Speeding down the interstate at 75 miles an hour, the wind rushing through the open window. It feels cool and refreshing as the night rushes past in a blur of lights and motion. It is 3:15 A.M. and as the poet penned; “I have miles to go before I sleep”.
It was one of those mornings. I planned to leave on time but the evil bed monster would not relinquish its crushing grip. I found the battle for freedom from the Bed Bear consuming the last few minutes I had before it was go time. Now, as I raced down the barren interstate, unbidden thoughts flooded my consciousness. I saw the whole band lined up along the curb, arms folded with terrible scowls on their faces.
“He’s late, that rotten new guy! He’s late and now he’s making the rest of us late. What will it be, Boiling? Hanging? Mere child’s play. No, we need something truly painful, but what? That’s it! We’ll detune his pipes and force him to play “Amazing grace” in the Men’s room of the Marriot in Pleasanton!”
A slight shudder ran down my spine as I visualized the awful scene now being paraded before my helpless imagination. My foot involuntarily plunged the accelerator to the floor and the aging Bronco surged forward into the cold darkness. Soon, I found myself nearing the exit that would lead to my waiting friends. As I turned onto the small street, I breathed a sudden sigh of relief. I wasn’t late at all. There, like a trusted traffic cop, stood Kylene motioning me into a waiting parking space in Todd’s driveway. Ah, all was right with the world. I would not have to face the horrors of the porcelain torture chamber after all.
The bags, pillows, suitcases, pipes and various other sundries were hastily thrown into the back of the waiting vans. After a small amount of force and a few choice expletives, the back hatch was successfully closed and we boarded the vans that would be our home for the next fourteen hours, give or take an hour or two. My first sign that we were in trouble came about an hour into the journey. I heard a strange sound from the rear; it was a labored rendition of some Disney theme song. It started low and quiet but soon reverberated around the inside of the van like a steel ball bouncing from one pinball cushion to another. Quickly, with the adept agility of a trained swordsman, I reached for my trusted earplugs.
Must plug ears… must plug…
I labored with every muscle in me to insert the life saving sponge noise barriers. It wasn’t working! I could still hear it. Like a deadly mist, it began to permeate and then bypass the soft barriers in my ears. Soon, I found myself humming the tune as well. Oh no! What was next? Might I actually join in and then… NOOOOOO!
Mercifully, the sandman came to my rescue. Like a soft snow falling, so it was in our rolling home. One by one the merry minstrels began to nod and then to drift off to sleep. The tumultuous tones began to die and then there was nothing but the silence, the sweet silence of our cruising abode.
As we flew down the two-lane highway, I settled into my marginally comfortable captain’s chair, setting the controls and guidance systems for our destination, far off Tone City, California. My co-pilot, and long time (almost fifteen minutes) friend, was none other than the renowned William Scott George. After insuring the correct coordinates were entered into the guidance computer, Bill and I settled in for a long journey.
Our craft was the wonderful new Dodge @#@$%@ minivan. It had the virtue of being new and that was its only redeeming quality. Our small convoy of four vans and one Dodge Ram pulling a huge trailer, snaked its way along the winding interstate in an unending procession to our final goal. It was a wonderful journey. We saw such wonderful things, such as: the vast deserts of Nevada… yawn… The mountainous heights of Reno… groan… and finally we came to a truly welcome sight. There in the distance was the towering peaks of the California Agricultural Checkpoint.
“Hello, do you ‘ave any fruits or vegetables in your car?”
“No, unless you count the six sitting here in the van with me.”
“Ok, thank you, have a nice day, come again, thank you, thank you.”
I pressed the accelerator and we were off! Free at last, free at last, thank the Lord we are free at last! Our white Dodge minivan accelerated at a blistering pace of 0 to 60 in almost 4 to 5 minutes. That’s when our worst fears were realized. The sleeping beauties in the back suddenly received a kiss from some imaginary prince. They were wide-awake and we began to hear stories such as the following:
How to bake a cake
When baking a cake it is essential to include Porcupines and plenty of dirt and oreos. Be sure to combine all the ingredients Springingly and beat them for years…
That’s right; they were playing a game called Mad Libs. It is actually my favorite. What fun! The games and frivolity continued for the rest of the trip. Looking back, I am so happy I was selected to be in this van. The youthful exuberance and vitality of our Tenor Drummers and pipers truly made the trip a delight and I would not have changed a thing.
We arrived at the Pleasanton Marriot at around 4:00 P.M. that evening and began preparation for the following day’s activities.
With each thrust of the shovel Dan could feel the weight of his gruesome obsession bearing down on him, like a ton of bricks. The air was damp and heavy. it carried with it the dank smell of soil, and decaying vegetation. A fog-like mist floated, and played, along the ground like an errant child meandering aimlessly.
Dan mumbled to himself,
"Just keep digging, it won't be long now. Soon they will be in, it will be over."
He turned his head to the side, and saw the helpless shapes laying beside him in the dirt. They seemed to be straining to rise, but they maintained their muted silence.
"Stop looking at me! I didn't ask for this! You forced me. It was you, you! do you hear me?"
They did hear, and they understood. Still they made no sound as Dan continued his macabre disruption of the earthy soil.
"How deep must I dig this hole? Surely this should suffice."
Dan was new at this sort of thing. Oh, he had instructed others on how to do it, but never had he actually put hand to shovel as he was now attempting. Unfortunately, this job required it. This was different, these victims were different, this whole situation was different.
Again, he cast a glance over his shoulder at they who helplessly waited for Dan's cruel work to come to an end. Beside them lay the bags of rotting material that would be their companions in this their new home. Dan felt a slight tinge of remorse as he looked at them. How had it come to this? His mind reverted back to that fateful day, the day that marked the end for his bound captives.
Dan had not gone looking for trouble, he was trying to avoid it in fact. He was trying to leave his past behind, what was done was done. It seemed as though they would not allow it. As he walked down the aisle, they caught his eye. Once again, Dan felt that old familiar desire, that haunting hunger that had almost destroyed him.
"No! I'm done with that. I won't do it again, never again!"
The more he repeated his denials the more he felt the hunger. In his mind he could see the details; the vibrant red color, the luscious red liquid flowing across the table as his knife cut and diced each morsel. Then, mashing and pounding each piece into a pulpy red goo.
"Stop it, Stop it I say! Enough, I won't..."
Then he saw them, there standing by themselves. Dan looked left and then right. He was alone, alone with them. They looked so young, so helpless. What happened next was inevitable. As if prodded by some evil demon, Dan quickly grabbed them and stuffed them in the trunk of his car. To cover his doings he returned and gave the guard a handsome sum, hush money to keep him quiet. Would it work? It had to.
As he drove silently through the darkness he thought to himself,
"You are lower than dirt. You just couldn't help yourself could you. You are evil. Turn and take those poor things back, do it now!"
His internal urgings seemed to fall upon deaf ears. Dan just ignored them and drove on. A sudden snap of a twig jerked Dan from his reflections. He turned toward the sound.
"Who's there? Show yourself!"
He waited breathlessly anticipating the worst. Then, from the shadows, a small cat came meandering toward him.
"Scat, get out of here!"
The feline bolted away to safety. Dan let out a sigh and resumed his work. The hour was late and daylight would soon be unveiling his gruesome task. He had to work fast. With the hole complete, he reached for the bag of decaying rot. The stench was almost more than he could bear. He moved the bag to the hole and cut a gash in the material with his spade. Like a river of filth, the black decaying mulch began to fill the hole. Finally, it was time.
He stood and slowly walked to those wretched ones for whom time had so slowly passed. An evil laugh escaped his lips.
"It's time, my friends. Time to sleep, time to dream. Come, enjoy your new home, won't you?"
One by one he took the quivering bodies and laid them in the moist, smelly, soil. He gently scooped up the putrid, decaying, material and began to cover them.
Then it happened, a light appeared. It was bright, too bright. Dan felt himself tremble with fear. Everything inside him screamed with terror.
"No, No, not yet. I haven't finished. I still have..."
"Dan, is that you? What on earth are you doing?"
It was his wife. She had discovered his obsession, she had found him. She slowly looked at his work, that which he had so desperately tried to hide. Her concerned look began to change. An exasperated tone escaped her mouth as she said,
"You're Planting? It's almost 3:00 in the morning. I thought we talked about this. We don't have room for a garden. You know that."
"Yes dear, but I love strawberries, and the store brand makes me sick. I didn't want to buy these plants; they made me. I was simply in the store to get Duct tape, and there they were. They were just sitting on the shelf all by themselves and, well, I just couldn't help myself."
Dan's wife threw her hands up in disgust,
"Fine, fine. Plant your little strawberries. I'm not going to do the weeding, so don't ask!"
Dan nodded his head sheepishly, as she stormed into the house. A sly grin came over his face as he turned to the plants sitting in their new home.
"Don't listen to her, everything is going to be fine, just fine."
Dan completed his work and stood to leave. The red goo would come again, ummm Strawberry Shortcake.
In the evenings silent grasp
Who I am and where from I’ve come
Are questions that loom so vast?
Surely before, when at his feet
We queried with wide-eyed wonder
What will it be like, how will we survive
Who will be there if we should stumble?
Then after much thought, and a sigh of resign
Our father’s plan we began to discover
In his infinite love and concern for our souls
He would provide us a loving mother
A being so wise as to know our thoughts
Yet so humble as to never admit
With tenacity rivaling that of the ant
Who would never allow us to quit
And when we felt lost, or did doubt our own worth
She was quick, our quandary to turn
With a building word and reassuring voice
The worth of our souls we learned
“You can complete any task that you start
No undertaking will be lost to our reach
As long as the lord you rely on for help
No earthly force can, your efforts, impeach”
These teachings she gave and her spirit she lent
In fact her whole life she gave
And forsook her comforts and personal needs
As she struggled our souls to save.
So there at his feet, our father so wise
Granted us the power to win
The beautiful being of love and light
Our mother was given as kin
We must have cheered, and raised quite a fuss
In the glorious knowledge received
And yet in our father’s eyes we detected concern
A deep foreboding perceived
As we bid farewell and went forth to gain
Our second estate and the prize
Our heavenly mother and father looked on
With sorrowful tears in their eyes.
And turning aside to another they spoke
To the angelic caretaker of our souls
“Please guide them home and insure their path,
And guard against sins deadly hold
Remind them always, of me and their home
From where they must shortly take leave
Instill in them pride and knowledge of self
Born from deity’s own image cleaved
So that boldly they’ll stand, in the war raging there
And my cause they will proudly defend
This charge I pronounce, and this burden I give
Though I know it is much to command
But you are selected, for you I can trust
Your spirit and strength have no bound
And for all your time completing this task
If faithful and true you are found
Dominions and kingdoms and glory divine
Are waiting your possession to claim
And all that I am and all that I have
To you I will gladly bear sway
So mother to you I humbly give thanks
For being our mother alone
For bearing the pains of daily travail
In guiding us back to our home
How grateful I am to know of the truth
That with you forever we’ll dwell
And no earthly power or device of man
Can alter this truth that I tell
Thanks for the love, and the giving of self
That made me just what I am
A warrior of god, a defender of truth
And an heir to a kingdom grand
I love you mom.
"That blasted noise!"
The old man struggled to his feet and walked to the huge pane glass window in the front room. He parted the curtains with his hand and peered out into the late afternoon haze.
"It's the Hendersons again. If I didn't know better I'd think he was dealin drugs outta that house. Look at all those cars. What could he be doing at this time of day on a Sunday afternoon?"
Jim Offenmore was always monitoring his neighbors, but lately he had taken a peculiar interest in the Hendersons; they were too perfect. What with their three small children and her Barbi-esk looks. No one is that beautiful. The old man was nearing his seventieth birthday and not looking forward to it. Ever since his own sweetheart Janice passed away over fifteen years ago, he just couldn't seem to find that spark.
Then too, the world was changing. Jim shuffled into the kitchen and then to his favorite rocking chair in the back bedroom. His home was not fancy, but it was comfortable. He and his wife purchased it years ago, back when their was only grass and scrub oak as far as the eye could see. Jim loved to be left alone. Oh he didn't hate people, he just didn't need them around all the time.
The garden started quite by accident. It was a simple mistake. The boys were merely enjoying the vacant lot behind the Offenmore home.
"Strike one" Yelled Sandy McCallister.
Another lad chimed in,
"He'll never hit it. Heavy Hitter! Move in." It was Forest Clayson in right field.
The sandlot was a wash with the typical childhood banter that accompanies a robust afternoon baseball game.
The batter was Timothy Baxter. He was the smallest kid on the field and he desperately wanted to get a hit. He lowered his stance and steadied his gaze, concentrating on the pitch. This was his last chance. His intensity radiated to everyone on the field. A strange silence floated across the vacant lot, like an eerie fog floating in from the restless ocean.
The pitcher wound up and sent the small sphere sailing toward the crouching boy. There was a crack and the ball was sent high into the sky amid the exultant screams of the boys. Higher and higher it flew then descended in it's arching trajectory. Timothy was so amazed he forgot to run to first base. Down it came until another crash was heard. It was the bedroom window of the Offenmore home. The ball shattered the glass, sending shards in all directions. The back door to the home flew open. Henry Olsen screamed from right field,
"It's old man Offenmore. Run!"
Like mice who have been spotted by the local cat, the boys scattered. All that is except poor Timothy. He didn't have the presence of mind to flee.
"You! Get over here!"
Obediently, Timothy slowly shuffled toward the menacing form standing on the porch.
"You the brat that broke my window?"
"Yes sir, I uh... I mean I'm sorry, it was an accident. I'll pay for it."
"You bet you will! You get out of here and don't ever let me see your face around here again. You're no good, do you hear me? No Damn Good! I'll be talking to the police about this. Don't think I'll forget either!"
Timothy ran from the field in hysterics. The old man's words had cut deep. Of course Jim didn't really mean what he said, he was angry. Still, the boy had broken his window. Jim felt he had been violated. He had to remember this offense, he had to find a way to remind himself.
Like a scheming tyrant, he paced back and forth, searching for the right remedy for his wounded ego. Then it hit him,
"That's it. Of course."
Without a moments hesitation, Jim walked out his door and into the backyard. Searching he found a large, smooth, stone lying against the fence. Hefting it with his might, he lugged the heavy boulder to the front yard and plopped it down. It landed right next to the front sidewalk. Retrieving some paint from the back shed, he scrawled the boy's name on the rock.
"Timmy broke my window"
There it was in bright, red, paint for all to see. Yes, know the world would know the pain inflicted on him by that thoughtless boy. Content, Jim retired for the evening.
"I'll sleep well tonight", he thought to himself.
The days went buy and Jim continued work on his little garden. Each new offense became another addition to his ever growing stone topiary.
There was the incident with Jim's mailman. He dropped the mail in a puddle before it could be delivered. Jim Was livid.
"I'll call the postmaster. You'll be flippin burgers by tomorrow afternoon!" He screamed.
The Postman had apologized profusely, but Jim would have none of it. Each new offense simply gave validation to his supposition that the world was a rotten place, filled with loathsome people. Day after day, year after year, he labored on his hobby all the while growing darker and darker, as if a gruesome shade was being drawn over his soul.
It is said,
"that which you most desire, you become".
Truer words were never spoken to describe the old man at 426 Elm Drive. Jim's labor of loathing was now nearly complete. With his life spent and his strength gone, he now spent his days on the old front porch, admiring his creation.
The once youthful and exuberant man who held life by the tail, seemed now to be more shadow than soul. Hunched over and gnarled, he rocked back and forth in the cool autumn evening, glaring at the world. His garden was now complete, at least for the moment.
There was the large rock that started the endeavor, the jagged rock scrawled with the declaration of the postman's brazen offense, and hundreds more similar stone reminders. To Jim, it seemed to be a work of art. Often he would walk his garden, muttering to himself the trite writings found on each stone edifice, marveling at his monumental achievement.
It was the next day that the life changing event took place. Jim was making his rounds, admiring his work of vengeful spite when a young mother and her five year old son came strolling down the street. Jim saw them come and positioned himself near the old tree, near the sidewalk. He wanted to take in the comments of this new admirer of his garden. He listened intently as he heard,
"There it is, Mommy. See? I told you it was here!"
Jim's chest began to swell at the thought of how impressed his uninvited guests would be at the sight of his creation. There was a sudden intake of breath as the mother stopped and stared at the sight. She did not notice the bent and wrinkled old man by the tree.
"It's hideous. Oh, it looks like a graffiti junkyard. Why would anyone do such a thing? They are so ugly. Come dear, we need to cross the street. I don't ever want you to come by this house again, do you understand? Who could do such a thing?"
The woman's comments were as a sharp sword, slicing the thin veil of illusion away from Jim's eyes. Was it true? Could he have created something truly awful? Like a person granted sight for the first time, so it was with Jim. He looked at his garden with new eyes. What he saw shocked him into reality. His yard was littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes. Each one bearing an ugly scrawl of paint. Weeds and grass filled in the gaps creating a scene that could have been taken from a 1920's war film. His once pristine and immaculate house now displayed the affects of years of neglect, the high ransom wrought upon it as Jim tended his garden of ill will.
Jim felt a great pain deep in his chest. This final awakening had not come without a price. Gripping his chest he stumbled toward the front porch. A normal person, faced with such a calamity, would have called for aid and been attended to quickly. Unfortunately, Jim had burned those bridges long ago. He was alone, and on his own.
The paper reported the event in their usual callous manner.
'An elderly man was found dead on his front steps from an apparent heart attack. His name is being withheld pending notification of his next of kin. In other news...'
How does your garden grow? To forgive another has nothing to do with whether the offender is in need of such forgiveness, rather it is the first aid for the soul of the one offended. Deny it, and you too can have a garden of rock and weed of your very own.
“Please not another gift from Aunt Nora.”
He grudgingly rose from his chair and walked to the front door.
“Good evening, sir. Got a package for ya; please sign here.”
Dan looked at the label and saw it was from Aunt Nora. He was half-tempted to refuse the delivery, but then Nora’s heart would be broken. As he closed the door, he let the package drop into a wastebasket standing nearby. He knew what it was; she sent the same present every year, Fruitcake!
Unfortunately, Dan’s son Calum found the delectable delight before the trash could be emptied. Calum was on his way to play football with his pals when he noticed his beloved pigskin was sorely lacking air. Needing a suitable alternative, he spied the conspicuous package protruding from the waste bin. He quickly snatched it up and headed out the door, unwrapping it as he went. To his delight, he found what looked like a flat Frisbee.
“If we can’t play football, we’ll play with this!”
After all, one flying object was as good as another, so off he raced to the local park to meet his friends. They had quite a time with the soft, round toy. Oh, it wasn’t quite as good as a real Frisbee, but hey; times were hard and something, even a soft mushy Frisbee wrapped in plastic, was better than nothing at all. After a few hours of rigorous activity, the boys grew weary of their newfound toy. Calum gave one last heave to the Frisbee fruitcake and sent it sailing off toward the pond, situated in the center of the park.
There it lay in the tall grass beside the small pond. In time, a curious duck came waddling up to the cast off cake. It pecked at the treat a few times until it created a small tear in the plastic. Pushing his bill in past the plastic, it tore off a small piece of the cake, then let out a loud quack. Shaking its head, it turned tail and ran quickly to the safety of its peers. The excited duck began quacking loudly, as if he was telling his harrowing story of the encounter with the foul tasting pastry.
There it lay, in the cold grass. It was getting late and most of the park visitors were gone. A lone man - one of the many ‘residentially challenged’ souls who frequented the area - was strolling along and nearly tripped on the fruitcake. Bending down, he picked up the pastry.
“I’m hungry, but not that hungry! Hmmm, it might make a nice pillow though.”
Off he went with his new sleep aid. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to try out his new pillow. It slipped from his grasp as he crossed the bridge that spanned the stream, flowing from the pond. Down went the cake, landing in the fast moving water. It bounced and bobbed, finally coming to rest in a clump of twigs and branches, deep inside a metal storm drain. There it remained until...
(October 24, 2295 A.D)
“Professor, over here, I’ve found something.”
It was a young man named Tyronius Thurston. He and his Paleontology classmates were out on a field trip and came upon a most unusual discovery. Professor Sortley turned his hoverplate 2000 and came gliding toward Tyronius.
“What is it Mr. Thurston? What have you found?”
“It appears to be some sort of metal tube. It has a strange undulating surface.”
“Oh come now, Tyronius. We have seen metal tubes like this before. It is what used to be referred to as a storm drain, I believe. Long ago, these primitive people used them to channel water to various destinations.”
“No sir, I’m not interested in the metal tube. Look here, through this rusted opening. Do you see it?”
Shining his light through the opening, a small round object glistened in the dim light.
“There, what is that?”
The professor knelt down and peered into the dimly lit tube. Without saying a word, he went to his Hoverplate and retrieved a mechanical device. He turned a knob and a long, snakelike arm began to emerge. At the end of the arm were four prongs with joints like fingers. The other end had a glove with a cable that attached to the rod. The professor slid his hand into the glove and began moving his fingers. As he did so, prongs on the other end mimicked his movements exactly.
Gently he pried the round object loose from the debris and hoisted it through the rusty hole, to the surface. Laying the object on the ground the students examined the curious find.
“What is it?” Asked one of the students.
The Professor shrugged his shoulders.
“I have no idea. Perhaps it is a cocoon of some sort.”
Carefully, the professor cut away the dirty plastic lining, revealing the contents within.
“It appears to be some sort of food.”
There was a label on the front of the object, which he wiped with his hand. He read the inscription aloud,
“Mrs. McDonald’s Premium Fruitcake…”
The Professor found out a profound truth, some things do last forever. So if you’re wondering what to get that hard to shop for person on your Christmas list, why not try a fruitcake. They have over a hundred different uses, and not one involves eating. Merry Christmas.
Man’s Best Friend, My Best Friend
It was early morning, and the October chill permeated everything, including me. As I labored at my task I could feel it; not the chill, it was something else. A sadness, a feeling of being empty. With every thrust of the shovel I felt it pressing down on me, like an ocean of memories. The task I had set about was to provide a final resting place for my best friend of sixteen years, Rocky. Tired and breathless, I glanced over my shoulder and there he was.
Time had certainly had its way with my beloved friend. The beautiful tan and black markings that had adorned his visage, and which gave him a stately appearance, had given way to white and gray lacings around his jowls, back, and legs. He looked as though he had drunk deeply from the milk pail. His strong and youthful stride was absent, in its place were the trembling, unsure movements indicative of one who has lived far past his prime. His final years were marked by an ever decreasing ability to see his surroundings. Life and time, it seems, are extremely cruel taskmasters. As if trying to steal his very essence, they attacked with vengeance, first stealing his ability to see the beauty of life and then his quick puppy like agility. As a final blow, these cruel villains took from him the ability to hear the magical sounds around him. Left with his sense of smell only, he wandered aimlessly.
What a strange and macabre scene it was. I was digging the grave of my best friend while he gazed on in ignorant bliss. It reminded me of scenes from a Hitchcock movie. Reluctantly, my mind was drawn back to another October morning. There was Guess, my beloved German Shepherd following me around as he always did. As with Rocky, I was spending my last few hours with my friend.
Guess? Who names their dog Guess? He was apparently named after Guess jeans, like that made it a more sensible a choice. He too was a beautiful specimen, but had sealed his own fate when he lunged through the fence and grabbed a visitor’s arm, tearing a gash in it. Who knows the reason for his aggression. Perhaps he was just guarding his home, or it could have been the beginnings of Hip Dysplasia, toying with his fragile psyche. Whatever the case, he could no longer remain on this mortal sphere.
A short trip to the Vet and he was no more. That is a story for another time. The days passed, and it seemed increasingly difficult to manage my way through the day. I’d look to the backyard and all that greeted me was emptiness.
It was while picking up my daughter from her friend’s house, that the miracle took place. As I waited on the front step, two large hounds came bounding up the walk toward me. One was a large white mutt with shaggy hair. He looked horrid and smelled worse. My attention was not on him, however. I was gazing, with rapt attention, at the beautiful German shepherd who had thrown his lot in with this stinky white mongrel.
“Excuse me, whose dogs are those?”
My Daughter’s friend’s mother had come out on the porch and so I posed my query to he.
“Oh, those mutts? They have been running around the neighborhood for at least two weeks now. I ought to call the Pound”. That they were homeless mutts was clear, however only one of them fit the description of a mutt. As I approached the two dogs, the white mongrel ran for the hills, but the German Shepherd simply cocked his head to one side, eyeing me with interest.
“Come her boy, come on.”
It took little to persuade the animal to respond, as he bounded toward me, tail wagging. As I scratched his ears, I was appalled at his physical condition. His skin was stretched tight across his ribs, making him appear to be a victim of the Holocaust. From what I saw, it was obvious he had not eaten in weeks. I bid farewell to my daughter’s friends and put the poor animal in the back seat of my truck as we headed for home. On the way, we stopped at the store and purchased a few cans of dog food.
I remember how incredible it was, watching this poor, half starved, animal devour those cans of food. He was a beauty. I canvassed the neighborhood looking for his owner. Signs posted on poles, and questioning residents, yielded nothing. Finally, we decided he must be a Jacob. He was ours.
The years raced by, and Rocky was faithful through them all. He was the most intelligent animal I had ever seen. He responded to voice commands as if he actually understood the meaning of what I was saying.
“Go get on your rug”, or “Rocky, go Downstairs”, yielded a quick and obedient response. Off he would go to fulfill my stated commands. Oh, he wasn’t perfect; he had a definite attitude, especially when he wanted something. He would find a way to get it, no matter what. Hmmm, that sounds a lot like me.
It was shortly after the demise of my business and our eventual migration to Utah that it happened. I had constructed a most excellent home for Rocky out of the trailer we brought from Vegas. It was the Ritz Carlton of dog houses. It had an enclosed section in the front, with wall to wall carpeting, Microwave, Sleep Comfort bed, the works. It had wood rails along the sides and back that allowed for casual viewing of his surroundings, yet prevented his escape.
We had gone out for dinner and returned to find blood all over the back of the trailer, well drops of blood anyway. What had happened? Was anyone hurt? It seemed all was fine. That night, Rocky slept beside our bed. As I reached down to stroke his face, I felt something hard.
“Rocky, are you eating a bone? You know you don’t eat in here.”
I turned on the light and looked at him but there was no bone to be found. Upon closer inspection, I discovered what had peaked my attention. He had dislodged his main tooth and it was now sticking out perpendicular to his face. It all made sense; the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place.
Rocky had become extremely agitated at our absence, and in a terrified fit, he hooked his upper tooth on one of the boards of his new home. He tried to use his tooth as a wedge to pry off the wood plank. He succeeded in creating a hole big enough to exit through, unfortunately, he also succeeded in pulling his tooth from its socket. The swollen gum prevented the tooth from returning to its original position. One Vet trip, and $90 later, we had our happy puppy back, sans one incisor tooth.
Such were the events that made up this animals existence. My mind slowly returned to the task at hand. The hole was nearly complete. I looked at my watch and realized time was vanishing. I quickly finished the grave and went to look after Rocky.
It is one of the oddest paradoxes in life that things work fine when you take them in to be fixed. How many times have you taken a vehicle to the mechanic, only to have it work perfectly. So it was this morning. As I brushed his fur he wagged his tail and gave my face a lick. He was happy; I was miserable.
That it had to be done was beyond discussion. He could barely move; his eyesight was gone as was his hearing. Winter was on its way. He could not negotiate stairs and so had to be carried in and out of the house. Once inside, he paced around with his tail between his legs, shaking and trembling with fear. He wouldn’t even go in the garage. It rained and hailed yesterday and he sat in the rain and sleet with a look of misery that broke my heart.
So it was and now the final hour had arrived. As I fashioned a wooden marker for his grave, I could feel the hot tears run down my cheeks. They blurred my vision and made the work so much harder. Finally it was time. I walked Rocky to the Bronco and hoisted him into the rear compartment. Again, his puppy like demeanor returned. It was as if I could hear him say,
“Oh boy, oh boy. Where are we goin Bob? For a fun walk in the park? Maybe for a walk in the Canyon? Oh, boy…”
I knew of course that it was just the joy of doing something different, but that did little to ease the pain I felt. I closed the back door, and slowly pulled from the driveway. It struck me hard that this would be the last time my Rocky would set foot in his home. I gazed in the rearview mirror and saw his excited gaze; again I felt the familiar pain and tears begin to flow.
Like a Hearse slowly winding its way to the final resting place of its passenger, so it was with me. I drove slowly and cautiously. Rocky was standing and a fall would only add more pain to the drama. It seemed to take hours, even though it was only five minutes away. At length, we arrived and I again hoisted Rocky from the truck. As before, his ears were alert, listening for any sounds of potential fun and excitement. His eyes darted back and forth in a futile attempt to take in some shred of movement. I patted his head and he turned quickly to look at me and licked my hand, as he had done countless times before at the beginning of a fun experience. This would not be that experience, however.
We walked into the hospital and took a seat. It only took a few minutes and then we were off to the next stage. The excited and playful demeanor of my best friend had quickly fled. In its place was that familiar trembling I had seen so often as of late. I could tell he was trying to be brave. However the smells and sounds around him sent home the message “something evil this way cometh”. I held him close as he was weighed, then it was off to the room that would be his final destination. Waiting for the Doctor was a brief experience, thankfully. Rocky decided it was time to lay down. I laid down behind him with my arm under his head like a pillow, my other arm cradling his body and soothing his trembling muscles. He was panting heavily, mostly from the fear of what was happening. I am sure his panic was exacerbated by the fact that he could see nothing, and hear even less. All he knew was that he was in a place that smelled bad; it smelled like death.
The team entered and shaved his leg and set the catheter. They were extremely kind and gentle, which helped greatly. As I sat and stroked Rocky’s head, my mind was again taken to the past. How many times had he fallen asleep in my lap, in this very same way.
The doctor finally entered and administered a sedative and pain killer. As Rocky drifted off to sleep, I felt his pulse slow, his breathing relaxed, he was at peace. Absent were the subtle tremblings of muscle and bone. Then the medication; clear with a purple hue. It seemed like so much to be put into a small dog’s body. Slowly she injected the liquid into the waiting vein. His breathing slowed, slower, slower, then… nothing. He was gone.
In less time than it takes to stand, Rocky leapt effortlessly from this mortal sphere to a loftier plane. He crossed into the next world effortlessly, to be met by Guess and a host of others who would now be his guardians and care givers. Like a ship departing and then coming home again, my loving dog had completed his journey. His lifetime of faithful service would be rewarded by an eternity of peace and happiness. Yes, he was at peace, I knew it. The pain and burden of going on was with me alone, he was free.
I loaded his lifeless body into the truck and set out for home. I was sad to be sure, but not inconsolable. I laid his remains upon a towel in the bottom of the hole. Gently I covered his face and body and proceeded to replace the dirt that would be his tomb; it was done.
In an effort to heal my heart, I struck in the Pipes and played. The melody carried high into the air, strong and loud. The Irony was, he actually hated the pipes, but it wasn’t for him anyway, was it? No, it was for me. I need the healing balm of the Celtic strains. Like a miraculous balm, the tones lifted me up and eased the sense of loss. Life would go on; wounds would heal; for now at least I had the pipes.
"I guess it all started the day I found that old journal left to me by Great Grandpa Meiklejohn. He was a character, that's fer sure. He was one brave Son of a .... uh... ahem, what I mean is he sure had the pioneer spirit."
The old man looked down at his beautiful Granddaughters, Emma and Ethnie, with an awkward embarrassment. He was cut from the old cloth, and sometimes slipped when it came to social etiquette and proper speech.
"What was it you wanted to know.... Oh yes, I remember. What made me decide to learn the Bagpipes. Well, as I was saying, Ole Grandpa Meiklejohn was a true Scott. He lived a hard life. Why, when he was just a little older than you two, his father just up and died. There he was, the oldest of the family, and only thirteen years old. He did what he had to do. "
The old man paused a moment and looked again at the two beautiful girls at his feet. He reached down and caressed each of their cheeks with his large calloused hands. In his mind he struggled for the words that would express the deep feelings he held for his Grandfather, and for the cultural legacy that was passed down to him. After a moment he continued,
"Ya know, a wise man once said, 'Ya can't know who ya are, if ya don't know where ya been.' Do you know what I'm talkin about?
The two young girls simply shook their heads. Perhaps they were two young. In time, they would come to know of what the old piper spoke, but for now it was enough just to be together, so the old man decided to save his reflections for a later time. Reaching down, he scooped both girls up and plopped them on his lap.
"Let's just say that I'm a Scott, and playin the bagpipes is what Scott's do. Ya want ta know a secret?"
Both of the girl's eyes grew as big as saucers as they nodded their heads enthusiastically.
"Well listen close then."
The girls leaned in close as the old piper whispered, soft and low,
"You two are Scottish lasses too! Never forget that. It's what makes ya who ya are."
The old man held the two close and gave them each a kiss on the cheek,
"Off with ya now, there's more important things ta do than listenen to an ole fool tellin stories."
As he watched the two bound off into the yard, full of the overflowing exuberance that was youth, he felt a warmth and a pride in his heart. A pride born of a grand heritage and a noble posterity. He was content.
Well, here is the long awaited video of my Second place showing at the Utah Scottish Festival, Solo Competition. It was a beautiful day with excitement in the air, not to mention flying haggis. As I waited for the judging to begin I felt a wee bit anxious. After all, this was the first such competition I had ever attempted. My mind was a swim with doubts, Am I really going to try to pipe in front of this guy? What if he says I suck? or worse, what if my fingers freeze and refuse to move. What if my drones don't strike in properly?
We have all seen the signs. "Shane, could you please empty the dishwasher?", asks a patient loving mother. "In a minute! Sheesh!", replies the saucy teen in an irritating annoyed whine, as though she had been nagging him for hours and he had finally reached his limit. How about the twenty year old that should be attending college, and making his way in the world, but instead feels it is his duty to make sure his parents aren't lonely. So he has decided to live at home, but wait, he is never home is he, hmmm, oh well.
What is it that turns adorable children, into ego maniacal monsters, bent on self fulfillment only, and devoid of rational thought. This is a question that has kept the wise men guessing for years. When Cesar approached Plato to ask why his son kept stealing the chariot and leaving it on the sand dunes with the horses missing, Plato had no intelligent response. When Nero was frustrated at his daughter's fixation of dating the son of the mongol lord, he approached Socrates, and asked why. Socrates simply said, "Like sands from the hourglass, so are the days of our lives"
Well, I have done what the wise me could not. Wise men? Wise guys more like it. I have conducted my own top secret investigation and I have discovered the cause for myself. here are my findings.
Late at night, on the eve of my youngest son's 13th birthday, I secreted myself in a dark corner of his room to test a theory I have been working on. I have surmised, through keen intellect and deductive reasoning, that there must be some being from another realm, that comes and affects some change on or youth. Perhaps it is a ghoulish joke, perhaps an evil specter is exacting his cruel revenge on parents because he is unable to achieve the bliss of such filial offspring. Regardless, there I was, in the corner, feeling like I might be sacrificing a much needed night of repose in vain. Then it happened.
It started as a faint blue glow emanating from the far wall opposite my son's bed. The glow gradually increased until it was a blinding slit of white light, that went from the floor to the ceiling. Suddenly, the slit of light began to part; much like someone parting a curtain to allow entrance to a room. Through the slit, appeared a small leg, then another, and then the rest of the small visage became visible. It stood about three feet tall, and had hair that ran down to the ground and completely covered his fat rotund body. From the top protruded a bulbous nose, and gnarly green teeth. Two beady eyes completed the ghastly mug. He wore a tee shirt that said, "Got Fairy?" on the front. He wreaked of some odor that I could not put my finger on, but it was foul. I finally had seen enough, I jumped to my feet and confronted the little troll.
Stop, I whispered. What are you doing here? In a raspy guttural voice it said, "I am the Poop Fairy. I am here to do that which I always do, that which must be done, and that which you are powerless to stop me from doing". And with that he raised his hand and out of his finger a blue arching flame hit me and pinned me to the wall. I was immediately engulfed in the paralyzing flame, and had to watch helplessly, as I could not move a muscle. A sort of paralyzed state. What I saw will ever be etched in my memory. The fairy approached my son, and with what seemed to be a surgical tool, he made an incision in the upper part of his brain, and removed the upper part of his head. With a quick stroke, he extracted my son's brain and quickly placed it into a pack he had brought with him. from the same pack he extracted a foul smelling lump of something. Noooooo! I screamed, but the blue flame that held me bound, prevented most of the sound from being heard. It did catch the fairy's attention though, and he turned and gave me a menacing grin. Back he turned, and he placed the foul smelling lump where Shane's brain used to reside.
Suddenly I recognized that pungent odor. I had smelled it so many times, while visiting the farms in and around Albany, with my father. It was Cow Excrement. Before this thought had even fully congealed in my brain, the fairy had done his work. Shane's head was back together, without even the slightest scar. and the fairy was making his way back to his bright doorway.
Before he left, and in some bizarre attempt at compassion, he turned to me and said, in that same raspy voice, "Don't get ya shorts all in a bundle. I always return with the brain when the kid turns 20. Ya see, a mind is a terrible thing to waste, so we let other, more deserving folk use this brain for a while. A kind of, Rent a Noggin, program, if you will. I'll bring this kid's noodle back, don't worry". And with that he was gone, and the blue flame that had held me bound, suddenly released me and I fell, like a sack of potatoes, to the ground.
Shane woke with a start, "Dad! What are you doing in my room!" Alas, I knew what had happened, and my Hypothesis had been proven. So now you know the truth as well. Therein is the answer to this perplexing question, posed above. Hope this has been informative, and helpful. Stay tuned for another installment of,
Deep Thoughts. Ta Ta
Off we went to brave the wilds of Northern Utah. First it was to Jake Kennard's Homecoming and then off to fun and sun in the great Bearius lakeius. But first, a stop in Logan to view the wonderful Logan Berry festival. Oh what a wonderful time. We were accomodated in the most luxurious of fair by Tyler and Tatianna. We almost got lost in the spacious rooms of their luxurious apartment/Penthouse. The next morning it was off to the local store to stock up on grub, and then load all six people into the Lexus, with the food stacked on us like so much refuse. The ole car was riding mighty low I can tell you. Tatianna was stuck behind the passengers seat on the floor, luckily she fit just perfect. The Condo was nice, and it was awesome weather as well. It was fun for all. No disasters, and we made it home in one piece. Check out the pictures in the usual place. Later.
Oh what a time of joy and bliss, A day for a moment’s pause
And with Respect and pious air, Reflect on old dad's flaws
He's old enough to be Noah's kin and oft smells that way as well
And his humor is hard to place at times but it is as welcome as tongue can tell
His hair is grey from a life of well spent and his face shows the creases of time
His eyes once bright and full of life are still so, but now more sublime
His pace has slowed, and he rests more now, but he still needs noone’s hand
For of all the things that are the man, independence is his one sure brand
His legacy is the life he led and the lessons given, one by one
They shaped and molded tiny minds, who grew to touch the sun
He was always their, if our way grew hard, but would never interfere
He understood that for us to grow we must walk alone without fear
He was tough as nails and not oft prone, to love’s acknowledged verbal refrain
Yet we knew those things from his constant care, and his giving with nothing to gain
So on we walked down the road of our life, content knowing he would be by our side
And we travel along with a new flock in tow, these who look to us as their guide
So on this day of reflective repose, It’s to you dad my thoughts are drawn
For I love you so much, and that grows every day, as I think what for me you have done
You have given me life, and taught me to work, to be true, and honest and right
And all that I do is to bring, to you, pride at having taken the time in my life
So here’s to you dad, on this day of days, my it be one that is filled with peace
At knowing that we, who your name do pass on, are worthy, and strong and free
We will continue to teach and to foster the care, of those with whom we have charge
So that they will learn to carry with pride, the great Jacob name that is ours
Happy Fathers Day,
We love you,
Laura, Bob and the whole family