VOL XIV, Issue 12, Number 164
Editor: Klaus J. Gerken
Production Editor: Heather Ferguson
European Editor: Moshe Benarroch
Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter
Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena
Leaving New Jersey
A Pre-emptive Poem
Greg, not Gregory: A Study of Creeping Victimhood
1. Anger on faultline (Tsunami)
2. The changing face of Bangalore
Clifford K. Watkins
The Buffalo Nickel
Leaving Red Holler
Wind Chimes of Happiness
My Hole Situation
Eila Mahima Jaipaul
Amid dust and salt
Visions in a gray shirt
The Spirit of the Silence
Leaving New Jersey
After a generation,
exalted threadbare in
in this departure,
bling bang the gong,
tootaloo, toots. Pack every last
juicy gewgaw, honeysuckle-quick.
Stuff the getaway cars with your portable life,
loot of everyday archeology, and for God's sake,
remember your exit,
praise the turnpike, its loops and tunnels,
suddenly not so labyrinthine:
give the bucketed lips of robot toll keepers their just kibble:
and drive up the ancient mountains to your life,
that fossilized embryo, at last.
June 28, 2006
A Pre-emptive Poem
When I was 32
I thought I could smell death
for the first time
my friend Saul said
he had smelled it
but he was only 29.
I wonder if it was
the same dead body?
When I was 32
I could label all my organs,
feel them slither
like eels eating
one another's tails,
it's at this point
I know what you're thinking:
o, poetry faggot
feeling more than us
and not telling it
like it is."
I'm just telling you
I know what you're thinking.
teenagers are wise
we like the disguise of
the right things to say
The marriages of Hollywood
are dying in their beds
and even if you heard about it,
it's just like you were there
but I can't sleep for
the pumping of my blood
your thin hips and your fat heart are
stuck to me like mud.
Babe, you're strong
all dressed up in fantasy
city lights, civil rights and you're a
socialist at university
the world's a smaller place
and that makes you so much bigger
still you try to block it out
but you can't do that forever.
This is no window into heaven.
This is a doorway
painted on a wall.
Greg, not Gregory: A Study of Creeping Victimhood
What happened to you?
Now you know what happens to everyone else,
fat on the tabloid miseries
of those who get as close as
any will get,
your face is a turnip
that thrives in the dirt,
going down, growing down,
all the abuse that fell to you
is now in the beef of your fleshy hands.
Do you know the power you have?
You make others feel the burn
no more mortal than the merest among us
no surrender to the morning
that spawns you every day.
What happened to you?
you were hammered out of a wreck
dreamed up by a sadist,
the need to be loved so great
that you've forgotten you need to love
you vowed to hold your breath in defiance
and your body rebelled against you
so much of you still
what happened to you
is happening to all of us.
And as you career through life
(a little too fast of course),
you will encounter something
or someone, or both,
You'll wrap around objects of affection
like a car that meets and melts around a hazard
and the squeal and the grind
and the violence
will not be unlike it.
Those somethings and someones
become little white crosses
that grow and loom large
while the wreaths upon their shoulders
After the accident, you stayed in bed for days.
I made you meals, cleaned the house,
brushed your hair and you would not open your eyes.
I walked to school and back each day
on the open back roads, the same ones
you made me promise I would never walk alone.
Gramma came to visit, talked to you for hours
behind shut doors. I listened, desperate for answers.
"Think of the child", "What about work".
When she left she kissed my forehead, told me
"Be brave, your mother would have wanted it.
Be sure to take care of your father",
I was almost sixteen, I knew how to run a house,
had a job at the convenient store, we would survive.
I led our family for two years
with you following slowly behind.
The winter of the accident
you bought a used snowmobile
and we raced against the wind
until it was to dark to see
the trees in the distance.
I yelled at you to slow down,
you sped up, my fingers
digging into your thick winter jacket
face buried in your warmth.
I begged you to stop, let me off,
I don't think you heard,
embalmed by the speed
searching for your way out
of the enclosed fields.
Suddenly, you stopped
oblivious to my tears, my purple
fingers, hair sticking in mouth.
You climbed off,
walked back into the house
shutting the door
I moved away to university
fifteen hours drive across two provinces.
Too busy to come home for holidays,
Christmas spent alone, tv dinner
half price, turning in the microwave.
I called you to ease the guilt,
iron over past wounds.
You were alone, the sickness beginning,
kept it from me for years -
Phoned you one day,
you forgot who I was
yelled at me for harassing you.
That year, they were late returning
climate change, I suppose,
but you noticed.
Four years later I arrived,
you unaware, passively dealing cards
to an absent player - I sat in
the game continued.
It was four years ago you left saying I was "Out of control", took all the
furniture, all my pictures of you, the dog - my existence. My apartment
echoes, walls extending and contracting, squeezing breath out of my lungs.
The first time we met - on a train, going home from Christmas. "I hate the
holidays", was your opening line. I loved them, but agreed with you, as I
always did. A big smile, tongue restless, but I contained myself, moulded
into your image. You talked for hours, hand sliding towards me, tickling my
thighs, moving higher up. I couldn't tell you to stop, afraid of what you
would say, even more so of you leaving. You had said, "Let's get a room once
we get off this train". My brother was waiting for me at the station, but I
slinked past him, hood covering my guilty eyes, hands carrying one torn
suitcase and a plastic bag with four poorly wrapped presents. You were
overbearing, like all the others, only wanting to please yourself as my eyes
wandered to the snow gliding down the window. In and out in three minutes,
dropping the weight of your body onto mine - suffocating.
That's how it always was. You would look up at me, eyes questioning,
intrudingly, "Wasn't that great", and I could only smile. But you still left
and now never call, always return my letters unopened. Sitting, watching
snow fall, wishing I could find you - you would find me. Jump on a plane and
rescue me, punish me and then forgive me, suffocate me and breathe life back
In line to order, you said "cancer"
as though ordering food and cancer
somehow go hand in hand.
Stunned, I asked you how, you told me
"Maybe the pesticides or it could be the cell phone" -
smirking like a tumour was as simple as a cold.
It was my turn to order, speechless,
"She'll have the number four with fries"
and I remembered for an instant
how simple it had been before the big bang.
When you lost your hair, I shaved mine
in support, or compassion,
but mostly guilt.
Guilty for being healthy,
We ran the race, wore the ribbons, the bracelets
and you puked after each chemo session.
"It is too far advanced. Metastasised in his bones",
they told me, I never told you.
They buried you four months after diagnosis,
one year after marriage,
and twenty eight years after birth.
Four years later, I catch myself whispering your name,
reaching for you during the night,
living in complete isolation -
a cancer free vegetative state -
nursing an overbearing guilt
because I checked out prematurely.
The rain is falling through the leaves.
I open my window to hear the drops.
They say to me that love comes
with a broken heart;
that it comes with a heavy price
and is full of deceit.
But the rain is pure
as it falls through the leaves.
She comes again.
I see her standing in the rain.
She holds her bleeding heart out
in her hands to me with a selfless look
I have seen before.
Less and less she has come through the years,
but still she comes
thinking I will be deceived.
I who have lived so long.
But this time I will take her heart,
bleeding, from the palms of her hands,
and I will bury it in the ground,
in a plain, wooden box -- not of gold or silver,
for if someone should dig it up,
I would not want him rejoicing,
thinking that there was something inside
of even greater worth,
instead of worms.
1. Anger on faultline (Tsunami)
The wall of sea water roars
down in unsatiated appetite,
mashing all on the way;
Anger on the faultline
brooks no favours.
Many affrighted cries were
swept away; convulsive sobs
of the living choked in the
entrails of hopelessness;
Relief may or may not reach
them; where to retrieve the
roots from disemboweled sand?
Or to relive the agony of
renewal, the irreplaceable
loss of the dear ones?
On the trail of the mutilated
coastline the debris reveals
dessicated memories; The
orphaned stare at the bleached
skyline; smelling the stench
eagles circle high, darkly
eyeing the emaciated dogs;
vandals reap of windfall
out of sightless death.
Hearts open up in a tide of
compassion for the disconsolate;
Today's danger could return
in the morrow.
The joy of living expires in
the unforeseen tunnel of death;
And the despair of loss
amputating the mind.
2. The changing face of Bangalore
The day remains a millstone
but rolls into years in a flash;
So is it with the changing face of
a city; its face, pockmarked with
concrete wrinkles, has a messianic
look; the blank eyes, defying death,
have a frightening candour; Face it
if you can, but face it you must.
Is decay the apotheosis of growth?
the bloom of innocence, the ruddy
power of a surfer against mercurial
currents and the comatose stage where
hope and despair are buried alike in
wrinkles; Like the matted soil of a
sun-blown river bed.
So is it with a city,
dead in its loins,
breathing in spasms.
I have returned often, as if drawn
by a magnet; my eye captured its
tingling breeze, languorous cold, green,
luxuriant canopies, the measured
commerce of Brigade Road and pink youth
heading for an azure horizon;
Shy, introverted burr of the native;
grey cells alive to currents
deep down; the obsession with nursing
the pristine green cover; an aura of
peace torn by rare bursts of passion;
the sparkling humour, quite like early
dawn, at truant bus services, power
cuts, thirsty days; delicious,
tongue-caressing cafes and time
at beck and call.
Now the sky has turned pale,
stunned into disbelief; every
inch of space a hub of mammon;
the strain of here and now
pacing through every limb,
brick on brick for a wall
around self; the burr of innocence
browbeaten by bravura of guile;
Flora and fauna snuffed out by
perforating masonry, making
asphalt sting more; the cover
no longer green, but vapourous.
A whacky trendiness in fashion
shows; hopes soaring higher than
the spires of colleges, a generation
seeking a nail-spot in alleys
narrowed down by growth; Hope
unseated by despair, youths
splutter down the steepling slope
like a wounded goat.
With gnawing uneasiness crowds
besiege shops of glitz, junk food
joints; veins crow out the refrain
"Live for the day for beyond is the
tip of the unknown."
Death catches up with age;
But a city ages even in death.
Clifford K. Watkins
The Buffalo Nickel
It was a warm September afternoon when the Middleton High School Buffaloes
walked out of the gymnasium toward the activity bus. The Middleton talk-radio
sports personality, Billy Strange, predicted that the Buffaloes would finally
break their ten-year losing streak against the Baine County Bucaneers from
the adjacent county. The players were excited to finally get to play in their
first game of the season after enduring spring practice and two-a-days in the
unforgiving heat and humidity.
Even sports reporters from the larger metropolitan areas of the state
predicted that the Buffaloes would make a serious run in postseason play. The
Buffaloes were anchored on defense by sophomore defensive tackle, Simon Moss, who
made a big impact during his freshman year, recording 80 solo tackles,
sixteen of which went for a loss. Simon was only four months shy of his fifteenth
birthday, but he could bench press over 400 pounds and ran a 4.8 in the forty.
For his height and build, Simon was unbelievably fast from sideline to
sideline. Simon stood six-foot tall and weighed 270 pounds, with a nineteen inch
On offense, the Buffaloes featured star tailback, Medford Alton, another
sophomore who placed third in the 100 meters at the state track meet during his
freshman year, and already had the state long jump record of twenty-five
feet. Alton was 6'2 and weighed 220 pounds, often drawing comparisons to Eric
Dickerson for his upright running style. The local media were enamored with the
young man's smile, and his laugh reminded everyone of Eddie Murphy.
Aside from the sophomore players in the spotlight, the Buffaloes returned
fifteen starters from the previous season's six and four squad. Most of the
alumni were hopeful that it would be the year that the Buffaloes would break
their losing streak with the Baine County Buccaneers. The losing streak against
the Buccaneers went back ten years, and all of the coaches had constantly
reminded the players that it was time to break the losing streak. The last time
that the Buffaloes had beaten the Buccaneers, head coach, Crawford Adams, was
a senior in high school, playing defensive back for the Buffaloes. Back in
1980 when the Buffaloes dropped their first two games before running the table
and winning the state championship, Crawford Adams had been the town hero,
returning a ninety yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the final three
minutes of the game. During his senior season at North Middleton College, Adams
had intercepted seven passes, four of which were returned for touchdowns.
Adams was a fiery coach who wore his emotions on his sleeve, and the players
absolutely loved him because he had played defensive back in college,
starting all four years at cornerback. In college, Crawford's nickname had been
"Killer." Crawford was a small man by any standard, standing only 5'6 and
weighing 160 pounds, but what he had lacked in size, he made up for with speed and
Simon sat on the activity bus thinking about all the hype he had gotten in
the papers and it made him nervous. His hands were sweaty and his mind was
racing with negative thoughts as he looked toward the practice field,
remembering the first time that he met coach Crawford.
After his eighth grade year, Simon was befriended by coach Crawford while
kicking extra points on the Buffaloes' practice field. Crawford had heard how
dominant the kid was at the middle school level, and was somewhat skeptical
about the boy's age. The first weekend after school turned out, Simon Moss
practiced kicking field goals while Crawford circled the track. Having never been
to see the Buffaloes play, Simon had no idea who Crawford was.
As Simon jogged into the end zone and in between the goal posts, he heard
someone shout his name.
"Yeah, who are you?" asked Simon.
"I'm coach Crawford."
"I'll be your head coach when you get to the varsity level."
Crawford looked at the young man's physique and figured that he had probably
failed a couple grades. Simon looked at Crawford thinking to himself that
the coach resembled Burt Reynolds, and tried not to laugh, thinking about his
father's Beuford T. Justice impersonation.
"Well, I think that I'd like to give varsity a try this summer."
"Do you think that you're ready to play varsity?"
"I was born to play this game!"
"So, how old are you, big guy?"
"I'll be fourteen in January."
"You're pulling my leg, right?"
"No, I'm thirteen; I started school in the first grade because I could
already read and write."
"So, you must be a pretty good student?'
"I like to read and make up stories, but I don't do well in school."
"I didn't much care for school, either!"
"Well, I got a date with a hot one tonight, so I better get going. Hey,
Simon, you got a girlfriend?"
"No, not yet. I'm still getting past the cooties phase. I went from hating
girls to wanting to have sex with them in the blink of an eye."
Coach Crawford smiled as he turned toward the gymnasium, scratching his head
Simon, remembering what he said to Crawford about girls, smiled and looked
at the floor shaking his head. Simon rested his head on the seat in front of
his, and tried to visualize himself getting off of the ball quicker than
Michael Dean Perry. Then Simon envisioned himself over the center in a sideways
stance like his hero, Joe Klecko. Simon always told everyone that he was going
to have the toughness of Klecko, and the speed of Gastineau.
As Simon opened his eyes, the bus came to a halt. The assistant coaches took
their bags off of the bus and headed toward the visitor's end zone to chat
with the opposing coaches.
Crawford didn't allow a sound on the activity buses in route to the games.
If anyone opened their mouth on the bus prior to the game, they'd be running
the hill behind the school until their tongue fell out the next Monday.
Crawford stood up with a scowl on his face and told the them that it was their
"Forget about all the guys before you. This team has talent and depth at
every position. I've had lesser teams in the past that I knew not to expect much
from. I'm hard on you guys because there's no reason why we can't run the
table. I've been to the mountaintop, and I know that this squad has the ability
to be something special. I want everyone here to go over their assignments
in their head. We've put in the work in the off season, so there's no excuse
for senseless penalties. Back and receivers. We've done countless
ball-handling drills; there's no excuse for putting the ball on the ground.
If you fumblethe ball, you'll run that damn hill until I get tired of watching you gasp
for air. Lineman, there's no excuse for holding or jumping the gun. We want to
hit the opponents, not grab and dance. This game will be won at the line of
scrimmage. Don't fool yourselves; this squad you're facing tonight has
excellent team speed. Without question, we're going to have to be more physical than
they are. We're going to ram the damn ball down their throats. Simon and
Medford. Forget about all that bullshit in the papers. We are a team. There's no
room for individuals; this a team sport. Without your teammates, you're
nothing. We have to function as one. Simon, play your gap; stick to your
assignment. Don't pull that shit like you did in the Jamboree and not play your
position. There's no room on this team for players that don't want to follow the
game plan. Davis, Eason, Marcus and Ellis. You guys have to communicate out
there; we can't have dissension among the ranks. Medford, Hayes, Johnson and
Sprat. There's no reason to reverse the field. This game is going to be a
north-south game! Okay, men, let's go into the locker room and focus on the task
at hand. Remember, we are a family out there!"
The players exited the bus carrying their pads and helmets as the fans began
to fill the stadium. The Baine County band was playing "Eye of the Tiger"
moving in unison to the music. The welcome smell of freshly cut grass was in
the air as gnats and mosquitos swirled around the stadium lights. The Baine
County stadium was much larger than the one in Middleton, having a ten-thousand
Simon sat staring at his jersey number, 73, imagining that he was Joe
Klecko. He remembered how his defensive-line coach, Darvis, told him that someone
would write a book about him someday. Simon was ready to unleash all of his
nervous energy on the first person he hit.
The team sat in the locker room waiting for coach Crawford to call for the
kickers, backs, and receivers. Simon, sitting on the cold concrete, had
butterflies in his stomach as he stretched out on the floor, trying to relax. Simon
again visualized himself getting off of the ball like Michael Dean Perry.
Simon was a bundle of nerves by the time coach Crawford called for the rest of
the team. When the team started out of the cool, dimly lit locker room,
Simon's heart was racing and his legs began to tremble.
Simon began talking to himself under his breath as the team lined up to do
their stretches. "I'm ready to do this? What? Are you ready? Yes, I'm going to
kick some ass! No one can stop me! I'm ready to go, baby!"
As Simon was stretching out on the ground, coach Crawford began whispering in his ear.
"Simon, you've got to play your gap. You don't have to make every tackle, understand?"
Simon nodded his head, and coach Crawford slapped him on top of the helmet.
"Go out there and get 'em, boy! You once told me that you were born to play
this game, remember?"
"Well, this is your moment to shine!"
After the team finished warming up, they headed back to the locker room to
use the restroom and to say the team prayer. After assistant coach Darvis led
the them in Prayer, coach Crawford started punching the lockers until his
fists bled, screaming "I want this damn game more than any other game that I've
ever participated in, as a coach or player! I want to kick some Buccaneer
ass! This one, god damn, I'm hyped. I wish that I was out there knocking heads
with you tonight, boys!" As blood trickled down coach Crawford's hands, and
his face turned flush red, he looked at the team with fire in his eyes.
The team rose to their feet screaming, holding their helmets in the air, and
walked out of the dimly lit locker room into the visitor's end zone, waiting
for their eyes to adjust to the bright lights. The senior captains led the
team onto the field, down the middle of the cheerleaders and onto the
visitor's sideline. The referee called for the captains and both teams sent three
players to the center of the field, where they all shook hands.
"This is heads, and this is tales," said the referee.
The referee flipped the coin as heads was called by the Buffaloes' captain.
"It's tales," said the referee.
Simon was happy because he knew that he was going to get his first series
out of the way. Up until the first play, Simon was always extremely anxious.
Simon paced back and forth as the kick-off team went onto the field.
The Buffaloes kicked off and the deep man received the ball on the eight
yard line, returning out to the twenty, before being taken out of bounds by a
host of Buffalo defenders. Simon took a deep breath on the sideline, then
exhaled as Medford Alton clinched his fists and brought them down on Simon's
"Go get 'em Simon!"
Simon ran onto the field and the Buffaloes' crowd began to cheer. Simon got
into the huddle as the linebacker made the call.
"Three-four defense, three-four defense, ready? Break!"
The Bucaneers came out in an I-formation and the quarterback started barking
out the signals. Simon was over the center, a shade to the left. Simon
watched the center's hand, and blew by the center before he could react, hitting
the fullback head-on causing the fullback to hit the quarterback, who fumbled
the ball while trying to hand off to the tailback. The ball rolled around and
was recovered by the Bucaneers' tight end, resulting in a five yard loss. On
second down, the right guard attempted to cut block Simon as he pursued down
the line to assist two other Buffaloes on the tackle. The play resulted in
three yard gain. On third down and twelve, just as the ball was snapped,
Simon split the double team and swam past the fullback to sack the quarterback
for a six yard loss. The crowd went wild!
It was fourth down and the Buccaneers were in their punt formation. The
Buffaloes were going to set up a right return. As the ball was snapped, Simon
rushed up the middle, narrowly missing the ball as it came off the punter's
foot. Simon jumped up and raced down field wanting to help set up the wall.
Justas Simon got a full head of steam, the whistle blew.
A few seconds after the whistle blew and Simon stopped, one of the Buccaneer
defenders flew head first into his left leg, breaking his femur bone,
sending Simon to the ground with a blatant cheap shot. Simon was dazed as his
teammates urged him to get to his feet. Simon knew that his leg was broken because
he heard it snap like a stick. Simon was in a lot of pain, but he didn't cry
or complain. He took it like a man, and pulled his head upward with his
facemask, listening to number five on the opposing team. "Yeah, I got that
bastard, he ain't shit!" Coach Crawford quickly raced onto the field and squatted
down over Simon to prevent him from seeing his leg.
"What happened, Simon?"
"One of the guys cut me low after the whistle blew; I never saw it coming.
Promise me one thing, coach?"
"You write down number five's name on a piece of paper!"
Simon sat up talking to Coach Crawford, listening to a few members of the
crowd mock him. Simon's father came down onto the field as Coach Crawford
continued talking to Simon about the first time that they met on the practice
field. Simon followed Crawford's conversation, but all he could see was the
defender, and his voice echoed in his mind. "Yeah, I got that bastard, he ain't
shit!" Simon wanted to try and hop off of the field, but coach Crawford held
him down until the paramedics came to lift him onto the cart. Simon's dad was
"It's okay to cry, Simon!"
"No dad, I would rather die than give 'em the satisfaction!"
As Simon was wheeled off the field, the crowd cheered, but all Simon could
see was the face of the player who had blatantly hit him low after the
Simon was put into the ambulance and the medics smiled at one another. The
medics shot Simon up with pain killers, but the pain was getting more intense
as the adrenaline wore off.
The thought of such embarrassment had never crossed Simon's mind as he
listened to the medics talk amongst themselves.
"So, that's the superstar we've been reading about in the paper, huh?"
"Hey, give the kid a break."
"Well, it doesn't look like he'll be leading the Buffaloes into the playoffs
As the ambulance rode up the hill into the parking lot adjacent to the
field, Simon could hear the crowd cheering. He wondered what was happening,
thinking to himself that his life was over. "How can I ever face people again after
this? Sheesh, I never imagined this happening to me in a million years.
Damn, my leg hurts."
One of the medics turned to Simon to ask if he wanted to go to the Baine
Simon thought to himself for a moment, and finally said no. Simon told the
driver that he wanted to go home to Middleton.
It was a rough ride back to the hospital in Middleton, going through town,
the pavement was rough and it seemed like the ambulance hit every bump on the
road. Simon grimaced every time that the ambulance hit a bump.
By the time Simon was rolled into the hospital, he was in agony. But still,
he never cried or complained. He lay flat on his back replaying what had
happened, over and over in his mind, oblivious to pain or emotion. After being
shot up several times while waiting for a surgeon, Simon slipped into
The operation on Simon's left femur bone lasted nearly five hours. The
doctors tried twice unsuccessfully to reset his leg, but finally on the third
time, it worked. At one point during surgery, Simon began to regain consciousness
on the operating table and could hear a drill, then went back under. When
Simon awoke at 5 AM, he was alone in a dark room, only vaguely remembering what
had transpired the night before. He tried to move, but the pain in his leg was
Simon wanted to scream, but he figured it wouldn't do much good. After lying
in darkness for nearly two hours, the door to his hospital room finally
opened. Simon squinted his eyes, trying to make out who was at the door, while
his eyes slowly acclimated to the light.
The doctors inserted metal pins into Simon's leg that were going to
eventually start pushing out after six weeks, along with a metal rod in his femur
bone. Simon started putting the pieces together in the dark room, finally
remembering what had happened. Simon could see the player in his mind that had
speared him low after the whistle. "Yeah, he was wearing number five. I remember,
now!" That bastard speared me low after the whistle. Son of a bitch!"
After being in the darkness for what seemed like an eternity, a nurse
finally came into the room wanting Simon to urinate.
"Here you go, honey. Now you're gonna have to urinate into this container,
or else we're gonna have to cap ya."
In addition to being asked to fill a piss bottle, the nurses made Simon
breathe into a silly tube. Simon spent two months in bed without ever venturing
outside, often losing feeling in his lower leg. The doctors described the loss
of feeling as an unexplainable nerve damage. At one point, Simon wondered if
he'd ever walk again, much less play football. After six weeks, the pins that
were holding the bottom of the femur bone in place started to push outward.
Simon had to endure a second minor operation to remove the pins. When the
doctor brought the pins to Simon, he wanted to do something special with his
keepsake. So, he had his father find someone to mold the pins into a small
medallion surrounding a 1913 Buffalo Nickel that Simon had found years earlier
while metal detecting with his father in front of an old shack in Hinesville.
Simon's father did just that. Simon would wear the necklace for fourteen years
before ever taking it off. Simon never played football again.
After his junior year of high school, Simon's parents died in a fiery car
crash outside of Westonburg while returning home from his father's company
picnic. Simon had planned to ride along with his parents, but he had a stomach
virus that confined him to the bathroom for most of the morning. Being an only
child, Simon's parents were his whole world. He had been very close to his
parents, especially his father, who had never missed one of Simon's football
games since he was eight-years-old, back when he played peewee football with
Having expected his parents home from the picnic, Simon began to worry when
the sun went down, because he knew that his father never missed Tuesday Night
Fights with Shawn O' Grady & Al Albert. As the fights went off around 11 PM,
Simon was very worried. Simon picked up the phone to call his grandmother,
but there was no answer.
"Sheesh, I wonder where in the heck they're at? Dad never misses Tuesday
Simon turned the channel to the news, and his mouth dropped. The reporter
was standing in front of a charred vehicle that resembled his father's work
van. The reporter on the scene confirmed Simon's worst nightmares when she said
that three adults in the vehicle had been killed when a van apparently had a
blowout and spun out of control, resulting in a six-car accident. Simon
stared at the screen, unable to move. At that moment, Simon knew why his
grandmother hadn't answered the phone.
"Dear God, they took granny to the picnic. Simon sat staring into space,
remembering the time that he and his father had found the Buffalo Nickel and
tears rolled down his cheeks as he wondered what he was going to do without his
mom and dad. Simon pulled the medallion out from under his shirt and kissed
it, as a mixture of tears and snot rolled onto his lips. Simon would never be
Simon stood in the cemetery as his mother's coffin was lowered into the
ground, listening to a preacher ramble on about the mercy of God staring into
nothingness as his uncle Ray put his hands on Simon's shoulders. The whole
ceremony was a blur. Simon wanted to stay in Middleton, but his uncle Ray was his
only relative. Ray insisted that Simon move down south to Rock City, where he
could start anew. Two days after his parents and grandmother were laid to
rest in Summer's Memorial Garden, Simon packed his clothes into an old laundry
bag and left Middleton for Rock City.
In some ways, it was a relief to be away from the town where he'd become the
butt of a joke. Some people called Simon a coward for not returning to play
football. Simon wanted desperately to return to the gridiron, but the loss of
feeling in his leg would come and go for two years.
Simon left the small town for life in the city with his uncle, Ray. Simon
was a shell of his former self. Having lost his passion and his family, Simon
spiraled out of control, eventually becoming a member of the most feared gang
in the city: The Northshore Killers. Simon soon learned the code of the
street, and eventually his reputation would become legendary. For several years,
Simon's life was a blur of murder, drugs and chaos.
Shortly after arriving in Rock City, Simon would meet a guy named Red that
introduced him to the underbelly of society. Red was a member of the
Northshore Killers, a street gang with nearly a hundred members.
One night while standing outside of uncle Ray's trailer, Simon was
confronted by two guys that asked him why he was standing on their corner.
"Hey, man, what you doing on my curb? This is our spot!"
Simon, thinking that the guys were joking smiled and turned to walk away. As
Simon walked toward uncle Ray's trailer, the smaller of the two punched
Simon in the back of the head.The larger man pulled out a 25-caliber handgun.
Simon had never been in a fight up until that moment. The larger guy, towered
over Simon, turning the little gun sideways extending it toward his head. Simon
was very afraid, yet he stared into the larger man's eyes without blinking.
"You ain't scared, man? I could pop your big ass right now, you bitch! What's up?"
Simon thought to himself for a second, then he turned his head and began to
speak. "Put the gun down, and fight me like a man! I'm not afraid of you! Put
the gun down, and we'll see who is a bitch!" Simon continued to stare into
the larger man's eyes, never once blinking.
The smaller guy started toward Simon swinging his fists. Simon quickly
sidestepped the smaller guy and landed a right hand flush on the guy's face,
knocking out three of his teeth, sending him face-first into the pavement, as
blood poured from his mouth. The guy would lay motionless on the pavement for
several minutes as his body involuntarily twitched.The larger man circled to
Simon's left and starting throwing haymakers. They stood toe to toe for two
minutes until Simon was caught with a solid punch square in the face. Simon went
down to a knee as blood flowed from his nose and tears streamed down his face.
The larger man started talking smacked as Simon rose to his feet.
"That's all you got boy? I'm gonna kill your ass!" As the larger man reached
behind his back for the gun, Simon rose to his feet with the catlike
quickness that had once made him the talk of Middleton, and started swinging his
hands as fast and as hard as he could, landing several punches to the taller
man's head, sending him down onto his back. While Simon was beating the larger
man into the pavement, the smaller guy rose to his feet and pulled out a knife.
As he walked up behind Simon, blood poured from his mouth. Sensing that the
smaller guy was about to stab him in the back, Simon rolled off of the larger
man who was bleeding out of the back of the head, gasping for breath with a
broken rib that had punctured a lung. Simon looked right through the smaller
guy who closed the knife and tried to run, but Simon was too fast for the guy
to get away. Simon grabbed the smaller guy by the hair of the head as he ran
up from behind, pulling a handful of the guy's hair out, yanking him to the
ground. The guy begged for Simon to have mercy on him, but Simon was no longer there.
"Man, please, don't kill me!"
"What? Are you talking to me? I don't remember that game."
Simon walked toward the larger man, oblivious to the smaller guy dead on the
ground with a crushed skull. Simon limped toward the trailer as the larger
man tried to catch his breath and slipped into unconsciousness.
Simon went through the trailer and out the back door to get uncles Ray's
wheelbarrow. Simon loaded the guys onto the wheelbarrow and pushed them down
onto the main highway and flipped their bodies onto the pavement.
Simon pushed the wheelbarrow into the bushes and waited for a car to come
racing around the curve that set adjacent to the neighborhood. Within minutes,
a large semi came racing around the corner and over the bodies. The truck
locked its brakes and strewed the bodies all over the highway. Simon turned the
wheelbarrow around and pushed it through a patch of trees, over a ditch, and
down the road. Simon stood in the gravel driveway staring at the moon as it
was eclipsed by a face in the clouds. Rinsing out the wheelbarrow, Simon could
hear sirens in the distance coming closer.
"Gee, I wonder what happened?"
The sound of sirens always made Simon think back to the charred van on the
Channel 6 News. Sitting in darkness, he fell fast asleep.
The next morning when Simon woke up, there was dried blood in his nose and
he had swollen knuckles. Uncle Ray, noticing Simon's knuckles, asked him what
he'd been doing.
"I've been thinking about boxing"
"Boxing, eh? Your daddy was a good fighter, you know? Heck, Simon you've
been through enough already without using your head as a punching bag. You're a
smart kid. Go back to school! You can stay here as long as you like, rent
free, but you need to find something to occupy your time. Hell, it's not good to
spend so much time alone."
"Heck, I like being alone. I've never had many friends. Hell, dad was my
best friend. Other than dad, there was coach Crawford."
"See what I mean? Hell, go back to high school. As much as you read, you've
got to know a little something. I didn't want to mention this, but two guys
about your age were killed trying to cross the highway last night."
"Where at?" asked Simon.
"Heck, just a piece down the road. A big rig ran over two of 'em."
"Sheesh, I bet that was a mess."
"Yeah, no doubt. You be careful out here; you're not in a small town
anymore. Kid, this is the real world. Rock City is a far cry from the laid back town
of Middleton. Heck, it's probably good for you to see how other people live
outside of a rural place like Middleton."
"Do you think we could move back to Middleton one day?"
"Heck Simon, you're old enough to do what you want. I just figured getting
away from Middleton for a while would do you some good."
"I know things haven't been easy on you, kid. But hey, I've got work down
here in Rock City. I wouldn't be able to make a living in Middleton. Hell,
there's always people in need of a handy carpenter. I'll continue to pay the
taxes on the house in Middleton, so if you'd like to go back, the house will
always be there. Okay?"
"Yeah, that's cool!"
"I always promised your daddy that I'd look after you if something ever
happened, and that's what I aim to do. Well, I got a job putting an addition on a
house down in Wakefield, so I probably won't be home until late. Do you need
anything, aside from deodorant?"
"Hey, man, I don't stink."
Simon and Ray shared a laugh as it began to rain. "Damn, I hope we don't get
rained out!Well, I better get going. I'll see you later, Simon."
As Simon flipped through the pages of Sports Illustrated, someone knocked on
the door. Simon walked toward the door thinking that maybe Ray was messing
"Who is it?"
"It's the police!"
"What do you want?"
"We'd like to have a word with you."
Simon opened the door to find a young man standing on the wooden deck,
smoking a filtered cigar with dreadlocks in his hair. Simon laughed at the guy,
wondering who he was.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Red. So, what's your deal, man?"
"What do you mean?"
"I saw how you handled those guys out in the street last night. You are one
heavy cat. So, where'd you learn how to fight like that?"
Simon thought for a second, then it dawned on him that he had been out in
the street. He looked at his swollen knuckles and squeezed his nose in between
his thumb and index fingers. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Man, don't bullshit me; you're a stone-cold killer. I ain't never seen no
one so ruthless!"
"So, what do you want with me?"
Red took a deep drag off of his cigar and blew the smoke into Simon's face.
Simon balled up his fists, thinking that Red was going to fight him. Red
stood up and told Simon to relax, as he pulled out a large roll of money. "I'm
not a fighter, kid. I'm about making them dollars. Besides, I don't want no
part of your crazy ass." Red asked Simon what he was doing in Rock City. Simon
replied by saying that he'd come to live with his uncle after his parents were
killed in a car wreck.
"Damn, kid, that's a tough break. So, what are you gonna do with yourself?"
"Hell, I don't really have anything to do. I was thinking that I might head
up north to my hometown after a while."
"So, you got a place up there?"
"Yeah, my parents' house is up there in Middleton."
"Middleton? Where in the hell is that?"
"It's just a small town in the middle of nowhere."
"Would you like to join me and some friends for a drink?"
Simon thought to himself for a moment, then said that he didn't drink
alcohol. Red smiled and shook his head. "Well, you could always smoke a little
"No, I don't smoke either."
"Damn, you are one clean dude. Well, if you change your mind, we'll be down
on Ferris Street behind the green house around seven. All right?"
Red walked down the steps onto the gravel driveway, whistling as he walked
with a b-boy limp. Simon watched Red walk and shook his head, wondering why
anyone would walk in such a way. Simon went back into the trailer and fell
asleep on the couch watching television.
Simon could see himself standing in the graveyard, listening to the barking
dogs when his father's charred body rose from behind a tombstone, and his
head rolled onto the ground. Simon woke up in a cold sweat, trying to catch his
breath as his heart raced. As Simon tried to gather himself, the phone rang
in the kitchen. Simon walked into the kitchen as the floor creaked with each
step he took. Simon looked down and realized that he was wearing a new pair of
sneakers that were a couple sizes too large. Simon shook his head as he=20
grabbed the phone from the wall and pressed talk. "Hello."
"Hey, boy, it's Ray. I'm gonna go out to eat with my ex-girlfriend. Would
you like to tag along.?"
"No, I'll probably hang around the trailer. I'd just be in the way."
"Yaw have fun. I'll see you later tonight."
"Hell, I'll probably spend the night with Melanie. I'll be back tomorrow
Simon hung up the phone and walked into the living room, remembering how
happy he had been when his parents were alive. Simon took out his wallet and
looked at the old photograph of his mom and dad on their last anniversary,
thinking back to the day when they were driving in the work van through Dunson
creek. The windshield wipers had quit working in a rain storm. Simon's father
tied two pieces of rope to the wipers and each of them took turns pulling the
wipers up and down with the aid of the rope. Simon smiled as he reached into
his shirt to look at the medallion that his father had made for him. Staring
at the Buffalo Nickel, Simon could feel the pain in his left leg throbbing
like a toothache. Simon wiped the tears from his eyes and walked outside to sit
on the porch. Sitting on the porch, staring into the clouds, Simon could see
his parents' faces move across the sky. And he could hear his grandma's voice
reverberating in his mind. For the first time since his parents' passing, he
felt a calmness come over him. As he was basking in the moment, Red came
walking up the gravel driveway, whistling like he didn't have a care in the
world. "What do you want?"
"I came to get your ass, friend. Hell, there's a party going on. Ain't no
need in your ass sitting here staring into the sky like a lunatic. Get your ass
"I really don't want to go to a party."
"Man, please, go head on! What are you going to do, sit in this trailer for
the rest of your life? Hell, let's get your ass drunk."
Simon and Red walked down the street, across the road and into a park where
kids were playing Red Rover. "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Simon right over!"
Simon could see himself running with all of his might, wanting to break
through the arms, but he was never strong enough, and always fell backwards. "Simon
is a sissy!" Simon and Red walked through the park and could see a yellow
house sneering from the hill. The smell of alcohol and marijuana filled the air.
There was a line of strangers waiting to be flipped upside down to drink
from the tap. Simon tried to make sense out of what was happening, but his
reality kept spiraling out of control. "Damn, Red, what the hell is happening
"Man, we're surrendering ourselves to swirling perspective."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"I don't know, but it sounds good."
Simon shook his head, looking around the park, but he was all alone. "Red!
Where the hell did you go?" Simon looked down at his waist and felt cold steel
pressed against his flesh. He pulled a 38-caliber hand gun from his waist,
trying to make sense of what had happened. Simon looked at his feet and
noticed that he was wearing boots. "I want to go home! I miss my mom and dad."
"What are you looking at? Bring it, dawg."
"Don't hit me daddy, no! I'll run faster. I can do better."
Simon walked out of the park holding the gun, screaming at the top of his
lungs, listening to his mother whispering as he banged on the closet door."Let
me out of here." Simon put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger but
it wasn't loaded. Simon hurled the gun into the air, not knowing where he was.
"What is happening to me?"
One evening while sitting in a smoke-filled room surrounded by strangers,
Simon looked at the television as a football player lay on the ground writhing
in pain. "What the hell's going?"
"Man, the cat got his leg twisted."
"What are you guys doing in Ray's trailer?"
Holding a joint up to his nose, Red inhaled and said "Damn, this must be
some good shit! Ray moved out west to live with Melanie five-years ago. Man,
your ass must really be tore up!"
Simon looked down at his white arms and didn't know what was happening. He
walked into the bathroom and stared into the mirror, noticing a receding
hairline and a red scar that ran from his left eye down to the corner of his
mouth. Simon limped outside onto the porch and broke down crying. He reached down
into his shirt and pulled out the Buffalo Nickel.
One day in the summer of Simon's twenty-eighth year, he returned home to the
yellow house in Middleton to find closure. But what he found was a bag in
the closet that had a blue jersey and a small piece of paper with the number
five written on one side, and Ricky Scott written on the other. Then in a flash,
it all came back to him. Simon remembered everything in a rapid-fire
surrealistic sequence. He could see himself on the field looking up at number five
as his voiced echoed in his mind. "Yeah, I got that bastard, he ain't shit!"
In an instant, Simon was the little kid locked in the closet, screaming as
his mom read her poetry. Simon tried to run, but his father was always too fast.
"You won't embarrass me again in front of my co-workers. Son, you're better
than that." Simon crossed his arms over his face, while his father beat him
for not running fast enough.
Simon wept as he stood over his mother's grave, remembering the darkness,
trying to escape the closet.
Early one summer morning, Ricky Scott and his wife were walking their dog,
Pudgie, through the park in Middleton. As they held hands, basking in the
dawn, a gunmen came up from behind, first shooting Mrs. Scott in the back of the
head, killing her instantly, then shooting Ricky Scott in the abdomen. As Ricky
lay bleeding and screaming for help, a large man wearing a jacket and
sunglasses slowly walked toward him with a noticeable limp. As blood gushed from
his abdomen, Ricky pressed his trembling hands onto the wound and started the speak.
"Please, don't kill me! I have three children."
Simon slowly removed his jacket, staring down at Ricky whose eyes widened in terror!
"I was just a kid, man! That was a long time ago!"
Simon just stared blankly, looking right through Ricky. After Ricky began to
sob, Simon looked down at him and smiled, tilting his head from left to
right. "Yeah, I got that Bastard, he ain't shit!"
Two days after a jogger discovered a dog's hide in Middleton park, Ricky
Scott's corpse was found on the 45 yard line of Baine High's football field,
wearing a blue #73 jersey with a buffalo nickel in his throat. Pudgie, the
cockapoo, was later found in Coach Crawford's doorway, dangling from a shoe string
noose with an envelope in its mouth. Crawford's eyes watered as an
acidic-vomit taste filled his mouth and he began to throw up. Crawford's hands trembled
and saliva dangled from his mouth like outstretch chewing gum, gagging on
his hands and knees, as he continued to dry heave. Crawford held his nose and
took the envelope from the dog's mouth. Before opening the envelope, Crawford
knew that Simon had written the letter. Tearing into the business envelope,
Crawford's entire body trembled as he sensed a pair of eyes running up and
down his body. The unraveled letter consisted of two words: Thank you! Crawford
cut down the dog and took it to the backyard where he buried it along the
fence line adjacent to the woods. As Crawford was packing the last of the dirt
over the dog's grave, he caught a glimpse of Simon as he momentarily transcended the
shadows and limped back into darkness.
At about three in the morning, the phone rang and woke Marilyn from a
restful sleep. By the time she got down the stairs to the end table to pick up the
phone, it had stopped ringing. Feeling somewhat parched, Marilyn went into
the kitchen to get a drink of water. As the water slowly ran, she stood with
her fingers under the faucet waiting for the temperature to drop because she
had forgotten to fill the ice trays. Marilyn filled a cup of water and engulfed
the entire cup in one fell swoop. As she walked across the cool tile, a
chill ran up her spine and the phone began to ring. The hair on Marilyn's neck
stood up as she walked toward the phone. By the time she answered the phone,
her heart was racing and her hands were trembling wet.
"Hello, who is it?" asked Marilyn. After a moment of silence, someone began
to speak in a faint voice. At first, Marilyn thought that the slight voice on
the other end sounded like an elderly woman. "You'll have to speak up, I can't
hear you," said Marilyn.
Feeling as though someone was watching her, Marilyn walked toward the window
and sat on the arm of her sofa, peering through the tattered Venetian blind,
as the voice on the phone hissed, "I can see your eyes glowing!" Marilyn
dropped the phone and ran to the kitchen to grab a knife as the sound of the old
woman's haunting voice echoed in her mind. Marilyn clutched the knife
tightly and her hand reddened as she picked up the phone to dial the police. After
being redirected twice and put on hold, Marilyn finally spoke to an officer
that reassured her that it was probably just kids making prank calls.
Still feeling somewhat shaky, Marilyn walked upstairs and pulled her dresser
in front of her bedroom door, then sat on the edge of her bed gripping the
knife, trying to maintain her composure. After a few minutes, Marilyn finally
relaxed and got into bed, embraced her pillow, and she fell fast asleep.
At 7 AM, Marilyn's Charlie Chaplain alarm clock started to speak, "Oh my,
you're late, you're late," and she quickly rose to her feet and slammed her
hand down on the button on the alarm clock's head. Marilyn still felt uneasy,
but the unnerving feeling was a lot easier to handle with the sun coming
through her bedroom window. After breathing a sigh of relief, Marilyn pulled the
dresser from in front of the door, and walked across the sun-warmed floor to
the half bath adjacent to her bedroom.
As Marilyn began to brush her teeth and look into the mirror, she could hear
the woman's eerie voice echoing in her my mind. "I can see your eyes
glowing." Marilyn stared at the blemishes on her face, yet she decided against
wearing makeup as she gargled and spit in the sink. Marilyn quickly got dressed,
remembering she had an appointment with her hairdresser at 8 AM, and hurried
down the uncarpeted stairs. As Marilyn made her way into the kitchen, a cool
breeze touched her face.
Marilyn quickly looked into the living room and could see the blinds moving
ever so slightly as she moved slowly toward the living-room window. Marilyn
slowly raised the blind as chill bumps swelled all over her skin and her he art
began to race. Marilyn knew at that moment someone had been in her
apartment. She pulled the stick from beneath the window and it slammed shut.
As Marilyn bolted toward the kitchen for her keys, her phone began to ring.
Marilyn disregarded the phone and grabbed her jacket from the old coat rack
that sat beside the front door. Marilyn slammed the door behind her and
quickly walked down the steps that led to her station wagon. Marilyn walked around
her car, making sure that no one was inside before she lifted the door
handle. To Marilyn's surprise, the driver's side was unlocked. She quickly started
the car as she began to panic.
"Am I losing my mind?" Marilyn slammed her foot on the accelerator and
headed down Harden Street, disregarding the stop sign as she turned onto Green
Street, trying to calm herself down. Marilyn, keeping her eyes on the road,
reached into the passenger seat to get her pocketbook, wanting to smoke a
cigarette. "Damn, I forgot my pocketbook!"
Remembering that she had stored a pack of Bristols in her glove compartment
months earlier when she attempted to go cold turkey, Marilyn reached for the
knob and opened the glove box. She pushed in the lighter and placed a
cigarette between her lips. The lighter popped out and she grabbed it with her
trembling thumb and index finger and pressed the lighter against the cigarette and
began to inhale. She took a long drag and exhaled, filling the car with
smoke as she crossed the railroad tracks, narrowly missing the descending
railroad arms. She quickly cracked her window and the smoke escaped as she parked in
the lot behind the beauty shop.
Marilyn stood outside the beauty shop smoking a cigarette and chewing the
skin from around her fingernails, waiting for the lights to come on in Wanda's
Beauty Shop, trying to make sense of her morning. Finally, the lights came on
and Marilyn could see Wanda readying herself for work, doing her makeup in
the mirror. Marilyn began to feel somewhat at ease, then she felt as though
someone was staring at her. Marilyn scanned the roadway, various shops, and
finally she saw an old woman looking at her from across the street, standing in
front of the pharmacy, holding a pocketbook that resembled the one she had left at home.
Marilyn raced across the street as the woman vanished like a hologram,
leaving only the faint scent of lavender. "What the hell is happening to me? I'm
not crazy! There was an old woman standing right here!" Marilyn looked at her
reflection in the window and saw the hunched-over woman looking back at her
with sad eyes. Marilyn extended her withered hand and touched her reflection as
she slowly faded into reality, witnessing the men in white uniforms entering
her dimly lit room. She closed her eyes and could see herself walking hand
in hand with a strange man, glowing with flowers in her hair. As the smell of
lavender and car exhaust lingered, Marilyn's mortality began to wane.
Leaving Red Holler
Evelyn sat on the corner of her bed, straining her eyes to read a letter
from her husband, Harold, as their three children slept soundly in the next
room. Evelyn wept as she thought back to the day seven-months previously, when
her husband left Emerald Valley on a bus to find work in Cleveland, Ohio. Evelyn
and her three children stood in front of the old Depot, waving goodbye to
Harold, shedding tears as the bus made its way up the mountain, out of the valley.
Harold had been employed by Avery G. Linden, where he had been in charge of
firing up the boilers since he was eighteen-years-old. Each day, Monday
through Friday, for over a decade, Evelyn had packed Harold a bagged lunch,
consisting of fried baloney and crackers, two biscuits with preserves, and when
there was enough money, a candy bar. And every morning, Harold would kiss Evelyn
goodbye before he walked down the hill through Red Holler and onto the main road.
Evelyn and Harold were probably poor by most people's standards, but they
had never known any other life. The money always went just far enough to make
ends meet. Not having indoor plumbing or a well, Evelyn would walk down to the
creek every morning to fetch a pail of water so that her children could
bathe in the old washtub that sat on the back porch. Their existence was meager,
but they had something more important than creature comforts and money: They had love.
In April of 1955, many of the workers at Linden wanted a union, so ole man
Linden gathered all of his employees in the cafeteria and told them that if
they pushed for a union, there would be no more work in the town of Emerald
Valley. Two weeks after the meeting, Harold arrived at work around 7 AM to find
Mr. Linden standing at the plant entrance handing out checks, accompanied by
two armed guards. Mr. Linden handed Harold the keys to the plant and informed
him that Avery G. Linden was closed forever. Harold was beside himself. The
thought of being unemployed had never once crossed his mind. Harold had
reasoned that he would probably work for Linden until he retired or died,
whichever came first.
After locking all of the factory doors, Harold made eye contact with Mr.
Linden as he handed over the keys.
"I wish things could have been different," said Mr. Linden, as he extended
his hand to Harold.
Harold quickly turned and walked down the path beside the creek that led to
Main Street in Emerald Valley, stopping for several minutes at the old
swimming hole to skip some rocks across the water. After heaving a large stone as
far as he could, Harold sat on a rock adjacent to the creek and ate his lunch.
Evelyn was exiting the outhouse as Harold made his way up the hill to the porch.
"What's the matter, honey?" asked Evelyn.
"Ole man Linden closed the plant for good. I got my last check this morning!"
"Dear lord, Harold, that's just awful. What are we going to do?"
"Well, a lot of the guys at the plant had been talking about going up to
Cleveland for a spell. I guess that I could go up there and work for the time being."
"Harold, you can't leave me and the kids to go to the city!"
"What choice do I have, Evelyn?"
Two days after the plant closed, Harold left his family in Red Holler to find employment in
Evelyn started up Red Holler on a cold December morning with the aid of her
walking stick, stopping briefly to chat with Hazel, who was sitting on her porch sipping on
"How are you today?" asked Evelyn, as she squinted, trying to make eye
contact with Hazel.
"I'm doing all right, I guess. Roy is getting ready to go up on the Mountain
to cut us a Christmas tree."
"Will any of the kids be coming home this Christmas?" asked Evelyn.
"I don't reckon so. Robby is still overseas with the Navy, and I haven't
heard from any of the other children. I surely miss having the little ones
around during the holiday season. Roy hasn't worked since ole man Linden closed
the plant, so we won't be having much for Christmas this year. So, how is
Harold making out in Cleveland?"
"He's been sending me and the kids forty dollars a week since May, so I
reckon he's doing okay. I call him once a week to make sure that he's all right.
I miss his warm body next to me at night; I get pretty lonesome at home when
the kids are at school. Well, I better be getting up to the house; I'm going
to make some apple fritters for the kids. I'll talk to you later, bye."
"I'll see you later, honey."
Hazel stood up long enough to watch Evelyn maneuver her way up the rocky
path with the aid of her walking stick. As Evelyn approached the Denmore house,
the dogs began to bark and Fred Denmore waved to Evelyn who nodded her head
in return. Walking up the hill to the little house, Evelyn lost her balance
and fell face first onto the hillside. Evelyn gathered herself and slowly rose
to her feet with the aid of her cane. She made it up the hill and gingerly
stepped onto the porch and on into the house. Feeling somewhat dizzy, Evelyn
decided to sit a spell as blood trickled from her left nostril. Breathing
heavily, Evelyn started to mumble under her breath, "Sheesh, the rheumatismin my
hip is getting the best of me."
As Evelyn rose to her feet, someone started knocking on the door. "I wonder
who that could be?" Evelyn grabbed her cane and let out a heavy sigh, not
wanting to be bothered. Evelyn opened the door, and to her surprise, it was her
husband, Harold, standing in the doorway with a freshly cut Christmas tree
and a large grocery bag. Evelyn lit up like the dawn and embraced Harold
tightly, whispering in his ear, "Baby I've missed you so much," as tears of joy
streamed down her cheeks. "I've missed you, too!" said Harold, overtaken by emotion.
"I just want to hold you and never let go," said Evelyn, with her head
pressed against Harold's chest listening to his heartbeat.
"I brought you some chocolates, and I've got a music box for Ann. I also got
cap busters for David and Johnny."
"Lordy, lordy, the kids are going to be so happy to see you! Mister, I'm
never going to let you leave Red Holler again!"
"I never knew how beautiful a place this was until I left. I've been so
homesick, baby. I promise that I'll never leave you again."
Harold took his wife by the hand and led her to the bedroom, where they made
love for the first time in nearly eight months.
Wind Chimes of Happiness
Janice sat on the porch as she did every day of her life since her husband
Ben had lapsed into a vegetative state, following a nasty fall down the
ice-covered front steps. Janice liked to watch the sun go down while she sipped
coffee and smoked her Camel cigarettes. She often daydreamed because she had
little else to do. Aside from making quilts and listening to the radio, her only
companionship came in the evening when her sister June would sit with her on
the front porch swing and share the latest gossip that usually spread through
their small town like wildfire.
At about ten O' clock, Janice could hear the rumbling of June's Mustang as
it flew down the valley echoing deep into the night. Janice had expected June
earlier, but she knew that her sister lived to sit and gossip with the other
women in her small community. As June walked toward the porch, it was
glaringly obvious that she was intoxicated. As a rule, June never smoked until she
was drunk, so Janice knew that her sister was going to be in a sour mood. June
stood on the walk leading to the front steps taking deep drags off of her
cigarette until the filter burned her lips. Janice began to speak softly, "Is
everything okay?" June quickly lit another cigarette and took a deep drag off
of it. While exhaling, she mumbled out the word no. "'Would you like to sit
and talk about it?" asked Janice.
"It's Jim, he's cheating on me with a teacher from Harner's Valley...I just
"Well, what makes you think that?" asked Janice.
"He left me after we got into a fight about him not paying me any attention.
I just know that there is another woman...I just got a bad feeling that he's
grown tired of me. He bad mouths me every chance that he gets, and he's
always on to me about losing weight."
Janice laughed under her breath and attempted to speak, but she knew how
sensitive that her sister was, so she chose her words carefully before she
started to talk. "Honey, you've been unfaithful to that poor man for as long as I
can remember...what makes his infidelity any worse than what you've been
doing for decades?"
June looked at her sister with fire in her eyes. "I never thought that
anyone would be fool enough to sleep with Jim...look at him, he's not exactly a
prized catch. The teacher is only twenty-three...how can I compete with her?"
"Good Lord, I don't believe that Jim is cheating on you...and I most
certainly don't believe that a young, attractive teacher would give that old codger
a second glance. Who the hell filled your head with that nonsense?"
June stomped out another butt, then quickly lit another, took a deep drag
and exhaled. "It's not nonsense. Two of the ladies down at the Beauty Shopt old
me that they saw Jim fondle the woman outside of the Family Dollar Store
after he shared his umbrella with her."
"I think that you need a good cup of coffee," said Janice.
Janice headed into the house and into the kitchen to make her sister a cup
of instant coffee. She had almost forgotten that she and June were supposed to
turn Ben over so that he didn't get bed sores. Janice could hear Ben moaning
and groaning as she headed outside to help her sister sober up. Janice
handed June two aspirin and a strong cup of coffee. June sat on the swing and her
body went numb as she slipped into unconsciousness. Janice shook her head thinking
about her husband's infidelity, and what a pathetic life she led.
After standing over June for several moments, something happened in Janice's
mind. Something came over her, and in an instant, she was standing over Ben
gazing into his listless eyes. Janice took a pillow from under Ben's head and
shoved it in his face. Janice, having a moment of clarity, asked herself
what she was doing. "I never wanted to marry you...you son-of-a-bitch! Mommy
made me marry you after you forced yourself on me in the barn. I never really
loved you...I got stuck with you."
Unbeknownst to Janice, June had risen to her feet and had been standing in
the doorway watching with morbid delight. Janice turned after moments of
senseless babble to see her sister smiling.
"I was just getting Ben ready to be turned over...I didn't think that you'd
wake up for a while. I was going to put you to bed as soon as I finished
here," said Janice.
June laughed at her sister as she walked toward the bed. She leaned forward
and whispered into Janice's ear, "I'll do it, give me the goddamn
pillow...you've never had a life, and now you're stuck here caring for this piece of
Janice left the room as soon as June began to smother Ben with the large
"Die you rotten, old bastard...you should have died years ago," exclaimed
As June was smothering Ben, Janice walked slowly and deliberately up behind
her sister and quickly pushed a butcher's knife into June's back. June gasped
as blood began to pour from the wound. Janice turned around oblivious to
what she'd done, and headed to the porch where she sat down to sip coffee and
smoke a cigarette.
As the sun rose over the tree tops, Janice opened her eyes to find her
sister and husband swinging from the oak tree where the old tire swing had been,
and for one fleeting moment, she felt truly free.
Angel sat on the milk jug as the elders filled the rocking chairs and porch
swing, reminiscing about Wilson's frugal nature. The women from the Church of
Christ brought pies and rice pudding. The pastor arrived shortly after the
women began gossiping about the Avery girl's latest suicide attempt.
Having never lost a loved one, Angel was a nervous wreck. The elderly men
and women gathering at her Grandpa's home weren't helping her much with the
grieving process. Angel sat down on a tree stump adjacent to the house,
attempting to play her grandpa's french harp, as tears slowly welled in her eyes.
An elderly man in overalls came walking down the gravel road, singing like a
drunkard with nowhere to go. The drunk old man approached Angel with his
hands in his pockets. As the old man hobbled closer, Angel felt uneasy because
she could smell the alcohol on his breath.
"Hello, little lady, my name is Danny Beaverton. I was a friend to your grandpa Wilson."
The smell of the man's breath made Angel's eyes burn and tears began to
stream from her eyes. The old man sensed Angel's uneasiness and tried to pat her
on the head. As Danny extended his trembling hand, Angel rolled backwards off
the stump into a reverse somersault and jumped to her feet.
"I don't know who you are, Mister" exclaimed Angel, wiping the tears from
her cheeks as sweat began to bead on her forehead.
Angel retreated to the porch as the old women began to whisper under their
breaths that Danny Beaverton was a sodden heathen.
As Danny moved toward the porch, Pastor Jon asked Danny what he wanted with
Wilson's granddaughter. Danny replied by saying that he had an old photograph
of the girl's grandpa and his lucky buckeye.
"It's okay little lady, I don't mean you no harm. I've got a picture of your
papa from when he was a boy."
Angel walked slowly down the steps as Pastor Jon looked on from the porch,
and the old folks sat telling stories and drinking coffee. Danny extended his
hand and Angel put her hand in his as they walked to the stump to sit for a spell.
Danny cleared his throat and started to speak, but Angel interrupted.
"How did you know my grandpa?" asked Angel.
Danny thought for a second and smiled as he began to speak. "Well, me and
your grandpa met when we were trying to dodge the draft. You see, me and Wilson
stole a car and fled to West Virginia to avoid the war, but them military
boys came and found us working in the coal mines."
"Why did yaw steal a car, Mister?"
"Well, it was a mite too far to walk, and me and Wilson were afraid of
dying. Anyway, this is a picture of me and your granddaddy in our Army uniforms."
Angel snatched the picture from Danny's hand and stared silently at the
black and white photo for several minutes, wiping the tears from her cheeks, then
smiling as she pressed the picture against her heart.
"Did yaw ever go to war?"
"No, me and your grandpa were stationed in Florida during the war."
"Was there a war in Florida?"
"Heavens no, me and Wilson never saw any combat duty. Shoot, we never done
nothing but guard the beach."
Angel thought back to the 21-gun salute performed at her grandpa's funeral
and began to giggle. "You mean to tell me that grandpa Wilson was a draft dodger?"
"Yeah, honey, we were both draft dodgers."
Danny started to laugh as an elderly woman shouted from behind the screen
door, "Don't believe a word that old codger says; he's a no good drunk!"
Danny chuckled and pulled a buckeye from his pocket to give to Angel.
"Little lady, this was Wilson's lucky buckeye. He found this thing right before he
met your grandma, God rest her soul."
"Did you know my grandma, mister?"
"Yes, she was a wonderful lady!"
"What's a buckeye for?"
"Well, a lot of people believed them to be good luck, but it's more of a
memento than anything."
"What's a memento?"
"Well, it's something that helps you remember a special person like your grandpa Wilson."
Angel smiled up at Danny and took his hand and led him up the steps onto the
porch and into the house.
Angel's mother gave Danny and Angel a bowl of rice pudding as the old men at
the table told war stories. As Angel and Danny ate their rice pudding,
Pastor Jon solemnly held a shell from the 21-gun salute between his thumb and
index finger. Danny set his bowl on the counter as he winked at Angel and hobbled
toward the door. Angel followed Danny to the door and watched him walk into
the sun. Angel never saw Danny again.
I wish my wife could meet Sergeant Metz
A man I knew when a P.F.C
He like me was a Jew
In the American army too
And he was good to me
So kind and so friendly
Always telling the story
Of his Landsmen
Coming from Germany in
The harbors of the Great States
We were freemen, as good army buds
And we shared big cigars and eggnog
He was a good man
Sent off to Nam
But I will remember him always
Everyone always asks me
As I went walking past
How is poor old Joe Donny
And I was true to reply
I know no such Joe
I go walking down the breezeway
Entertaining my own thoughts
And I have to tell them
Because they don't know
I have no idea
Who this is, this Joe
People are so friendly
Till they head me say
I do not know your old Joe
Then they walk away
Bill was a good man
a true believer and a business man
who did a lot good
Even if misunderstood
A leader is a wrestless
A winner with a straight face
and a speck tricked down the face.
and a ache shot down the body.
and a pinch went down the arm.
and a muscle cramped on the leg.
and a heart reasoned to quit.
and a mind says to keep moving on.
and it means you're human.
and all the time you say, "and?"
and stay on course.
My Hole Situation
There's a hole in my life.
So I picture the hole and I see a space.
I look into space and I see a big hole.
The hole is part of space.
And the space is part of the hole.
There's a hole in my life with a space.
And space is the whole part of a hole.
I should use the space to fill the hole.
Now all I need is to find the space.
It should be a good life after all.
Now there's a hole in my life with a space.
I put the space in the hole to fill it up.
Since the whole part of a hole is space.
I check on my hole situation and see nothing.
I fixed my problem with nothing.
There's a hole in my life with nothing but space,
Should have left the hole empty.
Don't go fixing nothing with nothing.
There's always a space in a hole.
And that's nothing but the Hole truth.
Eila Mahima Jaipaul
Amid dust and salt
could I but touch you
as a thing in itself
separate from everything
ever touched or seen
from everything you've held or felt
I'd take you to Elysium
where, in beds of mandolins, under violet-orange sky
your living would finally be where it should
some draped in rosemary
would bring all my pieces
and there, amid dust and salt
in long red shadows
I'd let you reconstruct me
from bark and herb
until with tears of delicate compassion
dancing naked deep inside you
close to stars
we are translucent, pearlized
there is such ache
the whole of the sea
milk river mound of black marsh
mount the violet asp
all sacrosanct plush curves
limbs of silk flesh
sky of lotus tongues jeweled pulses
tumbling toward dawn
woman of fluid and clay
Buddha is inside you, awake
pondering breeze mating your breath
I wasn't born here
but I've lived here all my life
it sounds right
I want to say
that what we do
is like reading
me feeding you words
while you're lying on your back
naming you with them
in the dark
yes Love, it is more reading
feeling, than writing
this is what we make possible
tiny veins, rigid
where once lay
Visions in a gray shirt
on that street corner
next to the hot dog man
where the vagrant will take coin
'in any currency you got, lady'
it was two butterflies
about their own business, hovering
entwined in one another
that caught me
before you did
while men and women
with brisk strides
full of storied northern industry
pass, unaware of your look
that told me sunsets
boycott immortality for you
how you manage to strut
while sitting, I'll never know
The Spirit of the Silence
they came in silence
the dead wrapped in silence
in honor they had come in the spirit of the silence.
some with silence in their studs
they've come to rest their limbs
those who need spiritual silence
in a place like a necropolis
they often avoid even those
who had come before them
in order to speak to them in silence
and those who are not in silence
are in their beds
making noise which the silence
can hardly bear, touch, see, hear, smell or taste.
All poems copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is
YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts - Copyright (c) 1993 - 2006 by
Klaus J. Gerken.
The official version of this magazine is available on Ygdrasil's
World-Wide Web site http://users.synapse.net/~kgerken. No other
version shall be deemed "authorized" unless downloaded from there.
Distribution is allowed and encouraged as long as the issue is unchanged.
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