Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Slipstream


It was upon a finely crafted cement bench over looking the stream, which flowed through town that he realized how keenly one had to watch so one would not be fooled. Life is but only a trick. A sleight of hand. An illusion. Turn one way, it unfolds as one experience, or move toward another, and it unfolds differently. Can it be explained away as fate? Or, is free will amiss?

One’s life spans from suffering to pretense to clarity and in between lies nothing filling in the spaces with shards of too much ego, self-importance, illusion, and false belief. Yet, hidden deep within the cracks and crevices of those spaces lives and breaths threads of what is real, defined, and true. But, could it be all one lifelong trick? A summer heat mirage waving in the distance on the empty black top road convincing the mind that there is something out there waiting to be seen, touched or realized, yet never materializing fluttering out of reach very alluring, but once reached understanding that it was never there to begin with. It stays elusive teasing the senses; frustrating your mind.

It was upon that finely crafted cement bench over looking the quiet stream that flowed through the small town that he wondered if we were quietly and subtly shrouded in the dark mystique of self-importance. Have we been fooled by the whispers of special-ness? There lies a hiding place.

Only if we could just get out of our own way in time to prevent injury and collisions.  If one were to quiet the regret, and a need for constant notice, then an understanding may find its way through time and space avoiding the illusions that trick the mind.

It isn’t complicated. Do what is needed to embody calming strength while mixing it with clarity.

Make it happen. Slow can get you there. Watch. See. Do. Is talking overrated? Listen. Think. Act.

Life’s duality is simultaneously real and an illusion. It does happen, yet it has no walls. It exists all around. It can trip you up. Make you fall. Scrape a knee. Slip in a hole. It is all a big trick. Wake up to that and get a hold of it; otherwise, you lose.

The slipstream winds and flows against the forces pushing it back. It finds its way around and through and under the energy created to slow it down altering its inertia. The flow rolls over, side steps, crawls through whatever stands before it as it reaches past wherever it has been. Life has the same forces at play, but they might not be real but the energy one creates in their own mind to try and hold back the forward flow of motion is without question the slipstream in one’s life.

Beneath the frozen ice sheet lives a current of water. It may not be strong, but it flows. The energy of it chips away opening up what is solid carving channels, tunnels, pathways into the mass, cracking it, hollowing it, methodically, altering its changing state allowing one to watch the moving pockets of air inflating tiny cavities, while concurrently the carved path of air slows and closes freezing shut again until it reopens.

That is the slipstream interacting with the natural elusive flow shifting its every moment tricking time and space at every turn. It is all real; but, the constant change is illusionary and real at the same time. Care must be taken to see the trick, the sleight-of-hand made by Nature as we are part of the whole.

(Word Count 595)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Roundhouse


The coal powered engine crept along the narrow gauge track past the berm of goldenrod and 6 foot tall ironweed with its deeply burgundy flower clusters attractive to butterflies lined the way through the large bay opening into the roundhouse for routine greasing.

The heavy iron beast slowly rolled to a stop at the wheel block. His thick canvas yet warn glove grabbed hold of the vertical bar outside the engine’s open back caked with oily soot that had polished a black streak along the palm.

Stepping down facing forward toward the glorious curved design of the brick building filled like a railroad stockyard with its beasts getting tended to.

His dungarees stained with the grime of an engineer and boot leather nicked and scuffed from the hard work required each day.

Into the top center pocket went two fingers reaching for the candy bar, which he placed in it every morning at 4:30 as he stepped out the backdoor on his way to the yard.

Peeling away the wrapper, he walked out the open bay to where a patch of pokeberries grew full of their dark purple fruit lining the slender each individually positioned, one next to the other at the point to where they attach to the tiny stems like a ball upon the end of a very short pull chain. The juice stains permanently making an excellent fabric dye.

Bringing the sweet chocolate candy to his mouth, he placed it under his tongue allowing it to slowly dissolve, resisting chewing, letting the flavors mash upon the roof of his palate savoring what began as a solid, and now becoming a creamy gel further disappearing into a liquid.

The sun bright and warm upon his face as he lifted his head to accept the heat delivered from millions of miles away. Stepping back, his body leaned against a wall waiting for the next moment to arrive.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Future Tale


“Jonny”! My mother called me from the kitchen as she brewed her morning coffee and toasted slices of packaged white bread that she would lather with butter, which seeped into the lightly browned pores covering the surface. We have to leave in ten minutes, she said.

I was upstairs in my room enjoying Christmas vacation from my third grade class—the class of 1955.

The white, heavy and crisp snow was widely blanketing the entire vast landscape. Several inches had fallen over the last two days and our mill town, just outside of Pittsburgh, appeared to be not very bothered by the wintery weather. We expected it. December often brought snow. Tire chains, rubber boots, wool coats and hats, while wrapped in scarves never stopped the Appalachian mountain valley industrial worker. With only one car, my dad used it this day to drive his carpooling co-workers to the Round House where they worked on coal trains that hauled material to be used in the steel mill’s blast furnaces.

I dressed in heavy clothes then joined my mother at the table as she ate her toast deliberately and without hurry, then drank the last of her black coffee, while I had my Cream of Wheat drizzled with maple syrup.

We were waiting for her older lady friend she met at the Carnegie Library, which was up the cobble stone covered hill from where we lived. Mom and Millie were volunteers there while I was at school sorting and shelving books, and tending to the old millworker retirees who would spend their time away from spouses reading newspapers and magazines and hanging out with their pals. The old men enjoyed flirting with Millie, whose husband had died some years back from an accident in the mill. He was almost 60 years old when it happened leaving her alone. Millie found friendship with mom and her library work.

Millie was going to pick us up in her ’41 two door Chevy Deluxe, the first year of this model, that still had shiny chrome because it stayed much of the time in her garage behind her small one and a half story bungalow off the dirt alley. Today we were driving over the Mon River and down into Boston, PA, which most everyone called Little Boston, so as not to confuse it with the big eastern city of the same name-- Boston, MA. It was always easier to say little Boston so as not to have to explain that you were not about to be driving all the way to the other Boston hundreds of miles away.

When they named the town didn’t anyone realize it would be confusing when people began to own cars and could drive to a place like the other Boston and not have to take a passenger train?

Millie was taking us to Janie’s house like we had done once or twice a year for the last few years, and will continue to do so for many more years to come.

Janie was about my mother’s age and had a lot of things decorating her wood paneled and wallpapered rooms, along with lace white curtains, and a large heavy deep red upholstered Victorian couch resting upon here hardwood floor. She liked cats, too, and had three that would like to curl up in my lap as I sat quietly on the couch watching the three women sit at the table drinking tea.

Millie and mother would sit across from Janie as she held a pendant that my mother handed to her. She would close her eyes and gently run her fingers all over the small silver locket and then, tell my mother things that had not yet happened yet but could be expected at some point in the future.

As I sat there stroking the calico cat’s soft, silky coat, I listened in on Janie’s predictions for my mother. How did this lady know the future of others? It was clear that there was a strong desire to know what has not yet happened, and then, see that story unfold was the ultimate outcome for those visits.

Change is time advancing, and time advancing is change. They both move around the clock face as does the second hand moves change from one second into another.

Mother had her secrets, which were kept close… She never revealed anything about those mysterious predictions. They appeared to move her closer to the truth she was seeking. Her eyes were always open to what might be. She was not fearful of it as many were. Her sight was keen like that of an owl in the dark of night perched on in a tree able to key in on what might be lying in the shadowed tall grass. The hidden crouches quietly trying to stay away from the sharp senses of stalking night creatures.  But once it moves or gives away its location, does the seeker reveal what lies still and silent before them.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Green Orbs


(This story was part of a contest, which had a theme. The theme was to write a 3-minute
story whereby the voice in the story was to leave a message on someone's answering machine.)

“Hello John. You won’t believe what I am about to tell you. The desert sun is setting out here as the sky burns with broad swaths of red and orange, yet there appears to be a green orb flashing in the foreground. I am standing before my picture window facing the vast open ranch land filled with grazing cattle. The green orb is coming closer becoming distinct. The shape is oblong with flashing lights.

It has now stopped about a half-mile away but remains as high in the sky as a flyover jet airliner. The vehicle remains still for the moment. Wait. Whoa! It has now shifted directions. It moved to the north at a very fast clip. You could say, the blink of an eye. But now it soared in the opposite direction at just as fast a rate.

It now is still. Hovering in the sky. Two other green flashing orbs have joined it. The color is of a deep forest green, although, very glossy. Sparkly. The sun is setting and the horizon is ablaze with wide swooping strokes of red, orange and yellow.

I am alone in the house. My dog Jones is also standing at the window. He sees the orbs, too. The hair on his neck is standing straight up in the air, and he is beginning to whine.

I don’t know what to make of this. I am feeling really anxious. What if it lands right out here? What do I do?

This message is to tell you that if I am no longer here this is why.

Hold on here! The green orbs are now joined by 6 more. These are white in color. There are now 9 orbs hovering in the sky to the south of me. They are now orbiting one another. Wait! They are coming closer now. They are spreading out to what looks like several hundred yards from down here. In the center are the three green orbs in a triangular formation, but all around them in a circular design are the other 6 equal distant from one another.

They continue to come closer!! Holy shit!! They are heading for the desert!! The cows
are all coming together congregating into a large herd and bellowing loudly. They are all calling out in unison!! What is happening? I am really beginning to sweat. My shirt is soaked. Jones runs in circles and then stops to look out the window.

I can see the orbs in detail now. They are oblong saucers. Just like in that old black and white 1960s movie, “The Day The Earth Stood Still!” They have windows all around but are darkly tinted, yet can see there is an amber glow inside the vehicle.

They appear to be a quarter mile up and about a tenth of a mile out. The orbs have all lined up horizontally. The three green ones are now descending, while the white ones are lifting. There is no sound as they move. The white orbs are very bright and have what looks like portals all around them. They are hovering around 500 yards above the green ones.

I am now holding binoculars and can see that on the underside are four smaller portals the size of car tires. In the center is a larger one the diameter of a tractor rim.

One green orb has separated from the others, and is now slowly moving toward the house.

It has landed 100 yards in front of me! Oh my God! It is opening up, John! It is opening!


(596 words)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Journey Home


She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. This was the reoccurring dream he had as a young boy living in Pittsburgh that caused him to abruptly wake up from those deep sleeps. It appeared to have been a premonition because several months later, his mother walked out of the house and his life-- forever.

He would stare out his bedroom window across the street at the small row house with its postage sized front yard all enclosed with a green chain link fence encasing two tiny yard beds filled with bowling balls of different colors forming concentric circles, then framed in with more bowling balls with a cement walkway leading from the gate right onto the public walkway. To the right of the front stoop leading to the darkly stained front door was a clamshell with the Virgin Mary standing within it. Could she hear the sound of the ocean? This was a bowling ball grotto. Inside lived an old woman who never walked out through the front door. She would open it all dressed in black, with beads in one hand and a book in the other. She would slowly lift her head as he watched her watch him from his upstairs window. A slant smile would lift toward him before she would gently turn and walk back into the darkness of her home.

Did she have answers? Did she, too, know loneliness? Might she take his hurt away?

As he peered at her house waiting for a sign or omnipresent answer to his questions that surrounded his feeling of abandonment, he wished for the emptiness to go away. Was the book an atlas of the United States? Did she twirl her finger in the air and allow it to fall onto the national map giving her a landing location? Did she have a suitcase in hand with a picture of him framed inside? Did she take a drawing he had made in school that wished her a Happy Mother’s Day signing his name with love? Was there someone waiting for her as she flew away? Was her heart free or weighted with pain, as his was when he discovered she had gone?

Fifty years later, what had been swirling in the hidden spaces of his mind, surfaced into his daily consciousness. For many years, he would wonder what had happened to his mother. What was the book she closed? Where had she gone; and, if she was still living, or, happy, for that matter? These were deep, disturbing, and traumatic wounds that had not healed, but festered and interrupted the flow of his life.

Now, he had traveled a very long distance just to sit on the curb, in front of the bowling ball grotto house across the street from his childhood home where his life took that dramatic turn. On the curb, dressed in jeans and a hooded winter parka, under a bright sunny sky in mid-winter with his former bedroom window shade drawn closed, the last one on the right just above the large pane of glass framing the living room, he stared trying to make sense of a once terrifying and haunting escape as he held a freshly sealed envelope with all his pain stuffed inside it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Running From Rural Illinois

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. This image ran through his mind as he stepped through the open door of the sharecropper’s one room shack situated in the overgrown farm field alongside the rail fence lining the very secondary rural two-lane. This was a side road with no center line. Farm fields lined both sides of the blacktop.

The two young men parked the old flat black 1958 Plymouth four-door along the drainage ditch, climbed over the fence and walked into the dilapidated wood structure back in 1968, while living in west-central rural Illinois.

The two would cruise the back roads checking our their newly settled haunt after moving in from Chicago to attend a small college set in a town of 150 people. One day they found an abandoned vintage Morgan automobile buried within a stand of tall weeds. It had rear directional arrows that were signaled a turn, as well as an all wood chassis. The car would have sought more attention in the hands of a collector, than in the destructive throws of nature; but there it sat hidden from most eyes.

On this particular day, the two walked through the door of what would have been the home of a person, or two, who suddenly left quickly without hesitation. Old print dresses, and worn shirts hung in an open shallow closet. Cans of food left unopened on shelves.

This home for a transient worker had a twin bed in the corner. A soiled crazy quilt with torn squares of cotton, wool, and corduroy patched together lay on the bed. An outhouse attached to the side of the old plywood wall provided those inside from running out into the bitter Illinois winter’s cold.

A water well pump adjoined the iron-stained porcelain kitchen sink alongside the knife scored grey speckled-on white linoleum countertop. At the end of what constituted a kitchen was a very used two-burner bottled gas stove.
Pots of what might have been dinner were abandoned on the gas stove, were dried and rotten. A closed Bible and newspaper lay open amongst forks, knives, and plates set on the table.

The two stood before the scene in haunting amazement drawing from deep impressions of what might have forced one to flee for their lives in the heat of this frightening nightmare.

Could this snapshot of lost time have happened in 1964, as was printed at the top of the newspaper? Was there darkness pending in that month of July as men in white hoods and burning torches walked the lonely blacktopped back road rousing sounds of anger and violence arousing mountains of fear as a mob approached the insolated shack?

Did the farm worker look out the kitchen sink window in horror as a stirring glow of flaming evil lit the night? Did she, and maybe another, grab their valuables, jackets and hats, before they ran, while never looking back as they escaped into the crop rows fleeing into the moonlight?

Where did they go? Who sheltered them? It was clear that whatever happened that night left that moment in time fully intact like a time capsule allowing someone to stumble upon this place to see it untouched and preserved as it once had been.

Monday, January 30, 2012



She was short in stature but tall in the trees. What was carried in her pocket were a whole lot of daydreams.  Resting high in a 100 year old grand majestic oak, she suspended upon the ropes and boot clamps holding on with her back against a strong limb. Dressed in Carhart, her pole saw extended dislodging dead limbs from perches, while the 18 inch Stihl hung from a cord tied to her belt.

Below stood her assistant ready to untie freshly cut branches she lowers down. The view atop the canopy glowed with bright sun from her post upon the tallest tree majestically towering above the hill overlooking the vast rolling valley below blanketed with thick woodland growth surrounding a handful of ten acre and larger estates encasing these properties with split rail fencing. Gazing out over the land, she dreams of a small hand built home nestled among the oaks and maples which is the world she finds most comforting.

In this place where few people go, she escapes tethered to trees perched among the hawks and crows and other winged creatures. Insects crawl. Beetles burrow. Worms inch. Bees gather. Squirrels roost.

She loves this upper world where life thrives endlessly, but one must watch with keenness, otherwise its life will go unnoticed. The green strands of tiny blossoms upon the oak dangle around her as bees, like small delivery vehicles, collect pollen grains for their ride home all the while she stares at their plump yellow and black fuzzy bodies gracefully moving from blossom to blossom occasionally bumping into one another revving their body’s motor as a warning to stay clear. They are indifferent to their silent admirer.

Riding the warm air currents 20 feet above basking in the joy of the moment a hawk draws spirals above her head. Its clean white underbelly with its fanned red tail glistens in the glaring sun. Its keen visual sense kept on high alert for any scampering small sized mammal rustling through the layers of debris blanketing the loamy ground below.

There’s peace high above the hustling and rushing maze that lives below. Time slows to where one listens to the wind vibrating the newly emerged buds, blossoms and foliage. Branches brush up against each other. Limbs creek and sway. Her own breath is the chorus to nature’s rhythmical sounds.

Her assistant below waits patiently for her mind to return to her work. A cloud pattern acting out the appearance of a person’s head with a smiling mouth tumbling over began to drift past, while morphing into a hand with the image of an index finger points north.

She looks out in the direction to see what might be there on that distant hilltop. Could it be a small herd of deer nursing newly birthed fawns covered in a coat of circular pale spots?

She sees circular patterns as the nature of her ever-changing cycle along with the passing seasons, which, too, alters life. Deer herds roam; yet, return to their familiar places day after day.

Lofting high in the trees presents her with a fully dynamic panoramic view of the world that stretches far beyond the small one when one stands upon the earth’s surface.

Her heart begins to race and her breath shallower as she gazes out at the splendor that expands the landscape, which was created out of its own doing as a result of the never ending cycles that nature places upon itself.

She glances below watching her assistant holding the rope upon which is a newly cut limb as he guides it to the ground. She waves down to him. He smiles up in return knowing how content she feels up there. (618 word count.)