Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Soldier’s State

((November 24, 2009) (for: General Jorge Isaac V. Bardales))

An Article of Opinion by: Dr. Dennis L. Siluk

Twice the pride double the fall—having said that, why does one soldier take the path to the sinister side? Why has he unattached himself from the very country that has nurtured him? —only to be branded as a traitor, conspirator, collaborator, a spy—one who sells his character with information, to harm or damage one’s own country, and its countrymen, for the benefit of another country? It is by and large unusual, and therefore, makes his once beloved countrymen, uneasy. Pride, or self-importance, or self-interest is usually at the cornerstone (a strong self-interest being stronger than the devil himself at times), and when it is shifted to hurt one’s own country, it is a man with twice the Pride, and no country, for whom would have him, want him? In a way, he is a person who has gained some power—or feels he has, and to those with power, he becomes afraid to lose it (which is not uncommon); now this fellow, this traitor I am talking about, must let go of everything (the very thing he doesn’t want to let go of), everything he fears to lose he must let go of to heal, only then will he no longer be jealous, for inside of him envy and jealously resides—like white on rice, along with that double portion of pride.
There is such a man in the country of Peru now, today, and during his incarceration most recently, for spying and given or selling vital information to Chile, he is demanding his rights, although he’s forgotten his responsibilities (isn’t that how it goes usually). A man with no loyalties to Peru, no blood in the face; a friend of mine said, “…there are more like him, behind him. (God help the country of Peru if there is).”
In any case, with pert near a confession this man in question has nervous hands now, willing to sacrifice a country and his countrymen, but not himself—he is saying in essence, “My life is worth more than twenty-five million Peruvians” yes indeed, that is what he is saying loud and clear.
The matter of whether or not and by due process of law, he is guilty, to be convicted, he feels the law is something outside of him, his life anyhow, and declines to name his cohorts, Why? —for some reason he found loyalty, by gosh, real genuine allegiance, devotion—the kind of loyalty his country demand of him, that he could not give in the long run. It’s all about him now, the way he wanted it be, he’s important now, or at least he feel so.

This is that sort of something that bothered the Peruvian Army Soldiers that marched from La Oroya, to Huancayo that I visited the afternoon of the twenty-forth of November, 2009, whom marched all day the day before and the following morning of the twenty-forth, to the Plaza de Arms, with their General Jorge Isaac V. Bardales (General de Brigada); puzzling to the General—a man of strong beliefs, national pride, a soldier, a real soldier—puzzled I say that the traitor was guilty and trying to save himself, his neck, this man of no remorse, I think the General would have rather had been dead, hung himself like Judas Iscariot, when he sold out Jesus Christ for thirty-pieces of silver, had he done what the traitor had done.
“You see,” said the General, “…ten years ago, they would have shot him!”(So he told me.)
And I remarked, “Like when I was in Vietnam, a traitor then and there would have been shot likewise.”
Thus we had seen eye to eye, on this matter, standing shoulder to shoulder, although his shoulders were four or five inches above mine. Around him, the General stood with his brigade, and when I looked among the many faces of his troops, it appeared that they were likewise, wishing it was ten-years prior, so they could shoot the traitor—here and now—without a moments delay.
Somehow among the masses of Peru, there is that unexceptional air of indifference, some people wanting to save the spy, those who don’t understand it is important to love a country that you swore to protect its people, not sell them out for thirty-pieces of silver. Now if found guilty, he will be fed, clothed, given shelter, and given his rights, by tax paying people, the very ones he had no pity for, whom he had sold out to the highest bidder.

In Conclusion, perhaps there are no answers to this dilemma, why a person sells out his countrymen, his country, a soldier in particular being the very one we trust, have to trust in, and that is why this crime is more unbearable than ever; and perhaps on the other hand, the laws are too weak to detour such happenings…and the culprits know this, so they do what they do… knowing the worse is time spent: who’s to say?

Anyways, it’s and, and every so often a writer likes to tell it straight out, without putting in any beautiful adjectives and verbs and all that sort of tommyrot.

No: 524 (11-25-2009)

Hell Bound

((A Brief and Belief) (a point of view))

Who’s going to Hell? That shouldn’t be a hard question, but nowadays it seems to be. My mother once said, “Everyone thinks they’re going to heaven, what gives them such an impression?” surely not the Bible, maybe their imaginations. This is of course an opinion, but I think this is a new way of thinking. I can’t imagine any other generation, in any other time period thinking quite like this.
We are a twisted pile of burnt up wood trying to carve our own heaven on earth, thinking however we interpret God’s word, that he will honor it on the day of our death, thus we print out a license to do as we please, and live the life of the victim to him, as we stretch out our sins to infinity—right up to the morgue. Never knowing we are dead on arrival.
So who is Hell bound? I want to just hastily cover a few names, I could be wrong in these names, but according to the highways they’ve taken in life, it curbs right into Hell. Hell is the final cemetery, not earth. Let me also point out, those not headed for Hell, could be headed for Heaven, or Paradise, there is a difference. There are other statistics on where death can lead a soul, as it has been expressed in unsacred scriptures, there are 72-deaths (but not 72-Hells). But we will deal wryly with one, Hell, the infamous infernal!
One of the biggest things is for man to face reality, not live in a state of pretense, or denial, trying to be a strategist, and talk himself out of Hell while doing what he loves to do in the name of self-interest.
God at present, in this new age, is politely ignored by man, intent on meeting Him on his earthy platform—even when God gives man all the warnings in the world, he still remains unprepared, blindly refusing to face the encroaching danger of Hell.
If you are saying “Who is he to question if we are Hell Bound, or not!” This is really not a question; you know that, it is really a paranoid statement. But I shall answer it.
Today I was laying in bed, and this title “Hell Bound!” Lit up in my head, I know this is something less than hot news, but nonetheless, it lit up, and perhaps God was reminding me there was going on at this very moment, a nuclear incineration for the mass’ of souls on earth, those dying, heading for Hell. I don’t know. The Bible stresses Hell is where the enemy wants to put you; I’m not thinking of death, but Hell, a debilitating life—eternal after death. So this is my reason for writing this brief.

Now you’re going to get mad because I’m going to give you a dose of reality, what you really already know, but desire not to be truthful. First of all, where do you think Michael Jackson, the famous singer went? When I watched all those celebrities on television when he died, they made it out to be as if he was on the right hand side of Jesus Christ Himself (or headed that way). As if he was singing his way through the pearly gates. Let’s get down to earth; Mr. Jackson might have been the King of Pop Rock or whatever, but he was not the creator and author of life and death, and Hell. One needs only watch his videos, or listen to his lyrics, and look at his lifestyle—to tell he’s Hell Bound. And although I like Elvis as an entertainer, he’s most likely in the same category (along with half of Hollywood—if often amazes me these actors and actress can lay in bed naked and then think nothing of it, call it creative acting, and think God looks the other way, it is repulsive to think so). They have an edge on earth, not in the afterlife.
These new attitudes people have adopted in the face of reality, is simply another way of living in sin with victory, angels and demons know this.

Power, how much power can we have without being morbid? This is vitally important to everyone. Power and self-interest can conquer the soul; put it in Hell (we need people in high place with power under control, not out of control). I would guess, the Vatican, Washington D.C., and the Kremlin, to mention few, are such places where the ugliness of power and self-interest swims in its own romanticized traditions, and were there is less communing with God, than there should be, and where Satan Himself, gets a good selection of cross-cultural souls Hell-bound! (Many of them from the United Nations, I’m sure.)
Our new society—American and European societies, have this new found secularization, where once it was Christianization; where faith in Jesus Christ is not really given one shilling of thought. We have in this new 21st Century, a new preoccupation—everyone goes to heaven, there is no unpardonable sin—even our new President Obama feels this way, that what was cherished in traditional Christianity, is now questionable, he is for abortion, he is for war, he is for whatever everyone else is for—that being, the non Christian communities—where do you think he’s going?
We never talk about such things, why? Perhaps it is too painful for all of us. How unfortunate, perhaps we must be like children to understand the hope in heaven and eternal life.
If you are looking at death, and looking homeward, and thinking it is Heaven, not Hell, if you are thinking what eternal family you are going to live with, literally look at the Glory of Jesus Christ. Look at the reality of Satan; he also is ignored, discarded as a myth.
I imagine, and believe many of the Muslims will also have a rude awakening, I’m sure Saddam Hussein, and his war hungry, terrorist mind is now facing that. As will be Bin Laden and his massive following; he, likened to the gay community (who have come out with the new theory: ‘God made me like this’) and whoever else chooses to deny this reality, will face the alternative—hell (along with the many Christian Cults and their leaders, of the day, to include: the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses to mention a few).

Hell is not a popular subject nowadays, and the more education one gets the quicker it fades into oblivion. On the other hand, heaven is more popular, not sure why folks are more confident in Heaven, and not in Hell (they kind of go together, in that there is a good and a bad, a right and wrong, a God and a Devil), but I would guess they have more interest in Heaven because it appears to be more promising (here comes that self-interest again).
But let me leave you with this, Jesus spoke of Hell, saying “…darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8.12). In 1983, I had a vision of this. I cannot find the strongest of words to describe that vision, it was just a horror.
If God is a just God, then sin must be punished, it is as simple as that.

No: 545 (12-8-2009)

The Boy from the Midwest

((From the book “Romancing San Francisco”; reedited, modified chapter,
Two for independent story) (summer of 1968))

Master Yamaguchi Teaches
[Buck becomes a Friend]

Part One of Two

The weather was warm, in San Francisco, in the summer of 1968, a breeze from the bay seeped through the city, and the Turtles, the Doors and the Beatles music were being played everywhere, along with “Elvis’ Comeback.” Everyone dressed like Sonny and Cher, or the Momma’s and the Papa’s it seemed everyone but me that is; inasmuch as I liked the way everyone dressed, I found myself still quite conservative—the boy from the Midwest.
The trees along many of the streets especially Dolores Avenue (where I would eventually, find an apartment in a mansion), were glossy green. I bought some bread and white spread-on cheese (Philadelphia cheese), brought it to the dojo (where I living temporarily) and put it in the refrigerator in the back room; I liked it, something new that I picked up in San Francisco. Along with a corner store that would make any kind of sandwich you wanted.
Because of the change in weather from Minnesota to San Francisco, my eating habits were also changing; I appeared to like the lighter foods that is, and less meats, more Chinese foods also. I really didn’t care for Japanese foodstuff. Some one brought in raw snake with white rice and offered it as a treat for all of us at the dojo one evening, it must have been Goesi, but that is a guess, I can’t remember for sure. Although I always seemed to have a good appetite, after a bite or two of the so called treat, I lost it for the rest of the evening. But as I was going to say, with all the walking, and now working at Lilli Ann (the dress designing outfit), and doing my Karate everyday, my appetite at times was vigorous.
It was great to walk the night away along the oceanfront with my karate friends, looking at the many fires along the Pacific Coast. The warmth of the fires shifted all the way to my sensory-senses, smelling the burnt-wood on the fires, the ocean, the mud, the greenery, all several of us, watching the flickering of the flames from the fires, the sparks ascending to the asteroid belt; the gibbous moon lighting up a long streak in the ocean, right to its shoreline, as if it had been called to attention right at that spot. I felt it was a good time to be alive. I loved the water; the sounds of the huge waves hitting the coast: the white foam splattering all about.

My days seemed endless, filled with so much, in comparison, to my conservative city in the Midwest, St. Paul, the city along Mississippi that ran all the way down to St. Louis, and onto New Orleans, right to the Gulf of Mexico.
As a kid I’d play down along its banks with my friend Mike Rosette. We were quite the team back in those days. We’d run in and out the caves along the cliffs that paralleled the banks of the Mississippi sometimes dodging the drunks asleep, snoring away the morning or as sometimes it would be, forenoon, and even some afternoons. But this was different, this was not the Mighty Mississippi, Mark Twain’s haven, as he so loved to write about, as I loved to walk beside as a kid, rather, this was the gigantic Pacific Ocean—that led into the South Pacific to Hawaii, Japan, and beyond. It was simply, hard for me to adjust to seeing so much water, instead of cornfields. It took my breath away, like standing in front of the Empire State Building looking up, or looking down the Grand Canyon. I had to run up to it just to say to touched it, and then able to say I got wet from it; as if it was sacred waters. But then anyone from Minnesota would have done the same I’m sure, or lied that they didn’t and did.
Also, along the Mississippi, you’d see rats as large as fat cats, or small dogs, here you saw white jellyfish, colored seashells, among a few other things. To everyone else it was common, to me I was spellbound. In St. Paul, they stopped allowing fires back in ’63, too many false alarms, and the fire station (s) got sick and tired of running for every little fire that. We no longer could burn our trash in the fifty-gallon drums we used: normal, after about six to nine months, grandpa would have me and my brother tip it over and empty it out into a dugout hole, and bury it. But those days were now gone; along with burning the fall leaves, I liked that also, the smell of the fall leaves never left my mind, my senses, the sparks from the leaves reminded me of this oceanfront fires, that the hippies had.
“Buck,” (Donald Buck) I said, asking, “…don’t the police do anything about these people laying about, drinking, smoking pot, having fires, sleeping the night away… and whatever?”
Buck looked at me strange, “No Chick, it’s just the times…everyone leaves everyone else alone here; or tries to. These people are just here for a short period of time, anyhow.”
We stood and looked over the little camps, the flames, listening to the oceanfront waves hit hard and soft, until we finally got tired and headed back to the dojo; it seemed it was the place everyone would eventually end up at.

Part Two of Two
The Fiend

“The Ghost of the Collingswood Dojo”

It was a Thursday evening, I had walked back to the dojo, it was going on 5:30 p.m., I had stopped at a Chinese restaurant, and ate dinner, some rice with beef and dark gravy and green peppers, it was delicious, and I had some green tea that sunk to the bottom of the tea-pot that also was excellent. Then again, back to the dojo. By the time I reached the dojo, everyone had left, it was 7:00 p.m., usually I got back early to workout, do some exercises, and katas, and Friday nights I avoided going back to the dojo because it was Black Belt night until 8:00 p.m. And I wasn’t at that stage yet. None-the-less, I entered the dojo, and sat back placidly against the sofa, the counter to my left, the archway to the gym [dojo] straight ahead of me, staring at me; as it normally did. And then at about 10:00 p.m., it happened— what everyone had told me would happen, the ghost, the fiend, made its approach that is what happened, oh yes, I met him in a cadaverous kind of way. I can’t describe it emotionally with prose, so I had to write it down after the contact, in poetic prose—kind of.
I shall call it,

“The Ghost of the Collingswood Dojo”

(Notes from my Journal) “I heard him last night, about 10:00 P.M., in the silence of the dojo. It as if he or it, were trying to get my attention. Tapping at the windows, the podium stand; Knocking over wooden chairs –as I was half-asleep, on the sofa, near the gym. Then, I found myself standing by the archway entrance, to the dojo, were I worked out, I could hear, his footsteps pass me, I even saw the wooden floor absorbing them, as if his weight was tremendous. I yelled out, ‘I’m not about leave this dojo, and I’m not afraid of you…!’
“Something told me not to challenge the spirit, and I automatically called out, ‘Lord! (meaning, Jesus Christ),’ and all the noises went silent, even the footsteps, as if waiting for some hurricane.

Note: Originally “The Ghost of the Collingswood Dojo,” was published in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, Independent Newspaper, “Insight,” @ January 6th, 1983, under the title “About 10:00 P.M. Copyright @ 2003 “Romancing San Francisco,” by Dennis L. Siluk. Dlsiluk @ 2009, “The Boy from the Midwest” (Modified chapter two for an independent story)

Victor: and the Monkey Man

((Miraflores, Lima Peru, 2008) (Based on actual events))

When your with someone twenty, thirty, even forty years—work with them everyday of the week, seven days a week, fifty-weeks ever year (minus two weeks the Monkey Man vacationed, not Victory), that someone you can’t help getting to like them, you even get to love them (him or her). It’s pretty near like being married to the person—almost! You know when that person gets tired, because you are tired, and you can tell by his walking or talking. You know it, because you can feel it.
There was such a person I knew named Victor. He and the Monkey Man (Cipriano) worked in the same park (Miraflores, Kennedy Park) in Lima, Peru.
In the park Victor worked as a photographer, the only one in the park, allowed in the park that is—licensed to be there, and the Monkey man, Cipriano, with his wind-up music box, and the red and white box the monkey was stored in (until he came in the park, and was then taken out of the box, and played on top of the box all day long), he worked perhaps ten-feet to Victor’s side, had worked side by side for forty-years. The Monkey-Man would have his monkey take out a piece of paper, likened to a ticket, and it had a happy saying on it, and he’d hand it to the person holding a coin, and they’d exchange one for the other.
Victor worked by him twelve hours a day. I met Victor and Cipriano for the first time in 1999, when I first met my wife Rosa; he took our second picture together, one evening in the park. Anyhow, one day Cipriano, he just up and died, he was seventy-two years old. A small man, thin, wore a white cowboy looking hat, a blue worn out suite, little eyes; he died on a warm day in 2007.

The times I talked to Victor after that, it had seemed to me that happening took a solid big chunk of life out of him. It hurt him to talk about his old partner, but he did. He even braced himself when he did. I asked him once if he thought about Cipriano much. He said, “A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of him.” These were hard times for Victor.
Sometimes when we walked by him, he was in a glum of a mood—not that he was to us, my wife and I, just that he seemed so from a distance, he’d always cheer up when he saw us, went over to talk to him.
Anyway, win or lose, life was different for him; eleven months after Cipriano had died, we happened to be in Lima again, we stopped—as we often did—stopped by to say hello to Victor, and he wasn’t there this time, not even his standup, camera, the old one he said was from the 1840s. I asked the nearby shoeshine man, who always worked by Victory (there were several in the park) “Where’s Victory?” He usually went to eat his lunch about 2:00 p.m., perhaps today he went early, but it was only forenoon.
The shoeshine man, hesitated, as if he was trying to figure out how to say, what he had thought he might have say someday, “He died a month ago, we were kind of thinking how to tell you when you came around.” (That was on a warm day, in 2008.)

No: 543 (12-6-2009) SA

The Bat

(The Donkeyland Neighborhood,
a Chick Evens Story, summer of, 1961)

When you’re just fourteen years old, you don’t have sense enough to realize what you are doing and often tremble, get so mad you can’t think, and overreact, or at least I did. Because even now I can remember some of the things Richard Zackary and I did for instance, and in my case I didn’t think twice about it, and I wonder how any of us kids in the neighborhood (called by the police: Donkeyland), us boys in particular ever lived long enough to grow up. I remember I was just fourteen, weightlifting, had fourteen inch biceps, strong as a bull; Richard Zackary had just taken a bat I had found out from my hands; this was after (this is how I remember it anyhow) after, Richard was standing against some bushes by his house, we both went to the same High School, we were about the same height, and weight, it was a warm day. We began to talk about sharing the bat, but he wouldn’t give it back to me and I tried to grab it, pull it away from him. Richard said he’d give it to me for three-dollars, since we both spotted the bat, and I grabbed it before he could. But I said, “Let’s just share it,” of course I wanted to have it first, and so did he. Before he could say another word I hat him with my right fist alongside the upper left side of his temple, hard, I just hauled off and hit him, right through the bushes he flew, cloths, bat and all.
So we (his father and I) got him out of the bushes, and we tried to wake him up, but the blow was so solid, he was completely knocked out.
“All right,” the mother said, standing by her son, “you better go home Chick…” the father was getting extremely upset, and so I did.
I hadn’t thought about that, about leaving him, I did leave the bat, and Richard ended up in the hospital. And the father called my mother up, said, “That boy of yours is like a gorilla; keep him away from my son!”
“If that’s what we got to do, okay,” she said.
“That boy of yours is taking advantage of my boy,” said Richards’s father to my mother—meaning, I was twice as strong as he.
Well, Richard and I had more or less hung around together ever since he had moved into the neighborhood, some two-years prior, but I stayed away from him for a long time. Perhaps his father had let me off lightly, he had every reason to want to harm me but didn’t. But I didn’t think of that at the time.
Fine, I wasn’t trying to prove I was the toughest, I never thought of it that way, but it did seem to build up a little reputation for me, one I didn’t care to have, simply because other kids wanted to test me out, see if I was all that tough, I mean, one blow knocked out a boy—evidently, that was something. And I tried to explain it was just a mishap in the neighborhood, but the more I did, the more folks thought I was being modest. I mean the thing I was trying to do, was not have to fight everyone to prove I was worthy of fighting. If anything, I was more guarded now and harder to get to fight; it was like life was trying to take revenge on me for hitting Richard or the Devil was working overtime.

No: 565 (12-8-2009)

“The Cellar Apartment”

((West St. Paul, the winter of 1967) (a Minnesota Chick Evens Story))

“Here!” I said “…come over here!”
Now she, Phyllis, was looking at me serious, over her shoulder. She didn’t move much, perhaps an inch, not a turn of her lower body though: just her neck and head, her eyes, her face, her hands lay to her sides standing in the middle of the cellar apartment, my bed in front of her, me in back of her, the door in back of me, her husband—my best friend, Sid, had now been dead a week, only a week—coming back from Wisconsin, drinking, everyone drunk in the car, and an accident took place.
Yes—she looked again. She never had looked at me like that before; she appeared to confront me with that look, slyly across her shoulder—with her deep dark eyes. No questioning but waiting, as rain clouds never question or wait, they just pour out rain, when they feel like it, then drift away, shed its moisture.
“Oh!” I remarked, as she watched me still standing by my bed. Watched me sadly, just a bit unsure, perhaps curious.
“But of course,” I said looking at the bed; naturally she was thinking I wanted to take her to bed. But I didn’t; not really, I just wanted to see if I could, see how far she’d go.
“No, wait,” I said. “Maybe this is wrong, for both of us!”
I wasn’t desperate, and still she just watched me, now a foot from the bed: she had some kind of bottomless tranquility, calmness inside of her, waiting on me to tell her to lie down on the bed.
“Sit down on the bed,” I said… “I didn’t mean that.”
She quickly followed up with, “I know your Sid’s friend Chick, do you want to or not!”
“I could never forgive you, or me, if we did,” I remarked.
“All right,” she commented, then I went to open the door to tell her to leave, “Good night,” I said harshly, demandingly, angry.
“Why did you bring me here in the first place?” she asked.
“I thought that is what I wanted, and you wanted,” I said.
I wanted to get angry at her because she was going to make love with me, and because she was getting a divorce with Sid before he died, and because she was collecting $5000-dollars benefit because of his death, had he died two weeks later, she’d had gotten nothing, like I felt she deserved. The Insurance policy would have run out. She was dating other guys, during her separation, and I was just mad because of all of that. I suppose I was like her, grieving, but I was displacing my anger.
“Shut the door on your way out,” I said.
“It’s cold out there,” —she walked towards me, not fast.
“I came here because I liked you, because I’m hurting just like you, maybe more!” she said with wet eyes.
“Maybe I did want to,” she came towards me closer, and then passed me, “but I don’t want to anymore, you’re very cruel!”
“Shut the door before it gets cold in here on your way out,” I told her, “don’t touch me!” I emphasized.
“All right, all right…” she commented—“a dog is more compassionate than you,” she told me. “I doubt Sid would really have minded anyhow.”
“All right,” I agreed, but felt Sid was looking down on me, from wherever he was.
“I came because you are unhappy, Sid and I were separated, ready to get a divorce—you know that!”
“Yes,” I said, and she cried and slammed the door as she left, and I could hear her shivering outside—but the tears seemed to have stopped, perhaps going to the corner, or bar not far away to call a taxi.

No: 547 (12-10-2009)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Winter Houses

(A Chick Evens story out of Minnesota, based on fact, 1956)

The Icy-Mississippi

Snow is on the sidewalks, in the streets, a thin layer covering the Mississippi River, on top of four-inches of ice —the houses and buildings are all lit, fires glowing in hearths, furnaces burning, as I rush out into the cold early Saturday morning air to sell newspapers “Five Cents!” It is December, 1956 and I’m ten-years old, just turned ten-years old in October.
I see people sitting in their houses: men, women and children—as if their minds are unoccupied, its 6:00 a.m., some of the houses are covered with blotches of snow; some even appear to smile at me—with their shadowy silhouettes.
Some of the houses are completely dark, solid gray dark; I suppose the people haven’t crawled out of bed yet. In other houses I hear laughter as I walk down Jackson Street to the St. Paul, Pioneer Press Newspaper, to get my stack of papers to sell on the corner of Forth and Robert Streets. I even can see the icy-Mississippi from where I sand.
In the quiet morning cold, the houses seem to whisper to me—as if they have secrets to tell—but I’m too young to stop and listen, I’m not yet a hunter of tales. Plus, they can only tell me things I’m too young to fully understand.
I pass a dozen houses, two, then three dozen, now buildings, doors are now bursting open.
I start to yell “St. Paul Pioneer Press! …FIVE CENTS!”
Slow moving, and slow speaking people walk by. I think my business is the most interesting in town—but of course at ten-years old, who wouldn’t think so. There even seems to be a touch of romanticism in this paper business.

No: 539 (12-5-2009) SA

The Vacuum Cleaner Department

((A Chick Evens Story, 1966) (out of Minnesota))

They had brought in a ‘minute-man’ into the Vacuum Cleaner Department of the factory, third floor (off Arcade Street, St. Paul, Minnesota, in the summer of 1966).
They are the efficiency experts—as most everyone knows. His job is to come into our area of work with his time-watch on, set it accordingly, ready to click it at any given moment. And then simply stand about—timing you.
Let me explain: if you can staple together with the standup (ten-foot tall) staple machine—more boxes in less time, all the better (boxes for vacuum cleaner that is)— His question is, or will be to himself: “Is Mr. Chick Evens doing all he can do?”
Consequently, a portion of Mr. Evens’ pay is based on piece-work.
Well, he stands by the staple machine clicks that watch to go, counts “one second, two seconds, three seconds—one box, two boxes…) times me. He says “Just be natural!” (He doesn’t mean that, he simply says that.)
Then when I stop to go to the toilet, he questions if it should have taken me three minutes or seven minutes? (Which it took me all of seven minutes to do what was natural. And had I had to do—a number one and number two, all in one setting, he might have had to reset his watch.) In any case, He also questions if I really should have stopped for five-minutes to help my fellow worker (perhaps thinking, it’s someone else’s job, which perhaps it is.) He says nonetheless (placing it in a different category) “You don’t get paid for gossip, you could have stapled twenty-boxes in the time you stopped to chitchat... (two minutes had elapsed).”
He now sees your face is annoyed with him, and says, “There are plenty of people out of work, god knows, so don’t get smart with me fellow!”

No: 540 (12-5-2009) SA (the second part has been left out of this story)

Sparky the Seal

…and summer days at Como Park

((1956-1958) (Based on actual events))

At Como Park (St. Paul, Minnesota), in the Midway area (back in the mid to late fifties), when I was ten to twelve year old, I’d hike out to Como Park with my buddy Mike Reassert, a year or two younger than I.
There was a Ferris Wheel, and a Merry-go-Round, and stands selling things (food and such), and nearby was a free show once a day at 1.00 p.m., near a platform, that had a pool attached to it, and “Sparky the Seal,” was the main event, and he always put on a terrific and dandy show for us kids.
Most of the city kids went out there, during summer vacations; if not for the Sparky Show, to ride the giant turtle, or walk round the Zoo area and look at animals.
Mike Reassert and I were always conscious of the fair like atmosphere of the summer days at Como Park.
The lake that went beside it was about one and half miles round (circumference), and around the lake across the main street that divided it from the residential area, were nice expensive looking house, with large green lawns, and flowers and girls often sitting on their porches.
Well, as time went by, Sparky died, I think I had just become a teenager when that took place, and the following summer I saw a sign that read “Two shows, 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. by Sparky II” and I got thinking, it didn’t take long to replace Sparky No: I.
Fine, at about at nineteen years old, there about, that summer I read another sign out at Como Park, it read, “Visit Sparky’s pool,” (something on that order), and when I went to see Sparky, inside the building was it was full of seals, and it said “The Home of Sparky III” something like that, and the show was to be at 2:00 p.m.
Again I said “Fine…” thinking Sparky II had passed on. That’s when it dawned on me, we’re all so replaceable.
Well, at about fifty-years old, back in about 2001, I took my wife whom is from Peru, and there was a new Sparky doing a show, I don’t know what number he was, but it was nice that they kept the tradition up.

No: 542 (12-6-2009) SA

Machine Days

((A Minnesota Story, 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s) (Based on actual events))

In my younger days, there were more factories with machines—small and large—more than the fast-food out-lets we have nowadays (drive-ins, cafés, restaurants, and alike). That’s back thirty, forty, near fifty-years or so ago (I’m sixty-two now). And behind those days—I’d expect it was even more so.
I am speaking of machinery in America, factories with machinery and foundries in Minnesota, and in particular, the City of St. Paul, where I grew up (although I’ve worked in many cities, Minneapolis, Omaha, San Francisco, Seattle, Erie, to mention a few).
I can still hear the clatter of the machines at Whirlpool where I worked for a year, back in 1966, and those at American Can (1968). I can hear the whirr and the screeching and the pounding of machinery making cast-iron molds, at the foundries ((Malibu Iron, where I worked back in 1965 and 1972) (in St. Paul, and Erie)); and the murmur and shouts of men at the stockyards (Swift’s) in South St. Paul (1967)—they used machines to kill animals, conveyer belts and so for and so on.
It was all after World War Two, and the Korean War, and just before the Vietnam War (my war to be; even in war we used machines).
The machines hum and talk like a horde of chipmunks, they roar like lions, they dance and sway on steel rafters like monkeys, high overhead, as at “Structural Steel,” where I worked for a winter season back in ’68.
Machines have legs, bodies, arms, fingers, feet; they hold onto things, they have giant hands.
They swing this way and that way, some everywhichway. They weigh tons, run madly all day long. I was once a junior machinist (back in 1971, after I returned from the War in Vietnam), that is—an apprentice—they make things, big and small: bridges, holes in parts just about anything and everything. They feed upon oil, power from water, electricity, batteries, and coal, even nuts. Back in 1972-73, I worked for a power plant in Erie.
Their wheels groan and grind, and screech, make horrid sounds to the ears. They produce smoke, darker than the hearts of men. Machines control, and similar to their makers, they wear out. I’ve had over forty-jobs, in my lifetime, the best thing about machines is: their stupid, you can tell them anything, and they say nothing. They are bleak and cold, they don’t beg for the sun or the cool breeze off the lake—how smoothly they can run, how surely. I tell you there will be a day when people will pay machines to talk to, they’re better listeners than humans (and they don’t have cheap—expensive advice to give; and their friendship is never deceiving).

No: 541 (12-6-2009) SA

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Behind the Sun

(Inspired by real events)(Summer of 1936)

She lived, during that summer of 1936, in a small room, on the first floor of an old mansion, near Rice Park, downtown, St. Paul, Minnesota, near the Mississippi River, a hop-skip-and-jump, away. It was July and the evening was hot. On the grass outside of the large house where she was a maid, she sat cross-legged. Sweat trickling down her back, armpits, forehead—the arclights of the city had just gone on.
People of the city were sitting on the curbs of the streets, down along the riverbank on the grass—sleeping on blankets, to cool themselves off.
Elsie Evens had just finished her evening’s work (so she thought)—; sixteen-­years old, she had lived at St. Joseph’s Orphanage, since 1933, since her mother Ella had died of double-pneumonia, and her father Tony (Anton) couldn’t take care of her and her several siblings —she had been working at the Rosenberg’s since the previous winter.
She walked Eastward from the house she worked in, more into the inner city, great masses of people: men, women, children, old folks (to include, even dogs, cats) —all had left their apartments, and homes to spend the night out-of-doors, some by the river.
Here was a city of over 250,000-people all overheated, all hunting for a spot of land (some even fighting for it) to sleep in peace and quiet and get some cool breeze, behind the sun.
Out of near-darkness they flooded the streets, the houses and apartments were empty—even fashionable folks were filling the parks where once bums, tramps, and hobos (transits) normally slept.
Elsie thought, ‘If only I could get out of here… like so many of the rich could do, were doing, about to do, going to Europe and Canada, etcetera (so she had read in the papers), to escape the July heat wave.
She stumbled in the gray-darkness, from street light to street light, resting here and there wherever she found an open spot of grass, a few babies could be heard crying in the distant and sinister dark.

It was past one o’clock when she had returned back to her domicile, explained to the elder Mr. Rosenberg, the owner, and her employer, who didn’t pay her for her duties, but gave her room and board, explained to him, she had taken a long walk (to cool off)—he had handed her a list of things he waned her to do—now, said he had been trying to find her earlier. She was cool-headed about it.
You must have gone a little off your head and could not work anymore,” he remarked. And then he went out to lie in the front lawn, a blanket in hand.

No: 586 (12-4 & 5-2009) SA

Sister Death Watch

(Inspired by real events)(November, 2009)

With Eugene, there always seemed to be a contest going on, life was a dispute, although, it was all a little amazing, even a tinge odd to Roland Lawton, being, as he was, a man quite observant, and particularly conscious, growing old (or older, now at sixty-two), yet still so aware (married to Piper, whom was the younger sister to Celosia). As for Eugene, he was a few years younger than his brother-in-law (Roland), large in frame and strong in body, stubborn in mind, always seeking admiration—from or to whomever, and—more often than not—moody, for simple—if not silly reasons, but reasons nonetheless; displacing annoyance on Roland— or for that matter—on any family member, during those uncommon (or out of character) moments of shifting moods, those mood, if not anger.
By and large, all the family members lived by one another.
Eugene was mentally outside, not in it—the extended family, and seemingly the obnoxious one of the family (of which his daughter, Shelley had appeared to have inherited, genetically or by social comparison, his mood swings), that is to say, or add, Eugene had a hair-trigger temper, to everyone and thing around him, even to his most regular customers at his restaurant.
As I mentioned, there seemed to be a contest with him and those around him. It concerned ways of doing things, decisions, expecting those around him to surrender.
I suppose it is like that in many families, there being one usually one person, in most every family structure (relatives, and all to be contaminated by that one person), and more so in the nuclear family for the most part, one that forms within the group this antisocial or disruptive behavior (especially while in the fall of life); to include: jealousies, concealed hatreds, silent battles with envy, all this secretly going on—with brother-in-laws, the children, the wife, brothers, fathers, as for Eugene—in all respects, all of the above pertained to him.
He had two young adult children attending college, who adored their mother, and a young boy of thirteen, who adored her likewise.
As for Eugene Jr., and Shelley, they lived within the house, within the family structure, but within their own world. And to be quite frank, they were in the process of trying to establish their own world, and it was not without a struggle from their father. The point was, that the mother having the heart that never stopped beating, was always tender for the kids. And Eugene never understood that—how it infuriated and hurt him at times, not to get that admiration, respect, awe, the kids gave to the mother—although they were of little help to lighten the load for their mother.
Sometimes Eugene went white and trembled with anger—and then at other times, red from holding it in. It didn’t matter it seemed he wanted to break his wife and children, like one would break a horse: beginning with the children, then the wife, then the relatives. Having it out with whomever, whenever, and never really wining, simply just driving a wedge between himself and the family members.
“No, Eugene. You can’t,” his wife would plead. But he had learned to swear so loud, whatever she said, wasn’t heard. Where he picked it up from, who’s to say.
Perhaps Celosia, his wife, understood how he felt, never quite putting the matter, and circumstances certainly into words, not even to her mind’s eye (her second-self, her unconscious, hence, hiding it for her, because it was too much to endure, consequently saving her from a sudden, and perchance injurious, impact). But it was one of those things that started to age her quickly, weaken her immune system, arouse in her family members a curious determination to look deeper into—or at, Eugene’s maladaptive behavior (not accepting his intentions, or understanding them for the most part, perhaps not able to be sympathetic to the his way of thinking, reckoning, it was anything but healthy). They even caught themselves saying, “Can’t he just stop!” It was really not an inquiry, but rather a statement-question at best. Someone even mentioned, in passing, “If she’s to enjoy the last years of her life, must he spoil what she is to have!”
They, all of us, thought she was dying, over and over and over—she had but one kidney. Especially the father of Celosia had some hidden resentment against her husband, being Eugene was likened to a tyrant—if let be; he was as if standing guard over her—them.
The two chidden in college drew more and more away from the father, just appeasing him so he’d not cut their tuition short, or off.

It was a rainy November, 2009, in the mountain city; Celosia was in her restaurant kitchen cooking. The rain was pouring down hard. Great streams of water were outside by the kitchen door. Lunch was almost ready, she ran out in the rain to the car—through the restaurant area, to get some groceries she had forgotten—the rain soaked her hair, but it felt good, it was cold against her forearms and neck, and even soaked under her cloths. She looked at Eugene; he was cleaning the tables, wiping them off, he had just priory finished moping the floor—she heard anxiety in his voiced, “We got to hurry up, before the lawyers com, and the rest of the crowd!” (He didn’t look at his sister-in-law, Piper, or Roland; they were standing by the kitchen, near a table one they usually sat at; he had given the impression they were insignificant, although they were his best customers; but it was not out of character.) There was fear in Celosia’s eyes.
“Oh, Eugene, you know you mustn’t get all worked up, we’ll be ready!” remarked his wife, faintly.
Just that was enough to set him into a dry mood, as dry as a bone, parched. The least shock or resistance could do it. It really was simply an old, very old story.
‘Why,’ thought Eugene, ‘can’t anyone understand, that such things are a hundred times worse for me—’
On that day, without answering his wife, he jumped in his car and rode off. He wanted to go hide himself, cool down before everyone came. Celosia, deduced how he felt.

Celosia and her sister Piper stood looking at each other, Roland sitting in a chair at a table. Celosia over fifty, Piper just fifty, it was getting to everyone in the family.
“What, Piper?” asked Celosia, there were astonishment and a slight annoyance in Piper’s voice?
“He’s always making you feel bad, if not accountable, or at fault, so it looks as if … anyhow!” remarked Piper—she wanted to cry but didn’t.
Celosia understood. It was at this point, an odd tense moment for them both, and then Celosia walked off into the kitchen to get ready the lunch.
Celosia, wanted to fly off somewhere, anywhere, like Peter Pan, like a child in a dreamland-dream, perhaps shake Eugene for being so impudent.
There was so much implied—perhaps she could be allowed to die, quickly, suddenly, rather than this slow death for she was always in danger of a sudden death anyhow, but she kept to her values in life, but death was not the most terrible thing to her. She tuned to the side door, went silent, watched the rain as it came pouring down, dripping into the kitchen. There were no explanations.
“Well,” Celosia said presently, “what did you want for lunch, are you eating here at the restaurant today, Piper?”
Piper spoke, “Yes,” meaning she was eating there.
There was a bond—between them two sisters. Piper was witty and could think of a lot of things to say, but they were all too risky, she had an inclination— ‘…keep hands off,’ and accordingly, there was a little inner-world created (being re-created perhaps), and in it there was a kind of—‘sister death watch.’


There are times when men who seriously like one another cannot endure one another. Instinctively one needs to be careful—do not get too close in knowing the truth of the other person, he may hate you for it: knowing you can describe him, to himself.
Eugene was alive when he boasted; a little intoxicated with dreams of the present, visions unaccomplished from the past. Some people such as he, are destined to make their lives hell, others who tag along, live in purgatory.
I hope this does not all seem trivial? I am trying to tell it the best I can. So this was his life, this is what I saw. Never mind my life, it is unimportant, in this story, what must become of those others involved will become in question in times yet to come.
We are just faces of people in a fleck of light; a dim shadow questioning voices, words whirled about us. We need to take some of this life out of our heads, and live a tranquil existence—it is so very short, and then the lights go out. We are more than scraggly weeds growing, and when someone thinks that is what we are to them, and then it is time to set the record straight.

No: 535 (12-2-2009) SA

The Barber and His Joke!

(Inspired by real events)(Summer of 1954)

Harry the barber, had a little shop down on Jackson Street, by the open market, in St. Paul, Minnesota, back in the summer of 1954, he was giving me a haircut (as often he had in the past), I was seven years old at the time, my brother Mike, two years older than I, was standing around waiting, he had just finished his. And the old barber liked playing jokes on boys—jokes like he was going to play on me.
He told me that he’d put some shaving cream on my face. Like men do, see how I looked, how it felt. And I let him do it. Then he said abruptly, with a sneer to his voice, “You’ll now grow whiskers.” Just like him. And he laughed half-heartedly, as I looked in the mirror and at him, and at my brother. And I didn’t laugh. It made me awfully worried, and I had tears in my eyes, yet he kept on with the joke— even so. And I got angry, and jumped out of the barber’s chair.
“It’s just a joke, that’s all it was,” said my brother Mike.
And now the barber acknowledged also, that it was just a joke, and no more than that. And insisted that it wouldn’t do, what he claimed it would do, make me grow whiskers (hoping I’d get back into the chair and let him finish with the haircut). And he quickly wiped my face clean. But I wouldn’t believe one, meaning, my brother or the barber—it would seem they worked together on this, although it was the barber’s joke, and Mike just went along with it, until he saw the tears. Nonetheless, I would not get back into the barber’s chair.
Well, I didn’t grow whiskers, and I didn’t die. And then I made up my mind I’d never get my haircut from him again, and I didn’t. (And he didn’t charge full price for the haircut.)

No: 536 (12-2-2009) SA

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

(Commentary on the Slave Trade):

The Slave trade originated in Europe, and was in essence, a holocaust in the making. A massive murder, like in due time America would do to the Indian Race, the Europeans were doing to the blacks long before. They, Europeans, were coming out of the, Middle Ages, and their new form of nationalism, turned into a spotted form of racism, thus the trade between Africa and Europe was one of convenience, technology vs. free labor. Of course slavery was not new to Europe, Feudalism was a form of Enslavement, and Europe was well acquainted with that.
And now, let us not forget the Arab slave trade, they like Europe and America would get in on this bonanza of human flesh that offered the new era so many possibilities. It would be fair to say, the Muslims violated their own faith during the time they took advantage of this new occurring bonanza (roll-over wealth); because it was all based on gain, money, self-interest, dehumanization.
Like so often peoples and countries do, have done and are doing today: the Arabs came into Africa as friends, hands out for comradeship, and peace and good will, only for the Africans to find out, they were as ruthless as the Romans had been before them.
It would seem the Portuguese and the Arab slave trade met along the golden highway, and cooperated with one another for personal gain.
Now back to Europe. Here was a Christian world, which pushed upon a civilization imprisonment for no wrongs commented, for the ships were all of that and more. And who created the documentation for these human cargos—Europe? This I suppose justified the buyer, and of course victimized the slave. People can say what they will to wipe their hands clean, but the market was there, as it was in America, South America, and with the Arabs and let us not forget, the Caribbean Islands.
I don’t know how the adaptability was, nor does anyone else for sure, but from all my learning in counseling and psychology, one would have to form a dual personality to survive, depending on prevailing conditions, if not become neurotic, or even catatonic, disassociation, and borderline schizophrenia, and perhaps many did go beyond the borderline.

The Cycle of the Chicken

The Cycle of the Chicken

(A poem and a Commentary)

The Poem

A Chicken, it is born out of an eggshell
After less than a month it lives as a
fluffy ball
Eats, and eats, and eats corn and meal
until its heart’s content;
And if it survives from the dreadful
diseases of cholera and pip:
It just moves about, under the sun
half sick, and dies to its end.
Then the hen and the rooster—to its
mysterious plight, struggles to
Maturity: the hen lays more eggs,
And the cycle starts all over again
(something like us humans).

No: 2654 (12-1-2009)

Commentary: It would seem to me, chickens are not the smartest of animals on the face of God’s earth; and on the other hand, much likened to people, quite fragile. If a disease doesn’t get them, something else will, perhaps hit by a moving farm machine, or an automobile, stuck in some hole, eaten by a wildcat or alike. They do stupid things; they are simply too often led astray. The hen on the other hand is a mysterious creature, whereas the egg seems more blessed than the fluffy ball chicken, and the hen included.
I think you’re better off owning a restaurant business than a chicken farm; one reason being, the cost in incubators or worrying about the hatching process. Whereas, all one has to do in the food service business, is crack the egg and fry it, and serve it or cook the chicken and boil some noodles for chicken soup. The road is less bumpy.
My grandmother used to use the feathers from the chicken for pillows, I inherited two, and she would cling tightly to those chickens to get the feathers; that, in its self is a hideous process; nothing easy in the life of a chicken; as my mother used to say, “I can eat chicken everyday,” she liked the taste of chicken, as so many of us do. She worked at Swifts, in the Meatpacking department (beef and pork) she couldn’t stand to kill a chicken.
Well, these are the facts that make life so discouraging in the chicken cycle of life.

No: 533 (12-1-2009) SA

Monday, November 30, 2009

Three Minnesota Vignettes

Three Minnesota Vignettes


The Landlord King
(Poetic Justice; a Minnesota Vignette, 2006)

When Dennis Harley got into the tenant-housing business, they called him ‘The Landlord King.’ He ended up having several structures around town, buildings, single houses, duplexes and so forth. Dennis Harley paid his five-employees good wages, the best ever paid about here. That may have been his mistake because folks thought he was rich and easy.
They (his employees) began setting him up, robbing him a little here, and a little there.
They figured he didn’t know it (even his daughter Zaneta, who did the cleaning of the halls and his son-in-law Mike who did light maintenance, along with John and his wife, the caretaker of one large building of Mr. Harley’s, who lived in a given free apartment, with all utilities paid, the handyman, or fixit man); but the truth of the matter is, it didn’t much bother him (or so it appeared).
It would seem—when his wife brought up the issue—it simply amused him, he’d say “You get know the people better in such cases, their character, honesty, who they really are.”
It seemed to puzzle his wife.
His wife Rosa, would catch his workers loafing, all five of them, and confronted them, which only seemed to annoy the son-in-law, and his daughter.
But Mr. Harley was cleaver and generous, he again appeared to overlook some of that.
“Well,” the three said “let’s burn his house down, kill him before he finds out, or leaves the country and takes us out of his will (for even John was in the will at one time).”
The three went whole-hog on their employer, and around 4:00 A.M., on a winter’s morn, lit a fire in the garage by Mr. Harley’s car, and ran and hid, thinking the car would explode and thus, aflame the whole house; having fired all three of them a month earlier.
The son-in-law raved and swore and declared within the neighborhood, to the neighbors he’d get what was coming to him (of course the house didn’t burn down, it was poorly lit).
Dennis Harley kept quite when all this was happening, and sold the house they lived in, and all the other property he owned, and decided to leave the country and live a quiet and comfortable life, and took all three out of his will. And he just laughed and said to his wife, “They’re all fools, spoiled fools, they could have had it all, and my son-in-law in particular, traded it all for the few cigarette butts his father gives him, after he’s done smoking, about ready to stomp on it; yes, he traded for a cigarette butt.”
So Mr. Harley and his wife were all fixed for life and the three, Mike, Zaneta, and John, sat solemnly on their rickety old rented front porch, hoping their new landlord would be half as generous, wondering where Mr. Harley vanished to.

No: 530 (11-29-2009) SA


(The old and the poor; a Minnesota Vignette, late 1950s)

He was getting old, a little round shouldered, where at one time he was solid straight. He had avoided all his good physical habits. He took life as it comes; when he was young he had been too hasty, although his balance, poise and moments were right on. Hence, he put his overcoat on, took his cane and walked outside into the gray twilight, could hear the tires of cars, soft-voices echoed from a distance, too chilled too quick to speak, muttered something to himself (“I want to kill someone today…”).
He had come out of his house to a spot along the side of the Cobblestone Street he lived next to—it was a gray twilight, he glanced up and down the street, and then he just did what he come to do. Poverty was too much for he old timer, and it had lasted too long: of course he was in debt to everyone he knew. He and his wife were at the point, eating cat food.
Oh, he seemed happy enough, but he was just tired of it all, he breathed deeply and straightened up his shoulders and said, “I want nothing more to do with man and his world.”

When his wife came looking for him her shoes had holes in them, her toes sticking out of the front, her pajamas, shredded for the most part—from endless washings, she had been sitting by her hearth. She screamed a second time for her husband, to no avail, then tiptoed to the front porch window, drew back the curtains, looking out across the porch onto the street (a premonition you might say).
That’s all she did and then she saw her husband lying dead in the street, trampled over by automobile tires.
“It’s a wonder,” she said “that he didn’t go insane.”
And just seeing him there, all alone, that must have made her heart stop beating. All that remained of the two was the firelight from the hearth, in the little house on Arch Street, in St. Paul, Minnesota (and it was a cold, cold winter).
The cane the old man had taken with him, to help him walk was broken over his thigh, the rounded top, hooked tightly around his palm and fingers, as if in a fist.
Now they both lay silent, with both their minds gone, and the city block they lived on, empty, and the fire in the hearth had died out. The old woman had fed the last of the fire (for warmth and light) with the bills and the envelopes they came in—to the hearth.

No: 527 (11-29-2009) SA


The Onion Lawyer!
(A Minnesota Vignette, late 1960s)

He had an onion hid in his handkerchief—and when he wanted a few cheap tears the lower while presenting his case in the courtroom, would bring the handkerchief out, and wipe his face, and eyes, and a flood of tears would let loose from those dark eyes—and the jury and judge would most often let his fellow clients off with lighter sentences, if not dismiss the case.
He would tell the jury up front—while those tears flooded his cheeks—tell them, honest men must stick together. He said he was the man, the lawyer for the poor, down and out, a man of the people for the people, and such men as he and they must stick together. Behind those tears was a cold, iron-hearted man and he’d point his finger, shaking it at the jury.
“Set him free, gentlemen!” he’d cry.
Seldom if ever, did anyone get a conviction, he rarely lost a case.
If it was up to this lawyer, no one would have been accountable for anything, among his clientele.
“The lawyer,” everyone said “should have been an actor.”
And had they reviewed his past employment, they would have found out, he was.

No: 529 (11-29-2009) SA

The Saigon Affair


Now in the spring of 1972, the streets to the prison camp were all bare and muddy; I rode to Saigon from the prison camp. We passed a truck loaded of captured Vietcong on the road, and I looked at them and the countryside there beyond. The trees were sparse and the grass was tall and it all was of a yellowish-green, to dark green-greens, with tints of brown in-between. There was wet dead grass on the road from the wide rows of tall shrubbery along the edges of the side road, and Vietnamese women were working alongside the opposite side of the road, in a nearby rice field, a few men with oxen, plowing to and fro, making ruts, as our jeep crushed stone and rock and in-between wild wet grass between each axle. It had been raining in the area for a week straight. We came into Saigon past the factories and nightclubs and then residential houses and villas on the many narrow streets. I was Lieutenant Colonel Cooper’s driver, Staff Sergeant John J. Weber.
The Colonel’s face was long and thin, droopy eyes, long arms, small shoulders, walked slowly with his hands half curled up, he took small steps when he walked; I didn’t not know him all that well. I stopped the jeep at the Officers Club on the Air Base in Saigon. I got out of the jeep I handed him his bag full of papers—and he went inside to see the one star General.
I walked down the gravel driveway looking at the club and over towards some barracks, through an alley smoking one after the other cigarettes—just trying to spend time. Then I went back to the club, went inside, found the Colonel with the General, three hours had passed, he was sitting at a table in a back room with maps and all kinds of paperwork about.
“Hello,” he said to me when he saw me. “General,” he added, “This here is Staff Sergeant Weber, my driver.”
The General looked much older than what he was; his face was dried up like a prune.
“Sergeant Weber was a Licensed Psychologist before coming into the Army, why he never became an officer is beyond me,” query the Colonel.
“I’m fine being a Sergeant,” I said. And the General said, “How is everything Sergeant?” adding, “The war is just about over, right?”
“Yes,” I said. “Colonel, do you want me to make arrangements for your quarters this evening, or are we going back?”
“What do you wish me to do General?” he asked.
“You haven’t been up here for awhile, I’d guess Colonel,” said the General, “have you?”
“No,” said the Colonel.
“I believe it,” remarked the General.
“It has been bad at the secure unit (meaning the military incarceration compound or center outside of Saigon).”
“I’ve always felt you were lucky to get that assignment, away from the ongoing fighting, and attacks—the real war.”
“I suppose I was, or am…” whispered the Colonel.
“Next year it will be worse, we’re going to making a major drawback, and the VC (Viet Cong) will attack more readily and heavily I assure you. It is too late to save the country.”
“Yes, I believe so,” stated the Colonel.
“I don’t think they’ll attack in full force since the rains have started, the Vietcong is training an Army to take over the South once we leave,” said the General.
“How is that girl named Xia doing?” asked the General, with a sly bent eye when he asked.
“All right,” commented the Colonel, not liking to have had to answer that question, especially in front of me.
“Yes,” said the General, “you stay in Saigon tonight and go back to-morrow with your Staff Sergeant. I’ll be sending somebody with you that knows you.”
“Who?” asked the Colonel?
“Xia, she wants to see her brother.”
“I’ll be glad to see her, bring her along but that’s not protocol sir?”
The General smiled. “You’re very good to say that. I’m very tired of you taking advantage of our prisoners. If she wasn’t his sister to one of your inmates, I wouldn’t bring the issue up. And don’t worry about the Sergeant, if he’s half the person you say he is, he already knows what’s going on.”
“Is it so bad?” remarked the Light Bird Colonel.
“Gerson, isn’t that his name?” asked the General, but he didn’t wait for the Colonel to answer. “Yes. It is very bad and worse. Go get cleaned up, and I’ll find you tomorrow, and don’t go looking for Xia; (The Colonel was taking liberties with Xia, in payment of allowing Gerson to have an easy life inside the military detention center) I heard about it,” said the General.
“How’s that,” asked the Colonel.
“Yes, Xia wrote me.”
“Where is she now?” asked he Colonel.
“She’s here at the base hospital. She has had a breakdown over it,” said the General.
“I don’t believe it,” said the Colonel.
“It has been very bad for her,” said the General, “and it seems silly to me Colonel to lie on a bed with one who despises you, then lay back and ask her to marry you, after you threaten to punish her brother if she doesn’t. But I suppose it’s better than nothing.”
He stood up as if to walk out of the room, “Sit back down,” said the General, “unless tomorrow you want to be a Major, and you maybe anyhow.”
“Tell me all about everything, and the Staff Sergeant here can analysis it.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” said the Colonel, “other than this affair, I’ve led a quiet life in the Army.”
“You act like a hurt man,” said the General “is there something wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” said the Colonel.
“Well, this war is killing me, slowly,” said the General, “it makes me very depressed at times, and even more so when I hear things like what you’re doing with your power and influence, and rank.”
“General,” commented the Colonel, now worried, “I simply had over stimulated human impulses, no more.”
“Oh,” said the General, then the phone rang, and the General asked me to answer it, and I did.

“What’s the matter?” asked the General (after a moment of silence) I had to take in a deep breath. “Tell me?” asked the General, as I put the phone back down on the receiver.
“Yes sir, General,” I remarked.
“That’s better Staff Sergeant, now what’s up?”
“I feel like hell sir, having to tell you.” I said.
“This war is terrible, so go ahead and tell me.”
“Come on,” said the Colonel.
“We’ll all be getting drunk to night,” I said in passing, then dragged out of my mouth, “Xia committed suicide fifteen minutes ago in the hospital.” (There was a long, a very long silence, the General put his head down, as if in prayer, the Colonel, took in a deep, very deep breath, and let it out slowly, a sigh that had a grinding sound to it. I myself wasn’t surprised, just sad.) Then finally, the General said, “I know Colonel; you’re a fine soldier—you were a fine soldier, a fine Anglo-Saxon boy I presume growing up. I know this also, that you’ll have remorse, I know. Put some cognac in your glass tonight get real drunk, you’ll be a Major tomorrow; now you get out of my sight, and take the Sergeant with you.”
The Colonel shut up. I went over to get the jeep, the Colonel was looking at his silver leafs on his shoulder. “You see how it is sergeant.” He commented.
“Oh, yes, all my life I’ve encountered such subjects, but very few like you. But I suppose we must have them also.”
He looked at the ground, “I loved her,” he remarked; he was all mixed up, I do think. He looked up at me, at the ground again. And I simply said, “You’ll get over that.”

No: 522 (11-23-2009)

Intense Curiosity

(A vignette, about delicious Peruvian apartment Gossip, 2009)

The tenants, and owners, especially the women folk had started gathering in little groups and stood gossiping by the front door (fenced in with an iron gate) that blocked entrance to the hallway of the apartment building. In the beginning it was occasionally—the voices of one of the women would rise sharp and distinct above the increasing influx of other voices that seemed to hum along like a muttering rain storm throughout the hallway, especially into the first of the four floors of the apartment building and in particular to and through apartment one, where stood the iron gate, between the street and the apartment hallway itself.
The old man that lived in the apartment with his younger Peruvian wife, whom the gossip and noise didn’t seem to bother her, it did surely bother the old poet though; equally, the children that came running up and down the stairway, bouncing their robber balls as if it was a playground, leaving the gate open “for the robbers,” the old poet would say, or “they’re too lazy to close it, why don’t the parents teach them etiquette?” complained the old man, ceased at times, but would start back up again, as if etiquette learned was soon lost to old customs. And there were men folk fighting with their women folk, in which came the screaming, and a few drunken parties, echoing throughout the hallway. And then the loud music came, where he couldn’t concentrate, it came from those apartments (and even from the little grocery store across the street), to the point it towered over his watching television, or even trying to sleep and listen to his soft kind of music, it was the neighbors again, always the neighbors (noise just pure noise, invading the privacy of others, without concern, he’d grumble).
“Stop it!” The old man would yell, confronting them, telling the kids “…you’re going to break your necks if you don’t!”

His sharp little eyes saw most everything, he’d look out his side window (into the hallway), turning back his curtain, by his writing table, the old man pale with age, turned, stood up from his easy chair, walked away—feeling these were his antagonists, his American-Irish temper burning.
His wife went quietly out to investigate, always stirring and asserting herself, and asking the tenants and owners of the apartments to be more quiet, respectful—some always resentful in that—as they said ‘…it is only simply human nature to gossip,’ whenever they could. The habitual silence, or quiet, her husband demanded was a mystery to the concerning and discontented lives of the other Peruvian families in the apartment building, not all but most of them— whom the poet felt, worshiped noise, for it apparently had not affected the attitudes of those others in the building, or if it did, they didn’t say so, perhaps immune to it, or used to it, or too fearful to confront this issues. Actually the gossip in the hallway encouraged others, visitors to think the same way, and they stood now with the gate open in-between the sidewalk that lead to the street, and even gossiped longer. Why they didn’t gossip in their apartments was beyond the Poet’s grasp, it seemed more sensible, more private.

And the old poet thought about this, about this part of human nature, he called it ‘Intense Curiosity,’ something that happens at the moment, without due course of thought, or perhaps it was just pure rudeness. In any case, he now had a desire, a determination to look into this wasteful past time. He even conjured up, a theory:

“Perhaps we become like little animals of the woods, that have been robbed of motherly and fatherly love, thus, this gossip and or intense curiosity to talk, just to talk, and talk on and on and on, and for the most part, say nothing of worthy value, is a hunger to make up for lost time (likened to chattering little birds, or little squirrels chewing nuts); like being starved to near death of food, at one time in ones life, and consequently, never forgetting it, and making sure in later years, it’s there, available for the taking, in abundance akin to keeping it in a storage room, like God keeps his thunder storms. Even perhaps, an impulsive reaction, one can’t stop. ”

This old poet of a foreign tongue, still lives among them, still hears the sounds and chattering of those strange voices in the hallway, and music, in the Juan Parra del Riego housing area, in Huancayo, Peru, where merchants, clerks, lawyers, teachers, and a few well-to-do, others—occupations live, and one American, and he feels secret antagonism toward himself—not due of course to any flow in his own character.

No: 531 (11-30-2009) SA

“The Vanquished Plantations”

Opening Chapters to the unpublished book:
“The Vanquished Plantations”
Part one of book one, of four books and fourteen parts

(Book One: “The Vanquished South”)
Part One: The Tobacco Kings
1650 – 1865


The Tobacco Kings
In a Still Heat
Shep’s Valley
Shep’s Journey
Moonlight through the Pines

“The Vanquished Plantations”

The Tobacco Kings
(Myron Shep Charles Hightower, of Virginia, 1650)

Part one of five parts to Shep’s Story

The first known Hightower, Myron Shep Charles Hightower, who came over to America in A.D., 1650, who built a brand-new plantation in Virginia, as settlements took over Indian lands, brought with him twenty-Englishmen, and bought forty-slaves along the way, to do one thing, and one thing only—some miles outside of Jamestown, and it was to create a private enterprise, backed up by rich and private financial backers, who were bankers in England—capitalists, and grow as much tobacco as possible, to sell back to the English people. After arriving, and unloading, and settling in, they started what history would not record, and hired the immigrants that came to America prior to A.D., 1640, from what was known as England’s marshes. Perhaps a hundred of them, along with the slaves and the men Myron brought with him, within three years he had an enterprise that was paying off.
Although, it was not uncommon for ten or so workers to die each year for so called medical reasons, one year, the third year burials outstripped the hiring. The main cause of death was malaria, along with whatever disease the colonists brought with them from Europe. Malaria didn’t kill their victims right away, just weakened them for months on end, and in many cases the body without its proper nutrition could not fight it off, and coupled with a weak immune system, and lack of nutrition, and no medications, the environmental elements produced a full-blown death; after several relapses.

So here we had an ongoing dilemma, sick people trying to get better, with more than enough mosquitoes, all waiting to hit the bull’s –eye— the worker. It was said, before the Marsh-Landers came to Virginia, from England (so the Indians claimed) there were no parasites, or malaria to be found—who’s to say, it didn’t matter in the long run, the disease migrated to the Carolinas where it crippled and drained large portions of Cornwallis Army.
To Myron Hightower (born 1620), it didn’t become much of an issue, he had his business, and people were replaceable. And he built a large home in upper New York (state), where he planned on retiring. And in time as years passed, late in life he married, and had a son he named: Eugene Shep Hightower (born: 1670, died 1767, whom would die at the ripe old age of 97-years old) Myron had this child at the age of 70-years old who took over the tobacco business in latter years, all seemingly immune to the malarial diseases and relapses.
In 1734, Eugene’s wife gave birth to Charles Shep Hightower, whom was simply called Shep. At which time Eugene retired in upper New York, in his brick built home and invested into a Sawmill and hence, that ended the tobacco kings.

In a Still Heat
(Indian Warfare in Upper New York, 1757)

Advance: There was a painting that shows Myron Hightower, kept high on the wall in Charles Terrence Hightower’s Plantation Mansion, in Ozark, Alabama. He was the first Hightower that came to the America, in A.D. 1650, he was born 1620, and had a son Eugene Shep Hightower, his portrait is next to Myron’s, born 1670, died 1767. And alongside that is Charles Shep Hightower born 1734 died 1800. Charles Terrence Hightower, born 1789 would die in 1869, a few years after his son would die in the Civil War. Charles had fought in the War of 1812, his picture is also there on the wall. But the picture, or portrait that is not there, is that of Captain Pip Greg Hightower, a cousin to Eugene Shep Hightower, born 1673, and this is the story of an Indian raid—less than a battle, that took place in 1757, one that wounded Pip Hightower, and killed him two weeks later. But the essence of the story is not of the Captain, it is of an old soldier named Colonel Colin Martin—for the most part; and it takes place in Upper New York State.

The Story

The old man sat there alone, his face raw from the wind and pained from life, his eyes scared and worried from a skirmish that was now taking place. His pipe fell out of his hand, smoke came out of his nostrils, and a gulp of air filled his stomach, he had inhaled from his mouth.
The old man was seated on a tree stump, in a clearing by the woods, “Listen,” he went on mumbling in English, “I don’t know what I’m doing, wish I could be fighting, and be more useful!” If only someone could take him to the fight, the skirmish—he’d do just that, fight.
He looked at the forest, its edge, knew that there was a valley, more like gorge down its five-hundred foot slope, its progression. He started yelling so much, his voice carried an echo.
For a moment the birds and a fox nearby and a hound nearby gaped at him. He knew the men were scrambling throughout the woods everywhichway to find the party of Indians that raided a homestead nearby killing all. Captain Pip Greg Hightower, and his Sergeant, Gil Brandt, along with forty-six militia men and two scouts, with muskets and blankets, had gone searching for them. “Kill them, Kill them!” were in all the hearts of the one-hundred eyes searching for the party of Indians.
As Captain Hightower’s men searched high and low, they noticed many abandoned fires, much more than the single party they were seeking after would have needed, or used.
For the old man, once a young soldier, and loving the taste of battle, the high, even the kill, born in 1673, was having his first nervous breakdown it would seem, not being able to fight. His heart was beating like a drummer’s partridge. He was too old for sough sounds, but he could hear them carried through the winds, coming from the soldiers and Indians, so there it was.
If only someone could understand the temptations of war a man carries with him who has seen much war—was the inner thoughts of the old man; if only his fellow soldiers could pick out the worry the old man had in his face for his fellow soldiers, he knew some were weak men, young men, men that had never been in conflict, in a battle, he prayed for them.

Now he could hear rapid fire coming from the gorge, down the slope, into the woods. There was a still heat in the woods, he knew such by heart, and he knew they’d be thirsty when they came out of it. He heard the shouts of the men, the stamping hoofs of horses, the treading of feet. If only he could get started, moving. But he couldn’t.
If he could make it to the edge of the hill, roll down it straight to ground level, end up at the edge of the woods, facing the gorge, he could nearly see everything, everywhichway, but the roll down the hill would be ridged and he could get stuck someplace in-between the solid top of the slope, and/or somewhere in the fluttered in-between. And it was fall with a ton of autumn leaves per square meter. And the sun and blue and squirrels would camouflage him, he’d never be found, and that was not the way he wanted to die; in battle, in a fight would be much better.
He saw a porcupine climbing up a tree; he could maybe do the same, halfway, see the fighting, but his arms were no longer as strong as they used to be.

Then it was twilight and he saw one line of marching men, rifles in one hand over their shoulders, their hats in the other hand, only sixty-eyes. When they got to the old man, they all were thirsty and fell out to drink the water he was guarding. The old man handed them cups, and he handed them rags to wipe their mouths, and sweat off their foreheads, “We got them all even two British,” said Captain Hightower to the old man who was looking up, “but I can’t figure out all those abandoned fires we saw.”
“What happened to the scouts?” question the old man.
“Killed in the undergrowth like wild boars,” said Hightower, adding, “the woods were dusty, branches slapping our hot faces, burns like an open wound with salt.”
Then Captain Hightower ordered two men to pick old man Colin Martin (retired Colonel) up and place him on a wooden platform, with poles—one man in front the other in back—and carry him back to the fortress. He had lost both his legs in a battle, several years prior.
The old man looked up, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, high overhead, nothing and in the woods nothing at all but leaves, uproariously, bursting leaves, covering everything. The woods ahead fell even deeper into a sleepy like mode— hollow, a quiet flow and a still heat, no birds, or squirrels, or wind now, instinct told the old man—looking at the heavily laden environment with leaves, noticing the leaves moving without the wind blowing, things were crawling in them, under them, human things.
“What did you say?” asked Hightower.
“Leaves talk; leave me here with a musket, and tarry to the fortress, all those abandoned fires… they’re all around us, all with us.”
The captain knew not to question the old man, he had been around, and fought more battles than any man alive he knew of. His instincts were good; he trusted them, more than he trusted a man’s thinking, or rationalization. And he was seldom wrong.

The sixty-eyes ran, never looking back, but could hear the crackling of arrows, and rattle of leaves and the old man’s heart started drumming again, as he shot one enemy in the chest. His half-body swayed suddenly against the branches and leaves piled up against a tree and went slack, like it had fell off a cliff, and his mind went into a galvanized senselessness, yelling like a wild dog at the Indians. It was the way he wished to die, in battle. His face gray and smiling and his lips moved, but his voice was lost.
An Indian stood before him (the militia now safe within the fortress). The Indian was oddly silent. He took the musket from the clutches of the old man, and could hear the old man discharge his last breath.

Shep’s Valley
(Upper New York, 1775-1786)
Part Three

In the old days, in upper New York, Charles Ship Hightower, lived in what was back then a rich and lumbering town. His family had come over to America in 1650—Shep was born 1734 (would die in Alabama in 1800). He, married Emily Hightower, grandmother to Emma, born 1755, died 1790, Charles’ mother, and Emma being Charles’ daughter. For a number of years there were plenty of logs to be cut, at which time Shep’s father owned the mill that cut the logs, and stacked them in the yard, sold them as needed, piles of lumber were carried away and many houses were built from his lumber. His son, Charles Terrence Hightower, would be born after all the Indian, and British and American conflicts were over, born 1789, a year or so after he would have moved to Alabama, from upper New York State.
He worked in the mill those prior years, with the great saws and wheels, belts and iron, operating the mill, and loading lumber. And he fought the Indians in-between. He had built himself a small cabin, which got burnt down by the Indians, one-story. Then years later there was nothing of the mill left, again the Indians did their dirty work, broken white limestone for its foundations—all crumbled to nothingness. Oh he had his neighbors come and clear the debris, his land, trying to rebuild the cabin and mill, and he had hired help, but it all seemed so fruitless, and then Shep and his wife became the hired help. His father being killed by the Indians, and his house burnt down likewise, and his mother had died prior to most of this ongoing conflict of pneumonia.

“There it is,” he’d tell his wife in later years, the mill, the cabin; he couldn’t even remember how it was what it was suppose to be. “I just can’t remember,” Shep would say in those far-off years. Perhaps didn’t want to remember, they were trying years to say the least.
“No,” Emily would say if her kids asked too many questions about those years “ask your father!” She was intent on supporting her husband no matter what, all their life they were sidekicks, so it would seem. She loved those younger days in upper New York State though. But Shep left the Valley, and they both moved down to Ozark, another member went on a little further, to New Orleans. Shep, he simply said one day to Emily, “It isn’t fun anymore here,” and he laughed, and Emily said, “I don’t know what to say,” and after that statement, she didn’t say a word, they just packed up and left; but there is an in-between to all this, prior to making it to Ozark, Alabama.

Shep’s Journey
((Atlanta) (1787-‘89))

In 1787, Shep and his wife Emily Hightower was traveling by covered wagon, from upper New York, down to Alabama, carrying just the basic needs from what was left out of Shep’s father’s belongings, and his burnt out homestead, which the Indians shattered. He and his wife suffered much under the Indians of the region, and requested no aid from anyone. He was very hungry for starting over and knew his youth was on his side, he had time to do what he needed to do, and he was going to build the most magnificent plantation in all of Alabama; although he had only a little money.
He was delighted with upper New York. It was a beautiful country, he said, just a bit too hostile for his blood, as was the previous war years. On his way through the costal states, territories, such as: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, they had gone through many towns, walked much, and seen much. Georgia he did not like. Yet they had a good time together, up to a dividing point there. It was early October, and the country was pleasant, but the Indians and the British had done some bad things. He talked about it a little in Atlanta, in spite of the war; he believed altogether in the Revolution, clearing the country of savages and the British completely. He asked in Georgia, “How is the movement going in Washington?” to a group of war veterans (which would turn out to be a mistake).
“Confusing,” a solider of the Revolution commented, “But it will get better, this is just the beginning, we won the war, but there will be more battles with the Indians. Why not settle here?” he commented.
“Why should I?” questioned Shep.
“You have everything here. It is the main spot down south here, everyone is sure of. It will be the starting point of everything down south, not Alabama.”
He said quickly his good-byes to the few and the group of revolutionists he met, to head on down to Ozark, Alabama, his father knew the banker there, a Mr. Ritt, and he would provide a loan for land, payable in ten-years. He couldn’t do any better than that. But before he got to go on his way, the revolutionists knowing—or figuring it out, that Shep didn’t do any fighting in the war, spoke to him about it.
“Why not?” asked one of the several revolutionists, “why didn’t you fight, it was a requirement!”
“No,” he said, very shyly, “I was never asked…” he did not like Georgia, and he didn’t want to offend anyone, lest a Revolutionist who fought in the war for his independence, so he said little more. He was very eager to get on his way, as was his wife likewise; he was sure he’d love Alabama now that it was autumn.
When Mr. Ritt, sent out inquires, seeking what might have happened to Mr. Shep Hightower, the last he heard was he was serving time in jail in Atlanta for draft dodging, for it was mandatory during those war years, to be in uniform, or hung, and there was no requirement that he had to be asked, it was his job to enlist voluntarily. His sentence was limited to three to six-months in jail—depending.

Moonlight through the Pines ((1788) (Jail time in Atlanta))

You know how it is there early in the morning in Atlanta, with the bums in jail still asleep against the walls of the jail cell; before even the jailers are awake to eat their breakfast, before the wagons come by with goods, go across the square, and there be still the beggars just coming awake in the square, looking for their next drink, or getting a drink out of the nearby fountain. But if you are inside the jailhouse, in one of the side cells, you stand up, there waiting for you in the not so far distance, is the moonlight through the pines. The longer you look towards it, the more it seems to crawl over to you.
“Well,” said Shep Hightower to his three other jail mates, “I sure can see it,” he told them. “But yesterday morning, I couldn’t, I wonder why?”
“It isn’t that you couldn’t” said Rum Bum Raphael “you couldn’t have seen it. That’s all that’s too it.”
The other two came over to the bared in windows in the cell and they stood there looking out into the far-off pines. “There nice looking trees but I can’t see the moon,” one of the two said. “I don’t mean to make you two feel bad… (Referring to Shep and Raphael), he told them; “I tell you true I can’t see it!”
“Afterwards, when you’re feeling better, things will change, and then you’ll see it,” said Rum Bum Raphael.
“I know it,” he replied, “I’m all for it now. But later on I’ll be…” and he went silent.
“He makes his living with the boats,” said Raphael. Yes said Pig’s-eye Peter, from the upper Mississippi, “if I lose all this time here in jail, I’ll lose my living, I hope I can get out in ten-days, drunken and disorderly conduct, that’s why they put me in here, how about you?” he asked Shep.
“I think the fellows who put me in here,” said Shep, “needed me to argue with them so they could put me in here, because the one kept on…I can’t even pay my way out.”
“All this will not last, you know,” said Pigs-eye Peter, “maybe I’ll go back up towards Pig’s Eye, that area on the Mississippi, by what they call Minnsota, and build a bar; I’m getting too old for this.”
“Listen,” said Shep. “I don’t give a hoot, who’s president of this country, or mayor of this city, I haven’t done anyone any harm, that can talk.”
“Well, you’re here for somthin’” said Pig’s-eye.
“Yes, I’m here because of someone with a long tongue,” said Shep, “I was accused of evading the draft, I wasn’t in the war!”
“Do you know what we do with them?” said Rum Bum Raphael.
“Don’t get tough with me,” Shep said. “You folks asked me. I didn’t offer it freely.”
“Shut up,” said Pig’s-eye Peter to Raphael, “you’re liquor is still in you talking.”
“So you wouldn’t,” said Raphael.
“It’s just like I told you,” answered Shep.
“But you didn’t tell us much; I don’t understand right off, I don’t mean to be nasty. I guess it’s a disappointment, too. You look like a fine man.”
Shep didn’t even answer him.
“Maybe he’s not so fine a man,” said the third man, with no name.
“What’s that? A threat?” said Shep.
“Listen,” said Pig’s-eye Peter, “Don’t everyone be so tough so early in the morning. I’m sure Shep has done his share of fighting, he’s a broad man, he just didn’t fight in the war, and he’ll tell us why when the time comes.”
“So you’re sure I’ll do as you say,” said Shep.
“No,” said Peter, “and I don’t give a damn, but I may cut your throat when you’re sleeping for being a coward or draft dodger. I am angry now,” he said. “I’d like to kill you but you’re younger and tougher, so I’ll just wait!”
“Oh, hell,” I’ll tell you. “Don’t need to threaten so much.”
“Come on, Shep.” Raphael told him. The third unnamed inmate said, “I’m very sorry for what I said, I think we all are but we still got to know.”
The three of them stood in front of him, and watched and waited for him to speak. They were all older men, in their late forties or early fifties. They all wore bad clothes; none of them wore hates, and they looked like they had not a dime to their names. They talked plenty among themselves, knew each other, and they spoke the kind of English bums with no money spoke, drunks. Peter and Raphael looked like distant cousins; Peter being a little taller than Raphael and the third inmate. All three slim, dirty thick hair. Shep figured none were as mean as they talked, but he was plenty nervous when Peter threatened him, and no one said a word.
Then they threw a Blackman into the cell with them. The one with no name cried out, “Get this nigger out of here, what the hell is the matter with you jailers,” and the two jailers were laughing fiercely, holding their stomachs. One of the three men stood behind the Blackman, the other two (not to include Shep), stood in front of him, blocking the sight of the jailers, then there was a smash, Peter had hit the Blackman in the face, while the other two started kicking him, and Peter plunged his head onto the wooden floor, nearly broke his neck. One of the jailers’ shot a bullet over their heads. “Nigger,” yelled the jailer, “get on over here,” and the jailer took him out of the cell immediately; said Shep, “Take me out of her also; I’ll bunk with the nigger! It’s safer!” And the three white men took offence to that.

“They calls me Isaiah, cuz I looks fur the hand of God in all I does,” the Blackman told Shep, while both sitting on the lower section of the iron bunk beds, in the next cell, the Blackman trying to get his head and neck back up, it had been twisted and bruised pretty bad. “Here,” said the jailer, handing the Blackman a cup of rum, to settle his pain. And he stood up, walked over to the jail bars and grabbed the rum, and drank it, and Shep took a sip out of the same cup, right in front of the other three bums in the next cell, which infuriated those men more. The beating the three men gave the Blackman didn’t make them feel one iota bad about what they had done.
“You seem awfully brave about it all, over in that cell,” said Peter to Shep.
“I was watching how brave you were, one against three,” then the Blackman looked up, saw Peter, the Blackman was taller than all of them, pert near six-foot three. He looked in pretty bad shape.
“I’ll see you when you get out of jail,” said Peter.
“Don’t talk about it,” Shep said, “you don’t scare me, I’ve beaten better men than you, it makes me sick to even think about what I’d do to you, should you want to find out what sort of day it would be, you need only stick around.”
“Well,” said Peter, “we’ll see.”
“That’s up to you.”
“What sort of day do you think it will be?” asked Raphael.
“Just about like today, as you did to this nigger!” said Shep.
“All right, as soon as that day comes, we’ll both be looking for you.”
The man with no name simply said, “That’s fine, you folks just put it down against what you think you owe each other, I’m out of it.”
Said the jailer, “Have a bottle of beer, shut you guys up for a spell,” and he handed them a quart of beer through the jail bars.

When Shep Hightower served his time in jail, and was released—having told his wife, Emily about that situation, she was fearful they’d be after him.
“Don’t worry,” Shep said, “it was all big talk by drunks, rum business. Their lives are all drinking, no money, and big talkers; they have other business to attend to, just say your goodbyes to Atlanta, and don’t worry either about those boys.” And as they rode out of Atlanta that early Saturday morning, he showed his wife the moon’s glistening light through the pines, and noticed on the grass in the park area, Peter and Raphael, both sleeping off a previous night’s drunk.

The Ozark Ritt Bank


Shep Hightower went into the Ozark Bank (owned by the Ritt family) and sat down at a table. He and his wife Emily noticed the bank had new panes of glass in their windows, as if the war had at one time shot it up and was now fixed up. There were a few drunks on the wooden sidewalk outside, and a few drinking standing outside of the bar across the street, and some folks eating in a nearby restaurant.
An elder man was playing dominoes sitting at a table in the bank with a younger man; said the older man to Shep, “You must be Shep Hightower, I’m Albert Ritt and this is my son John, have you eaten yet I know you’ve been on a long journey, but I’ve been expecting you?”
We’ve had some boiled cabbage and beef stew, and black bean soup last night, even had a bottle of beer. My wife and I are both still plenty full. I’d like to get down to business. This is my wife Emily.”
And thus, Albert took a liking for them both immediately.
“How do you do,” said Emily.
“You will have some coffee?” he asked Emily.
“Thank you,” said Emily. “We are quite alone here?”
“Except for me and my son,” Mr. Ritt said. “You have land about seventeen miles outside of town, four-hundred acres of it.”
“Ah,” said Shep. “I had imagined it was something bigger.”
“It can be…!” said the elder Ritt, “we can triple that, when you pay for the first four-hundred!”
“On what terms?” asked Shep?
“I see,” said Albert, “would you mind leaving us?” he said to his son, although he looked as interested as ever and smiled at Shep and Emily as he left.
“He’s noisy,” said Albert. “He doesn’t understand much business yet, only nineteen.” He motioned for his lawyer and accountant to join them at the table.
“Oh, yes,” said Albert. “Now these are the circumstances that would—that have made me consider you for a non-collateral loan. I knew you father, and my father knew your father’s father, while in the tobacco business.”
“I’m broke,” said Shep.
“I see,” said Mr. Ritt. “But do you owe any money to anyone? Can you be libeled?”
“No,” said Shep.
“Quite so,” said Albert, “that in itself is something accommodating. I know that the good business folks in England trusted their fortune with your father and grandfather, and made well by doing so, I’ll trust you likewise. Your name is as good as gold.”
“I’d leave the next two years to you, land and all, plus $2000-dollars in cash.”
“Then what?” asked Shep.
“Of course you have to start paying back the loan, with interest and the cost of the land. Buy yourself some niggers to do the work, you can get them cheap now, fifty dollars a head, seventy-five next month, and ten-years from now they’ll be worth $800-dollars a head. You see it is quite simple, just don’t betray me. I expect you all paid up in five-years, land and all, plus twelve hundred dollars interest a year, and we’ll settle on a price for the land.”
“When would I get the money?” asked Shep.
“Five-hundred when you agree and sign this paper, and the other fifteen-hundred, when you start loading up your wagon with needed supplies, and buy those niggers I told you about. You can get them here, but they’ll cost you a little more or go on down to New Orleans, they got a market place for them. You don’t need the real fit ones; they cost you more, buy the weaker ones, and feed them.”

Shep and Emily went off with the five-hundred dollars, and they both smiled at Mr. Ritt. He hid his money in his sock, and in the morning, asked the store keeper, “Where do you want us to start loading our supplies?”
“Alright,” said the storekeeper, “Mr. Ritt, said to let you charge up to $1500-dollars.”
Said Emily, as they were loading the wagon, “Shep, I think I’m pregnant, it feels like a boy. If it is, I’ll name him Charles, I like that name.” Shep immediately said, “No more lifting for you.”

A Rebirth of Shep’s Love


After a while, after they settled in, built their first log cabin, bought three slaves, started to plant their first crop, he seemed to be in a circle of life, a perfect geometrical circle, with no beginning or end, with the child on its way; hence, there appeared even a to be a new and more softer love he had for his wife, as if he’d caught the early morning sun hitting a raindrop on their bedroom window, as if it had come all the way from heaven just to look upon her. And the sound of her voice appeared to change for him, as if it was Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. And he carried a letter in his pocket as he was doing the planting, as if it had kept the scent of a thousand roses on it, he’d look at it as if it was Emily herself. All in all, it was a kind of rebirth of his love for the woman he loved, and the child she carried inside of her for him.