color seemed to spring out of every brick, rock, bush and tree.  The ramshackle shacks lifted themselves into red and blue and green cottages roofed with fresh yellow thatched thickness.  Each foot step brought richer and deeper color to this drab grey little village.
  I smiled at this beautiful creature as she brought warmth and life to every square inch of the surrounding area.  She never spoke.  I stood transfixed in her smile and clear blue eyes.  I was the only one who stood in the center of this land of beauty and promise unfolding with each step she took.  The little monster munchkins were at a distance and bowing before the golden haired beauty who continued to come closer to me.  From the corner of my eyes I saw the little people's clothes flash into color and their skin turn rosy pink.  The pain and suffering in their eyes was gone and now filled with...fear?
  I looked at the advancing woman who would be face to face any second.  I was overwhelmed by her beauty and rooted to the spot.  My senses were near exhaustion from the transformation of this little piece of real estate from a dead and buried parish into a splendiferous orgy of color and new surged life.
  She smiled at me and I knew I was the reason for it all.  She took my hand and pulled me to her.  I surrendered to her. All I wanted was to be swallowed by her warmth.  She plastered her ravishing body to mine. 
And in a flash the illusion disappeared.  Not the beauty that had come to rest upon the countryside.  No.  It was the illusion that she was Glenda the good witch of the east.  I knew at once that this was the cold calculating evil sister of the witch killed eons ago by a house falling from the sky.  The warmth of the illusion left as her teeth sunk into my neck and the warmth of life was sucked from me.  She never spoke a word but I could hear chatter in the background growing ever fainter.
  "We held him long enough for you, didn't we?  We can have another ten earth turns of color and warmth and plenty can't we?  I know we almost feasted upon him but you took so long getting here.  I couldn't control them."
  "Another 10 earth turns, Munchkins.  Go!  Go, start your businesses again.  The time of plenty has returned.   And may the one who overlooks our lives be blessed and thanked for the wind-walls that bring such as this to our land for sacrifice."
  My world dimmed into black.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A summer Saturday...

The morning opened up with the sun creeping over the horizon.  Cafe curtains filtered the sunbeams streaming into the window.  I kicked the covers high and wide tumbling over the side of the bed.  A new day.  Another summer offering new adventures without the weight of school work dragging me down was dawning.
 A quick brush of the teeth, a splash of water on the eyes---my mother always said, "Hold a cold washcloth on the back of your neck for an eye opener." which I never did---and a long standing bladder tension eased off.  And, thus, began the day.
  "What do you want for breakfast?"  My mother had been up for hours.  She was always a morning person and greeted dad and me with a smile.  Dad answered with a grunt and, as the apple falling near the tree, my response was likewise..
"Ung.  Cereal I guess."  It was too early to think about food.
"Do you have plans for your first day of summer?"  My mother always liked to talk in the morning.  My dad sat at the table slowly burying himself in the paper while lifting his cup of tea to his lips.  
The old metal teapot had come from England with us when we came over in 1950.  It was one of the few things from England's shores to make the trip.  It sat in the middle of the table close at hand.  The capacity was approximately 6 cups which were poured out over a time frame of about forty-five minutes.  A splash of milk in the cup and the tea poured into it was the ritual.  Dad always made sure the ritual included pot to the kettle and kettle to the pot.  Boiling water was poured into the pot to rinse and to heat it.  The next act was to add the teabags and carry the kettle from the heat to the pot and pour it directly over the waiting bags of tea.  Since the pot had been heated prior to the adding of tea bags all that precious boiling heat was directed at the tiny little tea leaves in the bags Tetley provided.  The flavor of the tea was instantly siphoned off the leaves.  The whistle of the kettle on the burner was the opening sound of that daily ritual.  Dad would smile ever so slightly when he had sipped this proper cuppa.
"I thought maybe you would cut the grass this morning," said dad.  It was an unusual statement by my dad because he never let me cut grass.   His specifications were stringent and I was too young to meet them.  The house we lived in prior to this one had a yard that was less than level.  He always mowed because it was too hilly and I wouldn't be able to properly achieve the level he desired or some such excuse.  The reason was that he wanted to do the work so that it was his accomplishment.  So I was surprised at his statement.
"OK.  Yes sir."  I wanted to cut the grass but I knew that the day was shot now.  I held back my disappointment about my plans which were nothing much other than walk around the Terrace with my friends.
My dad had the oldest lawn mower on the block.  When the day came to mow it always began like this.  The decision was made.  After tea and toast he would rise from the table and head for the door.  Outside he'd point me to the small covering he had built for the power mower.  I'd unlatch the gate and tug on the mower, which was wedged into the covering, until I finally had it dragged from its place.  Huffing and puffing I would roll it up to dad under the carport.  His smile always told me he enjoyed the spectacle of my efforts to bring the machine to him.
First, he would place the knotted rope in the crevice of the fly wheel.  Then he would wind it around it then take the wooden piece in his hand and yank the cord which turned the flywheel to crank it.  It would sputter without spark and he would commence checking everything.  The gas tank was first on the list. It was always empty.
"Get the gas, son."
I would get the gas can.  He would pour gas into the tank.  The oil check was next.  If it was fine he would recheck the fuel line, adjust the lever to release gas to the spark plug and rewrap the cord.  His foot on the mower would hold it to the ground as he yanked on the cord sending the blade flying beneath the outer covering.  The sputter would sound again.  This would set him off on the double check of everything.  He would wind the rope around the topknot again, steady the mower with his foot and yank on the rope with the same sputter.
"Not getting a spark.  Go get my tool box, son."
"Yes sir," I'd say and head to the shed for the tools.  Lifting that box full of metal tools was a job in itself.  I'd be leaning at a forty-five degree angle on my way back just to keep it from scraping the ground.  Reaching him was a relief punctuated by a slam of the box and a rattle of metal tools that would be heard inside.
"Are you two alright?"  My mother would say, standing at the screen door wiping her hands on the dish towel.
"Yeah, we're fine," would be my dad's answer.
He stooped over the box and released the two locks throwing the top over on its hinges.  He'd reach with knowing hands for the right tool and fit it to the spark plug.  The plug in his hands he would say, "Hand me that emery board, son."  After doing this so many times I would search the box for the one he had used last.
"It's not here."
"Go ask your mother for one."  I'd get up and run inside.
"Dad needs an emery board, mom."
"Alright dear."  She'd toss the dish towel on the stove and go through all the drawers until she found one.
"Here you go.  Ask you dad if he wants a cuppa tea."
"Yes ma'am."  The screen door would slam behind me every time.
"Don't slam the door, son.  Did your mother have that emery board?"  He was filing away at the carbon deposit on the plug with the one he had found in the tool box.
"Yes sir.  Here it is."
"Thanks, this one has lost all its grit.  Hand me that metal brush."
I handed it to him.
He scraped the brush back and forth across the firing portion of the plug until it shone as bright and clean as new.
"There we are," he'd say.  He threaded the plug into its position by hand.  "Hand me the spanner."
By habit I reached for his tool and handed it over.
"Mom wants to know if you'd like a cup of tea."  I finally asked.
"That would be nice," he said.  I ran back inside to tell my mother.  She put the kettle on.
After reattaching the wire to the plug he went through all the preparation to start it again.  The sputter came and he repeated the action several more times.
"Hmmmm," he'd say.  "Spanner?"
I grabbed it and handed it over.
He began losing nuts and removing parts.  "Go look in the outhouse and find that pot."
I ran around to the shed and dug through the pile of stuff to find the pot at the bottom.  Triumphantly, I would return smiling.
"Pour some of that gas into it."
I struggled with the gas can and slopped gas all over pouring it into the pot.  Dad tossed the piston and assorted bits into the pot.
"Let's go have our tea.  Those bits can soak while we are inside."
The kettle was whistling as we stepped inside.  Mom made the tea.  We sat at table.  She brought the pot over then pulled the milk from the refrigerator and set it next to the pot.  We waited while it sat on the draw.  Dad bit into his toast which had been sitting there while we were outside.
"How come we don't get a new mower, dad?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you have to work on this one every time you want to cut the grass."
"As long as this one can be fixed son it is still good.  I can't see buying another one when this one is as good as new."
"It always seems to take two days to cut the grass.  The first day you spend fixing the thing so it will cut the next day. "
"I'm just thankful I have a lawn mower that works.  It might take some time to get it working but there's no need to buy new as long as it does."
The rest of the day was spent cleaning, sanding, wiping and reassembling.  When he finally got it to run it was near dark.  He would look up surprised that the day was nearly gone.
"First thing in the morning we'll crank her up and you can cut the grass."  He said this as he put it beneath its covering.
As always the morning would come and he would crank it on the first try.  The pride of workmanship shown in his face and he would wave me off pushing the mower into the grass.  I'd sit and watch as he completed the job with a smile on his face.  With sweat trickling into his eyes he would push the mower into the home made shed and lock it.
“Thanks for your help, son.  How about a cup of tea?”
“Yes sir,” I said holding the door for him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Goin' south

The Pig...Piggly Wiggly Grocery store...Was down the road a piece. It was early but the parking lot was full. Clyde pulled into a spot close to the front door. Inside were displays for water and flashlight batteries but the shelves were empty of those items. Seems the scare that Betsy was heading for Charleston was taken quite seriously. I suppose those who piled in to buy those items were relieved and annoyed at the same time.
We sallied over to the deli. The selections were skimpy. I reckon those people who loaded up on batteries and water also raided the deli department.
Clyde smiled at the lady behind the glass windows. She smiled back her eyes captivated by his natural charm. "Not much to choose from, eh?"
"Nope. We were hit hard by a lot of nervous folks."
"Well what do you suggest honey? We have a long road to travel."
"How 'bout i make you up a 4 foot sub? I'll wrap it up good and you can cut off portions as you go along."
"Sounds perfect darlin'.
While they continuing talking and she began making the sub, I walked over to the drink counter and picked up some chasers and mixers. I saw powdered donuts and bread and peanut butter and grabbed them.
I glanced over toward Clyde and Lula...Clyde had listened to her life story while she made the sandwich... She was lifting the 4 footer over the glass boundary. Clyde took it, smiled and thanked her then joined me in line at the register.
"She's still watching you, you know."
"She's a sweet kid. Just started this job Monday. I knew I hadn't seen her before."
"Hey Clyde. Whatcha stockin' up for? That sandwich ought to last a long time."
"Hey Billie Jean. Yeah, the nephew and I are heading to Florida to hunt hurricanes. Betsy is supposed to hit there tomorrow." The register rang and Clyde peeled of the money.
"You two are crazy. You wouldn't catch me headin' to a hurricane. I'd be headin' away from it."
Clyde chuckled, thanked her and picked up the sub. I struggled with the bags. I nearly dropped one of them as I maneuvered to open the door.
We were rolling once again, south on 17 heading for Savannah and from there straight to Miami.

"OK neff, crack one of those seals. Gimme just a touch in this cup."
"Have a preference?" I said as I surveyed the upright bottles surrounding my feet. 2 fifths, 1 gallon with a dripless pour spout and 3 pints. They were all Calverts Extra a light bourbon whiskey and really hard going down but quite inexpensive and the first rule of Clyde's economic principles was that when it's cheap one can buy more. I cracked the seal on the gallon, since I didn't want to slosh any on the seat or floor. It would have warranted a harsh look from my uncle it would be sort of the waste not want not variety of stare. Ever try to pour from a gallon bottle while driving 55 along a poorly maintained road? It isn't easy when attempting to pour a little into a half filled paper cup. Dripless or not I managed to splash some on the seat, the floor, and Clyde's leg. Not only did I get the disapproving look but a sharp negative expletive to boot.
"If you wouldn't drive through all the patches and holes in the road maybe I could do better."
"Get some ice out of the cooler and try to do better next time."
I decided to pour mine from one of the pint bottles. It was much easier to handle.
We road along for some time listening to the Four Seasons, Gene Pitney and Roy Orbison wailing away at at 8000 decibels. We shouted above the den.
"How long til we get there," I screamed.
"6, 7 maybe 12 hours," he yelled back.
"Well I'm going to brake out the sub."
I reached into the back and picked it up. Bringing it to the front I smacked Clyde in the back of the head causing him to flinch and swerve the car off the road for a heart rending moment.
"Watch what you're doing! I almost ended us up in a ditch."
"Sorry." I unwrapped the tin foil and cut off a section. I held it out for him and he took it. then I cut my slab and rewrapped the remainder being mindful not to slap him in the head. I wasn't quite successful and we took another sharp detour accompanied by more negative expletives. I was kind of glad the radio was so loud at that particular time.
Finally, there it was the Savannah River and the bridge to cross it. Coming down the far side of the bridge we saw it. Cops waving all traffic off the road and into a field. What the....

"Quick so something with all that booze."
"Like what? Jettison it all into the river? Not enough time."
"No, throw that map over it."
I grabbed the map opened it and spread it over the top of the bottles and began to study it as if we were lost. clyde slowed the car as we approached the policeman waving us all onto the dirt road heading into the field. I looked up at the officer and smiled. Clyde slowed to a stop and spoke
"Hello, Occifer."
OH geez I thought. Did he have to say that?
"What's going on?" Clyde continued.
"Well hello boys," the patrolman said. He must have missed Clyde's slur. "We've got the local news station, you know, for the TV, offerin' up range juice and coffee for the long distance drivers going through Savannah." He was leaning down into the window as he talked. "We thought it would be a good human interest story to see some of the travelers and offer 'em some refreshment on their long drive."
His arm came to rest on the window ledge of the car door while he spoke. His happy smile altered as the smell of Calverts Extra hit him. A stern look colored by dismay took hold.
"Well, boys, you are saved by the camera crew there. Don't give us any trouble when speaking to the nice lady there and smile for the camera. Speak distinctly and don't let on. I know what you boys have been doing and I'm going to let you go quietly but you've got to promise me you will be careful going down the road from here."
"Yessir," we both chimed in.
He smiled and shook his head as he removed himself from Clyde's face. "Another traveler comin' through fellas." He waved us on and we inched up to the girl with the mike and the boy with the camera.
"What brings you boys down this way?" The girl with the mike said. She put the mike in Clyde's face as the camera boy moved in to see him answer.
"Why we come down here a lot. Got an uncle lives here in Savannah. Hey Uncle Olin...will he see me on the news?"
"As long as he's watching, he'll see you 'cause we're putting you boys on the air at 5."
"In that case..hello Uncle Olin maybe we'll be watching ourselves with you on the TV," Clyde said very loudly.
"No need to shout."
"Oh, OK, sorry.'
"So you've come to visit relatives?"
"No, actually, we're heading for Miami to catch Betsy."
"OK then, NEXT!"
We were dismissed as the camera left us to focus on the car behind us. We inched away and turned back onto the road. The Patrolman we had talked to smiled, wagged his finger and motioned us back onto the road with a slow shaking of his head.
"Why didn't he arrest us? It's plain we're both drunk."
"It was a free pass neff. He couldn't do that in front of a news camera crew. How would it look for him? He waved us through. It wouldn't look right for him to arrest us before we got to the cameras nor after. So we get a real get out of jail card free for real. It was a once in a life time deal. So pour some more into this cup. We've got a long drive ahead of us.
We picked up speed heading south away from Savannah and into a sky filled with black billowing clouds. We were in for some rain up the road apiece

In that secret place.

I know how the South felt in 1860.  More than that I understand the heartfelt need to secede.  The ideals of the America I have known are directly opposed to those of the country that replaced the incumbent.  The decision to welcome another four years staggers me.
My heart and soul have sunk to the lowest depths of me.  I need time to accept this fork in the road and the direction taken.  No election in the past has ever sent me reeling as this one has.  It's an utter rejection of fundamental beliefs implanted from the time I was old enough to begin to understand anything.  It will take a while to adjust to this new reality.
I am reminded of David on the run looking to the heavens shouting, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"(Psalm 22:1).  A little dramatic you say?  Perhaps.  Has He forsaken me?  Has He forsaken our country?  I believe it is the reverse.  I believed with all my heart He wanted a different result for this election and I embraced this completely.  His plan, obviously, is not what I imagined.  It is my part in this plan to look to Him for guidance as to what that plan is which means I have to alter my thinking and surrender my heart and mind to His path.  It is a complete shock to my system and will take a bit of time to adjust to the jolt to  my being.  I truly believed the results of this election would be the opposite of the reality.  He didn't listen to me.  Now I need to listen for Him.
The time interval for this is unknown.  A full body collision with a speeding object causes a tremendous amount of damage.  The body requires its own set time to heal.  This mental and spiritual slam against reality will take time of which I have no clue as to how long.  It is a spiritual warfare wound that can only be healed under the shadow of His loving attention. " I shall take to heart Psalm 91, He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
Some may think I am harping on God too much.  I disagree completely.  I don't invoke Him enough.  To understand what has happened I will have to look to Him completely.  And that is where I will be for a while, in that secret place, asking for forgiveness and understanding.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I need words and lots of 'em

Is there a story in me?  They say a novel can be written by anyone because everyone has a story in them.  If there is it seems to have been lost in the fog of years.
  My son writes and is so much  better at it.  I have come to the conclusion that he is much smarter than I ever was.  I always enjoy his pieces when he is willing to share them.
  As for me?  My vocabulary is limited.  My understandings of the subtleties of writing are sorely limited.  the choice word and the delicate phrasing are at present beyond me.  My sentences tend to smack one over the head with the simplest of Anglo-Saxon words.  But you don't care about my limitations, do you?  It's the story that's most important.  Well, once again, I must let you know that those ideas for stories are extremely limited to beginnings with no endings or endings with no middle or a middle with no way to start or finish.
  Let me show you.  We'll drift back to a time when life was an adventure.  Back to the days when responsibilities was a word that had no meaning.  A time of ponds and bare feet as the family dog ran beside you while you explored.  He was a toy collie and was there with us kids always checking out the area to be certain it was safe for us.  His name was Rex.  He had a dark brown coat edged with black around the white patches along his paws and underbelly.
  We walked along the fringe forest of the golf course on a daily basis.  Old man Williams was always on the look out for us kids walking over his golf course.  We were distractions to the golfers who complained about the noise or the fact that we were on the fairway as they were about to tee off, not to mention the time we would throw their beautifully driven balls from the middle of the green back to them.  Their tendency to stand waving their clubs and yelling to god were well known to us as we ran into the trees away from their threats.
  Our walk this particularly fine day...  There that is an example.  I tell you it is a fine day.  A writer would describe the day to allow you, the reader, to make your mind as to whether the day were fine.  Slipping in description without intruding into the story so that it tends to interrupt the flow is tricky.  I haven't discovered the way to do this.  It's a fact that the more reading one does the more exposed they become to the conventions.  A simple study of how other writers do this would be easy enough by stopping and analyzing what transpired in the passage to move one from this point in the narrative to this without the reader being made aware that it happened.   That is part of the problem.  My reading has become limited to a computer screen and snippets of info that filter through my eyes into a sieve at the back of the brain.  The info is of no particular value other than to be lightly interesting at the moment of reading but of no real significance to anyone or anything when all is said and done.  It is simply a time filler and progresses to a time robber which affects the mind by removing it as surely as a surgeon's scalpel removes the frontal lobe in a lobotomy.  Just as effective without the physicality.
  Oh where was I?  Oh yes.  The description of the day to set the scene of kids exploring their neighborhood with their faithful dog Rex.  Now there was another dog in the family whose name was Ginger.  She was a full grown collie who was, naturally, ginger in color with a white underbody and paws.  She didn't wander with us as faithfully as Rex.  However, she did have a shining moment one bright afternoon on the golf course.  She was with my uncle.
  Now you have to realize that my uncle was a little different from most people.  He saw the world totally different from your average person.  He saw it in the colors of the artist along with the deeply embedded desire to be Douglas Fairbanks with sword in hand or Kirk Douglas with saddle bags on his shoulder.  He wanted to know all there was to know.  He asked countless questions of everyone until he became a complete nuisance to them.  The questions weren't those of a general variety.  They might begin as a general question but with an answer they would become more and more specific until the one being questioned became frustrated enough to yell go to hell or answer with a fist.
  He walked out onto the golf course with a six shooter strapped to his leg. It was a time when the open country was less populated.  The river was west of us and the opposite shore was not inhabited nor developed as it is now.  One could shoot a pistol in that direction without the fear of hitting a living soul.  It was a perfect place to practice a quick draw and fire at a target set up in the trees.  With visions of Doc Holiday and Wyatt spinning in his head he walked toward the tree line with determination.  Ginger was at his side.  She must have known because she remained at his side instead of bounding into the trees ahead.
  His determination was apparent as he slowed with eyes ahead staring at the tree before him the imagined insult by said tree to his manhood lingering in his fantasy riddled brain.  He stopped.  Ginger looked up at him and took a few steps away and behind him.  His face locked in concentration.  A word slipped into the afternoon air, "Draw!"  His right hand slipped to the butt of his gun gripping and pulling in from leather and sending a blast of flame and an ounce of lead slamming into the trunk of the tree which allegedly insulted him.  The tree before him buckled and fell forward face first.  Of course the tree did not fall in the actual world but for him it was a dead man who had insulted him.
  A short walk forward brought him to the site of the bullet's impact.  He took out his knife and dug into the tree to retrieve the slug.  It had hit dead center.  A heart shot splattering the tissue of his imaginary foe killing him immediately.
  He checked the cylinder and removed the spent cartridge, replacing it with a live round.  Satisfied he was prepared he slammed it home into the holster strapped to his leg.  He turned and walked back along front street headed for the saloon he pictured there when one of the other trees called out to him.  "Hey, sidewinder.  You just killed my buddy.  You gotta answer for that you son of a bitch!"
  He spun around to face his new nemesis.  "Smile when you say that hombre," he said in a slow drawl.  "You don't want any part of this iron I'm totin'."
  "I said you killed my friend.  You gotta answer for it."  The slender pine rustled in the wind.  The movement was just enough in his eyes to see a gun slipping up and out of a holster.  My uncle's hand was like lightning.  Down went the palm to cover the butt, his finger slipped around the trigger, his thumb fanned back the hammer.  The barrel cleared the holster.  In the excitement of the new kill he pulled the trigger at this juncture of the quick draw sending a half ounce of lead into his leg.  He collapsed.
  Ginger, who was a safe distance from his shenanigans,  whimpered and slunk over to the writhing body.  She avoided the smoking six gun lying on the ground and nuzzled him.  She lay up against his body and remained there until help came.
  She was a gentle girl who was half as high as I was tall.  She stayed around the yard mostly.  Her excursions were few.  She didn't have the curiosity or the protective instinct of the smaller Rex.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ahoy matey!

Seagulls whipped around the air like kites zigzagging on taut string.  The breeze buffeting them rippled through the marsh grass above the wavelets breaking over their anchor of plough mud.  My hair rose and fell in the chilling air cavorting about my head.  I clutched my wool herringbone coat tight against my throat.   My cheeks were ruby red in the cold of early winter.  I struggled to keep my balance on the weathered boards that made up the ramp leading to the dock out over the white caps of the Cooper River.
I caught my feet several times in the cracks and crevices of the old creosoted two by fours.
“Watch out, Rickey.  Give me your hand.  This wind is stronger than your daddy thought.”  My mother grabbed my mittened hand.  She smiled down at me. 
“You sure you want to do this?”
“Oh, yes ma’am!”  I yelled over the seagulls and wind. 
My dad had only recently begun work on the Tugboats of White Stack of Charleston.  It was the first job he had been able to get since bringing us to America keeping his promise to my mother.  He told her often while looking for work that his accent was not helping his efforts. 
“A touch of prejudice, I think.”
“Got nothing for a Limey,” he’d heard until he had approached the right person on the Charleston docks.  His work as a stoker in the Royal navy throughout the war had been his ace in the hole for this one.  He was hired on for twenty-five cents an hour.  Big money in 1950.
“So, you want to see where daddy works, eh?”  My answer had been yes to seeing boats on the water.  Our trip from England had been by ship across the Atlantic.  The smell of the ocean and rolling decks had become wondrous memories and here was a chance to go back onto the water.
“YES!”  I yelled jumping up.  He caught me in his arms and slipped me to his left hip in the crook of his arm.  It was like sitting in a cradle of steel.  He smiled at me and said, “I think it will be alright.  The skipper said I could bring you both on a run one day.”
That had been a few weeks prior to his being able to make the date.  Mom and I were walking out along the pier to where the tug was tied up.  It was a blustery day with grey clouds flying along overhead, the sun playing hide and seek behind them.  It might rain dad had told us.
Dad was at the gangplank waiting.  He stood next to the anchoring post that stood stoutly beside him.  Two posts over a couple of seagulls sat waiting to follow the tug’s wake.
“Come on,” he said waving us on impatiently.  “We need to get aboard.  The skipper is behind schedule.”
He took my mother’s hand guiding her along the gangplank over the gunnel and onto the deck with a slight jump.  I held her hand tightly as I ran quickly behind her.    Dad jumped onto the deck and picked me up.  His mates stowed the plank and lifted the ropes from the posts and the engine began to throb sending vibrations up my legs when he placed me on the deck.  The air was still active with an accompanying mist of salt water from the Cooper River.
I started to run to the port side when dad called out, “Don’t run, son, and stay near your mother. Both of you might like to go below to say hello to everyone and see if there is anything to eat.  I have my doubts that you’ve had your tea yet.”
Reluctantly, I took my mother’s hand and we descended below deck.  His mates were sitting at a table eating when we set foot on the lower deck.
“Welcome aboard!” they shouted almost in unison.  “So you are Alf’s son?  And you Mrs. Alf?” the nearest one said.
“Yes sir,” I answered eyeing the deviled eggs sitting in a dish.  “What’s that?”
“That my boy is what is known as a deviled egg,” said the same man. 
“Why do they call them deviled eggs?”
“I don’t have a clue, little ‘un.  Would you care to try one?” he asked holding the plate in front of me.
“Nuh uh,” I said shaking my head.  My mother gave me a triangular sandwich half which I bit into immediately still eyeing the eggs.
“Your husband is a hell of a deck hand, Mrs.,” said the same man.  He was more open to us than the others.  Something to do with a woman on board I guess.
“Thank you,” said my mother.  She sat at the table and they began to talk.  I finished my sandwich and slid my hand into the pile of egg halves snagging one.  I climbed up the ladder with egg in hand.  On deck the wind was blowing stiffly from the direction of the bow.  The sun had decided to hide behind the curtain of grey which sent down a light drizzle combining with the spray of the river.  It was exhilarating.  I bit into the egg.  I immediately knew this was to be one of my favorite foods.  I gobbled it down and returned to the lower deck step by step latching my eyes on the eggs at the table’s edge.  The grownups were caught up in chatter as I grabbed eggs, one in each fist.  My right hand pushed the entire thing into my mouth and automatically grabbed another.  Munching away I took one step at a time balancing over the rolling tug.  Slowly I made it to the deck once again. 
I walked to port and as I came from behind the cabin the wind hit me with its   salt spray.   I stuffed my right hand egg  into my mouth and inched along the deck as it rolled to port.  My legs scampered beneath me and I grabbed the rail as I bumped into it.  I looked down to see water within reach sliding rapidly past.  The wake was rolling along grey with white foam jumping into the wind steadily blowing against my face open to that spray and the needle drizzle from above.
I could feel the engine’s steady throb through my shoes, its power pouring into the screw pushing us forward.  The pistons’ thrum was energizing and I began to walk forward while cramming my last egg into my mouth.  As I chewed my new favorite food I bent into the wind keeping my eyes on the deck sliding my feet inch by inch toward the bow while clinging to the railing.
Almost in front of the cabin I looked up to see my dad.  Behind him was a wall of grey steel.  I followed that wall up, up, up…  I nearly lost my balance looking straight up.  The sky was totally block astarboard.  It was the tallest thing ever to meet my eyes.  True I had been aboard such a ship coming to America but to see it from this angle was awe inspiring.  The tug was a puny vessel compared to the ship we were alongside near enough to touch.  My mouth was locked wide open, startled by the size of the ship beside us.
My dad happened to see me.  He was about to yell when I was picked up by my mother.  Even in her arms I could not take my eyes off the height of this vessel we chugged along side.
“What are you doing out here?” asked my mother.  “You were supposed to stay with me.”
“I just wanted to see the water.”  My trance was broken. I looked at her face full of fear and concern.  “It’s alright, mommy, I’m alright.  I got good sea legs and I was holding on tight.”
She looked to dad who was frowning at her.  A shrug of the shoulders and a whispered I’m sorry crossed the short distance.  He turned back to his work and my mother turned back aft stumbling as the roll of the tug caught her off guard.
Back below I settled on one of the benches by the table and grabbed another egg shoveling it into my mouth.  I quickly repeated this move twice more.  Just one more I thought and began to reach.  Before I could gather up one more egg the tug took a mighty roll and my stomach went along with it.  Its contents continued up and over onto the deck as I heaved a second time.  The deviled eggs refused to stay comfortably in my stomach.  The deck, the seat and my coat along with my shoes were covered in the previously eaten egg halves.
I was told I turned green.  I sat with my head on the table, the uncovered side, as everyone moved to clean up the mess I had made.
“How many did he eat?” I heard one person say.
“Looks to be all of them,” said another.
“Here let me,” said my mother.
“No ma’am.  We clean up all the time like this.  You sit back down.”
The ship was led into the port and our tug turned back toward the wharf we had left.  The rest of that trip I remained below deck at the table with my head resting on my arm.  Dad came in one time to say something to mom about allowing me to come on deck alone but didn’t say anything when he saw the mess being cleaned up.  He came over and put his hand on my forehead. 
“No fever,” he said.  “Touch of seasickness, perhaps.  He will be fine when we get back to land.”   He returned to his station as the tug throbbed on.
The lines were tossed to the hands who tied them back to the anchoring points.  As the gangplank was put in place, dad lifted me up. He placed his hand into my mother’s and led her up onto the dock. The steadiness of land settled into me.  I lay my head on his shoulder and closing my eyes said, “Thank you daddy.  It was so tall.  That ship was so tall.  How can anything be so big?”
“Some things just are, son.  Some things just are.”  I drifted to sleep as he walked toward the car.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Viva el Borrachos

He tilted the pint over my glass.  I watched the amber wave of liquid grain splash into the ice cubes I rattled from side to side.
“Say when.”
“When,” I answered.  “Want to hand me the coke now?”
“I can do that, nef.”  He slid the jumbo plastic bottle to me.
“Have you thought about my suggestion?”  asked Clyde. 
I took up some time concentrating on pouring my mixer into my Calvert’s Extra.
“You don’t remember, do you?”
Placing the bottle of coke back on the table I slowly guided my glass to my lips and poured a hefty amount into my mouth. 
“Whoa, unk.  You poured too much in my glass,” I coughed out.
“I poured like always, like it ain’t mine,” he replied.   “Well?”
I couldn’t stall any longer.  I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“I gave it some thought.  I just don’t know, with school and all.”
“What’s school got to do with it?”  He knew I didn’t have clue.  It was just his way of making me stew a bit.
“Hell, unk.  College is hard.  I’m flunking a couple of course.  I never flunked anything in my life.”
The smirk got me.  I knew he knew.
“That don’t cut no ice.  It won’t take that much time out of your schedule.  Besides if you had to study or something we could get a substitute.”
I sipped my drink. 
“Well, I don’t know.  How much will it cost?”  I had him now.  He couldn’t answer without revealing what we were talking about.
“Not enough to be a burden,” he said the twinkle in his eye growing brighter.  He had me.  He hadn’t revealed a thing.
“Let me be the judge of that.  Tell me what it’s going to cost.”  I smiled back figuring he’d let something slip.
His smile spread wider.  He watched me squirm while he slipped the pack of smokes from his shirt pocket.  He tapped the pack against his left hand.  Three cigarettes slipped up through the opening.  He placed the highest between his lips and pulled the pack away and in my direction offering one.  I took it.  He continued to watch me as he clicked his Zippo open and snapped his fingers over the steel wheel producing a flame.  He lit his and held it out for me.  I pulled the flame into the tobacco.  We both exhaled.
“I’m waiting,” he said breaking the silence.
“Ah, hell!  I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I knew it.  You were too drunk last time to remember.”
“Yeah, yeah, so what is it then,” I asked, giving in.
“Bowling,” he said.  “We talked about bowling.”
“What about it?  You know I’m not very good at it.”  My highest score, ever, had been 120.  I never could manage the curve ball and my straight ball went into the gutter as often as down the center.
“We discussed forming a team and signing up for the league games.  We have to decide soon because the signatures have to be in by next week.”
“A bowling league?  I’m not good enough to join a league.”  My surprise came through at the top of my voice.
“Don’t get excited.  Who cares how good you are.  We’d be in it for the beer frames.”
“Beer frames?  What’s that?’
“That, nef, is the beauty of bowling.  With several members in our team we get the chance to drink beer for free.”  He ended his sentence with a flourish and several smoke rings.  He was beaming.
“How does that happen?”  I was somewhat dubious.
“Whoever bowls the lowest score buys the beer for everyone.”
I looked at him pointing to myself,” Not a good bowler!”
“Maybe not at first, but everybody gets better with practice.   Besides I’ll help you when you have to buy.”
“Don’t forget,” I said pointing at myself again.  “Student.  No income.”
He smiled. 
“No problem.  Until you’re throwing strikes, I’ll buy your rounds.”
“How much is it going to cost to join this league?”
“Not that much.  I’ll pay your way until you can pay me back.  What do you say?” 
He watched me with the twinkle in his eye. 
‘I’ll probably regret this,’ I thought to myself.  “Well, OK.  When does it start?”
He beamed as he picked up the phone.  “In two weeks.  Just enough time to wrangle up some other members and get shirts.  While I’m talking be thinking of a name for our team.”
A name?  What kind of a name, I wondered.  Clyde continued to dial the phone until he had a quota of members aboard.
“OK,” he said.  “Did you come up with a name?”
“You said it’s for the beer frames right?”
“How about The Beer Drinkers?”
“Mmm, no.  I’m more inclined to the Calvert Extras.”
“No.  It’s beer drinking we’ll be doing.  How about The Beer Hallics?”
“That’s even worse. 
“What about The Booze Hounds?”
 “I don’t like it.  How about something in German?  How about The Beer Hall Putz?”
“Hell no!” he said.  “Sounds like Hitler.”
“Um, how’s this then?  The Roller Schnaps.”  I grinned as I said it.
“What the hell is that?”
“Well, bowling ball rolls and schnaps is a drink.  I thought it would be good in referring to a bunch of drunks bowling.”
“Hey, wait a minute.  How about The Drunk Bunch?”
“Sounds common.  Let’s spice it up using a foreign phrase.”
“Like what? Die Drunken Bunchen?”
“How about simply, The Drunks?”
Clyde looked at me.  “How about el Borrachos?”
“What’s that,” I asked.  “Sounds like Spanish.”
“It is,” he said.  “I kinda like the sound of that.  It means the drunks in Spanish.”
“How do you know that?”  I asked.  “You studying Spanish in your spare time?”
“Naw, one of the guys at work called me that.  I like the sound of it.”
“OK.  We will be the el Borrachos.  It does have a ring.”  It might have had a ring but was a bastardization of the Spanish word since the el should have been los and Borrachos is an adjective and not a noun.  For us it was good enough.
“Now the shirts have to be designed.”
“How about a big red dot on the back with the name at the top and bottom?”
“I like that,” said Clyde.  “We can make the shirt black and have the red dot, from the red dot stores, on the back.  El can be on top and Borrochos on the bottom curving with the circle of red.”
“Perfect!”  And with that el Borrochos came into existence.
Our team had fun.  Beer frames were always the aim of league night, at least for Clyde and me.  Things began to change as we neared the end of the season at the bottom of the league.
“Hey, Clyde!”  It was one of Clyde’s friends from the Navy Yard.  “Can I talk to you alone,” he said watching me start on my first beer.
I put on my shoes and found a ball that fit my hand while they talked.  His friend was waving his hands in the air and pointing at me on occasion.
As I placed my ball in the lineup Clyde came over to me.
“Hey, nef.”
“Yeah,” I answered as he stopped beside me.
“Uh, the fellas want to get a little serious about the games.  They don’t like being dead last in the league.”
“What does that matter?  I thought we started this as a beer frame night.”
‘Well, we did.  But they don’t think it’s so fun being so far down the ladder.  They think everyone is laughing at them.”
“So?  It’s the beer frames.  Right?”
“Maybe, when we started.”
“So we have to make an effort to win?  That kind of defeats the purpose of why we wanted to bowl every week, doesn’t it?”
“Well, yeah for you and me.  But I’m the head of the team and have to go along with the group and they want to start getting serious.  Maybe they could win a most improved trophy or something.  Think you can bowl your best tonight?”
“I’ll do what I can but I’ve never taken this seriously since it was beer frame night on my calendar, not bowling night.”
“Yeah, I know but would you give it your best?”
“I take it there will be no beer frames tonight?”
“Well, yeah.  They say you get wild with your throws the more beers you suck down.”
“OK, unk.  You’re the boss.”
I bowled my best that night.  Everyone was happy because we won our match.  Almost everyone.
The next day I met with Clyde.
“You did pretty good last night.”
“Thanks.  I’m resigning from the team.  Here’s my bowling shirt.”
“No, nef.  You don’t want to quit.”
“Yeah, I do.  It was fun in the beginning but I saw the serious looks on the rest of the team’s faces.  Even yours took on a bit of determination.  I had fun.  I liked the beer frame idea.  All I ever had in mind was the fun of getting together having a few drinks and throwing a ball at some sticks at the end of the alley.  I’m glad we did it but it’s time for me to get serious about my studying.  I’ve pulled my grades up a bit and need to do more.”
“Well, OK, nef.  If you think you hafta.”
“I do.  You guys win a trophy or something.”
I swear I heard a sigh of relief as I walked out the door.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

And again, shhh...

Every Christmas and Birthday I would ask the same question.
“Can I have a BB gun this year?”
To which my dad would answer, “No son.”  He would always end that sentence with, repeat after me, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Even knowing that, I would ask each year and receive the same refrain.
It always seemed silly to me because BB guns were all over.  I could shoot a friend’s any time I wanted by simply asking, “Can I shoot some?”
Clyde always had a BB gun.  He liked to walk around the golf course plinking at anything that caught his eye.  I would always follow along behind hoping to have a shot.
“Do you have BB’s,” I asked.  I wanted him to know I was along.  
His exasperated look never registered with me as I ran to keep up.
“Shhh…  Keep quiet.  I’m gonna get us a squirrel.”
He waved me still.
I stopped.
Clyde’s Toy Collie, ever with us,   bumped into me.  He looked up, tongue lolling,   as if to say, “What the…?”  Then he licked his muzzle and smiled as dogs do for children.
“Sorry Rex.  I didn’t mean…”
“SHHH!”  Clyde looked at me sternly.  He looked his four years older in those moments.
I slapped my hand over my mouth.
He nodded pointing.  I followed the gesture to a silhouette balanced on a pine branch ten feet above us.  He took his finger from in front of his mouth and placed it on the trigger as he settled the rifle butt to his shoulder.
Poof!  Air popped from the barrel.
“Dang it! No BB’s!”
“I asked…”
“Tuttut… don’t,” he said leaning the gun against his leg.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small cardboard barrel.  He rattled it as he reached for the top.  A sharp pop was heard as he pulled the top off.  Up ending it, he poured the contents into his mouth.   Cheeks puffed full of copper BB’s, he lifted the gun, opening the entry point for the little orbs.  This he placed to his mouth and sprayed BB’s into the barrel.  PFFFST…
I heard them rattle down into the bottom of the chamber.
He rolled his tongue around his mouth then spit a couple more into the opening.
“There,” he said.  “Full in no time.”
He shook the rifle smiling as the copper rattled around inside the gun.  A swift cock of the lever and he was ready, bringing the sites up to the branch once more.  The branch was empty.
Rex panted at his feet.  He stood ready to move on as he knew we would.
“If you hadn’t made so much noise,” said Clyde.
“But you didn’t have any BB’s in the gun.  How was it my fault?”
“Shhh… Don’t bother me with questions while we’re hunting.”
The trees at the edge of the golf course grew thinner as we approached the creek behind the 15th green.
Rex ran ahead to the path at the side of   the waterway leading to the Stono River.  Clyde pushed through the chest high Marsh grass looking for the path.  Finding it he waved me on.  I rushed through the reeds that reached over my head losing sight of him.
“Wait for me!”
“Shhh… Nef, how many times I gotta say shhh?”
I reached the path.  He was a few feet ahead walking straight for the Stono which was about a quarter mile in front of us.  It seemed longer for my short legs as I ran to catch up.
Half way there was a path that forked ninety degrees to the right.  It was a line of dirt a foot and a half above the plough mud.  It meandered crookedly toward Maybank Highway.  Clyde turned to walk its natural path.  Rex was a few feet in front.  I was a few feet behind.  I watched the ground as I hurried my steps .I ran into Clyde who had stopped at Rex’s first bark.
 Getting up off my duff, I asked, “What’s going on?”
“Shh...  Rex has spotted something.”
I peered around him.  I saw Rex moving stealthily forward.  He broke into a run growling loudly.  Stopping short, his face went into the dirt and up.  His growl grew louder all the while his head whipping rapidly back and forth.  In his teeth flailing to and fro was what looked like a piece of rope.
“What is …”
“Shhh…  Rex is killing a snake.  It coulda got us.”
“Is it poisonous?”
“If it is it ain’t no more,” said Clyde with a smile.
Rex dropped the three foot snake on the ground.   He watched it for movement.  It lay flopped across the path.
“Good boy,” said Clyde walking up to him.  Rex was sitting now.  “You took care of that thing,   didn’t you boy?”
“Is it poisonous?” I asked.
“Heck, I don’t know,  nef.  It’s a snake.  It coulda been.  Rex saved us if it was.”
He aimed his gun and pumped a BB into the dead thing’s head. Clicking the lever, he pumped another one into the lifeless form.
“He’s dead.  Musta broke his back.  Atta boy, Rex.”
Rex sat, tongue draped over his lower jaw, heaving summer air.  He looked up at Clyde with a dog grin.
Looking around for another snake I said, “Maybe we should head home.”
“Don’t you want to shoot?”
“Still think we should go home?”
“Maybe a little longer,” I said reaching for the gun.
“Come on then,” he said, cradling the air rifle in the crook of his arm.
I trotted along behind, Rex beside me.