Category Archives: story

GPS

We loaded the car at 8:30 and headed toward the valley.  We formed a mini caravan of two cars, driving down state highways, me in front trying to time the lights so I wouldn’t lose my parents behind me.  My two were in the backseat, my daughter playing the roll of emcee for MadLibs.

We rolled into the small Shenandoah town around 11:15.  Driving down the narrow cemetery paths, my father, now in front, stopped and stepped out.  Dad helped Mom out, who walks with the help of a cane.

My kids quickly found the stone indicating where my grandfather and grandmother are burried.  They never knew them, having passed well before I was married.  I never knew my grandfather, and my grandmother was a caricature of someone from my childhood.  Here, my mom began to recall, aloud, bits of her own childhood, and the relationships between the names on the various markers.

A cousin arrived, one who lives nearby. Her father was my mom’s brother, and she was here to bury some of his ashes next to his parents.  A small, square hole had been prepared.  Polite and fun conversation returned to relationships and memories.  This church and that cabin.

My great grandmother was born in a cabin that is now maintained by the PATC and rented to vacationers.  This mountain and that road all had names that were shared by branches on my family tree.

We drove about ten miles up the road, where we found my great grandparents’ graves in a small churchyard.  Casual conversations with a few people coming from the service turned into a half hour of connections and hazy memories.

My kids were getting antsy, and so was I.  After our goodbyes, my parents left on their return to the midwest.  I drove my kids to show them a piece of land I had been interested in buying.  After a long winding ascent up a gravel road, we found the property, which was as I had remembered: more like the side of a mountain than a residential site, a steep and tree covered 5 acre plot: beautiful, but not able to be built on, even for a small cabin.

We went to the nearby town and found a little river rafting outfit, and spent the next hour floating and laughing our way down the river.

On the way home, after ice cream and drying off, we took a scenic route through the hills.  We saw a few deer, some goat farms, and Cooter’s Dukes of Hazard annual festival.  There must have been 300 orange cars parked there.

Arriving home, we were exhausted and happy.  Hot dogs on the grill and then to bed, quickly snoozing before the sun had fully set.


Night Heat

Heat chokes the region.  My lawn is essentially a field of brown weeds, as I cannot justify watering it, save to keep my property value up.  I mow it, and the relative eveness keeps it presentable.  

A ritual and sweaty lunch walk.  An amble with my dog down near the stream along the biking trail.  This weekend, a difficult ascent up a Blue Ridge mountain peak. Outside, feeling alive in the push through the low haze of late July.

The sun fuels me, recharging a body that is frequently tired, exhausted, and fatigued.  It bookends my days in the summer, when the hours of sunlight are favorable and long. Going to bed just after sunset and rising as the sky starts to lighten has me, on most days, missing out on the darkness of night outside.  Waking up during the night, my room has been starkly transformed to blue and grey.  I often step out onto my deck.

Around my home, night isn’t silent, but rather, a noisy orchestra of foxes, birds, cicadas, crickets, and cats.  The heat remains, though tempered and dulled, while inside, a ceiling fan provides a measure of relief as I return. Night noises penetrate the walls. Outside my room, the nocturnal respite from blazing sunshine has the wildlife riled to a peak summer frenzy, it appears.

My dog stirs when he senses I am awake, sitting up or walking over the edge of the bed to pant in my face, as if to let me know he’s also ready for some night air. On nights when I opt to stay in bed, I’ll pat his head and roll over. Moments after ignoring him, he’ll shuffle off, turn, and set himself down hard, expelling a “harumph”. Minutes later, his breathing turns to snoring.

I’ll roll and contort, unable to sleep without a sheet, but alternatively sweating beneath it.  Eventually, sounds will melt into dreams, warmth will transform to slumber.


Yuck!

Just a bubble of blood.  I dabbed it with a paper towel that I took with me on the way out of the restroom.

The knuckle on my middle finger had been a problem for boxing, aching and sparking lightning that grounded itself in my wrist.  But after some rest and repair, I felt it was ready again.

The last time was different. A change of plans turned into a night just for me, a trial run.  No sparks. Old wraps and new gloves, though, had worked against me.  This time, in round three, I felt the simultaneous cold and hot of bleeding. 

Over a week, a small abrasion gave way to a slowly receding scab on top of the knuckle. Still, every time I reached for my keys, phone, or spare change in pockets that I recall were once roomier, I’d reopen the cut.  

First a stream of red, later just a crimson dot. Bandages couldn’t stay in place, and lay ineffectively across the ridges. Sometimes I would notice the bleeding while typing on my keyboard or preparing to offer a handshake.  More disturbing, the bandage was somewhere, hopefully in my pocket and not anywhere else.  

It was never in my pocket, and I never found any of them.


Coach

Even my son called me “Coach” when we were on the field.  I suppose it was easier for both of us.  I could correct, teach, and praise with the roles defined and accepted. He could play, develop, and be part of the team. Player and Coach.  We were on the same team, but with clearly different responsibilities. 

I was still Dad on the way to the game and the ride home.  Talking about video games, the weekend plans, and school.

Coaching is now over for me in the sense it was for tee-ball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, basketball, lacrosse, and football.  My office at home is decorated by plaques and photos, signed by my players and fellow coaches.  With my kids moving into upper school, the rec league years are in the past. And I did not miss out of them.  I am thankful.

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Finally and More

Two ticks, so far,
in a forest of black fur,
still hungry, searching,
and not yet settled
into his skin.

Exhausted, he lets me comb
through his mass, a massage he thinks,
tongue a slab of deli ham,
my dog smiles with his eyes
and ears; surely this must be his
post-hike reward.

He swims through a bowl
of water, everywhere spashing,
then gobbles up his kibble,
perhaps thinking between breaths
that this day wasn’t his typical
lazy day.

Hills, mud, rocks and up, up, up.
More likely, he is thinking,
now that the air is just between
cool and warm and full of
critter scents and bird songs,
“Finally!” and “More!”


Celtic Punk

My new kick: Celtic Punk.

More “full” than my childhood punk music, but coursing with the same angst. More than a nod to traditional music and boiling over with modern story. As a consumer of punk rock for over 30 years, I know that the genre’s rivers run much deeper than the extremes of silliness and nihilism that are the sharp outlines of the cartoon. But even this seems different – an older cousin who buys you cigarettes and reads the political editorials, and later, the one whose forearm is wrapped tight around your shoulder while singing pub songs. The rolling lyrics and mandolin are there; the fiddle and the dumpity-dum-a-dum drums as well, all backed by a heavy guitar and voices simultaneously growling, slurring, and singing about the “da devil” and dear “mudder and fadder” over the choruses and breaks. And the pipes, of course.

Hailing from the Isle, Scotland, Boston, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and even San Francisco, the sounds draw from musical traditions of rebellion, tough living, hope, camaraderie, and lost love. Perfect punk themes. Folk as well.

The Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, Street Dogs, and Flogging Molly were already on my iPod playlists.  Put Sticky Little Fingers in that mix for a more UK punk vibe. Pandora radio opened me up to the Real McKenzies, Young Dubliners, The Bollox, The Tossers, Blaggards, and two-dozen more.


The tornado

The whirlwind wouldn’t relent, so I swallowed that twister whole,

And as twisted muscles were wrung out,
spun dry, and stretched on the fence,

my spine split down the middle,
shot down each leg, and out my heels.

My teeth caromed off one another,
until I spit a fountain of polished marbles.

Fingers pretzeled, and toes folded back
to touch my shins, when my ribs collapsed like a waterfall,

Popping my lungs, freeing the tornado,
which threw up stories of dust and detritus

on its way home


This Old Life (Live)

This program is broadcast live, un-scripted and un-rehearsed.

Building. Demolishing. Rennovating. 

The choas is captured along with the rising structure.

Construction never pauses, even during the commercials for spray starch and the local ambulance chaser.

Keep the cameras rolling. Let post-production chop it up and splice it together for the re-runs.

The cranes move behind the scenes, backdrop to the hosts’ argument caught in cam 1 and cam 2 over removing water from that hole, patching that piece of pavement, and who is going to make the lunch run.

Jeans, boots, and safety goggles. Gold and orange vests. The night crews are setting the work lights while the stage crews are moving the spot lights.

During the foreman’s spontaneous monologue, the cranes are engaged in movent from the laydown area to the pick zone, setting trusses, christmas-treeing joists, and preparing for the topping-out.

Drama makes the show compelling, but the bricks, the driven nails and the planted cherry trees will be here years after the show is cancelled and the contracts have expired.

Closing shot under the credits and theme music: expanding frame, exterior – the family sits down at the table,  laughing as the last one entering the room draws the curtains. 


Telephony

That device that my son uses to text me cryptic, yet extraordinarily complicated logistical, immediate, and preferential information requiring my action, could use an enhancement.

If there was only some way the developers could add some sort of 2-way, real time, voice-based communication; some tele-phonic feature that could work directly with my own device. That would be great.


The devils’ dance

Turn and return, lines heave
then collapse, syncronized stomp,
the hive twists and crosses,
finding hands to clasp,
twarting the casting of
spells, teeth bared in smiles,
jaws tight against a counter curse to the chanting,
round the corner, slide away,
and in empty seconds,
swing and tap an oath
to this hissing fiddle’s rhythm,
and the neighbor’s screws,
under and over to dance with
a devil new.