Share Your Writings

istock_writing

Apparently, we have a few who write once and awhile. How about posting something? I’ll start it off with a poem I wrote called, The Carpenter.

The old carpenter shuffled slowly to the park bench.
He placed his wooden tool box reverently on the ground.
He had to put his hand on the bench to support himself,
While he lowered his creaking frame down to sit.

He surveyed the area, hoping to find a friendly figure
With whom he could converse, to pass the time,
But it was late November, and the park was empty.
And so it should be, he thought, so it should be.

A crow, with shiny black feathers, landed on the bench.
It cocked its head, and looked up at the carpenter
With an expression that brought to mind the words,
Have you been here before?

Many, many times, the carpenter said to the crow,
Though his voice was silent as the long dead leaves
That were still scattered about the park’s broad expanse.
I have been coming here since ‘fore this place’s time.

I am the carpenter. I am the one who built the Cross.
I am the one who watched on the mount as the man
They called Jesus was nailed to what I had built.
I am the one who helped Him down, and laid Him to rest.

My penance for carving out the wood, and making the cross,
Is to wander the world until such time as I find that
I can forgive myself for what I have done.
I have many more years to wander, I fear.

As the carpenter turned to gaze at the crow,
The bird gave a squawk, and flew off to seek less noisy things.
The carpenter looked again over the park, with eyes
That contained no joy, no light…only the pain of ages.

The old man slowly reached for his tool box.
He stood up, wincing at the pain it brought,
And shuffled down the park path towards places unknown.
The crow watched, with a coal black eye, from a barren tree.

jammer5

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20 Comments

Filed under Creativity, Original writings, Poetry

20 responses to “Share Your Writings

  1. Jammer,

    That’s beautiful, touching, perfect for this season. Brought a tear to my eye!

    I have written some poems but they would pale in comparison to what you write. Mostly, in times that were hard I wrote down words and that helped me find a way to go forward — a sort of therapy to get some feelings out that needed to be put in the background in order to move on. They’re sad words of sad times. In fact, I haven’t read them for awhile because life has been good to me for many years. I’ll get them out and see if anything could be shared.

    I also was intrigued when I read your AUTHORS post about several people writing a book together. Did you say each person wrote the next chapter, or something like that? What an interesting and fun project that would be! Did you each use your own voice or attempt to make it sound like one author by putting on the beginning authors voice / writing style? So many questions! Would that be something we could try here? Would you be able to guide us?

  2. jammer5

    Actually, the book was written with the thought in mind of seeing just how ridiculous we could make each chapter. No boundaries were safe. Crossing the line was fully encouraged. Styles were personal and for the most part, hilarious. We decided that letting the imagination run wild would produce what we wanted, and it seemed to work. Purely self-indulgent 🙂

    And, yes, we could do something like that here. It would depend on iggydonnelly, and what he thought. But it could be fun. Hey, with a group like this, anythings possible.

  3. Jammer, thanks for the contribution. Made ME think, damnit.

    Also now I can’t get this John Prine tune out of my bald head.
    Grandpa was a carpenter
    wore a suit most every day
    no particular reason
    he just dressed that way…

  4. Well, not talent, not any kind of acceptable ‘form,’ but great therapy for a sad time —

    finis

    i stuffed my past
    into a brown bag
    and dropped it
    down the mail chute,
    with no postage stamp
    or return address.

    because i didn’t care anymore,
    and needed to be free from yesterday.

    so i walked away
    and never wanted to look back,
    or wonder what would have happened
    if i had stayed where i was
    and remained unhappy
    by my imprisonment in time.

  5. Bad Biker

    This is quite long for a blog post, but it is a chapter from a book I wrote a few years ago. It was to be published, but my agent was a con artist……

    Let me know what you think.

    Chapter Five

    “Yes, it’s true I am a young man, but I’m old enough to kill. I don’t want to kill nobody, but I must if you so will. And if I raise my hand in question, you just say that I’m a fool, ‘cuz I’ve got the gall to ask you, can you maybe change the rule?” Bob Seger, 2 + 2, 1969.

    It wasn’t dead, but it was seriously wounded. We had been puttering around Colorado for several days, playing new age explorers, when the Van coughed, wheezed and gave it up. We coasted to a stop on the side of the road. Everything still seemed to work as it should, but the engine wouldn’t start. It would turn over just fine, but the engine sounded like there was no fire in the belly. After the usual histrionics on my part, I jumped out and lifted the engine compartment lid to check what was going on. Now, I am not the world’s greatest mechanic. I am not even the best mechanic in my family. Still, I know my way around an engine and I can handle most of the normal duties.

    Rocky has decided to help me with the diagnosis of the problem. Dylan looks on while I poke and prod the engine, as if it will come back to life at the touch of my hand. Rocky sticks his nose in the engine compartment to sniff out the faulty components. Everything seems to be in order – no loose wires or broken parts. There doesn’t seem to be any gas or oil leaking on the side of the road. I pull a screwdriver out of my ancient, but trusty toolbox to delve deeper into the mysteries of internal combustion. The problem is quickly apparent as soon as I pull off the distributor cap to check the points. The distributor shaft turns freely in my hand. The drive gear has decided to secede from the union and go off on its own. In the words of the official roadside mechanic’s vernacular – we’re fucked.

    “Okay, Dylan, we can either push the Van to California or we’re going to have to fix it. You and Rocky can push and I’ll drive. Okay?” Dylan looks at me with a smile, knowing that I am, as usual, trying to put a happy face on a serious situation.

    “Okay, Dad. We’ll push; you just sit yourself down in the driver’s seat and enjoy the ride.”

    “It might take us a while to get there with you pushing – several years, in fact. I think that we’ll try to find a way to repair it. It won’t take long to get it fixed, once I can get the part. I think we will be walking for a while. Let’s go!”

    “Ah! I don’t want to walk. Rocky and I will stay here and you walk. We are way too young to walk all that way! You can do it, Dad! We’ll stay here and root for you.”

    “Thanks, Dylan, but I have a better idea. I have my trusty cell phone with me and we’ll just call somebody. Does that sound like a better plan?”

    “Yeah, but who’re you going to call? I don’t see any Volkswagen Dealers around here.”

    “I don’t want to leave the Van on the side of the road. Of course, I don’t want to leave you and Rocky here, either. Somebody might steal you.”

    “I doubt that – who would want us?” Dylan laughs at the absurdity of my comment.

    “You never know, Dylan. Some rich old lady might come by and steal you and Rocky away from me. What would I do without you two? I would be heartbroken.”

    “Don’t worry, Dad, we would fight her off. She would never get away with it.”

    “Right, Dylan, she’d come driving by in her shiny new Mercedes and you two would jump right on in. I would never see you, again. I can see you, now – sitting by the pool in Bel Aire, drinking a tall cool drink and reminiscing about the old days. I can hear your voice now. ‘Rocky, do you remember that old guy we used to hang with – yeah – that one. What did we call him – Daddy?'”

    “We would write, Dad! We wouldn’t forget you!” Dylan is enjoying our private joke on the side of the road. It would have been a whole lot more funny if we weren’t standing next to our non-functioning van.

    After a few fruitless phone calls, I finally contact an out of the way truck stop that will come and tow the Van for us. They don’t work on foreign cars, but at least they’ll get us off the side of the road. There’s a little motel at the stop, so we can put up for a day or two, while I fix the Van. After an hour or so of waiting, the tow truck shows up to rescue us. The driver is a nice old man in his late sixties. His name is Sheldon, and he and his wife own the truck stop and the little motel. They have a small restaurant, also, so we can catch a bite to eat while we are waiting. I am hoping that I can get the part I need quickly, so we don’t have to spend too much time and money. I still have a few dollars in my pocket, but I don’t want to waste it on motel and restaurant bills.

    Dylan, Rocky and I wedge ourselves into the cab of the truck as Sheldon takes the wheel. The trip is mercifully short. Rocky snuggles up on my lap, while Dylan occupies the middle seat. Between dog and boy, there isn’t much room to breathe. Talking is out of the question. Any conversation will have to wait until we can draw another breath. The old tow truck rocks and rolls from side to side as we navigate the narrow road leading to the truck stop.

    The truck stop is just a few well-worn little buildings, out in the middle of nowhere. The motel has about six or eight rooms and the restaurant looks like it will hold about ten or twelve people comfortably. The repair shop is a small, tin building with a couple of old cars sitting on the side. The sign out front is broken – the lights have long since gone out – but it states that this is “Marv’s Trucker’s Oasis.” A large cat is sitting in the window of the motel office and an old mixed breed dog is lying just inside the overhead door of the repair shop. Neither cat nor dog seems too interested in our arrival. The whole complex has an ambiance of dust, disuse and days gone by. Sheldon backs the tow truck up to the shop door to drop the Van. We all tumble out of the tow truck and take a deep breath. Rocky, of course, has to investigate anything and everything in sight.

    “That’s Jeff.” Sheldon informs us, pointing at the old dog. “He doesn’t remember how to bite, so don’t worry. What’s your dog’s name?”

    “Rocky. His name is Rocky. I named him.” replies Dylan, quickly. “He’s a pure-bred Golden Retriever. He doesn’t bite, either.”

    “He looks like a nice dog.” Sheldon continues, “Do you take him hunting?”

    “No, we don’t hunt.” Dylan answers. “He’s just a pet.”

    “Well, I don’t hunt, either, but I like to have a good dog around. Now Jeff, he used to be a real good watchdog, but he’s getting on in years now. Now, most of the time, he just sleeps.”

    “He’s enjoying his golden years.” I add. “He looks like he has earned it.”

    “Yep, just like Alice and me. We moved here from Denver a few years back. We bought this truck stop to keep us busy and to make a little money. That’s what we’re doing – making little money. Not too many people come by here – we’re a little too far off the truck routes. Old Marv knew what he was doing when he sold us this place. We sell a little gas and oil, once in a while, and we fix a lunch or two, now and then. Mostly, we rent out the rooms to people who have gotten lost and need a place to stay.”

    “So you and your wife retired down here?”

    “Not exactly retired. I worked for one of those big oil companies for a number of years. Alice, she stayed home and raised the children. We have two boys. They have families of their own, now. We have three grandchildren. No, we didn’t retire. I got laid off by the company and no one else would hire me because of my age. I’m sixty-nine now; I was sixty-one when they let me go. It’s damned tough finding a job when you’re over sixty.” Sheldon shakes his gray head sadly. “We sold the house in Denver and used the money to buy this truck stop. I can’t complain. We get by all right. Alice has gone to the market to pick up a few things. She’ll be back soon and she can make us some lunch. Hey, Rocky! Don’t pee on that!”

    Rocky has been making his rounds of the area and has stopped to leave his mark on one of the car tires next to the shop. He stops mid-whiz when he hears Sheldon’s command.

    “That’s a fifty-two Chevy, Rocky!” Sheldon says with a laugh, “You can pee on anything you like, but try to stay away from the cars!” The old man continues to laugh at Rocky’s startled look.

    “Are you restoring those old cars? I ask.

    “Well, I hope to restore them one day, but we just don’t have the money right now. Right now, we’re just trying to make ends meet.” Sheldon replies. The old man answers, not with despair, but with an understanding that everything has its time. “Right now, we’re just trying to take one day at a time and enjoy life. No one really bothers us out here, and Alice and I are pretty happy, all things considered. We have our health. That’s a good thing, and our kids are doing well, so we don’t have much to worry about. Life could be a whole lot worse. Say, what are you folks doing out here? You look like you’re making a road trip. What are you running away from?”

    I have to chuckle at Sheldon’s assessment of our situation. “We’re driving to California, just the three of us. I’m, ah, Steve and that’s my son Dylan.”

    “‘Steve’? You don’t sound too sure of that. It’s none of my business what your real name is, but you better work on your delivery.” Sheldon smiles at me, like he’s in on the joke.

    “Well” I answer, a little red faced, “My name is ‘Steve’ but I am thinking about changing it. My middle name was ‘Stephenson’ when I was born. People that know me have always called me ‘Steve’ or ‘Steven’ or even ‘Stevie’. You can call me anything you like.”

    Sheldon looks a little puzzled. “Aren’t you a little old to be changing your name?”

    “It’s a long story, Sheldon. I didn’t know what my real name was until I was forty-five years old.”

    “Well, that’s different. You’ll have to tell me about it sometime, if you want to. Either way, it’s okay by me. I’ll just call you ‘Steve’ and let it go at that. Let’s get your van into the garage.”

    Sheldon goes about unhooking the Van from the tow truck. He’s amused by my name-change story, but doesn’t let that interfere with his dialog. He is a good-natured old guy with a spring in his step and an ever-present smile on his face. The years have treated him well. His face is weathered, but his eyes are bright and cheerful. A neatly trimmed gray beard decorates his chin. He is thin, but looks like he is healthy and fit. His walk is a little slower than it might have been when he was younger, but he goes about his business briskly. In just a minute or two, he is lowering the Van to the ground. Together, we push the old Volkswagen into the open garage bay.

    “Do you have a mechanic?” I ask.

    “Nope! If I can’t fix it, you’re out of luck. We can’t afford to pay a mechanic for what little work that comes in here. I don’t know much about foreign cars, however, so this might be a problem. How about you? Do you know how to fix what ails this old beast?” Sheldon grins at my predicament.

    “I know what’s wrong – it’s the distributor drive gear – so I think I can fix it if I can get the part. This is a ’66 Microbus, so I doubt that your average parts store has one on the shelf.”

    A cloud of dust and gravel rolls in the distance on the narrow road. An old, mid-seventies Chevy station wagon pulls into the driveway and comes to a halt.

    “Well, son, that’s Alice. Let’s get ourselves something to eat before we tackle this problem with your van. Drive gears can wait – it’s time for lunch!”

    Sheldon wipes his hands on an old rag and walks over to greet his wife. He opens the door for her and announces “Be on your best behavior, Alice, we’ve got company!”

    Alice emerges from the station wagon with an arm full of groceries. She is a short, robust woman in her late-sixties. She looks like she could punch the lights out of a Peterbilt, but her manner is kind and gentle. She gives Sheldon a quick peck on the cheek before she turns to see who the company might be. Her eyes smile a welcome to Dylan and I, and Rocky runs over to greet her.

    “Well, hi, puppy! What’s your name? How are you boys doing? Coming in for lunch?” Rocky is right on her heals as she tries to navigate the short distance to the restaurant door.

    “That’s Rocky” Dylan says as he opens the door for Alice. “He’s a Golden Retriever.”

    “Well, Rocky, welcome to Marv’s! Alice replies with a laugh. “You two are very welcome, also!”

    “Thank you!” is Dylan’s quick reply. “Our Van broke down and we have to get it fixed. We’re from Kansas and we’re going to California.

    “Well, you may not have found the right place to get your van fixed, but we can feed you.” Says Alice with a hearty laugh. “We don’t fix too much around here except breakfast and lunch!”

    “Oh.” Sheldon responds, faking a case of hurt feelings. “I can fix most anything, Alice, just you hide and watch!”

    “Oh, Sheldon, you haven’t fixed anything since the garbage disposal went out. Don’t kid yourself!” Alice and Sheldon have obviously played this verbal sparring game before. Sheldon shakes his fist at Alice in mock anger.

    “To the moon, Alice!” he says, with a wide sweep of his right arm. “To the moon! Pow! Right in the kisser!”

    “Oh, sit down before you hurt yourself, Sheldon. You’re way too old to be trying to mess with me. I’ll knock you out in the first round!”

    Both Sheldon and Alice laugh uproariously at their mock battle. The little restaurant is empty except for us and the air is filled with laughter. Sheldon tries to grab his wife and hug her.

    “Let’s kiss and make up, Alice! Give me a kiss!” Sheldon has wrapped his arms around Alice and is trying to plant a big kiss on her lips. He moves his hips like he is interested in a little more than just a kiss. “Come on, Alice, just one little teeny tiny kiss. Come on, baby!”

    “Behave yourself, Sheldon! We have company. Act your age. You’re not eighteen, anymore!” Alice gently pushes him away, but not before landing a wet kiss on his lips. Sheldon continues to follow her like a puppy dog, arms outstretched and lips puckered up.

    “Come on, baby, come on. Please!” Sheldon whimpers in mock desperation.

    Alice busies herself with the groceries and ignores Sheldon. They are obviously a couple that has been together for a long time. Their affection for one another is very apparent and their good humor is infectious. Sheldon continues to play act, but helps his wife put up her purchases. Soon, everything is in its proper place and Alice turns her attention to making lunch for us.

    “What’ll it be, boys? She announces. “We have hamburgers and grilled cheese and tomato soup. What would you like?”

    Sheldon and I opt for the grilled cheese and soup, while Dylan asks for a hamburger with cheese and mayo, no tomatoes. Rocky has elected to join Jeff in the garage. The diner is remarkably clean and neat. Each table is graced with a small vase of flowers and the tablecloths are spotless. There are just four tables in the place. It seems much more like being in someone’s dining room than a truck stop in rural Colorado. Everything in the place gleams. Alice has obviously made it her life’s mission to keep her restaurant in the very best shape possible. Even the windows are spotless.

    I strip off my coat as I sit down at one of the tables. Sheldon joins me, while Alice prepares our lunch at the stove. Dylan is messing with an old television that sits on a shelf in the corner. I pull out a cigarette and offer one to Sheldon.

    “Nope! Quit years ago. Bad habit, you should quit yourself. You’re too young of a man to be smoking.”

    “You’re right, Sheldon. I did quit but I started up a few months ago.”

    “He’s going to quit!” Dylan chimes in, uninvited. “He’s going to quit, soon!”

    I try to ignore Dylan, but Sheldon picks up on his line of conversation.

    “Yep, I quit over fifteen years ago, Alice threatened to kick my butt, so that was that!”

    “Do you mind if I smoke?” I ask, trying to be polite and respectful.

    “Hey, they’re your lungs, my friend!”

    Alice brings over the sandwiches and soup and joins us at the table. Dylan plops himself down at a table next to us and dives into his burger. The grilled cheese is first-class. It’s even better than my own, world-renowned attempts. The soup is hot and creamy and delicious to the taste. The atmosphere was like going over to your grandmother’s house for lunch. We could not feel more at home.

    “This sandwich is fabulous, Alice. It’s far better than what I can make. Are you going to share your secret with us?”

    “No such luck, Sonny!” Alice replies with a laugh. “You’re on your own!”

    “Dylan thinks I am a great cook, but, really, all I make is stuff like chili and pancakes. I do make a pretty good biscuits and gravy plate, but you won’t see any filet mignon on my home menu. I did make a complete Thanksgiving dinner once. Nobody died.” Alice and Sheldon chuckle at my description of my cooking skills.

    “You look like you’ve managed to stay alive.” Sheldon interjects, gesturing to my waistline.

    “Hey, hey!” I retort, with mock indignation, “I’ve managed to lose twenty-five pounds, I’ll have you know.”

    “Sheldon could use a few of the pounds that you’ve lost. He used to be a big man, but he lost it all years ago and hasn’t gained it back.”

    “It’s your cooking, Alice.” Sheldon jests, “You won’t let me have any of the good stuff.”

    “Just watching out for your health, dear.” Alice intones, solemnly.

    “Yeah, honey, I’ll live to be a hundred and I will still be looking for the cookies that you hid last week.”

    “Keep looking, dear!”

    Sheldon and Alice continue to playfully spar while we finish our meals. They are a wonderful couple – obviously deep in love and well acquainted with each other’s personal and emotional needs. Their bantering only serves to magnify the depth of feeling that they openly have for one another.

    “How long have you two been married?” I ask.

    “Too long!” Sheldon quickly interjects, hoping to head his wife off at the pass.

    Alice responds with a smile. “I have been married to Sheldon for forty-nine years. Sheldon, however, has been married to me all his life. I was his only girlfriend, since the sixth grade. I had to marry him – he couldn’t live without me!”

    “That’s not right! Sheldon replies in mock anger, “I had plenty of girlfriends. What about Mary – that new girl that moved into town from Fort Worth?”

    “You danced with her one time at the Harvest Festival in ’49, Sheldon.” Alice quickly sets the record straight.

    “Yeah, baby, but she was hot for me, I tell you!” Sheldon counters.

    “Yeah, and you were hot for her big boobs!” Alice ups the ante with a quick jab of her own.

    “Well.” Sheldon sees that he is losing this bout and good-naturedly throws in the towel.

    “So, are you folks from Texas originally?” I ask, changing the subject.

    “Yes. We were both brought up outside of Lubbock, but we moved to Colorado in the seventies. We like being here in Colorado. We like it a lot more than Texas.” Alice replies in a low voice.

    “Yeah, we like it here.” Sheldon adds, softly.

    For a moment, silence hangs in the air like an early morning mist on a mountain meadow. After a moment, I awkwardly break the mood by gathering our plates and bowls and bussing the table.

    “Well, folks, what do I owe you for lunch? I had better get busy finding that gear I need.”

    “Lunch is on the house.” Alice answers me, softly.

    “I can’t let you do that,” I reply, “We can pay for lunch.”

    “No you can’t.” Sheldon states emphatically, ending the conversation.

    “Well, at least let me thank you for your hospitality.”

    “You’re welcome!” Alice replies with a smile.

    Dylan, Rocky and I check into one of the small rooms of the motel, and I quickly get busy on the phone, trying to locate the part I need for the Van. Like the restaurant, the motel rooms are spotless. The bathroom is small and cramped, but the fixtures gleam and the towels are carefully arranged. The two small beds are made with military precision. Even the lampshade is spotless and dust-free. Dylan plants himself in front of the television while I begin calling Volkswagen dealers in Denver and Colorado Springs. After several fruitless calls, I finally find a dealer that can get me the gear and a few other parts, but it will be five or six days before they arrive. Frustrated, I walk over to the garage to let Sheldon know that we would be staying for a few days while we waited for parts. When I discover that he is not there, I look around for a minute before I find him and Alice sitting in the dark restaurant having a mid-afternoon cup of coffee.

    “Here you two are.” I say in greeting. “I have bad news Sheldon – it’s going to be almost a week before I can get the parts I need. I guess you’ll be having company for a while.”

    “Well, that will be fine, Steve.” Sheldon says with a smile. “We don’t get much company.”

    “Sheldon,” Alice whispers, “maybe this would be a good time for me to go.”

    Sheldon looks in his coffee cup like he is about to make a major decision and the answer might lie somewhere in the bottom of the cup. “Yes,” he says softly.

    I look at the two of them with a perplexed look on my face, as I tend to do when I have no idea what is happening. They look at each other in silence, then whisper a brief conversation with one another in that codified language that only couples that have been married for many years are able to use.

    “We’ve been talking, Steve. Alice needs to go to Denver to visit her mother in the nursing home. She’s not doing all that well. We thought that if you needed to stay for a while, you could help out around here while she was gone. Alice won’t let me cook – she says that I am dangerous – so maybe you could take on the kitchen duties for a few days in exchange for the room. You did say that you can cook a little.”

    I am a little dumbfounded by this turn of events. I was worried about the cost of staying in a motel for a week or more, so this would work out very well for us. Still, I didn’t want to take advantage of this kind old couple.

    “Well, of course I would help out. I hope that your mother will be okay, Alice. I can handle the basics in the kitchen, just as long as no one asks for lamb chops or chicken cordon bleu.”

    “They’ve come to the wrong place if they’re looking for chicken cordon bleu!” Alice replies with a laugh.

    “Yeah, they’ll eat chili and be damned happy with it!” Sheldon adds with a laugh and a dismissive wave of his hand. “Let them get on down the road if they are going to be choosy!”

    The night passes quietly. Dylan and I enjoy the opportunity to sleep in a real bed after spending a week or so on the road. Rocky, of course, decides to allow me to share his bed with him. At least, that is how he sees it. The silence of the night is rarely broken by the sound of a car or truck passing by. No visitors knock on the door of the motel during the evening. The quiet is reassuring and therapeutic, almost meditative. In the deep of the night, Rocky wakens me to go out. I stand in the cold outside our motel door and light a cigarette as my dog wanders about, looking for the ideal place to do his duty. The night is dark, still and quiet. A small light is on in the motel office and, for a moment, I think that I am seeing a figure move in the dim light. A closer look reveals nothing and Rocky and I head back to the warmth of our bed.

    Early in the morning, Alice packs up the old Chevy wagon and leaves for Denver. She and Sheldon embrace for a long moment before she gets in to drive off. For that long moment, they look almost as if they are holding one another up. These two are truly soul mates – they share a common soul, a common consciousness. Dylan, Sheldon and I stand in the drive of the motel and wave as Alice drives away. Rocky and Jeff chase her a few feet down the road before deciding to pursue other, less strenuous, interests.

    “Sheldon, I thought I saw someone in the motel office last night, about four o’clock. Is everything all right?”

    “That must have been Alice. She gets up during the night sometimes. She can’t sleep, so she sits by herself in the office, so that she doesn’t wake me. We are both light sleepers. Hey, there’s work to be done – you’d better get going if you’re going to earn your keep.” Sheldon’s tone indicates that the work he has in mind is probably having another cup of coffee, rather than any gainful activity. We march over to the restaurant and turn on the lights.

    “Better get ready for the rush hour, Steve!” Sheldon directs, with a smile. “They’ll be here anytime!”

    In the kitchen, I take a quick inventory to see what I can actually make. There isn’t much variety, but I can whip up most anything that is on the menu. I light the stove and put a pot of coffee on. A white apron is hanging on a hook by the door, so I wrap that around me and pull my hair back into an amateurish ponytail.

    “What’ll it be, Boss!” I announce with gusto. “What can I concoct for you this morning?”

    “Toast. Lightly toasted. And coffee.” Sheldon is not going to be a difficult customer to please this morning.

    The morning passes without a single customer. I keep myself busy by cleaning imaginary spots on the stove and whipping up a large pot of chili. The daily special chalkboard is blank, so I note that today’s special will be my very own, world famous, spicy chili. I don’t tell anyone that I made it with ground turkey instead of hamburger meat. The coffee goes untouched, so I dump it out and make a pot of tea for iced tea later in the day. Alice has already made two pies and a cake for the dessert display, so there isn’t all that much for me to do. Our lunch rush consists of a solitary, beefy truck driver that orders a salad and crackers for his noon meal. Out of sheer boredom, I wait on him hand and foot. He must have thought that I was crazy from the solitude. I nearly drove him crazy, too. I must have refilled his water glass a half-dozen times. I could never get him to try the chili.

    Dinnertime rolls around and I finally get a few customers. A couple of the local folks drop in and sample a bowl of my chili. They didn’t keel over after the first spoonful, so I consider my cooking career to have gotten off to a fantastic start. Sheldon and Dylan come by from their various activities for dinner. Both of them exhibit great courage in asking not only chili, but for a burger as well. Dylan’s system has developed immunity to my culinary attempts, but Sheldon isn’t so lucky. He needs several glasses of my iced tea to put out the fire that was ignited by the chili. Still, he seems quite happy with his meal.

    The next day brings the same slow trickle of customers. Not willing to risk complete insanity due to acute boredom, I find chores to do around the restaurant and motel to keep myself occupied. Sheldon is usually hiding out in the garage, tinkering with one of his old cars. He never really gets anything done on them, but he enjoys taking parts off, cleaning them and then reinstalling the pieces. He goes about his day in quiet solitude, solemnly inspecting the grounds and the motel as he walks around. He leaves the restaurant and kitchen to me. Once, I thought I saw him staring off in the distance, towards Denver, I imagined. Perhaps, he just missed Alice more than he was willing to let on. Sheldon seems to like the solitude, but he was always cheerful and smiling when Dylan or I would encounter him on his rounds. He particularly liked Rocky, spending an hour or so each day with him, tossing a ball for Rocky to retrieve. Jeff usually joined in, but he was too old and slow to keep up. The old dog enjoyed having Rocky around, also. He wagged his tail furiously each time Rocky would call him out to play. With the intuitive understanding that a Golden has, Rocky never pushed the games beyond the limits that Jeff could handle.

    On the afternoon of the fifth day, my parts finally arrived. There were no customers in the restaurant, so I quickly headed out to the garage to repair the Van, while keeping an eye on the diner. The beauty of an air-cooled VW is that they are relatively easy to repair. The design is quite simple and the components are easy to get to under the engine lid. I have the new distributor parts installed within an hour. I took advantage of the time, since there were no customers for dinner, to change the oil and tinker with the engine. The old Van came to life at the touch of the key and ran like it was new off the showroom floor. The five-day wait for parts was quickly forgotten as soon as the little orange beast kicked over and fired up. I was immensely pleased with my mechanical aptitude as I parked the Van if front of our room and went in to get cleaned up for dinner. Alice was scheduled to return from Denver the next afternoon, so my timing was perfect. We would stay with Sheldon until she came back. I planned to get back on the road the morning after she returned.

    Sheldon left to run an errand, stating that he wasn’t hungry, so Dylan and I were on our own for dinner. I made my son a double cheeseburger and whipped up a pasta dish for myself. We had thoroughly enjoyed our time at the truck stop with Alice and Sheldon, but we were anxious to continue our journey to California. The potential disaster with the Van had turned out to be a pleasant and enlightening experience. We could not have asked to meet nicer people than our hosts. As much as I tried, I just could not think of a way to adequately repay Sheldon and Alice for all of their kindness.

    After dinner, I cleaned up the diner and the kitchen. Dylan headed back to the room to visit his friend, the television. Sheldon still wasn’t back from his errand, so I closed up the restaurant and Rocky and I rejoined Dylan in our room. I tried to pry to TV remote out of Dylan’s hands, to no avail. Having failed in my attempt to watch something of interest to me, I took a chair by the window and opened a book that I had been meaning to read. After a chapter or two, I noticed the lights from Sheldon’s tow truck sweep across the driveway. He had been gone for a long time, but I had no idea where he had been. He walked into the motel office, carrying a package, without a glance in our direction. He closed the door behind him and turned on the “No Vacancy” sign.

    As the evening passed, I grew concerned when I saw no sign of Sheldon. I knew that he must have been missing his wife, so Rocky and I decided to take a walk and check up on him. I figured that was the least we could do for him. We found him sitting in the dim light of the motel office, feet up on the coffee table and a glass in his hand.

    “Come on in boys!” Sheldon called out cheerfully. “Come on in and have a drink. I picked up a bottle and a six pack while I was out. You may as well join me in the festivities.”

    “How are you doing, Sheldon?” I asked as I pulled up an overstuffed chair across from him. “I was a little worried about you when you were gone for so long.”

    “Oh, I’m okay. I just took a little drive by myself. Nothing to worry about. Here, have a beer.”

    “Thanks, Sheldon.” I replied, cracking open a can of Budweiser. “We didn’t have many customers today at the restaurant, so I took the time to fix the sign out front. It just needed to have a few wires in the junction box replaced. They were pretty corroded.”

    “Yep, I’ve been meaning to do that myself, one day. I guess I just never got around to it.”

    “The Van is fixed. It didn’t take too long. It runs great now, so we will probably be leaving the day after tomorrow. Is Alice still due back tomorrow afternoon?”

    “Oh, yeah, I can’t wait until she is back. I get to missing the old woman if she’s gone too long.”

    “You have a very nice wife, Sheldon. I am sure that your sons are fine gentlemen, also. You have a lot to be proud of, a lot to be thankful for.”

    “Yeah, I have a great wife. I couldn’t have made it this far without her. I couldn’t have made it at all, without her. My boys are good boys. They have good jobs and good families, too. We should be happier than we are. We should be enjoying the last years of our lives.” Sheldon takes a long drink from the glass in his hand and looks off into the distance.

    “I don’t drink when Alice is here, so we have to clean up after ourselves before she gets home. Have a sip from the bottle, Steve. It’s good for you.”

    “Well…..” I begin, but Sheldon cuts me off. The liquor has loosened his tongue and he obviously has something to say. He continues his story in soft, measured tones.

    “You know, Steve, Alice and I had three sons. Three wonderful boys. Three absolutely great kids. They were always into mischief. Always driving their mother and I crazy with their antics. They were always a handful, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. They were the lights of our lives.”

    “What happened, Sheldon?” I ask, not really wanting to know the answer. This was obviously a very painful memory for Sheldon.

    “We lost our oldest boy, Michael, in Vietnam. We wanted him to go to college. He was going to be a doctor, at least, that’s what he said he was going to do.” Sheldon’s voice is soft and low, like the low moan of the wind on a dark night. “That’s what he always said he was going to do – ever since he was eight years old. He said he was going to make us proud – he was going to be a doctor. He wasn’t even nineteen.” Sheldon lifts his glass to his lips and drains it in a single gulp.

    “Every once in a while,” Sheldon continues, “I have a drink or two, when I am by myself. The doctors say that it isn’t good for me, but they don’t have to live with the losses I have.”

    “I am so very sorry, Sheldon, I had no idea.” I am at a loss for words to console this kind old man.

    “There is nothing that anybody can do. He’s gone now. We buried him a week before his nineteenth birthday. His mother and his brothers took it very hard. We miss Michael every single day.” Sheldon stops momentarily to refill his glass from the bottle on the coffee table, before continuing, his voice rising and falling between anger and grief.

    “When they brought his body home to Texas, everyone said that he was a hero. Well, he wasn’t any goddamned hero.” Sheldon’s statement is shocking and disturbing. I could not have mustered a reply, even had I wanted to. Sheldon’s words hang heavily in the air over us, like a storm cloud gathering to strike.

    “He was just a little boy, for Christ’s sake. They carted him off to Vietnam and some goddamned idiot ran over him with a truck. In Saigon, goddamn it! He wasn’t even in battle. He never fought. He never even fired a shot. He wasn’t anyone’s hero, he was my little boy and they fucking killed him!” Sheldon’s voice conveys his anger and tears are flowing from his eyes and running unchecked down his face.

    “Those bastards killed my boy and they killed my wife. She has never been the same since then. That’s why we moved out here. We moved out here because no one is around – we can be alone. We want to be alone, most of the time. We got so damned sick and tired of everyone calling him a hero, a war hero. Well, I would give all that back – all of it – just to have one more minute with my son. Fuck all of them.” Sheldon’s voice is quaking in rage and sorrow. He slams down his glass on the table and pops open a beer.

    “His mother can’t talk about this. She can’t even look at his pictures. She can’t even say the name ‘Michael’ without crying. It’s been almost thirty years and we are still not over it. We’ll never be over it. Our lives have been ruined forever and nothing can change that fact.”

    “I am really, truly sorry for you and Alice, Sheldon, I wish there were something I could do, something that I could say to help you.”

    Sheldon ignores my comments and continues his rant. “You know, I used to hate those war protesters. I hated all of them. All those demonstrations and burning draft cards. All that – I just hated it. We thought we were patriotic Americans, supporting the war effort. We were wrong. The anti-war folks were right. The goddamned Vietnam War was wrong. We didn’t win anything in Vietnam – we just lost our sons. For what? What did we gain? My boy is buried under six feet of Texas dirt. He’s gone. What did we gain?”

    “Well, Sheldon, I am sure that you are bitter. Nothing can bring your son back to you and Alice.”

    “The whole thing was a fucking mess. Thirteen years, we were in Vietnam, all for nothing. Everything was for no good goddamn reason. Everything was a lie. It was all bullshit. Why waste all those lives? What they hell did they think they were doing?”

    “I know what you are feeling, Sheldon, I lost friends in ‘Nam, too. It’s not the same as losing a child, but I know how it must feel.”

    “You weren’t in ‘Nam, were you? Tell me you didn’t go, too.”

    “No, I was never in the service. I drew a high number in the draft lottery. I didn’t have to go.”

    “That’s good, that’s real good. We lost too many of our boys over there. It wasn’t the same as World War II or even Korea. Those wars were fought to protect our nation from tyranny. What were we protecting in ‘Nam?” Sheldon pleads.

    “There are a lot of theories, Sheldon.” I reply, hesitantly. “Some people think that it was just to benefit the defense industry in the US.”

    “That figures. American industry screwed me and they killed my son. That’s real nice. That’s real patriotic.”

    Sheldon takes a deep drink from his can of beer. The silence engulfs us for a few moments as we absorb the feeling of loss and despair that Sheldon has shared with me. I am searching for words to say, but nothing comes to me. Sheldon wipes the tears from his eyes and lifts his glass. He continues his conversation, more composed now, but still obviously disturbed by the memories.

    “You know, Steve, all those crazy bastards in that Texas town where Alice and I were born acted like we should be real proud that our son was killed in Vietnam. Proud that he was killed. That’s why we moved up here. I quit my job with the oil company down there and took a new job in Denver. I wasn’t one of those hotshot executives that could get a deferment for my son. I couldn’t get him a position with the National Guard. I was just another peon that worked for a living everyday. I wasn’t any rich man; I worked hard to support my family. I couldn’t even get him a medical deferment, like some of those idiots that go around talking like Vietnam was such an honorable thing. Those people never went to Vietnam. They never served. They came up with crap like bad knees and pilondial cysts. My boy had to go – their boys stayed home and partied at Ivy League colleges. My boy never had a chance.”

    Sheldon takes a deep breath, before continuing.

    “I’m sorry, Steve. You didn’t need to hear all this. I can’t talk about it with Alice – it hits too close to home for her. We do our best to get by, one day at a time. That’s all we can do. We can’t even go to church anymore; the memories are too much for both of us. That’s our little secret. We don’t talk about it much to anyone, even inside the family. We keep it hidden deep inside ourselves.”

    The room is quiet except for our breathing and the clink of our glasses. Sheldon has slumped low in his chair and is staring at the glass in his hand. Rocky has moved ever closer to me during my conversation with Sheldon and is now lying on my feet. For a long, awkward moment, neither Sheldon nor I say a word. The mood is finally broken when the cat comes in and jumps up on Sheldon’s lap.

    “Well, hello Archibald, how are you this evening?” Sheldon asks as he pulls the old cat to him. “Where have you been, old boy?” The cat rubs his head on Sheldon’s chin and begins to purr. The tired old man across from me wraps the cat in his thin arms and strokes his head gently. The cat seems to be sympathetic to Sheldon’s pain, pushing his head into his palm and rubbing his own, tired old body into Sheldon.

    “Are you going to be all right, Sheldon?” I ask as I reach across the table and touch his arm.

    “Oh, yeah, I’m okay.” Sheldon answers with a resigned sigh. “I’ll be all right. I have to be, I don’t have a choice in the matter.”

    “Do you want me to stay with you for a while longer?”

    “Naw!” Sheldon retorts, his usual cheery voice beginning to return. “You go on. Take the beer with you, Alice will have my butt if she catches me with it.” Sheldon looks up at me with a smile, the tracks of his tears still staining his cheeks. His eyes are red and misty, but the smile has returned to his face. “You go on, now. I am sure that you have better things to do than to listen to an old man prattle on.”

    “I have to get back to the room, Sheldon, but I can stay if you need me.”

    “Archibald and I are going to finish off one more drink, and then we’re going to bed. I will need my rest when the wife gets back.” Sheldon replies with a wink. “I have to keep up my strength.”

    “Well, okay, Sheldon. But if you need anything – anything at all – you know where to find me.” I respond firmly as I get to my feet. “Don’t hesitate to call.”

    As I prepare to leave, I reach over and place my hand reassuringly on Sheldon’s bony shoulder. He reaches up and holds on to my hand for the longest time.

    “Good night,” Sheldon exclaims softly, “see you in the morning.”

    “Good night, Sheldon.” I reply. “Good night and God bless you.”

    I pull the door closed behind me and step out into the cold night air, leaving Sheldon and Archibald in the dim light of the motel office. The cold hits me like a slap to the face and I hurry to my room, Rocky at my side. Opening the door quietly, I quickly move inside the warm, cozy motel room. The television is still going, blaring an old variety show with its stale laugh track. On the bed, Dylan is face down, sound asleep, still in the clothes that he had been wearing. Turning off the lights and television, I take a seat on the side of my bed and open a can of beer. Rocky jumps onto the bed and makes himself comfortable. In the still of the night, all I can hear is the soft snoring of my son, deep in sleep.

  6. jammer5

    No talent, fnord? I loved it. It’s called free form and one of my favorite genres. Flush the past and start a new future. What could be better?

  7. jammer5

    Bad Biker, I like it. Could you do a short synopsis of the book? You know, boy meets dog, boy marries dog, boy bites dog, dog gets all the boy’s money . . . that sort of thing 🙂

  8. jammer5

    A short story I wrote for a local contest (Missouri).
    Sam’s Butt
    Okay, so you’re really not interested in how we got our name, are you? Well sit your substantial derriere down, grab a keg and read on anyway, you frikin’ pig.

    Sam’s the name, and playing bass is my game. I was looking to hook-up with a couple of like musicians, if any such existed, and form a band that specialized in playing a combination of Irish Dance and Punk Rock. Maybe we throw in a little bit of rap, just to piss off the listeners. Not that it would be necessary, mind you; the Irish dancers are so freakin’ protective of their music anyway, I figured every time we started playing, madness would ensue, but isn’t that what punk’s all about?

    Anyways, I placed an ad in the local paper that read, “I am looking for sick musicians. If you walk around with vomit on your shoes, if you look at people around you as flopping fish out of water, if your parents try to pass you off as a cloning experiment gone bad, and you can play an instrument, call me. 123-555-1234.”

    I got a couple of promising returns the second day it ran. The first was from a guy who called himself, “Schnutz.” Why did he call himself that? Damned if I know. He was way too scary to ask. Just the type I was looking for.

    Schnutz played the drums. Well, he didn’t really play them; it was more like smash them. This guy was huge, as in tree-big. When he threw his sticks out to the audience, people bled. Needless to say, he was in.

    The second was from some bloke named, “Eric something.” This wad actually combed his hair for Christ’s sake. He said he used to play with dominoes or something like that. Frikin loser, if you asked me. Bet he probably ends up playing country . . . gag.

    Now, Schnutz and I were really hard up to play, so we started out as a bass and drums gig. The first time we played, at some ignorant little dump on the East-side, we almost got thrown out. Schnutz, living up to his size, beat up the bouncer with his drum sticks, and they let us stay and finish our set: Frikin’ awesome, dude.

    We were leaving the club, after promising not to return, when some guy, who was really listening to our impeccable rendition of “Carolan’s Concerto,” hailed us from about sixty feet away.

    “Hey dudes,” he shouted. “That was an impeccable rendition of ‘Wooly Bully’. You ain’t going to pounce on me for asking if you need a guitar player, are you?”

    Wooly Bully? Oh well, this guy had on a pair of jeans that was probably thirty years old, and four sizes too large for him. I wanted them; mine were wearing out.

    “Hell no,” I shouted back. “I noticed . . . Schnutz, put the trash can down . . . I noticed you giving us a good listen. Think you can keep up with us? You gotta have an IQ or something. We gotta trade pants first, though.”

    “I had a teacher one time who told me I got an IQ, and teachers know stuff like that. I gotta a guitar too,” he said defiantly. I liked that: A defiant guitar player. Who would of thought? “Sure, let’s trade now,” he continued.

    Right then, some assholes dressed up as cowboys came out of the club. They all jumped on our new guitar player, and proceeded to stomp him senseless. Why? Who knows; they were cowboys. Well, maybe the fact he was pissing on the tire of their truck had something to do with it.

    Schnutz casually walked over, bopped the three dudes on the head, picked up “Pant’s,” as I named him, with one hand, carried him back over to where I was standing, and unceremoniously dropped him.

    Approximately two minutes later, Pant’s jumped up and started swinging wildly, yelling, “I got em . . . I got em!”

    Now Pant’s was a pretty skinny dude, and his belated display of chutzpah told me we could count on him in a crunch. Not much, but still . . . we did need a guitar player.

    After we got him calmed down (which consisted of Schnutz grabbing his arms) we proceeded with the exchange of jeans.

    It turned out, though, that the joke was on me. I shoulda had him turn around, as the jeans had no butt. But all good things, yadda, yadda.

    Schnutz said the first words I ever heard him say, and understood, after Pant’s and I swapped: “Sam’s Butt,” he said, pointing and laughing like a freakin’ moron. So that’s what we started calling ourselves, Sam’s Butt.

    The rest, as they say, is history: We’ve been kicked out of every bar in this town. Some people got no class whatsoever.

  9. fnord

    I liked it too, Biker. Real, honest emotion and living. It’s not too late to publish your book! Have you ever heard of Lulu, a self publishing site? Look into it!

    http://www.lulu.com/

  10. fnord

    Seems there is a wide experience base here! You guys don’t write those things that well without having experienced some of it. I like this thread!

  11. privacy

    i can’t walk in the rain anymore
    when all the clouds are crying.
    my tears are lost in so much sorrow,
    and my pain is too personal
    to be as public as a thunderstorm.

  12. Bad Biker

    For those of you interested………………

    My book is called Whitelines and Antidepressants and is a story of my (continuing) battle with depression, single-parenthood and a search for my birth family.

    The story is: I lose everything and buy an old VW Van and take off across country with my (then) fourteen year old son to pursue my dreams of independence. The story is autobiographical in the past tense, fictional in the present tense.

    It is mostly funny and self-depreciating, but has it moments of drama and philosophy.

    Read on: The first part of chapter 7.

    Chapter Seven

    “The rules have changed today, I have no place to stay, I’m thinking about the subway. The love has gone away. My tears have come and gone. Oh, my Lord, I have to roam, I have no home, I have no home. Time has come today.” Joseph and Willie Chambers, Time has Come Today, the Chambers Brothers, 1966.

    We stopped at a truck stop outside Needles to grab a snack and a cold drink. It was getting late and I wanted to make it a few more hours down the road before we called it a night. The truck stop was grimy and dimly lit. There were just a few cars and pickup trucks in the parking lot, other than a few rigs idling along the fence. The night air was chilly, so I left Rocky and Dylan in the van to sleep. Anyway, I wanted this to be a brief stop, so that we could get back on the road.

    As I walked up to the store, there were a couple of younger guys standing on the lawn next to the sidewalk, having a cigarette. One of them had a large ugly Rottweiler on a chain. The dog was just about the ugliest animal that I had ever seen. Its massive head was scratched and scarred from too many encounters and its eyes were reddened and swollen. Drool dripped from its jaw. Despite its ugly appearance, the dog was lean and muscular. It was one scary looking, ugly mutt.

    As I tried to walk past this beast, it growled at me and tugged on its leash. Its owner made little effort to pull the nasty creature off the sidewalk so that I could pass. The dog reared up on the chain and his owner and his friend laughed as I jumped back. I glared at the man with the chain, but he just continued to laugh as his dog blocked my path. In the dim light, he looked just as ugly as his vicious dog. He wore a greasy ball cap, the bill shading his unshaven face. His acne scarred face split into malevolent grin, showing a filthy mouth. What teeth he still had left in his head were tobacco stained and disgusting. His breath reeked of liquor and cigarette smoke. His small, rheumy eyes were set closely together above a shapeless nose, crisscrossed with red veins.

    I was tired from the road and was in no mood for this disgusting dog and his equally disgusting master. The man was a little heavier than me, but roughly the same height. A skull and crossbones tattoo decorated one of his arms that stuck out from his black, greasy tee shirt. He sported a little beerbelly that jutted out over the large shiny buckle on his belt. He looked like a man who drank most of his meals. His friend was a fat, goofy looking man that obviously took his cues from his drunken friend. Between the three of them, the dog looked like he had the highest IQ.

    Now, I am not the most pugilistic guy in the world, but I don’t like people trying to intimidate me. I had not had a fist fight in twenty years and didn’t intend to resume my street-fighting career at this point. I just wanted to grab a drink and move on down the road. I took a wide detour and moved around the growling dog, still straining at his leash.

    As I stepped past, Beerbelly let out the leash a little so that the dog was only inches from me. I could feel his hot, nasty breath on my arms. Instinctively, I jumped back and the redneck chorus laughed uproariously. They acted like this was the funniest thing that they had ever seen. Fatman laughed so hard that his belly giggled up and down like Jell-O in a ziplock bag. Beerbelly was almost doubled over in his mirth. You would have thought that these two morons were going to wet their pants, they were laughing so hard.

    “Keep your fucking dog under control” I yelled, with no small amount of annoyance.

    “What the fuck are you going to do about it?” said Beerbelly with a smirk.

    “If that dog bites me, I am going to shove his head so far up your ass that when he barks, your lips will move!”

    “Yeah?” Beerbelly blurted out after a moment. He was obviously contemplating the thought of a hundred-pound Rottweiler being used as a suppository.

    “Just let me pass by, thank you.”

    “Maybe I will, maybe I won’t”

    “Just get back please.”

    “We don’t like your kind around here, asshole.”

    “Hey, I am just passing through, so call your dog off so that I can go.”

    “You have real purdy hair, boy!” said the fat one.

    “Yeah!” said Beerbelly, grabbing lewdly at his crotch, “Maybe you’d like to ……..”

    “Just shut the fuck up and me go on!”

    “Maybe hippie-boy wants a little action, hey Carl?”

    I stood there stock still, thinking about the dilemma that I had got myself into. I knew that Fatman didn’t pose a threat, but still I wanted no part of this nasty dog and his master.

    “Hold Adolph, Carl. I am going to teach this hippie-fag a lesson!”

    Now I knew I was in trouble. Handing the chain to Fatman, Beerbelly doubled up his fists and struck a fighting pose. He moved his hands around in a circle, like he was Sugar Ray. I reluctantly put up my hands and prepared myself for the fight that was about to come. A guy can get pretty rusty after twenty years, so I was just hoping not to get hurt too badly and to keep that ugly Rottweiler off me.

    Suddenly, Beerbelly lurched forward and began throwing punches. I ducked my head down to avoid his onslaught and caught most of the blows on my back and shoulders. I pushed him away, my hands sinking into that revolting belly of his. He came at me again, the blows raining down on my head and shoulders.

    Where it came from, I will never know. I knew that I had to fight back or I was going to absorb a major ass kicking. They might even turn the dog loose on me if I went down. Beerbelly took as small step back to set himself for another onslaught and I cranked up a desperate right hook. The punch could best be described as being similar to a man trying to swat a fly in his kitchen. Pretty, it wasn’t.

    But it was effective. The hard right hand struck Beerbelly squarely on the jaw and he dropped to the ground like he had been shot. He lay on his back with his legs quivering with his mouth open, exposing that picket fence of rotted teeth. A small flow of blood trickled from the corner of his lips. He was out cold.

    Fatman instinctively pulled back, yanking the Rottweiler with him. I was too stunned to say anything profound, so I just shook my fist at him and snarled before I turned and ran back to the Van. It was just a lucky punch, but I would take it.

    When I got back to the Van, Dylan and Rocky were waiting for me. They had heard the shouting and woke up to watch the Fight of the Century. Rocky was barking and wagging his tail, like only he can do. Dylan was quite thrilled to see his father punch out Beerbelly.

    “Way to go, Dad!” he yelled, with pride in his voice.

    “It was just a lucky punch.”

    “You kicked his ass!”

    “I just wanted a Diet Dr. Pepper and a bag of chips.”

    “You da Man!”

    “No, I am just lucky that his fucking dog didn’t rip my leg off.”

    “Hey, my Dad, Champion of the World!”

    I fired the Van up and slammed it into gear, the clutch slipping as I screamed away from the truck stop. The old van lurched and smoked as I pulled out onto the highway. A spray of gravel and dust sprang up behind us as the tires tried gallantly to make a purchase in the loose surface of the parking lot. What I would have done to have my Jeep back at this point. Fatman stood over his fallen comrade as the truck stop lights faded into the distance, the Rottweiler at his side. I just hoped that Beerbelly wouldn’t come to before we had a chance to get further down the road. I didn’t want any more fisticuffs this evening. I was fortunate once and didn’t want to test my luck again.

    The whitelines of the highway were strangely reassuring as we puttered away from the scene of the crime. A wry grin came over my face as the reality of what I had done hit me. I spent the next few miles flexing my biceps and grinning from the absurdity of the encounter.

    “Champion of the World!”

    “Hey, man, I’m just the champion of this fucking truck stop – I’m not Champion of the World just yet!”

    We both laughed as the Van carried us onward toward Los Angeles. The situation could have turned very ugly – almost as ugly as that Rottweiler – but no harm was done. At least, there was no harm done to Dylan, Rocky or me. I am not sure what Beerbelly must have thought once he came to. I would like to hear him explain his defeat at the hands of an old, ex-hippie to his compatriots. That would probably hurt him more than my lucky hook. He probably never figured that I would throw a punch, so the hook coming out of nowhere must have caught him by surprise. It just goes to prove, protect yourself at all times. That’s the first rule of boxing. That’s the first rule of a lot of human endeavors.

    I am a little displeased that Dylan had to witness the confrontation. I have tried to teach him a non-violent approach for a long time, and then he has to watch his father knock out some drunken punk. I wonder what message that sent. Somehow, a few years of work with him on my part was erased in the time it took for me to throw that punch. The right message can be wiped out in a matter of seconds, if you are not careful. Of course, I was just defending myself, but that fact can easily be lost on a kid. I will check for Rottweilers before I get out of the Van in the future.

    We are on the expressway, again. The Van is not too happy with this choice, but there are not a lot of options in this part of Southern California. We’ll head towards Barstow and then turn south to LA. I am looking forward to seeing my sister. She has lived in LA with her four kids for a long time. We don’t get to see her much, now that she is divorced. She has beautiful children – biracial – and she is a great person. I have heard that she can be a handful in an argument, but I am not planning to debate anything with her. I should be cautious; however, I doubt that she will fall for the right hook trick. I could get my butt kicked.

    “Dylan, come up here, I want to talk to you.” I called out. I wanted to make sure that Dylan had not received the wrong message about my fight.

    “What.” Dylan cuts to the heart of the matter as he takes a seat.

    “What should I have done back there at the truck stop?” I ask, hoping that Dylan learned a valuable lesson.

    “Used your jab?”

    “No, Dylan,” I sputter in exasperation, “you should avoid a fight if at all possible.”

    “You didn’t.”

    “I tried to get out of a fight, but that guy wouldn’t back off.” I tried to explain.

    “Yeah, and you nailed him a good one.”

    “Well, Dylan,” I tried to continue, “I should have tried harder.”

    “Maybe you should have smacked the other guy, too.”

    “No, no! You have it wrong, son. You should not fight, if there is any other way out.”

    “Maybe you should have punched the dog out.”

    “Dylan! Be serious. Have you listened to anything I have been trying to teach you?”

    “Yeah, Dad.” He states, matter-of-factly. “Keep your chin down and set up your punches with your jab.”

    “No, no! Wrong, again!” I stammer, totally exasperated. “That’s wrong – I should have just walked away from the whole thing. No fighting.”

    “Ah, Dad! Don’t try to bullshit me. I know that you are glad that you whacked that guy. Don’t try to kid me! I know.”

    “I give up.” I answer, softly. Secretly, I know that he is right, at least about being happy to crack Beerbelly a good one when he was being such a jerk. Being a pacifist is a great thing, until someone tries to kick your ass. Then, having a sneaky right hook isn’t so bad.

    Life can be such a paradox. I have taught my son for years not to fight. I only taught him to box so that he could defend himself should the need arise. I can’t count the number of times that I have had to lecture him on keeping his temper under control, keeping his hands to himself. Now, I find myself faced with the option of walking away and, instead, I end up taking out some drunk with one punch. Just when I had the opportunity to do the right thing, to teach my son a valuable lesson, I devolve into a hot-tempered street fighter. I could have easily walked around Beerbelly and his psycho dog, but I used my self-proclaimed right to the sidewalk as an excuse to be pugnacious. What does that say about my so-called enlightened attitude?

    Of course, everyone likes to see a bully get his. It’s part of our culture – movies, book and television programs have made a fortune depicting the bully element getting defeated by the forces of good and decent people. It is inescapable; the good guy always wins in the movies. That is why the bad guys in cinema can never shoot straight. Arnold runs across the courtyard of the bad guy’s island estate, killing fifty of the bad guys with twenty bullets. Meanwhile, the henchmen employed by the terrorist leader miss thousands of shots. The good guy never takes a kill shot – he is always wounded by a bullet that grazes his shoulder. The good guy always shakes off his wound like it was nothing.

    Dylan is quite happy about all this. To him, it’s like a television movie come to life. It validates his view of good and evil. The bad guy got coldcocked, so what is there to discuss? I might be swimming up stream with this example, but I try once more to explain non-violence to my son.

    “You know, Dylan,” I begin, “I should have just let it go. I was wrong to get into a fight with that bully.”

    “Somebody has to do it, Dad. You taught him a lesson about messing with the wrong people.”

    “That may be true, son, but I should have refused to fight. All I taught him was to watch out for hook shots coming from the wrong side.”

    “But you tell me all the time that we need to standup to bullies.”

    “Yes, but, I used the same tactics that he was using – violence – and that is wrong. I am no better that he is, in that regard. He was violent and I was just a little more violent. Violence is not the answer to the problems that we have in our society.”

    “You couldn’t let him beat you up, so what were you supposed to do?”

    “I should have reasoned with him. I should have used the power of my words and my intellect to defuse the situation. I should have appealed to his sense of reason and fair play.”

    “He didn’t have any sense.”

    “Well, I still shouldn’t have belted him. I should have gone back to the Van and moved on.”

    “He would have just attacked the next guy that came along. Now, he will think twice about bugging someone else. Face it, Dad, he got what he deserved.”

    It is hard to refute his logic. It is hard to practice non-violence when violence for violence seems like the most logical answer to a situation. Bang – end of story. The bad guy got his and everyone lived happily ever after. Arnold would have been proud. Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi would have been appalled at my inability to practice what I have been preaching. I have to come to the conclusion that I have a long way to go before the lessons of non-violence are learned – for my son, and for me, too.

    I have to give up this attempt at teaching before I completely lose control of the situation. My son is faced with a daily barrage of sanitized violence in our popular culture and now he has his own father’s example to follow. I would have better luck trying to teach a cat how to swim. The odds are against me, but I am going to have to find a way to get my point across in a logical manner. I’ll have to come back to this one, with better ammunition. Of course, that is an interesting choice of words – ammunition. Maybe I have further to go than I had dreamed.

    I have a couple of bruises to show for my efforts the next morning. Most of them are on my back, but the middle knuckle of my right hand is noticeably bruised and swollen. Beerbelly had a hard head, in more ways than one. I was worn out after my altercation. There was not another stop in sight, so we had to stop along the road last night to rest. We have gotten used to sleeping in the Van, each of us having our place.

    For a change, Dylan had to wake me in the morning. My championship bout had drained me of all energy. It was a little funny, waking in the morning in California. Here we were in the Promised Land and my first priority was to check for damages from last night’s encounter. This is not quite the auspicious start that I had wanted to have. The feast was yet to come, but the appetizers were tainted.

  13. wicked

    Beautiful poetry, all! And I do believe I’ve read some of jammer5’s story. 😉

    Since I have no idea what happened to the poetry I wrote years ago, which is probably a good thing, I’ll share the opening of my second book, only because the snake incident was taken from personal experience.

    “Come on over here, sugar, and I’ll show you what a real man can do.”

    Ignoring the remark coming from one of the drunken men near a row of stock trailers, Ellie Warren lifted her chin in an indignant gesture. She stomped past them, muttering to herself.“Stupid, brain-dead cowboy.”

    The smell of whisky, sweat and animals—some of them the two-legged variety—drenched the night air around the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, rodeo grounds. None of the aromas were new to Ellie. She’d spent the past twelve years, since she was fourteen, barrel racing, and the last six of those traveling across the country. She had put up with all manner of rude and crude cowboys, and it hadn’t taken her long to figure out the best way to deal with them. Ignore them.

    Her muttering didn’t cease as she wound her way through the contestant campgrounds behind the arena to her camper. “Oughta have their mouths filled with manure.”

    Exhaustion slowed her steps, and it took every ounce of energy she had to lift her dust-covered boot onto the metal platform at the back of her pickup camper. She needed a shower, but she’d rather wait until morning than go back through the huddle of men she’d skirted around in the darkness.

    Sticking the key in the lock and turning the knob, she pulled open the door and stepped inside. She groped in the dark to switch on a light while she yanked her hat from her head. The hat fell to the countertop, and her gaze dropped to the floor.

    Her blood-curdling scream, at the sight of the snake curled on the floor, bounced off the thin camper walls.

    Thoughts skittered through her mind, but none made sense. Without taking her attention from the cold-blooded invader, Ellie acted on instinct and eased open the door of the small closet to her right. After carefully pulling out a newly purchased, flat-bottomed shovel, intended for her horse trailer, she jabbed the edge onto the snake as close to its head as possible. Praying the critter would stay put, she gripped the wooden handle with both hands and jumped atop the metal. The snake flipped and writhed beneath the blade, and Ellie realized what she’d just done. Frozen to the spot in shock and unable to move, except to brace herself with one hand against the cabinet for balance, a shudder shook her body.

    Now what? she thought, when the snake slowed its wriggling. If she got off and it came after her, she’d die of fright. Mercy, she hated snakes! But staying propped on the shovel for eternity wasn’t an option, either.

    Her heart regained its beat, pounding ninety to nothing, and her breath came in quick, short bursts. Her knees were so weak and shaky she thought she’d fall off the only thing between her and her unwelcome guest. Taking a deep but unsteady breath, she tried to focus on her alternatives. There didn’t seem to be any.

    When the door banged open behind her, she let out another ear-splitting scream.

    “What the hell’s goin’ on?” a deep baritone barked.

    The shovel wobbled beneath her as she craned her neck to discover a pair of bright-blue eyes staring at her from beneath a black Stetson. She couldn’t be certain if the cowboy’s gaze was sliding over her or the shovel, but for the moment it didn’t matter.

    Swallowing the lump of fear lodged in her throat, she managed one word. “S-snake.”

    “Sure is,” he said with a quirk of his lips. His gaze traveled back to hers. “You okay?”

    Finding that her voice had deserted her, she nodded.

    He stepped up into the camper and knelt down next to her. “Hang on.”

    Unable to watch, she squeezed her eyes shut. She could feel him grip the handle, then both she and the shovel tilted to the left and back again. He brushed against her leg, and another shudder shook her, this one warm instead of cold.

    “It’s just a bull snake, hon,” he said, standing.

    “Right. Just a snake.” She gritted her teeth to keep them from chattering, but her terror eased when his soft chuckle swept through her like a hot, summer wind.

    “You can get down now.”

    Uncertain if it was completely safe to remove herself from the shovel, and afraid to look, she stayed put. “Are you sure? Is it…dead?”

    “Naw. You aren’t big enough to do that. You just kinda choked him up a little.”

    Copyright 2001 All rights reserved.

    (I’ve got another one that’s kind of fun from the book coming out next January. Much shorter, too.)

  14. jammer5

    BB, I like your philosophy. Well written, well put together. You did things I’ve done in the past: kind of drop everything and take off down the road. I’ve found places and people I’ll never forget, or thought I wouldn’t until you made me remember them.

    Thanks, dude, looking forward to reading more.

  15. jammer5

    fnord, you know what? We seem to have talent here to write some little piece of fiction. It could be fun. Maybe an email jam session to figure out a subject matter and/or genre? We could get rich!!! Be guests on Opra!!! . . . or not ;-0

  16. wicked

    Suggestion: Make it totally absurd. 🙂

  17. tosmarttobegop

    (LOL you asked for it, this is one that was published but by line only)

    One Step Beyond Heaven

    “When you have it all and yet want more, you are one step beyond heaven.”

    Some say the search for knowledge is eternal, with the end goal being a better life. Others argue that it is knowledge itself that is the end goal, and a better life is just a side benefit. Either way, we had reached the pinnacle, and both knowledge and a better life had come to all. The secrets of the cosmos had been revealed to us.

    There was neither hunger nor crime; no want or need was to be found anywhere. Illnesses were but a subject in the study of ancient history, as were as pain and suffering. There was but one race, that of the human being and there was nothing but peace to be found in any corner of the cosmos. Cities gleamed with bright, clean structures, and the air we breathed had not been so clean since the age of the dinosaurs.

    Truly, we had the best of everything. The workday had been replaced by the rest day, and we enjoyed even the simplest things, for the only time that mattered was ‘now.’ No one felt that they were lacking in the slightest fashion. Everyone knew who they were, and were content with the being they saw in the mirror. There was no need for new things, for everything was the best it could be. We had perfection.

    ***
    The human being had evolved into a perfect species. ‘Life expectancy’ had become an unused term, mentioned only in ancient texts on ‘cancer’ and other archaic, life-shortening diseases. Age had become irrelevant, for the young were no longer thought of as immature, nor the old as useless. Every age was the perfect age; everyone sound in mind and body no matter how many years they had lived. A climb to the peak of the mountain was a joy not just to those new to the world, but also to those who could remember the years before. The aches and pains of a life of survival were no more. All walked at the same speed, neither a step behind nor a step in front of one another, but side by side, enjoying life at the same time.

    Music abounded. In the striving for physical perfection, we learned that we were able to pass knowledge to the unborn. Genetic encoding of knowledge became as natural as the genetic coding of one’s eye color. All were therefore born with both an appreciation for music, and the ability to make it. Anyone could pick up a guitar or other instrument and play like a virtuoso.

    Time was no longer measured in hours or days, but simply in the time it took to do a thing. Clocks were found only in museums, for the amusement of those who wished to be reminded of how foolish the human race once was, when we set our days around work, school and other follies in the never-ending race for a better life and knowledge.

    But that race had ended, for both were here and only days of milk and honey awaited us. There was no more knowledge to be had, no better life to be obtained, and no questions of survival to be answered. The human quest for perfection had ended; endless happiness had arrived.
    So why was there a feeling of discontent? Why, in a world devoid of want or need, were there those who remained unhappy?

    It was the one question that remained unanswered, for the knowledge of the cosmos did not deal with the paradoxes of the human mind. Like the stomach, it can be full of all the nourishment of the world, yet if that is not what the body craves, it still feels empty. The human mind works better than the computers dream of by that mind. Logic controls every facet of the thought process—except that deep, hollow, unfathomed region called ‘human nature.’

    The ultimate knowledge had come to us. ‘You can never learn everything in just one lifetime,’ people once said. But through genetic encoding, we had more than one lifetime of knowledge. All the accumulated knowledge of the millennia was passed to us through a single, previously dormant gene, and it seemed there was no knowledge to be obtained. But no matter what the mind knows, it still craves to know more, and more still.

    It was then that the unthinkable was thought. Repress the gene; ‘dumb down’ the human race again. That, then, was the debate. To force the human race to start anew, or to continue down a path that meant no more striving. No want or need, no suffering or pain, but nothing to reach for, either. Oddly enough, the debate itself eased the feelings that prompted it in the first place. At least it was something to think about, to discuss, to reason out. But the very suggestion went against logic.

    To throw away everything that had been achieved, that had been fought for and over, seemed a disservice to those who had died in the process.
    And the question arose: what if the human race never reached this level of enlightenment again? What if, next time, we killed ourselves in a fiery blaze of nuclear war? Would we even know how to feed ourselves, or would we starve, sitting naked and cold in the open with no idea what those strange, tall towers of rock were for?
    This fueled a debate over the difference between knowledge and instinct. Would we, devoid of knowledge, find shelter in buildings constructed before the ‘dumbing down’ process had begun? Or would we stare blankly at them in the pouring rain? Would instinct tell us we could find shelter under the awnings or instruct us how to push the doors open so we could enter? Surely, such a discovery would rival the part played by fire in the survival of the species the first time.
    Some relished the thought of going back to a simpler world, where everything around them would be a discovery, without even the knowledge that kicking a rock causes pain and that such knowledge could be stored for future reference. But others felt that it would be silly to throw away all our knowledge for the sake of boredom.
    There was no other word to describe what we were feeling, though we did dance around it. But it was a fact: we were, quite simply, bored. We had finished the story, and now there were no other books to read, no other shows to watch, not one thing new to see. But to risk the species just because we were bored? That did not make any sense at all.
    And yet, the debate continued, with every argument and suggestion given equal time. Every mind was focused on answering questions like, could the reduction of knowledge be controlled, so that basic common sense would remain? Would the reduction be permanent, or would the gene reactivate, making it an exercise in futility? Would it be in the best interests of the human species to destroy all developments that had been made in the past? Or would we understand this brave new world with all of the buildings and human artifacts intact, thus reminding of us of the life before?
    But the greatest question was whether we even had the right to sentence future generations to the pain and suffering of human development. Had not the entire history of the human race been aimed toward ending suffering?
    Our decision would mark the next turning point in the human race, and might mean that great numbers of people would need to die in order for the species to grow once more. And the end result could very well be that we would, at some point in the future, be facing this very same decision yet again.
    That is, if we ever reached this point again. What if it had it all just been the result of some chance path we had taken? Given the same circumstance, would the outcome still be the same?
    ***
    Since the human race had a shared knowledge, there were no experts we could consult, no single voice that could give us an answer. Before long, every single human was spending all of their waking hours, and most of the hours for sleeping as well on the subject. The answer, it seemed to most, lay just beyond our reach. On that point all agreed, so the debate continued for years. It became the pastime of the entire world, and soon all other exercises of mind or body were forgotten.
    A long forgotten ailment, called the ‘headache,’ came back to plague the human race, along with a painful condition called the ‘ulcer,’ whose causes mystified us. The human race as a whole suffered these ailments, and we complained of them to one another when we were not actively engaged in the debate. We suffered sleepless nights and exhausting days, yet still an agreement could not be reached.
    It became the reason we woke in the morning and frustration that drove us to bed at night until finally, someone pointed out that we were getting nowhere and that it could not be healthy to continue on in this manner. The entire human race was suffering, over what might well be a pointless decision.
    A once happy and well species was slowly killing itself over a question of whether to stop being happy!
    The whole concept was absurd, but in a strange sense, we relished it. It was a deed not tried before, a book neither written nor read, a sight not seen, a thought not expressed, and a challenge not yet met. Perhaps we needed that. Humans do need something to conquer, something to prove our abilities to the world and ourselves.
    But still it seemed rather rash to risk it all on account of boredom.
    ***
    Suddenly, all felt a new urgency. The question had to be answered to put an end to the suffering, though, of course, a decision to regress in human evolution would mean suffering to a degree that we, living in these times, had never known. But an end to the debate had to come soon, lest we kill off the human race anyway. We needed our health back, to fight off these long forgotten illnesses.
    Unfortunately, this sense of urgency only intensified the debate, causing still more suffering and a spate of new ailments.
    Though it had not been observed for two hundred and eighty years, pattern baldness began appearing with increasing frequency. To make matters worse, it now seemed far more prevalent among women than men. Soon, the streets were filled with women wearing all manner and shape of hats, some quite amusing. But the reason for the fanciful hats was a painful subject, of which we were all too aware. The topic of baldness became almost taboo.
    This led to another long forgotten ailment. Vanity had not been a problem for so long that even the word for it had been forgotten; in fact, an entire sub debate began over what it had been called. The very concept seemed to fly in the face of logic. After all, were we not all the same, all human?
    But now, we were not all the same. Not all women were going bald, and the concept of ‘less than perfect’ arose.
    There had always been differences, of course. Hair, eye, and skin color varied from person to person; even height was not exactly the same for everyone. But those differences had been overlooked for centuries. This was different. Our bodies were revolting against us; the baldness was just the most visible sign.
    Hatred soon arose from the vanity. The balding women hated the other women for not being bald. The other women hated the balding women for hating them. Even the men were not immune to the hatred. Those who made a distinction between women with hair and women without were hated for their preference, while those who made no distinction were, oddly, hated equally by both groups of women.
    Vanity, it seemed, had caused a host of other social ills to rear their ugly heads.
    ***
    Then, the day came.
    The first murder was committed, over, of all things, whether a quantum singularity was polar or bipolar.
    But that was only the outward cause. Underlying it was most assuredly the debate.
    As a species, we were going downhill in a hurry. The debate changed, from whether we had the right to retard the intelligence of the species out of boredom, to whether we should end all intelligence and thus end the suffering it caused.
    Or rather, the madness it caused. It was like a drug, consuming our every waking moment with its highs and lows. We were being tortured, and needed relief.
    It had been going on for so long that no one could even remember anymore just when it had started. Was it a year ago? No, maybe two, or even as many as five; it was hard to tell. The life we had led before the debate had become a hazy memory. No one could remember the last time they’d been happy or felt well.
    ***
    The different philosophies continued to move even farther apart, the split widening to the point that the competing factions moved to opposite sides of the planet. But still, the debate raged. Tempers flared; threats were made and countered. Violent exchanges became common as reason and logic fled, the point of the debate lost in the battle.
    Those few cooler heads that remained observed it was a good thing that firearms and nuclear weaponry had been gone for some time, lest there be a war. But human nature would not be denied, and soon, skirmish lines had been drawn. Rocks and sticks were thrown back and forth across them and blood flowed from fresh wounds. Once perfect bodies now bore the scars of combat with armed loyalists of the opposing cause.
    Treaties were signed and broken almost on the same day. Neither side would give in. The pro-retardation group did not want to leave part of the species with their knowledge intact, fearing the “dumbed down” group would be enslaved. The anti-retardation group, on the other hand, did not want a bunch of dull-witted people to take care of, turning an otherwise pleasant world into a large daycare.
    The anti group was the first to take the next step in weaponry. They sharpened their sticks.
    The pro group quickly followed suit, and soon, killing the enemy completely was seen as the surest solution to the debate. Places where the opposition gathered in large numbers made the most logical targets, so cites became very dangerous places.
    Because of this, people on both sides of the debate abandoned their cities and broke in to small bands, living in the natural shelter of caves. For the first time in memory, tasks were divided by gender. Males, with their generally greater strength and larger size, were in charge of defense and waging the war. This left the females in charge of maintaining the shelters, providing lookouts for the approach of enemy troops, and providing for the general care of the bands. Mixed group hunted for food, with great success. Since there had been no hunting for millennia, the games was not only plentiful, it was completely unafraid of humans. Hunters could walk right up to the creatures and stab them with sharpened sticks.
    Fire posed a tougher problem, as actual flame had not been used for two hundred years. We found that simply having knowledge of a thing—knowing, for example, that rubbing two sticks together could produce fire—did not necessarily make the doing of it any easier. There were many cold days and nights until the practice was mastered, much to the joy of those who felt the warmth. As time passed, many other forgotten skills came back into use, reminding us often that understanding how something was done was not the same as having actually done it.
    The war raged on, with no end in sight. Every day, more people lost their lives. The only bright spot was that we gradually became more adept at the skills needed to live in caves and hunt for our food. But the details of how our ancestors had lived were still slow in coming. There’d been no need for such knowledge for so very long that it had receded to the far recesses of our minds. Now, our very survival depended upon recalling it.
    ***
    It has been said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and no truer words have ever been spoken. The progression from rock and stick had been the sharpening of sticks. Now, we were rapidly replaying the entire history of man’s development of the implements of war. Sharpened sticks acquired points and became spears. Spears turned into bows and arrows, bows and arrows into catapults. The introduction of gunpowder was not far behind, and in quick succession we developed canons, then shoulder arms and handguns, and at last, bombs. The last remnants of cites were laid waste. Any building of significant size was destroyed. Infrastructure disappeared; the computer systems and med-drones were either no longer operational or gone entirely.
    As more and more of the facilities necessary to produce weapons were destroyed, we found ourselves back where we had started. Ammunition was scarce, and most of the fighting reverted to hand-to-hand combat as the war continued.
    We began to truly question our resolve, then, a dim light of reason flickering through the fog of war. Was it really worth ending the human race over a question of whether to make that very same race dumber?
    Then it occurred to us—we already had.
    A cease-fire was quickly called and talks resumed.
    It didn’t take long to hammer out the treaty. Both side agreed to drop the debate, which had become moot, anyway. We would return to being one people, one race, and one world, return to our lives of ease in our gleaming cities.
    It was a joyous occasion for everyone. Lighthearted, without a care in the world, we danced and sang our way back, having finally rid our minds of war and debate.
    ***
    We found smoke still rising above the scorched earth, although there didn’t appear to be anything left to burn. Blackened rubble littered the ground below the dark, sooty sky. No structure stood, no road remained. There was nothing to indicate that once, a great people had lived there. The entire world was alien to us.
    There was no point in staying; there was nothing to rebuild. So, we went back to the only homes we had known for these long years: the caves.
    We will rebuild eventually, though. After all, we still have our brains and our knowledge, and WE ARE HUMAN! It is our nature. There is no telling how long it will take, but we did it once, did we not?
    Perhaps this time it will be quicker; perhaps we will be smarter this time, and not so bloody. We have a goal, this time—to return to the life we once led, but with one difference.
    This time, we will leave a little bit to the unknown, something that we can wonder about. We need that, as we learned to our sorrow. Our life, the very survival of our species, depends on it. We had the ultimate knowledge, but there had been one last lesson to learn, and it very nearly cost us our existence. Knowledge without wisdom, we learned, is like having a body without a head. And logic without reason is a tasteless meal for the soul.
    Some will say we are merely acting out a play that has been performed before. Our efforts will be wasted, having read the end of the book before the beginning. But is that truly the case? Does knowing where you are going make the trip itself unimportant? Perhaps that is the ultimate knowledge; that the learning of wisdom comes from the doing, not just the knowing. As to whether we have truly learned this lesson, only time will tell.
    But this much is certain. There is one critical factor to all knowledge, a factor that must be considered, and that is the human factor. It is the one variable that can end or begin all other knowledge, for knowledge itself is but unforged metal. It is for the possessor, the human factor, to shape and determine its use.
    There is no doubt that mistakes will be made in our journey back to a better life, after all…
    We are only human!

  18. tosmarttobegop

    Here is something we did ever so often in a couple of writer’s groups I have been in.
    It is for everyone to write a paragraph that follows the one before.
    You find inspiration from the previous paragraph, like I write:
    “He was shocked at the actions of his sister, never would he have thought she would have done that!”.
    Now it would be up to the next person to fill in the blanks of what she has done?
    It can be amazing how these stories would flow and end up.

  19. jammer5

    “He was shocked at the actions of his sister, never would he have thought she would have done that!”.

    After all, she was one of the Walking Fools of Wichita, which consisted of father, Farly Fool, twin sons, Farly Farly Fool and Furly Farly Fool, mom, Franny Fool, and the disobedient sister Farrah Fool. Why, all of a sudden, did she insist on running?

  20. jammer5

    tosmarttobegop . . . interesting take on us humans. Different read.