High Heat…A short story…

“Mississippi in the summer time is unbearable.”

Mary Jane Richter sits on the back porch and muses about the humidity which threatens to siphon the oxygen out of her system. A life-long native of the aforementioned state, she is acclimated to the bi-level threat of suffocating heat and smothering humidity. “I sure am thankful for the heat though, it keeps people from noticing my tears.” Mary Jane uses an old hanky to wipe the sweat and tears from her face.

“What’s the point in showering, when you just gonna be soaked after five minutes on the porch?”

Her hazel eyes watch as a worn out Chevy Cheyenne pulls up in her driveway. Jimmy Wayne Richter, Mary Jane’s twin brother, steps out and staggers toward the porch.

“It sure is a hot one lil bit. It’s hotter than Satan’s rump out here.” Mary Jane nods her head. “Yep. Whatcha doing here, Jimmy?” Jimmy Wayne, or JW, as he is known to those who might feel some tinge of regret at his passing, shrugs.

“Can’t I come see my baby sister?” JW’s black teeth glint in a mirthful smile. Mary Jane forces a smile back. “Sure, but weren’t you just in Parchment for a triple homicide? Or did I dream that whole nightmare about my brother being given three consecutive life sentences?”

“I got out early for good behavior,” Jimmy Wayne chuckles. “I can’t stay long, sister. Places to be an all that.” Mary Jayne runs her fingers through her black hair. Her hair is now streaked with gray, soon it would all be gray.

“Yeah, I understand. What do you want, JW?”

“Dad’s ole shotty still shoot?”

“Yes.”

“I need it and as many shotgun shells as you got.”

“It’s hanging on the rack over Ma and Pa’s bed.” JW walks into the house and the screen door slams shut. From the back porch Mary Jane can hear JW rummaging through the drawers looking for shotgun shells. Heavy footsteps announce JW’s presence at the screen door. “Eight shells? Is that it, MJ?”

“If that’s all you see, that’s all there is, JW. If I had known you would be breaking out of prison, I would have bought some.” JW nods and cradles the shotgun in the small of his arm.

“By God, I hate to ‘grab and run’ sister but the law will be this way in a minute.”

“Yep. Good luck, JW.”

“Love ya, MJ.”

“Love ya, too.”

JW crosses the yard and reaches for the driver door, when a shot rings out. The high caliber round slams into JW’s chest and punches him to the ground. Mary Jane pushes herself from the rocker and walks out to where her brother lies.

“Ugh-”

“Shh, Jimmy. Just listen. Did you really think after you got my children Denise an Lil’ Ricky involved in your scheming and dirty living, I would let it go? You killed my children, then you stop by here for help?”

“Ugh-”

“Stop trying to talk. I’ll spell it out for you. The Sheriff called me and told me you broke out. He asked if I would take care of you. You know, give the taxpayers a break an all that. I told him not to worry about it. So, you’re gonna die here, JW.”

“Ugh-”

Clamping a sweaty palm over her brother’s mouth, Mary Jane Richter smothers JW to death in the shade of a towering white oak. As JW convulses, MJ leans back against the tree. Her sweaty shirt sticks to her body and she watches as her youngest son walks out of the tree line with the 30-06 used to wound JW.

“Well, JW wasn’t wrong. It’s hotter than Satan’s rump out here.”

Tater Salad, Jesus and family…A short story…

“It’s a hundred today, Sue Anne if it’s ten. Even the cows are tired.”

Sandy-haired Sue Anne leaned on the cattle gate and gnawed on the blade of grass stuck between her teeth. Her blue eyes are shaded by her LSU hat. Sweat dribbles down her neck, and she swats at a mosquito who is trying to get a free meal.

“Yeah. Look at ‘em lazy cows, hiding out there in that shade. Maaaa, you lazy bums.”

Johnny Cruz, sat on his bike and spat on everything. Johnny’s hero is The Outlaw Josey Wales. Johnny is the product of Sue Anne’s aunt’s wild lifestyle. 

At one of the church’s ‘dinner on-the-grounds’ Sue Anne’s momma Beth, got into it with her sister Twila, concerning this unplanned addition to the family. 

“There ya go, Twila! Look at you all knocked up. You got no idea who the donor is do you?”

Twila balled her tiny hands into fists and her dark eyes showed the rage building in her heart. 

“We at the house of God. You gonna throw my mistakes in my face when the Lord will forgive me?”

“Getcha preggers stomach from over the tater salad you crazy broad.” Don’t nobody mess with the potato salad. Pregnant or not, we Mississippians will fight to the death over our comfort food. Of course, this is all water under the bridge. Sue Anne is 14, and Cousin Johnny is 13.

Sue Anne’s daddy has gone on to be with the Lord. He died at 38. He was a railroad worker. One hot day he passed out on the tracks and a train did him in.

After the company called Beth and gave her the news, she carried on something fierce. Wailing and thrashing, overturning tables, Sue Anne thought her momma was having a coronary. The old folks at church call it a conniption fit, but the preacher calls it a sin.

“Oooh Lord, you have put too much on me to bear!” Johnny and Twila sat on their porch and listened to Beth as she moaned for several minutes before Twila spoke.

“Well, she either got saved all over again, or somethin’ bad happened.” Twila slipped on her flip-flops and headed down the long, winding dirt driveway. Johnny pedaled his bike next to his mother.

They found Beth out in the yard, nary tear stained her cheeks. Instead, she clutched a stack of papers close to her chest. She waved them at Twila.

“That stupid redneck finally did something right. He took out a 400,000 dollar life insurance policy to provide for me and Sue Anne.” Sue Anne watched as her momma giddily pranced into the house. Looking at Twila and Johnny, Sue Anne shrugged. “Daddy always said momma’s religion only went so far. Her hypocrisy though went straight through to the bone.”

“You need anything,” asked Twila. She pulled off her flip-flop and swept the bottom of her foot off. Sue Anne shook her head no. 

“Nah. It’ll be alright. Momma may have a stroke or somethin’ if she gets more good news.”

“Well, y’all holler if you need anything.”

“Aunt Twila, do you think momma loved daddy?”

“Child, does it matter? You’re daddy is cold and in the ground.”

Sue Anne reaches down and plucks a blade of grass and began gnawing on it.

“Naw, I don’t reckon it matters anymore. Promise to shoot me if I act like momma, won’t ya?” Johnny punched his cousin on the shoulder.

“It’s the least I could do, after all, that’s the whole point of family.”

Friends…A short story…

Territory Days in Colorado Springs is a great time. Throngs of people take to the streets to participate in various events such as: live music, Native American dancing, craft vendors, beer gardens and Old West traditions to include learning to pan for gold. It’s my favorite event of the year. 

My name is Shame Williams. As a retired soldier I spend most of my days playing video games and reading Western stories. Most of the time, I sit in my recliner and play games though. However, when Territory Days roll around, I head down to Old Colorado City and spend the day participating in various events. My buddy, Barnacle Tim introduced me to this event. To add to the cool factor, Barnacle is a gold miner. He spends hours upon hours out in the wilderness searching for a vein of gold. Barnacle Tim, or BT as I call him, is 5’10, 175, and in his later 40s. He possesses the air of a man who spent his life in a library, his spectacles give him the appearance of a wise old timer, but his youthful smile makes him seem much younger. BT served in the Army, same as I , and we both grew up in the same geographical quadrant of the United States. 

Yawning, I stretch my arms overhead and reach for the sky. My phone buzzes on the uranium glass coffee table that my television sits on. I lean forward and cup my phone in my right hand. The digital clock reads 0700.

“Hello?” I look at the name written on the screen. It’s BT. “Why is he calling me so early this morning?”

“Hey bud, you know what today is, right?”

“Yeah. It’s Thursday, the weekend is almost upon us.”

“Yeah, but today is Territory Days. You want to run downtown and see what is going on?”

“Sure. What time do you want to leave?”

“Now. Or are you just waking up?”

“Actually, I have been asleep for maybe an hour. I got caught up in dungeon-running in Elder Scrolls Online last night. Went to bed about 0600. Give me a moment to get a shower and wake up. I will be by to pick you up.”

“Okay.”

My one bedroom apartment is small and the bathroom is even smaller. The toilet is next to the sink, and half of a step separates the toilet from the bathtub and shower combo. I shower quickly and throw on a Deadpool t-shirt and a pair of Levi’s. A pair of Under Armour half socks and black Addidas running shoes complete my outfit. “If it comes to comfort or class, I choose comfort.” Twenty-five minutes after BT’s phone call, I walk out to my teal green van and drive to his apartment on the corner of Murray and Platte. BT is waiting for me on the street corner. I pull up and he leaps into the passenger seat.

“Wow, you really must of jumped in and out of the shower. Are you good to drive?”

“Yeah. Where do you think we should park?”

“There should be plenty of parking down around the center of town. It won’t be too far of a walk to any of the events. Personally, I want to do the gold mining panning. It should be fun and educational.”

“Yeah. I’m probably going to hang out between the food vendors and Indian dancing…”

BT laughs and shakes his head. Throughout the time I’ve known him, he has often asked me to accompany him to various outings to search for gold. 

“You have no interest in mining do you, bud?” My lips pull back into a crooked grin. I look in the mirror. Laugh and worry lines stretch across my face, and I chuckle. “God, I am getting old.” I punch my buddy in the shoulder. 

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, bud. I think that climbing the mountains and walking creeks are a good time. I just never have caught ‘gold fever’ to the extent I want to look for an untapped vein.”

Old Colorado City is already teeming with crowds of people when we arrive. After driving through the pulsating throngs of people, we find a free parking space a couple of blocks past a Mexican restaurant, we often frequent when on this side of town. 

We walk back toward the town center. Tables of rocks, arrowheads, and turquoise jewelry are on display. I stop and look at the quartz and mica. Various rocks of different shapes and sizes glint in the bright sunlight. As a collector of arrowheads, I paw a few and finally select the ones I want to purchase. Barnacle taps me on the shoulder and nods at a beautiful Native woman who is dancing.

“Brother, look at her. Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Pretty as a picture, man.”

“Um, I’m going to walk over here and check this out.”

I chuckle and nod. BT falls into the same boat as I do when it comes to love. Both of us are divorced. Unlike myself, BT still believes in the power of love and long-term relationships. I believe love is a headache. 

A white-haired and bearded fellow takes my money and hands me my change back. His bluish-gray eyes show laughter as I pocket my change. 

“I take it your friend has never watched the Natives dance.” I smile and the old man smiles back. I shrug my shoulders and chuckle.

“He has lived in the Springs longer than I have, so I assume he isn’t virginal when it comes to the dances. Still, I can’t give you a straight answer because I don’t know for certain.”

“Her name is Tia Two-Eagles. She is my granddaughter.”

“Oh, neither me nor my friend meant any disrespect toward your family, sir.”

“It’s okay. She is used to being ogled by white men and Native men alike.”

“That’s not okay, sir. Why does she put up with people leering at her?”

He gestures around to the crowd of people pushing to get a closer look at the dancers. Then he motions to the table where I stand. I am the sole customer at his booth.

“Territory Days is one of the biggest events that my family works. Tia dances, my wife and I find arrowheads and make jewelry. Between the three of us, it takes all of us to make enough to cover our cost for the booths and gas to get us here. She puts up with it, because the more people drink, the more money they spend.”

“I understand-”

“How? How do you understand what I just said? Have you struggled to put food on the table? Do you spend your days trying to figure out how to maximize your funds, so that your child doesn’t do without the basic necessities?”

I look at the old man. His eyes are not unfriendly, instead, they show a tiredness which reaches deep in a man’s soul and forces him to resign to his fate. He extends his hand toward me and I grasp it in return. 

“My name is Hank Two-Eagles.”

“My name is Shame Williams, Hank. It’s my pleasure to meet you.” He smiles and nods his head. His bushy beard trembles with the motion.

“Likewise, Shame. “

“To answer your question, Hank, I do know what it is to worry that my daughters won’t have the necessary things in life. I get paid once a month, and I know what it is like to sacrifice my wants for needs. Our cultures are no different in that regard.”

BT walks over to where Hank and I are chatting. Silently, BT listens until a pause occurs in our conversation.

“You ready to walk on and check out other vendors, bud?”

“Sure. I just got caught up chatting with Hank here. You done watching the dancers?”

“Yeah. The pretty girl took a break. She will be back in a little bit.”

Hank smiles and I wave good-bye to my newest friend. BT and I walk on toward the next set of events together.

“Man, that woman sure is pretty. I wonder if she is single?”

“Her name is Tia Two-Eagles. Hank is her grandfather. They come here to help offset the cost of living here in Colorado. Hank and his wife hunt for arrowheads and make jewelry, Tia performs.”

“Oh. Are you interested in her, bud?” BT’s eyes darken and he looks away. “Surely, he doesn’t think I am trying to cut in between him and this dancing girl. He should know better.”

“No. I just got all that from her grandfather. I’m not searching for love. When that ship comes in, I’ll probably be at the airport.”

BT and I laugh and walk up to the gold panning event. BT moves close to the front, instantly entranced by the going-ons of the instructor. As I stand toward the back, a lithe shadow pulls up beside me. Too many years in the Army has made me wary of people being to close to me. I turn and recognize Tia from the dance. Dark hair, smoldering dark eyes, and luscious, full lips paint a picture of perfection in the shadows of Cheyenne mountain range. 

“Hello. You must be Shame. My grandfather spoke highly of you.”

My words catch in my throat, I shift from one foot to the other while I search for something witty to say in return. Finally, I smile and extend my hand.

“Yes, I’m Shame Williams. You must be Tia. Your grandfather is very proud of you it seems.”

She smiles, my God what a smile. Her white teeth glisten like snow on the mountains in January. Her laugh is musical, and I instantly wonder if maybe love has come calling.

She smiles and butterflies flutter in my heart. I feel like I am fifteen. We chat idly as the prospector goes over panning techniques. Tia touches my shoulder and playfully gestures toward the front row where BT had walked to.

My friend glares at me, and we lock eyes. I grin weakly at him and shrug. BT turns and walks away. Tia looks at me, a puzzled grin crosses her full lips.

“Is everything okay, Shame?”

I force a grin and nod. “Yeah. I think. My friend has a crush on you. He thinks you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.” She smiles, and I want to kiss her. “Down boy. Go find your friend.”

“Excuse me, Tia. I need to go find my friend and explain this misunderstanding to him.”

“Sure, I understand,” Tia smiles as she hands me her business card. “I think you and I could have a delightful conversation. Feel free to call me, or even better, look me up.” She winks at me and sashays away.

The sun has reached its apex as I wander through the throngs of people looking for BT. Unable to find him, I pull out my phone and text him. “I’m headed for the van. No need to rush, I am just tired of walking around.”

My phone chimes. “Fine. I’m already here.”

BT sits on a bench near the van. As I walk up, he crosses his arms and leans back against the bench. 

“You alright, brother?”

“Yeah.”

I stare at my friend of nearly a decade. We have hit the highs and the lows during our friendship. We have always found a way to get through the toughest times. Why does it seem like we may not make it through this one?

“Look man, I didn’t know Tia was going to show up at the prospector’s event. It took me completely by surprise.”

“Whatever.”

I stop and look at BT. Veins taut in his neck, his arms still crossed, he glares at me. Frustrated, I glare back. 

“You know man, if you want to talk to her, go talk to her. Don’t let me stand in the way of you finding true love.”

“Screw you, guy. I’m not a backstabber like you, ‘my friend.’ I don’t sneak attack people when they aren’t expecting it.”

My frustration morphs into anger. Balling my hand into a fist, I slam it into the grill of my van. My vision goes red. BT’s eyes widen as I step toward him. My friend puts his hands up to signal his desire to avoid being punched. 

“I didn’t mean it like that, bud-”

“Yeah, you did. Every word you let out of your bitter heart, you meant it. I think you should find another way home.”

“Come on, man. I overloaded my mouth, it happens to the best of us.”

“Yeah, you did.”

BT looks at me and shakes his head in frustration.

“Look, I’m sorry. She is a beautiful woman, I kinda lost my mind.”

“No doubt. I’ve never been accused of stealing someone’s woman. She approached me, not the other way around. When have I ever pursued a woman in all the time you’ve known me?”

“You haven’t. Again, I’m sorry. She seems to like you, so you should pursue her.”

“No. I’m done with women. I won’t deny that I felt a connection with her, but I have no desire to pursue anything in the romantic realm. I just want to die alone. Let’s go home.”

BT and I load in the van, and I slowly make my way back to my friend’s apartment. The butterflies I felt in the presence of Tia Two-Eagles is now gone. After dropping BT off at his apartment, I drive home. As I make my way up to my third floor apartment, I have an epiphany. “My game console will never come between me and my friend. Love is far too complicated for a simple guy. I’ll stick with the games, they’re safer.”

Questions and a few thoughts about a balanced life…A Walk in Darkness…

Why are any of us here? Is it to just go through the motions, pretending that we are living? Are we to worry about every aspect of our life? If our life is for living, what consists of living? Is working all we are meant to do? To strive for the next step on the corporate ladder? Is happiness a new car every five years? Does it come from owning a big house? Will a family fill the void? Or is it deeper than all the materialistic possessions we accumulate though our lifetime?

My personal belief is that a combination of balance is required to achieve happiness. As an example, I like to purchase a new firearm every time the urge strikes me. Vehicles are another obsession of mine. One day, I will own a ‘74 Power Wagon with a 440. One day. However, possessions alone leaves the spiritual man empty. In the Army, I strove to achieve ‘The Total Soldier’ concept. The easiest way to explain it is this: I attempted to attain excellence in every aspect of soldiering. This included: physical fitness, marksmanship, driving, appearance, knowledge, and competence in my MOS tasking. Also included was every additional duty that I was assigned, on top of caring for 22 soldiers. 

This same concept applies to life. Excellence is difficult to achieve.

Spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being are important for a well-rounded life. If one part is out of alignment it throws the entire picture out of whack. Joy comes from achieving balance in all three realms.

All too often we focus on one part and all the other parts to collapse. It’s what led me down into the darkness. I didn’t want to deal with what collapsed, so I focused on my career.  My spiritual tank had run slam out of fuel, my mental well-being was ignored and in the end-it almost killed me. 

So, if I were to hand out a free piece of advice it would simply be this: Don’t ignore your spiritual and mental well-being. Instead, keeping a balance of all three will improve your health, and you will reap the benefits of a well-rounded life. 

I mean, who doesn’t want to be a successful individual in any realm? To achieve happiness, and be grounded, calm, and have peace is priceless. Sure, you will still have bad days, but they won’t destroy you. If they do, tomorrow is a brand new day to try again.

The beginning of A Walk in Darkness…A short story…

I have written many stories, all exaggerated, about my walk in darkness. Yet, for all my writing, I never have written of how it started. Cue my struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction. It is a simple thing to blame it on my addiction or my change at the hands of war fighting. There are multiple reasons that led to my darkness. My struggle with addiction are only symptoms of my disease.

Like many folks, my descent into darkness happened quickly. It started with me leaving Ft. Hood and moving to Germany. At Ft. Hood, Texas field exercises were about two weeks long. Home was 10-15 minutes away at any given time.

In Germany, field exercises were 90 days and took place in various parts of Europe. I spent more time in the field than I did with my family. More time with my soldiers than with my children. I gave my devotion to the Army and my career, instead of to the woman to whom I swore undying love and loyalty.

As I write these words tonight, my issue is made manifest to me. I had my priorities in the wrong order. My ex-wife once told me, “you’re a great provider but a horrible husband and father.” The more things fell apart, the more I focused on my career. Then, I deployed to Iraq for fifteen months. The stress of war, the stress of drowning in the abysmal failure of my marriage, it was too much to bear. To top it all of, I began to have migraine headaches.

When I returned home to Germany, things became even worse. Minor problems caused me to erupt. All too often, I lashed out at my family. They weren’t the problem, they were just available targets for my rage. 

Tonight, as I tear the scabs off my heart, I wonder what would have happened if I had sought help earlier. Nothing matters now, what is done is done. There is no life in the past. I know this, but still I need to purge this out of my system. The story of A Walk in Darkness, is my story to tell. It is the story of a man with messed up priorities, who loses his way. It’s not a special story, but it is mine. 

My time in Germany morphed me into a hardhearted, calloused, unemotional caricature of the man I once was. To protect myself, I shut down all avenues to my heart. My sole focus rested on the advancement of my career. Moving to Colorado was the final nail into the coffin of my marriage.

At the end of my career and retirement from the Army in Colorado, my last unit was squared away. It didn’t start out that way. At the beginning of my time in Colorado, it was a gigantic Charlie Foxtrot. The structure of the unit was in disarray. The leadership had long given up on righting the ship, and I was one of the only ones who gave a rip about being an example for the lower enlisted to emulate. Hundreds upon thousands of hours was given to the unit, and none was given to correcting the issues in my marriage.

From the first day at the unit until the last, stress was my constant companion. Instead of communicating, I shut down and drowned my problems in Irish whiskey. To alleviate the pain of my failures on all fronts, I popped pills. My self-medication combined with stress, along with numerous traumatic brain injuries (TBI) led me to having a seizure. Then, I had 90 more in seven months. My walk in darkness had already begun, it just became more apparent when I lost everything.

I have been writing this story for a long time. Now that the beginning is on paper, maybe the rest of the story will flow out of my heart and A Walk in Darkness will finally be able to be told.

The claymore of love…AWID…A short story…

All to often, love is like a claymore mine. You see the flash before you hear the sound. When things go south it crumbles quickly. Take my former marriage for an example. I married my ex-wife on 19 May 1999. Yeah, I got married the year before the prophesied end of the world, for more information see Y2K.

I was married for 12 years. When the marriage was good, it was really good; when it was bad, it was really bad. There was no middle ground. The whole illusion of love is that love is the only thing you need to have a successful marriage. Take it from someone who is divorced, it takes a lot more than love. 

Y’all remember the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Well, I beg to differ. Words are powerful. They hold the power to build up your partner or to tear down what you’ve built together. My marriage consisted mostly of the latter. I would never lay all the blame at my ex-wife’s feet. It occurred on both sides. To be fair, I am guilty of striking out verbally, and so did she.

In divorce, there is plenty of blame to go around. I fought, bit, clawed, and poisoned my marriage. Words were my weapon, and I wielded them mercilessly. I was no innocent victim. Trust me, I’m not proud of the damage I caused. 

Still, like a claymore mine, I saw the flash before the boom hit me. Of course, the shrapnel destroyed my marriage, and all I was left with are the remains of what used to be a good thing. Unfortunately, words are hard to forget. The pain caused by them all too often linger in the mind of the recipient. There is no salve to remove the stain of words said in anger. 

My ex has moved on to greener pastures, and I am happy for her. She deserves to be happy. If I could take back the words I uttered in anger, fear and all too often rage, I would but I can’t. The best I can do is grow from this past mistake and try to do better in the future.

Otherwise, my next attempt at love, if there is another attempt, will see me shredded by the claymore of love. 

Flying donkeys…A Walk in Darkness…A short story…

Torrential rain has poured 4-6” of rain on Mississippi in the last 24 hours. Thunder rumbles, lightning flashes, and sheets of rain crash to the earth. The screams of the dying drops of water explode open in silence. It reminds me of exploding donkeys in Iraq. Have you ever been nearly killed by a donkey?

Imagine….

You’re driving along in a convoy, when you spot a dead donkey lying on the side of the road. Everything appears to be normal, when you notice a wire running out of its rectum. Too late.

BOOM…

Dead donkey, shrapnel, and burnt flesh slam against the ballistic windshield. The most god-awful smell fills the cab of your vehicle. The smell makes you want to puke. Nausea floods your body but you must continue mission. You turn on your wipers, and blood smears the windshield. 

Okay, that is enough of putting y’all in my shoes. It’s a smelly job, but someone has to do it. Why am I writing about this? I guess the rain reminds me of flying donkeys. Still, it would have been embarrassing to die in this fashion.

“Hi. We’re sorry to inform you that Pvt. Jambalaya died today in combat action. He was killed via an explosion which sent a donkey’s hindquarter through the windshield.”

Yeah, bad news. Of course, I’ve heard of people dying from a stall wall falling on a guy while he was on the toilet. One of the funniest things I ever witnessed was a guy running to the port-a-john during a mortar attack. He didn’t die, but man, he smelt like he did.

Death strikes when we least expect it. I have always been told, “you never hear the bullet that kills you.” All too often, death comes as a surprise. Especially, in a combat zone. One moment you’re there, the next moment you’re not.

Yes, this may seem to be me making light of death, but it’s just my way of dealing with the pain of loss. Humor is the means with which I cover my tears. Life becomes an unbearable mess sometimes, but there is a silver lining if we look hard enough to find it.

Humor is often the silver lining. So, spend your time enjoying the small moments, because death may be right around the corner.

Be careful of the exploding donkeys though, but if you must clean it off your windshield, use a putty knife first to remove the burnt flesh, and then wash the windshield. 

Inclusive Idiocy…A short story…

Thunder booms as the torrential rain hammers at the tin roof on Billy Two-Winds cabin. Lightning flashes a warning, as the constant yammering of the political talking heads screech over the airwaves concerning the rising cases of the newest pandemic. “In other news, the militant group No Fascists Ever or NFE has stormed the state capitol and disrupted the hearing concerning the removal of the last remaining monument- a horse named Cherokee.”

The rain has begun to lessen, the thunder rumbles in the distance, far from Billy’s cabin. Occasional drops of heavy rain bangs against the tin, a reminder that while the deluge may have slowed, the storm has not yet passed. The radio squawks with static. “Our next guest, Professor Denise Abraham Wilkerson has a few thoughts on the removal of Cherokee. Take it away Professor!”

“Hi! Thank you for having me on your show Tom and Tom. I would just like to say that if a monument or whatever, like it keeps us from having a supportive and inclusive enviro-thingy, we should get rid of all them.”

“Well said, Professor!”

“Uh-huh, thank you.”

Billy Two-Winds turns and looks at the radio in disbelief. “Enviro-thingy? What is this lunatic in charge of teaching? Dear God, I hope its not English, although that would explain quiet a few things in our society today.”

“Alright listeners, the phone lines are now open. Call and share your opinion on the removal of that dastardly monument, Cherokee, whose only sin was that it was ridden into the Battle of Bull Hockey. Professor Wilkerson will be here to answer any and all questions pertaining to whatever floatest thy boatest.”

Billy Two-Winds grabs his cellphone and walks out on the porch. The rain is back, hammering out its song upon the tin roof once again. Veins in his neck slowly disappear and his breathing becomes shallow. Calmly, he punches the number in and waits for his call to be answered.

“Hello, caller. What is your name and who do you wish to address?”

“Hi. My name is Billy, and I would like to address my question to Professor Wilkerson.”

“Hi, Billy. How do you feel about this icky statue being removed from the town center? Are you down with the destruction?”

“No. I don’t particularly care for the group NFE or their hysterics.”

“Oh. Well, you have a question for the professor?”

“Yeah. Professor Wilkerson, you are screeching about being inclusive. How do you explain the lack of inclusiveness when it comes to the military?”

“Um,” Professor Wilkerson pauses her gum smacking and Billy can smell the gears in her brains frying from the overload.”I don’t like understand that question.”

“The military rejects people all the time. If you have flat feet, you can’t join. If you have a mental condition, you can’t join. If you are colorblind, you can’t join. The military is not inclusive. You must meet the prerequisites before you are welcomed in. Why should everything be open to everyone?” 

“Because it makes people, like, feel really bad when they’re not allowed in. It’s racist.”

“I’m a Caucasian male. So, I should be allowed to reap the benefits of being Indian? Or black? Or Hispanic? Or Asian? How does that make us all equal and less racist?”

“No, you are racist by your very nature. You’re not allowed to do anything but pay for the sins of your forefathers.”

“Isn’t that racist?”

“No, it’s a fact. White people are racist.”

“Okay. Why should lawyers be allowed to join a doctors association? They have no knowledge of human anatomy. What is the point of allowing them to join that group, when they don’t meet the criteria?”

“Because, like the lawyers may want to hang out with the doctors and play games and stuff.”

“You’re an idiot. What do you instruct students on? What is your area of focus?”

“Like that is so mean. You’re a big meanie. I am a professor of humanities and basket-weaving.”

“That figures.”

“You’re also, like racist for not agreeing with me or NFE for, like um, not wanting that racist horse torn down.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Why don’t you want the statue removed?”

“Um, like, because it’s history. You don’t necessarily have to agree with it, but to many folks it is a reminder of how far we have come. Or a reminder of some tragic part of our heritage. No one would say that we should have fought in the Battle of Bull Hockey, but we did. Tearing down history only ensures that we will repeat it.”

“You’re racist and you should be put in jail.”

“Um, like, you’re an idiot and you should not be educating the minds of future generations.”

“Thank you Billy for calling in. That’s all the time we have today. Join us tomorrow for “Get your honky butts on the bus, you racist garbage.” Until then, we remain Tom & Tom. Good day.”

Billy presses end call and walks back in the house. A solitary tear runs down his cheek as he places his phone on the desk. “It’s the beginning of the end. We won’t stop until everything is racist, until every piece of history is destroyed, and all life is dumbed down. It’s the movie Idiocracy made reality.”

God help us all.

A persistent idiot…A Walk in Darkness…A short story…

The banks of Tallahala are red clay. When it rains, you can barely make it up the banks, especially when you are dragging a 60-pound beaver behind you. As a young man, my dad introduced my brother and me to the world of trapping. We trapped raccoon, foxes, beaver, and the occasional possum. 

Tall pine and oak, sweet gum and hickory, and various other trees and bushes line the banks of Tallahala. We would set our traps around watering holes, and small streams. Wildlife was plentiful, and given it was the 1980s, good money was paid for pelts. My brother, dad, and myself hit the trapping market too early. With the success of shows like Mountain Men, we could have made a killing.

Still, those early mornings in the woods, creeping through the gray mist of fog in search of gas money to get us to school, taught me many valuable lessons. If an animal had been trapped and it’s survival instinct kicked in, they would chew their trapped limb off. 

My walk in darkness taught me this lesson, as well. When everything is pitch black, and there seems to be no escape, just keep moving. Fortune may favor the bold, but when life pulls the carpet from under you, you need something else to get you through. May I introduce you guys to dogged determination.

Dogged determination will take you further than you ever thought you could go. Persistence is the key to life. The ability to push forward without quitting will get you over any obstacle. In the darkness of my life, I would seek the strength for another step. I would pray for hope, but I felt as trapped in the darkness as the animals I once trapped for money.

My brain was often the greatest enemy that I faced. It would shout how I was unwanted and unloved. “Your life is worthless, just kill yourself already. Stop being a burden to your children. They hate you. Your wife hates you. End your suffering and be done with it.”

Every naysayer from my past would join in the shouting for my suicide. “Do it, don’t be a sissy! Do it!” Instead, I channeled the chanting into fuel for my rage. I became determined to prove the naysayers wrong. Of course, in many ways my hardheadedness caused my health issues. I would drug up, drink alcohol like it was going to be outlawed, and my sleep pattern was non-existent. Toss in a horrific diet and stress and you have the making of volatile combo platter. 

Still, I persisted. 

Eventually, the trap lost its grip. I was able to find my way out of the darkness. All it cost me was everything. A wounded animal is forever scarred by the chewing off of their trapped limb. I bear the scars of my choices, just like a trapped animal. There is nothing that can take the scars away, but scars are a reminder that you survived what was meant to kill you.

Survival isn’t pretty, but life is not for the weak. It’s for those who are willing to persist, to fight no matter how many times you get knocked down.

Tallahala, turtles, and rock bottom…A Walk in Darkness…A short story.

Tallahala Creek is a sight to behold when it is above flood stage. Dark swirls and sinkholes are scattered, as the rocks form rapids down the river. Muddy water rushes by dragging trees down the river to some unknown destination. From the camp we have set up, you can hear the river pulsating with dark desire at night. 

I have many fond memories of this river. It was where I learned to swim, where my grandfather and dad took my brother and me fishing. We would sit on soapstone and bump bait to attract fish. My pawpaw called it ‘agitating’ the fish. Our seats were buckets, our feet dipped in the puddles that formed in the crags of the soapstone. At night, you had to battle mosquitoes and horseflies to get any kind of sleep. 

Tallahala was where I discovered turtles could grow to weigh hundreds of pounds. One hot, sticky day we ran trotlines and bank hooks. The river was way above flood stage and we paddled out to the first line. My dad grabbed hold of the line and we began to check hooks. In the middle of the river, we discovered we had a massive turtle. It weighed about 80 pounds. We checked the next line and had another turtle. Again, it was almost 100 pounds. On the last line, we had another turtle. In Mississippi we call them loggerheads. If I am not mistaken, the correct name for them is alligator snapper. Long story short, we went home with over 200 pound of turtle.

My family had no recipe for turtle, so we fried it up like chicken. It was the only time I have ever caught turtles that big. Tallahala fed my family for many years, and not just mine, but every poor family in the Morriston community fished Tallahala. 

When I deployed to the Middle East, I often thought of that river and the memories that we made there. In the middle of Iraq, being blown up and shot at, my mind was never far from home. The roar of the river would play through my mind, and no matter how bad my day, I felt closer to home. Sometimes, in my mind’s eye, I would see my grandfather’s smile when my brother or I caught a fish. His glasses would fog up from the humidity, but I can still hear him laugh.

I am often asked what brought me home from Iraq. The easy answer is that the Lord had His hands upon me, and that He protected me. I like to think that the memories of home, of my grandfather, and my family played a role too. At the very bottom, also known as rock bottom, it was the memories of my childhood, the good and the bad, that kept me from committing suicide. Sometimes, when you have nothing left to lose, proving the naysayers wrong is enough to pull you through.

Even if, you are pulled through like a tree on the flooded waters of Tallahala.