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I filmed this one minute, vintage silent movie of my dog, with my I pod camera in 1920–that was 93 years ago when my dog was a pup. That now makes him 651 in dog years.
Cindy my wife, a risk-taker, filmed hand-feeding a terrifying border collie cooked bacon, while trying not to have her fingers bitten off.
Books are not so different than people are. Both come in many different genres, they see things from different points of view, and they speak in unique voices.
Unfortunately, it is easier for me to judge them by their covers, as they wait patiently on a shelf. If I am not careful, I will walk past a great one and never open it–because I am busy, impatient, and thoughtless.
But when I do take the time to look, I find each one has an exclusive set of contemplations: observations, interpretations, and insights about life.
I do not agree with all of them. Some do not share my curiosities. Some I do not understand. Some irritate me for no good reason. Some of them just plain make me mad.
Still, every time I open a new book or talk to a new person, I learn something about life that I did not know before, and that makes my whole view of the world a little bit wider.
- Happy Birthday to The Hobbit! (hcplteenscene.org)
- People alike. (thoughtofanindividual.wordpress.com)
- Big Reading: A Hike Through Dickens : The New Yorker (themodernmanuscript.wordpress.com)
The last thing that I remember was getting up off the couch to change the channel on the television set. When I stood up it was as if an excruciating bolt of thunder pierced me through the center of the breastplate. I became light headed. Confusion overtook my mind and I lost lucid consciousness, which dwindled away leaving me in a vague trance-like state.
I was aware of being in physical peril, but only in the sense as being a third party observing myself from the outside. I saw my arm clutch at the sharp chest pains grabbing my breast with claw of a hand. Then I saw my body crumple and collapse and fall hard towards the living room floor. I was surprised not to see myself lying on the floor unconscious.
Instead, the inexplicable began to unfold. I was back inside of my body now, but I continued to fall, my body unstopped by any hard surface. I watched as my form crashed through the living room floor and dropped beneath it. I continued to tumble, my body shattering the concrete as I fell through the foundation of the house, and I still I continued to drop away. I fell beneath the crust of the earth plummeting downward into the blackness. I fell like a stone, unimpeded. I continued to tumble for what seemed like hours on end.
During the entire event, my mind became weary and I dropped off into a deep sleep. I suddenly was aware that I was dreaming. However, the entry into the dream was inhospitable. It was a nightmare of sorts.
I dreamed that I saw a single white burning candle; this candle was in an old-fashioned metal candleholder with a ring for the finger—the kind people used to carry around by hand to see in the darkness before days of electricity and incandescent light bulbs.
I dreamt I saw this candle in the carrier sitting precariously on a rock-covered floor. I watched the candle anxiously, as the tiny yellow tongue of fire fluttered, tremulously clinging to the wick. I realized that this was a symbol. It was the burning candle of my life force and that fragile flame was my existence, so delicate and vulnerable, and so easily extinguished forever without warning. At the end of the dream, I was terrified that something would blow the flame out and that I would die.
At that point, I awoke. And I found myself lying here on the stony floor in this icy, black abysmal place.
Oh, frightful black void, in this dark realm of plucked out eyes, what is this bone-chilling cold that bites at my face bitterly, like unseen frost? Oh baleful circumstances, why do you conspire against me to engulf me like a tomb.
There would appear that nothing is here save the black hanging demise in the biting chill. Nevertheless, I had an overwhelming superstitious mindfulness that something was indeed there in the inky black with me. Yet I could not seem to feel it or hear it. I found my footing among the stones and then I stood up.
I turned round about looking wildly for any sign of light…but alas, darkness was all I saw.
May God, give me just a small crack of light to pursue, let him extend to me one thread of hope that I might find flight from this wretched place. All I need is a solitary pinpoint of light to gaze at for the briefest moment. I need to know. Tell me do I have eyes or am I blind! It is driving me mad…
But despite my plea, I see nothing. I find myself abandoned to the poison of sightlessness. In fear, I began to walk about the dark cavern aimlessly.
Soon an eerie emotion coursed through my veins. I suddenly sensed that some sort of beast was following very close behind me, biding its time before attacking me. A rush of panic washed over me, like a bucket of icy water. In this terror, I could swear a long skeletal hand reached from behind me. I sensed its palm cupped just shy of my mouth, perhaps to mute my screams, perhaps to silently suffocate me, or perversely, just to amuse itself with the great power it had over me.
I had an unshakable notion that its gaunt hand extended a long bony finger, and without touching me, lustfully traced along the contours of my face in the dark. I knew all this was happening even though I could not provide evidence of it.
But then I smelled a plague-ridden, putrid stench. And I knew then that something was indeed with me in the blackness and cold.
I quickly thought back in time to remember how I got here. I finally realized that I must have suffered a heart attack back in my living room, and that was the beginning of all this horror. Then I wondered if I, in truth was actually lying unconscious on the living room floor. Lack of blood to my brain could have caused me to hallucinate all of this nightmarish emotional chaos.
But I feel the stones rough under my feet on this floor and when I inhale, I experience the cold biting at my nostrils. I am here, wherever this place is. This does not seem like a dream. This seems very real. And something dangerous is here with me.
I did seem to have a heart attack. I felt the stabling chest pains. If I did, I am fighting for my life. But why am I in this dark cavernous place of danger.
Unless this creature, of course…it can be no other than he…I realize that this beast so near me in the bowels of this black abyss is Death. Death is following me and he will try to claim me if he can. I must fight to live; I must get back to the living room. But how long can I escape Death down here trapped in his dark lair?
I immediately jerk with a shudder coming out of my thoughts. I felt something. It was a cold sensation…There it is again. It is he. Death touched me!
In the numbness of terror, Death extended one bony finger touched me on the nape of my neck. That odious fetid appendage, having been chilly upon my neck, makes me want to wretch!
My body jerks, startled and alarmed as I hear the beast roar furiously. Its low base snarl is a rattling knock that echoes like a tiger in the jungle.
How many souls has this executioner liberated from their living bodies? Mortal life is a debt everyone must pay to the reaper in time. Yet everyone evades the beast when he or she can, it is our nature. No one wants to die. I do not want to die.
Yet Death is following my every step. The beast is forbidding. He is methodic, relentless, and most cruel of all, infinitely patient.
My mortal life’s tenacity, never wanting to yield, forces me to press onward blindly, wandering in the black cavern. My legs are weary and heavy and I am losing my footing as I try to flee. How can I stave off Death? I can see nothing here and know not any way out of this black cavernous throat of stone, a realm that Death knows better than I know the back of my own hand. I am surely doomed.
But then then suddenly there is hope. What is this that I see? Right before I stumble from fatigue and Death can overtake me, a miracle occurs. There in the infinite black void just ahead—I see a light!
Oh wonderful, glorious, life giving light, It is just ahead of me.
I approach the illumination running as I head for the source.
This miraculous light in the lair of Death… it is my candle of life…the candle from my dream, resting in its iron holder sitting on the stony floor just as I dreamt it. The fluttering flame of my mortal existence is still burning.
But then my heart sinks as I hear Death coming up from behind me and he sucks loud, rattling, strings of mucous inside his lungs as they pull in the icy air. My foe holds the foul breath in his lungs, that when blown from its cracked lips, will threaten to snuff out my candle. But now that I am standing before the flame, maybe I can try to guard my fire of life from the creature that wants to extinguish it.
I feel and smell Death behind me and then I feel him blow the stream of breath from his lungs forcefully. The repulsive breath hits my back and deflects around me.
My flame of life still burns! Death cannot hurt me now. Indeed, he cannot snuff out my candle as long as I stand here.
The beast growls behind me with a primeval fury. However, for all of his ferocity, the beast roars in impotent rage. Death is singular in its insignificance now.
Looking past my candle on the floor, I see a brilliant rising line of radiant light on the far wall. I walk nearer to find that the vertical line of illumination is actually the crack at the opening between two immense metal doors. Peering through the crack, I see a vast chamber. It has no end. And inside it is a source of infinite life sustaining light.
I push at the doors and as they slowly open, the dark cold lair of death is breached with divine light. This light is a radiance as warm, blessed, and as dazzling as the sun.
I leave my candle burning on the floor of Death’s dark lair and walk forward into the vast glowing chamber of safety. Never again will I suffer in darkness. Never more shall I shiver in the cold. I shall live in this glorious warm realm of hope.
I turn back one last time to look into the shadows of the den of Death. Then I see Death himself standing just shy of the light. What an atrocity to the senses. The creature is utterly vile and repugnant as it stares at me with cold black eyes and curved venomous fangs. Nevertheless, I stand bold, as it will not approach from the shadows. The beast seems petrified of the living light.
Death snarls at me in anger and the ground shakes.
Then I realize that I am in peril. I am suddenly alarmed as I left my candle behind. On the floor in the shadows, I see its flame burning with no protection. Death inhales and blows against the yellow trembling tongue of fire and it flutters. Then suddenly the flame of my life is snuffed out forever.
I instantly panic, but in time, I realize that I am unharmed. I am still alive because of this sacred brilliant glow. I realize with joy that I have beaten death. I laugh at death, mocking him.
In a rage of defeat, my foe pulls hard at the metal doors and they crash shut between the two of us. I turn around and face the light. I immerse myself in its warmth. Light is everywhere, there is a world of life in here.
Suddenly I realize where I am. I am in Heaven.
I stand in the illumination of God omnipotent in fantastic joy. Then I wait for the holy sounds. I always wanted to hear the angels in Heaven sing like sirens.
I long for the angel’s mellifluous chorus. Yet, the music does not come. However, I hear something even greater. It is louder than ten thousand trumpets.
I hear what I never imagined I would hear in Heaven. I hear billions of blood-curdling screams come from within the sun like glow.
Then it hits me and I know where I really am.
I am in Hell.
The intense light grows with an escalating heat until it is so hot that my flesh begins to sting. I see this endless chamber for what it really is. It is a place of raging fire, conflagrations, and a realm of infernos. There are explosions like geysers that send rolling flames rocketing upwards. All around me are a perilous number of lava pits; they bubble, boil, and vomit liquid stone and burning sulfur.
I dare not walk.
The floor at my feet cracks open and a volatile blaze consumes my body. It wraps around my form, like a serpent. I am in a burning cocoon of flames.
I want to run wildly, to roll on the floor, and snuff out the unbearable flames that overtake me. However, I dare not move near the pits of molten fire. For in all the burning sulfur pools, I see flailing skeletons hopelessly more doomed than I am.
They are the ones who ran in fear and fell into the hellish sinkholes. Now they are nothing but flaming frameworks of animated bones, thrashing, screaming, and trying to tread in the red-hot liquid. They scream, trying merely to keep their skulls above the surface. I see them grasp at the sides of the spewing sulfur pits. Skeletal hands arise from the molten lava, reach out to the edge, and rest themselves upon the bones of their forearms. Skeletal digits grasp wildly for my legs as the condemned attempt to pull themselves out of the depths of despair. I step back away from the languishers lest they pull me into the molten prison with them.
I stand still. I know I cannot run. I must not run as the others did. The best things I can do are stand still and suffer the fire.
Some of the damned in Hell are not in the pits and I see these skeletons clamber past me. These ones run wildly in a panic, wailing aloud as their bones burn until they become dry and crack with a pop. They suffer hopelessly as they fly up off the ground when a flare of the devils flaming tongue explodes upwards, taking them up into the air with the rising inferno.
I am escalating into a wild panic. I am on fire and my flesh is charred and falling off my body like melting wax. In all the fear, I went mad. I could not help myself. And I began to run.
I am one of the countless runners in Hell now. We scream wretchedly to no avail. All we live for is to run away from the inescapable fires and try to jump over the molten pits. Some of us run and dodge the exploding flames, like soldiers running into mortar fire, and others fall and drown in the boiling molten depths of despair. So hideous is all the howling that it commits an offence against the mind. All here have abandoned hope. For us there is only panic, screaming, and torment beyond bearing.
I ran for a far-reaching distance but then I lost my footing, I stumbled, and I fell into a molten sinkhole. Dipping under the pool of spitting and belching lava, I tread in magma to brink my skull above the surface. Gasping for my breath, I draw burning sulfur fumes into my lungs. I cough up lava and fire as I suffer in unspeakable torture. Yet for all the fire consuming me, I do not die. I feel everything. But this makes no sense as my candle of life, was snuffed out by death. So I should be dead.
To my horror, I now realize that I am indeed dead and that I will burn here in Hell for eternity.
I am truly repentant for how I lived my life in sin. I was wrong and I know this. But God is forgiving. I cry out to God praying for mercy and forgiveness. I plead that God spare me this burden, an existence that I cannot possibly bear. I wait for an answer to my prayer of genuine remorse and shame.
And God is stony silent.
It was ink black on a very cold night. Inside his apartment, after a night of insomnia, Tom finally fell into a deep peaceful sleep Saturday morning at 5 a.m., Tom had to work that Saturday so he would soon have to awaken and then get ready for his day of work only having had minutes of sleep.
At precisely 5:30 a.m., Tom and his dog Sam both jerked convulsively in the bed in a panic induced by the shrill piercing of the alarm clock going off. Tom reached for the snooze button and in a stupor unknowingly knocked the beeping clock off of the night stand and it fell behind the headboard wedged next to the wall in a very hard to get to place.
The alarm ringer kept perfect beat in a continuous ear-splitting tone. Tom grimaced as he kept reaching for the alarm clock on the nightstand. He could not understand why he could not find the snooze button or the alarm clock for that matter. The high-pitched stabbing “beep, beep, beep” kept tormenting him. Tom put his pillow over his head and rolled over on his side completely miserable.
Soon the dog who could hear about two hundred times better than Tom began to howl. Sam was a huge dog and had a healthy set of lungs to bellow. Tom reached for the nightstand again. Sam kept howling—Sam was getting louder as time went on.
In a flash of irritation, Tom sat up and groped about in the pitch-black room for the alarm clock on the nightstand. He finally realized that it was not on the wooden piece of furniture. But the shrill alarm was so loud he had a very hard time pinpointing where it was coming from. He began to get down on his hands and knees to look on the floor just when Sam jumped off of the bed to escape to the living room.
Sam’s 100-pound body jarred Tom and he tumbled headfirst towards the table stand. Luckily, Tom landed with both hands on the nightstand so he was not hurt.
But as Tom stood up in the pitch-black room, he kicked the wooden base of the stand hard and square with his bare foot and his right big toe began to pound with pain.
Tom thought I broke that toenail– I know I did– and now I will have to rip that nail off to get into my dress shoes for work. Tom shuddered at the idea.
Sam was still howling, only now he was howling in the living room. Sam and the infinite alarm beeping had also awakened Tom’s next-door neighbor early on that Saturday morning. Tom’s neighbor began loudly banging on his wall of the adjoining apartment.
Tom ignored this as he impotently waved a dismissing arm in the direction of the wall as if to say go away. He got down on his hands and knees and began to look for the alarm clock groping about in the dark with his hands. He could not see or feel anything. Beep, beep, beep…
Soon the neighbor was banging on Tom’s front door. Sam ceased his howling and began to boom out barking at the knock on the door. Sam woofed and snarled at the crack near the bottom and then scratched at the metal door.
Tom’s ears where throbbing from the alarm—but then salvation. Tom realized that all he had to do was simply unplug the clock from the wall socket. But this was not exactly straightforward. Tom had plugged the alarm clock cord into a six-plug outlet RadioShack splitter. All six plugs were in use and six ungrounded cords came out of the sockets. He did not know each cord powered. Tom just jerked one cord out of the fixture at random. But it was not the plug to the alarm clock. The beeping continued to pierce the dark.
Beep, beep, beep…this was all driving Tom insane.
Angry now, Tom grabbed all five of the other cords and jerked them all out at once. Tom was terrified to see bright sparks spit out of all five outlets at him; he fell backwards and knocked his head hard against the nightstand. He could cry or say a bad word. He said a bad word.
Luckily, the alarm clock had stopped beeping and soon Sam stopped his booming barking as the neighbor gave up and quit knocking on Tom’s door. Everything was all right now and Tom could finally relax and get ready for work.
Tom stumbled in the dark and went to turn on the bathroom light. Nothing happened. He tried to turn on the bathroom fan. Nothing happened. Tom realized that he had shorted the breaker box when he jerked the sparking cords out of the wall all at once.
The breaker box was outside behind the apartment and Tom was only wearing his boxer shorts. He could not simply go outside in the cold and flip the breaker switches. He had to shower and dress first.
Tom made his way to the chest and drawers and found a pen light in a top drawer; he put it in his mouth. It only came on when he bit it so he had constantly to keep his teeth clenched on it. To make sure the breaker was fully tripped he tried to turn on the living room light and the kitchen light. Nothing happened.
On the way back, by shining the pen light at Sam, Tom saw he was slumbering peacefully on his dog bed and blankets in the living room.
Tom made it back into the bedroom closet. He stripped out of his boxers and threw them in the dirty clothes. He sucked up the saliva running down the pen light. He made his way into the bathroom and started the shower. Then armed with a pen light and a soap bar he showered by the dim incandescent light. The light was getter dimmer all of the time; the batteries were running out of power.
Tom got out of the shower, went to the sink and shaved by pen light illumination. His light went off several times and he had to shake and bite it again and again to get the light to shine.
With the electric heater now off it was already chilly in the apartment. Tom grabbed his hairdryer. Nothing happened when he turned it on by habit.
Getting out of the bathroom with wet hair, Tom looked for the alarm clock to check the time, which he did not see– it was wedged behind the headboard under the bed—not to mention it was also unplugged. Tom knew he had no electricity as soon as he did these things but he kept trying to use electrical components for some irresistible reason.
Then the gray dawn’s light slowly began to stream in from the horizon through the bedroom windows so Tom knew that it must be after 6: 30. This meant he was running late. Tom’s boss was not exactly and understanding man, so Tom had to hurry.
Out of the corner of his eye, Tom saw that Sam was back on the bed looking at Tom curiously with his head tilted to the side as dogs sometimes do.
Looking into the closet with his slobbery pen light between his teeth Tom began to get his suit jacket, pants, shoes, socks and tie out of the closet and laid them on the bed. When he looked for a pair of fresh boxers there were none.
Then the pen light suddenly dimmed and went out again. Tom shook it. He bit it. He tried everything but it did not come back on. So Tom got on his hands and knees and felt through the dirty clothes hamper in dark closet. He found his old pair of drty boxers.
He had one stroke of luck. He realized that if he turned his underwear inside out that he could safely wear them for another day—maybe even two.
Now with more light coming into the room he took his boxers and rolled them inside out. Balancing on his right leg, he inserted his left leg into the left leg hole of his boxers. Then reversing the legs, he balanced on his left leg as he began to put his right leg in the other leg hole of the boxers.
However, his foot with the torn toenail caught the bottom of the leg hole. Tom was hopping about on his left leg trying to get his foot uncaught. But he lost his balance and his right leg came down hard with his foot still stuck in his boxers. Tom heard a loud rip as the boxers split in half all down the back seat. Tom said another bad word. Tom stepped out of the boxers to look at them. They were not pretty but they were wearable.
As Tom held the white cloth boxers in the morning light, Sam bounded off the bed and chomped down on the torn rag of cloth. With iron jowls, Sam pulled and jerked the boxers in his mouth, yanking his head from side to side. Tom pulled back to save his boxers.
Sam was having fun in a full-out tug of war. Tom was irritated, “Sam! No! Bad Dog!” yelled Tom. But Sam was having too much fun. And after bit more pulling Sam won when the boxers ripped completely in two and the dog left gloriously with his spoils to chew on them on his living room bed.
Tom said, “Why me? God hates me. That’s why.” He looked up into the sky and shook his fist. “You’re pushing me.”
Tom had to dress sans boxers. He could see to button his shirt and then he put on his tie. He slid into his suit pants and zipped up his slacks quickly.
Suddenly Tom said two very loud, very bad words. Part of Tom was dangerously stuck in-between the zipper tracks. In terror, Tom backed the zipper in reverse along the tracks in excruciating pain. He stopped in agony. He was going to have to unzip it fast, just like pulling off a Band-Aid, Tom. In anticipation, involuntary tears ran down Tom’s cheeks.
After a very deep breath, Tom yanked the zipper back down the tracks and freed himself. Tom now covered with sweat, exercised great care; he gently pulled the zipper back up along the tracks slowly. The maneuver had been a success.
Tom sat down on the bed to put his socks on in comfort. His left sock went on like a lamb glove. The second sock snagged on his right toe. Remembering kicking the stand with his big toe, he carefully removed the sock and saw the toenail torn off halfway down into the quick. It was much too deep for clippers. Just like a Band-Aid, Tom.
With a rip, he winced and the torn toenail lay clenched in between his thumb and forefinger. Looking down at his toe, the nail was not a problem anymore but bleeding definitely was. Dripping blood spotted the carpet.
Tom hopped on one leg to the toilet, sat down, and jerked about10 sheets of toilet paper off of the roll. Tom folded this in half several times lengthways and then quickly and wrapped the bleeding toe until a large white ball of tissue was sitting on the end of his toe, turning red, looking like a clown’s nose. This would never fit in his sock and shoe.
Then Tom had an idea. He hopped into the bedroom and opened a drawer on the nightstand, dusted off a very old box and he got a condom out. This would be the first practical use Tom had ever had for a condom. He knew they would pay off one day.
He hopped back to the bathroom bleeding. He took the condom and got a tube of Neosporin. He put the whole tube of ointment in the end of the condom and tried to roll it over his big toe. But Tom had the condom on inside out and it would not roll onto his toe. In despair, Tom reversed the condom and tried to remove the Neosporin with his fingers from the wrong end and smear it into the right end.
Finally, it rolled on, but there was a lot left unrolled and the condom would not stay on his big toe. But suddenly Tom had a brilliant insight. Tender toed Tom hopped into the kitchen and found a bag of Wonder Bread with two slices left inside. He removed the twist- tie from the bread package and secured the condom. The toe still bled but the blood stayed inside of the condom. It did not drip blood. The toe condom was an overwhelming success.
Tom very carefully put on his right sock and dress shoe. He stood on it with a scowl. It was painful, but it would work.
Tom sprinted in the kitchen and poured Sam a bowl of kibbles. Tom was running critically late, plus he had not bought any groceries that week. He would have to eat at Jack and the Box and reset the breaker outside when he got home from work.
Tom grabbed his keys, opened, exited his door and then limped down three flights of apartment stairs wincing on each step.
Tom slid into his car and put the key in the ignition. He turned the key and heard “click.” He turned the key several more times and heard nothing. Tom had left his lights on the day before when he got home from work. Tom stared straight ahead at nothing. Then he put both hands on his steering wheel and furiously jerked and shook it with his arms and shoulders while banging on the horn, which made absolutely no sound.
Tom was utterly defeated as he slowly got out of the car and ripped his slacks cuff on the door. He did not even care anymore. There was no way he could make it to work. Tom just decided with an overwhelming sense of peace that he was going to go back upstairs and go back to bed—even if it meant that he got fired.
Tom walked back behind the apartment complex and reset the switches to his breaker box. He looked up and saw his kitchen light illuminate his third floor apartment.
Tom slowly limped back up the three flights of stairs and opened his apartment door. He saw Sam sitting on his dog bed, relaxing and chewing on Tom’s drool covered boxers remains. Shutting the door Tom said, “Hello Sam, we’re taking the day off.” Sam just wagged his tail whacking it against the living room wall with a loud knocking; Tom’s next-door neighbor started banging on the adjoining wall again.
Tom’s stomach grumbled and he mourned not being able to get to Jack in the Box for breakfast. Tom realized that he had nothing to eat in the house. Then Tom remembered the Wonder bread. Two pieces—perfect for toast.
Tom loved toast. It would be the only good part of his morning. Then he would relax for the rest of the day and get back into bed.
Tom went into the kitchen and Sam followed happily. “No Sam, this is for me. Sorry.” Sam just looked up at Tom and panted with big-mouthed smile. Tom reached for the two pieces of white bread. One slice was normal and one was the heel of the loaf. Taking both in hand, Tom turned to go to the toaster.
He lost his grip on one slice and almost caught it twice as it fell down to the floor. Tom reached for the slice only to see Sam snap it up, tilt his head up, and wolf it down in three quick bites. Tom did not even try to say anything to Sam.
Tom jealously guarded his remaining heel slice of bread. It was still enough for a breakfast. He slid it into the slot on the toaster and pushed the spring-activated tray holder down, starting the toaster. Tom’s mouth watered thinking of browned crispy toast.
Instantly the phone began to ring. Tom did not want to answer the call, as he knew it was his boss. Just before the call rolled over to the recording machine, Tom picked up the phone. “Hello?” About 45 seconds of squawking came from his boss on the other side of the receiver. It was the boss telling him he was late, this was the last time, and asking how soon would be in for work.
Tom paused, “I can’t come in today sir due to circumstances beyond my control.” More squawking came from the other end. “It’s a long story sir, I had an alarm clock malfunction, I injured my foot, I had a temporary power outage, my car won’t start, I am bleeding, and I ripped the cuff on my pants…and oh yeah, I am not wearing any underwear.”
Squawking ensued and then suddenly again came the terrible sound. An ear-splitting Beep, Beep, Beep.
“Sir,” Tom shouted over the beeping, “I have to go!” A more concerned tone of squawking came from the phone this time. “Oh no sir,” yelled Tom. “It is not a fire. It is worse. You made me burn the toast!”
It was awfully hot outside, and Tom, was dressed in a suit and tie. He was moving his feet fast to make it down the sidewalk and get to work on time. He almost tripped over his scuffling shoes, barely avoiding a fall, as many cars whisked past him on the street.
He saw the cross walk just ahead. Impatient to cross that street he took, long, quick strides to get there. But he just missed the signal. And the pedestrian walking sign now burned in red “Don’t Walk, Don’t Walk.” He stood there on the edge of the sidewalk seething; he was on the very edge, almost standing in the road.
Tom had just stopped smoking. When he noticed that he was unconsciously rubbing his thumb and forefinger together, he immediately stopped himself. He recalled earlier that day, when the therapist said he would do things like that when he went through the nicotine withdrawal. He would have twitchy fingers, anxiety, and even superstitious behavior if stressed.
A honking car speeding by within mere inches of him brought him out of his reverie, Tom edged back away from the street. Speeding cars were swooshing past him, obscuring his view of the pedestrian walk signal. He looked at his watch impatiently, His watch read3:00–lucky number.
Then a taxi whizzed past and blew the hot street’s contents up from the asphalt, and he grimaced at the grit thrown up into his face, covering him. It all smelled of hot tar. His forehead squeezed out drops of sweat that rolled down into his eyes, stinging them. He wiped his eyes, grimacing. And then he looked back up.
The cars kept swishing by but he got a glimpse of the crosswalk signal. “Don’t walk, Don’t Walk,” it glowed portentously through a speeding bus’ windows. Then he could not see the crosswalk light again for the cars passing.
He waited a long time to see the light again. When he did the pedestrian signal still flashed “Don’t Walk, Don’t Walk.” It seemed hours had passed since he looked at his watch. He looked at his wristwatch, 3:07 lucky number again.
Then he was quite angry as he realized that he had never pressed the pedestrian “walk” button on the crosswalk pole. His fingers twitched and in the heat, his nerves screamed in anxiety. He saw a broken compact mirror in the street. Bad luck—cannot cross here—No! this is the superstition the counselor talked about…I’m just hot and anxious—this is only nicotine withdrawal, superstition, twitchy fingers—and there is no such thing as bad luck.
He looked up and the crosswalk signal flashed, “Walk, Walk,” but Tom hesitated due to fear from the broken mirror, catch the next one, he thought. No…That is just superstition; it is the nicotine withdrawal nothing else. Walk now Tom, Go, Go, Go!
So he tried to make up lost time, and scurry across the street, but the crosswalk signal was already blinking red, “Don’t Walk, Don’t Walk.” Tom was standing in the middle of the busy street. The traffic light for the cars turned green. A car screeched to a murderous halt on hot tires. Then another car screeched to a halt, then another.
Tom touched the hood of one car; he was hot, and confused. From under the hood came a honk and Tom jumped. The cars with a green light could not move for Tom blocking them. They honked in a furious, disharmonious symphony. He finally came to his senses and scurried back towards from whence he came.
Damn it, never again, he vowed; it is the nicotine withdrawal and nothing else. Now you will probably be late for work at the bank at 3:20 p.m. He remembered the warning. “Tom if you are late just one more time,” the bank manager, had said, “I’ll have no choice but to let you go.”
Tom made it back to the side of the sidewalk from which he had started and he pressed the crosswalk button on the pole six times rapidly, anxiously. Sweat was now running off his brow and stinging his eyes again. He wiped his eyes so he could see. Sweat stuck to the starch of the neck of his dress shirt. He hated that. God, this is unbearably hot, and now, my damn job… I really wish I had just one god damned cigarette…”He looked up at the crosswalk sign. This was taking much too long,”
“Don’t walk,” “Don’t walk,” “Don’t walk,”… come on damn you, change to “Walk.” He had to make the next signal or it was his job. He anxiously looked down at his watch, and then his stomach sank in dread, his watch read “3:13,” bad luck, really bad luck. something ominous.
He looked up and the crosswalk signal flashed, “Walk, Walk” I do not know, maybe I should wait… I cannot go now—No stop it Tom! this is nothing but superstition again. Do not be a fool you have to get to work. “Walk now Tom, Go, Go, Go! Tom leaped into the street.
Instantly everything faded to dark. Suddenly something disconnected Tom’s brain from reality.
When Tom came back into conscious awareness, a dim light seemed to be falling around him. Where am I? Am I dead?
No, I am alive because I can feel my arms and legs moving. My mind works. I know who I am. I can think so I must exist.
Did a car hit me in the crosswalk? My arms and legs are fine.. But yes, that must be what happened, a car in the crosswalk hit me, but still I am alive. I am probably in a hospital bed right now, and unconscious. I will just have to wait in this place until my body awakens, then I shall reenter my body. Then there will be light all around me. Then I shall return to my body and be whole again.
Tom looked at his wristwatch. It was precisely midnight. A chill ran through him.
He found himself walking down an abandoned street of a vacant district. A dusty house of cards in the middle of nowhere made just for him. Why is this realm so dark? I can barely see. He did not know where he was, or where he was going. The shops unlit, the buildings sterile, everything smelled of yellowed paper, mildew and dust. He walked a long way in isolation. He checked his watch again; it was exactly midnight. That cannot be, it was midnight half an hour ago. I must wind my watch. Tom began to wind his wristwatch. Fully wound? How can my watch be fully wound? Something strange is happening here. I see no people. No dogs, not even sewer rats not even insects. This place is desolate. It is like being on the moon.
He instinctively knew that no one worked, or lived in this town because the streets were covered in a heavy dust and there were no track of cars or pedestrians in the dust. As he squinted, trying to see as he made his way down the alleys. He strained to see in the shadows. As he walked and the streets were so quiet, he could hear his own heart beating. Then through a cloud, a sick, pale moonlight shone down on a town he mistrusted. Smoke-like fog rose up from the ground in whorls and covered the streets. Tom looked at his watch again, exactly midnight. What is wrong with this watch? He shook his forearm and wrist vigorously. Then he looked carefully at his watch. The second hand is not moving and this watch stopped exactly at midnight.
A chill ran down Tom’s spine, he folded his arms over his chest. Tom noticed that he was soaked with sweat but cold.
He started walking along the vacant streets to keep his mind occupied. His shoes stepped in dust, which had the consistency of powder. It was as if Tom was walking on the moon. He looked behind him and saw the deep imprints from his footsteps. He kicked at the dust, curiously, and a cloud of powder filled the air. He coughed violently. He looked at his shoe; a layer of dust coated it. He tried to wipe his shoe clean by rubbing it on the back of the left leg of his slacks. He was irritated with himself. He was also beginning to be afraid because there seemed to be no life in this place.
Tom walked around the corner into an alley. Tom squinted in disbelief, as he was certain that he saw a person standing in the distance. Tom smiled and waved. The person waved back at him.
Tom ran, encumbered by the dust, towards the person. When he was close, he realized it was not a man. He saw it was a beautiful woman standing there. She was in a short dress standing in the shadows of the dark street. Tom thought; she is smiling at me and I feel greatly relieved and aroused… It is almost as if she has been waiting there for me to arrive.
Even in the pale moonlight, I could see her dress was bright red—and…her lips they were red as well.
As I walked to her in the night, her eyes were fluid in dark swirling colors, of red wine, Arabian coffee, and Indian ink.
“Your lips are stained crimson,” I said to her.
It must be from a drop of her pricked blood. She surely smeared the blood on her lips.
My curiosity aroused, I leaned in towards her and I said, “I imagine that you rubbed that foul crimson tint in between your thumb and forefinger and colored your lips with you finger didn’t you?”
She did not reply but smiled again in a most becoming way. She then licked her lips. Then she smiled at Tom. Her smile was amazingly seductive.
She wants me, and I want her passionately. I want to make love to her.
Then she spoke to Tom. She leaned into Tom’s body space and whispered, “I would adore it very much if I could kiss you. I only want my lips to touch your lips—so gently that it makes us both ache, our lips—like a butterfly’s wings gently closing, and scarcely touching,” then she exhaled into Tom’s face. Her breath smelt divine, like roses and lavender soap.
I must taste her lips so I will know if it is her blood.
As if she read his mind she cooed. “I want you to taste my lips. And when we pull our lips apart, I want to them to cling to one another, reluctant to part—like new lovers.” She smiled cunningly with those red lips against teeth so white that they shined, even in the pale moonlight.
And then Tom leaned in to kiss her. It was a long, deep, sensuous kiss. It is her blood on her lips; it tastes like a mild percentage of both salt, and copper. I liked that. But more importantly, how did she ever learn to kiss like that? Who taught her—that is the best kiss I have ever had. He smiled and pulled back away to look at her again.
That was when he saw it; he shivered in horror.
“What the hell is this—what did I just do? I did not kiss a beautiful woman I kissed a monster. As I look before me I do not see a beautiful woman in a red dress, I see a being with elephantine skin, large cracked lips, and thick mucus dripping off them.”
The monster wore a dark hooded shroud. When he put his hood back on, his face was no longer visible. He was a hood and cloak of darkness standing there facing Tom.
Before Tom could gasp in horror, Death had its cold bony handover his mouth. Death then exhaled a deep, foul, breath, emptying his lungs.
And before Tom could beg or say that one last prayer for forgiveness Death put its dry cracked lips on Tom’s mouth. Then Death sucked in from Tom’s body and snuffed the fluttering candle flame of existence, sucking his life out of his very soul. Death took Tom’s life into his foul lungs and walked off.
Tom had no more thoughts or cognizance. Tome left behind only a corpse lying in a hospital bed but was not aware of it. Tom was gone—forever.
The Word Press Editor’s pick: Award for consistently publishing blog posts with only the most hideously, incomprehensible, misspelling of common nouns, an inexcusable tendency towards shocking profanity, an appalling misapplication of punctuation symbol “!,” and a senseless, butchery of English Grammar.
Monkey Wrench Blog Apart from the Rest
Public Endorsements of Monkey Wrench Blog by Big Name Players.
- Word Press Staff: “A humiliating disgrace to the Blogging Community.”
- Yahoo! News: “The Little Blog that Couldn’t.”
- Google: “This Blog is a festering abscess on the buttocks of search engine technology query returns.
- Bing : “We do not believe in censorship, but there is always an exception, This blog is it.”
- Monkey Wrench Blog Visitor: “This blog…It just made me sick… I felt dirty afterwards and I still cannot wash the shame off.
“One will need to drink in order to muddle their wayt through this arcane, circuitous, gobbledygook. Bryan Edmondson has a third grade education–at best. He is the only blogger we have ever seen to start a sentence with a ‘?’ mark and use less periods than Faulkner.” -The New Yorker.
“Visiting Monkey Wrench Blog is much like reading a Russian novel in braille, but only being allowed to use your toes to feel the bumps with,” said Samuel Jackson.
Pinky Middleton, a grad student working on his PhD. at The Anvil Foundation, tried to write his dissertation on this blog. Middleton contended that the egregious errors were really a brilliant puzzle, the cipher of genius, an intricate maze within a maze.
Working nonstop, drinking 20 cups of coffee per day, and using a Hewlett Packard calculator, Middleton painstakingly undertook decoding Monkey Wrench Blog posts, After reading Monkey Wrench Blog at the keyboard of his Dell Inspiron, for 9 straight days without sleep. Pinky was purportedly rambling incoherently about being the other son of God. Later that day Middleton was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for delusions of grammar. The Anvil Fake News
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE HOUSTON: THOUSANDS ANGERED BY INDEFENSIBLE MISUSE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The Victim Shelter: 87 Blog Visitors were so abused by the abhorrent misuse of the English Language at “Monkey Wrench” that they were forced to go to a victim’s shelter or live on the streets. Monkey Wrench Victims Shelter bases its recovery plan on a monotonous 12 step program. “It really works, and you only have to come to a meeting 3 times a day for the rest of your life,” said a recovery victim while blinking one eye in a Post Traumatic Facial Tic. The 3 victims who made it out of the halfway house, college graduates, again began living their lives independently. They are said to panhandle between 12 step meetings, and to take life “one day at a time.” When a mean spirits scientist doing an unethical study showed the recovering graduates a computer monitor with the Monkey Wrench Blog on the home page, they began to cry, sweat, and curl up into a ball and rock for hours. The scientist performing the study then applied electric shocks to the survivors at arbitrary intervals, as he thought it was funny. Medical Doctors think that survivors made need to take strong psychotropic medications for a theraputic period. That period being the rest of their lives.
The Late William Strunk said, “This Blog Makes me roll over in my grave.”The deceased literary guru is expected to make a posthumous, zombie, staggering path, more or less straight, for “Monkey Wrench Blog,” headquarters, “To exact revenge.”
This will prove difficult as the dead scholar is not looking for a man named “Bryan,” who is a 57 year old, unemployed, dead animal, shoveling, removal technician, at the animal crematorium in Houston Texas. Bryan still still lives alone with his mother, pecking away at a keyboard on a Dell Inspiron Laptop in the attic which he lives in.
Please don’t believe the rumors. This Blog is rolling out great American Novels like toilet paper. Bryan Edmondson writes 40 words a day. Most he has to look up the definition for, like “Bastard” a word he sees in many flaming posts from flaming Blog visitors outraged by this blog. A blog in this reporters opinion, that is “Avery smelly sack of very small potatoes.”
The Simple Pleasures in Life are the things that make Life Good.
During the 1960’s, in the scorching Texas summers, I got to vacation for one month at my favorite place on earth, at Grandpa and Grandma Hill’s house in Blanco County. They lived in a humble, wonderful house. A house with uneven poured concrete floors, hard asbestos wall shingles, a steep corrugated tin roof, and a large tined TV antenna perched on top.
Then was the glory of my fleeting youth. I was a toe headed, barefoot kid, and growing like a weed. Every day in the late mornings, Grandpa and I would pile into his old white pickup truck. We drove from the house, truck squeaking, and rolling down the big hill, headed towards the Blanco River, which gouges out its path straight through the middle of the Blanco State Park.
As we rode down the town hill with the windows rolled down, the wind stirred up odors inside the cab of the pickup truck. I remember smelling the acrid scent of the hot, cracked, vinyl seat. I remember the smell of the churning cloud of Grandpa’s burning, cigarette smoke. The roasted, sweet-smelling, tobacco lightly bit at my nostrils. I can remember the smell of butane gas, which actually fueled the truck. The most pleasant smell of all was the scent of the sweat and musk of Grandpa’s wrinkled, elephantine skin. It smelled like happiness and safety.
Inside the Blanco Park, Grandpa let me swim in the calm, glass-like, water above the dam and small waterfall. The water was a cool, green-blue.
As I swam, I sipped water from the river. I can remember the taste of the Blanco River. It tasted of earthen clay and the sweet moss below the banks.
The river water had a smell, much like the wind, which arrives just before a hard, summer, rain shower in the rolling hills of Kendalia; the same breeze which brings in the aroma of turned over earth, as heavy raindrops pelt the fertile sod, in the freshly plowed fields.
The section of the Blanco River, above the State Park, flows down from the mountains in the high country. As the river courses downwards, other natural water sources nourish the river along the way.
The occasional, heavy rainstorms in the foothills shed a torrent of excess water. The watershed rushes downhill, in narrow, jagged creeks, carved into the limestone. The rainwater crashes white against the jagged, fallen rocks, which line the creek beds; always finding its way back to the womb of the Blanco River
As the river runs down from the hills, there are also dozens of clear natural springs along the way. Their pure water babbles cold, rising out of narrow cracks in the bedrock that lies atop the water table. These crystalline springs collect in clear pools, and they seep through the soil, and move down into the Blanco River.
The riverbanks upriver leading into the high lands are ancient. And over the centuries, the stirring undercurrents of the Blanco River rolled, pushed along, and slowly shaped pieces of limestone broken away from the rock-hard riverbed.
The erosion by water left countless, rounded, stones of all sizes along the banks. When the river is low, these white rocks lay in visible piles along the Blanco River, like a graveyard of dinosaur bones.
For an era, the sun slowly bleached the smooth stones white. And whenever the summer sun shone upon them, they always held the baking heat within them, coveting it for hours after the sunset.
When Grandpa and I drove to Blanco State Park, I could not wait to get out of the truck and swim in the river. Grandpa watched me while I swam until I got tired. Then he would tell me to come out of the water. He always let me go play down below the park dam. I stood underneath the cool, rolling waterfall, feeling the water beat down upon my body as a heavy, pounding, clear sheet of liquid.
A waterfall slapping against my body, felt a lot like the times when I held my hand out of a speeding car window, and opened my palm to drag against a 60 mph airstream. I would hold my hand out into the wind until my hand got red, puffy, throbbed, and tingled,
These two forceful currents, the wind on my hand and the waterfall, pushed much more powerfully against me than I ever imagined they would.
When standing in the pummeling waterfall began to hurt my body, I would walk right through the rolling mass of water, and go stand inside a small pocket of humid, but breathable air inside. I discovered this magical space one summer surreptitiously. It existed in stillness, between the rolling plane of water falling behind my back, and the slick, green moss on the concrete dam in front of my face.
There is enough room inside to turn around and look the other way. That is, to stare through the translucent, rolling plane of the waterfall, and look outside into the light. I could not see things clearly through the waterfall, but I could make out certain objects. I saw blurred shapes and I could know things by their distorted shapes.
I could identify the diffuse, contours of blurred, green, pastel forms as being trees in the park. I knew that the bright, white, slowly wandering circles I saw were swimming ducks down river from the dam. And I could see the silhouettes of peripatetic, clay-like, oval shadows, which I knew, were people walking along the rocky shores of the river. Inside the magic pocket, looking out, the world I saw was much like seeing it looking through a clear plastic of Tupperware dish.
I always yelled my name inside the pocket of air. I would hear my voice echo, bouncing off the rolling sheet of the waterfall, and the moss covered concrete wall of the dam. The falling water chopped the sound of the echo into a vibrating hum, like when one talks into the rushing air against the metal blades of an old fan.
At noon grandpa told me it was time to get out of the water. When I got out, I walked up, and across the rocky bank. As I did, I felt the warm, rounded rocks on the bank pressing into the souls of my bare feet. I also felt the smaller, rounded rocks slightly turn underneath me, as I carefully walked across them. When I made my way up to the grassy flat of the park, Grandpa gave me a towel to dry off with, and then he made me wear it around my neck and shoulders so I would not get sunburned. When I was dry, we got back into Grandpa’s old truck and chugged up the hill, heading back home.
Grandma always made us an enormous lunch. She made a delicious, aromatic spread, filling the speckled red and white Formica top of the small kitchen table, with at least a dozen dishes of different foods.
Grandma had an old, black, iron skillet and a gas stove. The kitchen was unbearably hot and filled with the smell of onions, butter, baked bread, sweet corn milk, and aromatic green vegetables cooked with bacon.
Grandma always made my favorite dish; a skillet of brown, crispy, fried okra, with onions, and crunchy potato bits, which all tasted of bacon grease, left over from the morning breakfast. She cooked a variety of freshly picked, organic vegetables right out of the garden.
We had boiled yellow squash cut into circles, with their white tender seeds. We had Swiss chard, boiled with bits of bacon. We ate fresh boiled ears of corn, rolled in rich creamy butter, and sprinkled lightly with salt. I got corn stuck in between my teeth and I did not care.
We nibbled at beefy, red tomato slices. The tomatoes were chilled, and seconds before we ate a round slice, with its sharp, sweet, crimson pulp and green seeds, we sprinkled the chilled slice lightly with salt.
We had large, airy slices of sweet smelling homemade bread. Grandma put the slices of bread in the gas oven and broiled them until the tops were a crunchy, toasted, brown, with butter drizzling on the tops.
And we always had a huge steaming plate full of savory ground hamburger and green onions.
Grandma always made sure that I drank whole milk for my bones, and after lunch she went to the freezer, scooped me a round, white ball of creamy vanilla ice cream, and she put it atop one of those sweet, baked, crunchy ice cream cones I that I loved to chew so much.
Grandma never, ever let me go hungry.
After I digested lunch, I spent the afternoons outside running bonkers around the house. I felt the sun burning on the back of my neck and shoulders. As I ran barefoot, I felt the cool, green blades of carpet grass caress my feet and rustle in between my toes.
As I ran round the back of the house, I passed by the freshly tilled garden, which smelled of dark, fertile soil, sweet cow manure, sharp tomato plant stalks, and the sweet, creamy, silken threads, sprouting atop the ears of corn on the stalk.
It was too hot for me to stay outside very long in the sweltering, August Sun. My Grandma always let me play, but she worried herself sick that I would get heatstroke. She would bring me a mason jar of ice water every 30 minutes, and would not leave until she watched me drink it.
When I came in blistered and miserable at the end of the day, Grandma cut pieces from her Aloe Vera plant, squeezed the soothing gelatinous pulp out, and then rubbed it all over me.
I vividly remember those dry, penetrating, summer heat in Blanco. The heat got unbearable at times. The punishing sun in the Hill Country was larger-than-life, as it rose up its curving path in the sky to its highest point. Once there, the sun just seemed to stop, and purposely hang above the entire earth, blazing furiously, in a cloudless, pale blue sky.
The summer Sun was cruel. It had no pity for the farmers, their crops, the livestock, our Blanco River, or the townsfolk. The August sun shone on me and it stung. It was a dry, baking heat, the kind of heat that bleaches cow skulls white out in back fields of ranchers.
The sun shone and scorched the rich plowed soil in Grandma’s garden. The soil was so blistering, that I could not stand barefoot in the garden long enough to pick the red, plump tomatoes for our supper. The soles of my feet throbbed and burned as I hopped in the loose soil, from one foot to the other.
No one in Blanco had central air conditioning back then. So about 3 p.m., when it was the hottest, the whole town of Blanco rather stopped, and people rested in the shade until it was cool enough to work out in the sun again.
At this hottest part of the day, Grandpa, Grandma, and I all sat outside underneath the massive leafy canopy of an enormous Box Elder shade tree.
We sat underneath the leafy giant in red, shellback, metal lawn chairs. We simply rocked rhythmically, passing the time lazily, languishing in the slow-dancing shadows that swathed us.
Grandpa sometimes took the water hose and sprayed water on the tree’s leaves to make the shade cooler. Occasionally, when a breeze came, for just a few seconds, it felt like early fall in that moist shade.
Grandpa build a round, white table underneath the shade tree by welding a metal pipe to the hub of an old, horse drawn, wagon wheel. The spoked iron wheel sat flat atop the pole. Grandpa cut a round piece of thick plywood to lie on top of the iron wheel, and he coated the wooden surface with white, waterproof paint.
We ate cold, striped watermelon right out of the icebox on that table. Grandpa took a long, shiny knife and cut the watermelon into large, wedged, pieces on the tabletop. We all ate the watermelon, with a saltshaker on the table.
I gnawed into my large wedge of cold melon, until I buried my face in the spongy, red pulp. Sweet, sticky juice ran down the sides of my cheeks, and dribbled down my neck. As I ate the watermelon, I would spit the seeds out in the grass as far as I could. Grandpa eyeballed the distance I spit the seeds. He estimated that I could spit an oval seed up to 8 feet through the air before it hit the ground.
When we finished eating the cold slices of melon, Grandpa threw the white rhines into the fallow edge of the garden to fertilize the soil. The tabletop was sticky with the read juice of watermelon pulp afterwards, so Grandpa got the hose and washed off the round table. The flow of clear water pooled on the waterproof paint, it lifted the black oval watermelon seeds on the round white circle, and they coasted across the tabletop, falling off into the carpet grass.
The heat dried the round table in a short amount of time, and when it was dry, we played dominoes. Laying all of the dominoes face down on the table, we shuffled the boneyard, and the dominoes clacked in a rapid tempo, like popping corn snapping. When Grandpa beat us ruthlessly at dominoes, we put all the dominoes back in their cardboard box. Then we just rested in the shade listening to the leaves of the shade tree softly rustle in the breeze.
About that time, Grandma Vera went to the kitchen and boiled a pot of water. When it cooled a bit she steeped loose, tealeaves in it, stirred in half a cup of white sugar, and allowed it to cool. She poured the tea into a gallon glass pitcher. Grandma brought this pitcher to the round table and poured the ice tea into Mason jars, which she had filled with jagged-edged, ice-picked, shards of frozen ice. Grandma always topped off her ice tea with a few fresh, mint leaves from her garden.
Grandma was the greatest. She died one day of a stroke, about a decade before Grandpa died. It seems like two hundred years since I hugged Grandma. But I can still hear her laugh, and recall the little things that she always did to make my life wonderful.
Things like making me a hot, store-bought, pizza in the summertime, and letting me eat it, as I watched the black and white television set, while lying on my stomach, on the living room floor. And she always made me an ice cream cone when I was finished, so as to cool me down inside the unconditioned house.
Or during the cold December, at Christmas time, when Grandma, hand sewed individual sticks of juicy-fruit, chewing gum, all around the pungent, 8-foot, cedar tree. My Grandpa always drove to Kendalia, and found the perfect cedar tree, by walking out into a backfield, and he chopped it down, and brought it home in the bed of his pickup truck every Christmas.
Grandma would always take the time to make her magical snow for the tree. She simply took a box of white, ivory, soap flakes, and beat it with water, using a mix master and a large bowl. When she carried the bowl of whipped, white, frothy soap into the living room, she carefully coated the dark, green leaves all over the cedar branches, using a large wooden spoon. She took great care to coat the entire cedar tree, with the thick, ivory snow.
I can still remember seeing the white, frocked, Christmas tree on Christmas morning. I remember walking barefoot into the cold living room, and seeing the dozens of yellow sticks of juicy-fruit, chewing gum, hanging from the branches of the white tree. The two hundred pastels of Christmas, light bulbs highlighted the yellow sticks of gum, along with the red and golden, glass ornaments, which all intertwined in the branches of the snow-covered tree.
I could always remember the sight of that heavenly Christmas tree, on a cold, windy, December day. I could recall the cold living room and the snowy, Christmas, anytime of the year that I wanted to. And I always thought about Grandma’s tree, when it was the middle of a sweltering, sun-backed, August. Whenever I was hot and sweaty, with the sun stinging the back of my neck, 0n a dry, Blanco summer day, I would make myself remember Grandmas white, Christmas tree, so it would cool me down a bit, inside of my mind.
Blanco summers, and all the things that I did in August with Grandpa and Grandma, blessed me with the simple pleasures, which made my boyhood years wonderful.
I will always remember the taste, and smell of the Blanco River water, the humming echo of yelling my name in the secret, pocket inside the waterfall, the safe scent and musk of Grandpa’s body, the smells inside the old white truck, and the sound of it squeaking down the hill to the Blanco State Park. I will always remember the aroma of the dark soil, and growing vegetables in Grandma’s bountiful garden, and the simple Formica table, crowded with the best food I ever ate.
I will remember running bonkers around the house in the blazing, golden, sun. But most of all, I think I will most vividly recall, Grandpa, Grandma and I lounging around in our private shaded heaven. I will always recollect sitting around the white, wagon-wheel table, underneath the green, swaying canopy of thousands of leaves.
I will continue to see us having fun, and hear us laughing while Grandpa, Grandma, and I were eating watermelon, playing dominoes, or just sitting quietly, rocking in a metal, shell back, lawn chair, contained by the huge shadows, underneath the cool, wetted leaves of the enormous box elder.
A few years after both Grandma and Grandpa were dead; a severe rainstorm came through Blanco. During this storm, cruel, hurricane-like, winds blew over our Box Elder shade tree.
The wagon wheel table still stood, but it ached of loneliness, isolated in the open plot of the grassy side yard. The table stood with dignity for years, determined and upright. It never lost its pride, even as its wooden top slowly deteriorated, cracked, and flaked apart the raging sun.
It would have killed Grandpa and Grandma to see that huge, wonderful shade tree laying on the ground, and then later cut up for firewood.
Later my mother sold the house, and the new owners uprooted that wonderful old wagon-wheel table, and just threw it away.
Our shaded paradise under the Tree at the table was gone forever.
I would do anything to be able to upright the felled Box Elder and bring Grandpa and Grandma back. If had one wish, and was granted the power to do anything I could want; I would use my wish to magically rewind the clock of my lifetime, and live as a boy forever, permanently on vacation in the Blanco summertime. I would spend my days sharing everything wonderful about Blanco with Grandpa and Grandma. And I would make sure to love them even a little bit more than I did half a century ago.
I never will have my wish to go back and be a boy, and live with Grandpa and Grandma, but I do not really have to, because I can still feel them, and they are both part of me.
Grandpa and Grandma live on in the best memories of my Lifetime
The day seemed like a curse; unfortunately, it was not over with yet.
Back at the Cemetery there was only one car left in the Funeral Parking lot. It belonged to the parents of the dead little boy. The father and mother were still rigid beside the grave inside the cemetery. Even the Funeral Director awkwardly excused himself to abandon the unfinished burial ceremony to escape the unendurable iciness.
The father and mother were in an out-and-out state of helplessness and hostility.
The exodus was a big reason for why the father and mother remained there at the grave, standing silent and motionless.
The other reason is that they did not want to go home and be alone with one another. They might have given the impression of emotional numbness to the casual eye. However, beneath their stolid outer surfaces, emotional discord plagued the two spouses. And there had been a noticeable rift between the husband and wife ever since the death.
Be it the loss of the boy, the abandonment of the burial by others, or the ill feelings between them, they refused to face the problem, which they easily accomplished by not talking about it. And this is how they each dealt with their contaminated emotions in their marriage—disconnected and uncommunicative. And this almost seemed normal to them by now.
But all the horrible feelings that they had been pushing down and avoiding the whole time began to revolt. And repressed festering emotions and unsaid thoughts began to climb themselves out of each person’s throat unassisted, and they wanted to scream of their existence.
“Let’s just go, Joan!” the father barked without looking at her. He left her there, and took off toward the car.
The mother looked up, hopeless and crushed; she scurried after her husband trying to catch up. She ran behind him imploring, “Tom, Tom!” Her husband increased his gate but she still chased after him.
“Tom! We have to talk about this; we have not said two words between each other since the accident.”
The father did not respond, he just pressed on ahead of her, his face was red, his temple veins were visible, and his facial muscles were rigid..
“Tom!” she grabbed his arm, “It was an accident!”
“Is that what you are calling it now, Joan, a mere mishap?” The father jerked his arm away aggressively and her fingernails accidentally scratched at his suit cuff, fraying fibers, as her arm snapped back. The father swung his arms as he hastened his stride to the car.
“Tom, why not just say what you have been thinking all along? It is all over your face.” She started sobbing, “Just go ahead, and say it; say it, and get it over with!”
The father stopped, turned towards his wife, and glowered at her with sharp eyes and narrowed eyebrows, “What do you want me to say! Our only child is dead Joan” He talked with his hands in the air, gesticulating vehemently, “Caleb was 8 years old—8 years old!” he barked. “And he died with such a horrible death; his body bore a permanent frown that the mortician could not even straighten!”
He grimaced looking down at the ground in devastation, “For God’s sake, Joan, they had to drag his body out of the ice with a grappling hook.”
The father’s mood sank into a lull of despair. Then his anger surged back again. “And now I have to live with that image in my head! I have to see it every day, for the rest of my life.”
“And I don’t Tom?” she said angry and hurt, “Don’t you think I would give my life in a second to bring Caleb back for 5 minutes?”
The father shook his head in anger. “It’s a little too late for that Joan. He is dead.”
“You are not being fair Tom; I have to live with this just as much as you, and even more,” She said in cold, cutting tone, “Yes, much more Tom. I have to bear the burden of your silent eyes’ accusations.” I see what you think in your eyes; it is always there, every time you look at me.”
The husband said nothing; he just snorted air from his nostrils while shaking his head forcefully, and it was body language invalidating her entire statement.
As if trying to convince her she pleaded her point, “Tom, it was nobody’s fault. All of those children were skating on the lake. They all always have skated on that lake. Even in late August.
And there has never been any danger. The ice has never once broken, ever, even in September.” She begged, “Tom this was November. It was just a horrible accident. No one could have known this would happen, especially not in November.”
Both parents got to the car; each opened their own door and they got in the car. The father sat in the driver’s seat, blood boiling; he heard the pressure of blood coursing through the veins of his temples with a whoosh.
The mother sat in silent anger towards her husband, and also self-loathing, as she snapped her seatbelt on in the passenger seat. She had been so upset she forgot to shut her door. In fact, both doors were hanging wide open.
The husband’s key was not even in the ignition, his keys clenched in his left hand squeezing his fist around them like a nutcracker. Bob looked into his wife’s face with fiery eyes. He started fiercely pointing an accusing right finger in her face.
“Damn it Joan! This is not just another November! There has never been a November this warm in 25 years! You know that Joan, it was on the news every day for a week and you even commented on it!
The father shouted in her face, “Caleb never should have been allowed to skate on that goddamned lake this November!” He turned away and slapped his right palm on the steering wheel forcefully, slapping at it two times, and looked out the left open door, he bit his lower, he said nothing, he breathed, he thought, he shook his head. And finally, he shook his head. He turned his back towards the passenger seat, snapping his head to stare her directly in the eyes. “But he did go skating on that lake this warm November Joan, did he not? I am pretty sure that Caleb did not ask for my permission. In fact he never could have asked me that day because I was at the office at the time.”
“What the Hell does that supposed to mean!” screamed the mother defensively, “Well! What are you wanting to say?” she demanded, “You think I killed Caleb? Is that what you are you saying, Tom?” The mother’s eyes were horrified. “Oh my God, that is it Bob isn’t it, you think…do really blame me for this horrible tragedy?”
“All I am saying Joan…” He paused to think, “…All I am saying Joan, is that if I had been the only adult at home; Caleb never would have been allowed to go near that lake; and he would not have been out there skating, not even in November, not in this warm spell.”
“So that’s it after all isn’t it Tom? The mother’s voice became frantic; I let him go skate with all the other kids so I am some sort of a murderer?” She broke down sobbing. “How can you imply I did this knowing what would happen! How could you even say such a think?”
“I did not say that Joan, you said it!” barked the father. “Ok, you really want to know what I think.”
The mother cried, “Yes! Yes! Put me on trial Bob, no jury, and no appeal, just pass your sentence upon me, and send me to the executioner.”
“All right Dear, it’s simple, if I had been the one at home, I never would have let Caleb go skating on that unstable lake. You were at home though and you let Caleb go despite the weather reports. You knew better Joan! But you sent our boy out onto that deadly ice anyway!” He screamed, “If it had not been for you, Caleb would be alive right now! Yes, god damnit you killed our son when you sent him out on that dangerous ice! That was your child that you gave birth to, and he will never come back because of you!”
The mother’s eyes stared a thousand yards away, she focused on nothing, and she was in the hell of her own mind. Joan tried to speak but let out only a silent word; it failed to come from her terrorized face, which cried a torrent of tears in two briny streams. She could only writhe in a grimace of horror, and merely mouthed out mysterious words from a crooked mouth, mute and crooked from agony. She censured herself now.
And now that she agreed with what her husband had said to her so abusively, she now said those words, those accusations, to herself. Moreover her own accusations against herself, would forever speak at her, over and over, like a tape recorder playing inside of her mind, and the voice that Joan heard on that tape would be her own.
Thus, it did not matter what the truth was any longer. It would not change her mind. She believed what she told herself. She had tried, judged, and convicted herself of being guilty of all of it. And there would be no appeal or expiation for such a crime.
Similarly, her husband’s job was finished; he need not bother to exert the effort to accuse his wife any more. Bob did not need to blame his wife ever again, for the simple reason that she would endlessly do a much better job of torturing herself with pain and guilt and blame than he could ever possibly do.
And now she would never give herself no pardon from the felony, for the atrocity, for here sin of sins that she committed against her own flesh and blood. Emotionally beyond salvage, she would go to her grave with this.
Bitter shame soon overcame the father with regret for what he said. But the mother said nothing at all, completely defeated, she sat silently in the car, still staring at nothing with dead eyes.
She lost something inside of her that she needed desperately and now and it was gone. She did not know how to get it back. She did not even know what to look for.
She became limp and slowly slumped over upon herself, her face fallen between her knees. Her arms wrapped around her knees and she rocked silently.
Then at first the faint sound, a unsettling noise. And soon the sound grew louder and brasher as she rocked. Joan was forever marked from that fight, for she was not crying she was wailing, grieving in a helpless child-like manner.
Then in a primal, visceral fashion, she began to howl in a ghastly disconcerting manner. The distressed emission was not like a human. It was an eerie howling sounded much more like that of a wounded animal, than a cry like that of a person.
The father jumped out of his seat and stood up. He stood motionless for a few seconds, and then overcome with tortuous emotions; he began to take his fist and pound the roof of the sedan over and over, as hard as he could. The metal slightly dented under each blow. He was so worked up he could not feel his hands. Then he realized that they were bleeding badly and he gave it up and stopped.
He lay the side of his face on the bloody roof and burst out in bitter weeping and sorrow. His son was gone. He had hurt his wife. Yet he did not feel he was wrong. And he still blamed her and had not intentions to forgive her for the death of his son.
A surge of hate soon poisoned his natural weeping. It was hate for himself, hate for his wife, hate for the loss of his son, and hate for the ruinous curse of the funeral.
He wiped his tears on his sleeve, walked around the car and shut his wife’s door, he shut it so hard and quick that they glass almost broke, but his howling wife did not even flinch in her grief.
Bob walked back around the car and climbed in his side; he shut his door, and put the key in the ignition.
He reached for a cigarette, but then threw it away. He started the cold car and began slowly pulling out of the parking lot. He did not say a single word to his wife driving home. And all that while, his wife had never stopped howling, she could not control it, and as the car drove out that wounded animal-like howling was the only sound heard until the car was a good distance away.
There is only one place in the whole world where you can get it. And I savored it whenever I visited my grandparents in Blanco, Texas during the summer. It is what I simply called, “Blanco Water,” and the Blanco Municipal Water Supply was processed and purified right out of the Blanco River.
Hands-down, flat-out, Blanco, Texas is the source of the best glass of water that I ever grasped in my sweaty little hands. “Blanco Water,” tastes like it is “alive” with something pure, something clean, and it always quenches the thirst, being natural, full bodied, and wholesome.
As a boy, in the summer I preferred to drink the water right from the tap of my Grandma Vera’s kitchen sink. I would turn on the cold-water and fill an old Mason jar all the way to the rim.
I gulped down the “Blanco Water,” tightfistedly; spilling some of the clear beverage around the sides of my open mouth, feeling the cool streams run pleasantly down my sweaty neck. I finished the rest, lapping it over and behind my tongue, and then slugging it down my gullet.
Even after purification, the Blanco municipal water still has the essence and the taste of the river in it—you can take the water out of the Blanco River, but you cannot take Blanco out of the water.
“Blanco Water,” smells like the rich earth. Immediately before a heavy summer rainstorm at my Grandpa’s Morris’s farm in kendalia, there was always a first a moist, living breeze that arrived.
This breeze moved just ahead of where the rain shower was going. It had the earthy smell of iron, minerals, and the savor of the plowed-over organic matter’s fertility. “Blanco Water,” rather smells like this summer rainstorm breeze to me.
I do not really know why “Blanco Water,” smells and tastes so good. Maybe it is the moss on the banks of the river, the earthen minerals in the clay, or the limestone bed rock bottom of the river. It might even be the trace of that “5 pound bass that got away,” slowly moseying along, in the cool green shadows of the river.
In August, our whole lot would sit under a giant Box Elder shade tree when got too hot. My Grandma Vera took Blanco Water, steeped it with tealeaves, sugar, and poured it all into a gallon glass pitcher.
Grandma brought this pitcher to the round table that 3 generations sat around lazily in the cool summer shade. She poured the ice tea into Mason jars filled with jagged-edged, ice-picked, shards of frozen crystal water.
Grandma always topped off her ice tea with a few fresh mint leaves from her backyard garden. Grandma Vera was the best. I really miss her. I miss those boyhood days.
That was half a century ago. Yet I can still smell and taste the memories of all of this when I drink a glass of “Blanco Water.”
In the womb as unborn babies, we each shared ourselves with our mother through the umbilical cord of life. In this union, we are totally dependent upon our mother for our very existence. We received nourishment from our mother. And with her, we also shared the very same breath of life.
Through this connection with our mother, we joined together in the union of a shared human bond of safety and love. We needed our mother, just as our mother needed us to need her also. The psychologically healthy bond between two people fulfills the needs of both individuals
I believe that as we live out our lives, we carry an unconscious emotional craving for this original nascent union. We seem to seek emotional connections with other human beings to satisfy our craving. We still seem to need to share our selves. We all need to need someone, and at the same time, we need to feel needed by him or her. I think one human being must join emotionally with other human beings in order to feel fulfilled, in order to be truly happy, and even in order to survive. Continue reading
8-year-old Ricky remained focused, carefully counting the number of paces as he walked away from the playground and headed straight out into the vast, open, grassy field of the city park. Ricky was a boy curious about all things. And the 8-year-old wanted to know exactly how many steps it was from the merry go round, to the spot-on center of the open green expanse.
Ricky counted his paces in his mind, while his mouth worked silently, as it always did whenever he was in deep thought. He never let himself daydream or lose his count; on the contrary, he tallied each successive pace, noting the incrementing total with a pronounced seriousness. Finally, he was nearly to his destination. He kept his eye on the central point as he counted… 497, 498, and 499. Ricky stopped. He was standing on the spot.
It took the young boy exactly 499 paces to get from the merry go round, to the exact spot-on center of the lush, emerald-green field. If Ricky’s total step count had been a perfect, round numbered 500, he would have been quite suspicious of himself. Most 8-year-old boys would take an extra step on purpose, and pretend that they had not, because a total of exactly 500 steps would seem joyfully miraculous, and a lot luckier than 499—but it was not honest, and the total would not be true. Most boys would not care. But Ricky would, and he knew life usually gave you a less exciting, but correct number. So this is how he knew that the count was indeed 499 steps exactly.
As he stood at center point, Ricky noticed his shadow. The afternoon sun that day was a joyful radiant orb and it bathed the park in long, extending, golden rays of light. Continue reading