Monday, November 30, 2009

No Laughing Matter

(Donkeyland, a Side Street Saga—a 1950)

They were rather a grubby and unruly bunch (The Donkeyland Gang, so the police called them, us), and they were sometimes pretty rebellious, but just the same, like any other large neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the 1950s, and early ‘60s, they had their self-importance. They pert near all stuck together. Just suppose you had a few too many drinks in the neighborhood, on a weekend night, and you felt a little argumentative, or confrontational and not reluctant to a fight yourself, and you happened to meet someone, a stranger, down around the turnaround where the guys hung-out, and he got smart with you, and you gave him a little lip back, “Come on lets duke it out!”
And the stranger got ready to punch you out—
He better not do that. The devil only knows how many of the neighborhood guys you’d have on your hands. It would be like Custer’s last stand. They’d come forward like lightening, appearing out of nowhere, out of the allies, and houses and behind trees, and garages, as it were.
Now you take anyone of them guys. You could trust those fellows (well, most of them). None of them would stick a knife into you anyhow. That’s what they’d not do.
And just think of it, most of the girls from that neighborhood would marry into that bunch. I suppose that’s no way to put it. But that’s how it was. There were a few fellows, crazy like bananas, and there were a few smart-alecks of the neighborhood, young men who should have known better, encouraging the crazy one’s to do crazy things. I don’t remember any philosophic ones, but Roger would make wise-cracks about people…and Doug was one of the smart-alecks, and Jerry (we called him Ace) and Dan (just crazy Dan) were two of the crazy’s. And Gunner was Mike, my brother, who liked to windup the engines in his hotrods lay rubber on the street—as they referred to it back then, and mouse was really Gary, the mechanic, and Chick Evens, the poet (that’s me), to name a few, and there were a lot of cousins among the Lund’s.
On the weekends, especially on Friday nights, and sometimes all day on Saturday, thru Sunday afternoons, there’d be a party out there at Jerry and Betty Hino’s house. There’d be beer, plenty of that, and wine and sometimes there’d be some whiskey, even sometimes friends of the bunch in the neighborhood would show up, drop a name, and join in on the party, folks who really were not of the neighborhood. And some of us drank so hard, and in time died of the sickness. But Betty was always friendly and willing to share her hot meals to those who would stick around and drink for several hours. Between the two, Jerry and Better, I think they had fourteen-kids (from previous marriages).
And there were among us, all kinds of rough people too.
There were several girls unmarried, Nancy and Carol, and Jennie, and her sister Jacky, and Katharine and her twin sister (whom Chick Evens dated both Jackie and Katharine for a season), and Jennie married, one of the Lund’s and there were two Nancy’s, one married a Lund, another David. And there was Shelly, who dated Roger; her father was the caretaker from Oakland Cemetery, near Cayuga Street.
But the parties never ended, nor the drinking, and sometimes dancing and singing and just general hell raising and maybe a fight or two. And when you turned sixteen or seventeen, when you looked older than you were, and found an ID, that said you were twenty-one, “What the hell?” most of us said, it’s my neighborhood, and off to the two bars that were on two corners one across from the other, by Jackson and Sycamore Streets. And there’d you’d start your bar drinking—thinking as we thought back then—a man’s king in his own neighborhood, ain’t he?
Chick, one of the two Evens’ boys, playing guitars with Bill K., and Sonny M., and singing Elvis and Rick Nelson songs, were sullen and seldom looking for a fight when they’d go drinking, and they were much like that at home. They’d rather be drinking and singing songs, like Johnny Cash’s, “Ring of Fire,” or Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” or Rick Nelson’s “Traveling Man,” than breaking into boxcars for several cases of beer, or selling stolen copper back to the junkyards, from where they originally took it, although, Chick Evens was not innocent of those crimes completely.
And during those now far-off years, many of the boys ended up at Red Wing’s incarceration center for breaking the law— a sort of boystown, and some of boys ended up in prison and jail. These were the hard-boiled young men stilling cars and using them for racing in the neighborhood, among other things; which was no laughing matter.
And pretty near everyone smoked cigarettes—and in later years, pot, and there wasn’t any boy in the neighborhood who could out drink Ace, or out fight Larry. There was even a few that didn’t drink like Pat, who did much weightlifting, but those fellows you could count on one hand. And we’d say, “He’s fine, don’t bother him about drinking, he’s got to keep up those muscles,” and we all understood, Pat even got Chick Evens into weightlifting, and Pat’s sister, as pretty as a doll, never hung around with the bunch, I suppose she didn’t like everyone howling drunk.
I wasn’t much of a neighborhood guy, but you could live in it, if you were by a hair's breadth, friends with the neighbored itself. They lived. They married and had children. Now of course they are pretty old. Ace, perhaps seventy or more, he bought us boozes all the time (being underage); he was the oldest of the group. I’d like to know how their doing now, for they’re nearly all gone I hear. Some died, in the Vietnam War, alcoholism or/drugs, heart attacks, cancer, took them, and some were carried off to a state instruction; also accidents took a few like Sid and Kathy. Perhaps there were thirty of us, a few more a few less.
It was just a little strip of land, called Donkeyland, a mere street called Cayuga was the epicenter, which is now empty, a parking lot, and empty spaces, I suppose somewhere in that near vicinity, a new neighbor has taken its place, so I heard, with no code of honor. There will always be at least one such place; before us, there was the Mississippi Rats (a decade earlier), so I heard, and new one of those guys, they’d now be in their eighties.
We all played softball in that empty lot next to my grandfather’s house, and we got silly drunk and cross-eyed, in that empty lot, and turnaround (which was next to one another), and some of us, habitually silent, and some of us, had odd habits.
The neighborhood had no plan in life just innumerable funny angles, and eventually we all went to work, settled down. It’s like this: many of us simply crept out from under the bushes and did what we had to do. They were quite a bunch of men and women, and for the most part as I look back, it was no laughing matter, none of us took a disliking for the other, just some of us like me, walked quietly away.

No: 526 (11-28-2009)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rape at Indians Mound (a Short Sketch)

Rape at Indians Mound

A Chapter story from the short story called: “Bittersweet, Were her Kisses!” Written 2006, reedited 6-2008(Based on a true Story—1966)

[The Rape: 11:00 PM] I heard a voice calling for help, and then the voice called my name,
“Dennis, help, help, he’s raping me…!”
And so I left the party with its bonfire blazing, and crackling, and flickers of light, fire light from the wood rising high into the atmosphere. We were over on Indian’s Mound, across from a street called, Mississippi, off Cayuga Street. A party was going on for the kids that were graduating in 1966, I had graduated a year prior, but I knew all the kids, the gang, and then some.

“Please stop, help, Dennis, Dennis!”

I now confirmed it was Sandy’s voice I heard. I had brought her to the party, she wanted to come, I told her it was not wise, that the guys would get drunk and who knows what then. But she insisted, assured me she’d be careful, and not provoke anyone, or flirt all that much. She was at one time my girlfriend, I dated her a while, and then we seemed to drift off, and remained good friends, and I had not seen her the past few months all that much, except for this evening, she had asked me prior to take to this specific party, and she became familiar with a face she had seen at another party I had taken her to, a while ago, this face, Greg was his name, was a relative to a few of my best friends at the party.
I walked about the bushes looking for where the voice was, came from, said, “Where are you Sandy?” feeling the voice had to be her’s, I had a bottle, glass bottle of beer in my hands, looking here and there for her. I was now perhaps thirty-feet behind the fire, in the bushes, and there was Greg straddled over Sandy, slapping her, and tarring her cloths off, like a madman, calling her every name under the sun, like me he was drunk, perhaps drunker,
“What you doing,” I asked Greg (it really was a rhetorical question at best, I mean he know, she knew and I knew what he was trying to do).
In a puzzled way, Greg’s reply was, “What do you think I’m doing!”
So he know, I knew what he was doing to Sandy, and didn’t care who knew, so I said it as plain as he said it, “I know what your doing, you’re trying to rape Sandy, so stop it ,and get off her.”
“Get out of f… out of her, f…off!”
He was at the point of inserting his penis into her, and I said again, “I mean it, don’t do it—stop now!”
He repeated his vulgarity, but with a more stern voice, a voice that said to me: you’re disrupting my magical climax, my moment.
I pulled at his shoulders, and he shrugged me off, saying his choice two words, “f... off!” And proceeded to slap her again, I said in a rapid voice, “I can’t let this happen!”
But he paid no attention to me, and to my dismay, I grabbed him by the hair, twisted his face with his neck halfway around his body, and hit him with the bottle, perhaps two or three times, I don’t know for sure, and he fell backwards, laboriously, he ached himself, somewhat, like an infant,
“What did you do that for!” he cried, it’s funny; he knew everything else but that.
—I had thrown caution to the wind—I agree, Greg lay there on the ground, bellowing, his nose smashed flat, both eyes closed to sheer slits, his face one red facade of pulped fleshy tissue and blood, but through the slits of his eyelids his eyes still blazed with old darkness, it was a ferocious attack, I know, my hand still on the beer bottle, I then dropped it. His jaw, face, and head were in pain. I had knocked men down with one blow, or one straight and solid kick before, but not like this, I buckled him to the ground. I felt myself slipping, I like he was tired and half drunk, my legs trembling, but nonetheless, I rallied to Sandy, who was white from fright, and bruised in her face from his backhand slaps, she received, with her nose bleeding and a raw jaw, other bruises were on her thighs and back.
I heard in the distance a voice say, “Hey, what’s going on?”
When Sandy was being rapped, no one said a word, now when Greg was crying, the gang was starting to worry, a funny dilemma I’ll never understand. Thus, People were starting to gather and come over my way, by the bushes; I was at the end of my vitality.
I needed to get out of there, I knew it, had I stayed any longer, it would be me on the ground trying to fight his relatives I’m sure. I grabbed Sandy by the hand got off that hill quickly, Sandy still in a panic state.

(As years would pass by, Greg would never see it as rape, or if he did, he would complain I used excessive force, and he was right, I perhaps did, and really didn’t have to, I could have beat him fist to fist, but he didn’t allow that, he just wanted what he wanted. He never looked at what he was doing wrong, only that I wronged him. As I would tell him in time, it was one drunk to another, with the perpetrator, crying about his wounds. He was not sorry for what he did, he was simply sorry he did not get away with it. That somebody had the nerve to stop him, and stop him period, without respect, or with the same regard he was giving Sandy—which was zero.)

The Hospital

Greg was taken to the hospital; a number of stitches were used to close his wounds, ones that would leave scares.
As for Sandy, she also was taken to the hospital, for trauma, and bruises, and rape, which she did not name the culprit. The following day, I got a phone call from Sandy’s mother telling me how grateful she was that I stood firm with the man trying to rape her daughter. And she asked who he was, and I simply said, “Ask your daughter, if she wants to tell you, it should come from her.”
On the other side of the coin, Greg’s parents sent me some messages, several of them, from Greg’s family and friends, that they would not forget what I had done to him. He remained in the hospital for a few weeks for recovery.
My response was to his mother, “If you’re so upset, why not call the police, and tell them what I did, and what your son was doing, when I did it, and we can leave it up to the judge to decide if I was using excessive force or not.
I would perhaps have gotten a Blue Ribbon for my bad deed, as he and she, put it. Sandy assured me, her mother would press charges should Greg’s parents try to press charges, if we went to court, thus, it would be a rape case, not a assault and batter case, and that would put Greg away for a very long time, in prison, so everything was hushed up.

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Tarantulas' Unver a Gibbous Moon (a chapter story

The Green Sea of the Amazon (from the short story)

March/Summer of 2000 AD, in South America, the Peruvian Amazon, 125-miles from Iquitos (one of several chapters from the story of “The Green Seas of the Amazon”)

Tarantulas’ Under a Gibbous Moon

We were out and under the light of a gibbous moon, a romantic scene indeed, if you can eliminate the mosquitoes, and a few other items, the: the ants, and spiders, and snakes, and so forth, and few big cats dashing through the far-off distance between trees like a flash; nonetheless, the light was as if there were a hale around it, a radiation emanating from it.
The lodge was a good distance from us, now with our guide, in the thick of the jungle, the Amazon. This time there was no path to guide us, not like when we went to the Canopy, or the jungle village, but Avelino assured me he didn’t need one, it was his ‘backyard,’ so he said, matter-of-fact, he said that too many times, it made me suspicious, so I brought my flash light with, plan B, in case he lost his night vision.
Now we were in the dense jungle, a flashlight in his hands, and mine likewise, I guess he was no fool, he was bragging, trying to impress, I liked the guy, but I didn’t like the chances he took with his ego, at my expense. I was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, and even I at night, walked where there were arc lights, the moon was for the animals, not humans, that’s why God gave us electricity, we don’t have the eyes for the night, not modern man anyhow or city slickers.
The moon over our heads we could hardly see anyway, not now, the thick of the jungle was camouflage it—masking it, it peeked its beams through a few spaces of the leafage, but that was all, not even enough to see your hands if you wanted to wash them. Thus, looking for—none other than the big spiders was our mission this evening, the Tarantulas; my wife was with me, and I mean with me, almost on my back, almost had to piggyback her to and from wherever our jungle leader, Gunga Din or Tarzan, was take u s.
We were lucky in that we got our own personal guide and the other group three or four couples to group got one guide for them all. It was, as I wanted it to be, but not always did things turn out the way you wanted them to, on such excursions. We had gone Purina fishing the day before, I ate three perinea that evening, it was delicious, but bony.

As we walked into a deeper part of the rainforest, we past many large trees, larger and thicker than the thickest pillars of any cathedral I had yet seen (except one), and I’ve been in many cathedrals around the world: from Istanbul to Rome, and throughout South, Central, and North America— (and the biggest pillars I’ve yet to discover I found in an underground cathedral, in Colombia, outside of Bogotá called: La Catedral de Sal; 83-feet round; second place St. Paul, Minnesota, Cathedral, 42-feet, perhaps the Catedral de Sal had a larger circumference than the tree, if so it was the only pillars that could match these trees I saw; all along our sides was entangled shrubbery, a wealth of green—immense and at times burdensome. Rosa, my wife, walked shoulder to shoulder by me, if not a foot behind, and as far as I knew Avelino was walking every which way, it seems he knew and didn’t know his backyard as well as he said. But somehow we got him to slow down a bit, lest we get lost, and God help us then.
For me, a few of the stops we made, I got to rest when needed, plus we had stopped earlier in the day at Aveliono’s home village, perhaps—two-hundred natives to the area, several houses on sticks, or I should say, wooded four-by-fours; and a large school house, a square box type building, with a tin roof, and thin wooded sides for walls, not much but it served it purpose—
it now came to mind—as we walked through this thick foliage of a jungle at night—the story he told us, that being: his village was alongside the river, “We got to keep a good eye out on the children, they run off, and get into the bulky high grass, and the big cats come and pull them by the necks, or the snakes come and swallow them whole, but mothers can’t be everywhere all the time, can they…” so he said, rhetorically, with a look at me, a glace from the side of his left eye, as he turned his head to see if I was listening, as we walked from structure to structure in his village. And then he introduced us to his sister-in-law, as she appeared—seemingly out of nowhere, on the platform, of the school building.

All of a sudden we stopped by a big tree, our guide was checking out holes here and there, now he looked, stared at a thick trunk of a tree, it was perhaps thirty feet round, and its roots extended a half foot out of the ground, and a big hole was under one root—he saws it, the largest root it seemed of the tree, or what I could see of the tree, it was dark and the trunk and roots of the tree filled my eyes, and I dared not take them off what he was looking at.
“It’ll all work out,” he said looking at Rosa, and putting his stick into the hole, thinking perchance, Rosa might freak out or something. Rosa was behind me, I was about four-feet from the hole, and of course our guide was almost on top of it, possibly two-feet, with his stick inside of it, moving it about, disrupting—if indeed there was a family meeting going on down deep in it.
Then I saw, and I’m sure Rosa saw, long hairy, red creepy legs coming out of the hole: extending out inch by inch … all will be ok,” he said, not sure if he was talking to us or the creature inside the hole with the rustic legs halfway out; the legs turned out to be bushy like, more reddish-brown, huge spider legs, no, Tarantula legs: larger than my whole hand, legs longer than my fingers, as thick as my fingers, beady eyes. Rosa moved just a tinge,
“Where’d he come from,” she said.
“It’s his home,” said Avelino, “I woke him up, just for you.”
Rosa stood still, stone still by my side, almost on top of my shoulder and back, the creature seemed to have arched himself, lowered his back, as if to jump, and I was amazed, as the eyes of the creature kept staring at me, or so it seemed, and Avelino waved his long magic wand (or stick) around its legs, as if it tranquilized the creature, kept him from jumping, moving too fast. Now the creature stood still, as if guarding its hole, its abode, and we watched Gunga Din do his thing, around them legs, then he took the stick away; I had my flash light on the creature all the time. Then another long legged thick legged tarantula came out, perhaps the mate, as if to either protect its mate, or join in on the festivities. But the second one never came out all the way, like the first one did; it kept its guard, and remained halfway in the hole. And he was leaning over to get a better view of what he was doing, and I was leaning over with the flash light, and Rosa was leaning over on me, and the gibbous moon could be seen slightly through a porthole it would seem, the green sea tops of the trees.
“Be calm Rosa,” I said, I could hear her heart beating, and her breathing was heavy. She had my wife and sidekick only one month, he had gotten married in February of 2000, an it was now March, and I was finding out she was quite brave, even if she was scared, it did not make her run or hide or cry or anything, just extra couscous.
at this point, for less than a year, we had been married but been my she wanted to be part of everything, and she was. For such a small or short woman, she had the guts of a charging elephant, so I was learning
So here we were with two monstrous huge spiders, with beady eyes staring at us, and I guess it was to me, the funniest thing to see this stick tranquilize them to the point of curbing out the danger, to where there seemed not to be any. Fine, it had at that point been a full day, and therefore—after this escapade—we went back to the lodge and had a good night’s sleep, but first we ate our fish.

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Wild Huckleberry Boy (a short sketch)

The Wild Huckleberry Boy

I called my friend, Michael Rosert, Huckleberry, or Huckleberry Mike; perhaps the reason being, he was wild, like the Huckleberry plant, he grew wild in the conservative City of the Midwest, a native St. Paul boy.
The Huckleberry is a fruit of Idaho, but the wild Huckleberry grows in the woods kind of a false berry. I might have chosen to say I was like Mike, but I think as I look back, he being a year or two younger than I, I followed him usually, not the other way around, and probably I was more influenced by him, then he, I.
The huckleberry comes in red and blue I am told, depending on the species, and they are grown according to the customs of the environment, the area they live in, and he accordingly became who he was because of that—and as you read on, that statement may make more sense.
I suppose also I called him the wild berry, or Huckleberry, because of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, they were like one another in many ways a century apart but nonetheless, of the same stock; there are so many reasons when I look back, at Mike, that I can relate him to the Wild Huckleberry, and now the quick synapse of Mike and me.
We did a lot together in those few formative years (1955 thru 1958). He lived in the inner circle of the city, I perhaps in the middle circle of the inner city, he lived in the more rummaged area, you could say, near Linda Macaulay, a girl we knew from school (St. Louis, by 10th and Cedar streets), and once I fought Mike over her, that is to say, over her honor, something like that, or perhaps it was my honor, and he said something I didn’t like and he wouldn’t take it back, and eventually he did, because I won of course, the fight, since I was a half foot taller than he.
On manly occasions before we went out for our adventure of the day, I’d have to wake Mike up, this was a process. I’d climb his apartment complex, up the side by the drain pipes, onto the second floor, scale the window ledges, knock on the window, and his mother and father, one would wake up, they all slept in one big room, two beds, a sofa chair, a divider for Mike (a table to the side, in a little cubbyhole of a room, called he kitchen, with three painted white wooden chairs) the divider, consisted of a cloths hanger, and a sheet draped over it, and I’d knock on the window and the mother or father would say:
“It’s your friend again Mike, he’s at the window, why’s he got to knock on the window, tell him to use the door.”
But the downstairs door was always locked, and one of the other tenants never came down to open it and neither did Mike or his family, so it was as it had to be I felt.
Fine, Mike would get up, open the window, and I’d wait in the kitchen as he readied himself.
Then we’d often head on downtown, walk along the Mississippi River bank, look into the caves, find an old bum or drunk, go kick him in the feet, throw sand in his face, and run like heck. Usually we’d end up on the Robert Street Bridge, looking over it as he scolded us from below, laughing our hearts sick.

I think Mike liked to tease the bums a lot, fill old wine bottles with unthinkable substances and give it to them, and again we’d jump on our bikes and peddle like the Roadrunner would, down to that old bridge. Then in the afternoons we’d go into Woolworth, or Grants department stores, and buy cigarettes out of the vending machines, and if the manage was looking, run again. In Junior High School, I went out for track, and the reason I think I was so good—for I won all state—was because I had so much prior experience with Mike running from those bums, and managers and so forth.
Once we went out to a farm, we talked Mike’s father into taking us, and we never saw a pigs, giant hogs testacies so huge, and they were huge, and we laughed so hard in front of his mother and father, we had gut aches, and when we had to explain why we were laughing, insanely, it made it worse, and the father laughed, and the mother didn’t know what to do and said, “You guys are so silly.” And we were, and even she couldn’t hold it back, and had a little chuckle too, but was a little red in the face.
There was a summer, one summer if I recall right, we went searching through vacant houses, rummaging through, they were building new government buildings, and many bridges, and highways, in downtown St. Paul—in time people would refer to that section as ‘Spaghetti Junction,’ (and in a decade have to tare down half those multi million dollar bridges for wider ones, and replace them elsewhere) well, it was tenant housing for the most part, and my brother had his paper route there, and I and Mike searched those houses, got a few items, and jumped over a few bums sleeping, again running from them on occasions, but once I found a map of the United States, 1846, and I treasured that, and told myself: someday Dennis you’re going to see it all, and I have seen 46-states out of fifty to this writing. On another day, I found an old picture, framed, it was of Notre Dame de Paris, again I treasured it, and I went to Paris four times in my life, and perhaps forty-times inside that cathedral. It’s funny, but true; we sometimes fulfill childhood dreams, even if it takes a life time.
We’d go out to Como Park, Mike and I, walk around, and if he or I had a few dollars, or cents, we’d go on a ride. Once we had our picture taken from one of those old camera men, with an old camera on an old tripod stand, and for half an hour the old man tried to get us perfect, “Stand here, stand there, over there, its to sunny there, move over here in the shade,” and so forth, and then took the picture, and it got sun in it, and Mike had fifteen cents, and I had a dime, and the picture was thirty-cents, and so we were five cents short, and Mike told the man, “Look, the sun got a portion of the picture, so why not cut us a deal, make it twenty-five cents,” and the man did, and we got the picture. Mike got the negative; back in those days with those kind of cameras, you first made a negative, then the picture, and I got the picture, not sure why, Mike paid the better half, if I recall.

Well, this writing is more of a tribute to Michael Rosert, of those far-off days, the wild huckleberry, the one who used to push all those buttons on the elevator, at the Emporium Department store riding up and own the elevator as if it was his private jet, and perhaps it was.

May 31, 2008

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Christmas in Luxembourg, 1975 (Ville de Remich)

Christmas in Luxembourg, 1975
Ville de Remich

Part Christmas Eve Day

From Germany, I headed west, to Luxembourg, crossed the boards with little to no difficulties. I went by car, a 1967-VW, dull green in color, it was not the best running of cars but it seemed it could make at two-hundred and fifty miles, so I decided to take a quick trip. The road was dotted with quaint, rural hamlets that most people associate with fairy tales. It was midwinter, and winter in Luxembourg, is not as extreme as it can be in nearby countries, and I had been to Europe a dozen times, and during this tour duty, I was stationed near Darmstadt, Germany. For a land locked country, it had what I would call pretty standard climate. It was a day before Christmas. The trees were filled with crystal like frost, as I drove through an area that seemed the landscape had its share of wooded extremes. A very beautiful and pleasant area, it was brisk in the woods, and when I drove out of it, it was cool, with a warm sun leaning on top of my car. I had my two boys, Cody and Shawn with me, twins; they were five the previous October. I found myself in a little quaint village called Ville de Remich, I didn’t see much of it, I stopped the car to have breakfast, the street was of cobblestone, and the guesthouse, was old Germanic in style, the owner with an apron on, looked at me and my two boys, it was Christmas Eve morning, and no one was in the guesthouse, no guests that is, no one but the proprietor, and he was I fear about to say: we are closed, but his wife walked up, and asked,
“…do you need something?”
“Yes,” I said, “for me and my boys, a room for the night and breakfast.”
“Well, ok,” she said, “but tomorrow is Christmas, and I do hope you will not be staying over that day, we are always closed.”
I assured her we had just come for the day and evening, that we’d like to have breakfast if possible, and we’d be gone early Christmas Morning. In between, we would go to the nearby cemetery I noticed on the way down, and climb those 100-steps up to its domain, and visit the city. And she and her elder husband both looked at each other, then back at my twin boys, and me, “Ok,” they confirmed, and I filled out a guest slip.


The boys and I sat outside around a wooded table, and chairs, my car parked alongside the road, and cars being driven by, it was chilly, but not cold, cold, everything in the café area was put up on tables, the chairs and ashtrays, and so forth, a message they were not expecting any company on Christmas Eve day.
I ordered eggs and bacon, toast and jam, milk and coffee for the breakfast, and all three of us, Shawn, Cody and me, sat waiting, I think our mouths were salivating, we were hungry. I had thought she understood the order, she brought three pouched eggs, which I did not know how to eat, but would learn quick, I had to ask him how to go about it, “You just crack the egg on the top with your spoon, the shell,” he said, “then dig out the inside of the egg and eat it.”
I had a hard time doing that for some odd reason, can you imagine the boys. Anyhow, we did not get bacon, but we got bread and butter and jam, and that was that, and the boys did get hot milk and I got coffee, and that again was that, I dare not complain, although I left a kind of empty blank face, when I paid for the meal.

And then we did go on to see that cemetery, and the village and that night I bought two large beers and drank them down, and kind of stared out the windows, looked at my boys, cut, blond hair, blue eyes. They were good boys, never complained much, or cried much, only fought and laughed with one another too much, but not creating any profound disturbance.

Part Two: Xmas Day, 1975

It was Christmas day, and we had said our goodbyes to the owners of the guesthouse, and had about 250-miles to travel back to Darmstadt, or thereabouts. As we got on our way, it seemed to be a long road back, our brakes were going out, mental on metal, squeaking and burning up, and you could smell them. The twins knew something was wrong but not exactly what. As we drove further, into a hilly area, the sky turned dark, and the transmission was jamming in first gear, couldn’t get it out, thus I drove in first gear for miles. The heaters had stopped working and the fan belt had broken, the car spit and sputtered; when we’d get to a long hill, I turned the car off, and rolled down the hill allowing the motor to cool, and then popped the clutch to start the car again—it was indeed a long and trying morning, and extended into the afternoon, and we got no place it seemed, I mean we should have been back home by 4:00 PM, but it wasn’t going to happen, we’d make it home by 9:00 PM that evening.
It was turning out to be a worrisome Christmas Day. The boys had insulated snow suites on, I had purchased them in Minnesota, oversized knowing they could and would grow into them, and glad I did. Finally we drove along side of a guesthouse, it was closed for business, but in the back of the building, some lights were on. Actually, we were on a lonely road, deserted somewhat. And I really didn’t know what to do, and I put the hood up, of the car up, and knocked on the door, and asked to purchase some food for the kids (the woman of the house, brought out sandwiches for the boys and me), and they speaking German, and me a little German, along with English, and sign language, I got the message through. The middle aged man in the house saw the car, took a look at the motor, knew we were in trouble, and went back to his garage, and found an old fan belt, it was too big for my car, very loose the say the least.
“You got to drive slowly,” the German said, indicating if I didn’t and if I went over too many bumps, the belt would fly off and perhaps get entangled into my motor, and loosen up or break my fan.
Well, what could I say but thank you and I had a hot cup of coffee, and the boys got some more bread and cheese with ham, and they would not take any money, it was Christmas, and they felt they just couldn’t. It all took an hour or so, and I felt I was intruding, but in life to get a step ahead, is exactly what you got to do, intrude, lest you die where you stand, waiting for somebody to say something only to find out they will say nothing. And I think they both bite into their lips, wanting to say, “Wish we could have you stay until morning,” it was now about 3:00 PM, we had left at about 11:00 AM, and it was now even darker, gray dark, not black dark. A snow storm was building up slowly.

When we arrived at our apartment in Babenhausen, Germany (although we had actually left from Darmstadt on the trip), the boys were tired and fell to sleep like two little sheep, and I sat up, had a beer, a cigarette, and was thankful for the trip, and got rid of that junk heap of a car a week later.

Written: 5-30-2008

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An Afternoon in Gibraltar (a short and quick romance)

An Afternoon in Gibraltar
((and along the Costa del Sol) (12-1997))

“All right. Yes. Now will you let me tell you what I want to do?” I told the young lady.
Now that I look back I don’t even recall her name. She was sitting on the bus; we had combed the Costa del Sol that is along the coast of Spain that connects to the Mediterranean Sea. There were twenty-seven of us on the bus. She sat by me during two days of the trip, we talked, she was pretty, about twenty-eight years old, I was forty-eight. No expectations. She was from Bucharest. And now she was sitting with me in a little pub, on a cobblestone street in the land of Gibraltar, a British annexed state, with its own kind of sovereign; her with a glass of wine, me with a glass of coke, and both of us eating a sandwich each.
“Now that we have come this far with each other,” she laughingly says, “as you were about to do, tell me what you want to do the rest of the afternoon, I think that is on your mind—something tells me you decided before you got off the bus to climb that rock (The Rock of Gibraltar).”
We were, for the most part, on its bottom rim.
Her dark eyes penetrated my blue, and she must had been reading my mind, because that is exactly what I was contemplating, and about to suggest if she wanted to keep me company, and I did suggest this to her, and she more than willingly took this as a fill- in for the rest of the afternoon.

We took the taxi as high as we could up the big rock, considered one of the ‘Pillars of Hercules’. Then I said,
“I’m going to climb into the cement cage like area on top, with that cannon extending outward from us, you see, it’s there is a little tree by its side?”
She looks, a sign on the highway fills her view, a little further up the road (she looked at the sign, the little tree, said), “It says Dennis, no trespassing.”
“Yes,” I replied, “but I am no prisoner of course to such rules, they are to protect the uncurious, or better put, the unadventurous.”
She looked at me as if she was a shocked salesgirl, and then my face changed to: chose which way you want to go, up or down, but I’m going up, and I started climbing up the rock’s side, and it was straight up, up, up!
“I’ll beat you up there,” she said, and she started immediately climbing.
These of course were the wrong words coming from a woman, and I had to meet the challenge, and she was wrong, I beat her, and the taste of victory was good, she gave me a kiss on the cheek, and we strolled about the World War II, vintage tower of sorts, overlooking the area below. For the moment we both were contented, you see, it was perhaps the best view on all the Rock of Gibraltar. Below you could see the small airport they had, small as it was, the Tram that came up the Rock near us but not near enough to protest we were there, if indeed an official was on board, the winding streets leading up the Rock were visible, a few of the residential monkey’s were being fed by the tourists, below, they looked like peanuts, but a few had climbed nearby, they were really all over the mountain, as the legend goes: “When the monkey’s disappear, so will the people (something like that).”
Then my friend from Bucharest said, “That tree,” pointing to the small tree, “I can climb it higher than you,” and the bet was on. And she climbed it to its tip, and it swayed with the wind, matter-of-fact, the wind at this level was a bit noisy, loud, which only told me we were next to the clouds. I looked about to see if the police were anywhere, and we were safe.
“Your turn Dennis,” she said. Then a second, then quickly, she slid down the tree to a standing applause.
She now had stopped speaking, reaches her right hand out to the tree, as if to say: your turn, unlighted eyes, two arms, legs and eyes standing like a soldier waiting for me to climb up the rainspout looking tree, thin, almost as thin as wheel spokes in a boy’s bike at its very top, not really that thin, but towards the top, and the bottom was not really all that thick.
Now I was taking into consideration the dimensions of the tree—and I foresaw a red-light when I would near the top. I started to climb, and in no more than a few feet I could feel the tree swaying with my weight, thus I remained idle, looked down at my Romanian female friend, calm with a smirk she stood, less excited, as I remained hanging onto this bony tree, almost like being suspended twenty fathoms deep in the Mediterranean, and then I knew I was defeated, lest I climb to its top and allow the tree to break into, and that would be a sin, it was the only tree on this side of the upper part of the rock.

What did I learn that afternoon I ask myself, perhaps not a thing about me or climbing, or Gibraltar per se, for I had learned all that before I got to Gibraltar, out of books. But nevertheless, I always like looking at that part of my life trips; I think what I may have discovered at such an odd age, is that this new generation was competitive, challenging and perhaps underrated, they could have fun with older men, without crushing too much of their ego, she was cleaver, and perhaps that was an asset, as long as it was under control.

Written 5-30-2008

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Day in Tanager (Post Cards to Myself)

A Day in Tanager
(Post Cards to myself)

This may sound funny, and I’ve done it more than one, and I bet a few of the readers here, have done this likewise: send post cards to yourself, so you get the stamp, and logo of the location you are at! Here are four post cards sent from Tanager to myself in Minnesota, the fall of 1997.

(Post Card One) Here I am, in Tanager, bogged down, hope I can survive the day; the people here drag you down like a ship anchored at sea. I came in from Spain, across the strait. Tanager is full of people. I bought several post cards, I’ll write the out for myself, send them to me from me. Everyone here tries to sell you everything they got, with a hard luck story I don’t understand. I’ve never encountered such pushy people, they follow you down one street onto the next (and wait outside for you if you happen to go into a store) and if you buy something from them, you got the whole street on top of you. I pushed one guy away, heavily and with force, and he got incredible mad. A few of the places that sell rugs, seemed flushed with success, they didn’t use efficient machines to make their rugs, rather human bodies to get the job done, I suppose a little slavery like they do in Turkey, rent the kids out for five years in making rugs. I purchased a small one; the cats and chickens that run about look like skinny eels with legs and feathers and fur.

(Post Card Two) We ate inside the Kasbah, five of us, four from the trip I was taking in Spain, and we ran off to Morocco Tangier (two brothers, doctors from Puerto Rico, we actually had lunch in Seville a few days ago, and I got to know them quite well), and one lady who is alone, and begged me to take her along with my entourage (says her husband is diplomat, and busy at the moment, wherever), and one lone individual, a young thin male, I think he said he was from Canada; it would seem, I was selected to be there leader on this excursion, which was my idea on the bus, and it leaked out and here we are. It is hot, inhumanly hot on these dirty streets, drearily dull. I am not sure what we ate, or what it cost, it was just food, and I am not sick, so thank God for that. I once saw a movie, where the drama took place in Old Tangier, well, it is still old, and looks just like that movie, nothing has changed from the 40s to this year, 1997. My camera is working well. I want to be sure I get these post cards, there is a post office down the road but it looks, or doesn’t’ look appropriate, meaning, I fear they will take the stamps off the post cards and keep it for cash, they do such things hear I understand, but I bought duplicates, and will write them out just in case.

(Post Card Three) A few hours ago, I took a tour of the city, went by some famous houses from the 30s, 40s and even 50s, movie stars used to live in, live here in Tangier, and some still do, can’t figure out why, the sight of Tangier is mystic, and a good deal cheaper than London or New York, but to me it is only good for a day, but any longer, it would be a hard luck story on my behalf, or better yet, as the Army would say, a hard luck tour. People walk around with long, sharp and thick knifes for sale—what gives, I mean, if was not on this tour of sorts, I’d not dare to walk these streets alone.

(Post Card Four) This will be my last post card; will be heading back to Madrid in two days, and out of here, presumably in two hours, back on that tug boat or whatever you call it, it was a bumpy ride over, I dread the ride back. This day, in Tangier, was interesting though, if not ill-omened. I would prefer Paris any day to Tangier, although I did like the gate going into the Kasbah, it had a real Moroccan style to it. Rode a came in the city, actually I sat on a camel and had my picture taken, borrowed a Moroccan s hat, cost me a buck to have a picture with it on. They got you coming and going here. I also like the lighthouse, we stopped by it, checked it out. I think I’d prefer Seville if I had to chose between cities to live.

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A Friend, from Lilli Ann, to China Town (a short Sketch)

A Friend, from Lilli Ann,
to China Town
(San Francisco, 1968)

From the very first moment we’d meet, Dan would give off a sudden and odd sense of a person understanding my undertaking in life. But it came at the oddest time, under odd circumstances. I was living in San Francisco, back in 1968, and Dan just started working at Lilli Ann, where I was working, I had been there for four months, Lilli Ann was dress designing company. We kind of bumped into one another, and he was looking for a place to live, he and his spunky brother, half brother, a few years younger than us two, at present they were being kicked out because of their rent being raised, and unaffordable for them.
I was working out at the karate dojo in Castro, living on Dolores Street in an old mansion, a female Colonial, retired from the Army, rented the rooms out. She was tall, with short blond hair, medium size boned, and kind of orderly. What you’d expect I suppose from such a person.
On the other hand, Dan was about my height, five food eight, perhaps Irish, like me, sandy brown hair, and took a different style of karate up, but was interested in some of my moves. He was considered good in his style, but I was considered better, if it came down to testing one another under fire.
Now I had been dating Colleen, she was ten-years my senior and she was looking for a place to live also. She had a white Cadillac car, and a good job. I’d often get a ride to work from her, and she’d have me buy her material, for making cloths, Lilli Ann was considered to have some of the best textiles in the world, Adolph Schuman, often went to France, checked out the mills to insure he got the best. In any case, it was a good arrangement, and we’d drink, got drunk and made love together when we were both available.
Well, she moved in, after Dan, but I met both of them around the same time, Dan a month earlier. And we all got along together. I suppose back then, it was all we could do to hold together, drink, and work together, and flop out together. We were all becoming a group of sorts. Dan’s brother was part of the group, but less a part.
I drank quite a lot in those days, and Dan found a girlfriend at work, a Spanish gal and had me talk to her, kind of fixing him up, I knew her better than he. And thus, they started dating, and she became part of the group. She liked me, and was concerned about my drinking, she told Dan so, and Dan told me, and I told Dan to tell her, “Mind her own business.” Fine, she took it lightly and somewhat avoided me when visiting Dan, and at work she smiled as usual. I think she was torn in that she’d have liked to have had a closer relationship with me, but it didn’t turn out that way, surely drinking was part of the issue.
As I implied, I came in drunk a lot, and fell to sleep a lot, or passed out a lot, and it was Colleen who was living in one of the rooms near Dan, and she was drinking and laughing with Dan and his brother a lot, and one evening, I came home, and heard them, they were having a party in their room and she was flirting, trying to kiss Dan, and yelled at her and Dan and the brother, less at the brother, and of course she scolded me for being jealous, and I told Dan, stay away, even if I didn’t care to date her anymore, and he said ok, with a slanting eye, and she said no, with a grudge. She said, “I am not your property, I am free to date and do as I please, I am not subject to you.”
It did come to pass, she left, and probably for the wiser. But I thought a lot of Dan for doing what he did, he avoided her, told her, and I heard him say it, “It’s best we keep our distance, I don’t want to lose Dennis as a friend, he was my friend first.” I guess he felt he owed it to me, I mean, I got him the apartment, and perhaps the girlfriend, at least the first date, and his brother got to smoke his pot unworried about the law, in his apartment, life was good. Plus, he didn’t really want an affair with her that might leak back to his new unofficial girlfriend.
As time moved on, Dan got more involved with his girlfriend, and I respected that, and we did less and less together, which was ok, but I seemed to have lost a good friend in the process, one I took time to cultivated a friendship with, and that hurt. But I would find out in life, there was much ahead of me, and perhaps there would not have been time to cultivate that friendship beyond what we did. Consequently, we did in our short time all we really could do. When my mother visited the city he even went to China Town with us, she liked him as well as I, and that was not a surprise to me.
I learned back then, I suppose, a good friend is worth its weight in any kind of precious metal; they are far and in-between, in one’s life time.

Written 5-29-2008

Lilli Ann, Meeting Adolph Schuman (1968, a short Sketch)

Lilli Ann,
Meeting Adolph Schuman

I had worked for Lilli Ann, for about eleven months, and met Adolph Schuman, back in 1968, and a few months in 1969, a half dozen times, although I didn’t care to run into him, it was uncouthly each time, but impossible not to, Mr. Schuman, Adolph Schuman, was the owner of Lilli Ann, his wife being Lilli Ann. (‘While he operated the Lilli Ann Corporation, Adolph Schuman also held a number of political and governmental offices. At various times, he served as finance chairman for the presidential election campaigns of John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy; Director of the Commission for National Trade Policy; Chair of California World Trade Authorities; and on the Council for the Department of Commerce. He passed away in 1985.’)
Adolph Schuman came by me one afternoon, as I was stacking cloths in bin, said “You, what are you doing, put them cloths down properly, no, no, and you’re fired!” I got reinstated by the administrator that same afternoon, which was more practical. (He was an eccentric to me, and perhaps I to him.)
Well, that wasn’t the only time we met, we met on Christmas, Christmas, of 1968, I drew the design or logo for the event, and at the event, in the basement floor of the establishment, I met him again. He was more at ease with me, and me with him this time. I guess he reminded me of my grandpa, and I smiled, yet tried avoid him, tried to and if I couldn’t I smirked or smiled or played dumb.
“Here,” he said, handing me a bottle of Scott Whisky, “No,” I said, I don’t drink the stuff,” I liked beer, but I didn’t tell him that. Anyhow, he looked at me wired, and Dan, my friend, whispered “I’ll pay you for it later, half priced—take it,” and I said, “Mr. Schuman, I’ll take that bottle,” and he smiled, perhaps heard Dan’s whisper.
The third time I met him, he was running away from a woman, and it was not his wife, it was a lovely young model, and to my understanding his steady, if he had such a thing, with a big, big, big pearl on her finger.
I had seen her around, but not running around like this afternoon. Well, I got out of the fire lane, he was running from her, and she was not far behind him, “Grab this door, hold it, and don’t let her pass,” he told me. And I did, as he said, and she came to a standstill a foot away from me, remember I’m just a peon, “Well,” she said, “are you going to move or am I going to move you?”
I moved, what could I say, I mean, it was a Catch 22, I couldn’t win either way.
Well, we are at number four now, and I am having lunch at the café up the block from Lilli Ann, and Adolph Schuman comes into the Chinese restaurant with his poodle, or perhaps it was hers, that gal that told me “Move,” or suffer the consequences. Fine, I never really had a conversation with Adolph, never said more than a few words, nor he to me, and I kind of liked it like that. I mean, what would he and me have in common, but he looks over at me says something to his administrator or manager, I think he was called by both titles not and then, my friend, as far as manager friends go, and I am called over to his table, and told to join them, and to bring my food. For some odd reason, I got scared, I usually didn’t, but even my hands started to tremble a bit.
Now I am sitting down with Adolph, the Administrator or male manager, the female assistant manager, and they are all talking, he asks,
“Where is your family from?”
“Russia,” I say.
“Oh, a lot of Turkish Jews in Russia.”
“I don’t know about that, Mr. Schuman,” I say.
“Go ahead and eat, well just talk as we eat,” he says.
In good health, we ate, but I was having the hardest time eating, getting the food to my mouth, as he along with the other two all seemed to make me self-conscious. I mean I never ate with a millionaire, and he was actually down to earth today. He wasn’t the grandpa figure anymore, just a man in a café with a dirty dog by his leg, and I thought that was a bit improper, but I didn’t say a word to that effect.
As years went by, I got into a little business, and was worth 1.3 million dollars in 2002, making about $200,000-dollars a year, not as much as Adolph (in 1940, his sales were one million dollars alone, and in 1982, 40-million, he died at age 73, in his office with all that money he gave to his family, a heart attack they say, and his business ended soon after), when folks came to talk to me, poor folks, eat with me, I noticed sometimes they were nervous, and I always went back to the little China café on the corner of the block to remember Adolph and me, and I tried to make my company comfortable with them, I think Adolph tried for me.
It was sad they closed the place down after Adopt died, I feel privileged to have met the designers and managers and so forth, of that day and from that company, and they were among the world’s best.

Written 5-29-2008

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Indian Blanket and the Mohawk (a short Story)

Indian Blanket and the Mohawk
(A Sketch in Life—1953-57)

I was but a kid back in ’53 to ‘58, my brother Mike, two years older than I, we seemed to get along better then, better than now that is. When we were both young we’d play in the backyard, up a ways was a long embankment, with rolling hills behind (I once put a fire to that hill, but that is another story); anyhow, we’d lie on our Indian blankets by the house in the backyard, play cowboys and Indians, Mike had a Mohawk, thus, you know who he was in the drama, daring he was, it was the last few summers I’m talking about, prior to our moving, from Arch Street to Cayuga Street, we even built a tent out of those old Indian blankets, we were together nearly all the time back then. Then one day we up and moved, as I previous and briefly mentioned, we just disappeared: grandpa, mom, me and Mike, we up and disappeared just like those days did, playing on the Indian Blanket, Cowboys and Indians. Oh I know, I was but seven years old, he was nine, and we were young, so very young between those years, of 1953 to 1958. Things change, it is part of life, I know this, and well they do, we must move on, correct? Oh yes, yes indeed, that is part of the encirclement, the grip and squeeze life has on us, and we have our own children then, and we hope they will carry on the saga, the compressed life we are given.
Mom used to talk to Uncle Wally all the time about those far-off days they seemed to have had, with so many memories to linger on—I think they had more to say than they do nowadays at the United Nations. They talked about old times, I heard them talking, she told me so also, and I thought, what will Mike and me have to talk about when we get old, and now we are old, or getting there and we still do not talk on such matters, have not found the secret of reminiscing. Harboring no disrespect, it is not Mike’s forte, Mike don’t talk much, doesn’t waist words on dead dogs, when there are live lions. It is just the way he is, so I guess I got to write it out for him, lest we die without a word of tribute for those far-off days on the Indian Blanket, and similar episodes, God forbid that be the solution, maybe he forgot, but we used to play those silly games. I suppose he’d not be happy if I told his friends he did, the Indian sage that is, he was always so self-conscious on how he looked to his friends.

Dedicated to Mike Siluk
Written: 2003 (reedited 5-2008)

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Niagara in October (a short sketch)

The Soft Leaves of Autumn
(Niagara in October, 1999)

Back in the ‘90s, I traveled a lot by myself, it made life easier, no contemplation on what side of the clouds I needed to stand on to please the woman or whomever I may have been with. I mean I had many travel companions in my life, nothing intended bad to say about them, but there have only been two folks I can travel with without friction, and no need to mention them here, they’re not in this story, although at the end I may.
Niagara, autumn in Niagara, I thought about that before I went there, laid down on my bed while the morning sun crept through my window, saw the autumn leaves in Minnesota floating off the trees onto the ground in my backyard on Albemarle Street, thin, and tanned they were, as if in a stage of old age, so they seemed.
I am always surprised to see autumn, but this autumn I told myself would be nice to fly up to Buffalo New York, and rent a car, drive from there to Niagara, and see the falls. I was in Buffalo once, back in ’72, when I went for my second hitch in the United States Army. I suppose you could say, I was mentally already established in Army life, I was in Erie at the time, and got bored with my job, had been in Vietnam in ’71, and Erie in ’73, and back in the Army in ’74. Missed the sites, although I would not spend any time in buffalo anyway, on this forth coming trip, I would simply rent the car I was talking about renting, and I’d drive right on through to Niagara.

I was very devout in those days to my mission, like an old soldier, if I decided to go to a place, see a certain thing, that was that, and thereafter, who cares, anything goes.
I liked traveling on the moment, thus, I grabbed some money, this one weekend, a four day weekend, holiday, my holiday, and became what my friend Jack Kerouac called part of “The Dharma Bums” understanding I would be by myself.

I talked not much more than the average person to myself on these one man excursions, and always told myself: “Dennis you can meet—if you want—anyone, anyplace, at anytime, anywhere,” and how true that belief was, and it always worked, if I wanted to talk, I simple talked, if wanted to be with someone, it was not hard to arrange, if I wanted a girlfriend for the night, it usually wasn’t a problem either: although in 1999, those were not the things I was thinking of, but I knew it from prior experiences, plus wherever I went, someone would usually tell me: “If you’re looking for a good time, I suggest you go here… (or there).”
I learned one main thing in life, and I kept it deep in my soul, that being: if you count or wait for someone else to travel with you, you may never go, and if you count on them on a trip to make you happy, you will be disappointed, thus, it is better to travel alone, than to travel with someone who is going to cut the guts out of your trip. And if I could, I would, amplify that to the height of the Empire State Building.
Well, I travel light, real light, a small suitcase, and what did not fit in it, that I wanted, I purchased when I got to my destination, I had to carry the suitcase onto the plane, if not it didn’t come alone with me, that was a rule I made for myself. Too much waiting in the lines to pick you luggage, I could be at the hotel by that time, too much carrying and tipping, and so forth, not worth the effort. By the time one got to the hotel going through all this, from past experience, I was tired; too warn out to even take a shower, a day of the trip missed, gone, and you pay for it—what’s it worth?

—So here I was, at Niagara Falls, in October, my birth month: I bade farewell to Minnesota, and all the little bums back there, and I washed my face, on a freshly looking towel in my room, and I was out walking alongside Niagara Falls, picking up the autumn leaves along its stream that led to the falls, they looked like firewood, heated to a bright red-hot and yellow, orange, cheese like color. Most pleasant to the eyes, I told myself.
“What is going to happen to this leaf?” I asked myself, as I picked it up, along with a few large ones; inside their veins was a splendorous twilight of colors, of God’s person touch. Happy I was, and no one to say: you silly boy. No, I was sober, or drunk on life, that’s the way to live; all alone and free in the soft leaves of autumn.
Oh, the only other two people I could have enjoyed Niagara with, would have been my mother, and she was back home, and my wife Rosa, whom I would not meet until my next trip, which would be to Peru, in December, of that same year, nine weeks away.

Note: Written while in Lima, Peru, 5-29-2008. Written with the intentions to let the reader know that traveling can be as much fun, if not more, alone, than with someone needy, it is of course a matter of choice, but one needs to look at and count the cost, for when you take someone with different expectations with you disappointment is usually not far away.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Lone Ranger Lunchbox (short story, 1957)

The Lone Ranger Lunchbox
[1954-1957—109 East Arch Street, St. Paul, Minnesota]

[1954-1957 at the Winter School] We couldn’t always afford the hot lunches at St. Louis school [in St. Paul, Minnesota] during my elementary years so my mother bought me a lunchbox, a Lone Ranger designed lunchbox, and I was so very proud to own it: yes indeed, very bigheaded about it also, I suppose, if kids had heroes, and not absorptions, he was kind of my hero. And my mother would make my peanut butter sandwiches, from none other than Peter Pan Peanut Butter jars, not sure if they sell that kind anymore; then of course came Skippy Peanut Butter down the lane, and a little computation, I was nine-years old then.
I think we went back and forth with which peanut butter, I was trying to figure out which was best for my lunchbox, I mean, it had to be the best for the Lone Ranger lunchbox, for I was carrying his symbol about, and I was his representative, even had a secret badge, and belonged to a club of his if I recall right. And amongst those sandwiches, were a lone banana or apple, or orange, I hoped not the orange always, it was too messy, and I’d just stick a finger in it and suck out all the juice, and go wash my hands. Thus, I preferred the banana.
Then my brother Mike and I would march on down to school, and when lunchtime came, I’d march on down to the basement of the 1886, schoolhouse, and eat lunch in the lunchroom. There were different times for lunch for different classes and grades, and so Mike being two grades higher than I, ate before me, and left school before me, at 2:00 PM, verses, my 4:00 PM. But I always prayed mom would forget to buy wax paper for the sandwiches, and have to give us .25-cents [or was it .15-cents?] for lunch: yes I preferred the hot lunch to the cold, although I liked bringing my Lone Ranger lunchbox.
But yes, yes undeniably, there was a problem though: when mom put the ham onto the sandwiches, and wrapped them in wax paper, by noon the following day, they’d be soggy, really saggy, like a sponge full of milky something or another—the bread that is, and you’d have to drag the meat off and out. But I never said anything, lest I end up with peanut butter five days in a row.
In the lunch room Linda Macaulay the eye catcher of my study room, we had two grades in our room, and between thirty and forty students [big rooms, and lots of heads to look over, at and around], as I was about to say, Linda Macaulay, she was the prettiest one in class, and we sat together now and then, more than, than now, but it happened. I even stuck up for her once, that is, fought over her I should say. I suppose I was trying to be like the Lone Ranger, the hero, like Mr. Clayton Moore, God bless his soul, now gone and not forgotten though.
Anyhow, this is the tale, the story of my first lunchbox you could say, in those far-off days of my youth, when I was being formed, and we become whom we are often times by our heroes, and I am sad to say, there are not many sports folks, movie stars, singers or any one out there worthy to emulate nowadays—even many parents are bad examples, I guess the dollar has soaked their souls likened to those ham sandwiches I just mentioned a while ago; or they are to lazy to discipline them.

Written in St. Paul, Minnesota 8-2005 (reedited, 5-2005)

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The Old Russian Bear (Short Story, 1973)

The Old Russian Bear
[The Old Russian Bear: 1973]

Old Grandpa Tony [Anton] swore more than most people prayed, and I’m talking about the clergy. He was all of five feet tall, complete, that’s all he stood, I always thought he was at least six foot tall myself, even when I went to high school and towered over him, but no, he was only five feet tall, period. It’s not the unpardonable sin, I know—to swear, but if you added them all up, all the cussing words he done in front of me, and then there is 24-hours to the day, it would top the Andes, and then some. But he was kind enough to allow my mother, brother and myself to live with him, in his house during my formative years. And back in the fifties, it was rough, so I suppose I can say, thanks gramps. But the Old Russian Bear, used to say:
“I tell you vhut you gottaa wtch dem boys Elsie (his daughter, my mother)—dhay make-too much noise!”
All the time we had to be quieter than mice in the house.
“Well,” I heard mom say once, “I can’t watch them boys every second of the day?” to grandpa.
Grandpa thought about that for a while, a minute or two, “I gonna throw dem out den!” he said.
I think he started telling mom that from my thirteenth birthday on, steadily. He liked my brother Mike for some odd reason: perhaps I didn’t pay him much attention, or for that matter any attention. I was very active, meaning: overactive, I could never seem to slow down, and that may have bothered him some. Nowadays, they give kids pills up the yen yang to slow them down: back then, mom would say: “Go run it off…” and out the door I went, and I’d run a mile here or there, and come back and eat up a storm, that seemed to do the trick.
“Yes,” mother would say, “I’ll tell him to play outside more…” (I was but ten, at the time).
I think it all started one day when I was in Earnest’s car, a 1950 Chevy (my mother’s boyfriend for forty-years), and mom was looking at me in the backseat, and I was about seven years old then, and I asked about this and that, many questions, too many questions, I never could be settled too long, and she noticed that, and would try to answer my numerous questions, and she’d get tired, and say:
“Stop! You’re wearing me out….”
So when I got older I bought an encyclopedia set and read it a few times from start to finish: a to z. One year I read 400-books, after all my other activities. I slept four to six hours all my life, until I got ill, and slept 10 to 14 hours; made up for all that lost sleep.

—Grandpa would put his pipe in his mouth, pace the kitchen, mumbling, “Them god…d…”
He didn’t want us boys to stay with him in the house, but he didn’t want mom to leave, she did all the work, and bought the television and the furniture, and did his laundry, and bought the groceries: she was an economic asset for him, as he was for her (or us). He bought the meat for the Sunday meals, paid the heat and water bill, and phone bill. They had a good system going I suppose. I always prayed mom would take us kids out of that environment, but it was as it was, and it gave me a father figure I suppose, he had good work ethics, and I suppose I got that from him. In any case, mom, she’d reinforce, by telling me,
“Nobody’s going to kick you out.”
And he never did.
When I grew up: went to Vietnam, and came back home for a visit, Grandpa, being in WWI, was proud of me, but he still had that bear in him, and one day he said something, and I got mad, and I wasn’t a kid anymore, and I said:
“Grandpa, don’t swear at me, if you don’t want me here I’ll leave, but if you swear once more I’m going to knock your ass!” and I walked away angry. I had always felt bad about telling Grandpa that, even to this day, it really wasn’t called for, I could have walked away like always, I just wanted to let him know, I was not that little kid you could pull his ears, when you didn’t like what was happening. And I was sorry for that, as I had said—but I did make up for it, I think. When he was too old (meaning, 83-years old, he worked up to 78) and his children were coming over to count his money (he had several children living at the time), and was threaten by them, I heard about it, and made myself present when they were present, and told everyone: the threatening was over, that if I heard about it again, I’d throw them out, everyone out, one by one if need be. I think, Grandpa may have heard it from the dinning room, not sure what or how he felt, but I guess, if I made up for that bad remark, so be it. On the other hand, he asked me to make him eggs, and I did. But I guess if there is an insight to this story, let it be this: we are more than we think we are part of our environment. In other words, I had a little of that Russian Bear inside of me also, and sometimes two bears don’t mix.

Written 9-2005, St. Paul, Minnesota (reedited, 5-2008)

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In the Heart of the Whale (An attempt to rob a mother of her newly born, 1947)

In the Heart of the Whale
(An attempt to rob a mother of her newly born, 1947)

Based on a True Story

St. Paul, Minnesota is a city along the banks of the rich river called the Mississippi, the river originates, lays sleeping almost in upper Minnesota, and runs the length of the country, downward to St. Louis, and onto New Orleans, and into the Gulf of Mexico, this is where I was born, in the heartland of the Midwest, you could say. It carries a tremendous amount of water, and its tributaries are countless. But this sketch, or story is not about the Mississippi or even myself, all that much, but about a failed attempt, situation, to robe a mother of her infant child, her newly born; the year is 1947, complete date: October seventh, the location: within the city of St. Paul, in the heart of the city, at a well know Hospital, it is early morning, Indian Summer as they say, autumn leaves are all about, mostly the colors of a dim rainbow. The cornfields outside the city are bare, and the air is cool, a woman is brought into the hospital the evening before she will give birth to a living child, she is unwed, living in the poverty area of the city, on a street called Igelheart, her name is Elsie.
“Bring her into the labor room,” says a nurse, “I’ll see to her soon.”
There are several other women in there about to have babies also, one who was having a hard labor the past two days this is going on her third day (she will endure labor for thirty-six hours), her name is Isabella, she smiles at Elsie, quite possible they could have been friends, but it will not work out that way, her child will die in the morning and the nurses will try to obliterate all traces of the stay, change a few things, but I’m getting ahead of my story.
Isabella did talk to Elsie, in broken English, and mostly Polish, she was seventeen years old, spoke little English, and Elsie, was of Russian and Polish roots also, and spoke a little Polish, or at least understood a little, and spoke good English. Many families back then came over from the Baltic area of Europe, to America, especially during and prior to World War One (for there was much famine and the uproot of war seeped throughout the land and it promised to be a long and dreary war, and so forth), and their families (both Isabella and Elsie’s) extended families, were part of this group, this legacy, and in the case of Isabella, they, her family, could hardly speak any English so she became part of this inheritance, as it was for Elsie’s mother and father, and thus this was the case at hand, and when they came into the hospital, there was bilingual Polish nurses to assist if need be.
Elsie was twenty-seven years old at the time, had one son, Michael, he was two years beyond this new birth to be, and she had just started working at ‘Swifts & Co.,’ as a meatpacker, in the bacon department, she’d work there for twenty-two years before they’d close the place down. Her pregnancy and labor was going along fine.
She was unwed (as I had previously mentioned), and had been dating two men at the same time, matter-of-fact, they were both friends of one another, but unaware of this, and of course back in those far-off days, it was considered a deeper sin, should a woman on any one occasion do such a thing, whereas, it was normal for a man to do this on a weekly bases, and of course for the man, he did it without shame, sin, or even an ounce of regret, matter-of-fact, he did it with fireworks, bragged about it at the bars, and got a standing applause from his audience.
Well, the nurse that had Elsie brought into the labor room, gave her history to the rest of the nurses, and without an ounce of information missing, it would suffice to say, she was the talk of the ward, and the unwed mother, now slave to her sins, her reputation was flooding about, no more skeletons in the closet you might say.
Her father was working, a painter and restaurant owner, but a few of her sisters were there present, the rest would come later—there were five living children, out of eight, three had died—two waiting in the waiting room, near the labor room. Elsie had not started dilating yet, no contractions, but Isabella was getting them, had been getting them, and then she’d stop, it was a long ordeal for her, the nurse had told the doctor they may have to considerer an incision, a cesarean to bring the infant out, lest the woman die from child birth, she was exhausted to the point her breathing was dim at best.
Most of what you are hearing, would be silent, or at best, chopping news, if not sporadically given to Elsie’s son, Dennis, some fifty years later down the road of life, which would have been no big thing—for what is not know, how then can it make a big difference, and so it all was and had to be quitted down back in 1947, it was priceless information and best for it to be forgotten, on the other hand priceless information seeps out often times does it not, if not directly, by osmosis, and perhaps Isabella would never know the truth of the whole matter, and surely would not have agreed with it I do believe. In any case, she could not even read a word of English, a home-made mama, you might say; but the nurses chose her to inherit the rising new child nevertheless, yet to be born; perhaps the nurses intentions were good, meant to be good, for there was no gain for them per se, in that they wanted the child to have a complete parenthood, no fatherlessness involved for the child, a father and mother made better sense perhaps, and since Elsie already had a child, well, it might be better for her, you know, raising one vs. two, to give up the child, unknowingly give up the child, but again, if you do not know, then you are unaware of the crime in progress, and times were not easy for a man, let alone a woman. And so I repeat myself, perhaps the nurses had these intentions, although unethical for their professions; and at this juncture, let me add the doctor in to this little crime scene developing: least he escape unharmed, and that would be my crime to the nurses.
It was now about 3:00 AM, and they brought Isabella and Elsie into one big room, a divided room only by a moveable cloth divider, the doctor was busy with Isabella, her contractions had worsened, and she was dilated to nine—in other words, about to have the child, her water had busted hours beforehand, and Elsie had dilated to seven, and her water had busted right after Isabella’s. They were both on their way to being mothers. Isabella’s husband was out in the waiting room, with Elsie’s sisters, there were three of them now, Betty, Anne, and Rose, and her brother Wally, the one she did so many things with when she was young, chumming about like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
Indeed, it was time for Isabella to have the child naturally or to have it induced, a trying labor she was having, and she looked it, in that she was pale, dark rims around her eyes, her hair matted like a thorn bush, but she was alive, and the baby was coming out, she was pushing, pushing, pushing, Elsie could hear her cries, as for the child there was no movement in its limbs, the eyelids, nothing at all of the child moved impulsively—it came out quiet, too quiet—dead quiet! But the nurses hushed it up, smiled at Isabella, and scooted off with the baby to another bed.
The nurses looked at one another, the doctor stood silent, one nurse whispered something in his ear (cleaning the baby, spanking it, it making no cry, Elsie noticed the silence, waited for the cry, the cry that never came), and he nodded ‘ok’ to the nurses, and they moved Isabella quickly out of the room into a private room, now Elsie was alone, except for the child in the third bed in the room, and the dead child remained in that bed, behind the curtained divider, and the doctor went over to Elsie, it was now 4:00 AM, not many people on the ward, and those who were, were half asleep, that is, except for the crew in Elsie’s room.
Now Elsie was at nine, and she was pushing, pushing she knew how to do it the second time better, she needed no advise from the nurses, she also knew they didn’t care for unwed mothers, and hence, the child passed through without much trouble. A nurse grabbed the infant as Elsie closed her eyes for a moment, but just a moment, but that was after she saw the child was breathing, what color it was, a few other things—then when she opened them, she waited for the child’s cry that oh so beautiful first cry in life, the cry that says ‘I am here,’ perhaps God himself, put that first cry into the child’s heart when it was surrounded by water inside the womb of the woman, as if in the heart of a whale, protected from all the harms and hindrances of the outside world, it was to be a reminder to the mother the child has arrived alive, so the child was out of the belly of the whole now; the nurse had gone behind the other curtain, exchanged the babies, the live one for the dead one, consequently, to exchange them with the mothers. Elsie saw the nurse’s back end step behind the curtain, screamed, “Where is my baby, bring him here immediately?” she even knew it was a boy.
The nurse now stood silent with both children, one in her hands, the live one, the dead one laying on the bed, wrapped up in a thin white blanket, actually they both looked pretty much like one another, like two same chickens, raw and reddish in color, except one had gotten a bit pale. She put down the live child, picked up the dead one, went out to Elsie, to tell her, her child was stillborn—dead, the nurse stood to the back of the bed, about to make her deadly implication, only to hear the words:
“Bring my child to me now!” demanded Elsie.
“Wait a minute, Elsie, he’s being cleaned up, I, I‘ll get him for you in a moment.” Said the nurse, bewildered.
And it was just a moment, when she brought the living child back to her, and Elsie held it tight. It can only be conjectured, to give a solid reason that is, why the nurse turned her heart from one mother back to its original, we will never quite know the true reason of it, at least not in this world anyhow, but I can modestly say, I think the child’s Guardian Angel, was already hard at work, as was Satan’s dark intruding demons. And that my reading friends, is how I came into this world.

Notes on this Story, story based on fact: written 5-28-2008; information gathered over the years from Elsie, and given to her son, and from that this story was constructed, not all details are exact, some conjectures added, that seemed only logical or possible for the time and situation, and where there was no other place to take the story. Isabella is a fictitious name; although the mother did endure having a dead child, and the child was about to be presented to Elsie, Elsie knew the dead one in her arms was dead, horrified the nurse was about to say what she had planned to say, when she went to get the live one, the trauma was over. Of course this happening was hushed up by the hospital, nurses, and even Elsie for almost a half century, today it is not. But she didn’t die, having it untold; and I thank her for her bold actions. It was a time when perhaps such things happened, and justified for a variety of reasons, perhaps under the seal of humanity’s personal God. I do not mention the hospitals name, not that I fear of or for reprisals, it is easy enough to figure out where I was born for the curious reader, but because at 60-years old, I do not care to point fingers, I just hope they have more ethical nurses there now.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

People of the Walk (Short Story, on Santiago, Chile, reedited, 5-2008)

People of the Walk
(Santiago, Chile/2003)

If you have ever been in Santiago, Chile and spent a week there you might have recognize the People of the Walk, or at least in the year of 2003. They are the ones that have a certain street by the Palace area, and I guess they might call it the merchant area and they start gathering there about 4:00 PM. Sometimes even earlier, let’s say 2:30 PM. I’m not sure if they have some kind of a deal or not with the police, but they really stick together on this one street. No cars, just a walkway for the most part. I found it most interesting, also a little sad, a little frustrating, and a little impressed with the people, so many emotions for this group of slum merchants. Or call them down and out merchants. Or sole proprietors with little money. But whatever you call them, they are not afraid of work, and some of the Americans can take a good look at them, learn something, some of the lazy ones that is; they do not seem to be asking for a free ride—like so many Americans want all the time, thinking society owes them something.
Each day my wife and I would walk down this street a few times, around 10:00 PM or so (once at 2:00 PM, once at 4:00 PM also), and there were at least a hundred or more of these People on the Walk. They had a system, let me explain: they, the people of the walk, each had a bag, suitcase or some kind of carry case to haul there merchandise in, and about, something that could be folded up in a hurry, rapidly; the reason being, if the police came walking by, they could quickly fold their four-by-four foot space area mat (or whatever they used to put their merchandise on) fold it up quick, putting their merchandise back into the case and holding the case in one hand, and the mat in the other, and lean against the wall of a store, as if nothing took place.
Let me clarify, if not a mat, they would use, often times some kind of blanket or plastic material they could lay out easily, and they’d walk away—a few feet that is—as if they were not doing business. Then when the police would go—leaving their sight, their backs to them, they would put there goods back on the ground and sell them to the passerby, the casual observers, whomever, the general public.
I purchased a few items, from these merchants, they were good folk, and like anyone else, trying to make a buck, but in this case the hard way. Sometimes you would look behind yourself and the whole street, four to five blocks (of which they were selling on) were clean of merchants, thus you could be assured a few policemen were patrolling the area; although if you looked harder, they were resting against the nearest wall, and would again go back to business once the police disappeared, everything happened within a matter of minutes, it was business as usual then, watching this happen several times a day, actually made me dizzy.
The people were a sample of the whole city I believe, as young as eleven or twelve and as old as sixty or more, male and female.
Another interesting fact is that they all seemed to know one another and had there own little clicks—amazing it was, to say the least. It seemed to be understood—if not well known, that if the police caught a person, s/he could lose their possessions, and be put into jail, or simply have their things taken away from them. And that of course was their fear, and hopefully not their fate. But on the other hand, they had formed a kind of pack among themselves, a union of sorts, and when a few of the policemen took the merchandise, or was about to take it from a certain individual, they’d beat the policemen up, or tried. I guess it had been done. And here I was watching this from the second floor in a McDonald’s restaurant, looking out the window at 2:30 PM.
And so my trip to Santiago, Chile, had one interesting element to it, better then the sites I do believe, and that was ‘The People of the Walk,’ God bless them, for instead of stealing or robbing or selling drugs, they are trying to make an honest living, or as honest as possible, I do realize they do not pay taxes I suppose, and take money away from the stores they park their bodies against, but until the system becomes more fair in Chile, what can one expect, you got to eat, and everyone should be proud they are at least trying to sell something to stay alive. Nothing is perfect, but let us hope the government finds a way out for these folks, giving them a little more respect and expectations.

Written 2003, St. Paul, Minnesota, upon my return; reedited, 5-2008.

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Ferocious Centipeded (Reedited 5-2008)

Ferocious Centipedes
(1956, 109 East Arch Street, St. Paul, Minnesota)

As a child I lived for a long period of time in an extended family environment, my grandfather, Anton was the head of the house, and it was my brother and I, my mother, and two of her sisters living in a small three bedroom house, in what was known as the as outer rim of the inner city. The house was heated by a space heater in the living room. The ice man had to bring dried ice to keep our icebox cold; we had a well along side of the house for water, and there were old barns next door on each side of our house, being converted into garages. The City of St. Paul was quite conservative back then [Minnesota]. And many families lived like us—together in an extended family environment; those setups seem to be coming back some nowadays, with the shortage of houses in Minnesota, and high rents. They were hard-working folks, my family: uncles, aunts, grandfather, and my mother; my mother worked for Swifts, at the stockyards, and my grandfather a painter, worked for a few outfits, and eventually, acquired a restaurant, along with his day job as a painter and had someone work it when he couldn’t.
My brother Mike—two years older than I—and I slept in the bedroom next to the dinning room; my mother in the bedroom across from the living room; and my grandfather in the bedroom across from the bathroom. The two sisters slept on the couch and a rollaway bed, in the living room, and sometimes with my mother. This was during the early fifties [1951-57]. We did have plenty to eat on the table back then though, just not much money to do anything else. It was in 1956 we are talking about, in particular, when we got our large black and white television, and what a crown of glory it was for the household—a tank of a television in comparison to those of today, it must had weighted all of fifty pounds.
Of all these days, there are a few select that I kept in my memory vaults in the back of my mind, which I’m am about to tell you of one. My mother, poor woman, she’d be walking in the dinning room setting up lunch, or wiping down the curtains, and a centipede would appear; you know, those little creatures, wormlike animals with a hundred legs, one for each section of its body, slim body, and little antennas (modified legs, that can be poisoned fangs) you can’t really see those legs, unless you are on top of them. Little beady eyes and yellowish in color (they came in all sizes in our warm little house in the winters and cool in the summers: large, medium and small, all sizes I say, long and think and some big and fat), some a little more tan in color than others.
They could run when cornered I’ll tell you that, perhaps faster than the Roadrunner, that cartoon on television, and I suppose that is what made them more creeper than a mouse, more frustrating than a buzzing fly, especially for my mother, whom was deadly afraid of them.
But let me get to the point here. When she saw one, and I am now visualizing a certain day in the living room when she did, the sun leveling a ray right onto the floor, wooden floor, the table long and thick, in the dinning room, and what do you expect but day to lounge about, and do a little house cleaning before lunch, exacting what she was doing, I was in the living room watching cartoons, thus, out of nowhere a fair-sized and yellowish colored centipede with some inherent high energy, and its own separate collective motion for each leg to run in unison with the others, came dashing from its hidden abode, and it went so fast you’d think it had a tail for a kite, right across my mother’s white moccasins, she was wearing.
She’d jump and screamed when she saw the centipede; indeed she scream until her lungs almost collapsed. She definitely looked as though she needed calm down pill. Arrayed in a morbid, pale face, grandpa came running from wherever he was: basement, kitchen, cellar (feeding his pigeons), thinking the roof fell in, fell on top of her—only to find out he had to undertake the killing of a ferocious centipede, one that seemed to be going local, or in circles, and was a tinge skittish, thus, he took his bare foot, readied it like a hammer over this—call of the wild—and smash it, as he continued to chew his tobacco, quick it was, “Oh!! Said my mother, with a sigh of relief, as he walked away saying,
“I cant believe dhis, vhat is dhe matter with that woman!” and then came an entourage of four lettered words, that I do not want to spell out.
Next, she looked down at her white-moccasins, with beady-laced trim around the front of them, and in the center leathered, and asked me to go in the bathroom, get some toilet paper and clean the mess up, she just couldn’t get herself to touch the smashed creature, and I did.

To be quite frank, I never saw a more frightened person over a centipede in my entire life—; during these outbursts (and there really was not all that many), she seemed to suck up all the oxygen in the room she was in; grabbing all the attention to, yes, without a doubt, and I’d seem to get exhausted just watching it, watching these trials of fright, during those now far-off years, the years we lived at 109 East Arch Street. I really felt for her, I mean, I felt helpless wanting to help her, and perplexed at the same time, because I couldn’t; trying to figure out what was so scary about a bug, other than it was creepy looking. But I never made fun of it, we all have our fears, and we all pay a price for them, one way or another, that in itself is enough penance for allowing ourselves to be caught in the web of fear.

Then there was the spiders who loved to entertain my mother, and they seemed to paralyze her like the centipedes, to the point there was no escape from them, but to scream; and scream she did; again I say, old to the point grandpa would look at her when she’d go into those ferocious spells, and he’d utter, “Yeah, yeah (and the four letter words)…” and shake his head as if it was loose at its core. But I kind of miss those days. Well, kind of I say, she’s been gone now for a few years, and just before she passed on, I brought back a large dead tarantula, from South America, and told her if she could hold the dead creature, I’d give her a little pot of gold, and she held it, but only for a five seconds, and she got her five second pot of gold.

Written in St. Paul, Minnesota, 8-2005

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Bucking in the Corral (a short story)

Bucking in the Corral
((North St. Paul, at Kiddy Corner) (1951-52))

I stood there against the fence, about to join the kids inside the fenced for my ride on Dan. There, now in the corral, sunbeams started brushing across my face, I was a bit blinded, yellow hay soaking into the dried I noticed when I lowered my head to avoid the heavy sun beams, the mud was from the rain yesterday. I stood still, listening to voices of the people around Dan, the horse; another horse I don’t know his name, was by Dan, restless or so it seemed, it made Dan restless; I was listening, watching and not thinking about anything at all even when I heard Dan stomping in the mud like a mad mule, saw him stomping in the mud when I raised my eyes, I stood there with my eyes squinting, if not, almost shut at moments, I seemed to have been drifting a bit also as I waited for my ride, I was scared a little—uncertain, he, Dan the horse, the one I fed many times through the corral fence, the wooden fence feed him grass and hay in back of the farmhouse where all us kids lived five days out of the week, while our parents went to work, some of us staying over nights, Dan was hissing at people, not like him, but the horse behind him I think bothered Dan, neither did he like those who were trying to hold him steady, so one of the kids could mount him, kids and people all about; he was very resistant today, not like his old self, calm and reserved for the most part, and now he started to back kick, I was in the corral, waiting for my ride, behind the legs of old Dan…
“Are you hurt?” said a voice around Dan, tears now pouring down my face, yet I tried not to make a sound. Nonetheless, tears were pouring down my face.
I had felt a kick go deep into my ribs, pushing them inward, taking my breath way, as if I had just been deflated. Dan must have kicked me, hard I told myself, now under the upper body of Dan, lying in the mud. I confirmed to myself it was Dan who must have kicked me, a solid kick, Janet, the owner of the private, Day Care Center (where there was also overnight lodging for kids), grabbed me from under Dan, I was no more than five-years old.
“What’s the matter with you Dan!” she screamed, grabbing the harness, with her other hand, the hand she did not use to hold onto my hand, I was now standing on my own, still a bit dizzy. Then Janet, slapped the horses face, a good one, you could hear it.
“Calm down,” she threw this order at Dan.

I wanted to cry I wanted to say let me go to Dan, but she held him back, pushed his face away from me. I suppose it was enough that she had to grab me from under his legs before he stomped on me, and she was really upset.
She was telling the others to get this other horse, the one behind Dan out of the corral lest another stampede start. On the other hand, her face was saying, “I’m ever so sorry, you know Dan, and he loves you kids.”
My ribs hurt, and she noticed. Then she noticed also, a bee sting, a bee caught sticking out, along the rim of the saddle, almost between the saddle and ribs of the horse, Dan had been stung, the bee was dead now, or so it seemed. I suppose Dan tried in his own way to tell us about this bee, and we were looking at the horse behind Dan, not the little things, that caused big problems.
I can almost feel that kick as I write this out, old Dan, Janet and me.

At the Farm House

I now could hear Janet and the other kids downstairs,” Quiet,” she said to the kids…I was thought to be sleeping myself, but I wasn’t. I tried to see my bruised ribs, but my neck hurt trying to bend it along with my twisting over to see the backside of the upper part of the rib area.
“Has it stopped, the hurting stopped?” Janet asked leaning over my bed. She startled me in the dark, I was thinking of Dan, and here she came into the bedroom; I jumped, and my ribs hurt when I jumped.
“Yes, it hurts,” I told her, and she added, “It will pass in a few days.”
I heard her saying something to someone, “Ill have to tell his mother, and she’s not going to like it.”
She put a cool rag on top of and over my ribs, and she told me to hold it softly in place.
“I hope it does not leave a big burse, your mother will see it and I got a lot of explaining to do.” She commented.
I heard a phone ring downstairs, Janet turned to hear if it was for her, the voice said,” Kiddy Corner— she’s busy right now, can she call you back…?” Then I heard the phone receiver heavily put back into place. I got thinking about how I’d feed Dan tomorrow, if Janet let me.
Later on that night Janet come back up stairs, to my bedroom with a piece of beef and put it against my swollen rib side, tied it kind of with some gauze-tape.
“You’ll need this for tonight, beef will take the swelling down, it’ll help,” she said, with an unsure smile on her face now, an old remedy I guess.
I wanted to feed Dan tomorrow, I wanted to ask her if I could, I mean, I normally could, but circumstances were a little different now.

Originally called “The Corral,” written in 5-2005 renamed, and reedited, and revised, shortened, 5-2008.

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