Stan

Pat looked stricken. “But why? Why aren’t you coming?” Answering was easy and it made me sound like an ass.

Stan was long and lean like the old-time cowboy in Tom T Hall’s song Faster Horses. He was an all around tradesman that lived like he was in his mid twentys.

Pat was a waitress in a small cafe and bar. Young (but not that young) and flirty. They met when he walked in after work one day for dinner and she commented, “Nice pockets!” He smiled and soon they were joined at the hip.

They decided that marriage was a good idea. Neither had married and both bought tickets for and had lived the carnival house of meth. Both were fun, cynical, accepting. They both knew bullshit at face value.

I met Stan ’cause he bought the house across the alley from me. I worked a lot and Stan spent his day off doing mechanical things behind the garage where I drove in and out of my shop.

Stan and I visited lightly with Pat occasionally dropping in. She was always nice to me and usually a bitch to Stan. Even the most mundane circumstance dripped with sexuality between the two. Social dialogue between most folks was foreplay between them.

We did favors for each other the way neighbors do and became pretty good friends. He was my only friend at the time ‘cept for Old Man Pete because work was my reason for living and I was Stan’s only ‘quiet’ friend based on the partying.

One day he said “Man, I’m tired. I’m gonna go to the doc to see if they have some better pills to keep me going.” That sounded like a good idea. He worked six 14 hour days a week laying concrete in the building of those huge farm warehouses. He had to drink 12 – 18 cans of Pepsi a day and was starting to drag. He needed better pills.

We would probably still be talking shit today if he hadn’t gone. They drew blood and sent it to the lab. Now they had all they needed to kill him. He had some kind of leukemia so he was convinced to let them ‘fight it’.

They pumped that poor son of a bitch so full of toxic shit that he went from a normal guy to the living dead in 3 days. “So tragic.” they would say. Or, “this all happens so fast.”

I went to see him. He wasn’t right. He still talked about building but no longer made any sense. I asked the 10-year-old that was in charge of the nurses in his wing when they were gonna detox him and send him home. “Oh, he’s not going home” she reassured me. “He’s going to die here in a few days.” Her eyes widened at her own words. “Does he know it?” I asked. “I told his family but they don’t listen and keep fighting among themselves while they’re here.” she answered.

I went back the next couple days and watched him succumb to their ‘care’. The room was dimly lit and Stan was telling me that the walls weren’t plumb when suddenly he asked me to hand me his hammer. What?! “Wadda you saying Stan?” “Hand me my fucking hammer will ya.” I figured I’d play along. I looked around the room for his hammer then asked “where is it?” “If it was up your ass you’d know where it was.” I spun around and the toothless son of a bitch was laughing. “Ain’t no hammer in a hospital room Ass Hole.” He got me. “Fuck you Stan.” We sat for a while and I wanted him to live.

It took those motherfuckers 6 weeks to kill Stan.

They ran him through the oven right away and set the memorial for a week of two out. I drove by the place. Turns out I wasn’t Stan’s only friend. As I pulled into my alley driveway his wife came out and asked if I was coming to the memorial. I looked at her for a few seconds. She really is a pretty gal. She’s got that ‘worldly’ way about her that’s attractive. “Naw, I’m not going.”

“Why? You’re his best friend!”

“I’m sorry Pat. I love him but I’m not coming.”

“Why Goddammit?!”

“Well, he isn’t coming to my funeral, I’m not going to his.”

She looked at me, a bit disgusted, her eyes doing that fast back and forth between each of my eyes for a second or two, “You and Stan are both ASSHOLES!” She walked off.

I started to smile. Yeah, that’s….. that’s about the best….. Thank you Pat.

Death is a pain-in-the-ass.

Farewell Stan.

A Beautiful Wife

I met a man with a beautiful wife. He was a young Mexican half-breed with a good job and a nice car.

We visited for a few hours and went to watch the firemen deal with a smoking hassle down the street. Kitchen fire.

The booze was flowing but I wasn’t drinking. Had shit to do later.

He talked of family. “You sure found a pretty one, your wife. She’s a doll” I told him. “Yeah, I hear that a lot but you’re not married to her”.

There is that I suppose. I was married once.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason it’s so easy to see the beauty in another man’s wife is because I don’t know her well enough. She hasn’t turned on me, stabbed me in the back, stolen from me my ability to trust. Sucked my soul.

Some months later I saw him at a funeral and he was less then friendly. I don’t think it was in mourning a death. Death doesn’t hurt like that.

Women cause that kind of pain.

He’s married to her.

Omaha Girl

We met just 2 weeks before.

I was a traveler

in your cafe.

You danced, offering your wares.

Offering your wares

for tips.

Now I’m back,

you smiled.

You gave your number

to me and a pal.

We both called, me first

then him.

Ebony skin, smooth and shiny.

Full, knowing lips.

My life changed and your phone rang.

It was my pal.

I left your room and saw him

heading your way.

He never knew.

He couldn’t shut up for days

about how I should have called you.

You are a wonder

my Omaha Girl.

Screaming all the Way

My Aunt instantly corrected me. “You weren’t screaming. You were quiet as a mouse and that’s what was so scary.” “No Auntie, I was screaming the whole way.” “No sir, you weren’t. You laid in the back of the car, white. You were WHITE…….Like you were already dead!

I must have been in my mid thirties when my aunt and I were visiting at my grandparent’s home. We were flipping through family memories when she mentioned a farm accident that became part of family lore.

I was recently out of 3 cornered britches (as diapers were called in our neck of the woods) and all available hands were cleaning the tractor building. I was too young to be of any help so I pretty much just had to stay out of the way and out of trouble.

The thing about tractor sheds is that there is a lot of interesting things in a shed and this particular day I was messing with the tread on the rear wheels that were leaning against a wall that had been removed from one of the tractors. See, to me the treads were huge and I figured that I could climb the tread if no one was looking.

Dad hollered at me to get away from the wheels so I did…. for awhile. Pretty soon he hollered again to GET AWAY. So I did……. for awhile. Well, charm ain’t always what we want it to be and in this case, third time was the charm.

Every story that moves along eventually has to have a plot point, you know, where everything is boring and then something happens that changes the course of the rest of the story. We’re getting close to that very plot point for this story.

As I’m writing this the memory is rich and real. Dust, smell of grease, rubber, it’s all living in my body waiting for a memory to resurrect them.

Well, I was doing fine, almost on top of the tire. Just a little more. Whoa, uh-oh, the tire started moving and I was sliding off, hoping dad wouldn’t see me……..

There was a WHUMMP and there was dust and a panoramic, black-and-white snap-shot of Dad and my aunt looking my way. This was bad! Daddy is gonna spank me. They came a-running and somehow lifted that tractor tire off me.

You know that feeling when you get punched really hard in the stomach? Or when you are shoveling snow and the shovel hits a crack while you are pushing it and it pokes you REALLY HARD in the gut so that all you can do is gasp and maybe cry if you’re a sissy or maybe puke? Kind of like that except that it hurt.

Being able to breath…….. God, I hope when you die… I hope it ain’t cause you got your breath knocked out. Some of it isn’t clear. I think my system might have shut off my mind for a while to focus on learning to breath. Can’t breath… it sucks!

Since I hadn’t gathered my thoughts, (they were scattered all over the warehouse floor) nor did I have any idea of dignity, I just laid around and screamed.

While I maintained a decent level of noise, everything else was just a bunch of busy. People running for phones and a bunch of serious big-people talk. I was too young to know what a hospital was but I do remember knowing I was gonna find out.

I’m not sure if we took the ’63 Rambler or if Auntie set me in back of her car, I just remember turning out of our lane onto the highway and she kept looking over the seat at me and saying stuff that I couldn’t hear over my screaming.

This was all before Smokey and the Bandit taught us all to drive and I really didn’t understand the concept of speeding but my older brother told me that Auntie was HAULING ASS!

The phone call had the Cheyenne hospital ready but when we Auntie hauled me in, there was a problem. They understood that it was my Dad that was smashed so they were ready to pronounce him DOA (dead on arrival) and move him down to the refrigerated drawer to keep him fresh untill the funeral. Evidently adults don’t usually survive that level of boot-stomping. Dad said it took a half hour to set up for me.

Auntie came and visited me every day for a week. She brought finger puppets and such. She asked the nurse “Is he OK? Why is he lying so still? Can he move around?” Turns out that when I first got there one of the nurses had told me to lie still. Being a little kid in that condition I took it to heart. The nurse assured her that I was fine and it is OK if I moved around. “You can move around sweetie, it’s OK.” She said I could move so I did. Later Auntie told me that the nurse was sorry that she said I could move!

Come to think of it, Auntie was pretty nice to me then. We haven’t been real close in the past 15 years or so. Maybe I’ll call her.

It took a week to make sure I wasn’t pooping blood and somehow little kid bones bend like grass before a wind so no bones got broke. The tires didn’t have the liquid ballast in them or I would have splattered. Good luck I guess.

Out of all the perhaps hundreds of times this memory was recalled or brought to me by family conversations I ALWAYS remembered screaming all the way. Now Auntie was telling me, “That’s what was so scary. You didn’t make a sound all the way to Cheyenne”. Now that put a different spin on the whole thing. How the hell could that be? Was all that noise just in my head?

Of course, the years don’t stop putting distance between us and the past so more thoughts arrive.

Sometimes now I wonder when petty misunderstandings happen and people don’t understand why no one hears them….. Maybe the screaming is just in their head. (Don’t say that to your wife. It’ll piss her off!)

A mentor of mine used to talk about people ‘acting out’ instead of communicating. I thought of ‘acting out’ as a euphemism for being childish. Now I wonder if he was saying that people have a feeling and they ‘act out’ the feeling instead of communicating and they assume everyone else is hearing the message. (Couldn’t you see by my expression that something is wrong?)

Anyway, I’m starting to wander off.

See you next time.

Where’d He Learn THAT?

OUTTA MY WAY JACKASS!!!   My youngest son was rocking forward and back in his car seat planted in the center of the back passenger area. He was not quite two years old and obviously had a lot to learn about handling driving stress. My mom was with us and she looked startled and said “I wonder where he learned THAT??!

Of course everyone looked at me. Well, yes he learned the phrase from me but he was using it wrong. The car in front of us was at a red light. The driver wasn’t being a jackass, my son didn’t realize that not EVERYONE stopped in front of us was in the way, just the stupid ones.

Most people just jump to conclude that every time a little one shows anti social behavior it must be a product of terrible parenting. I do see a connection but it startles me to see how well much of my terrible parenting brought about lots of excellent traits in my kids as well.

Just to show I cared I took the little one on lots of town and country rides and talked frankly about the other drivers so that next time he could identify the REAL jackasses.

It’s just as true that a few poorly informed people have expressed displeasure in my driving as well. I quickly assure them that MY driving is just fine. “I drive like an Asian” I tell them. “Damned right” is the usual reply but the forgiveness is already started. They have to forgive me, Manga is cool.

You see, I had the opportunity to learn about the fine quality of most Asian products, Toyota, Subaru, sexy Asian models, Honda, Jackie Chan, Yamaha, and so on. Everything Asians do seems to turn out great. I needed awesomeness in my life.

In an effort to align myself with some of that awesomeness I could get good at math or be a terrible driver. Driving terribly came natural to me so I went that route.

So yeah, if you really want to know, he learned it from me. He’s older now so he might be rocking back and forth in the driver’s seat and his vocabulary is a bit better developed. I taught him some other stuff too so you probably want to go when the light turns green.

Oh, hey, before you go, Thank you for reading my stories.

Go Look in the Mirror!

My heart rate increased as Mr. S approached. I averted my eyes, staring straight ahead. I was concentrating on walking ‘normal’. “HEY, come here” I thought I was home free but he called me back.

No, no, no, no. What does he want. I could barely cope but I was gonna have to.

A couple months ago my best friend Scott was asking me if I wanted to get high. “Of course not.” He had gone to the same ultra-religious schools I had. What was he doing?

Luckily Scott knew of my desire to learn and always do the right thing so he knew the tact to take. “Ken, how are you going to know what you are saying no to unless you do it?”

Pot was hard to come by at this specific school nestled in the Bad Lands of Northwest Nebraska but another Scott was able to produce. It was rolled not much bigger than pencil lead and 3 of us shared. They began giggling like morons but I got nothing. Well, it’s got to start somewhere and it just did.

We took another run at it a week later after the whole affair of being sneaky and all. Being sneaky was a must as smoking pot or ANY drug use was bad news at this particular school and the cops were called on ALL who were caught. Again, nothing.

Being the disciplined person I was, it was now a mission to find out what I used to say no to. A week later we pooled all the money we had to buy one more of these super skinny joints and this time I went into full la-la land. Nothing but a giggling mess of stupid pudding. Never in my life had nonsense moved through my system with such authority. Now that I knew what I had been saying no to, I felt a personal responsibility to never say no again. Course, as I got older I discovered an ability to be silly without having to smoke.

So here I was hiding out making sure not to get caught but I had to make my way to another dormitory. Planning my route carefully and practicing my ‘normal’ walk I headed out.

About half way there some men were exiting a building and one of them came walking my way. Oh shit, shit, shit, keep walking. Don’t look at him. No, no, no, look straight ahead. Mr. S. glanced at me as we passed. Made it! “HEY, Come here.”

“Hi Mr. S. what’s up?”

“Uh, Ken, you’re a real good student here and I feel like we can trust you. Would you like to help us with a project?”

“Um, sure. What do you need?” I was freaking out.

“We have put together a special task force with the staff and the security cadre to catch people who have been smoking pot. The thing is though, we are going to need assistance from the students. I’d sure appreciate it if you would be willing to help out. Whatcha think?”

“What do you need me to do?”

“Well, If you see anyone that has been smoking pot, I want you to come to me right away and we will catch them.”

“OK” I nodded. Of course I wasn’t gonna tell him nothin’.

He started to move on then paused. “Do you know what people look like when they’ve been smoking pot?”

I shook my head no.

“GO LOOK IN THE MIRROR!”

I can still feel the sensation in my facial muscles when I remember the horror as I looked into his eyes. I was busted.

He spun and walked away. I stood stupidly for a few seconds before zooming to my bunk to hide the rest of the night. For a few days I wondered when the shoe was gonna drop. Weeks went by before I could even look at Mr. S and then things went back to normal.

Being old now I can clearly see how much he must have enjoyed scaring the shit out of me. Hopefully I can do that to some other kid before I die.