Miles from Town: Chapter 9

The night, though cold and moonless, was most uneventful. Again Gil heard the coyotes pad’s gently following at some distance to either side, but this time he welcomed their company, whistling the lullaby, not as a comfort or warning for himself, but for them.

A some point in the dark of the early morning hours, Gil heard a noise he’d not heard in months. After so much time alone and away from the sound of the civilized life, his hearing had grown remarkably stronger.

It was a jet engine, a passenger aircraft high above the desert landscape. Gil stopped and looked skyward until he saw the faint flashing lights of a plane as it rocketed its way in a westward trajectory.

The sight caused an unexpected catch in his throat as he wondered, “Maybe I ought to settle down for a while. A town with a library, a job, and a clean bed.”

The thought held him spellbound long after the aircraft faded from sight. It was enough to lift his spirit, that and the knowledge that he was getting closer and close to his destination with each step.

Before he realized it, the sun was finding it’s way above the eastern crags of the mountain behind him. Another hour of walking and Gil clearly heard the sound of a vehicle someplace off in the very far distance.

Deciding not to stop, Gil gulped down the last of the water in the tin and pushing the empty can under the flap of his rucksack, picked up his pace. He was certain that jus’ beyond the horizon lay his ‘yellow brick road,’ and salvation from the grit and heat of the desert.

It was slightly after noon, when he came to the black top road of U.S. 50. He wanted to sit and rest a spell, but he knew somewhere south of where he was standing was a piece of pie and a soda waiting for him to order.

Another hour passed before he finally spotted the lone roadside diner, a hole-in-the-wall really, but a sight for Gil’s sore eyes. He pull on the door and stumbled to the counter. “A soda, please. Anything wet.”

Wide-eyed, the young woman behind the counter looked at Gil, “Where in the world did you come from?”

“The desert – out that way,” Gil motioned randomly.

She quickly got him a glass, filled with ice and cola, asking “What were you doing out there?”

“Working,” he said between gulps. She refilled his glass.

“So, how far is it to Carson, from here?” he asked.

She smiled, “About 10 miles or so.”

“Good,” Gil said, adding, “Can I trouble you for a piece of pie? Any kind will do.”

Quickly, she cut him a large wedge of cherry pie and placed it in front of him. Gil pulled the last few dollars from his sweat stained shirt pocket and placed it on the counter, “Thank you, ma’am.”

She refilled his soda glass, adding more ice before suggesting, “You can go out back after finishing your pie and wash up at the spigot. Then I can give you a ride into town, if you’d like. Save yourself having to walk.”

Gil returned her smile, “I’ll take you up on your offer. By the way, my name’s Gil,” as he offered her his hand.

“Nancy,” she returned.

Miles from Town: Chapter 8

He rolled through scrub and over heavy, sharp gravel, finally coming to rest against a large boulder. Gil slammed head first into the rock and laid, dazed, staring up at the constellations, than now included a few that moved when he blinked.

Sitting up after a few minutes, Gil cursed his clumsiness and felt for the small cut to the side of his head. “A fall like that could’ve killed me,” he concluded as he scrambled to his feet then up the embankment to the road.

As he returned to his steady stride, he could hear an odd noise coming from his pack. He knew instantly what it was, but there was little to nothing he could do about it until dawn.

Sunlight could not come fast enough for Gil as he stopped at the first rays and pulled his sack from his shoulders. Opening it, he dumped the contents out onto the side of the road, revealing what he’d knew in his heart-of-hearts all along – both water jars, smashed from the fall.

Looking around in the vague morning light, “I need to find water or else.”

Happily, he’d held tight to the tin from the can of pears he’d eaten the day before, so he knew he had a way of holding water, if he could find it. He waited for morning to come fully awake before assessing his location from the nearest spring.

As they drove to the mine, Smith pointed out cross-roads, where a person could find water. The question was, in Gil’s mind, did he pay close enough attention to what cross-roads were where or how far apart were they?

It was the first time he felt doubt. Gil knew he had to push the feeling out of his mind if he were to think clear enough to figure out his location.

Trekking an hour further, he found his answer, a cross-road with a bullet riddle and rusted sign reading ‘Gopher Springs.’ It was four or so miles out of his way, but Gil knew he had no choice but to head in that direction.

The road to the spring was less used than the main one Gil had been traveling. It was fairly flat and laden with loose, dusty sand that swirled around every time a breeze crossed it.

The mid-morning sun was beginning to heat up the dust and sand, the hotness radiating in the soles of Gil’s boots. He could feel his feet swelling and though he wanted desperately to pull them off, he knew that should he, he’d never get his feet back in them.

Trying to ignore his discomfort, Gil pressed ahead towards the watering hole. He felt his heart skip a beat when he saw the cluster of aspen, a sign of fresh water, in abundance.

Not only did he have water to his fill, Gil had ample shade in which he could rest without having to bodily move himself from time to time. “If only I could stay here,” he chuckled, knowing that he wasn’t about be that fool-hardy.

Sleep came quick and easy. He hadn’t had a full nights sleep since leaving the mine and the idea of rest was a comfort and he folded his hands behind his head and fade in a dreamless slumber.

The sun was beginning to set, when he opened his eyes. Something had awaken him and somewhere in his subconsciousness he knew that something was wrong, that danger was close at hand.

Gil laid still, listening, then feeling. He gently lifted his head and saw that along his left side was a rattlesnake, stretch out, hugging his body from beneath his arm-pit to near his ankle.

The snake had tucked its head under his shoulder and the thought of moving and being bitten sent a wave of fright through Gil’s body. Deciding to risk it, Gil rolled to his right several times, placing some distance between himself and the poisonous reptile.

Much to his surprise the snake hardly moved. Gil knew in an instant what he needed to do next.

Over a small camp fire, Gil roasted the last of his former bed mate. It was the first time he’d ever had a truly close encounter with rattler, preferring to avoid and not confront.

But necessity dictated the rash move on Gil’s part, as he knew the one can of pears remaining would not be enough to stem off the pangs of hunger later down the road. With one more long drink from the spring, and his tin filled with water, Gil hiked back to the main roadway.

Miles from Town: Chapter 7

Gil didn’t worry, did not think. Instead he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as he mentally counted cadence and held his destination in mind.

The road trended roughly southwest, then abruptly cut back in a southeast direction. More than once Gil found himself back tracking to the road, having lost it where another, older road cut through the newer one, the one he was following back to town.

The evening was cool and pleasant, it was the night and early morning hours that were hard to bare as the cloudless skies failed to hold the daytime heat. Gil when from sweating to shivering within hours, still he kept his pace.

Eventually his shadow rejoined him on his right as the moon and the stars gave way to the sun and the coming warmth of morning. Gil knew that soon he’d have to hunt shade and then he could have a bite of canned pears and some water.

Mid-morning, about ten, Gil guessed, it was becoming hot and he decided it was time to find cover. All he could see for some distance was low-lying scrub and creosote bushes.

Because he knew that the roots of the creosote plant poisoned nearby plants as a survival measure guaranteeing the creosote would get the what water came for the sky or ground, Gil decided to select a bush and drape his canvas over it and use it as a form of shade. He’d have to move with the sun, and into the shade to avoid it’s affect.

It wasn’t the most effective technique, because it didn’t allow for a solid period of sleep, but it would keep Gil cooler, than if he laid down with no cover. For the next few hours, he nodded on and off, ate another pear and drank some water, conserving his energy as much as possible.

Soon, the sun was lingering in the west and Gil’s shadow had drifted to his left. Shortly after dark the road angled back towards the west, a sign that told him he was walking in the right direction.

It was the last major shift in the road, though the ruts remained a constant presence, made harder to navigate by a moonless night. The darkness was vast and discomforting due to the stranger noises it offered.

From time to time, he thought he heard the soft foot-fall of a coyote or two as they skirted the brush, keeping an eye on the lone man. To warn them off, and to make himself feel better, Gil whistled a Scottish lullaby he’d learned as a child.

It always made him think of home, a place he’d not seen in a year and a half. As he walked, whistled and listen, he thought of his folks and imagined them comfortably asleep in their bed.

The chill of the night was coming and he discovered another use for the piece of canvas he’d brought along for the journey. Using his pen-knife, Gil slit a space wide enough to fit his head through and after taking his rucksack off, pulled it over his head like a poncho, pulling the rucksack on after.

It wasn’t as warm as a down-filled jacket, but it did cut the cold enough to allow Gil to not feel it’s sting as badly as the night and morning hours before. As he pressed on, Gil continued to count his steps and hold tight to the vision of the town somewhere in the far distance.

Lost in reverie, Gil failed to notice the large drop in the rut ahead as he marched on. Suddenly, he felt himself toppling over and down a rocky embankment, having stumbled into the tire-deep chasm.

Miles from Town: Chapter 6

The end of the month came and went, and no Smith. Gil wasn’t concerned as he still had supplies enough to last another week to ten-days if need be.

Instead of wandering about though, he decided to stay close by, if the old man suddenly showed up. To while away his time, Gil sat on the porch or inside the shadow of the doorway reading.

Ten days had passed, and as he finished up the alternative history, “Aristopia: A Roman History of the New World,” written by a fellow named Castello Holford in 1895, a book Gil found dissatisfying, he understood he was not going to be able to wait any longer. He was going have to walk out of the desert and 80 miles to civilization.

He spent that night tidying up the shack and packing what necessities he felt he would need. Gil also filled two large lidded jars with water and stowed them in his rucksack for the journey ahead.

That night and for much of the next day, Gil slept. He planned to make the hike in the cooler hours of evening, nighttime and early morning, seeking shelter from the blaze of the late morning and afternoon sun. He had found a large piece of faded canvas to use as a make-shift tent if he were unable to find a bush or rock to find shade in.

Before shouldering his sack, Gil scrambled up the rocky slope to where he’d seen Blue Stone break the ridge. He stood looking out over a semi-flat expanse of sage, creosote and sand, but no where did he see the old Indian.

Even with more rest than normal, Gil felt exhausted simply thinking about the long hike. He’d walked lengthy distances before, especially in the Army, but never across such unforgiving land and for so many deadly miles.

Sighing, he picked the rucksack up, slipped his arms through the straps, and turning his back on the mine and what civilization it offered, started down the yellow-white, rutted road of hard packed sand. Gil figured that it would take him at least three days to finally reach the paved roadway.

Miles from Town: Chapter 5

After three months, Gil had established a pattern for himself. He chopped wood and gathered water in the hours just after sunrise, then he spent the rest of his day, exploring his surrounding, including walking back to where he’d followed the horses.

The last time Smith had brought around supplies, Gil hadn’t been there. He had left his boss a note saying he was off looking around and that he’d be back for sundown.

When he returned, the supplies were neatly stacked up on the porch, but Smith was gone. Again the thought of why the old prospector turned city-folk continued to hang on to the claim, found it’s way into Gil’s mind.

“Perhaps, it’s the nature of the man.” He spent the rest of the evening putting away supplies and tidying up the place.

Come the following morning, after completing his chores, he decided to search around to see if he could find a certain sized wire. Gil planned to finally see if he could make a fish-hook, so he could do some fishing.

After combing through a nearby pile of scraps, Gil felt he had a perfect piece of wire to be manipulated into a hook. Through the morning he carefully, shaped and crafted the length of wire into a barb, sharpening it on a stone.

He’d already been hard at work on fashioning pieces of reed into fishing-line following the step-by-step instructions he’d found in one of the older magazines. With around thirty feet of line, a solid hook, an old cork he’d discovered under the counter and some fresh meat, Gil headed to what he’d come to call, ‘Mustang Hole,’ the next morning.

With long shadows falling behind him, Gil stood along the bank of the reservoir testing his skill against some rather large trout. He could see their huge, shiny bodies as they approached the surface, but none had bothered to test his bait.

One hour, two hours and three, with nothing to show for his effort. By then the sun was up and it had grown hot and with no shade nearby, Gil knew he had to return to the mine or risk heat-stroke as the temperature reached the point of unbearable.

Sighing in defeat, he drew his line in, wrapping the hand-made thread around a stick he’d found. That’s when he heard a laugh come from behind him.

Turning he saw Jack squatting some distance away. “How long have you been there?”

“Long enough to be entertained and amused.”

“Well, they’re jus’ not biting today.”

“Don’t have to bite.” He stood up and approached the area near where Gil had been standing.

From a pouch he had tucked in his waist band, Jack withdrew what looked to be finely ground leaves and he spread it across the top of the still water. “‘Totsimatasukwi’ in my tongue. No idea what you call it.”

Suddenly, and if by magic, several large fish floated to the surface. Though amazed, Gil quickly pulled them on shore.

“You get one. I take others. My totsimatasukwi.”

“No complaint from me.”

In silence the two men walked back towards the mine where Jack broke the quietude, “My real name is Sago Ti-bi-chi, not ‘One-eyed’ Jack.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Father named me. Said I was blue and still — like a stone when born.”

“Does that mean you’re White name would something like ‘Blue Stone?’”

“Perhaps. Better than ‘One-eyed’ Jack.’”

“Well, you do only have one eye.”

“Young boy threw rock. Knocked out eye.”

“When did that happen?”

“I can not remember how old.”

“Any idea how old you are now?”

“No. Long forgotten. Old, though.” Blue Stone laughed.

Once back at the mine, Blue Stone continued without a word up the steep grade and out of sight. Gil went to work cleaning his trout, grilling it in the large cast-iron frying pan on the stove.

It was the first time in over a year, Gil had fish for dinner. And he savored every morsel of it.

Miles from Town: Chapter 4

Three days after Smith’s hit-and-run visit, Gil was sweeping out the dust that had accumulated on the floor in the last 24-hours, when a shadow crossed the uneven wooden planks. It was ‘One-eyed’ Jack.

The old man stood there watching as the younger man swept the floor. “You won’t find me doing women’s work like that, beside my floor is dirt.”

Gil looked up and saw Jack smiling at his comment. “Come in, coffee’s on and I’m about to burn some beef in the pan.”

“No thank you, come to trade for eggs.” Joe held up a large rattlesnake that he’d already skinned.

The sight was less than appetizing to Gil and he tried not to show it as he quickly turned to retrieve the brown chicken eggs. “How many?”

“Two.”

“Sure you won’t stay for some coffee?”

“No. Maybe one day soon.”

Gil handed the two eggs to the Indian and watched as he deftly scaled the trail over the berm and onto the hillside, then down to where his claim must me situated. He then turned his attention to the snake that Joe had left setting on the porch.

Not only was it skinned, but he had boned it as well. “Maybe a little flour, some salt and pepper and I might be able to stomach it.”

Gil poured himself a cup of coffee, grabbed Eugene O’Neill’s four act play ‘Gold,’ written in 1923, and headed outside to enjoy the coolness of the morning air. The book with it’s brittle spine and rough, cracked binding about a sea-captain who thinks that a bangle he has found on a Pacific Island is of gold, encrusted with precious gems, although it is obvious to others that it is only two-penny trash, fit Gil’s mood perfectly.

There had been times in the last 72-hours where he’d begin to wonder what it was that caused Smith to cling to this particular mine. From what he’d seen, there wasn’t much in the way of color, nor had the shaft seen work to any extent in the last few years.

The thought lingered, drifting in and out of his mind until he had to ‘put it away,’ as his father said. He decided that the next time Smith arrived, he’d have a letter ready to mail to let his folks know that he was okay and doing fine.

Gil was the oldest of three children; a sister, who was a year younger than him and a brother three years his junior. Each were out in the world making their way as any good child, grown to adulthood, should be doing.

He was doing the same, just not in the traditional sense as he disregarded returning to school after having done poorly as a child-student. Nor did he simply want to work the rest of his life on the farm, preferring instead to travel around the country taking various jobs here, picking up work there.

“Besides, I’m doing alright.” Yet there was a sense of longer for his distant family – a longing he had to also ‘put away,’ as the prolong thought would serve to do nothing more than drag him down into a sadness.

With the door shaved and reshaped so that it closed smoothly and perfectly, and the window sill refitted in the wall, there was very little for Gil to do, other than roam the hillside, the desert and to chop wood. And if he were honest with himself, he preferred knocking about the wilds, not staying close to the cabin and mine.

Soon, he found himself hiking further and further from the encampment. He found wild horse tracks, wild because they showed no sign of horseshoes in their prints, and followed them for nearly four miles.

Eventually they lead him to a smallish body of water that the Mustangs would visit. Upstream was a hot springs, while further south the water was cool, and drinkable.

“If I can figure out how to catch me some fish, that would be great.”

As he walked back, he saw a figure in the far distance. It was Jack.

Gil quickened his pace hoping catch the old man. Unfortunately for Gil, the younger man walked into a slight dip in the earth and by the time he came up on the other side, the old Indian had vanished.

It was the first time Gil had felt the pang of loneliness. He pressed on, arriving back at the shack before sunset.

That evening he had a visitor – Jack came walking down the hillside. “I take that cup of coffee, now.”

Smiling, Gil quickly got a second cup and filled it to the Indian. They sat in silence, watching the stars and drinking their coffee.

“You are a different White man,” Jack offered.

“Yeah? How’s that?

“I saw you today on the flats and I know you saw me. Most White man would have shouted. Not you. You stayed quiet. Make’s you different.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“More good than bad.” With that the old man set his cup down and headed back up the hillside into the darkness.

Miles from Town: Chapter 3

There was no sound. Occasionally, during the day, a magpie might cry out or a loosened rock rattle down the hillside, otherwise nothing – not even the sound of a high-flying aircraft that seemed so common in Death Valley.

At night, Gil was certain he’d heard someone prowling about. It would take nearly two-weeks before Gil would see the lone figure wandering along a trail higher above the camp – an old man in a well-worn leather beaded vest, a floppy, lifeless looking sombrero, leggings made from strips of faded OD-green canvas and rather large six-shooter hanging from his bony frame.

He’d been warned to stay clear of the old Indian because of his unending suspicion of others living or visiting the high desert. However, Gil, being curious didn’t think there could be much harm in finding the old man’s trail and seeing where it led too.

Night after night, he watched the ghost-like figure wander east along the upper ridge, then return a few hours later, heading back the way he’d came. Gil had found the rocky path the Indian traveled, though he could find no foot prints to support the fact that indeed the old man had ever walked that way.

He was scouting the ground, looking for any trace of a foot-fall, when he heard a subtle sound from behind. Startled, Gil turned to see the very ancient looking Indian walking up the ridge towards him.

Gil noted the gun tied to the man’s hip as he approached. He stepped back off the path and allowed the Indian to pass.

He felt for his pistol on his hip as he watched the old fellow continue up the trail without a word. Gil studied the man as he passed, seeing he had only one good eye, the other being an empty socket – thus the name ‘One-eyed’ Jack.

Gil would see the man a half-dozen times before the two spoke a word, then it was One-eyed Jack who asked, “You seen an old goat go by?”

“No,” Gil answered.

“She’ll be back, I guess. She’s old, forgets like me.”

The next time they met was the same day that old man Smith returned as promised. With him he brought more supplies, including some dried beef, canned beans, more canned pears and coffee beans, something the mine-site had been lacking.

The old Indian saw the dust kicked up by the truck first and quickly but quietly slipped over the ridge top out of sight. It would be another three days before Gil would see the man walking the path above the mine again.

Smith got out of the truck and pulled the tailgate down. “You gettin’ on okay by yerself? Was afraid you might have lit out too. Pleasant surprise to see yer still around.”

Gil tried not to let the comment get to him. He might have been a tramp, but he was also a man of his word and when he shook hands on something, he aimed to see the thing through.

Rankled by Smith’s comments, he unloaded and halt the supplies in to the shack while Smith refilled the trucks’ radiator. Gil noticed that in one of the boxes were a number of Reader Digest paperbacks, newer in date than some of the magazines still resting on the shelf in the back of the hovel.

With the radiator filled again, Smith grinned at Gil, “Looks like yer doin’ fine. See you in 30 days.”

Smith wasted no time in firing up the truck and returning to the rutted roadway. This time Gil didn’t stand around watching as the vehicle disappeared – he wanted to go through the supplies, putting stuff away and seeing what else might be in them as a surprise.

Miles from Town: Chapter 2

Gil looked at his pocket watch; ten before one in the afternoon. The trip took near six-hours to make and old man Smith seemed in a hurry to get back to Carson. “This here’s a diesel generator. Key to the gate is inside the cabins door post. It powers all the light, those in the shaft and the one’s around the site, but I ‘spect you’ll be needin’ it, ‘less somethin’ goes bad out here.”

“Try not to shoot anyone, course, if they try shootin’ you, do whatcha gotta do to stay alive,” he added. “And if yer any good with yer hand, you might pound a few more nails in that door frame and the window sill too. A bit warped after time. I’ll be out to see you around the first.”

Gil grabbed his rucksack out of the back of the truck and stood watching as the old man and his old truck bounced and squeaked heading back in the direction they’d had just come. He thought about the day’s journey, the many turns and bends in the road, the number of cross trails and the springs that dotted the way back.

Thirty-days; it would be a long time to not know another human’s voice, but Gil had been alone before. His last job was for Fractured Bob Johnson in Death Valley where Gil had spent a month doing assessment work and where he had the company of a couple of dogs, three goats and a mule.

Here, he had none of that. And since the day was still young, Gil decided to do some simple exploring. He had made a mental note of the encampment’s set up as they’d rolled into the site.

The mine entrance was in the center of a horseshoe-shaped rise with the gate to the compound to the right of the shaft. From the porch of the shack, that would be Gil’s home through the summer, he could see the straight-away of the road as it approached the gate.

It disappeared in a hard left some fifty-feet from the claims opening. But by that time, it would be obvious that a vehicle was approaching and therefore Gil knew the shack’s positioning was instrumental in keeping the site safe from the vandals, or ‘hooligans,’ as Smith called them.

Finding a thin footpath above the mine’s shaft, Gil walked up to have a look at what might be on the other side of the 30-foot berm. It was exactly as expected, dry, dusty and flat to the west.

He walked across the top of the horse-shaped sill towards the east. At the mid-point the earthworks connected to a natural-made, larger and much higher hillside and farther to the east and south, more open, wind-blown land covered in creosote bushes and other scrub.

Having seen enough of what lay outside the ridge that held the mine, Gil returned to the cabin to see what it might hold. Along it’s side was a rough stack pile of dried wood, some already chopped, some still needing bucking, “I’ll find the saw later,” he reminded himself.

He also found the water source for the area, a narrow iron pipe that jutted out of the hillside from behind the wood pile. It dripped slowly into a rocky basin that appeared to be visited by several animal’s including quail, mice, snakes and a coyote or two.

Inside the cabin, he learned that the majority of the living space was roughed out of the hillside, with just the front part being a wood frame. Smith was right about the door, warped it was difficult to open and close properly and would need to be one of the first things Gil would need to take care of come the following day.

With the door still open, he explored the depth of the cave that served as the majority of the shack. He found several half-burned candles. two lanterns and four glass chimney lamps, which he moved to the front of the abode.

Lighting one of the lanterns, he returned to the back of the chamber, where he located an old wooden bed frame with a flat board in the place where a mattress would usually be, and a shelf filled with ancient looking books and newer, though a few decades old, magazines that had obviously been left behind by past occupants.

“It’ll be good to have something to read again.”

Back at the front, Gil checked on the cast-iron stove that shared the wall with a counter. It seemed to be in good working condition, save for the possibility of a bird or a rodent having made a home of the pipe that rose up from behind the antique ‘smoke-belcher.’

Under the counter, he located cans upon cans of food supplies; mostly beans and peach and pear-halves, but no can opener. “No problem, I can use my pen-knife unless I trip over it someplace along the way.”

Gil spent the next few hours straightening and rearranging his living-space before retrieving a rather large piece of already bucked tree to prop up against one of the two post that held the roof up over the porch. There he would sit, watching that day’s sun fade, while eating half-warm beans directly from the can with the only utensil he could find, a bent spoon, followed by a can of pears, also half-warm.

Miles from Town: Chapter 1

Completely shot, the leaf-springs in the old pick-up majorly squeaked every time the old man drove over a rock in the road or struck a hole in the middle of the ruts left by years of worn travel back and forth from the mine. He drove without a care as he explained what Gilroy’s duties were for the next four-months in the Nevada desert.

Tired of hitching rides, Gil, as he like to be called, longed to settle down for the summer and perhaps winter if he could find a job that would last that long. The last several hundred miles as seen some change from the hot dustiness of Death Valley to the cooler climate of Sierra Mountains.

From the back of a truck hauling chickens to Reno, Gil had watched and enjoyed the change in the land he was seeing. He decided that Carson City was as far as he’d go after nearly an entire day’s travel breathing in the less-than-delicate odors of chicken feathers and droppings.

Before he pulled away, the truck’s driver told Gil of a possible job. “You jus’ head up the street there and you’ll see a stone wall. That’s old man Smith’s and he’s lookin’ for some help out at one of his mines.”

“Some 80 miles out in the middle of nowhere,” Smith stated. “You sure you can handed bein’ alone? Last feller didn’t even last two weeks. Up and walked away, leaving’ everything behind, includin’ what I owed him for his time.”

Gil nodded, acknowledging that he was listening, knowing the old man wasn’t really looking for answer. As he did so, he also studied the terrain, what road they turn of off and on the dirt track they were following, the flatness of the hard, white playa and the mountains that still seemed impossibly distant but towards they sped.

“It’s jus’ a few hundred yard’s outside the boundary of the Walker Rez. So don’t be surprised if you see an injun or two wandering about the hills. Mostly harmless, save for One-eyed Jack. He thinks everyone’s out to jump his claim and he’s always got a hog-leg on’em,” Smith continued.

He suddenly slowed to make a sharp bend in the roadway, barely avoiding a large rock that jutted up from the sun-baked and cracked earth. “Easy to go around, than to move,” Gil thought.

A few minutes more, Smith slowed the truck to a stop and without a word got out. He pulled a large half-rusted tin with a heavy piece of twine tied through a hole in it, from the bed of the truck and walked out into the desert.

Gil was quick to follow. Hidden between clumps of creosote bushed and smallish sand dunes, was a hot springs, that Smith proceeded to dip the can into.

Still hot he set it on the ground beside himself and pointed, “Don’t go trying to get a drink or bathe from one of these hell-holes, son. They’ll boil yer meat right off yer bones in a minute.”

He picked the cooling tin up out of the sand, by the thick string tied too it, and headed back across the desert, through the scrub to the waiting truck. After a few more minutes and after having consumed a ‘roll-yer-own,’ Smith popped the cap off the radiator and emptied the tin’s content into the belching chasm of the trucks’ belly.

Less than a minute later, they were back in the truck bouncing farther and farther from civilization. And Gil was wishing the trip was over.

Book Review: Aristopia

For an older manuscript, ‘Aristopia’ is a quick read, if not a frustrating one for anybody who loves history.  Written in 1895 by Castello N. Holford, the book is only about 240-pages in length and 35 short chapters in total.

Billed as an ‘Utopian novel,’ it’s considered to be the first novel-length, alternate history ever written about the founding of America. The story-line however reverses the normal Utopian ideal by instead of imagining a better society at a future time or in a far-off place, Holford creates a fictionalized founding of the United States.

In the end, for me, it wasn’t so much a Utopian story as it is a fanciful tale that couches the ideals of Socialism in such a way that it becomes appealing to the general masses. Further evidence of this can be found in the final few pages; advertisements for other books of fiction about social and economic change and finally, reformation, which would eventually become the cornerstone of Teddy Roosevelt’s 1901 presidential platform, “The Square Deal.”

Each ad comes with a side note like: “A story of the Struggles of Honest Industry under Present Day Condition” and “A powerfully Dramatic Novel, dealing with the Struggles of the Poor in City and Country.”  Historically speaking, when ‘Aristopia’, was first published, the U.S. was beginning its transformation from a Constitutional Republic to the democratic nation of today.

‘Arena Publishing Company,’ the publisher that put ‘Aristopia,’ on book shelves is known to have specialized in fiction and non-fiction books on Progressive causes of the era. Though in existence from 1890 to 1896, Arena had been known by other book-mongers as “the notoriously radical Arena Publishing Company.”

Lastly, I’m working on a new ‘chapter’ story that I hope to have finished soon, with the first installment being published tomorrow. I am trying figure out how I can have the main character interact with this book, which he finds a Nevada mining camp where he’s employed as a caretaker.

Blue Coffee Mug

It’s such a strange thing to wake up thinking about, especially after 23 years, today. This early morning thought goes back to the day after Dad died in July 1995.

My step-mom, Jere’ and I had a lot of things to do that day in preparation for my father, her husband’s funeral. Before we headed out for the day, we sat out on the porch of their condo and drank coffee from a matching set of blue plastic Thermos coffee mugs.

As I sat there, I recall thinking, “Did Dad drink from one of these cups while sitting out here with Jere’?”

The Twist in Nevada’s Gun and Marijuana Laws

As I clear out old notes,  I’ve found one I’d written October 19, 2009 after reading the following paragraph in the New York Times:

‘People who use marijuana for medical purposes and those who distribute it to them should not face federal prosecution, provided they act according to state law, the Justice Department said Monday in a directive with far-reaching political and legal implications.’

The Democratic parties planning is far greater, more advanced and long-term than most people can or even want to believe. The push to legalize cannabis has very little to do with over-regulation, state or personal rights or even medical care and everything to do with the Second Amendment.

In fact, both the legalization of marijuana and the right ‘to keep and bear arms,’ might be ushered in under all three area’s mentioned above. In the end, it will cross the threshold under state vs. federal law, with state rights winning out.

The sudden rush to destroy our current healthcare system is at the heart of this planning. By making healthcare unaffordable, more and more people will be seeking ways to self-medicate themselves to relieve their physical and emotional pain and discomfort.

Once healthcare is permanently crippled, more people will turn to ‘medical marijuana dispensaries,’ where the applicant, customer, patient must fill-out paperwork, thus registering as a marijuana user. Once their name is in ‘the system,’ it can be used to cross reference for anything, including gun purchases and applications for carry-concealed permits.

Not only can the state come in and separate a registered marijuana user from their firearms, this information can also be transmitted to the federal government for use. All it takes is one state enacting such a law, and soon others will follow, until the confiscation of guns and other weapons is happening in all 50 states.

There are those who say that ‘gun laws’ and ‘marijuana laws’ are separate issues. These are same people who claim that ‘state law’ and ‘federal law’ are separate issues, but unfortunately, the two often cross the line into the others domain.

In the end it must be remembered that an unarmed citizenry is exactly the kind of citizenry ripe for “fundamental transformation.”

Well, let’s time-hop to 2018 and the Nevada Department of Public and Behavioral Health’s website which has this to say, “The Medical Marijuana dispensaries of the State of Nevada are authorized to sell medical marijuana to card holders from the states above if the patient presents a State or local government-issued medical marijuana card.”

Then there’s the fact that in 2011 a Las Vegas medical marijuana patient challenged the law when a gun store refused to sell her a firearm, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 ruled that a federal government ban of gun sales to state-legal medical marijuana patients does not violate the Second Amendment. This has set-up a legal battle that’s more than likely heading for the supreme Court of the U.S.

President Trump recently indicated he’d support a congressional effort giving states autonomy over their marijuana laws. This comes on the heels of a bill introduced by Senators Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat,  that would protect states that have legalized marijuana from federal interference.

One

For years I purposely didn’t talk about my military service. It seemed that every time I did, some smart-ass, wanna-be-tough would try to pick a fight with me.

Once, it was woman. She was mouthy, mouthy, mouthy and she wouldn’t let up with the haranguing.

She kept asking me, as tried to enjoy my beer, while sitting at the bar in the B and S Club in Crescent City, “So, Killer, how many deaths would take to end a war?”

“I would hope none,” I answered several times as politely and as calmly as possible. Still she wouldn’t let up.

“So if you don’t want to kill, why train to do it?”

“To prevent it from happening – a strong defense is an even stronger offense.”

“You’re so full of shit.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you for noticing,” I quipped without thinking. It set her off again and again she started in on me.

“So – how many lives would you say it should take to take to end a war?” she asked.

Without taking my eye’s off of her in the mirror, I answered, “One.”

She wrinkled her face and laughed, “One!? How’s that?”

Slowly, I got up from my stool, pulled out a ‘fiver’ from my trouser pocket to pay for my beer, “Keep the change,’ I offered the bartender, who refused my cash before I answered: “One — mine. If I could stop a war with one death, I’d die to end it. It’s what Marine’s do.”

She was speechless for about 15-seconds, jus’ enough time to walk around the pool table, out the door and into the night’s rain. I never again wore my uniform while at home.

Baked Alaskan

The bright red Sno-Cat crept its way carefully across the ice-covered landscape. Inside, two men, both experienced hunters, sat hoping to bag this seasons limit of one polar bear each.

It had been a four-hour trek before Jim saw the first possible sign of their quarry. He pointed out the faint tracks to Steve, who operated the vehicle.

They traveled another two-hundred yards before stopping for a closer look.

“That ain’t a bear track,” Steve stated, “Somethings off about it – like it’s walking on two legs or something.”

“You mean like Bigfoot or the Abdominal Snowman?” Jim smarted-off.

“No, I mean a Yeti or Sasquatch,” Steve joked in return.

The pair continued following the tracks up a slight rise, ending near a deep gash in the ice. They died swiftly, attacked before either could scream or fire a shot.


Ned hadn’t been as lonely as he figured he’d be, still he looked forward to getting home to his wife within the next few days. He’d been out hunting all week and it had been very successful.

He quietly hummed a folk-tune his father had taught him as a child, while stripping his last kill of its skin. As he did, Ned found himself still astonished at the pinkness of the fresh meat.

Once finished, he gathered up his bounty and set off in the direction of home. As he pushed through the blowing snow, into the darkness of the Alaskan bush, Ned continued to hum the little tune.


It had been nearly a day-and-a-half without word from the two hunters. Finally the decision came to send an aircraft up to find them.

It was slightly over an hour when the bush pilot requested that Alaska State Troopers be called as he had found the Snow-Cat and what remained of the hunters. It took a few hours more for a couple of troopers to arrive.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” the pilot told them.

They motored towards the area the pilot pointed out and within minutes they found the bloody scene. Quickly, they realized that all that remained were the men’s clothing, fully intact, covered in blood.

Within hours the area was crawling with all available officer from every state agency, searching for clues.


She was sitting at the kitchen table, willing herself to stop crying when she heard Ned push in the front door, stomping the snow from his large feet. Vivian quickly dabbed her eyes, hoping to mask the fact that she had been teary-eyed since her doctor’s visit earlier that day.

Ned rounded the corner, where Vivian met him. He immediately knew she’d been crying.

They hugged and kissed before he asked, “What’s wrong, honey?”

“I can’t have children,” she blurted out, “Allergies!”

“I’m sorry. I know how much you enjoy those little morsels.”

After a moment’s pause, “So how about some Baked Alaskan?” the Sasquatch offered while holding in his massive and hairy hand, the two hunters he’d bagged, filling this season’s limit.

A Lesson for a Nobel Prize Winner

Thanks once again to blogger ‘RayNotBradbury,’  and her prompt. Honest, I simply stopped by to read what she had written, when the little turd on the hamster wheel running my brain, got loose. When this happens, strange stuff leaks out and gets all over the Internet…

Fear has me and again I’m having a strange reaction to it. Fire-fights in BFE tend to do that. But this time, it’s different. My brain keeps reciting a short little ditty, that goes like this:

“I wish you were here,
Dear,
In this hemisphere,
As I sit on the porch sipping a beer.”

For the hundredth time, it’s forced its way through my head and it’s annoying as hell.  So frigging annoying that I wanna yell at the asshole who wrote it, cursing:

“Fuck you, Joseph Brodsky.
See,
Rhyming about a brewskie,
You damned prick, is pissing me off-skee.”

The Forced March Prayer

It was zero-dark-thirty and the entire base was seemingly up, prepping for a ‘Forced March.’  I’d been up a little while longer double checking my equipment, before having to head to the parade deck to start inspecting other’s rucks.

As I wrapped up third’s squads inspection, someone in the squad called for a prayer, asking me if I’d do the honors. I began with, “Lord hear our prayer…and ended it with, “If God be for me, who can be against me?”

Out of the darkness an anonymous voice boomed, “A pissed off Master Gunny.”

In unison, we all shouted, “Amen!”

Caffeinated Death

This morning he raced to the kitchen as he thought his coffee maker was dying. As it gurgled the last of the water through it’s filter and grounds, it sounded as if it were choking.

The last time this happened, he mistook the sound for the toilet bowl tank refilling. He ignored it until it was too late — he had no coffee that day and he wasn’t about to repeat the situation again.

The lesson here, if there must be one, is to listen and never assume. You must react, you must respond — even if what you’re hearing sounds familiar.

Tribute to a Book-Case

Six-feet long, roughly built, thickly painted in a shiny brown enamel and filled with books from encyclopedias and The Harvard Classics to Reader’s Digest’s condensed books to every paperback Louis L’Amour and Agatha Christy ever published, that book-case captivated much of my childhood. It also formed my delight in reading and my desire to become a writer.

My favorite, by far is Louis L’Amour, and I spent many a rainy, windy winter’s day with my nose tucked inside one of his novels. His story-telling allowed me to escape and develop my imagination and hunger for adventure.


At the time though, I didn’t know this. Also, what I didn’t know or understand until some years after his death, was that my father was a story-teller from the old school, meaning that unlike L’amour, he didn’t write his tall-tales down, but rather, enjoyed spinning yarns over and over, until he, himself, believed the stories he was telling.

For years, especially following his passing, when family would gather, all his stories became ‘lies,’ which he did do, but some of the things he shared with his ‘gift for gab’ can be nothing more than the work of a truly gifted raconteur. Where, when or how he came to this skill, I will never know.


When I was nine or so, I saw a photograph of Louis L’Amour as a young man. I remember being struck by how much he and my Grandpa Jack Olivera looked-a-like.

This led me to create a fantasy that Grandpa Jack was, in reality, Louis L’Amour. Further, I fantasized that one day, when I was old enough to keep his secret, Grandpa Jack would tell me all about his life as a writer and we’d have something besides my mom in common.


Because this was a fantasy, I never told anyone, fearing I’d get called a liar and punished for it. But I did devise a way to get the fantasy out of my head and into the ‘light of day,’ and that was by writing it down in story-form.

Unfortunately, that original story has long been lost, tossed out by my mom after I joined the service along with many other stories I wrote as a child. When I began to write at the age of nine, I was certain that the world would one day benefit from whatever I wrote, so saving every written scrap of paper was nearly as important as the writing itself.

While I mourned the loss of those ‘original’s’ for years after, I’ve since concluded that they probably were no more than a narrative than a real story. I’ve also learned that when an original is lost, the rewrite is generally the better of the two.


By the time I entered middle school, I’d long outgrown the fantasy of my Grandpa Jack being Louis L’Amour. And later, when in high school, after being kicked out of the house by mom for ‘behaving like an animal,’, that old book-case became a very close friend and life-saver.

She moved me into the garage turned ‘rumpus room,’ where I poured through our ‘library,’ reading nearly everything on the shelves. I had already read the encyclopedia set after being grounded for the entire summer to my bedroom for bad behavior in grade school.

And from time-to-time a new L’Amour or Christy paperback would show up in the case, and I’d find a reason to disappear (Mom called it ‘being anti-social’ and worried that I might be doing drugs,) to the ‘rumpus room,’ to read and write. Back then, I had access to an old manual typewriter that Dad had brought home from work.


The typewriter was given to him and Dad rarely used it. Me, however, I not only banged out ‘copy’ for the high school newspaper and wrote book reports and essays on it, I used it to teach myself to write like a ‘real author.’

Putting ‘real author’ in quotes is my way of saying, that to claim the actual title would have been a ‘lie.’ I would’ve been accused of ‘living in a fantasy world,’ which would have been true, but it would have taken on an entirely negative connotation, not out of meanness, but out of frustration as I had spent a lot of time there as a child.


One of the first items I ever wrote was a small piece of poetry and while I didn’t fully appreciate the intellectual creativity of poetry, and still don’t, I had heard ‘cowboy poetry’ spoken (Bruce Kiskaddon is a favorite) and it sparked my imagination. Beside, it is rhyming words to tell a story – how hard could it be?

Ha! I look back on my rhymes and see no meter and where I wrote open-verse, I see no story and my tenses are all wrong. So yes, I learned and in that learning I found it’s much more difficult than simply using ‘say’ and ‘day’ to end the first and third sentences of a verse.


Mom in her naturally over-zealous reaction to my leaving home, decided it would be best to help my brother transition from sharing a bedroom, to being alone, by removing all of my stuff. Granted, I’d been banished from sleeping there, but I did have all my clothing and much of my writings in that room.

Fortunately, for me, I did have some notebooks, journals, and a number of stories tucked in a drawer in a large metal work desk that occupied the space beneath the window that looked out at the front yard. Later, when my folks’ marriage dissolved, Mom cleaned the house of nearly everything, either selling it or giving it away, including the desk, which she emptied.


What she couldn’t pawn off to others or make money from, she put in trash bags for yje Wednesday morning collection. Happily, for me, the garbage service had not been paid and our service was in default so I saved all that I could, and still have much of it to this day.

All of this returns to a central point in my life. If it hadn’t been for a bookshelf filled with books, childhood fantasies, an active imagination, some bad adolescent behavior, and actively writing night-after-night, for good or bad, I wouldn’t be writing today.

And finally — Debbie — if by any chance you’re reading this, sorry we had to listen to hours of angry lecturing from both sets of parents about ‘where babies come from.’

Easy-Peasy

We sat on the splintered floor, where the blast had tossed us, staring out the missing wall towards my neighbor’s house. “So surreal,” I recall myself thinking as Butch quipped, “You always wanted a picture window there, didn’t ya?”

“No. What I wanted was to get my new diesel generator hooked up to my home’s electrical system before the next winter storm,” I answered.

The night before we sat on bar stool’s across from each other. Me, bragging about how little I had paid for the 800-pound behemoth and Butch about being a master-electrician.

“It’s easy-peasy,” I recall him laughing.

I’m a Broken Clay Jar

Years ago I heard a sermon wherein the Preach describe every human being as a ‘cracked pot.’ Being a ‘trained’ theologian, I immediately thought of a broken Greek amphora jar, the tallish, oblong shaped vessel often used to carry water and wine in the ancient world.

That’s how I view myself – a broken amphora jar – one that I take to bed every night, that I wake up with every morning. Sometimes I can ‘put it back together,’ and get on with life.

Once it is together – not repaired, because it can never be repaired — it will hold because the external pressure is equal to the internal pressure. Those are the days that I am at my best.

These internal/external pressures are nothing like the ‘compartmentalizing’ I once was so good at in my youth. In fact, I learned to compartmentalize as a child, getting better at it as I got older until one day, like a series of dominoes, the walls holding all that stuff I had stowed away over a lifetime, toppled.

Since then, I’ve been unable to hide my real self from anyone, especially myself. Thus, everyday I struggle to put my jar back together and make it through, from one sunrise to the next.

Sometimes though, I can’t put it back together and no matter how much I try, I keep losing pieces of this jar until I am holding nothing more than shard on top of shard. These are also the days that I ask God for the most help getting it together – figuratively and literally.

Where is this coming from? I posted on my social media page about ‘life seeming hopeless.’ Evidently, I frightened a lot of my friends as they believed I was contemplating suicide.

Rest assured, nothing like that crossed my mind. I needed help and so I reached out the best way I knew and then getting involved in something else, I forgot about my posting and went to bed.

Anyhow…

Often I am in tune with my Creator and he guides my clumsy fingers and together we get the job done. Other time, I am a scrambled mess and cannot get beyond my own thoughts and feelings to listen and the jar never gets put back together for that day or longer.

On those days, I usually “fake it, till I make it.” Be of good cheer, because as we’re instructed, if God’s for us, who can stand against us…right?

Anyway, because I’m only a man, I cannot withstand the brokeness of myself as I sit around trying to pick up all the broken shard’s of my clay jar. Those are the days, I wanna run away, withdraw, hide from everyone, everything, myself.

Generally, I do exactly that. But recently it’s been brought to my attention that others might be suffering in silence, feeling and thinking the same as me – after all I’m not alone in this world.  So with that in my crowded head, I’ve had to force myself to admit that “I ain’t alright,” that I’m hurting, that my clay jar is fallen apart and I’m simply too tired to pick the pieces up, let alone haul them around.

After my posting, I awoke and read many more stories that are far worse than mine, having realized that I offered up a complaint, but came with no solution. I’m ashamed for having complained at the moment, humbled by the fact that others are struggling in ways I cannot image.

Maybe none of what I write makes sense, maybe it all makes perfect sense. I won’t know if you don’t say anything and you can’t know if I don’t say something.

Cut

If I cut myself now, would you feel the pain? No! I’d do it though — if it got your attention.

There are no pills for heartache, no bandages to heal an invisible gaping wound. The only option left then is ‘time’, and that doesn’t heal very fast and sometimes, it doesn’t heal at all.

It’s frightening to watch history repeat itself. The tear in the generations remains a bleeding wound despite the attempted repairs, so it’s better to focus the pain elsewhere.

Besides, you can’t understand my pain since we haven’t spoken to each other in such a long time.

The Smartest Woman on Earth

They came peacefully, seeking the meaning of life. “Please, bring us the smartest person on your planet.”

After much discussion between all the world leaders, they decided that the smartest was an American woman of great renown. She was then sent to speak with the space-travelers.

After a great ceremony celebrating the friendship between the two species, they asked the woman a single question, “In less than five words, tell us what you believe to be the meaning of life.”

The newly appointed ambassador thought about her bitterness, her loss of wealth and her husband before proclaiming, “I should’ve won.”

Selfie

Though she came off as care-free, Tanya obsessed over her cellphone and her desire to take selfies. She had a need to show the entire online world how good a time she was having.

No matter where she was or what she was doing, Tanya snapped a photograph of herself, smiling, happy. Often she asked friends, co-workers along with that random stranger to join her in some dramatic pose of what the happy-life looks like.

Searching through her selfies, it’s easy to understand now that her happiness wasn’t real, making it hard to select only one picture for her funeral.

Invisible

No-one sees an old man, especially one whose reached the age of invisibility. At first it hurt, knowing that people – especially women – no longer acknowledged my existence.

It’s ironic that the superpower I most coveted as a teenager was invisibility. Back then, it was because I wanted to take a sneak-peek in the girls locker room.

This is the simple fantasy of a hormone-fueled boy, in his prime. But now, I’m an invisible old man, not worth a second glance, so to hell with little-boy aspirations, bring on the big-boy plans…

“It’s the perfect time to take over the world.”

Sex Addict

Dylan knew he had to get help controlling his addiction as he sat in his car watching the scene unfold. The need for sex had him in it’s grip and he struggled nightly to break loose of it’s grip.

The following day, Dylan dialed the number of a doctor a friend had recommended. “Would you like to make an appointment? I have an opening at three this afternoon.”

Once there, the doctor asked, “So what seems to be the problem?”

“It’s getting so that one can’t tell the difference anymore between a real woman, a transsexual or those damned sex-bots!”

Another Pesky 20 Questions Answered

  1. List 10 people [alive or dead] you would invite to dinner?  The Apostles (I know – there’s more than ten.)

  2. What are your goals to be achieved in the month of July 2018?  To get through each day, one at a time, and sometimes from minute to minute.

  3. What is your earliest memory?  Falling off the steps of our home in Chateauroux, France.

  4. What are your views on mainstream music?  With all the various styles and delivery systems for music, what’s ‘mainstream’ anymore?

  5. Where would you like to be in seven-years time?  Alive – other than that I don’t plan very far ahead for anything else.

  6. What are the color of your eyes?  Hazel — or as my dad used to say, “Shit-brindle brown.”

  7. Do you like word games – if so which ones?  No.

  8. What are your favorite comfort foods?  Mashed potatoes, hamburger patties, corn (or peas bathed in beef gravy.)

  9. What animals would you like to have as a pet?  Dogs, horses.

  10. Classical music or not?  Yes.

  11. Five things about society that annoy you?  Political correctness, Socialism, a lack of manners, a lack of Godly faith, and easily hurt feelings.

  12. How important is creativity to people?  It’s important to me, but wouldn’t push my belief off on anyone else.

  13. Do you have any siblings?  Yes. One living sister, one living step-sister, six deceased siblings.

  14. Which three questions will you be deleting to add your own in and what are they? 6.  Button fly or zipper?  7.  Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz?  10.  City or countryside?

  15. Your favorite childhood movie?  Wizard of Oz.

  16. What traits do you display when nervous?  I have no idea.

  17. Are you healthy eater?  No.

  18. Bullet point your day so far:  Woke up.  Made bed.  Coffee.  Computer.  Coffee.  Emptied dishwasher.  Computer.  Showered.  Dressed.  Coffee.  Computer…

  19. What are your five most favorite scents/smells?  Pine trees, Pacific Ocean, campfire smoke, a horse/cattle ranch, and freshly brewed COFFEE.

  20. The three bloggers you are nominating are?  H.R.R. Gorman, Ellie Scott, Henry Black.

Dry Bones

Fellow blogonaut ‘Raynotbradbury,’ offered a challenge to write about fear. I selected athazagoraphobia, the fear of being forgotten.

Dry bones that dream,
Rot in winter’s moon,
The summer’s baking sun,
Forgotten.

Dry bones that dream,
Torn apart by wild things,
Tooth and claw scatters,
Forgotten.

Dry bones that dream,
Lay wasting in the land,
Wait to dance, run, jump,
Forgotten.

Dry bones that dream,
Do not sleep at night,
They moan in daily pity,
Forgotten.

Dry bones that dream,
Are of you and of me,
Our dust and our ash,
Forgotten.

Dry bones that dream,
Live a worried state,
For day – no longer
Forgotten.

Pinteresting Conversation

The woman on the yoga mat called to me, “Help me. I’m stuck.’

She was on her left side, left hand holding her right foot, left leg drawn to her chest, threaded over her right leg. Despite this, she was very calm.

“What’s the matter?”

“I can’t get out of it.”

“What can I do?”

“Call an ambulance.”

“Looks painful. What’s it called?” I asked trying to comfort her.

“I don’t know. I saw it on Pinterest.”

It took eight-minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

“Let go of your foot,” the paramedic coaxed.

She did and her body came unravelled.

Alive

It began at 2116 hours, Independence Day evening. The sun was no longer in the sky, though it’s glow was still slightly visible beyond the western hillside.

That’s when the first staccato discharge from a firearm echoed across the landscape. It touched off the ensuing explosions of further gunfire, M-80s, Lady Fingers, Whistlers and Bottle Rockets, which lit the sky in multiple colors.

Generally, I do not bear witness to these events. Rather, I am in bed, tucked away beneath my blankets where I find myself jumping, twisting, on edge from the noise, but safe.

However, as counter-intuitive it seems, during this unauthorized local celebration, I posted myself in our backyard where I had no so-called protection from the barrage of noises. And as I write this, I am still unable to explain why I felt it necessary to do this to myself.

Looking back, I admit that I have been somewhat of a blank slate the last couple of weeks. In fact, if it weren’t for personal frustrations and a general sadness, I’m certain could easily be considered a ‘dead fish,’ by many.

Anyhow, as the cacophony of explosions continued, I started sweating profusely, my heart raced until I could feel it pounding in my head, my breathing became short and labored to the point I was on the verge of hyperventilating, then I grew ill to my stomach, wanting to heave and lastly, my irises dilated to the point that the darkness appeared to be that of prolonged noontime solar eclipse. And though I wanted to run away, I endured.

PTSD, in full drive.

By the time it came to an end at 2230 hours, the sheriff’s helicopter was on station, searching for the long-gone culprits. It reminded me of an ‘Overwatch’ flight, as our little neighborhood had all the hallmarks, save for the barking dogs, of a small Central American village under siege, where roving gangs battle one another in a constant state of chaos.

Laying in the grass, I allowed myself to connect to my most frightening emotions – my anger, fear, and shame. These are the ‘three biggies’ that I tend to avoid if possible because I’ve used each to lash out at people in my life over the years and they scare me.

At last, with all the adenine coursing through my body, I developed the shakes which caused me to realized how much I truly felt alive for the first time in days. It was as if a life-long fog had evaporated, clearing my brain for the first time in ages.

Perhaps, this makes perfect sense. Perhaps, none of this makes any sense.

In the end, it was as if something had broken-off inside of me and by the time I picked myself up from the yard, I was wishing I had a way of bottling up whatever potion I’d found. Finally, I’m stuck for a lack of words to better express what happened in that hour and 14-minutes – but suffice it to say, I’m healing.

Eavesdropped

“No,” Trevor answered, “the movie hasn’t started and I’m turning my phone off when it does.”

He listened before responding, “The company has it covered.”

The man sitting five rows in front of Trevor cocked his head slightly. He wanted to hear this conversation.

“Only one shot is all that’s needed and it’s been prearranged.”

The man turned and looked up at Trevor.

“Gotta go, the show’s about to start.”

Exasperated, Trevor hung up on his ex-wife, turning the cellphone off.  The man, five rows below, quickly left to find a payphone.

“I’ve been compromised,” Yevgeny told his SVR handler.

Garden Boots

Mom loved her garden boots, which she had for years. ‘I don’t need new ones. A little duct-tape and they’re good as new.’

She named them ‘Jack and Jill,’ consulting them about what to plant where, who to dig up there. When in better health, she could be found traipsing through her flower beds.

I wandered through her home one last time after she passed.

Against the wall sat her boots and fearing they’d be tossed, I planted morning-glories in them. A favorite flower of hers and something I never knew.

Mom’s spirit must have whispered it in my ear.

Telephone

He was feeling rather strange that day. More needy and very nostalgic.

He didn’t enjoy the mood, couldn’t enjoy it. Pragmatism does not like life in the past.

He struggled at his desk, computer’s bright light compounding his every shadow. Lines and wrinkles of wasted youth, turned ancient.

He wanted to talk to his parents, to know how they have been. He was certain that they would forgive him for being so ignorant for those past few years.

He picked up the phone to call them and then saw the time. It was too late, they’d been dead for years.