Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are buckle, evade, wedge.

The Journey
He stands at the edge of a vast field, swaying gently. Wearily.

The earth here has been tilled, right up to the man’s scuffed and dust-caked military-styled boots. The richness of the soil perfumes the air, a musky sensuality. A luxuriance of wet and grass and manure; heavy organic.

The man is dressed in a wool sweater; there are holes under one arm and where the wool has been looped to the collar. At the wrists, the fibers have become unbunched; they are ragged and soiled, small dreadlocks of wool.

His undershirt has been sweat-soaked and dried in numerous cycles. It is threadbare. Once white, it now has the color of corn silk, or sail canvas.

He wears jeans, which are held to his withered and emaciated frame by a slim leather belt. It’s a dress belt with a brass buckle that still manages to shine. The leather was once cordovan, but it’s been beaten down to something resembling old blood.

The denim has gone soft and white in places, where the navy dye decided to just give up. Holes, ragged, are open over both knees, which are bony and bare. Stress holes have opened near the back pockets; where the pants meet the boots, the hem has been reduced to frayed cotton.

The man’s deep brown eyes, sunken into bony cheeks, give his face a skeletal appearance. Albeit one with a thick, dark and curly beard that covers his face, his neck, down to the tattered collar of his sweater. A watch cap, black with the logo of a pro sports team, is wedged tight on his head, helping to keep his long, greasy-brown hair from blowing in the wind.

He is tall. He is thin. Shed the tattered clothing and he would stand there, hands covered his maleness in shamed modesty, white as the belly of dead fish. Each rib would stand out, willing you to count them, out loud.

He has journeyed long. His travels have taken him far a field. He has learned to evade. He has managed to survive.

To the edge of this vast field.

This expanse that has been plowed, its rich tang now clinging to the man’s nostrils, the greasy-brown hair, the tattered clothing.

His right hand rises, hesitates, and is thrust forward. Fingertips touch the twisted, rusted metal. A barb pierces his index finger, but the man does not flinch.

He turns his hand over and watches as the dot of blood goes from a pin-prick to a dome of red. Gravity takes over and the blood runs at an angle, across his other digits.

The man looks up. He looks across the vastness of the field.
And looks down to the fence, where a sign hangs. Its newness, fresh red paint on a white background, clashes with the twisted wreckage of the barbed wire fencing. He reads, the words forming silently on wind-chapped lips.


His right hand rises to his hip, where the blood smears the little coin pocket of his jeans as he wipes.

He purses his lips, licks them. He exhales a great breath through his nose, a huff.

A single tear rolls down his cheek.

Thursday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are educate, object, silence.

A Time To Reflect
“He’s sitting out there without a goddamn hat on,” mother screams, sloshing the large tumbler of vodka – cleverly disguised as iced tea with a teaspoon of iced tea powder and couple of squeezes of lemon from a yellow plastic fruit facsimile – that's clasp in her bony fingers.

“He’ll freeze to death. Goddamn kid doesn’t even have his gloves on for chrissakes.”

“What you want me to do about it?” father says, the Birchwood tip of a fresh Hav-A-Tampa cigar clenched in his teeth. Father’s voice rumbles around the cigar, itself a wagging finger in brown.
“You think he listens to me? Listens to anyone?”

They’re screaming at one another and although I can’t actually hear it, I feel it. Radiating out of the kitchen, through the bay window and into this darkening December afternoon.

Yes, I’m sitting on mother’s park bench by the bird bath and I’m doing so without benefit of a cover for my head. And yes, my Dakine wind-stopper gloves are stuffed into the pockets of my Patagonia down sweater, itself a beautiful pumpkin color, the object of desire of many of my classmates who know of fashion solely based on Old Navy commercials.

I didn’t even bother to brush the snow off the bench. I just needed out.

The parental units blare and bray at decibel levels that make your teeth hurt. School’s the same way. The uniformed, the uneducated, thinking that now they’re in a place of higher learning that all of a sudden they have an opinion – and a voice.

I mean, chrissakes, you’re born into this life screaming and spend the rest of your life trying to find that one quiet spot to think.

Today, this is mine to reflect. A snowy spot in a suburban backyard, the day pushing toward dusk during the holidays.

Things are about to get dramatically louder around here. The letter announcing my expulsion from our state’s land-grant college will be in today’s mail. In it, my parents will be informed that I have no grade point average. All classes incomplete.

Oh, it started OK, I guess, in the fall. I mean, professors tried to educate me on all matters of things and I really tried to listen. I took copious notes for the first couple of weeks, attended all my classes.

I tried to make friends. I tried to talk to girls.

I guess you could say I regressed. There wasn’t one point, really. It just seemed to happen.

There was the day in Folklore 101 where the Nigerian grad student and I got into in the hallway, arguing the merits (or lack thereof) of graffiti in society and folk culture.

Then came the oral report, the one I was asked to reconsider, the very one where I went on to describe the historical assets of graffiti on society and folklore, using the word “fuck” 27 times to make my point. Cat-calls and cheers from those in attendance that day not withstanding, next came the yelling match with the dean, grad student in tow, trying to extricate myself from Folklore 101.

Things just kinda snowballed from there.

I retreated to my room, ate delivery pizza and drank tap water for chrissakes, just looking for the solitude I though I needed. Days went by, weeks. Dirty sheets and scruffy beard growth and quiet. Oh, the depth of the lonely quiet that washed over me in waves.

Well, enough of that. I hear the mailman pulling up to the house. No use putting this off.

I jump from the bench and scoop up pink Nerf football the dog likes to carry around and toss myself a pass. I sprint into old man Cashman’s yard, past the bare honeysuckle bushes, and spike the ball into the snow.

Raising my arms into a touchdown stance, I do a little victory dance, lower my hands to my jeans and pull father’s old service .45 from the waistband. I put the muzzle under my chin, pull the trigger.

Funny, the last thing I’m thinking just happens to be the most profound: Nobody realizes that it isn’t all the screaming, all the noise – in the end, it’s the silence that’ll kill ya.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are dabble, lean, utter.

Twisting Fates

They’re sitting in ancient white Adirondack chairs, watching the world go by, sipping sweetened tea with lemon wedges from tall, sweaty glasses.

“Edwin, do you remember the nights we spent on the boardwalk doing the Lindy?”

Actually I don’t.

In this incarnation (dare I say reincarnation?), I am coming from my 6-year-old self, edgily looking for the restroom, since this is a watershed (ha ha) moment from my past where I wet myself while my father got piss-drunk at the bar. The night I lost hearing in my left ear; I should have seen that fist coming, maybe leaned a little.

And now there’s this elderly lady with blue hair jawing at me.

Then I realize that Edwin - Mr. Edwin Antwerp, 5701 Allegheny Way, Millville, NJ 08332 - has minutes to live.

I blink, and reset to Edwin’s present.

We’re having our tea in ruby colored glasses on the screened-in front porch of Edwin and Marilyn Antwerp’s white clapboard bungalow. It’s the only home the couple have ever owned; it is where they conceived and lost their only child, Marty; it is where they will both die.

Edwin, as it happens, will be leaving much sooner than Marilyn. I can feel the pressure building in his brain; I feel the blood vessel throbbing – the exact one that will burst, killing him instantly.

But through Edwin’s eyes, I see love that is pure in its brilliance. I feel the heat of passion that continues to burn for this women - in Edwin’s still thumping heart.

And I’m gone. I am now the me of the late 1980s, banging the downstairs neighbor while her button-down, silk-tie-wearing, abusive husband stays late at the office. All she wants is someone to hold her tight, tell her the baby weight will come off. Someone who whispers encouraging things into her milky-white ears and won’t hit her in those spots where the yellow-green of old bruises don’t show.

Hey, it’s the 80s. All I want to do is fuck.

And I am sucked into the bleak twist of thoughts that are the present for Janine Trescott, 18, Garland, Texas 75043.

Janine is rail-thin, awkward. Glasses too thick, too clunky, and there’s no money for contacts. The one boy to show interest rapes her in the bathroom of a Sonic Drive-In. Her mother slaps her black and blue, calls her a whore. For tempting the pastor’s son.

I look over the edge of a claw foot bathtub, no longer able to watch the surge of blood that pumps from her wrists and dissipates in the depth of the warm water in suspended swirls.

I want out.

Concentrate. Don’t utter a sound.

Janine’s tortured present makes the 132,493 jump I’ve made from the B-roll of my life into someone else’s current consciousness. No,  I don’t dabble in time travel, I am not a seer. Just a guy, sometimes a not very nice guy, who in such rapid succession is moving through time and space that I barely comprehend it.

It is my end, too (this I have come to understand), and like some cosmic roller coaster ride – one mother of a Texas Giant – I have seen through the eyes, felt the final emotions of those in the throws of their very own end.

It is all at once hopeful. It is horrific.

I trust those who jumped into the present me took something of value away. The love I feel for my wife, my three little girls.

Take it away.

Into the collective consciousness that is life.

And death.

To share.

And that’s why I wear this wry little smirk now. I wonder if that drunk driver bearing down on me even notices.

Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are demise, effort, revival.

This you should know about the ceiling in 43F: Squint long enough at the textured ceiling (not quite into the water stain, but more toward the left), and the Rev. Billy Graham will appear.

Not in Technicolor, no sir.

And certainly not in a burning bush, God-is-calling-you-home, Big Tent Revival kind of way.

It’s like when the brain makes the connection with one of those animation flipbooks they used to put in a box of Cracker Jack – or if you really want to get technical, the way the rods and cones in the eyes just send the brain pencil sketches of life and the brain fills in all the detail, the colors.

So, back to the Rev. Billy Graham.
 In a textured ceiling (not the water stain, but off to the left).

Billy (if we may be so bold to call him that) appears without so much effort – all blotchy and in exponential frequency, to one James Francis Cannell.

Our little Jimmy has stopped sleeping nights. In fact, some internal clock stirs him the minute – and as far as he can figure, the exact moment – 52 years after his mother, Jean, pushed him slick and slightly bloody from her womb.

In its greenish glow, the clock radio blinks 3:12 AM.

Jimmy’s feeling the demise of his senses in a circle-the-drain potency. Dark circles taint ever-hollowing eye sockets. His appetite is shot. There’s the nodding off at work. The stern warnings standing on industrial carpet squares in front of the boss. Jimmy’s not really listening, even though his lips move ever so slightly in agreement.

He picks at his flesh, absently.

Fights off waves of nausea.

Gulps air at the increasing spikes of paranoia.

Reaching up into the shadows with outstretched hands, Jimmy pleads with all his heart to the outlined face on the ceiling.

“Billy, make it stop.”

It becomes a chant, a mantra, leaving Jimmy gravelly-voiced as another dawn spreads through the windows in 43F, erasing Mr. Graham’s visage.