murca circa ’10

“Check this out.”

Tom turned in the direction Ed was looking, toward the entry door of The Swamp. Forty- five feet across the easily hosed, unpainted concrete floor of the tavern.

“Figures.”

“It would figure better if it were a shotgun or a .22. That’s an M16.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

Tom, a Long Island kid until he moved upstate at 16, had worked some stints on dairy farms before finding a niche as a paralegal. He was Irish, and he was good at acting calm.

“Jesus, Tom.”

By now the fellow was through the door and in the middle of the room, standing in a circle with three other guys. He cradled the rifle like a baby.

“He’s careless as shit with that thing. If that muzzle swings toward me, I’m moving….wait…here it comes. Fuck this shit.”

Ed jumped off his bar stool and strolled halfway across the room. The fool was violating the number one rule of gun handling: “Never let the gun point toward anything or anyone you don’t want to shoot, even if you are 100% sure the gun is unloaded.”

Tom followed, beer in hand, and Ed continued:

“You have got to be shitting me. Nobody else finds that a problem?”

“Guess not. Surprised? This is a goofball place, so there are goofballs here. Why do you think WE’RE here?

“That’s fucked up. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s loaded too.”

“Be cool. I’m gonna go check it out.”

Tom casually strolled over to the group and struck up a conversation that Ed could not hear over the din of all the others. At least fifty people in the bar, and nobody seemed the least bit rattled by a man walking in with an M16 and carelessly waving it around.

Tom returned with his imperturbable expression intact.

“It’s a walking stick.”

Ed just looked at him, so he elaborated:

“It’s a walking stick made to look just like an M16. It’s a walking stick.”

“And he doesn’t use it to help him walk?”

“Apparently not.”

 

 

 

 

 

Running Late

012

Category: Ephemera
Found: 10/30/17
Location: Pew#3,  St. Malachy’s Church, Sherburne, NY.
Description: retail price tag
Search notes: On March 1, 2017 Vanity Shops of Grand Forks, Inc. declared bankruptcy and closed its 140 stores

tough day

“We did this long climb out in Moab, hours of uphill on a sunny day, and as soon as we got to the top I saw a big line of thunderstorms bearing down on us.”

His boat was whaleskin stretched over wood, sixteen feet long and scarcely wider than his hips. The steel harpoon head, with its barb, stayed in the walrus, and was slowly killing it.

” I was freezing, man, but back then I always carried a Space Blanket in my jersey pocket. We stopped at the top and I was in the bathroom, cutting up pieces of Space Blanket and taping them over my thighs and my torso. I always carried electrical tape back then.”

Early in the second night the walrus died. The Inuit began to tow it toward home, but he could not tow as fast as the walrus had. He lashed himself to the carcass and slept alone on the swelling ocean.”

“So we got down okay, but we got a motel room that night. It was the last night anyway and the campsite was soggy. Hot shower you know.”

He arrived near the village in the middle of the fifth day, and presented the walrus. Early in the evening he fell asleep again in his house of ice.

 

 

Cult Bump

solo

He had put himself alone almost immediately. Thursday night group ride from the brewery, six men out, together for the first mile. Then the expected surge at the front. Three fast men away, and caught by a red light with the slower duo. Good guys. Would have been a pleasure to ride with them. But a steady effort kept the leaders in sight, and a bit more pressure pulled them closer. They were strong men, soft-pedaling a bit to let him back on.  Everyone in limbo. It would take a good amount of energy to catch them, and much more to stay once they upped the pace. Two miles later he was on, and they descended together into Poolville.

“You must have had the hammer down to catch us like that.”

“Pretty clear to me that you guys didn’t have the hammer down.”

That was the salute.  He hung on for the short climb out and settled  comfortably into the last spot in the pace line. Mark pulled a couple miles miles, then John. Twenty three mph mostly. Easy enough to hang on. He decided to do his duty and got to the front, Cateye reading lower twenties. About a kilo in the train went by,  too fast to board. The big boys were warmed up and racing, and he shouted for them to go.

Twelve miles later he killed the front flasher and rolled, alone, back down the brewery driveway. Flashy new jersey. Loose stone. Spectators at the outdoor tables. Well done. Blared the car horn accidentally struggling out of his cleats, but what the hell, he had a story.

He offered the first rendition to the two riders he had left behind, one of them the titular host of the ride. Indoors, he kept it snappy. A report fitted in between their bites of pizza and grilled cheese.  The second five ounce beer made him brave.

“Mind if I join you, ladies?”

Beth and Zoe, the wives of two friends who were still out on the off-road ride. Early forties, and as radiant as can be. He imagined that if he were to ever blog post his story, his friend RR would protest for more detail on these two. They had no food.

“How are you?!?!”

They seemed delighted.

“Not bad for an old guy.”

Beth’s response made him remember that she’d encouraged him once before, on a ride that left from her house. “You’ll be fine” she’d said that time, and she’d been right.

“You’re not that old.”

He smiled.

“Yes. Yes….I am exactly that old.”

Smiles all around.

“Well I’m pretty thoroughly beaten up. Twelve miles of John and those guys and I’d had enough of that.”

Smiles and nods. Both husbands were tough nuts on a bike.

“But I did have an adventure.”

A sunny summer evening at a picnic table. Four eyebrows raised.

“”I peeled off to SC Road to leave those guys at it, figuring to take River Road back here. And where SC hits River there’s a short little climb, and as I came up it I could see an Amish buggy coming down River, so I prepared to wave and be friendly. Once up onto River though, I could see the buggy pulled over on the shoulder, man and woman standing in the front, two little kids standing in the back, and all peering down into the ditch. As I got closer I started to glimpse another buggy, this one in the ditch and practically upside down. As I slowly passed I asked if they needed help.”

Zoe and Beth looked apprehensive. Perhaps I was telling it well.

“”No, but thanks for asking. We don’t even know what happened.”

The man had reins in his hand. As I rolled slowly past the scene I could see that a very substantial county route sign, the sign and steel post, were bent flat to the shoulder. Bent right at ground level. I thought about the phone in my pocket. I knew the Amish didn’t have one. I circled back and asked:

“Are there people down there?”

The man clucked his cheek and the horse took a step forward. A little girl, two or three, flipped off the back of the cart. She landed right on her head.””

As the ladies gasped and grabbed their faces he remembered the tumbling dress and bonnet. He remembered saying “You lost your baby”.  He remembered that the impact had sounded like a bag of potatoes dropped from a height onto the pavement. He did not mention the sound, but indicated the height with his hand.

“About four feet, I’d say.”

He could not leave the mothers of a collective eight children there for long.

“And she jumped right up and started crying.”

He remembered saying “You’re okay baby.” The relief washed over him again as he granted it to the ladies. He had been surprised to see the child jump up. He’d caught a brief glimpse of the side of her face, crying, from five feet away.

“So the man handed the woman the reins, came back and hooked the little girl under the arms and took her to the woman. He took the reins as he got back on the wagon, clucked again, and they drove off down the road. And as they rolled away, the man and woman both were looking over their shoulders at me with big, laughing smiles on their faces.”

The story had survived the crashing relief of an undead child. His listeners were not fanning themselves but leaning in to grasp the surrealness of his experience. Where had he learned to tell stories like this?

“So I was alone, or so I hoped. When they rolled off like that I was inclined to think it was foul play of some sort. I could see splintered wood at the back of the wrecked buggy. It was well off the shoulder in a deep ditch with tall grass all around it. I thought about calling 911, but I didn’t. I went down in the ditch the best I could with my cleats on and braced myself on the buggy and peeked inside. No one inside. But it was clear, if only from the road sign, that there had been some violence, probably with a car involved. A hit and run? I decided to call 911 before I started looking through the brush and jungle for victims. Operator asked my location first, then the nature of my emergency, and then assured me that they were aware of an incident there and that it had occurred earlier in the day. I said thank you.”

“So they were just there gawking?”

“Maybe. Maybe they were trying to figure out how to pull the wreck out, but the man told me they didn’t know what happened.”

He thought of the little girl and wished he’d caught that train. He told himself to try harder next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cecil

Thirty to thirty five people at best.  Surprising.  The pastor seemed  salt of the earth. Lanky and bearded.  Lincoln.  He had ambled through the requisite prayers and then a quote from Walden.

And this next piece is one Cheryl come up with. It’s from Our Town:

We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.

So now if anyone would like to speak.”

A four second pause. Kenneth stood in the front row and the pastor stepped away from the mike.

“”My dad was the toughest guy I ever knew. But anybody who was around our house could tell, from the number of cats, dogs, birds, mice, donkeys…well… that he liked animals. Even some humans. He had a list. Ones he didn’t like. And if you were on it you didn’t get off. He only called the doctor twice before he was seventy years old. First, when both he and Mom had the flu. The doctor came. House call. He got better, and I remember him saying “That would’ve killed a weaker man.”  Second time a cow had kicked him and broken a few ribs. House call. The doctor wrapped him up tight and he went out and milked. So I tried to think of a good story and this is what I came up with:

One morning in January when I was twelve we were making some extra money trapping muskrats. It was one of those cold, clear mornings, and I seem to remember it was ten below…could have been colder….but still and cold. The neighbor kid, Barry, and Dad and I, hiked across the swamp to the spring pond to set some traps. It was the only time Barry ever went with us, and, well, you’ll know why at the end of the story. We had two dogs with us – Smokey, a black spaniel mix of some sort, and Lady-bug, a worthless little beagle. But we loved her.

The pond had ice on it, but it was a spring pond so it wasn’t completely frozen over, and as soon as we got there the two dogs ran straight out onto the ice and fell through, in the middle of the pond.  I remember thinking “This is not good,” and I remember Barry and me running to the other side of the pond, where the open water was. The dogs were trapped, but they broke ice with every try to climb onto it, and the open water was closer than the shore they had departed from.

  We called and whistled and clapped to encourage the dogs to break through and swim to us, and at some point I looked back across to where Dad was and he was at the edge of the pond wearing nothing but his boxers. He had a club, which I guess maybe he had cut with his hatchet, and he was wading into the pond, toward the dogs, smashing the ice in front of him with the club. Luckily, I guess, the dogs broke through the ice and were able to swim to us boys, because by the time that happened Dad was about up to his armpits and still smashing the ice. Pretty close to swimming. By the time we got back to the other side he had his clothes back on. He was just putting his coat over his head when we got there, and all he said was  “Let’s go.”  I’m pretty sure that mile run across the swamp was the only thing that kept him from freezing to death.

So that’s it.””

Kenneth stepped away and the pastor took his place.

“Anyone else?”

Time Trial

“It’s a study in brinkmanship, really. One has to concentrate on a few things. Keeping the stroke round, keeping the cadence adequately high, relaxing into the straightest line. But holding oneself as close to the limit as possible, for an hour, without going over the limit, that’s the bigger challenge.”

“And there is always music in your head?”

“Always, and never pre-planned. Upbeat, obviously. But I’ve never pre-planned it, and I can’t really recall specifically what’s popped into my head in the past. The La’s probably. Maybe Zeppelin. Maybe I should pre-plan.”

“That would be unlike you.”

“I plan every other aspect of it. The psych prep. The bike prep. Not always well, but I’m not oblivious to planning. I pre-ride the courses.”

“Plan a soundtrack then. How do you think that will go?”

“You know me a bit too well at times.”

“I know how earworms work, and you’ve brought up your earworm issues many times.”

“I have no recollection of whether I’ve had a song in my head prior to blast off or whether they just come to me.”

“Well,  start paying attention to that in place of some other aspect of your psych prep.”

“I hear you. I still wonder how much closer I’d have come to Baker if I’d been more aware of gearing. I still remember feeling complacent, just for a moment, when we crossed after the turnaround. He hadn’t taken much out of me at that point. Maybe a little. And I thought about my fifty five, and I thought I had an advantage, even on my vintage bike.”

“Tell me again,” she said smiling.

“He had the new compact drive…well, new to me. So I knew he had no bigger than a 52 up front. Lots of gentle downslope after the turnaround. I never considered the rear end. Lack of prep. I rode it on the edge all the way home, but I still think I’d have gotten another half minute on him if I’d felt more desperate.”

“Or crashed trying.”

“Considering that I’d expected him to pass me, I was pleased at first that he hadn’t. Fifteen years younger, fit and a bit crazy? I’d suggested a four minute interval at the start, hoping to hold him off, but he wanted two. My ancient reputation?”

“Could be.”

“Crossed the line and started counting. One thousand seventy when he hit the line. Fifty seconds out of me. I went from happily un-passed to a bit disappointed, and fairly quickly.”

“And then you did the math.”

“Not for about a week, but I did it. With the fifty two up front and an eleven in the rear he had almost a one hundred twenty five inch gear. My fifty five thirteen left me with just under one twelve.”

“You know that now. You won’t forget.”

“Never should have thought about it on the course. It was a lapse.”

party favor

Remove the dark
from your night doings
fold it double
hand it over
just opacity
for me please
hold the light
out with the sound