Friday, December 25, 2009

The Best Christmas Gifts

Christmas day is a day for wonders and suprises. The best ones are not wrapped with pretty paper and a bow. This year I was reminded of that once again. Christmas Eve came and we thought of loved ones and where they were. We talked of missing our son and his wife and the grandsons. Actually we were relieved with the forecast of bad weather that they would be safe in Wisconsin. Moments after that conversation someone knocked on the front door. We wondered who would be visiting and when we opened the door, let's just say our children are often responsible for sending their parents into a heart attack. There they were grinning from ear to ear! Son, wife and grandsons. Needless to say it was even more exciting since this was our first seeing in person of a new grandson born November 16. It is quite wonderful to have them here and so our best present this year came wrapped in a Saturn across hundreds of miles. I thank God that he kept them safe on the road. What was going to be just another Christmas, suddenly became a chorus of Angels singing Noel! Tell me about yours.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Last Thought of You

This short was written the night after 9/11 in reflection of thoughts on my wife and our life together.

A Last Thought of You

Today, like so many other days before, started too quickly. Our time spent talking was too short. A coffee in hand I rushed out the door to work leaving you behind leaning on the small table at which we shared meals and laughter. The sound of your voice trailed behind me as the door closed and I ran for the bus.

The rush of the city overwhelmed me as always and my thoughts went to the day ahead. Then, I was there, standing before those two great monoliths. This was where I spent the best part of my days and many nights.

Stark, emotionless expanse of marble and steel stretched above me. I could not see the top so far aloof. Pushing my way through the throng of people to step through the doors, today was as many others before it.

An elevator whisked me to my destination, high up in the bowels of these symbols of prosperity and financial power.

With quiet precision the door slid open and along with many of my fellow workers I stepped out into the reality called, "the business world". Turning to go to the place that would be my center of the universe for the next hours, I looked out from my high tower into the expanse of the city that never sleeps.

Through a window was where I saw it. A shadow as a bird might cast on the ground before striking. Above that shadow a silvery visage reflected the morning sun. It did not belong there in that part of the sky. Realization of it’s presence there removed all other thoughts from me.

The cacophony of engines and rushing air filled my ears. Then, a blinding flash, and in that instant I remembered how you looked this morning. How much I love you.

The memory, like the reality, was too short and my day ended, with one last thought of you.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stardrive

This is a Stardrive Novel exerpt.
Stardrive written by SglennY.
This material is under copyright and may not be copied or reproduced without express written consent of the author.



Chapter One             Jumping Jupiter


“What do you think you are doing?” Captain Tregali screamed at the navigator.

“If you want to kill every man, woman and animal on this ship that is the fastest way to do it, you idiot!” She couldn’t believe what the first class Nav officer had just plotted on the screen. Worse, she couldn’t help that it caused such an outburst from herself. She, who was referred to as, “The Asteroid Princess.” Nothing could move her to emotional responses in crisis, at least until today.

Today was different from any she had ever had to endure. Ten years working through the ranks and she knew more about Stardrives than anyone.  Then the other Coalition developed theirs and suddenly they wanted to play wargames.

No one thought she had what was needed for command. Then the Amer Coalition wanted her to be on their opposite side. It was months until Admiral Toletov finally considered her fit for a command. After all he was an Admiral and a mere Captain hardly had the rank to be his equal and the counterman on the opposing side.

Toletov, that stinking hair-slicked-back Admiral who was god in the corp of the Amer Coalition, he had set her up! She didn’t want to believe he could be that petty and deceitful, but right now there was no time for recriminations. Toletov could be dealt with later.

At this moment the only thing that mattered was saving her crew, her ship and herself so she could tear those gold stars off from his shoulder and stuff them in his dead, gaping mouth. Her crew would be the voice that would bring that little god to his knees. It had taken most of her life but she was finally going to have her revenge!

“Ma’am, it is the best course of action! It is the only one I can recommend considering,,,” The Nav pointed at the screen and there was no doubt that desperate action was all that might save them. The Captain stood from her command chair. This decision had to be made now. There was no time for considering alternatives. She sank heavily back into the command chair.

“Do it.” Committed, that was the word. Once the command was given there was no turning back. A course forward meant probable death, one backward, certain death.

The scream from the engines, that was never heard through the soundlessness of space, suddenly poured through every bulkhead in the ship. The metal and composite shell of the ship hummed then whined. Whining became a scream that bit into the mind. The shock was fierce as substance flickered from existence to emerge in another place. For a brief moment it passed through all the points in time along a specific path of travel simultaneously. Entering and emerging from the intraspace plane into the normal one was usually accompanied by slight nausea and disorientation.

One point of fact that haunted every traveler was convergence. Convergence was what happened if the line of travel happened to have a solid object along its path near the entry point or the exit coordinate. The object and traveler shared that space-time moment. Each took a chance of losing some of itself and gaining something from the other.

The order Captain Tregali gave forced her ship and everything on it into convergence. All she could think of was, “what happened to leave me with this choice?” The sound of the engines echoed in her mind as matter from her ship converged with the object along their path.

The glow of the giant planet filled her screen. It’s ugly red spot blurred, then came the sickness. She had only suffered the slightest effects from a warp shift before. Today her mind screamed and her stomach twisted. Lunch had been small enough, but still too large to be held. Scanning the bridge of her ship, every person was bent over retching. Then time stopped! ***

Monday, November 9, 2009

IF HE WERE MY SON

I dedicate this to my son and in memory of friends whose first child died at birth.

The small body was more fragile than anything he had ever seen. Like feathers, he had almost no weight. Time would fill it out. At this moment the father’s pride in that small bundle was immense. On that small pudgy hand he could see the ball glove he would buy for his son. There would a shining red bicycle that he would teach him to ride. Oh yes, they would need a basketball net where they could play one-on-one. All this filled the father’s mind. He and his son would go fishing and hunting and of course what boy’s life would be complete without camping in the woods? His school years would be filled with sports and activities.

The nurse tried to take the baby from the beaming father, but he resisted. He held tight even as the bundle was slid from his outstretched hands. Still, in his mind he built the future his son would enjoy.

He would be able to do anything. The father smiled as he thought of the long talks they would share. Man to man, stuff they would discuss like the wonders of life.

Finally, there would come that special lady. Yes, he would give the advice any good father would give. He would tell his son the qualities to look for in a woman. Then he would share the secrets that women hide, and not too well. Encourage him to love completely.

His son would be everything he was and more. After all, that is what any father would want for his son. He would strive to give his son all the tools that would make him a success. Someday, he would stand in a crowd and cheer as his son received his diploma from high school. Then he would encourage him to go to college, to be so much more. Reach for the stars, till you hold them in your hand!

A cloud crossed the father’s face for a moment. College! He would be separated from his son! The thought of separation didn’t fit his plan just yet. Time enough until then.

The nurse placed the small bundle in a crib behind the glass windows. The father smiled and then he turned away to look at the other fathers standing near the glass windows. There faces were masks of his own. Their eyes glittered as they cooed at the infants, tapping the glass, and getting hard stares from the nurses.

Alone to one side however, stood a father, silently staring through the glass. Tears slid down his cheeks leaving wet stains on the carpet at his feet. One father after another turned from their window. The cooing stopped and silence fell on the room as they looked at the weeping father.

Slowly each moved closer and looked through the glass. They expected to see an empty crib. Nothing could cause such tears except that fearful disappointment each parent dreaded as a possibility.

Astonished, each turned to the father. “Why are you weeping? Your child is beautiful and healthy! What is the meaning of these tears? You should be proud! Your child may be a great person someday.”

A tear stained face turned to them. In a quiet voice he spoke softly through muffled sobs. “Yes, my son is perfectly healthy. All I want to do is sit and pray with him. I long to hear him ask Christ to be his savior. I have no reason to cry about my son, I know. I do not cry for him though. Look past his crib to the wall behind.” Pointing to the spot, the others looked as well.

There lay an infant barely covered. It was tiny beyond belief! Tubes stuck out from his discolored body. A nurse stood watching dials and gauges, occasionally making adjustments.

The man sighed, as sobs caught his throat. “You see, I do not cry for my son or myself. I cry for him and his father. For the father that may never hear his son call out, “daddy.” A father who will not get to see the joy on his son’s face as he rides a bike for the first time. The sounds of ball playing from father and son will not echo from their backyard into the kitchen. From there a mom, would shout “time to eat.” On her face, a smile of contentment as she makes supper for her men. That father will not get to sit and talk about why the sky is blue and how do birds fly, with his son. He will not have the joy of sharing his faith with his little man and hearing that first prayer for forgiveness to receive a saviors gift of love and life.

No, his father will not get to do any of these things with his son who is not expected to live much longer. So, I cry for him, because all these things are what I would want to do with him, if he were my son.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ship Ahoy

I wrote this short as an excerpt to the life of a sister, not mine, who died soon after birth. Them being a military family it seemed appropriate to make his sister's life follow the same course. Enjoy.

I apologize if my designation of rank is incorrect. Read in the right ones and imagine!

This is a FICTIONAL story and is not intended in any way to portray any person or persons or to reflect negatively on any branch of the military of the United States to which I have the utmost respect for every woman and man who wears a uniform.

As always this material is the property of the author and is not to be published or reproduced in part or complete for any purpose other than PERSONAL use. Send your friends here to read it and view my other writings.

"The Wright's Rights"

Our family had become something unique. Sitting around talking, once again, we loudly proclaimed stories of daring do's of the past. Brothers and sister alike found ourselves joining military service in one branch or another. Each of us had more than a fair share of stories about near death experiences and near court martial offenses. We weren't rowdies but we lived life to its fullest, as close to the edge as military life would allow.

When we could get together, which was rare, we talked and ate and struggled to push away thoughts of "shove off dates".

No matter what part of the world we found ourselves stationed in we tried to make contact on holidays, birthdays and special occasions. What we wouldn't have given for the cell phone just twenty years ago!

Despite the distances, we were close. We watched each others backs growing up. No one messed with the Wrights! Sis, that's what we called Jackie, never really needed that kind of help, except one time.

Sis had joined the Navy. I was so proud of her. I could just bust when I would tell my friends! Over two years older than me, she had moved along pretty well and her rank had gone up nicely. Stationed on an aircraft carrier for her sea duty Sis found her calling and never left carriers. The first picture she sent me of the line of "her birds" on the deck, set me to day dreaming. I was just a kid then.

I graduated high school and finally had to contend with one of the hardest decisions I would ever make. What was I going to do with the rest of my life?

One afternoon I walked into the house and there on the wall the sun shone through the window in blazing rays. A splash of golden light seemed to dance on the picture, proudly displayed, of Sis in her Whites. Prickly bumps rose on my arms making me shiver.

The recruiter smiled as I told him why I wanted to join. He said it was good I was eighteen and didn't need my parents signature.

I kept my little secret as long as I could. The four weeks flew by and finally, I had no choice. Mom cried as the last of her babies was leaving the nest. Dad shook my hand then pulled me in for a big bear hug.

I'd never thought about what Sis had to go through for her training but after mine, I admired her all the more. Sometimes weeks seemed to pass in seconds and at other times minutes crawled by for days.

Several women had come into training when I did and it was hard to watch them endure what we had to go through to make grade. Not to talk the service down, but they were treated hard. No special provision was made just because they were female! Sometimes it seemed wrong and on occasion it made me sick. By the time I graduated I was ready to get away from the appearance of prejudice. Some of them made it, most didn't. Of course a lot of men dropped out too. Either you had the right stuff or you didn't.

Like Sis, I had often taken time across town at the little airport there. Planes were in my blood. If I couldn't fly, I'd help those who could. Aircraft maintenance was where I ended up. Fixing planes was as much fun to me as flying in them.

Sis didn't know about my posting. I kept that a secret. I had some choices and what could be better? Sea duty on a carrier fit my intentions just fine. I'd do my sea duty and get to spend it with Sis.

Carriers are huge! A person could be on one and not see most of the rest of the crew on board for days, as if you had time to go strolling about! You couldn't just wander around and so you spent the bulk of your time at or near your duty area. Your social life pretty much revolved around those you worked with as well.

My first day aboard, was what we don't talk about. I had been assigned to the same wing Sis was in and she didn't even know it! Like all the newbees, I rushed through the tight corridors to my assignment.

I was walking fast down the line of aircraft with just one set of numbers on my lips. I knew Sis was in charge of certain aircraft and so I memorized their numbers from her pictures. It was in my rush that I nearly missed seeing it. Not the jet I was assigned to, but the incident.

I'd walked past several jets and to my left on the wing of a twenty one a set of coveralls were bent over the cockpit. Another head popped up from the side on the same wing. The guy swung his hand and slapped the other person on the butt. The dark haired face that snapped up was red with rage.

The poor guy had made the biggest mistake of his life. Sis never hesitated as she spun. Her hand came up and in perfect military training precision, drove her fist into his face. His spine straightened with a snap and his feet left the wing. He fell backward to the deck, not ten feet from me! He hit hard and lay still on the deck. I thought she killed him!

Suddenly, there was shouting and a big Chief Petty started screaming at Sis. Someone called the sickbay and one of the Medics came running. He was kneeling over the guy shaking his head. I knew it wasn't good. They rushed the guy out and officers were thicker on the deck than a warm sea fog. Every one had just one question they were shouting back and forth. "What happened?" They didn't really want to know because if they had, they would have asked Sis.

One Officer was screaming at Sis about how she was going to pay. I felt sick. Nothing had changed! I started to tremble because for the first time I wanted out. Then deep inside, my guts boiled and I stepped beside my sister. She was shocked to see me, but she didn't flinch at one word the Chief was screaming.

" Sir!"

The Chief was mad and just short of foaming at the mouth. I thought he was going to pull my arms out of their sockets when he looked at me. I stood my ground just like Sis did. I'd heard what he had planned for her, well I'd give him two for one.

"What do you think you're doing Mister?" Man, could he yell!

"I may have something to explain all of this, Chief Petty Officer Waldon!"

He sneered at me. He could smell a fresh cut a mile away, and I was sure he would ask for a gun just so he could shoot me himself.

"What do have that might interest me mister?" I don't think Chief Petty's have a volume control for their voice, y'know? The launcher cycled and no one missed a word he said.

I pulled the strap on my video camera from around my neck. Turning the screen so he could see it, I hit the replay button. You know, I didn't know a face could go whiter than dress whites, his did.

I just wanted to catch her surprise on video when she saw me. You see I had the camera because I was supposed to be part of a crew taping training videos on aircraft maintenance. I figured I could edit Sis's shock out later.

He backed away for a minute. His hand reached for my camera. I pulled it away. His eyes came up, they locked on mine and I was sure he would kill me.

"What would you have done?" His gravely voice was raspy. He wanted to know, if I was her, would I have done the same thing.

"Sir, if she hadn't done it, I would have knocked his head off anyhow. You see, she, is my sister!" He stepped back from me. Looking up he groaned as he saw the names on our uniforms for the first time.

Wright, W. A., Wright, J. G., I thought he would puke right there.

We're family we watch each others backs. Sis will make Captain someday. The guy she hit, oh, he just slipped on the wing when she stood up too quickly. He got out on a medical. No one saw a thing. He can walk fine. His nose is a little crooked but hey, it could be worse.

Sea duty had a whole new meaning and my time flew by. When it was over, Sis ordered me off her ship. She said she could take care of herself and I have never had a doubt about that. I went land bound and ended up editing all those films I made. Followed them through until they ended up in classrooms. I was all over after that. I even earned my nickname through it.

I switched to journalism. Found I had a flair for the camera and pen. I gave it ten years. I get a little pension now.

What about tomorrow? Who knows? Right now, I need a cold Coke and a hot burger. Sis is yelling for the Ink Jockey to hurry up, idling on the deck is just wasting fuel.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Bear and the Mocassin

Many years before the Europeans came to North America to colonize, there were many people there. They are referred to as Native Americans. They inhabited the land from coast to coast and from the sea to the northern ice. They were primitive by modern standards and yet lived well in the land they were born into. They had many beliefs and they varied according to tribe and custom. Each had a deity or several to whom they prayed and whom they revered above all others. Most of them worshiped the natural elements and thus something as simple as rain when needed was the provision of a deity to his people. The thunder was the voice of god and it often was a fearful one. Lightning would strike the ground and set the forest on fire and sometimes people died from them. Today many legends remain from those people. Some have been forgotten or distorted and some survive. One such story occurs several generations before the Pilgrims landed in the New World. In many cultures leadership is often determined by ones birth. So it was with the small tribe nestled in the mountains of the northeast. If ones father was Chief, his son became Chief on his death. Many times the son ruled while the father lived. The older Chief advised and helped make major decisions. Unfortunately for one small tribe the Chief was left with a dilemma. His first born was not one but two boys, twins! The boys grew up under their father’s wise lessons. Each was capable of leading the tribe. They were agile and wise in the woods. Their ability to hunt was the talk of the tribe. The similarity ended there. One was loud and rambunctious. The other was quiet, given to long contemplation. It happened one winter the snow was deep and lasted long. The cold was the worst any could remember. The old Chief would go to each hut and check to make sure each family had wood for fire and food. He became sick with a coughing sickness. Too quickly it set him into racking coughing fits and one night he motioned for his two sons to sit beside him. Taking a hand of each he lifted his head, but before he could speak, he died. No son had been appointed to the position of first Chief. The elders of the tribe set several tasks for each to complete and the one who did so first would be accepted as Chief. They set to the tasks and each in his own way accomplished his goals. The one through wisdom the other through brute force and determination. The last task each was to perform would decide who would lead. It seemed simple enough. All they had to do was get a bear with her cub to across the river near the village. The wise son went to the woods and found a tree with honey bees in it. He took a piece of the comb and went into forest in search of a bear. He found one with a cub and began leading it to the river. The succulant honey dripped as he walked and the bear licked at the drippings hungrily. The people watched from above in the rocks as the bear followed the boy. The other son waited at the river and stood with an evil grin on his face. When his brother approached the water and was about to throw the honey comb across the river the brutish brother shot an arrow knocking the honey into the water. The bear angry at her loss charged the wise son. He, realizing his peril, ran into the river and swam across with the bear and her cub in pursuit. The brutish son pointed and said, "see I have caused the bear to cross chasing my brother. I should be Chief." The elders were not pleased with how he had done it, but agreed he had completed the tasks. Some of the people disagreed and left the tribe. They decided they would follow the wise son and ran to the bridge across the river. It was only vines and branches but strong enough for one person to cross at a time. Thirty crossed and after ward the earth shook and the bridge fell as the earth opened and the river sank deeply into a chasm. The two groups were cut off from each other. The wise son watched as his friends crossed. When the earth shook and opened the gulf between him and his brother he stepped from the forest. "Brother. As the earth has caused the great chasm and separated us, let us live in peace with each other and apart." "Agreed. We will remain apart until the earth bridges the chasm with a bridge not made by mens hands." They walked away from the spot and soon forgot about the others who lived near but far away. No one went to the spot for many years. The wise son took a wife of those who came to him. They were blessed with a girl child. She grew and was more beautiful than any other. The other brother also took a wife and to him was born a son. His son reminded him every day of his wise brother. He was not harsh as his father but given to much thinking. He was wise and often went into the forest to return days later. When questioned about his journeys he merely replied, "I went to see what was past that mountain." Finally his father forbade him to leave again. The young man went to the highest point in the chasm and sat beneath a tree. From there he could see the depth to the river below and the white clouds billowing across the blue sky. It was a quiet place. One day as he sat beneath his great oak tree he saw a shadow on the other side of the chasm. The shadow moved along the edge. A bright ray of sunlight touched the shadow and he could see a young woman. She was more beautiful than any in his village. He knew there were people on the other side of the river but no one in his tribe spoke about them openly. This woman must be from that tribe. He watched as she filled a basket with berries. After a time she stopped and sat under a large birch tree. Her dark skin and hair was a contrast to the white bark of the birch tree. The young man whistled like the bird which was red. The woman looked about to see where it was hiding. Her eyes happened to find the young man sitting by his tree. Startled she grabbed the basket and was about to run away. "Please, don’t leave." The young man called to her. "You are safe, there on your side of the river." "I was not running way because I am afraid of you." She turned and faced him showing no fear of his presence. "My father said this is a forbidden place and we should not come here. Yet the berries here are fat and abundant so I come." "Oh. My father says we should not come here as well. I like this place it is peaceful." That was how the young man from one tribe met the young woman from the other. They talked and agreed to return again. For many weeks they talked and walked along the edge of the chasm. Hours passed and when their fathers asked where they had been, they simply said near the river in the forest. They shared their dreams and hopes for themselves and their people. The winter came bringing the deep snow. It was many weeks before they could get to the spot where the great oak tree stood. The snows came less often and the sun grew warm. The snow melted and the river below became a raging, boiling snake of water. The green began to return to the trees and forest. The spring storms came as well. One day as the two talked a storm came very quickly. Leaves and branches spun about in the air. There was no time to run to the village so each ran to their great tree. The sky darkened till it was like night. Lightning streaked across the sky. The booming voice as it struck thundered down on them. One bolt of blue -white light struck the great oak tree. The tree groaned in agony as it leaned over. The weight of its great branches pulled it over. Crashing to the ground, it spanning the great chasm. The young man had grabbed its branches and pulled himself into the great tree hoping to be protected from the storm. When the tree fell and bark splintered into the chasm the young man hung by one hand under it. The rain made the branch and his hand slippery. Crying out his love to the woman he felt he could hold on no longer. She crawled in fear onto the tree and slid along the great girth of its trunk. Laying against the rough bark she cried to him through the shrieking of the wind. Reaching down through sobs she begged him to grab her hand. He stretched and pulled against the branch. Their fingers touched then slowly his fingers walked up her hand to grasp it. The thunder roared again. Twin Chiefs stood quickly. In the storm, there was a scream. The only person missing was their only child. Running into the blinding storm in the direction of the scream it took only minutes until they saw the great oak tree laying across the chasm. Confused they stared at each other. Who had screamed? Where was their child? The lightning struck and in its brilliant light a small mocassin could be seen caught in the branches of the oak tree. The wise son started to climb across, hoping, fearing, where could his daughter be. The other Chief climbed onto the trunk. When the lightning struck again and the chasm below flashed into brilliance. There among the rocks he could see the broken body of his son. Along side of it was a young woman. Their hands were clasped together. He gasped as he realizing what had happened! This was where his son had been coming! Tears fell down his cheeks. He looked along the tree and there he saw his brother. In his hand was the small mocassin of his daughter. Groans of agony came from trembling lips. The two stood facing the other. There on a bridge not made by mans hands, they met. Joy and sadness in full, burst from each. The wise son reached out to his brother. In his other hand was the necklace that marked the young man as a prince among his people. It had become caught on the branch as well. The image of a bear and cub carved in wood strung on hide. The two people became one that day. Over time you could not tell one tribe from the other. They filled the forest until it was full. The great oak tree was carved until it was a flat safe bridge. It spanned the river for ages. On each side of the bridge was the carving of the necklace and a mocassin. Whenever a child would ask why they were there, the parents would tell them this. It is a reminder of the cost of pride and greed. The bridge remained until many years later in their lust for this New World it was burned by Europeans to keep the Indians from crossing and fighting against them. These many years later the people have passed into dust. The great chasm has been filled with their dust and much more dirt to make a place to build houses. The people who live there often comment that when a spring storm roars through their town, some say they can hear a loud scream. One as someone falling a great distance and dying. Then weeping, long groaning sobs. Who know the sounds of the wind through the trees when the spring rains come? Then again, it is just a story, isn’t it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

World of Darkness, part seven, the end

I rode down the yard and put the stand down and it stood there shiny and mine. I went in the house and found my sister. She was my, always, companion at home. She was several years older and did more in raising me than my mother ever did. I told her my good fortune with great excitement. My own bike and my parents didn’t even have to pay for it! It was about then that I heard the front door slam. We ran into the kitchen and there stood my mother. My shiny bike was gripped in her hand. She looked at me and with deadly quiet in her voice asked, "what is this? I told her it was my bike and that James’ father had given it to me for free. "You will get a bike when we buy it for you. We don’t need his charity!" She turned and dragging the small bike by the grip went toward the basement. You could only get into our basement from outside. I followed and my sister held my hand as we wondered what she was going to do. She snapped the light on. The only thing in there was our wood furnace and the big block my father chopped wood for the stove on. She grabbed the axe and laying the bike on the block. She swung. I stood staring as she chopped the frame in half. Then the new tire and shiny rim. It was a wreck and she slammed it with the blunt end of the axe until it was dented and twisted. She heaved it against the wall and dropped the axe. Tears spilled from my eyes and I ran. I hid in the woods behind the house. That was the day I started hating my mother. Not just a simple dislike or upset, but burning, angry hate. It never went away. I tried, over the years to forgive her for it. I never did. She’s dead these many years and now I can’t. I wonder if I could if she weren’t though? I avoided the ball field, James house, or any place I might see them. School started again and I was about to enter third grade. I remember always feeling sad in those days. The only bright moments I remember were with my sister. She had seen. She knew my pain. She taught me to sing, and let me listen to her records. The Beatles were the rage and she was as caught up in that mess as any teen girl. She took me baby sitting one night and the people had a television. Ed Sullivan was on and the Beatles played. I had to be quiet while my sister screamed as loud as the ones on the television. The summer passed and I missed seeing James. Sis was OK to be around but she wasn’t a guy. She didn’t do guy stuff. I mentioned my bad luck. One day, when I got off the bus, James’ dad was waiting. James sat in the front of the bus and was off before me. I always sat near a brother because as much as I didn’t like them, when trouble started, family stuck together. I followed them off the bus and only saw James’ dad too late. The other kids all ran for their houses and I was trapped. They stood there all three of them. James’ house was only four down from the bus stop. "Want to come down?" James dad seemed sad, hurt. I was afraid he would yell at me and I had avoided James as much as I could. "It will be a couple hours till your folks come home. James hasn’t had someone to play with much lately." I knew what he was saying. I followed them to their house and inside. James set his books down on the table. I didn’t have any. I never had homework. I did it in school at recess. It was safer inside doing homework and reading. I knew if I took something home it would get trashed. We sat at the table and James’ dad set some cookies on the table and glasses of milk. I ate silently. Watching, waiting. Finally James’ dad sat at the table. He nibbled on a cookie. "Did the bike tire go flat?" He was careful in how he spoke. "No, sir." It really hadn’t. "Oh. You haven’t come over to ride I thought you might be afraid to bring it if it went flat. That happens sometimes, it not your fault. If it needs something bring it down, OK?" He was so kind I honestly wanted him to hug me like he often did James. Tears slowly formed in my eyes and dripped into my milk glass. "Are you OK?" He stood and I nearly leapt from the chair. He was between me and the door and I wanted to die. I slid back onto the chair. I remember the sensation of his hand resting on my shoulder, warm, and comforting. "It’s going to be fine. Tell me what happened." James wiggled uncomfortably but did not leave. His sister looked as though she might burst into tears as well. Later I learned little girls are like that. If they see someone cry they do also. It’s still strange to me. I spilled my guts sitting there. A half eaten cookie turned soggy from tears. James and his dad listened as I told them what my mother had done. He had moved around the table and I looked up to see his kind face. It was near tears. I told him all of it. That my mother had said we don’t need his charity. He sat heavily and James just stared. The air was silent. I choked out a thanks for everything. He was staring out the window. I leapt from the chair and was gone. The door banged behind me. We never talked again. Not to James or his dad. The last sight I had of his face was of such sadness. I felt I had betrayed him by being born into such a family. That was the day I learned to hate charity and kindness. Nothing should make you hurt like that. My mother had been raised in a Catholic orphanage. She talked about God and His love. If he was so nice why did He let my mother hurt the nicest man I’d ever met without even touching him. God wasn’t nice! He was cruel and mean and what had I done to Him that He left me where I hated the very people who were my family? That was the year my parents marriage really went to pieces. Dad was thrown in jail because he tried to chop the head off one of my older brothers, with the same axe that had been used to destroy the bike. He was drunk at the time and so considered dangerous. My mother decided she’d had enough and since she couldn’t raise us all she needed to dispose of some of us. It was within weeks of the confrontation with James’ dad. I remember one cool day we walked to town. Five brothers and our mother. She didn’t talk much as we walked and I had no idea why she was taking us to town. The twin whose arm had been injured was still in a cast and since they were only four years old, my mother and the oldest brother took turns carrying them. The bridge across the river was the worst part. The cold air howled through the thin jacket and worn socks. We went to the court house. I didn’t know what it was for until we arrived. The last time I’d been here it was for truancy. I didn’t care except to get inside. My hands were cold from the walk and my feet were marginally frozen. September in the mountains was cool on some days. It was on this one. We sat on wood benches and slowly the tingling left my feet. My mother met with a lady and after some time they both came over. "I can’t take care of all you kids. This lady is going to put you into foster homes." She said it so dispassionately I was surprised she even bothered to explain at all. I had learned about foster kids in school. There were only a couple. If I thought I was treated like dirt by other kids, they were ignored and avoided as though they had some horrible, contagious disease, as well. I was furious and when I was told I would be going to a home with my next two older brothers. I lost it. I screamed I’d run away. I didn’t want to be with any of them. I hated them all!" My mother tried to threaten me to shut up, but not this time. I refused. I had already acquired the habit of hiding out sometimes for days with almost no contact with people and skipping out at school when the need arose. The need being because I didn’t have two shoes that matched because one had fallen apart. I was embarrassed at our poverty. I didn’t see other kids in the kind of clothes were wore. They had money for milk at school and full lunch pails. I had water at the water fountain and a paper sack, which I carefully folded each day and returned to home, for my slice of bread with mayonaisse. I hated my life because it was empty, like my stomach. The lady and my mother talked. The lady came back and took my next two older brothers and the twins. No one said good bye. My mother left and I sat on an old wood bench alone. Another lady came and sat beside me. "I’m taking you to the home a very nice family. They really want you to come. They have a son about your age. Come with me. Do you have anything to take along?" My mother hadn’t even bothered to pack the other pair of pants or the two shirts I had. I hadn’t really cried through any of the days events. I watched my family be split apart like a puzzle. None of our uncles or aunts came and offered to help or take any of us in until our parents got it together. We were discarded, an inconvenient embarrassment. On the trip to what was to be my home and family for the next several years I sobbed. My thin coat sleeves were dirty and covered with tears and runny nose. How did I feel? By the time we arrived I was dead inside! Over the next seven years my mother saw me once. The lady came to the foster home and picked me up. She took me to the courthouse where my other brothers were waiting. The older ones spent most of the time taking with my mother. She was telling how she was getting a place and would soon have them home. She could only take two and so the twins and I were returned to our foster homes. She didn’t talk to me at all. I didn’t want to live with her anyhow. My foster parents had a farm and it was three years since I’d seen this lady called my mother. I was strong now and my ribs didn’t stick out any more. That day was the first time I’d been hungry like before in three years. She didn’t bother to buy us anything to eat. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. The foster counselor returned me unaware of my hunger. I didn’t tell. At home I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk. Real milk from our cows! No one ever told me I couldn’t have something when I was hungry. My foster mom made cookies and cake all the time. We ate real meals with meat and potatoes, corn and beans and milk to drink. We sat together at the table like a family should. I got all the milk I wanted. I still make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and milk. It’s my favorite and I passed my love for them on to my kids and grand kids. My thanks to James’ dad for that. My father brought his new wife to visit once while I was at the foster home. He was drunk and I wanted him to go away forever. That day I died of embarrassment. So did they, to me. I stopped thinking of them as my parents. I even stopped calling them mom and dad. I had new parents. Parents a lot like James dad. I never mentioned James’ mother because I don’t remember her. I’m not sure if she was even alive. She must have been. I seem to have blanked her out of my memories. I don’t know why. Years later I learned about Christians. Matter of fact I became one. So is my wife and both my kids. You see, I never found out for sure, but inside I’m sure James’ dad was one, as well James probably was one too. No one but a Christian would have fed and tolerated the presence of a dirty, half starved kid of alcoholics in those days. Let alone invite one into their house and give him a gift as valuable as friendship with no strings attached. I just wish I could find him and really thank him. I have to admit, I’ve wrestled with the same prejudices that others held against me as a child. I get embarrassed at facing kids in dirty clothes with runny noses at the store. They look into my eyes and unknowingly smile in ignorance of their condition. I’m embarrassed because I know and in this day and age I am as helpless to stop it as they are. No wonder when they grow older and their eyes open they often end in jail. All they’ve ever seen are people taking for themselves from others. It was all right for the adults in their life to do it, why not for them? It is much easier to blame others for their own impoverished condition than it is to blame myself for my inability to see past the dirty faces and ragged clothes. To see how many times adults are at fault for those tear streaked dirty and gaunt faces. The adults who waste money on things like drugs, and drink and cigarettes. Taking pleasure in selfish pampering of themselves and ignoring the child they brought into this world. A child with no power to lift itself out of the devastating environment it was born into. A world of adults with one desire. To get all they can from life for themselves. Yet are those adults really any more to blame than me when I hesitate to offer a slice of toast, or a glass of milk? Might I at least offer a comforting hand on their shoulder or a quiet place where a soul can rest? At the least show them the warm sunlight of friendship from the anger and prejudice of a world of darkness!

Epilogue I’ve written this as accurately as I can, corroborating my information with other brothers. My life turned out different than it should have and better than I could have hoped. Not because I found a way to overcome the obstacle of poverty or embarrassment of it, but because one family decided to help a kid despite what he was. Looking back I realize it just took God a little while to place me in a family much like the one I admired, James and his family. Some families, such as my foster family are well suited to taking in and helping others. Much of my character and values were instilled by them. All without going hungry, or getting beaten. Unfortunately kids in schools have not the same heart. I suffered the ridicule of being a foster kid through eighth grade. My foster parents never knew or at least never let on knowing how the kids and others jibbed and picked. I survived and though I admit to some rocky moments in my teen years, my feet came back solidly on the ground. For my foster parents, they didn’t hassle me for my unfortunate parentage. Nothing has made me feel so much a part of family as when I would visit my foster parents as an adult. There were times my foster mom introduced me to people. She would call me, "one of her boys." We all knew it meant foster kid but it always felt good the way she said it. I belonged. I have never been a foster parent and am sure I don’t have some of the needed gifts to be one. You see, no matter how long you live, you will always be a foster kid yourself. You never really get past seeing the dirty faces and runny noses without hurting. Looking into innocent eyes that reflect the memory of a life you lived. Seeing the suffering because a governmental system propagates it with easy money and a blind eye to the truth. A system that waits to help until it is usually too late. I am glad for those who are willing to take on the task of reaching out as foster parents. I can listen and talk to those kids who are there. I know where they are and that they are young and often innocent in understanding what it all means. I can’t tell them things will be fine. I can’t tell them to grab the opportunity before them. Many don’t have a clue what that would mean. I can push a swing, offer a slice of bread or a drink. I can at least give them an example so when they finally do see and understand, they might remember. Then strive to be like the guy who looked past the dirt, the snot, the mangy hair, and wasn't ashamed of their innocent eyes.

Much of what I have written is also for parents and foster parents. You see, I’m not embarrassed any more for myself and I don’t much care if someone doesn’t like what I say. For foster parents I can say, you might help a kid who could make it. I don’t know if they would ever be able to come back and say thanks, so let me say it for them. Thanks. For parents I can only say, if you think you’ve done everything you can ask your kid. Poverty needn’t be an inheritance. For those who see the dirty faces and turn away, I understand. I understand you’re outraged and embarrassed that a child like that would look at you and make you feel ashamed. Fear not though. Those innocent eyes don’t know your pain, your humiliation that a child like that would stare at you, with your nice clothes and clean skin. They just smile at you and wonder why you don’t smile back. After all their smile is dirt cheap. What is yours really worth? So little that you can't share it?

World of Darkness, part six

I rode down the yard and put the stand down and it stood there shiny and mine. I went in the house and found my sister. She was my, always, companion at home. She was several years older and did more in raising me than my mother ever did. I told her my good fortune with great excitement. My own bike and my parents didn’t even have to pay for it! It was about then that I heard the front door slam. We ran into the kitchen and there stood my mother. My shiny bike was gripped in her hand. She looked at me and with deadly quiet in her voice asked, "what is this? I told her it was my bike and that James’ father had given it to me for free. "You will get a bike when we buy it for you. We don’t need his charity!" She turned and dragging the small bike by the grip went toward the basement. You could only get into our basement from outside. I followed and my sister held my hand as we wondered what she was going to do. She snapped the light on. The only thing in there was our wood furnace and the big block my father chopped wood for the stove on. She grabbed the axe and laying the bike on the block. She swung. I stood staring as she chopped the frame in half. Then the new tire and shiny rim. It was a wreck and she slammed it with the blunt end of the axe until it was dented and twisted. She heaved it against the wall and dropped the axe. Tears spilled from my eyes and I ran. I hid in the woods behind the house. That was the day I started hating my mother. Not just a simple dislike or upset, but burning, angry hate. It never went away. I tried, over the years to forgive her for it. I never did. She’s dead these many years and now I can’t. I wonder if I could if she weren’t though? I avoided the ball field, James house, or any place I might see them. School started again and I was about to enter third grade. I remember always feeling sad in those days. The only bright moments I remember were with my sister. She had seen. She knew my pain. She taught me to sing, and let me listen to her records. The Beatles were the rage and she was as caught up in that mess as any teen girl. She took me baby sitting one night and the people had a television. Ed Sullivan was on and the Beatles played. I had to be quiet while my sister screamed as loud as the ones on the television. The summer passed and I missed seeing James. Sis was OK to be around but she wasn’t a guy. She didn’t do guy stuff. I mentioned my bad luck. One day, when I got off the bus, James’ dad was waiting. James sat in the front of the bus and was off before me. I always sat near a brother because as much as I didn’t like them, when trouble started, family stuck together. I followed them off the bus and only saw James’ dad too late. The other kids all ran for their houses and I was trapped. They stood there all three of them. James’ house was only four down from the bus stop. "Want to come down?" James dad seemed sad, hurt. I was afraid he would yell at me and I had avoided James as much as I could. "It will be a couple hours till your folks come home. James hasn’t had someone to play with much lately." I knew what he was saying. I followed them to their house and inside. James set his books down on the table. I didn’t have any. I never had homework. I did it in school at recess. It was safer inside doing homework and reading. I knew if I took something home it would get trashed. We sat at the table and James’ dad set some cookies on the table and glasses of milk. I ate silently. Watching, waiting. Finally James’ dad sat at the table. He nibbled on a cookie. "Did the bike tire go flat?" He was careful in how he spoke. "No, sir." It really hadn’t. "Oh. You haven’t come over to ride I thought you might be afraid to bring it if it went flat. That happens sometimes, it not your fault. If it needs something bring it down, OK?" He was so kind I honestly wanted him to hug me like he often did James. Tears slowly formed in my eyes and dripped into my milk glass. "Are you OK?" He stood and I nearly leapt from the chair. He was between me and the door and I wanted to die. I slid back onto the chair. I remember the sensation of his hand resting on my shoulder, warm, and comforting. "It’s going to be fine. Tell me what happened." James wiggled uncomfortably but did not leave. His sister looked as though she might burst into tears as well. Later I learned little girls are like that. If they see someone cry they do also. It’s still strange to me. I spilled my guts sitting there. A half eaten cookie turned soggy from tears. James and his dad listened as I told them what my mother had done. He had moved around the table and I looked up to see his kind face. It was near tears. I told him all of it. That my mother had said we don’t need his charity. He sat heavily and James just stared. The air was silent. I choked out a thanks for everything. He was staring out the window. I leapt from the chair and was gone. The door banged behind me. We never talked again. Not to James or his dad. The last sight I had of his face was of such sadness. I felt I had betrayed him by being born into such a family. That was the day I learned to hate charity and kindness. Nothing should make you hurt like that. My mother had been raised in a Catholic orphanage. She talked about God and His love. If he was so nice why did He let my mother hurt the nicest man I’d ever met without even touching him. God wasn’t nice! He was cruel and mean and what had I done to Him that He left me where I hated the very people who were my family?

World of Darkness, part five

I mentioned before we didn’t have television. One day, while sitting at the field below our house that was also the ball field for the kids in the neighborhood, I heard the sound of television. The house in back of where I sat had one. The windows were open and I could hear it. I crossed the street to see if I could catch a glimpse from a window. I could from the opposite side of the driveway. The television was on the opposite wall and I could see it and hear it! That was my first introduction to a show called Johnny Quest. I was so involved in the show I didn’t see the man come around the side of the house. "Hungry?" I jumped to my feet and was about to go into high gear. "It’s OK. You can watch." His voice was more gentle than any I’d ever heard. I wanted to run but Johnny Quest had captured my interest. "Hungry?" He wasn’t pushing just asking. I didn’t want to admit my stomach was rumbling and though it was Saturday no one at home bothered to make anything for breakfast. Not that I usually got much more than a slice of homemade bread, with weak tea or water. My mother was sleeping off her previous nights drunk and if I was to help myself to her store bought bread or cereal I’d live to regret it. So I nodded as I couldn’t hide the grumble coming from my skinny middle. He waved a hand and led me into his house. No one around invited one of us in! We were treated like the lepers of the Bible. At this time I didn’t even know what a Bible or leper was anyhow. He held the door and I followed him. It struck me as odd that I didn’t see any kids watching Johnny Quest. When I walked into their kitchen I knew why. A boy a couple years older than me sat at the table with a sister. When we came in they nodded. The girl squirmed with excitement. "Daddy, can we have toast with the peanut butter and jam?" She pointed at a jar on the counter. "OK." He smiled and popped bread in a toaster. Opening the cupboards he set several dishes around the table. He pointed at me and then the boy. "He was watching Johnny Quest from the driveway," I sat in silent fear. Waiting for the hidden insults and ridicule. I wished I’d never come inside. Food was not worth what I was sure was coming next. "You live up the hill?" The boy didn’t seemed to care about the general reputation of our family. "Uh, huh." I remember looking around their kitchen as I answered. It was spotless! They had a coffee pot that plugged in and it bubbled away. "You want to come in and see the show?" I hate to say at this point that although I learned his name it is one thing I have forgotten over the years. I’ll refer to him as James. I looked at his dad and waited for the look that said, we’ll give you food but stay out of the rest of our house. Instead he pointed and said, "go ahead. I’ll bring the toast when it’s ready." I followed James and we sat on the floor in front of the couch. Johnny Quest ended and my toast was gone. I must have looked like an animal about to be released into unfamiliar territory. James’ dad walked in and handed me glass of milk. I nearly died. I got milk at home sometimes. I watched my mother pour water into a pitcher and mix the white powder with it. This milk however, came from a jug! Real milk like my grandfather on my father’s side got from his cows. We didn’t get real milk from him though. He said it was money. He sold his milk and that was his job. I was as full as I’d ever been after two slices of toast with peanut butter and jelly and a whole glass of milk. We watched a second show on television. I’d seen this one through a window of one of our other neighbors. I didn’t know what they said but it fascinated me. It was called Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. This was the first time I’d heard the voices. James’ dad said he needed to go shopping and I was welcome any time. I left that house happy and afraid. I was sure he mustn’t have heard about my family. Lazy Reliefers, it would all change when he did. The week dragged by. Andy was hardly around and I was left to myself. I sat at the ball field several times hoping James or his dad would be out side and I would get invited over. Finally it happened! They came home and saw me. James called out for me to come over. I did and we played that afternoon and rode his bike around the yard and driveway. I wasn’t real good at telling time but I could ask. When James’ dad said it was just after five I said a quick good bye and bolted. Our mother arrived home just after five. If I was not in the yard or house,,. I managed to pull off my escapade to James’ house all summer with no one the wiser. On Saturday mornings I watched cartoons with James and his sister. We ate oatmeal and toast and no one ever called me names at their house. No one swore. No one yelled except in playing. God why couldn’t I have been born James’ brother? My mother usually worked Saturday mornings. I made sure I was home in case she decided to come home before going out drinking. I did mention I had a streak of bad luck. One Saturday I made my way to James’ house. My mother had been up early and grumbling how she had to work all day today. She usually worked Saturday mornings only. That was how I got to watch cartoon with James without fear of getting caught. I arrived at James house and his dad was waiting at the door. "Come on in quick." He had toast already made and hot chocolate! James wasn’t around. "He’s combing his hair. He’ll be down shortly. We’re going to town." My heart fell. I had all day to play with James and he was going away. I ate quickly and stood to leave. "No, you wait." James dad spoke firmly and I froze. I thought, well he’s going to tell me to stay away. James came in with his sister. "Ready dad." "Ok, everyone in the car." I followed them and stood facing the open door. I could see James bike laying in the back of the station wagon. "Get in we need to go." "I can’t." I was horrified. My folks would really kill me if I got in someone elses car. "It’s OK. I saw your mom go to work earlier. I’d ask but no one is home to ask, right?" I nodded. "Then get in." I sat in the car next to James. Their car smelled like something brand new from a store. We crossed the bridge over the river and after several stops, we stopped at a bike shop. James’ dad told us to sit and he took the bike from the back. He returned several minutes later and put the bike in the back. James’ dad had a pleasant face and I had seldom seen him with anything but a smile on it. Today was no exception, other than that he and his two kids seemed to be smiling bigger than ususal. We arrived at their house and the morning was barely gone. I was invited to have lunch. When I looked in the open refrigerator door in their kitchen I could not believe any one had that much food! We had sandwiches and potato chips. We had soda to drink and once more I felt as full as I’d ever been. James’ dad put the dishes in the sink. "Come on out." He led the way to the porch and I noticed for the first time that James bike looked cleaner than it ever had. "I had to take the bike to get the tire fixed. It was old and worn out." James had disappeared while we looked at the bike. I heard some noise and looked around. James was pushing a shiny, new bike! It was bigger than the old one. James was growing. "We wanted to surprise you. I bought James a new bike for his birthday last week. I got this one fixed because he wanted to give it to you! Now you can both ride at the same time." His smile was big and I caught it. I could feel the grin on my face spread. My own bike! He handed me the handle bar. "He’s waiting. Better get going." I jumped on the seat and peddled like a Fury. We rode about the ball field all afternoon. The sun seemed to hover in place forever. Eventually James’ dad called out. "Going on five." I stopped at the edge of their drive way. James’ dad stood on the porch. "Take it home. It’s yours now." They stood watching as I peddled to the hill and up it. I looked back almost sure they would say it was joke bring it back. I reached our yard which was usually muddy and looked behind. They were gone. It really was my own first bike!

Monday, April 20, 2009

World of Darkness, part four

all materials on this blog are copyrighted and are the property of the author and may not copied or reproduced in any format without express consent by the author. part four

That meant the other pair was for good. Not that we ever went anywhere that I needed good pants. We didn’t have a clothes dryer. We had a clothes line a hundred feet long. Fifty each way. It was on a pulley and the clothes were run from the back porch which was eight feet above the ground to a tree. I watched the washer shake and rock as she and my sister ran several loads of clothes. What happened next has plagued me my whole life.

I mentioned that I had brothers which were twins. One was standing on a chair watching the laundry being done as well. He stood as my sister was doing dishes. He was only four and tried to pick a wet sock from the washer. His hand leaned on the ringer and it pulled his arm into it. He cried out and we were suddenly shocked to see our little brother’s arm being pulled into the ringer. The meat of his arm piled into a clump in front of the ringer rollers. He screamed as Sis hit the release on the side. It was too late. His arm burst and muscle was laid bare with skin torn open.

Our father came running in and I stood on the steps in my underwear. He grabbed the closest towel and wrapped the arm. My sister was sent to the neighbor to use the phone to call our aunt who seemed to be the only one in the family ever available to help. She arrived within minutes and they flew down the road.

My mother arrived some time after and went into her usual snot and fit. My sister finished the laundry including rewashing the clothes in the washer when the accident occurred.

Hours later our mother returned. Left in the hospital was a very shaken twin. I still cannot believe what happened next. My sister became the target of one of my mothers screaming and hitting fits! It was all my sister’s fault for this terrible accident. She should have watched better. It went on and on.

Who’s fault was it that three little boys were hanging around in their underwear while laundry was done? It wasn’t my sisters fault we had no other clothes to wear! Ah well. I didn’t get a chance to wonder long if my bad luck had jumped.

My habit of clinging to my sister got me shoved aside with, "and what were doing?" I needn’t add what happened next.

I don’t remember wearing shoes much in the summer and my feet were hard. We often went into the road and pushed on the bubbles of hot tar and watched them pop under toe pressure. That same road gave me my second bad experience with bike riding.

One day the kid up the street came by and he had a twenty four inch bike. I should have known better but he thought is was funny to invite me to ride it. I couldn’t reach the peddles and even though I managed to sit with my crotch resting against the bar I could barely touch the peddles. I thought to coast it a little way but we lived on hill. The bike took off and as I rounded the corner of the street the peddles came up and I tried to stop the bike. The chain popped off and I found myself flying down the road.

There was highway at the bottom of the hill and I knew if I couldn’t stop, I would end up in it and probably get hit by a car. My mother would kill me! Near the bottom of the hill the road leveled out and one driveway was angled just right. I swung the bike into the driveway. It was just gravel and the bike slid sideways. It slammed into a tree and I flew over the handle bars into the fence.

The home owner came out at the sound of the crash. She was an elderly woman and her blue-grey hair was short and curly. She helped me to my feet and I stood dazed as the kid from up the street arrived to stare at his bike. He was quite mad and pulled hard to free the bike from the tree. The front wheel had bent severely and I knew there was going to be trouble over it.

The old woman had gone into the house and returned with iodine and bandages. She tended my cuts through the torn pants and I winced in pain from the iodine. She scolded the boy for being so angry. He left dragging the bike up the road toward his house.

I hid out for the rest of the day. My parents weren’t home for a minute when the kid’s father showed up. He gave a very biased story of the events and I heard my name called in that shrill voice that meant I was to be sacrificed. I walked into the house and the kid’s father looked at me as though I were scum.

His urging to "ask him" sent my mother into a diatribe and I stood taking the threats and until she ran out of air. Lucky for me she was asthmatic. She popped her inhaler and I waited while my father, half drunk, told the guy to take it easy he’d take care of things.

The guy shot a figure of dollars to repair the wheel and my dad handed him the money and told him to get out. I think my father would rather have punched him, or at least I’d rather he had.

The wheezing behind me ended and I was lifted off my feet by a hit to the back of the head. She hovered over me yelling about the bill that the money could have paid. I laid there thinking the only bill they ever paid was one at the bar, and that you paid when you ordered.

She grabbed me from the floor and I was dragged into what might have been a living room in any other home. She spanked me again and pushed me off as her wheezing came back. She was angry, not from the bike or the money, but because as hard as she hit, I wouldn’t cry. My father was rummaging about the kitchen.

Finally he shouted, "Oh shut up and let him alone. You didn’t even ask him if what that jerk said was right." He didn’t actually say jerk, but we’ll leave it at that. She stared at me and I wanted to run but I waited for the usual, "get out my sight."

I didn’t hear my father walk in, my ears were still ringing. "What happened?" He asked. My mother went off with her usual yelling. "What does it matter? These kids are not going to get bikes until we have the money to buy them their own. It isn’t safe here in town anyhow."

"Well?" My father hated repeating himself. He was patient with me. He saw how, of all the kids I seemed to bring out the worst in our mother. "The chain popped." That was all I got out. She was short but when angry, amazingly strong. I was hefted again to my feet to hear her screaming fit. Finally she said the words I wanted to hear so badly. "Get out of my sight!" I did too.

I hid by the wood pile under the back porch. Summers,,, how I learned to hate them. They left too much time at home and time brought trouble. Kids in those days did lots of thing others would never dare today.

The local car dealer on the highway had a junk yard in the back. One kid at the bottom of the hill seemed to find my company tolerable. His sister liked one of my brothers and he came by with her on occasion. The kid suggested we go play one afternoon and I went along. He crossed the highway and I knew if I got caught I was dead. Yeah well, I crossed.

We snuck around the edge of the car dealer and into the junk yard. We pretended to race the old wrecks and the sound of our motor noises were stopped often to listen. We were sure we’d get caught. The kid told me to follow him and we wandered among the cars. We reached a huge truck box. It was locked and there was junk leaning against the side. We scrambled to the top and found a square vent hole in the top.

"My older brothers come here and smoke." The kid was smiling as he looked down into the semi-darkness of the inside of the box. "Come on." He climbed into the hole and stood on a pile of tires under the vent. He was several inches taller than me and made it look easy. He dropped to the floor and I slid into the hole.

Unfortunately my shortness caused me to have to drop onto the tire pile. It fell over with me in the middle. We were both laying on the floor as the falling tires knocked the kid over as well. He stood sputtering and staring. There was no way we could reach the top! The darkness of the truck box put us both in a panic. That was when we heard the voices.

"I’m telling you I saw kids out here." One voice was loud and sure. The other was quieter.

"Yeah, well, I guess they saw us and ran off. They’re probably a mile away by now." He laughed at the thought of fear sending us running in panic like deer in hunting season.

We sat and didn’t breath! I was sure we ought to yell out but I knew if they caught us they’d call the police and then our parents and well, I’d rather die here. "Let’s get back to work. There’s no one here now. It’s not like they could hide anywhere else." The quiet man laughed again, this time I think at the other man.

I could hear the grumbled consent and we waited like rabbits too scared to run. They were wrong of course, I don’t think they realized the older kids had pried the lid on the top of the box and we were only feet away, stuck!

"We gotta get out of here!" The kid was almost in tears. He thought his brother might come by, but what if he didn’t? He looked at me and wondered if he could lift me up to the hole. He was chunky for a kid. Too chunky. I climbed on his shoulders and he fell. I sat for while looking at the hole and the tires.

"Maybe we should pile the tires."

"Your not strong enough to lift one. I can’t lift them high enough myself!" The kid had brawn, I had brains. Out thinking older siblings was a matter of survival and I was good!

"What if we roll the tires?"

"What?" I stood and rolled some to the tires away from the spot under the vent. They stood nicely and I move several others into a line which ended under the vent. I pushed another on top the previous and soon my tire stair way was taking form. I was sweating and finally after three rows sat for a break. The kid got up and rolled another onto the row. He stacked several more and were more than half way up. He couldn’t roll any more up the steep pile alone and I got up and together we rolled the next four into place. The kid reached up caught the edge of the roof.

The pile began to rock and he sat back down. I was on the floor and remembered seeing a piece of wood leaning against wall. I found it and handed it up. He laid it across the hole in the top tire and stood on it. He was as tired as I was but pulled himself through. I crawled up the shaking pile and stood on the board. My finger tips barely reached. I was too short! A pudgy hand reached in and grabbed my hand. The light disappeared from the hole as the kid leaned in and pulled. I grabbed the edge of the vent and he let go. Wrestling the last bit of myself through, I sat up to see the kid staring down the hole.

The box shook and we stared in amazement as the stairway of tires fell into heaps in all directions. At that moment a car in the garage backfired! Our eyes popped at the sound of the bang.

We leapt from the box truck and ran to the opening in the fence toward the woods. We ran until we were far enough away not hear anything but our own pounding hearts. We laid in the leaves of the woods and were glad to be alive!

Our hands were black from the tires and we were close to the river. We walked toward it and quietly shared our fear. Once we reached the river the whole world seemed to have changed. We sloshed our hands and rubbed stones on them until they were pink again. I finally had one real friend. We roamed dumps, fields the river and the woods together that summer, but not the junk yard.

Some weeks later on arriving at my friend's house, he was sitting staring at his bike. The tire was flat and there was only one place with a pump, the car dealer! We talked over our story if any one questioned us and happy with our alibis, we rolled the bike to the dealer garage. You know there are people who are followed by luck in all they do. I was one of them. Too bad it was all bad luck!

We arrived at the garage and asked the mechanic if he could pump the tire up? A quiet voice inside said, "go ahead. It’s just a couple of kids."

"Yeah and what about the ones who trashed the spare tire truck?" This guy was angry and he wanted us to know it.

"Well it wasn’t those two. They couldn’t get in out of the locked truck. They’re too short. Crying out loud, just pump the tire up!" The grouchy guy was Barry and he looked at us with hard eyes.

"I bet it was your brothers though, huh?" We stood frozen. Our alibi forgotten, we nearly ran except for the bike. He pressed tire then walked away with the bike. The hiss of air lasted for a few seconds and he returned. He stood holding the handle bar and for a moment I thought he was going to ask for money. We didn’t have a penny and so the worst he could do is let the air back out and send us packing. "You tell the other kids to stay out of the parts yard, y’hear? I put metal over that old cover so no ones getting in that way anymore." His voice softened slightly. "God, if some kid got hurt back there,,," He didn’t finish and I could tell his anger was for fear. Fear that one of us might get hurt! "You tell them any how, OK?" he pushed the bike to my friend who caught the handle grip.

"Yes sir," we said.

"No more racing either." Oh God, he knew!

"No sir." We sounded like a soprano duet.

"The tire may have a hole. If it keeps going flat bring it in and I’ll patch it for you." "Thank you." My friend was quicker at thanking people than I. He stood hands on hips as we walked the bike out the big overhead door. We wanted to run for it but we stayed calm. We hadn’t been forced to lie and so we just walked silently away. From behind Barry called out. "Patches are a dime. Some body has to pay for the patches." We waved and crossed the highway at a run. My friend pushed the bike and once we cleared the white line he jumped on the seat and rode away. I knew he would be going home, so I cut across the ball field and the garden of one of the neighbors. Like I said I was a fast runner.

He just cleared the corner as I ran to his back porch. There was a click and slide of the tire as he locked up the brake in the stones. "Wow! I though he had us! When my brother gets home I’ll tell him what Barry said." He got along with his brother and so I nodded my head. I didn’t want him to get in trouble.

On the other hand, I felt I owed my brothers for their many abuses. It would be just fine with me if they got caught in the junk yard. I never said I was a nice kid! I learned from the best! They never did get caught and we kept our secret about who wrecked the tire truck. This is the first telling of it, forty five years later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

World of Darkness Part Three

all material on this blog are copyrighted and are the property of the author and may not be copied or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of the author.

That was the year when I found myself stuffed into the first new outfit I had ever known, then shoved on to the big yellow school bus with my siblings. I screamed in fear. My father had lied to me. I was going to the school where the angry man worked.

My two older brothers all but sat on me in the big green seat. They threatened me with every thing they could if I didn’t shut up. Finally the oldest of the two said,    "wait till we tell mom." I shut up.

The moment the bus stopped and the doors opened kids filed out and into the school. At this point I should mention that I had learned to run like a deer as a kid. Now at six I was nothing less than the wind. I stepped from the bus onto the sidewalk. Looking about to find my bearings my next older brother shoved and I fair flew from him.

No one expected it so there was no chance to stop me. I made the bridge and river in record time, puffing like a train. I walked the river home. I didn’t go to the house right away. After all no one was there. My mother said I was not to be left alone at home, so alone at the river was different.

I watched from the high weeds of the hay field behind the house as the bus pulled away leaving my brothers and sister standing there. Sneaking in the back door, I waited for them to come through.

"Boy are you dead!" One older brother looked at me with glee. I wasn’t afraid of him. Later I learned what he meant. My mother arrived home and a dark cloud of doom hung over her. I was dead.

The school had called her at work. I didn’t understand why but the next day, I faced the bus hungry and sore. I figured the man at school couldn’t be worse than my mother and try as she might I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of crying.

I think that was the day I forgot how to cry. The next year and half was spent in fights. I never started one. I was small for my age and being a ‘reliefer’ made me a target for others. I was an embarrassment to my siblings. My ‘hand- me-down’ socks with holes pulled up under my pant legs and over-large shirts from my older brothers made me every bit a scarecrow.

The problem with fights is someone starts them. I never walked away from one. The bigger kids beat me up. They didn’t have the strength my mother did. She couldn’t make me cry neither would they!

We moved that year. I found myself repeating first grade. Between measles and running away from school I missed a lot of days. I did poorly and my grades were bad. I endured my first year in school and was shocked that after such poor performance they actually insisted I return to school the next year. Boy were they dumb! So I thought. Make me repeat first grade? It didn’t go well the first time, why do it again?

The next year in a different school, life had its own problems. They came slowly though. No one knew me and it took time to settle in. I found myself adoring my teacher that year. One boy on the playground didn’t obey her quickly one day and I offered to beat him up for her. Ah, well. She admonished me with many words far beyond my vocabulary. Then she sat down on a swing next to me and thanked me anyway. I think she was the first person besides my father I thought cared about me.

She spoke kindly to me and never gave me a spanking. In those days a teacher could spank a student for just about anything. Mrs. Miller, we’ll call her, was there the day I got sick at lunch time. While others stared or laughed as I threw up what little lunch I had, she came over with a napkin and led me to the rest room. There I collapsed.

The walls seemed to spin around and any motion I made caused my stomach to churn. She called the school nurse who took moments to decide I had a flu and needed to go to the doctor. They called my mother who was working and some time later she showed up. One of my aunts had driven her to the school. If I thought I was sick from the flu it was little compared to the sickness I felt when they looked at me. My mother could burn holes through you when she looked at you.

I was taken to a doctor who confirmed the nurses diagnosis. He gave us some pills and I was to stay home for a couple of days. I don’t remember ever taking a pill before and as soon as I put one in my mouth and tried to swallow it, what was still in my stomach sent it out. Nothing would stay down. Mother was furious at me for vomiting expensive pills on the floor. I managed to survive the flu despite unswallowed pills and the thrashing I got for not taking them.

It was years before I could take a pill. I think I was well in my twenties and married when I finally overcame the urge to gag when one went in my mouth. That was seven years old to eight. School ended for my second time in first grade and I learned that summer to love school!

I wasn’t intentionally troublesome as a child but it seemed I could do no right. Each of us had chores of sorts. We were poor but the house was to be kept clean. Basically, we each did our part and I remember washing woodwork as high as I could reach and doing much of the wash board along the floor. Pine Sol and me were well acquainted.

No one ditched what they were supposed to do. Not if you wanted to go on living. I don’t remember ever hearing my mother laugh. Yell, scream, and holler, never laugh.

Second grade started well enough and I was glad to be in school. For at least six hours a day I was not in my mothers proximity. The kids in school had finally heard about who and what we were and some were as distant as the earth to the sun from me. Others seemed to treat me like a novelty. They liked the spectacle of the poor kid. One kid thought to do me a kindness and gave a model of a tank to put together. I had no glue and one of my brothers managed to acquire a tube of Testers model glue from the store near us. He didn’t pay for it and I didn’t ask why, since it seemed he had glue and I had a model. A couple days later he tossed the partly assemble model at me.

"Here, a bunch of parts are missing. That kid gave you his junk. Probably thinks it’s funny too!" He shoved me as he walked by and I sat down and picked up the partially built tank. I sat there wondering why someone would do such a thing. I turned the wheels that should have had tracks on them against my hand. Then I remembered. After all, when my older brothers were through wearing out their clothes they were given to me. I got toys after they had finished with them. I guess the kid from school was through with it.

I carried it around to the back of the house. There near a loose block in the wall under our porch I had hidden the broken plastic soldiers my brothers had discarded. I took them out and made my army in the dirt with a tank no one would take from me. No one else wanted to play with a broken tank. I didn’t have to be afraid it would get taken away. Discarded things were only valuable to someone who could see use and value to them.

I liked the comic books my brother had in his room. I learned to read with my sister's help and I loved the color pictures in comics. I didn’t understand lots of the words. The action told the story and I snuck into my brothers’ room and looked at the books whenever I could.

That summer I learned to ride bike. One of the boys in the neighborhood had a bike my size and we pushed it to the top of the hill. There at the very top was a huge house. They had a driveway big as a parking lot. We took turns riding the bike there. The people never came out and yelled at us to get away. I skinned myself up a lot at first. My mother never noticed the scrapes on my hands or legs.

My worst fear came the day I fell and tore a hole in the pants recently given to me. It seemed my brothers were growing faster than me and their old clothes were so big on me, even my mother stopped making me wear them. One of our aunts had a son my age and he had out grown some clothes and so they passed them on to me.

It was a week later on laundry day that I heard the growl. She stood holding the pants up and glared at me. Shaking her head in disgust she dropped them in the old ringer washer. I waited patiently about the house since she made it clear if I was going to ruin all those fine clothes I could stay home in my under wear until my ‘every-day’ pants were washed and dry.

Monday, March 2, 2009

World of Darkness part Two

all material on this blog are copyrighted and are the property of the author and may not be copied or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of the author.

My siblings, being older, were already running around the small neighborhood of half a dozen houses. Our arrival brought them running. Fresh fish for supper set the older brothers to cleaning and scaling the fish. It wasn’t long and some potatoes were sliced and two skillets sent aromatic delight into the rooms. My father was as good a cook as my mother. He fried the fish with leaks from along the river. My mother arrived soon after the meal was cooked. She had that dark broody look that spoke volumes. We ate in silence relishing the small portions each of us received.

Darkness fell and as my mother took the dishes to the sink which had no hot water, I heard her growl something at my father. I didn’t know what was wrong but that was the day I think she started to really hate me. The next day I woke up and noticed my mother was gone but my father was still at home. "Do I have to go to the school today?" I was fearful of a repeat of the previous day. My father looked at me with sad eyes.

"No. You won’t have to go there again." We walked to the back room and he picked up his fishing pole. We started down the path to the river. I followed behind, bewildered but still innocently happy. We arrived at the river and a large hand reached out and took my arm. "Here, use this today." My father placed in my hand the stick and line from the previous day. I grinned so hard my face felt like it would break. He sat me on a rock out cropping, where the river swirled slowly about me. His large fingers set a worm from our small dead garden patch on my hook. My own fish line!

We fished for hours and each time I had a big tug on the line he came over and with practiced skill helped pull the line until the fish lay on the wet rocks. Most were sunnies or chubs but every once in while I had a crappy bass, once a bullhead. He tried to teach me how to handle it and I got horned. That’s what we called getting stuck by the long hard bones on the bullheads face. It hurt a lot but I grimaced and dad smiled as I put the finger in my mouth and sucked the blood from the wound then spit it out.

Today he had a metal stringer and by lunch time it was full. His sharp knife split the fish and we carried cleaned scaled fish home. We spent a lot of days doing that through the summer. Dad picked up odd jobs here and there but didn't get a regular one for while. A year later just before moving from the area, I learned why my father did not go back to the school. Apparently my father had confronted the man at the school. It got heated and my father was fired!

I knew why my mother had taken such a delight in hitting me when she was drunk. I got him fired! At least that was how she felt. Unfortunately I learned it from the boy I had met that day. I say unfortunately for him not me. You see he had grown older and picked up his fathers prejudice. He paid dearly for calling me a reliefer that day. The spanking the teacher gave me was worth it as well as every bruise the kid gave me and I gave back. It was worth the switching my mother gave me for fighting too, but here I am getting ahead of myself.

I learned that a reliefer was someone who was less than human and didn’t deserve to live, let alone be happy. It was someone who had the misfortune to be the pariah society, a poor person. By choice or accident it didn’t matter. People give money to make the social leper go away and feel satisfied they have done good. If they can’t or don’t want to give, they get angry and justify it. It doesn’t matter who the object of their anger is, it only matters that it goes away.

The man at the school was angry because he was hard working and responsible. I was just the next generation of lazy, useless social lepers. His fear was if I touched his son maybe it would rub off. Maybe that meant he wasn't all that good himself and he knew it.

I've wondered on occassion how his life turned out, as well as his son. I can only hope it got better than what I saw at five years old. I saw him once in a while at school that first year and he was a little too pleased with himself. That is until I corrected his sons social skill problem. After that he just watched me walk by with the kind of burning hate that ate at his guts.

His son avoided me and my brothers as well. Word spread quickly. Don't touch that kid. A small few learned why the hard way. Even a kitten can do serious harm to you if provoked.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

World of Darkness part one

All material posted in this blog is protected under copyright and may not be copied or published in any part without the written consent of the author. Post a comment to contact. This blog is going to be in segments. Yes, they are written but I'm not sure how it will be accepted. So please be patient while I ascertain its reception. It will be rather lengthy once complete.

World of Darkness I decided to do something very hard and extremely personal. Share myself in a way that will instill in you pity, anger, disgust, even hate! Why would I do that? Not for myself but to share a story and life that would have been quite different, if not for the kindness shown by others. I know as individuals we cannot help the whole world out of its miasma.

However, a few take on the task one child at a time. They offer their homes as a place of refuge to the helpless. They are foster parents. Not all have the same motive for taking in children. For those who have the right reason I don’t know how many of the kids you help will ever return to tell you how you changed their life for the better. Maybe they haven’t even grown up yet. I hope that someday they will take the opportunity to thank you. That is why I have written this true story. I am past needing pity or someone to be angry for me. I have only arrived at being able to say thank you. Be angry for the children who are living my life today. Pity them for their inability to stop the hurt and the adults from destroying their own life and that of those around them. Then hate yourself for not being willing to see past the straggly hair and dirty face and torn clothes. Can you look past these and see wet clay? Ask yourself one question. What would you have done for your children? I know environment plays a part in how we grow up. Children are just clay. Molded and remolded until the fire of prejudice sets the clay and even a small kid becomes set, glazed and unable to be changed into anything other than what it is. Who lights that fire and pours on that heat? Who creates that environment? We do. Each of us contribute in ways we never realize to what our children as well as those of others become. Usually we do it without even thinking about it. I fear we fire our clay children before the full color and beauty of life can be applied. What may change by the second firing? Will the child be an adult just like we made the made the child? So that’s how I feel now. Once though,,, Who am I? I have yet to figure that out for myself. I am the sixth of eight children. A boy, born into what at the time I supposed to be a typical American family of the forty and fifties. Four older brothers and one older sister were my primary rivals for survival. Two brothers, twins were born after me. I can’t say they were competition in my fight. So who were my parents? Let’s just call them mother and father for now. Understand my definition of a mom or dad is not really about the ones who are responsible for our birth. Any half drunk woman or man can make a child. It takes guts and love and friendship to be a mom or dad. I had the misfortune to be born to parents who were alcoholics! Been there? Well in my day as a child, there were things no one talked about out loud. Divorce and drunks in the family were the worst things to happen to relatives. All talk about them was done quietly and in a corner.

I said I was a member of the typical American family of the day and that is true, to a point. We were large and after the war in Korea brought many men home to a slow economy, jobs were hard to come by. Vietnam was just getting off the ground. We were lucky, sort of, we were poor enough to get Relief. Oh, that’s where you got food from the government before the current welfare system was in force. It was referred to as Army surplus. Bags of rice, beans and flour with green cans of meat, well they said it was meat, and my favorite, peanut butter. They were leftovers from the war. When surplus came it was like Thanksgiving day. Our large family ate well enough on it while it lasted. When that food ran out, we ate deer, squirrel and rabbit, sometimes poached out of season. An occasional snapping turtle found itself surrounded by leeks and potatoes. We never asked where the potatoes came from. The leeks grew along the river. Most people in the small communities of the day worked long hours for small wages. Thus the problem of eating was, we did when we had food. Utilities such as electricity, however were often unavailable. We had no television and neither did many around us. Little good one would have done us since we often didn’t have electric to run a television or lights. Our lives seemed to revolve around the rising and setting of the sun. We used candles for light often but most of the time we seemed to live in a world of perpetual darkness. Not just the lack of electric for lights but darkness in the hearts of people. We were shaggy haired, dirty face kids in torn and well worn clothes. We drew dark stares and strangely angry rejections. Money was scarce and wasting it was considered the worst sin. We had no fancy car, matter of fact we often didn’t have a working car. Our parents money wasn’t wasted on plush upholstery or shiny paint. Our furniture was thread bare even as was most of our clothes. No, the money earned in our house bought liquor, beer, cigarettes and often little else. Funny though, for years I thought we were a normal family and that most people were like us! At the ripe age of five that changed. My parents were working for the local school one summer as janitors. Without a relative willing to take a dirty faced five year old along with one and half year old twins off their hands while they worked, I found myself walking, with a small hand in my fathers, the three and half miles to town. On this particular day I was deposited at the school play ground. My parents went to work and I wandered among the big swings and slides. Having been forewarned to stay off them and out of trouble, I settled into the sand box. Some sticks became soldiers and some stones were my tanks. I played there for quite a while. From behind me a voice asked what I was doing? I turned to see a boy a year or so older. He walked with the self importance of someone already in school. He wasn’t looking for trouble. I could tell, so I said I was playing war. He slid into the sand and looked my army of sticks and stones over. "I have plastic soldiers," he told me. I told him I didn’t because my older brothers had taken them all. He looked me over and I felt as though he might join in. I was squatting, protectively over my army and as I relaxed he told me his name. I hesitated to tell my name. Everyone picked on me for it and I didn’t understand why. He picked a stone up from outside the box and set it in the sand. It was at this point that my world view started to change. I saw a man half running toward us and fully expected to get hit and yelled at for being in the sand box. He stopped short and with puffing exclamation demanded of my new acquaintance what he was doing? The boy shrugged and replied, "just playing dad." The man got that look I had seen on my mother’s face often. I thought his head would explode with anger. He grabbed the boy by the arm and yanked him from the box. "You don’t play with filthy reliefers," he yelled. Turning to me, I was sure at this point I was going to get clobbered. I hadn’t a clue what I had done wrong so I braced for the hit. "You stay away from my kid!" He was much calmer in his words but his tone was deadly. "Get those stick and stones out of the sand box. It’s for school kids, not your kind." Then dragging the boy he returned the way he had come. I cleaned out the sand box amid tears and carried my army to a pine tree along the edge of the playground. I sat there the rest of the morning. I didn’t know when lunch time was since I seemed to always be hungry. I didn’t remember my folks carrying anything to eat when we walked that morning. I fell asleep leaning on the rough bark of the pine tree. I woke to my father’s prodding. He had a slice of bread in his hand. "Here they let me have this from the kitchen." I took it slowly. A whole slice of bread to myself. He seemed upset but if there was a parent who I knew would not hit me unnecessarily, it was my father. Even drunk, he never hit me. They provided lunch at the school cafeteria for the workers and he had brought the bread from the lunch table. It was plain but I didn’t care. We sat and I chewed on the soft bread. I think they were angry he took it for me when it was for workers. Sometimes, at home, I would sit close and dad would play guitar and sing. I don’t know that I was or wasn’t his favorite kid. I just wasn’t a threat to what he was and frankly I thought he was the most wonderful person alive. He actually liked me! I didn’t feel that from the rest of my family at the time.

"What’s a filthy reliefer?" I had no idea, although I knew it was probably bad. At five years old I had the benefit of ignorance on my side. "Where did you hear that!" My father stood angrily. He was a big man and one not to be trifled with. He had a reputation of having a short fuse and very powerful fists. "That man who works there." I pointed at the big shop door of the school. "He told me to stay away from his son. We weren’t doing anything bad. I took the sticks and stones out of the sand." I stood aside to reveal my army. "Stay here." I knew trouble was brewing. He said it the way he spoke when my mother and he would fight. Later he returned. He had a look of triumph on his face and yet there was sadness as well. Funny, I could tell just how he felt when I looked in his face. We started walking toward home. I was pretty well rested and so kept up as well as I could. I bounced around him like a nat buzzing about. We crossed the bridge over the river we lived near. Another mile and we walked down a familiar path. We had come here before.

I remember one particular incident along the river from my childhood. My third oldest brother had disobeyed my mother one day and had gone to the river fishing. He had the duty that day. It was his turn to watch me. I followed him to the river and to the big tree which spanned part to the distance to "the big rock." The big rock sat in the middle of the river and was everyones favorite fishing spot. The water splashed around it and fish were attracted to the rock. You could see them swimming about it in the murky water. My brother helped me get to the tree because the water was deep there. He boosted me up and I clambered the rest of the way to the big rock. Having forgotten when our mother would get home, we were suddenly reminded by the scream coming through the trees. She was home! Hearing his name shrieked like the wind of a hurricane, my would-be keeper leapt from the rock into the river. He swam to shore in short strokes and ran for the hill going up the path. It was too late. The sound of a snap told a branch had been snapped off and was about to become a switch. He moved too slowly in his wet clothes and I heard the trill as the switch cut through the air and struck home. The ‘yelp’ that followed echoed from the hill to the rock. At five years old I could swim quite well but not the fast water around the big rock. The tree which laid in the water provided a shallow bridge but it was many feet short of the shoreline and the fast deep water made trying to swim it dangerous. What seemed an eternity passed. I sat with the abandoned fishing gear. After some time once again I heard the sound of running. It seemed in his panic my brother had forgotten where he had left me. My mother inquired as to my where abouts severely. He remembered and she could be heard running behind him as he struggled to stay out of the reach of that switch which cut through air and skin alike. I refused to abandon our catch and found myself and the fish standing before a seething five foot tall fury. It was hardly my first whipping. We had meat that night. Fish, tasted best when you had to fight for it! Today, however I wasn’t with a brother, but my father. Between fishing and hunting it was how we often ate. We ambled along among the rocks and I knew exactly what were doing. I scrambled along the bushes at the rivers edge and soon crowed at my find. A long tangled length of fish line clung among the branches of a bush. I slid my shoes off and in bare feet worked my way around and soon had the whole length loose. I sat on the rocks and untangled it. It had a hook and sinker still on it. Luck was with us today! My father slid his shoes off and rolled up his pant legs. He stood knee deep in the water. Slowly moving his hands in the water he soon returned. He had two clippers for bait. One was quickly hooked and he took a stick and tied the other end of the line to it. Tossing the hook into the slow water of the river he sat down. An old paper cup became a bait can for the other clipper. I looked around and he nodded. That set me free to look for more line. I wandered up and down the area but came back empty handed. My father had two fish lying on the rocks and was already settling on a rock with another clipper for bait in our cup. We fished away and I felt like this was how life was for everyone. The sun began to dip into the trees and he finally stood. He had a half dozen fish strung on a bush branch. The branch was neatly slid through the gills. A short length of our line had made for an anchor line as the branch and fish lay in water at our feet. He carefully wrapped the line around the stick and picked up the string of fish. We walked back to the road and made our way home.

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http://www.last.fm/music/Andy+McKee

http://a1keene.awardspace.com/main.html ; This page is my friend Jack who has published 2 books. You can purchase them on his page. Check them out. I'm reading Time Angels and have Time Angels II the Omega Key to read as well. I'll post a review when finished so come back and see it.

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Links to sites I promote

These are friends and associates who do art and music, and authors who have books available. If you are interested in such, email them and check out their site. They will contact you back with specifics.



If you want me to post a link to your site, email me. I will check out your content and let you know.



I am an author and lover of art and music and promote the same of those whom I know do the same.



http://littlesistersstudio.blogspot.com/ This site has some incredible dolls, all handmade, for sale. These artists are very talented and if you are looking for dolls and artwork I think this is one of the best places I've seen.



http://graphitegirl.blogspot.com/



http://livies-mind-has-been-compromised.blogspot.com/



http://a1keene.awardspace.com/main.html This link is to an author friend who has his books available. "Time Angels" and the sequal "Time Angels II the Omega Key" by Jack Keene.

About Me

My childhood was spent growing up on a farm in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania. In those years I learned the lessons that would mold my character and moral center. In my teens I moved to a small city in southeastern PA. Like many teens I had my rebellion and found the futility of it. During my late teens I moved to central PA and in high school lost my heart to the girl who is now my wife. Presently I'm well into midlife and slowing rapidly. The things I used to do, I can't even remember. Married for 37 years, we have a son, a daughter and five grandchildren. My son has two boys, my daughter three girls, I love irony! I'm self-employed for most of 25 years in construction. Doing a project for a customer and getting their approval is wonderful and inspiring. I started writing when my children were younger. I did some stories for them and over time it became more of an interest. I now have four completed novels and several shorts and am working towards getting one or more published. One short has been published.

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