Highway Song

Big wheels rolling along as the rubber sings my song.  The sun comes up and races the shadow of my truck, the day has barely begun.  Each minute the miles tick away.  The load has settled down as the engine pulls at the gears.  Another sip of coffee, another glance around the cab, checking mirrors and gauges as my head turns from side to side.  The radio is turned on but static is all I hear, sometimes voices garble through.  It’s the same thought every time as that diesel starts to whine shifting gears as the truck climbs that long grade that waits ahead.  Wishing you were here or I was there by your side, letting the morning fade into noon.  You know I think of you all the time, you’re always on my mind and yet time don’t mean a thing.  Cities and towns pass me by, I’m a stranger to them all, not even the hiway knows my name.  It’s my highway song, I sing it all day long, all day long.

A load of tractors out of Moline, you know I’m headed for Telluride, got two passes to climb where the air is clean.  You know it’ll take me two days, maybe a little more if it snows.  Time just hangs around like rain that never makes it to the ground, just sort of disappears.  Each day seems the same, never ending road from dawn to dusk.  The lights have faded to green and it’s time to shut down my machine, the day has come to an end.  Then I lay head down and let my pillow wrap itself around singing to my ears how much I love you.  It’s my highway song and it just goes on and on and on and on.  Dreams sail through my head, each night I see your face, the darkness hides my fears of being alone.  I guess it’s the blackness of the highway that lays before me like a winding ribbon of uncertainty that causes me the pain I feel when I am missing you.

Rolling down to Grand Junction and headed up to Montrose, the winds blow through Glenwood Canyon sending day cab vans scuttling for home while I have another day before I am done.  Each grade slows me down, can’t make much time, been out a week and can’t say I mind and yet, and yet the weather grows colder this time of year.  Push on, push on, got to make the delivery and then speed to the next pickup three hundred miles away.  Down to two lanes, these narrow roads leave little room for doubt.  Keep pushing, don’t stop, don’t stop.  Each mile brings me closer to my baby, I keep telling myself that’s what it’s about.  Money in the sock, closer to my dreams, yet so far away, so far away, how far away are my dreams?

On and on my highway song goes, like a ship in the night and no one to pass, am I all alone, Like Ulysses strapped to a mast.  I hear the sirens of the highway, I see the rocks on the shoals, the white line guides me through the long and lonely night, solitude offers me choice, I must decide, what becomes of my soul?  Up here, next to god where man scrapes the sky, I think of your soft skin and the ease of your body as I hold you at night.  Almost there, ready to unload and turn around, head back east over Wolf Creek Pass, Pueblo beckons with a coiled wire load bound for Texas and a warmer clime, and end to snow and ice on the ground.  We might talk tonight if reception is good, so far from the cell towers, hard to tell, I’ve done the best I could.

Wolf Creek pass rises above Pagosa Springs, I climb a ice slippery road to the top and disappear over the pass.  No weight on the flatbed sends the bogies scuding from side to side with each turn, geared down to twenty five and still hard to handle.  Got to keep my wits about me, no time to think of you, no time at all.  Let the jakes do the work and keep my foot off the brake, don’t want to jackknife on this road.  By the time I hit the bottom I can think of you again, time has begun again.  Hours to Pueblo, next load, check in at the scale house, at least they care if I’m loaded correctly.  Waiting in line with you on my mind, country station on the radio passes the time till I’m loaded.  Takes an hour to strap down the load then on to the scale house again, weight’s in the right place, just under 48,000 pounds, makes a good ride, pulls well enough.  Evening time, got a couple of hours left, I 25 takes me to US 50 and over to US 287, bed down at a Love’s for the night.  Can of chilli in the pan, wash the pan, put it all away, time to lay my head down, I start to dream of you, still, my sleep is troubled at best.  My body is restless with the rhythm of the road, fitful sleep and time to get up, start the day again.  Snow on the hood, hope they haven’t closed the road, got to make Amarillo and on to Fort worth tonight.  I keep thinking how we had brunch that last Sunday, or was it the one before?  One day is like the next on the road, how long has it been since I left?

Pushed the limits, made the TA outside Fort Worth, might get a shower in the morning, got to get up early though.  Soup tonight, still have water in the jug, got to buy another jug down the road, time passes slow tonight, can’t get you off my mind.  Sleep only makes the night worse, I toss and turn, you aren’t by my side.  Wrote another post card and slipped it in the mail slot.  Funny way of keep contact with home, “Been here and having a wonderful time.”  Got to be at Alcoa thursday to pick up a couple of ingots headed for Iowa.  Seems I’m always moving, stopping only to eat and sleep.  Then when I get home I walk through the door as a stranger , even the dog doesn’t seem to know me at first.  That first night, dead tired and still feeling alone as you lay by my side.  Wake up thinking I know where I am but we are both unsure.  A couple more days and I feel at home and time to leave again.  Start my loneliness all over again, not sure it really ends.

Off The Hook

Did you ever have a friend commit a really dumb act?  I mean a mistake of total stupidity.  You know, the kind that lands him in jail and all sort of legal trouble.  That was Dexter J Cunningham, a man, or better yet a child, who was attracted to trouble in the worst way.  There is a part of me that has always wanted to cut him loose, be rid of the drama he constantly dragged around in his life.  But I suppose I am no different than most other individuals who, no fault of their own, attract the friendships of such sterling individuals.  Dexter was fun, he was witty, he was gay.  He was also a pain in the ass at times.  But Dexter had charm, I mean real charismatic charm.  He could make you feel that you were the only one in the room when he talked with you.  And he was kinda smart, not really genius but very well informed.  Dexter was also very attractive to women.  My god, the man could break a dozen hearts at twenty paces.

So I was not surprised when I received a call at three am stating that he, Dexter, needed me to come down to the twelfth precinct and see what I could do about getting him out of jail.  “Bill, you just gotta come down and see about getting me bailed out.  It’s all a mistake.  I swear it’s not true.  I was set up.  I didn’t even know the woman.  Please, Bill, you gotta come down right away.”

Good thing I didn’t have that second or third night cap as I sometimes do when sleep is hard to come by.  My tail was going to drag tomorrow on the job and I didn’t need the lack of sleep.  Working as an iron worker on high rises is dangerous enough without this kind of distraction.  So I set the alarm for six am knowing that his bail hearing wouldn’t occur before then.  Dexter’s many little brushes with the law had taught me that much.  As it was I’d be late to work and the foreman would be anything but pleased, but he owed me a couple of favors.  It’s a good thing to have a couple of favors sandbagged, you know?

Six am came and I awoke with a headache, perhaps I had more than one night cap, or at least I felt that way.  Getting dressed was simplified by the fact that I never took my clothes off the previous evening.  Ah, the reason was coming back to me.  Yes, a few boilermakers in a bar a couple blocks from here.  Now I remember, that little blonde wouldn’t come home with me and I left earlier than usual.  Pick up my tools and then it’s out the door and over to the twelfth precinct.  This was a new one, hadn’t been there before.  Wonder what the captain is like.  Caught a cab and found myself in front of an old brownstone building with a few bars on the windows, looked like it was left over from an old television set.  Dexter could pick some of the damnedest places, I swear.  So I went through the doors and up to the counter, just like in the movies.  There was a sergeant by the name of Harris sitting there and so I directed my questions his way.  “Oh yeah, I remember that guy.  Cunningham.  Yes, quite the commotion.  We had the mother and father down here as well as the daughter.  What was her name?  Chloe Mercer.  Yes, she was quite the sight.  And then there was her uncle and a couple of cousins.  You know, I think we could have made it a regular dinner party.  Sort of meet the bride of Frankenstein.  Your friend sure can pick them.”

“So is there a bail hearing this morning or will that be done down at central later in the day.”

“I see you are acquainted with procedures.  You, your friend, or mutual experiences?”

“Just Dexter, he seems to have an ever widening field of opportunity for the practice of law.  But back to the question at hand.”

“Judge Dietrick will be sitting in a few minutes up on floor two, second door to the left.  I’d grab a seat now, there’s going to be long line this morning.  Be prepared to be surprised.”

“Thank you, you’ve been most helpful.”  With that I went up the stairs to the small courtroom where a magistrate would hear the charges and set bail accordingly.  If what Dexter had done was really serious he would have been taken down to central booking and the entire day wasted.  Usually bail was set very low at these local hearings so I might not have to fork out more than several hundred to spring Dexter.  A door swung open and a dozen men were marched into the room and told to sit.  Dexter was the sixth in line so this figured to be a bit longer than I had anticipated.

“All rise, Judge Dietrick presiding.  the court will come to order.”

The clerk started to read the names.  Mr Jones was drunk and disorderly as was Mr Brown.  Miss Swift (I kid you not about the name) was soliciting a Mr Smith, correct name was Evans.  He, of course accepted her offer of close physical communion in front of an off duty policeman.  Words were exchanged and arrest resisted by said Mr Evans.  Mr Brown and Mr White had been engaged in a vociferous disagreement that escalated to mutual combat.  Dexter would have been next but a Miss Elvira, dressed appropriately in black that clung to her body in various suggestive ways insisted she be next.  Judge Deitrick did not disagree.  Finally Dexter came to the bar, the charge read, and was asked how do you plead.  Wrong question and equally wrong answer.

“Your honor, I am completely innocent.  Those charges are false.  I didn’t do any of those things the girl alleges.”  With that the girl and her family suddenly rushed to the bench with loud individual voices cancelling out any pretense of lucid conversation and fell into a cacophony of noise that cause several policemen to rush in as though there was a riot in progress.  Dexter stood with a smile on his face contemplating the trouble the judge was about to endure.  I don’t really remember all the “testimony” given by all parties and even today it makes little sense.  So let me try to recap the various events and conflict.

Dexter had, by his own admission, been on a sort of bender.  What has started three days ago with dinner and several bottles of wine and then a few cognacs followed by nightcaps and the parting of sweet sorrows with the lady of his desire had run on to a gaggle of old friends in need of comfort and understanding.  At least that is the story Dexter gave in his defense.  “Normally I would pay the bail set by your honor but there’s a mater of principle at stake and I must make clear that I have no intention of paying blood money.”  On this point Dexter was firm, much to the judge’s dismay, but he was overruled by the father of the girl in question.  The Uncle seconded the overruling and one of the cousins made several quick steps towards Dexter only to be restrained by the bailiff.  It would seem that as the friends dropped out of the companionship Dexter was left alone in a rather strange cafe/bar/deli.  This was a Turkish establishment, or at least that is what we surmised, except that the uncle was Greek.  Why this should matter I am not sure but apparently it did to the mother and the daughter.  Dexter was invited to join in the celebrations, something on the order of an engagement but there was a dissenting vote on that matter by the girl and her mother.  Dexter’s opinion was enlisted by all as a means of settling the disagreement, a grave mistake to say the least, and Dexter proceeded to give his opinion in a manner most calculated to offend everyone’s sensibilities.  “Well, they asked for the truth and I gave it to them, the ingrates.”  One of the nephews, the one who was to be the betrothal to the young woman, started to have second thoughts as to the propriety of marrying below his station and handsomeness.  The second cousin was offput by his brother’s lack of sanguineness while his father was embaressed by both youngsters.  The father of the proposed bride took umbrage at the thought that his daughter was unworthy and put the matter to Dexter.  “Don’t you think my daughter is pretty enough for any you to marry?”

Dexter answered in the affirmative which was the undoing of his serenity.  Where upon the father of the bride took dexter’s word for an offer of marriage and sought to hold him to it.  Well, there was a difference of opinion between Dexter and the father of the bride while the father of the groom took umbrage that a mere stranger would whisk away from under his nose the very bride of his son.  The judge, upon hearing this mess of activity declared everyone out of order and told the bailiff to clear the court room.  The families disagreed and wanted to judge to mary the young girl and the young man then and then but when asked to produce a marriage application had apparently forgotten to apply for one.  Judge Dietrick was outrages, threaten to jail them all for thirty days, and then dismissed charges against Dexter.  I, for one, simply marveled at it all.  If I have not experienced it I would not have believed it.  As I left the court room with Dexter trailing me I turned and told him, “Don’t call me again.”

 

The Weatherman

Charles Addams Standish the Forth.  My god, I haven’t seen him since ninth grade when we went to school together.  We both lived in the same Mainline township, he on the right side of the tracks and me on the opposite side.  Cas, as he was not  affectionately known, was a scion of that upper class society that values historical prestige, you know, blood will tell and all that.  When I knew him he had been slightly pudgy and under average height.  Cas was well mannered, had an impressive vocabulary, and a member of the Scott’s HiQ team for the junior high, captain, naturally.  My family had moved to the suburban Philly area, sorry, my lack of breeding and manners are showing, I meant Philadelphia.  Normally Cas wouldn’t have given me the time of day.  But I had “rescued” him from the hands of a couple of Garden City toughs and for some reason was deemed tolerable.  That or he found my southern accent amusing and wished to hear more of it.  All said, it was a most interesting year we spent, or should I say, I stood in his shadow.  The following year Cas would leave for some prep academy, Exeter I think.  Cas was destined for greater things for all I knew, myself, not so much.

From what I could tell at that young age Cas didn’t fit in well at school.  You know what I mean, he wasn’t one of the fellas.  His athleticism was poor and for a boy that is a great handicap.  I mean, you don’t have to be a jock and starter in three sports but you at least need to be able to dribble a basketball, catch a baseball, and throw a football, you know.  One out of three is okay, but being a cream puff means you have little standing with the adolescent male.  I mean, so you can do quadratic equations till the cows come home, so what?  On the other hand, say you have memorized the batting averages of the best hitters in the history of baseball.  Well, that is a respectable feat for us fourteen year olds, you know.  We respect those kinds of numbers.  But no, he always memorized the wrong things like historical dates and what a gerund is, and stuff like that.  I ain’t never heard no boys sitting around talking about the relative merits of gerunds, assuming they knew what one was.  Now I must admit that I could talk about Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson and a few of their battles but was expected of a boy who had a southern heritage and upbringing.  So I assumed due to his historical heritage he would be up on George Washington and the revolutionary war and the like.  I guess that was something his mom and dad had not expected from him.  Yeah, I heard about the Mayflower and all that, but that was so long ago, ancient history and not battles or anything.

Still, we would talk at lunch.  I think he was glad for the company and my being his friend tended to keep the Garden city boys away, not that I was un friendly with them but we kept a respectful distance so to speak.  But later on I would help a couple of them out of a jam as well as a couple of blacks that attended our school.  But another time and another story or two.  While my scholasticism was poor, I didn’t get good grades except in in shop class and geography, I think Cas saw through that outer shell and recognized that when I was interested in a subject I was capable of learning much about it.  He saw that I was a reader as I spent a fair amount of time in the library educating myself while I was failing in school.  But more than that, I was able to introduce Cas to the real world of work.  By that I mean, I would sometimes take him into the wood or metal shop the last period of the day and introduce him to screwdrivers and saws,  make him use one.  His proudest moment was when he was able to make a crude wood box with a lid by using hand tools.  I showed him how to stain it but he did all the work.  You should have seen the smile of satisfaction on his face.  But as I said, Cas was destined for greater things than using his hands.  I would be destined for the draft in three years and serve my time in the barrel.

On the last day of classes that end of May we said our goodbyes.  I told him that I was sad to see him go, funny duck that he was.  Cas shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to check with the weatherman about the future.”  Just like Cas, constantly checking with someone about some future event or possibility.  He was a worrying soul if you know what I mean.  “Cas,” I said, “stop worrying about the future.  You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, just stick your head outside when you want to know.”  I saw the puzzled look upon his face and then a smile.  So we went our ways.  I had a job at a gas station pumping gas and doing oil changes for the summer.  Cas was going to take a couple of college classes on what ever it was that he needed to know.  The next three years I did get a Christmas card from him with a few details of his boarding school life but that was the last contact I had from him.  I joined the Army in due course and he went off to Harvard or Yale or whichever top tier university.

My time spent in the service of Uncle Sam was not the wisest since I came out with a non civilian skill, infantryman and there were not many openings in these fifty states for that speciality.  So oddly enough I spent some GI Bill money on education, mostly the basic education stuff and a few mechanical courses such as welding and metalsmithing, and such.  They were enough to get me jobs in the oil patch as a roustabout on drilling rigs.  Sometimes I though about Cas and what he must be doing now.  Maybe he was a banker or a lawyer in New York or Boston.  What the hell, our paths would never cross again in our lifetimes.  Meanwhile I was making decent money and socking it away.  I had no idea just what I wanted to do with my life.  I mean. at twenty-six what does one do except get a job and get married and have some kids and a mortgage on a house somewhere.

Well, I was courting a Miss Emmy Lou in a small west Texas town and she had her own ideas about what a man should want and was doing her best to convey to me just what I should want.  Funny how women put ideas in your head that way.  Her father owned an oil field supply company and needed a driver.  That was me.  Except he was only going to pay me half what I was making in the field now.  Well, he three in a small cottage, a gift from her grandma, so she said.  And a new pickup since mine was getting up there in mileage and mine needed just about everything to keep it running.  So Emmy lou and I got married and the deal was cinched.  I’m not sure about the love part but I will say that after twenty years that did come and unlike a whole lot of folks we managed to stay married.  Meanwhile Her father started to teach me about the business and I even took a few more college classes until lo and behold I had a bachelor’s degree in science in operations engineering.  I can still recall my oldest son, who was twelve at the time, bragging about the neighborhood that his old man had graduated from college.  Emmy even baked me a cake for the occasion.

Meanwhile the company had expanded and business was doing great and then the great recession hit and the oil patch business just sort of driveled up.  Of course I had my hopes, a nation moves forward on energy, can’t anybody manufacture without energy.  One thing I learned early was to keep inventory lean and accounts paid.  I also became a stickler about the people we did business with.  Slow invoice payments are a death warrant for any supply company.  As things stood, we were in good shape although emmy’s father had a heart attack shortly after the downturn in business.  So I stepped in and decided to take the company in a different direction.  There were a couple of electronic outfits that specialized in the oil drilling and extraction industry.  Only thing was, they needed capital to get going and make a profit.  Actually, they needed more capital than I could supply.  So I put out some feelers to some of the local bankers and wheeler-dealers.  Not much interest from that group and besides, they didn’t have much capital to spare.  but my name got forwarded to a Philadelphia banker and the next thing I knew there was someone waiting in my office when I came back from lunch.

Who’d a thought that someone would be Cas?  “You’re a sight for sore eyes, boy.  My god but you thinned down and look like you’ve spent a season or two in the oil patch.  What brings you to town?”

“I hear you need backing for a new venture or two, Bill.  We heard about your opportunities and plans and want to know more.”

“Well, Cas, that about sums it up.  I figure turn around in the patch might take three years max and the two electronic whizzes I want to back say we can earn a return in about eighteen months.  I’m a bit more conservative and think it might be closer to two years.   But if we push a few beta products before the start of production we just might lock up a significant portion of the business.  If you got the time then let’s go meet the boys and let them tell you all.”

“You know Bill, I have to examine everything.  All the records and reports, you know standard procedure.”

“Cas, we do business on a handshake out here.  When we know a man we take his word or we don’t do business.  Just so you know.  Everything will be in order.”

“I know Bill, I don’t need a weatherman to know which way the winds blows.”  We both laughed.

Twas The Night Before the Night Before Christmas

And all through the house nat a creature was stirring or something to that effect.  There are some eight or so videos of Christmas that we like to watch.  So we plan our viewing accordingly.
Little shop Around The Corner, Christmas In Connecticut, We’re No Angels, A Christmas Story, The Bishop’s Wife, The Man Who Came To Dinner, and so on.  The beauty of these videos is that we are transported to an age where Christmas, whether one is a true believer in christianity or an atheist, can experience a sense of  spiritual awareness without the need for dogma.  Out of the various world’s religions, Christianity offers through the Christmas season a type of spiritual awareness that neither Islam nor Judaism not Buddhism  can offer.  Not that I wish to convince anyone to convert to this type of religion.  Peace on earth, good will towards men, what could be simpler?  O’Henry’s Gift Of The Magi explains the point of Christmas, self sacrifice for the happiness of others leads to a sense of having our own sense of happiness.  Christmas is truly the most wonderful season of the year.  Easter can’t compare.  Thanksgiving is a prelude to Christmas.  One need not be religious to celebrate the season.  Hell, one can be an atheist and still celebrate Christmas with Rudolph and Santa Claus and all that commercial stuff.

Now one of the things that helps Christmas is snow.  As a child growing up in Texas, we did not have snow to any great degree.  If we got two inches and it lasted for two days we were in heaven.  Imagine the joy of living in the northeast and having five or six inches of snow on the ground or maybe two feet.  One could actually build sled runs and ski here and there.  My first snow man ans snow fort were a delight.  Then there was the skating on the frozen creeks and small rivers.  Put on two pairs of pants, a couple of sweatshirts or sweaters and a jacket and spend the entire day on the ice playing ice hockey or doing figure eights.  Snow plays a big part in Christmas and without it, well, the holiday doesn’t seem the same.  I can’t imagine having Christmas in the summer time like they do in the southern hemisphere.

I grew up in that age when Christmas trees were still real trees no matter how dead the things were.  We had the old bubble lights and tinsel and glass ornaments and home made ornaments.  Today I no longer kill a tree for Christmas, I choose to do without the mess dying trees leave, the boxes of ornaments, and the new plastic “Life-like” trees.  In my retirement I like to keep it simple spend the money on a couple of good meals.  So Christmas Eve supper will be Arctic Char, green beans with mushrooms and onion, and some rice.  Christmas day is boneless rib roast with a meat sauce, bake potatoes, and asparagus with butter.  Of course the wines will match the courses and I have a wide assortment of cheeses to snack upon.  Neither my body nor my pocketbook could afford to eat like this more than a couple times a year and holidays are good enough reasons to indulge the mind, body, and spirit.  Then come the new year it’s time to get back to work.  Life always has something to keep the mind and body busy.

So from me and mine to you and yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Thirty Days In The Hole

Now that Mr Trump has been elected by the Electoral College and confirmed by Congress we now have the thirty day count down until he takes the oath of office and is sworn in as the President of the United States.  Of course the progressives and the establishment Democrats along with the Never Trumpers continue to plot his downfall and the revival of the republic under the corruption of cronyism politics.  Can’t say that I blame them since there is a fair chance that a great many will have to find real jobs and with their skills that won’t be easy.  His Great Fatness, Michael Moore, having failed to convince more than two faithless electors to vote other than Trump will have some last ditch effort at futility before contemplating a move to Canada.  He should feel at home since their one dollar coin is called the “Looney”, it has a graven image of a loon on one face.  I would not be surprised to find a new issue with Moore’s likeness on the opposite side.  Roger and me and the loon makes three.

 

The main stream media, having not learned anything from the election and the revolt of the peasants against the crony corporate and politico masters, will go all out in a wave of stupidity to invalidate Mr Trump victory.  They are playing a losing hand, aces and eights.  Meanwhile mainstream America is turning to other news sources, ones often called Alt-right but in reality are far more independent and far less progressive.  It seems we miss Uncle Cronkite as he wished us good night and good luck.  CBS has lost its connection to independent and honest news reporting, the corporate masters being billionaires intent on serving pablum to the populace.  Only no one is dining.  Paddy Chayefsky, what have you wrought?  “Network” has reached beyond its original premise of reality television and pushed the boundaries of news, information, and entertainment beyond the dystopian dream.

 

Trump has shown us how the master marketer and salesman with a propensity to size up his opposition to a tee and sell the the George Washington Bridge, is more than fit for office.  The world of political and corporate interests, one may wonder which has the upper hand and I’m sure it is a tie at the moment, competes for the power and the glory which so many of the faithful seek.  The powers that be speak of limiting Mr Trump’s influence and power.  I think they dost protest too much.  Politics has often been describes as horse trading and while many politicos believe they are the consummate horse traders, they have yet to meet the likes of Mr Trump.  True, the president’s power has limits but due to checks and balances, so does Congress,  the  Supreme court will soon have a more conservative judge appointed and confirmed and possibly another two more, judges ain’t getting any younger.

 

Yes, Mr trump will find that not everything is negotiable, not all deals are doable.  That is a reality of life.  But if one is entitled to indulge in a bit of speculation one might consider that the hall marks of Mr Trump’s administration is that both political parties will implode and suffer change that should make them more amenable to their supporters.  This is not an inconsiderable feat.  Just as Teddy Roosevelt changed the direction of the republican party and caused the Democrats to choose Wilson as their standard bearer, a throwback towards the era of slavery and second class citizenship for blacks, so Trump will marginalize Obama and the effete progressives he has represented.  Mr Trump just might go down as one of the most effective Presidents in our history.  But a caveat.  His ability to control outcomes is limited.  Mr Market suffers as nobody’s fool.  He is the joker in the deck and will directly affect Mr Trump’s policies.  Still, the next four years shall be interesting.

God Didn’t Make Honky Tonk Angels

Angela glanced at the clock over the bar.  “Got three more hours before the end on my shift and the usual rousting of drunken patrons out the door.”  Thursday night is always a tune up for the weekend, some people start the weekend a little early unlike the other days earlier in the week when it’s mostly a drop in crowd.  The regulars are in their places as usual, nursing their drinks, occupying time and space and little more.  “Couple of college kids in the corner drinking beer, not old enough for anything harder but they keep asking.  Dumb ass kids, got their whole lives in front of them and look what they’re doing.  Wish I had the chance when I was younger, but look at me.  Yeah, look at them.  Out of those six kids, two will drop out and find minimum wage work, two will never amount to more than office workers, and the other two will find work out of town and have a nice life if they don’t screw it up.”

Angela, a blonde by unnatural measures, had learned that the tips were better than had she remained mousy brown.  A push up bra helped in that endeavor, too.  Men were such suckers.  “Say hon, you need a refill?”, she asked the man at the table where he was writing in a journal.  Smitty was his name and he had pretensions towards being a professional writer.  All he ever wrote were volumes of notebooks filled with supposed observations in a bar room amounting to little insight and excessive waste of ink and paper.  “We all have our faults, his is pretending to have talent.”  Angela knew her regulars and what to expect in the way of tips.  It is an unwritten law that one must tip the waitress, I mean the server for I forget that in these times one must be politically correct.  Neither man nor woman can live by minimum wage alone.  A couple of quarters, a dollar if a man wanted to show he was a big spender, all added up for the night and yet never amounted to much.  But this was a country bar, one in a small town out in the boondocks where the lights of the big city never shined.

Still, she was kept busy for it was Joline’s night off.  “Lord, this night isn’t passing quick enough to suit me.  Not that I want a rowdy crowd but I could use a bit more traffic.  I’m standing too much, want to keep moving.  Got to keep that minute hand moving round the clock.  Too much hurry up and wait.”  As if on cue, the door opened and three men came strolling in as if the night was still young and they were the entertainment.  “Good lord, strangers, where they’d come from?  Can’t say as I seen them before.  Howdy gents, what’s your pleasure?”  She had walked up to them about mid floor and was trying to usher them to a table.  Angela regretted her attempt almost immediately when one of the trio grabbed her by the waste and boomed out, “How about you, darling, and a couple of doubles on the side.”  She quickly disengaged his arm and tried to lead the way to a table a little more out of the way from the regulars.  Jim Bob, the man who had grabbed her by the waist, spoke again, “Let’s sit over here.”  He indicated the table next to Betty Lou, a sullen and drab brown haired woman about forty five and in the firm opinion that men were generally unruly, uncouth, and unwanted.  Tommy Daryl pulled out a chair and flung himself onto like a fool who expected the world to accommodate his rather large rotundness without complaint.  Billy Ray stood for a moment looking over the ensemble of patrons as if grading on a curve was a virtue before he set himself down.  One look at Billy Ray and one knew he was a twelve pack man.  While Jim Bob liked his Johnie Walker Red, Billy Ray was an arficinardo of the malt and hops that made popular but tasteless beer.  Tommy Daryl fancied himself a wine connoisseur as he ordered an Annie Green Springs for himself and would she bring the peanuts.

In answer to Billy Ray, “No, they didn’t have Coors on draft but they did have an unlimited supply of PBR and would he like the large mug?”  “That would be fine as long as it was cold and could I have some pretzels.”  Billy Ray liked the salt on pretzels as it accentuated the taste of the beer.  Jim Bob took every thing straight.  So Angela returned with the drinks and the eatables as requested.  Money was plunked down on the table and she was greatly surprised by the tip and appreciated their generosity.  Of course had she known their expectations she might have had reservations.  Still, a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.  Angela had a son at home and a mother who relied on her for her sustenance.   Married men were the curse of her life as it was for most of the women who inhabited bars such as this.

The trio had managed to relocate Betty Lou who was soon disposed to leave earlier than usual.  Angela would miss that extra quarter tip at the end of the night.  Smitty kept making furtive glances at the trio while writing quite busily in his journal.  As use to dissipation as Smitty had become, this trio offered new incites into the process.  The mugs of PBR were piling up and Annie Greensprings was headed for the multiple litres.  Jim Bob knew what Johnny Walker Red and the time wasn’t quite midnight.  The regulars were leaving a little early while looking a little more the weary for their efforts to stay the course.  John and Nancy decided that they did not need to dance to the sounds emanating from the jukebox and so left before their usual appointed time.  Comments from the peanut gallery, i.e. the trio not withstanding.  Angela knew she was the topic of conversation among the trio but didn’t bother listen, she had heard it so many times before.

Finally the clock on the wall said last call for alcohol.  The trio registered their last requirements with Angela.  Unfortunately that included an inducement to come to their hotel for apres’ imbibing seeing as they had visited the local liquor store for such an inducement.  “It wasn’t God who made honky tonk angels, it’s married men who think they are still single that cause many a good girl to go wrong.”  Angela’s response was perhaps, a bit jaded but never the less true.  She knew the truth of it first hand.

Easy, Like Sunday Morning

I was sailing towards Martinique, the sea was a deep blue and the crisp wind cutting across the caps of the waves.  Another beautiful day, sun at my back and strong wind racing my boat towards the Island.  Then the weather changed and the dark clouds started to boil.  I felt a heaviness on my chest and became aware of that god of the sea, Neptune, watching every move I made, waiting for his chance to capsize my boat.  I squinted and barely opened my eyes to the brightness of the day, totally amazed that the clouds had disappeared.  Then I saw it.  The cat.  In all her long whiteness gathered about her staring with the deep blue eyes at me as she sat on my chest.  “Dear, your cat is hungry.”  I nudged my loved one with my elbow.

“Damn it Bill, I was asleep.”  Well yes a good morning to you too, I thought.  “It’s Saturday, it’s your turn to feed Tiffany.  I’m going back to sleep.  And don’t forget to put on the coffee.  You remember how, don’t you?”

The cat was still staring at me through those big blue persian eyes.  “Yes, I remember, eight cups and three scoops.  And you, your highness, how will you have your custard and cream?”  Her Highness raised up and proceeded to stretch herself complete with claws clenching the blanket.  Then she pushed off with a mighty spring and landed on the floor.  It took me a minute to slip out of bed and into my slippers and robe.  It took her highness less time that that to start toying with my feet.  Tail up in the air she led me to the kitchen where she stared at my every move.  I found the canned food in the fridge and put a couple of scoops in her bowl while adding a little kibble.  The bowl couldn’t move fast enough for the cat as she was reaching out with a paw trying to pull it to the floor.  Well, so much for the cat, I thought.  Now for the coffee.

I dutifully measures the water and the scoops of coffee and put them into the machine.  Now press the buttons and the coffee should be ready presently.  Time to pull out the small skillet for the eggs and the large on for the bacon.  Saturdays and Sundays are only days of the week that I am allowed to have such luxuries, Monday through friday is granola and plain yogurt.  I swear I ate better when I was single.  Over easy or scrambled, decisions, decisions, decisions.  Over easy it is.  Place a little butter in the skillet and turn the heat to low, crack the two eggs and add to the pan, top with sea salt and pepper, maybe a little ground dried onion and garlic, and let them sit.  the bacon is already starting to sizzle and pop, four strips of thick sliced.  No toast for me but Anne will want some later.  Everything is almost done and the cat is bothering me, maybe she wants out.  Well, get it on a place and go to the door.  I open the door and the cat sits in front of it.  “In or out, in or out!  Make up your mind,  The flies are starting to come in the house.  so what is it, ino or out?”  I’m just about to close the door and the stupid cat bounds out the door.

I take my plate to the table with my cup of coffee and start to enjoy myself.  Anne comes in and looks at my plate.  “How disgusting.  How can you eat all that fat and cholesterol? ”

My answer is simple. “It tastes good.”  The smile on my face challenges her sensibilities.  She pours herself a cup of coffee and sits across from me continuing her wakeup process.  The sound of a cat growling and yowling breaks the silence.

“Where’s tiffany?”

“Outside, why?”

“Something’s wrong!”  Anne starts towards the door.  I’m half a step behind her.  That white ball of fluff is cornered bu two big dogs about to grab her.  It takes me less that a second to get myself out the door and running towards the two brutes.  They start to turn on me but I manage to smack one in the snout with my fist and kick the other one in the ribs.  Both beat a hasty retreat as I scoop up the terrified cat.  Normally she would be clawing me to death, can’t stand to be picked up.  But Tiffany is relaxed and purring and I cuddle her in my arms.  We go back inside the house and Anne raises a fuss over her cat, acting the mother hen.  Me, I get another cup of coffee and head for the couch.  Time to read the paper and plan our day.  In less than a minute that cat in sitting in my lap, something she has never done before.  she is curled up, purring, and trying to get me to stroke her fur.  I think what the hell, and rub her chin and the top of her head.

“You know what?  She loves you.  She really loves you.”

“Yeah, well I guess I’m easy.”

“Yes, dear, easy like Sunday morning.”