Tuesday, November 27, 2012



Roscoe moved up in line to the bank teller, and he rattled the withdrawal slip in his hand. The teller did not regard him until she saw his name on the paper. Her posture changed from the tired Monday morning employee to the snapped attention of a soldier. Roscoe slid the slip to her and tapped her hand gently.

"I have no need for a manager, it is just a small transaction."

He smiled at her and she looked back at him with the face of a subordinate that had to follow protocol. 

"If you have to go get him, it's okay."

The teller waddled off and got the manager. Roscoe watched them talk behind the glass walls. He wondered what these people did in those offices. Suddenly the whole bank was a buzz with the news that he was there. He had not been there in so long that he wondered if any of them had ever seen him in the flesh. Surely he had been the subject of a meeting or two. They were always trying to set him up appointments with investment bankers and financial planners. That made him laugh, if they were so smart with money, why did they need to mess around with his?

"Hello Mr...."

Roscoe interrupted the manager and smiled disarmingly.

"Please, don't make a fuss. I just need to make a withdrawal. I don't want all this attention. You are doing a fine job, I am happy with the bank."

He looked down into his hat unable to stop the flow of emotion. He didn't deserve this attention. He hated that feeling of tears forming. He was so familiar with their arrival and yet every time they came he was surprised and nervous. He hated being treated like a man that was important. He was rich quite literally by accident, the one that took his Lilly from him. He felt a single tear break away and run down his face.

"Would it be possible for you to put into that file of mine, that I do NOT want to meet the manger every time I make a transaction? I just want to withdraw a few dollars. You have my withdrawal slip. Here is my license. Please, (his hand was shaking as he held out his license) just let me come and go like anyone else."

The manager was now flustered and Roscoe felt the inevitable twinge of guilt. He hated any confrontation. He hated to be singled out. He loved more than anything to not be noticed at all, to live within his thoughts and to pass the time. He only enjoyed talking to people that knew nothing of him. To be mistaken as just another man was his life's greatest ambition, but there would be none of that today.

Roscoe hit the stack of bills sideways on the counter with a crack and turned to leave. As he walked to the door he tried to force the bills into his money clip and it broke in two. The money cascaded out of his hands and fell like leaves to the floor. He knelt down and began grasping at the bills and the broken pieces of the his favorite souvenir. He looked at the hand painted mountain scene from Germany and the piece of the broken gold clip. He let out a stifled groan as he stuffed the wreckage of the bills and broken pieces of clip into his pocket. He shuffled out of the bank in an embarrassed rush, lost his balance on the curb and fell to the ground. He caught himself on one knee and his right hand. He slowly rose again and staggered toward the car. He started his car and reached for the ivory gear shift knob. He paused and looked at the picture on the money clip again. The tears fell out of his eyes now and rolled off the wool of his coat. The tellers and the manager watched from he window of the bank and Roscoe felt like an animal in a zoo. He was an oddity and had been since the moment his Lilly left this earth. He was a living ghost that his God had condemned to wander among the living. He could not die and to live was a Herculean struggle. He tried everyday to keep moving, to help people, and to build things, because Lilly would be mad with him for giving up. He knew living alone was the price he paid for his sins. He tried to put the pieces of the clip together in a desperate exercise of denial, hoping some miracle would mend the one keepsake he cherished above all others. He gently put the pieces into his breast pocket and eased out of his space until he heard the honk of a horn. He was startled and scared and just wanted to get away. The angry driver yelled something as he eased his old bug out into the impossible traffic on North Monroe Street. He back tracked through the neighborhoods to Miccosukee Road. Passing under I-10 far from town, he finally started to feel at peace. He and this old car were not meant for these hurried times. They were built for slow country roads and trips with out time limits.

He pulled through his gate and got out to lock it. It was already cold and the seasons first hard freeze was rolling in with the setting sun. He locked the gate and looked out over the grass towards the tree line. God, she loved the sunsets. Lilly would have made him wait till the sun was down. She would have made him shut the car off and look. She would have held his hand and looked at the sky and he would have watched her instead. He loved the way she captured special moments. She never let him forget the beauty of this life. She taught him how to notice things and how to slow down. She left him with a gift he could never forget and now every sunset or flower or first cold wind of the season, was a melody that sang her name. She was everywhere he looked and he could not spend one moment of life without thoughts of her and what she would say about everything in his sight. Sometimes he would hear a distant noise in the house and for a split second (before he remembered she was gone) he would get a respite of relief. Other times, when he was watching TV or laying in bed, he would smell the faint hint rose water. He would close his eyes and not move. The aroma of her perfume would waft over him, slowly fading back into the coldness of being alone. It was in these solitary mirages, that he felt her gently leading him forward, like a light on the horizon.

 It took a long time to get the fire going and by the time he had heated the stew and made it to his chair, he was tired. He poured a tall glass of wine and sat down in his chair to watch the flames and eat. He had one of those music stations playing from the satellite dish. He finished eating and sat there drinking for a long time. Percy Sledge came out of the speakers and he was transported back to the day she gave him the money clip. They were in Germany in a small hotel by Lake Konigsee. The money clip had Watzmann Mountain painted on it. It had been a month since he bought that little car and they had been meandering from one town to the next. Someone would tell them that they had to see a village or a mountain and off they would go to find it.

Lilly climbed into the car and clasped her hands together which was a clue for Roscoe to pick a hand. He tapped her right one and she giggled and turned it over to reveal the gift.

"Now you will never forget our visit here or last night!"

He put his hand on her leg and slid up her skirt. The pattern of her stockings rippled under his fingers and he moved the fabric just high enough to see the beginning of her underwear. She looked around and then back at Roscoe. She put her hand on top of his and she watched his face as he looked down. He adored every inch of her and she loved to see the wonder in his eyes when he looked at her. She leaned in and kissed him. He held her face and then let his hand drift down to her coat. He slid an index finger in between the fabric and moved it away so he could see inside her shirt. He was addicted to her and helpless. He was unable to be aware of anything except the thought of her skin and her body. It was if they had just made love seconds ago and the memory of being tangled together possessed him. He could not think of anything else but the hidden parts of her. It was as if he knew a secret about her and the person she was when she was naked. He wanted to trigger the other woman that lived inside her. He needed nothing, not sleep, food or air. He only needed to be inside her again and enough light from the fire to reveal the magic of her. He strained to remember every curve and texture of her. She moved in closer to him and breathed in his ear. She held his hand tighter and neither one of them wanted to move, ever again. They wanted to stay in this blind haze of love forever.

"There are no more rooms here and we have four hours of mountain roads in between us and Austria. Why do you torture me? Please Roscoe, you have to stop. You are making me crazy, we have to drive. Please baby. You know its too bad we don't have one of those vans. We could pull over anywhere we wanted, draw the curtains and put out the fire. But you bought this bug and it is ALL your fault."
Lilly teased him and giggled, but she never pushed him away.

He leaned away and looked at her again, suddenly aware they were in a small gravel parking lot. They laughed and held onto each other. No one had ever wanted him like she did. He never knew he could make a woman feel the way he made her feel. He never felt like he was trying anything with her. She wanted his hands on her, like he was the answer to all her dreams. He felt pure and safe for the first time in his life. He looked out the window and then back at the money clip. He put his cash in there and realized he would remember this moment, and how he loved her for the rest of his life. He started the car and headed up the long Bavarian road out of the valley. He could smell the rose water and hear the gravel crumbling under the tires.

The fire crackled as Roscoe's hand let go of the wine glass and he gave in to sleep. The TV tray swayed slightly under the weight of his arm. The last few red drops eased out and rolled over the clip and the three thousand dollars. It stained the bills and the painted mountain scene, finally forming a puddle by his wrist.


Roscoe mumbled in a whisper.

"I love you Lilly.......Lilly...."

Roscoe drifted off to sleep. He was in Germany. It was a beautiful day for a drive to Austria with his Lilly.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Beacon


The overcast sky hides the cold, miles behind its curtain. He is late again. He stayed up deep into the night making notes, and clocking song tempos. He stays in his lane and watches the frantic behavior among the flow, that actually care they are late. They can't keep their cars in their lane, they can't decide to take the short cut. They spin their heads, brake erratically and transmit their bad energy from car to car slowly infecting the traffic.

A few lifetimes ago, this was surf season. The dark skies marked the return of the fall swells, the south running mackerel, the Blacktips that chased them, and stiff north east winds. With a leg up on the dash, he would steer the horizontal wheel of his V.W. bus one handed. He twisted down Indian River Drive past the second rate aristocracy of Ft. Pierce. The (old money) Spanish style houses watched the river, smelled the putrid low tide, and tried to convince themselves they were still royals. Each iron gated mansion, hid empty servants houses and the owners dark dreams to fill them with someone to lord over. He rarely looked at the houses instead trying to read the river for clues of the wind and tide. He would surf before work at North Jetty Surf Shop, hanging T-shirts and selling beach clothes to rich northern ladies. All he ever thought about was getting out, and escaping that town. It was proof that even when he was young he was never content. It was not a symptom of age and loss, it was a congenital flaw he carried from birth, like the hole in the atrium of his heart.

He rolls into the parking lot and scores a space up front. It was twenty five years ago, when he left in the middle of the night and came to Tallahassee. He enrolled in T.C.C. met a guitar player, formed a band and dropped out after two semesters. It was all just a blur of gigs, bands, jobs, marriage and kids. He opens the door to his office, just like he had every day for fifteen years. Dark grey cement block walls and a computer await in the converted storage closet. From this desk he has edited hundreds of legal seminars. This job has been base camp to all that was good in this life. A family, health coverage, a steady check and a two hundred dollar Christmas bonus each year. This little closet office with two windows, allowed him to manage bands, ride bikes, and to show up an hour late once in a while. He wondered if he would ever leave this place. He wondered if some part of him was in this room forever like some residual ghost, stuck in an endless loop on security footage. He drinks hot tea with sugar and no milk, it is awful. He looks through tiny slits in the Venusian blinds. Leaves break loose of their moorings and acorns bounce off of cars like ping pong balls.

It was all bearable now that he had a gig. He could push the rock up  hill again. The carrot (however impossible) was on the stick. The new bands first gig went well and the songs were good. They would be in the studio with a producer again. He would be playing drums and singing. He would not be coaching hungover, tattooed, punks. He would be in the booth, playing for the first time in twelve years. He would be safe in the place where he knew how to behave. Hope is the light that feeds the soul, and he hadn't felt like this in years. If it was all a delusion, and came crashing down like rain, he would take it. There is always time for regret and tears, but hope was a jewel in the maze. He wanted to bathe in it, to roll it around in his mouth, he wanted to remember every second. He wanted to move slowly and paint the cave walls in his mind with these feelings he never thought he'd have again.

Two months ago it was all a conversation about something that might happen. Now there were 18 songs, a producer, and a reserved studio. It all seemed funny, but he dared not analyze it for fear of loosing the beacon. He focused and took a moment to remember the hope of having a chance. He counted down the minutes to lunch and a trip to Cabo's.


Monday, October 15, 2012



Gretna woke up At 1:05 pm. She looked at the over cast sky and wondered for the first time in ages what it would be like to be out in the air. She was on the sixth floor and the cars scurried about completely unaware she was watching. Physical therapy had been hard that day but the good news was, she would be going home soon. Who would have thought that she would look forward to being on crutches? A tiny bird landed on the window sill and darted it's head back and forth. It's back and feathers were gray and it had a burnt orange breast. She gasped and held her breath, surprised by the sight of it. She watched him there for a while and he flitted off again. The mundane things she took for granted seemed like magic. She had been on the other side of a dark window long enough.

There was a photo album, some flowers and a card on the rolling tray next to her bed. It had a denim cover with little cloth flowers sewn into it. She let her hands drift over the book. She opened the first pages and saw the desert pictures from their last day together. She was wearing leather Indian boots that came up to her knee and a mini skirt she had made out of an old pair of jeans. She had on a small jacket she found in a Salvation Army store. One button at the bottom was fastened and the jacket puckered just a little to betray the skin beneath. Her chiffon scarf hovered in the air pulling away from her in taught waves. Her hair blew over her face and into her mouth and she was looking at Joey with awe and love oblivious to the camera. The shutter snapped and she was suspended there in the wind at sunset. He made her feel so pretty. She had confidence back then. How could she loose something as simple as a feeling, or a posture? She lost those things, along with her faith and the belief that he would come home. There was always one more day between calls, letters and checks. The time stretched out between them and she lost hope that things could ever be what she had hoped. She could never shake the feeling that she was his girl. Some part of her believed he would just appear on her doorstep, and they would remember they had a love that could weather anything. She played the scenario out a million times in her mind. He was the mirage she followed into sleep every night.

She used to carry a small camera and she took pictures when he wasn't looking. She took a picture of him waving from a train station in Flagstaff. He had been offered a job by someone they met at a campground. She would drive back to Tallahassee and he would send money. She took a picture of him there, waving and smiling with a single leather bag slung over his shoulder. His hand was on the heart of his jean jacket. She remembered every patch she sewed on that jacket. She remembered every time she rested her head against that coat. The Jackson Brown eight track was playing in the deck he put in the glove box of her V.W. bus. As she took the picture "My Opening Farewell" played. She never thought for a minute she would never see him again. She was so deeply in love, it never occurred to her that things could slip away so easily. She didn't know that everything in the world hung by tender threads. At that moment everything was fine. She watched him go through the big wooden doors. She pulled out of the station and headed down interstate forty. It was the beginning of her new life. In seven months she would have a baby.

"Hello miss Gretna." The nurse walked in carrying her chart and the Doctor followed.

"Well we are going to have to kick you out of here next week. All we have to do is take out the rods and screews. You still have a long road back to being your old self, but it looks good."

"Your old self." It hung there in the air like some challenge from the doctor. She hadn't had a drink or a cigarette in weeks. She had lost twenty pounds. Her color had changed, her thinking had changed and she only coughed a little in the mornings. She had spoken with a dietitian. She remembered being a vegetarian when she was young. She remembered music she used to like. She remembered what it felt like to not to be dying one minute at a time. It was funny how physical pain made her forget the fears she'd been hiding from. She even dreamed again while she slept. It had been years since that happened. Gretna's eyes welled up and she turned away to recover. There were the pictures she took of Kerry. She was such a beautiful little girl. The last pictures in the album were new photos of her house. The new porch, the cleaned living room and kitchen looked like something from an impossible dream. There were plants in the yard and that damn stray dog was on the porch looking healthy and clean. The last picture was of the black man that found her the day she was hurt. He was leaning on a saw horse in overalls. He had a handkerchief in the other hand. He was smiling. The caption below it read:

"Mr. Roscoe has been working on your house Momma. He is an angel. The house will be ready for you next week."

Gretna put the album down where she could see it. She left it open on the pictures of the house. She felt that feeling you get after Christmas. That feeling of being excited about having something new, that you had always wanted. She pulled the nicotine patch off her arm, and fell off into a deep sleep.

She was driving that old bus in the desert. She felt young again, it was a crisp early day. Jackson Brown was singing to her again about Arizona. It was just past sun up and there was no one on the road but her.


Sunday, September 30, 2012



The cab dropped Kerry off at her mothers house. She had all her mothers spare keys. She would need the car for the trips to the hospital and to her new job. She riffled though her purse and remembered she was out of pills. Her thoughts raced and she pulled some crinkled bills out to pay. She looked at the meter, it was nine dollars and twenty five cents. Now she was out of pills and she had seventy five cents to her name. She gathered her things and stepped out into the cool morning at her mothers house. She felt the dread reflex before she remembered that her mother was in the hospital. She glanced at the front door and then turned back to the street to see the cab pulling away. She was at the wrong house. Nothing was making sense. This was the only house on the street. She read the address, turned back to the house and then realized she was in the correct place.

The yard had been raked and it looked as thought the ground had been seeded for grass and watered recently. There was a new porch and roof with a wheel chair ramp. The swing was the only familiar sight she recognized but even that had been rebuilt, painted and it hung from a new chain. Someone had been working on the house and for a moment Kerry felt comfortable there. The green paint on the porch stairs and deck reminded her of when she was little. The house was out in the middle of nowhere then. She knew these woods and the woods across St. Augustine like the back of her hand. They moved there when she was three or four. Her mother would tell her stories about her father and the adventures he went on as a photographer. Her mother told her he'd never had a home and now that they had this house he would come home to see his little girl. She kept a box of gifts from Morocco, Turkey, Spain, France and a million other places he traveled. She'd never seen him but all that would change because they had the house now. He used to send money home, but when she was about five he stopped. The birthday cards stopped coming too and slowly her mother became a shadow of the happy woman she remembered. In every life there is a golden chapter but when they come early and fade, it can break a soul to pieces. It was the one thing Kerry and her mother shared; a tragic love story that ended too soon, leaving a canyon between them and happiness. Kerry found comfort in her children, but her mother only saw the face of a love she lost. Kerry was a constant reminder of all that Gretna couldn't have.

The drunken outbursts started slowly with her yelling that Kerry was just like him. Then the flood of tearful apologies, ice cream, new dresses and a brief period of calm before the pattern repeated. The frequency increased and soon the good times never returned. Kerry left home after high school. Gretna turned her hate inward and started the long retreat into the dark. She worked at the state and measured her days by lunches and cigarette breaks. The lunches, cigarettes and days spun away like a calender in the wind. The beauty Gretna once had was beaten out of her. Still, when Kerry looked at her she could see her mother in there. Her eyes would betray the love she felt for Kerry, when she wasn't being critical. There was a spark in that mean woman's eyes and her majestic bones hung just behind a smoked curtain of skin. She was over weight and usually dressed like a homeless woman, but she had an elegance that could not be erased. She was one of those woman that could not hide her genetic gifts even in the darkest state of sadness and neglect. She was a few bad habits, fifty pounds and a miracle away from being a beautiful woman again. The heartbroken don't want to look pretty, they want to wear the defeat like a cloak. They want to live in the pain so they never forget. They remain in a vigilant state, bathed in their hurt, so no one can make them believe again. One of the things that made Kerry move forward in the face of all her own disasters, was the resolve not to give up and become the vacant facade her mother was. She made the oath when she left this damn house during a screaming hurricane her mother was waging. She walked the length of St. Augustine Road alone, stepping into the clay ditches to avoid cars speeding out of the night. She never came back until Charlie died. She had hoped to find some mercy remaining in her mothers hardened shell. The mercy never came and Kerry stopped looking for it. From that moment on, she managed her mother in doses, like spoonfuls of bitter medicine.

Maybe it was the hope she saw in the new roof, porch and paint. Maybe she needed to justify taking the car. Maybe it was knowing the boys were with Becky and her kids. Whatever the reason it gave Kerry strength to enter the cavern of her mothers house for the first time in years. There was a large pile of mail on the porch. The mail was mostly co-pay bills for the hospital stay and assorted junk mail. Kerry was baffled at the house and who could have done all the work.

She turned the key and crossed the threshold. She let out a breath of resolve and made her way into the wreckage. She walked down the hall to what was once her bedroom. It was preserved like some dusty diorama. Nothing had moved since the day she left. She sat on the bed that was her only hiding place. She had flash memories of her mother and step father screaming and glass breaking suddenly in her sleep. When she was in high school, music was her savior. She would slide her headphones on and try to float away into the textures of her tapes and records. Eventually even that was not enough to keep the monsters at bay. She remembered waking up to the smell of bad breath, whiskey and hands under her covers. She couldn't escape and she couldn't fight. He was the sweet talking devil that would whisper twisted sentences that somehow made all the horrors of his hands, breath and mouth justified. He twisted logic and the love Kerry needed from missing parents, into a sick game of submission. Like all evil it started slowly and escalated into a deranged normalcy she couldn't escape. She wanted to be special and she wanted to hurt her mother. He had a demonic talent for knowing just how far to push her and how often to space his nighttime visits. He acclimated her to their filthy deceit in small doses and then let her recover. Every night she prayed to her father, God and her passed out mother to save her, but people only get saved in movies. In real life you have to save yourself, because everyone is drowning, even those that don't know it. Somewhere under the dust, the comforter, and the flowered sheets, was the dark brown stain that marked the end of her childhood. On a table in the corner, was a box of gifts, cards and letters from a father that never came home. Kerry closed the door.

She walked slowly back to the living room. She ripped open the shades and felt the anger she was avoiding. Streaks of light entered the room and the dust floated in the rays, like miniature planes in a dog fight. She stared out the window and saw her mothers old V.W. It broke down shortly after her mother gave it to her. It was a veiled apology Gretna didn't have strength to make, but one she couldn't avoid. Kerry remembered the night her Mother found him touching her, the lights of the police cars, and the accusing stare of a mother, unprepared for another tragedy. She burned everything he owned and screamed at the fire while Kerry watched from that room. In that moment of destruction, she knew she could never sleep there again.

 Someday she was going to get rid of that bus. It had been cleaned, like it was coming back to life. Like it had shaken off the vines. Like it was looking at her for the first time. She would not forgive that metal machine. She hated it because it had room to lay down. She hated it because it could be parked in fields away from town. She hated it because he was gone and it was here.

 She would start with dishes and fight her way out. She wanted to smell soap and to feel clean. She hit the play button on her phone. Counting Crows "Anna Begins" rolled out of the speaker. She opened the window and put her hands in the water, to wash away the dust.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Roscoe's Gates


Roscoe turned onto Cap Tram Road and eased through the gears. He put his arm out the window and leered down the narrow road looking for logging trucks. The reflection of the trees in the olive paint drifted over his hood like an old home movie. The sun was just below the tree line and the dim yellow lights reached out from the front of his car, like tear drops in the twilight. He eased off the shoulder and pulled up his emergency brake. He got out and unlocked the metal gate that matched ten others on this road. Those gates had nothing behind them but land with ancient double track, that never saw use outside hunting season. He pulled in the V.W. and locked the gate behind him. He could hear the grass dragging on the pan under his car until he reached the tree line and the hidden automatic gate. He idled while the gate swung open to let him on the paved one lane drive. He cleared the trees and rolled onto the gravel in front of his house. The sliding garage door opened and he slowly pulled in. He glanced over at the Bungartz tractor, it needed new plugs and a distributor. The old BMW motorcycle needed to be started and run for a while. He wondered why he bought it. It was adapted with a thirty six horse V.W. motor and the look of it, and knowing he could work on it, convinced him to buy it. After one wobbly trip down the drive, he pushed it back and never rode it again. The old tractor had a VW motor too. It was a temperamental beast and required constant attention. He loved the original orange sheet metal and yellow wheels, that were both aged with a fine patina. He looked around the old garage. Everything was neat as a pin. The finish on the tongue and groove was up to date and all the tools were clean and organized. He loaded some drop cloths, paint trays and bushes into the back of the car. He rooted around in a corner and found several packages of shingles. He stacked them on a towel in the front seat. Walking to the house, he stopped to look out upon the back ten acres. Those were his fields, and the last he would ever know. It was getting dark sooner these days, but he had more affection for this seasons sky. The sun was losing its grip and the indigo was beginning to show the first stars. It was almost fall.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Waking Up


She is running through a field and Joey's chasing her. They are in a sheep pasture up above the place he surfed in Santa Barbara. She could see the the little dots of surfers out on the point. It was one of those breezy perfect days you learn to ignore in California. He is taking pictures of her but she's feeling playful and uncooperative. She's running, trying to make him chase her. Just when he thought she was going to pose, she runs again. She's laughing so hard she can't breath and finally leans over to catch up with her heart. The amber grass shares hues of her caramel skin and gold hair. She continues to play and run from him and just when it looked like he might give up and loose his patience, she pulls her hand knitted shirt over her head and throws it away. She looks over her shoulder. He takes her picture and falls for her, in the blink of a shutter. She's been holding that flower all morning, spinning it in her fingers and day dreaming. They were on the beach and decided drive up the hill while the tide switched. He captured her there, and all of who she was that day. She was caught like a firefly in his lens in front of those green Santa Barbara hills that matched the color of her bikini. She falls onto a blanket and watches him walk out of the sun. He takes his camera from his neck and sets it on the edge of the quilt. She stops laughing and looks up at him. She pulls her arms away from her chest, glances down at her bare breasts and then back up at him. It's the fall of 1971. It is the best season of her life. She is nineteen.

"Gretna, wake up honey. The surgery is over, c'mon honey, open your eyes. I have some water for you. Everything is fine, try to open your eyes."

Roscoe had pulled all the wood from the fallen porch and stacked it near the garage. He spent a few days pulling nails and separating the trash from the the good. He was done with the ramp and other than a few nails and screws, was able to finish the entire thing with what he salvaged. When the roof cascaded off of the house into a pile of intertwined lumber, it took with it the steps and an old chain swing. He figured she would need a ramp to get into the house. Those steps were as useless as the porch and he presumed they were both built by the same lazy hands. This whole house seemed ill supported and in need of work. For now she could be wheeled up and that made him feel better. He saw some paint cans, whose drippings matched the porch deck color and tomorrow he'd look to see if it could be stirred and used. For today he was done and he loaded his tools into his old bug and strapped the wooden step ladder to the luggage rack on top. He wiped his hands with a towel and admired his work. He loved to do things right and to help. Today he had done both. He reached into the passenger side and grabbed a bowl and some kibble. As he filled it, the dog came from the woods and wagged his way toward him. He sat it down next the water bowl and smiled.

"See ya tomorrow."

She is watching the boys come down the walk. No matter what was going on in her life, she loved seeing those kids come home from school. She wanted to be like one of those women, at the Timber Lane Hopkins Eatery. They played tennis when the kids were at school and complained about bad caterers over lunch. They had the strained faces of women who didn't dare gain an ounce, for fear of being replaced. Kerry wished she could just be a stay at home Mom. She was starting a new job next week and this was her last few days of freedom before the stress came back. The boys were pulling at each others back packs and laughing. They both had sticks in their hands and a sword fight could break out any second. She caught a reflection of herself smiling in the window. It felt good. Those boys were never a burden. They were the thing she did right. She couldn't wait to hear what happened that day. The rain had finally stopped and the first wisp of fall hung just outside the last grasp of summer. It was a good day.

He loaded his drums into his car after eating lunch. His youngest son was playing a jazz groove on the drums in his room. He marveled at how good he was. His oldest was on his way to his life guard job and looked every bit of the college freshman he had become. He said goodbye in passing and he watched young man drive off. He had done some things well. He did have moments of pride, in between all the anger and regret. It was in the air. All good things happened for him in the fall. When he lived by the coast it marked the start of the surf season. When he came to Tallahassee, it was the return of students and packed gigs. On bikes it was the magic time of cool temps and night rides with his crew. Spring was the first verse, summer was the dark bridge and September marked the first notes of the chorus. He was rehearsing tonight, feeling good for the first time in weeks and he stopped to recognize a rare moment of content. For now that was all he needed, little shot at something good.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012


part six:
To read from the start, please scroll down to:
"The Ache"

"Well your heart and liver functions are all okay and The blood work looks good as well. Now this is the part you are not going to like."

Dr. Chanter handed him a piece of paper. He new what it was before he took it. It was a lab work prescription. He had already given them blood and urine and other things that came out of him that he would like to repress forever. The sympathetic look on his G.P.'s face was not enough to cause alarm, and it really didn't register at first. After all this doctor had been through it all with him going all the way back to 1993. He was a singer back then and got sore throats, strep, pleurisy and countless other bugs and viruses playing in bars and drinking with the other professional night lifers. Back then the doctor would urge him to take better care of himself and he would listen politely and then ask if he could drink with the current course of antibiotics. He fancied himself a suffering artist, and took pride in singing through countless illnesses. Then his guitar player recorded a band in his living room that got a record deal and sold millions of albums. The band broke up, his brother turned the place they played into an upscale wine and cigar bar. Later, after seeing some guys on mountain bikes cross Park Avenue, he sold some music gear and bought a bicycle. Since then the Doc's and his relationship changed from viruses to bones. Sore joints, broken collar bones, neck, and elbow surgery had become the new center of their relationship. Two years ago he had a stroke and heart surgery due to shitty genetic cards. The Doc was over protective. He was a rare bird in the medical industry. He really cared and explained everything in great detail. He would call him and make sure he was okay. He would make appointments for him when there were no spaces available.

"Now I know you hate the hospital, but I want you to go get an echo test. I don't like this fatigue issue you are having. It's probably nothing but with your history it makes sense to rule everything out."

The Doc turned his head to one side in that sympathetic gesture showing him the Doc didn't buy his tough guy act. He put his hand on his shoulder and leaned in for affect. The Doc knew he would do what he asked because he trusted him, with his life.

"I don't think God wants me to ride bikes any more."

He said with frustration.

"Well maybe he's not happy with how you're treating this body he gave you."

The Doc said as he tapped on his computer tablet.

"Well he could have been  little more generous, when he gave me this scrap heap. I have a some harsh words for that guy...."

"Well lets not rush you off to talk with him anytime soon. Lets deal with the things we can control and you can ponder your place in the universe while you get better. Okay, so Jenny made an appointment for you, you can head over now and be out in time for lunch."

"Okay so here is the x-ray, She has a broken left hip, broken right femur, and two fractures in her left ankle. She sprained her wrist and has a small dislocation in her shoulder. There is additional bruising around the left knee which leads me to believe there is some tearing in there, but nothing to worry about now. We are keeping her stable for now until the swelling in her thighs recedes. Then we can repair the broken bones, and set her ankle. It's a lot to take in, I know. I think we can do all the surgeries in one shot, provided we don't come across anything we didn't expect. We are going to wheel her up to sonogram to check out her heart and then she will be cleared for surgery. Do you have any questions?"

"No. Thank you Doctor. "

Kerry turned and looked at her Mother laying in a pain killer sleep. She looked normal enough but even asleep you could see the bitterness on her face. God she was an angry woman. She expressed her worry and love in strange ways, usually by being over critical and by pointing out mistakes. If Kerry did something well, it was met with an accusing look. What she hated most of all was how tough she was on the boys. Kerry felt guilty that some part of her was relieved that her mother was unconscious. At least she couldn't talk and that was a small victory Kerry was happy to celebrate. A nurse came in the room, and spoke to Kerry as she looked down at her mother.

"They'll take her down to cardio in a few minutes. My Name is Rose, if you need anything."

Kerry walked out into the hall to find Roscoe waiting.

"Rose is a pretty name don't you think? A lot of great woman are named after flowers. I wish I was named after a flower. I would have liked that. I would have liked anything other than who I am. My name means nothing. Everybody always says they just want to be themselves, but I think I'd like to be someone else, for a change."

"My wife's name was Lilly, and my daughters name is Jasmine. So I guess I do. They are two of the most wonderful women I have ever known, but I am not sure it was their names that made them that way. Some people just rise above better than others. Some people get a little more than their share of hard times. My father used to say that everybody cries ten gallons of tears in their life. Some a little at a time and others all at once. He used to say the real trick is to figure out when to stop crying."

Roscoe looked out the window and thought about his Lilly. The rain was breaking up and the sun was coming through. The grand beams hit little areas of the town and from the fifth floor he watched the light move in scattered spots and the blue open sky to the west, behind the front.

"Time to blow out the candles I guess."

Roscoe whispered in a sigh, under his breath.

"Candles how did you know it was my birthday?"

Kerry's face crunched up as she looked at Roscoe in awe.

"I am surrounded by fortune tellers. I ran into one at the flea market just the other day. Seriously, how'd you know it was my birthday?"

"It's a  lucky coincidence I guess. I was thinking about rain and the power going out and lighting candles. I guess I was thinking out loud. Well Miss Kerry you seem to be okay, I won't bother you anymore. Good luck with....."

Kerry grabbed his arm and startled him a little.

"If you could stay a little....I don't have anyone. It's a hard day for me today. It's my birthday and...."

"I know it IS a hard day. I understand that. Seems to be going around. I'll stay with you a little longer till they get your Mama settled. Oh....They are taking her down the hall. C'mon now, lets go with her. You going to be alright."

Roscoe grabbed her hand and patted it, and then put it in the crick of his elbow like an usher at a wedding. She held on and felt comforted for the first time in years. They rode the elevator down to the third floor and Gretna was snoring. Every so often she stopped abruptly and caused the attendant, Kerry and Roscoe to all look at her suddenly. Then she would breath again for a few seconds and stop again. They would look down at her out of reflex and the cycle continued. Had someone been there to observe them, they would have resembled people watching a tennis match.

"Is that normal?"

Roscoe asked.

Gretna was snoring even louder now and added a slight whistle to the arsenal of sound effects she was making.

"She's like all three Stooges at once."

Roscoe said as he looked at her in amazement.

The orderly began to chuckle, Kerry blurted out laughing and finally Roscoe started in so hard that his chest was moving up and down. Gretna began to stir a little and looked as though she might wake up. Roscoe threw up his hands like a conductor stopping an orchestra. They all held their breath for a second as they looked at Gretna. They waited for her to breath again as the sound of a high pitched, tortured, sound came from under the covers. It went on longer than one would expect and sounded like a thick canvas was being torn apart. They all stopped laughing for a minute till the sound raised in pitch and puncuated. They erupted with laughter again as the elevator doors slid open. A nurse turned and looked sternly at them all from the  front desk of the Cardiac floor. The orderly wheeled Gretna out.

"Good Lord, that's awful!"

Roscoe was waving his hat and Kerry made a face as they scrambled off the elevator. Kerry and Roscoe found a seat in the hall, out side the sonogram room. A man was sitting there and he moved to the end chair so Roscoe and Kerry could sit next to each other. Kerry Pulled out her phone and the Pandora station started where she had paused it earlier. The last few bars of  "Mr. Jones" came out of the tiny speaker. The song faded and "Josephine" by The Wallflowers started to play.

"Ah, too bad. I love that song. I played it for years"

 The man said, sitting Kerry.

"Played it for years?"

Kerry asked.

"Ya I was in a band in the nineties. We were the house band at The Cab Stand. We played this song every night for years. Those were good times. Did you ever go there?"


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Wait

This is part five.
To see the beginning,
scroll down to
"The Ache"

Roscoe was rotating his hat in his hands one inch at a time. The T.V. was blaring a game show to a full waiting room. No one was watching the jumping people or the screaming crowd. Maybe he should just go. He had told the E.M.T.'s what happened, no one felt the need to involve the police, but something kept him, something always kept him. He was one of those people that always got involved. He had been a medic in Nam and even though he arrived near the end, he had seen a lot of things. He had developed a reflex to take care of people. He had a gift for reading the injured and knowing what was wrong. He could talk to them and calm them down. After he got back to the world he couldn't be one of those people that drove by car accidents. He had training, he knew how to help, and so he did. Sometimes his wife Lilly, would get mad. She wished he could just drive by the wrecks. She said he collected people. He gave a little girl C.P.R. at a car accident and saved her life. She wrote him for years and came to the house to show him her college diploma. He saved a man down the street, by giving him a shot, after he was stung by a bee. Every time that man killed a deer or smoked fish he brought some to their house. When the old man died, Roscoe joked that they'd starve to death, now that he was gone. It went on and on. Roscoe stopped to fix cars, change flats and sometimes to find out there was nothing he could do. It was not a choice, it was who he was, he could help and so he did. Whatever gift he thought he had, abandoned him when he found this woman. She had surprised him, half naked like she was. He chastised himself for making it worse for her. He felt badly she had been embarrassed on top of being hurt so badly.

The rain was really coming down now. The double doors swung open and the sweeping sheets of water blew hard under the car port, that shielded folks getting dropped by cars and ambulances. He sometimes would feel the urge to go help people in the door but, there were plenty of people working and no one needed him. Roscoe did what he could; he rotated his hat, watched the rain and the folks that found trouble, just like he had. He just wanted to go for a drive. He just wanted to avoid this day, and get through the night, without being too sad about Lilly. He lost her today, twenty eight years ago. August 21st was the hard day to get through every year, worse than her birthday, and worse than their anniversary. It was even worse than the damn holidays that started on Thanksgiving and kept coming till Easter. Then summer would arrive and July forth and the dread of the coming August. Maybe God put this woman in his path to help get him through, but this hospital was filled with reminders; yelling doctors, hurt people, white sheets, nurses and blood. It was Nam, it was the day he lost Lilly, it was everything in his life that he wanted to avoid all in one room and all on the hardest day.

He rotated his hat and the doors swung open. Two men with no shoes shuffled in, one with his hand wrapped in a towel, in obvious pain. He fought the urge to get up as nurse rushed toward them and ushered them to the back. Lilly would be tapping his arm to remind him it was okay and not to get up and help. She just had a way. She lived every moment in a state of patience. She saw all that was going on around her and waited for need to come to her. Mostly she was patient, patient enough to let people work things out, and find their own way. She watched Roscoe with a quiet fascination at the way he moved through the world. He found people to collect in the strangest places. He was a mess, but he was never dull. He never meant to get involved, it just seemed to happen. Lord he missed her. She was such a comfort. On rainy days like this they would get out the candles weather they needed to or not. She hated when the power went out. They would light them all around the room and turn off the lights. She hated that pop when the power cut off. It was a little thing they did. It was a ritual he loved. It was a small thing he was glad to do, because it made her feel better. She would let out a a breath of relief when they were done, and then she would settle and look out the window. Her face would relax and she would become that young woman he had met years before. He never tired of that moment and he never tired of that face. She was then and she would always be his angel, in the light of the candles. He would watch her as she watched the rain and he would wait. He would wait till the rain ended, blow out the candles and put them away. He loved every moment of it. He wished he could light candles for her now, in this rain, but all he could do was twirl his hat and wait.

There was a water fall coming off the edge of the carport entrance to the emergency room. Even people with umbrellas were getting soaked as they passed through it to get help. They would drop their heads, then lift them up out of the rain with that look of hurried desperation. They would turn their heads from one side of the waiting room to the other, trying to figure out where to go. Roscoe watched the cab pull up and the frantic girl that climbed out. She fished in her purse, looked around her and in the back seat of the car, like she had lost something. He watched, and finally got up, to walked to her, through the double doors.

"I can't find my wallet!"

She said into the cab as the pony tailed driver looked out the windshield and tapped his fingers on the wheel. She rubbed her hands over her pockets and and looked around confused.

"You probably forgot it in the rush to get here. I'm Roscoe, whats your name?"

"Kerry, Kerry Nichols, I, I...."

"Are you hurt Kerry?"

"No my Mother she fell and they called me....."

Her shoulders dropped as if she had given up. Is was that moment when a person realizes they don't know what to do next.

Roscoe pulled out a gold money clip with the word "Germany" on it and a small painted mountain scene behind it. He walked over to the cab driver and they spoke for a minute. Roscoe peeled off a few bills and paid the man. He closed her door and put his hand on her back.

"Lets get out of this rain and see about your Mother."

She felt her entire body relax and suddenly was aware of all the tension she was under. She a let out a rattled sigh and clutched her purse to her chest, as they walked to the front desk.

"There you go. You're going to be alright now."

Roscoe returned to his seat and resumed rotating his hat. He watched Kerry talk to the lady at the desk and he smiled to himself. He always felt better when he could help. Kerry was being led away by someone from the hospital and as she passed Roscoe she reached out to touch his hands.

"Thank you, so much Roscoe? I'll pay you back."

Kerry said as she passed.

"No, No, don't you worry about all that. Go see your Momma, you're alright now."

A doctor rounded the corner and began to speak into the room.

"Who is waiting for Gretna Arnold?"

"I am!"

Roscoe and Kerry said in unison.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mr. Jones

This is instalment four, of a story that starts with the post; "The Ache". If you would like to read it from the beginning, please scoll down.

Kerry wanted to stay distracted for one more day. She went to the flea market to buy incense. She bought a plant and a few candles. She wandered around trying to avoid the day, but as always it waited for her. He had left her thirteen years ago today. She turned on Pandora and chose the Counting Crows station. It was the last band they had discovered together. Their first record "August and Everything After" was the sound track of their love. It was the album the baby was conceived to, and also the foreboding ironic title that spelled out her tragic future. That band had spoken for her and her heart so many times before and after August 21st. The singer had a transcendent way of taking you out of your body, when you were emotional. He sounded like he had ghosts too. Most days she couldn't bear to hear it, and other days she couldn't live without it.

The first song that came on was a Counting Crows cover of "Ghost in You" by the Psychedelic Furs. She didn't recognize it at first and waited for the first lines of lyrics. Slowly the song started to form, as he sang the the last line of the chorus she remembered it.

 "The Ghost in you, she don't fade"

She laughed and clapped her hands together. It felt like an inside joke and for some reason she garnered comfort from it. It was a live recording, she could hear the people roar and then the slow chords of the verse started again. She plopped down in an over sized chair and pulled her legs up to her body. She drank her tea and watched the smoke dance away from the Jamaican lady's incense. She lit two more candles and heard the first drops of rain hit the air vent over the stoves exhaust fan. It almost sounded like some strange percussion instrument. She was glad it was the first day of school, so she wouldn't have to put on a face for her boys. She could be alone with her ghosts. Being melancholy was a luxury you must plan out well. It is a solitary endeavor that can only be savored in the privacy of the mind and the memories. The rain was coming down hard now, and she was thankful for it. She could open the windows and let the damp breeze enter her soul. 

"Mr. Jones" came on after an ad about Viagra. She had the song on a CD some where but great songs are always better when you hear them in random circumstances. It was like getting a little gift for no reason. She remembered the first time she had heard it. She and a friend were walking by a new club in Midtown. It was not their kind of place, they were on their way to Water Works to have a few drinks before going home. They heard the music coming out of the open front door and as they approached a handsome black doorman called to them.

"You know your feet are tired, and this is a great band....listen!"

 He moved his hands like he was dancing and he made them laugh. They walked up and peeked in the door. The band was good and there were a lot of people dancing.

"Y'all ever been here before?

They both nodded; no.

"WELL THEN! Special tonight only; pretty girls that have never been here before, get in free!"

With that, he put his hands behind them and pushed them into the room. There was an eclectic crowd mostly older, but at least there were no frat boys. The band was playing a U2 song and the vibe was good. The doorman made a "two" sign with his fingers and the bar tender handed over two beers. Kerry and her friend Becky shrugged and laughed as the doorman handed the beers to them. They moved into the room and saw a group of people on the side wall, by a smaller bar in the corner. They stood in an empty spot next to them and began to survey the room. The band played a few more songs by the Stones, The Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla and some other songs she didn't know. She recognized the guitar player. He was a well known local musician that had been playing in town for years. He had a good voice and she watched him as he sang. She began to involuntarily sway to the beat. The song ended and guitar player started another song and as he played he yelled into the mic:

"C'mon everybody..... dance with us! This is a song by the Counting Crows! Sha La La La La ya....uh huh!"

The table of people next to them all cheered and moved to the dance floor. Becky turned and handed Kerry her beer as some surfer looking guy pulled her out to the floor. Kerry moved over to their table and set the beers there. A guy was left behind and sitting alone. He was a good looking, tanned and seemed slightly out of place, but he looked comfortable and relaxed. She set her beers down and he smiled at her. He waited a minute, pointed to the dance floor and motioned to her in a questioning way. She nodded and they moved out to dance with all the others and Becky.

"What is happening?"

Kerry yelled at Becky over the band.

"I have no idea!"

Becky grabbed Kerry's hand and twirled her around while they laughed. He was being cool. He didn't crowd her, and he danced with good rhythm in a very casual style. He smiled and laughed when she and Becky twirled each other and never got in their space. They danced for a few songs and Becky was paying more and more attention to the guy she was dancing with. Someone brought over shots. They all raised a toast and the girls were absorbed into the group. He reached out and took her hands as he danced with her, pulling her gently and giving her a little spin every so often. He was wearing jeans and a loose fitting Hawaiian shirt. He had longer hair than most guys and his hands felt hardened by work of some kind. She heard one of his friends call him Charlie and thought the name fit him. The band started to play a slow song, and he held up his hands in a way to let her know it was her call to dance or not. She smiled and they moved closer. He put his hands above her waste and made no attempt to pull her close. He looked up at the band and the guitar player reached out and shook his hand.

"These guys are good." She said into his ear.

"Ya, John is great. He's an old friend of mine. The drummer is good too. These guys have been around in different bands for years."

They talked and danced and then went out to breakfast and from that night on "Mr. Jones" was their song. Whenever she heard that song, she was transported back to the first time she met Charlie. She could smell the smoke in the bar and his cologne. She could feel the band loud in the sound system. She could remember the fall night she never made it to Water Works and how her life was never the same. The following day she sang pieces of the chorus, to the guy at Vinyl Fever. He took her down a couple of isles and then handed her "August and Everything After" by Counting Crows. Magic music finds you at the time you need it most, and this record found her. Kerry never could have guessed the impact that record would have on her life. How it would be a wound, a life saver, and a marker for a moment in her timeline, that would never dull or fade. That record would serve as a her time machine for the rest of her life, a portal to all she loved, lost and cherished. It marked her youth and the beginning of real life, and it would forever.

The ringing phone shook her from her day dream. It was the old style Ma Bell phone. It was loud and seemed like it was ringing in a bad tone. She hated phone calls that startled her. She turned down the music, set down her tea and picked up the phone.

"What? My Mom....Yes.....Is she okay? Oh My God....Okay, Okay I will. I'm on my way."

She hung the phone up an wondered what it was about this day. August 21st. It was not enough she lost the love of her life on her birthday, now she couldn't even have a quiet afternoon. She had to call a cab and get to the hospital.

"Jesus! Well, happy birthday to me!"

She grabbed her bag, tied up her hair, and fished around for the pill bottle Becky had brought her. She took one with the last swallow of her tea. The cab would be there shortly.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Three (or more)

....the following may be the third installment 

He had always felt like time was the enemy. He had fought against the tide his entire life. He was slowing down and the others around him were rushing away like some Einsteinian equation. He was desperately building dams that would not hold back a drop. His sweat was real enough but the goal was doomed and he knew it. He had become a comical parody of something he once (or never) was. He was mascot in a game he had once played. To his cycling friends he was a cautionary tale. If he rode better than a good rider, it was a wake up call for them to get back on their diet and training regimens. For new or resurrected riders, he was a stepping stone on the way to the sport and expert class. Everyone around him seemed to be able to get faster and he was struggling to maintain mediocrity. The victories were few and celebrated in private reflection.

There were three main areas of life as he saw it: Family, work, and bikes. The bicycle had been a refuge for him, a life saver in times with no anchor. Now it was just another thing he felt he needed to do because he had invested so much time. It was becoming another reminder of what he once had and no longer could maintain. Maybe now (just in the nick of time) he could add music to the list. He could see a light on the horizon for the first time in years. It was getting larger. Maybe this would be the thing that would allow him to join the flow of the universe again. He was so tired of fighting.

It was two years ago today he thought. Of all the things the stroke enlightened him to, the one thing that cut the deepest was the ridiculous amount of things that were a complete waste of time and life. What a world it would be if we could afford to pursue things that mattered instead of the next car payment. He wanted to write. He wanted to play music again. He wanted to make sure his kids got every opportunity he could help them with. He wanted to be a person people saw, not an invisible part of the herd. He had time for those that understood him and he would have to let go of those that did not. All these things were easy to say, easy to read on a fortune cookie or greeting card, but they were heavy words to live by. He was going to try.


Friday, August 17, 2012

The Bus

The following is a continuation of the post titled "The Ache". If you would like to read the tale from its beginning, please scroll down.

Kerry had memories of him that came from no where. They would find her in unguarded moments, and she would go vacant and catatonic, like a victim of silent seizures. She could hear the Billy Joel song on a Sunday morning coming from the speakers by the open window. He would sing about silence and euphoria and she remembered she had no idea that lyrics that wordy could ever sing so well. They would go for hours without talking on Sundays. Neil Young and Stephan stills sang about being on the bay and that took her away to places she thought she might finally get to see with him. He was older than her and a true man of the world. A sailor, a surfer, educated and kind. He played music she'd never heard and read passages from books and he opened her mind up with out being mean or condescending. He loved her. He wore it like a coat and he could not pass her without a slight touch, look, or a kiss. She remembered coming in wearing a Springsteen concert jersey from "Born In The U.S.A." she had found in a thrift shop. She bought it because it was vintage and when he saw it he pulled and old record out and put it on the turn table. "Darkness on the Edge of Town" rolled out of his speakers like a fog into her soul. He had changed her forever. From that day on she could not bear to hear the radio. She wanted to find new songs in his collection for the rest of her life. She was listening to Joni Mitchel the day the call came. The baby had been kicking all morning and she would glance at the time and imagine his plane was landing at elevn O'clock in Puerto Rico. By three O'clock, she figured he was over the Bahamas. As Joni Mitchel sang about false alarms and jet tracks across desert skies, the phone rang. She rubbed her tanned swollen belly and wondered why he would be calling so early, and then like a bad dream he was gone forever. They found wreckage but no bodies. She had nothing to bury and nothing to morn except the possibility of what might have been. They found a single surfboard floating twenty miles from the wreckage and a suitcase that did not belong to him. She gave the board to his best friend who hung it, in his Mexican restaurant. There was a short paragraph on a plaque about him stuck to the deck.

"Friend, Brother, Partner, Father, we are lost without you. 1965-1999"

Mike told her she would never pay for a meal in his place as long as he was alive. She would come here with the boys, and sit under that surfboard, with sand in the wax from his last surf. It was in a corner by the window and looked a little out of place among the other longboards from the sixties. The entire ceiling was covered with vintage boards. Sometimes she would look up and a shiver would run down through her stomach, like a breeze through the windows of all their lost Sundays. Kerry shook her head as she walked, turning to check  the boys, behind her on the sidewalk.

Roscoe puttered along oblivious to the guy riding his bumper. Had Roscoe looked in his small football shaped rear view mirror, he would have seen the man behind him beating his steering wheel and holding both hands up in a angry gesture, wondering why the hell Roscoe was driving so slow. He put on his blinker and a small semaphore came out of the metal between the door and the rear window. The amber tail lights low down on the right rear fender blinked sporadically. The frantic man in the truck nearly hit him as he  floored his truck, shot a bird and crossed the double yellow line  to come around. Roscoe turned onto April road because he had never been down it. The road was impossibly muddy and his little bug shimmied from one wet rut to the next, down the dark orange road. He veered and slid and somehow pointed the car down a side road, hoping for relief from the clay that had turned to peanut butter in last nights rain. He took his foot off the gas and let the idle dictate his speed. He saw little houses back in the trees, but no evidence of an exit road. His crept along and then he saw it back by an old garage. It was covered in all manner of vines leaves and there was a tarp and lumber stacked on top of it. He pulled in slowly and wondered if anyone lived there. The front roof had fallen on the porch and there was a beat up Toyota Echo parked on the other side of the house. A pit bull walked up to his car with his head down, wagging his tail so hard that it jerked his whole body and made him walk side ways. Roscoe laughed and held out his hand.

"You ain't nothing but a big baby are ya?"

The dog licked the air and stared up at Roscoe, waiting to be petted. He opened the door slowly and swung out a leg. the dog nuzzled the door open and Roscoe waited while the dog smelled him. He scratched his ears and the dog stopped moving.

"I guess that's your off button huh? Good Lord you are falling down on the job, if you are guarding this place."

There wasn't much to guard. Everything on the property was falling down or about to. It was a nice house once, an old Cottage style from the thirties. It'd be pretty if someone cared for it and freed it from the plants trying to drag it down into the dirt. He walked slowly over to the garage. The drivers window vent was open so he slid it back and reached in to pry the door. A "For Sale" sign fell out landed on his foot. He looked under the wheel wells and knocked on the floor with his old dark brown knuckles. He peered over his glasses at the rain gutters. It wasn't bad, a little surface rust but the car was all there and no one had ruined it yet. It had survived the sixties and seventies without the humiliation of having a peace poster painted on it. It had made it through the eighties and nineties without some punk removing the chrome and seats. No one had put a God awful Corvair or Porsche motor in her. The dash hadn't been cut for some dumb radio or had a fan screwed into it. Over all it was pretty good. It wouldn't stay that way out here though. A couple years of sitting under mossy oaks and Tallahassee rain would wear her down and take her away.

"I got here just in time, didn't I?"

He rubbed the roof with his hand and wondered if he could save another V.W. He hadn't done a car in a long time but he'd never found a bus that wasn't ruined. He heard a moan and the dog ran off to the other side of the house. Roscoe followed the sound and the dog to the far side of the porch. He rounded the corner and saw something, it took a minute for the form to be clear in his mind. A woman was unconscious on her back covered in ant bites and leaves and he hurried to her once he realized it was a person. He got up and moved the ants away from her with his foot. He could smell dog droppings and cleared a wide path around her before he realized she was exposed.


He back stepped away from her and looked again. There was no mistaking that auburn triangle of hair and the white legs spread open to the whole world. He turned and ran back to his car. He opened the hood on the front of his 56 bug, careful not to hit it on the old chrome bumper. There was a blanket he used to lay on when he worked on the car. He reached in the car and grabbed a gallon jug of water (he carried with him to drink) and an old towel from the back seat (to sit on for hot days). He ran back to the woman who was moaning again. Pulled out a cell phone (his daughter had bought for him) and called 911.

"I need an ambulance! I found a hurt woman on Laga Way off of April Road in between St. Augustine and Apalachee Parkway! Hurry shes unconscious and shes got a broke leg and she ain't wearing no damn pants! Never mind! Y'all hurry!

 He rushed back to her side, knelt down to help her, and checked her pulse. She was breathing well and her color was good. He had a habit of sticking his tongue to the right side of his mouth when he was working. Her left leg looked broken by the hip, but other than that she was fine. He poured water on her legs and wiped them off with the towel. He covered her privates and body with the blanket. He moved around in front of her wiping the bugs, dirt and droppings off of her, all the while biting his tongue out the side of his mouth. He was in between her legs kneeling and sprinkling water on her, in a mad rush to get all the ants off. In all his hurry, he spilled water on his crotch and instinctively wiped between his legs as Gretna finally came to.

Gretna awoke to Roscoe kneeling between her legs, biting his tongue and rubbing his man parts while looking down at her. It took a minute for the fog to leave her and slowly the horror of her new situation overrode the pain and she began to scream and so did Roscoe.

Roscoe looked down and then at the lady and then he realized what he was doing and why she was screaming. It was gusty and had looked like rain all day. He felt a breeze come up and the blanket floated up and her business was once again out in the open. She was still screaming and Roscoe was trying to form words but all he could think to do was cover her. He pushed the blanket down and now his hand was between her legs. She screamed louder


Roscoe was in a full blown panic and he pulled his hand away from her crotch and stood up. The blanket once again picked up in the wind. He stamped his foot to push it back down and she screamed from pain. She kept screaming as Roscoe motioned to her with his hands, to calm down. He was saying "wait" over and over but she just screamed. She tried to move but the broken leg hurt more than ever and as she twisted, a cramp welled up in her gut. She farted loudly and it startled her and Roscoe. She stopped screaming for a second and Roscoe looked down (perplexed) and then back at her face.

Get off me.!!!!.....

Gretna passed out again, so Roscoe ran to the car and retrieved a few wrenches and ran back. He knelt down and covered  her back up with the blanket and placed the wrenches on it, to keep it from blowing back up. He sat down in a heap and tried to catch his breath.

"Sweet Lord!"

 He leaned back on his hands, as his chest rose and fell, shaking from adrenalin and fear.

"Good God! What did I get myself into?"

He heard the sirens and moved to his right and leaned up against a tree. He looked around for ant piles and realized (after the smell hit him) that he was covered in dog mess. He wiped his face with a hanky and closed his eyes to breath.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Ache

Gretna was waging war on anything with six or more legs. When she wasn't swatting, she was fanning away the gnats. She could hear the washing thumping and the uneven load, spinning lopsided. She knew it would stop in a minute and swatted another fly. The strike traveled though the smoke seeping out of her nose and made two tiny little tornado's in its wake. This went unnoticed by Gretna as she flicked the dead insect off the picnic table like a short order cook moving hash browns to the side of the griddle, before they burned. She settled back onto the prickly bench, reminded that she had no underwear. Her moo moo had fluffed out like a parachute, in the flurry of her last attack. Now, she sat bare assed on the bench, too lazy to fix it, and too hardened to care.

Kerry sat in the cantina with her two boys, both crew cutted. One in cargo pants and a brown shirt, the other with baller shorts and a Superman shirt. The older was playing with a cell phone and the younger looked at his brother then his mother, waiting for her to get off the phone so he could resume his "Baja Off Road Race" game. He didn't touch his mother or look at her expectantly for too long, he dared not. She had "the look" this morning; combination of tired and mad. He had been conditioned not to bother her when she had that look and he watched his brother play his phone, wishing he had sat on that side instead of next to his Mom. He wished he could, at least, watch his brother play. He turned and looked out the window hoping for a distraction that would ease the nervous feeling he got when he had to be quiet, wait and hope his mother didn't get mad.

"Well honey, maybe you can meet some other guy that will pay your bills and get you pregnant. The worlds full of idiots that aren't happy with their wives. You shake that ass of yours, and look at them like a puppy, and once again you will do your best work... on your back. Ain't that how you got in this mess? Well honey, maybe that's the way out. God knows the well is dry and I ain't raising no more kids."

Gretna's own sarcasm made her laugh, triggering a coughing fit. She held the phone away from her face. Parts of her body collided with other parts of her body as she coughed and swayed. She felt light headed and steadied herself on the 2x4 holding up a corner of the roof. She got dizzy and set the phone down on the table.

Kerry listened without response, knowing all her mothers questions were rhetorical. She had made a mess of her life, she knew that, but her boys were in a good school and got good grades. She was a good mother when it came to things she could control. They were well fed, she was good with their homework. She had always done well in school and loved to help the boys with their studies. They would look up at her sometimes in awe of how she could do math and science. She hadn't done everything right, but she had done a lot of things. She had to remind herself of her good points because no one else ever seemed to. She could hear her mother coughing in the back round. She knew she had put down the phone. She hung up. If her mother was done talking the call was over anyway. She never cared about what Kerry had to say. She would just make her judgments and insults, point out where Kerry was wrong and get off the phone. That's why Kerry only called on Sundays or when she needed money. Otherwise, why would anyone put themselves through this abuse? On Sundays Gretna drank and would drone on and on about the weather and how nice a day it was and Kerry could escape before she remembered what a disappointment her daughter was. Week days were filled with Gretna's anger and remorse and her daughter was the perfect target for her bitterness. She seemed to feel better about herself after she tore Kerry down for being a failure, or a slut, or whatever she thought she was that day. When the call came for money, or a ride, or (in situations of extreme hardship) to watch the boys.

At the next table he noticed all three of them. He thought about his boys at that age. Now they were starting college and he could feel them slipping away. All his life he had been busy and he secretly dreamed of being able to have quiet and to get some rest. To eat a meal without having to negotiate with everyone else for what to eat, what to watch on T.V. and to have room on the couch to relax. Now he was faced with his wish and it felt like a curse. She was beautiful, tanned and natural looking with no make up. She reminded him of the surfer girls he grew up with in the seventies. Tan, blond and looking like they just fell off album cover of a songs about peace and love. She was slender and fit and her boys were very well behaved. Not like the kid in the booth behind them that was making his own sound effects for his every move.

As he fired a finger gun.
As he cross cut the air with an invisible light saber.
As he sat down with an explosion.

He thought to himself, that anytime a kid makes his own sound effects, a teacher, police officer or (anyone with any sense) should be able to note it in a file, so that he would be prohibited from owning fire arms in the future. The frantic waitress came to the table panting.

"Can I take drink your drink order?"

"Unsweet Tea with lemon and I'd like some chips and salsa, mild please."

She was gone before he finished his sentence. Nothing makes a waitress more happy than a table for one. It's all the trouble of a table for four with one quarter of the tip. She sped away and he looked up at the screens, playing videos of men riding impossibly huge waves. He used to draw scenes like that on his notebook in high school, but he never dreamed that anyone would ever ride sixty foot waves. He was tired. He'd played a gig last night and he had that afterglow feeling that nothing else gave him. It was the only thing that ever made him cool. In his life he was invisible to most. Women stopped looking at him years ago, and to his cycling buddies he was the funny slow guy. It was as if he had a secret and knowing it made life good again. He was great at something. Behind a drum kit he transformed into a confident player. He left his awkward nervous life at the edge of the stage and fell into music like a bird. He knew how to play, how to sing and how to read his fellow musicians. He understood gear and how to run sound. This was the only place he had ever been surrounded by people that listened to him and treated him with respect. He hadn't played in years because like all the great loves of his life, he almost never got back what he put in. There is a great ache that comes with pursuing something you love more than your own life. You get to bask in the light of what you want more than anything, but at any moment you could be broken beyond repair. He had known both sides of that coin and it was why he hadn't played for eight years. This gig was too good and the players too talented to say no. He was elated, but fear sat next to him again. It was a silent partner, and a patient thief that would wait until the dream died, to move in, take the jewel from his heart, his confidence, and his last ounce of denial. He wondered if he could weather another recovery, this late in the game.

"That was unsweet right?"

The waitress leaned on the table as she put down the chips, her breasts swayed in her tank top independently of each other. He saw the edge of her tan lines and a tattoo of a swallow. He was careful to make eye contact as she looked up from the table. She had on thick rimmed glasses and jet black dyed hair. She was oblivious to his glance and never considered how she looked because (he was reminded) there was no threat of interaction outside of the food transaction they were completing. What he thought of her breasts, hair and tattoos was the farthest thing, from anything she was thinking. She neither regarded or ignored him. She completed a group of robotic tasks as though she was sleep walking. He was invisible again. He was used to it. He fought the urge to make a joke.

"Yes, with a lemon please."

She was looking at her other tables assessing a list of what to bring back, to minimize the trips she would need to make. A black and gray rose stem with thorns, ascended into her shorts and disappeared beneath the fabric of what he could only imagine, were very naughty black underwear, with a goth lace theme. A single drop of blood hanging from the lowest thorn was in red ink and the only feature of any color against her skin. He looked back at the T.V. and surfers ripping the turquoise water, in long white tracks. He realized the list of things out of his reach (the attention of young waitresses, surfing great waves in exotic locales etc.) was getting longer everyday. For today, he was a musician again, and that would be enough to fuel him through the next few days and weeks until he played again. He would almost disappear to all those that knew him and then he would play again, and his colors would return. He would repeat the process as many times as he could.

The 2x4 gave way as Gretna leaned on it. She cascaded from the porch like the side of a mountain in a California landslide. Her fall was chaotic and unbalanced to the left. She rolled out of the bush and onto her back covered in wet leaves. She heaved in deep panicked breaths and a whistling sound underscored the cubic yards of air she took in and forced out like exhaust. She rolled to one side and got all her limbs under her till she could gather her knees one at time and reach her feet. She was facing away from the house when the front porch broke free of its nails and hurricane clips, crashing and creaking its way to the thunderous conclusion on the porch. Gretna let out a huge thoracic roar, as she began to run from the unseen threat behind her. The roar crescendoed into a full blown scream as she steamed away from the house. Her left sandal folded in upon itself under her toes, as she stutter stepped to regain her balance. As her right foot slammed to the ground to steady her, she found not solid footing, but a fresh pile of dog shit. Her legs began to slide away from each other and she heard a crackling sound that reminded her of pasta being twisted and broken in half to fit in an undersized pan. She was once again on the ground, with something broken badly, covered in dog shit, and leaves, unable to move. She lay there on her back with her moo moo up around her ribs. From her belly button down she was butt ass naked. Her stomach, legs, and lady parts were in the shinning sun for the first time in forty years. Her mother had always warned her about having an accident in dirty underwear and somehow she had surpassed that nightmare, ten fold.

"Becky Mobile"

Kerry clicked on the name and started to text her friend. The boys sat silent with their to-go boxes wondering why they couldn't eat in the restaurant.


Kerry, hit the send button and jiggled her leg nervously as she stared at the phone screen trying to will a response. She would manage, she always did, but it was very bad this time. She had gone too long between hits and she had exhausted all her friends that supplied her.

"C'mon boys!"

She stood up and left and the boys scrambled after her. She walked out the door and it swung shut between her and her sons. She crossed the street walking full speed and the older boy stopped his brother at the curb while they checked for cars. They had done this before, it was second nature.

He watched her go, she was in great shape. She looked so young. He imagined her on a beach in a bikini. He could hear the surf. He wondered what her story was. He wished she had waited to watch for her boys. He remembered holding his sons hands as they all crossed streets. It was all such a very long time ago.

"I didn't charge you for the chips, thanks for being so patient."

Again she leaned over but this time she smiled a little. The tab was four dollars and twenty cents. He tipped her four dollars, signed the ticket and headed back to work.


Monday, June 4, 2012

In A Lifetime

It's not often I recognize magic while it happens. I'm a good one for getting the point of it all days later. I'm a good one for looking back. This weekend was full of moments in the now, that filled my soul.

It was a rare and precious few days where we all hovered above the tedium and never awoke from the dream. It was like everything was going to be alright forever.

My cup overflows.

Every so often, I realize the light is good, and I get the picture.


Friday, June 1, 2012

You Are My Sunshine

The day #1 son was born was one of those first child stories everyone has. You don't know if was as dramatic as memory preserves, or if you were just a novice. In either case (as with all new parents) his arrival was a life changer. When he finally came into the light I said to him; "There you are, we have been waiting for you." He turned and looked right at me as my wife and I cried.

Right from the start he was just the happiest guy ever. He found joy in everything and would laugh so hard that he couldn't hold up his head. We had a fish tank and we would scoot his chair up to it and let him watch the fish with wonderment. His first word was "fish" and the first trip we ever went on as a family was to Silver Springs so he could say his only word over and over while pointing into the clear water. 

He was always extremely bright and we would let him talk for as long as he wanted. Through out his first years of school it became routine for his teachers to tell us how smart, polite and kind he was. His memory was other worldly and he routinely learned dances and lyrics to movies and TV shows. Ms. W.B. and I would be entertained for hours watching him sing and move with the characters from the Wizard of Oz and other shows.

The early years of parenthood were tough. We had very little money. My wife and I worked full time jobs and I played music four to five nights a week. We were exhausted most of the time and not the happiest folks in the world. Cray was always a calming force in our life and a constant reminder of how blessed we were to be a family. It was just impossible to be in a foul mood when that kid came into the room beaming with happiness. His brother arrived thirteen months after he did and Cray was never out of his reach. Cory would make noises and talk in sounds we couldn't decipher and Cray would turn to us and say "cheerios" or whatever it was that Cory needed and then Cory would be fine. He has always been intuitive.

I have always been hard on gentle souls. I have a harshness that I accumulated with life. It has not been easy on Cray to have me as a Dad. I am tough guy to be around on my best day. Cray only sees good in the world and approaches every situation with wonder. We used to call him Captain Positive because he always has seen the upside of everything in his gaze. Once when I was taking the boys to the park on an over cast day, I felt the need to prepare them for the possibility of rain. I said to them; "Now guys if it rains we won't be able to play at the park okay?" Cray quickly replied; "But if it doesn't rain we can play for a long time right?" That is his world view in a nut shell. He has made me a better person and softened my edges, often at his expense.

Cray excelled in school and was an honor student all through middle and high school. He was on the high school swim team and works as a life guard for the city. He saved money to go to France last year with the French Honor Society. He volunteered one hundred hours of community service, for Bright Futures. He is graduating with honors from high school with thirty three college credit hours. He is attending F.S.U. in the fall. I have no idea where the time went.

I am so profoundly honored to have him as a son and friend. He is quite simply one of the best humans I have ever known. I am in awe of his intellect and the kindness with which he lives his life. People love to complain about their teenagers, but everyday I see that guy and the way he handles himself, I feel a gratitude for having him in my life I could never put into words.

Congratulations my Son.