The Parsonage

The Parsonage

Seven-fifteen a.m., August 26 the anniversary of his father’s death

forty-five years ago, he was abruptly awakened from a steamy,

sweaty sleep to the sounds of the local high school

band director’s baritone voice alternately rising to alto and

 

lowering to basso profundo as he screamed mercilessly at the

hapless teens in ill-fitting uniforms and lugging instruments

too big for them south on the street just beneath his bedroom

window. He thought he had seen the band director in a liquor

 

store just beyond the boundary west of the dry town. Then, as if in a panic,

the band members began playing – very, very fast, very, very loudly and very,

very badly.  He understood why the director was beside himself.  It was Thursday

and they had to perform the next evening during half-time at the first football

 

game of the season. It was the town’s people’s weekly social event of events.

It had been a recent move following ten years in one town and seventeen

in that southern state of mind at least seven generations deep to a smaller

northern town whose culture of uptight, upright people whose roots only

 

went back two generations.  Their grandfathers had been uptight, upright

religious fanatics in Europe and he was to learn that the country they left was

really happy to see them go as they all got on the ship and sailed west. If

nothing else, they were industrious if not particularly productive. They rose

 

early to punch the time clock and retired early and in between sometimes

smiled at each other’s faces, lowered their eyes most times even before

meeting others and then looked suspiciously at each other’s backs and never,

ever said hello first.  He went into the bedroom reserved for his son who was

 

off at college only three miles away but who only came home on school holidays.

He had a clearer view of the band from there. He was upstairs in this huge house.

Clockwise from his and his wife’s bedroom at eight o’clock, southwest to his son’s

at ten o’clock northwest around to the bathroom due north to an empty room at

 

one o’clock northeast, across the stairway at three o’clock to his daughter’s bedroom at

four o’clock southeast.  Two closets due south separated her bedroom from theirs.  His

daughter’s room was newly painted pale green at her request; it was an artificial way of

trying to make the move easier and bring succor and assuage  guilt-ridden parents for

 

taking her away from her friends of ten years, but for however nice and comforting the

room may have looked, he could still hear her through the two closets crying while lying in

her new big fluffy bed. Her school was just across the parking lot and local girls who had

known each other all their lives and were BFF stopped by each morning on their mothers’

 

orders to walk her to school. Each afternoon she walked the eternal path westward to

what was now supposed to be her home.  Downstairs there was a big foyer at six

o’clock due south, a big, formal living room in which the furniture they brought looked

small.  It was directly beneath their bedroom. The big, formal dining room adjoined

 

the living room and off the dining room between twelve o’clock a.m. and p.m.

was a small kitchen with a small family room directly north where they spent

most of their time huddled together watching T.V. when the three were

home which after his evening meetings was every night.  In between

 

the kitchen and family room was a cabinet. That would be three o’clock east.

On the top shelf pushed way to the back behind closed doors was the bourbon

and vodka. He and his wife drank white wine, which was kept chilled behind

a lot of food containers in the refrigerator.  He always carried the empties in a

 

brown paper bag to a dumpster at a grocery store in the next town. One night in the

middle of reruns of the Rockford Files, their daughter stated sarcastically and accusingly

in her best and deepest southern drawl, “Y’all drink every night.”  He and his wife argued

a lot and sometimes she would storm off to the pastor’s study that was converted into an

 

art studio four o’clock southeast just next to the three o’clock southeast stairway and

downstairs half bath under the stairs. She sat for long periods of time staring at her easel.

He felt bad that his daughter had to witness such times. The basement was dark and

dank.  One room at six o’clock south was where they had deposited coal years before.

 

There was still some soot on the walls and floor and a chute at seven o’clock

southwest just above the foundation. The walk-in attic was 360 degrees huge.

Dead center was a big, old T.V. antenna, a remnant from the days when

previous occupants had to close thick drapes to watch television surreptitiously .

 

On the floor beneath one badly screened crevasse where walls and the roof met but

parted as the house settled years ago was a pile of bat crap.  Two weeks earlier a bat

had buzzed him as he lie in bed. He jumped up, grabbed his tennis racket, turned

on all the lights in the huge house and opened the door downstairs three o’clock east.

 

The bat flew out. In three days he would have to preach his fourth sermon about the love

of Jesus at the church only a block away directly west in a town his son had derisively and

with a bit of pain called “Beaver Cleaver-ville” into which the family dog would periodically

and resolutely escape. He could get pretty far on those short little legs. The dog was one

 

determined, head-strong, beagle-dachshund mix.  He’s had the run of the neighborhood

before. Sadly, he was often just a poor old scapegoat. Within ten minutes of

his departure neighbors would call to say exactly when the little dog left the yard and in

what direction he was headed. Sometimes the little guy could be found forlorn at the

 

pound. As he moved toward the twelve o’clock north bathroom, he thought about

raising a fist skyward right through the huge bat crap attic, past the giant antenna

and cursing God for taking them away from their old Kentucky home, not that it was

always heaven there, but he knew it was his decision to follow what he believed

 

was “The Call.”  He took a leak and stepped into the shower.  As the water

poured over his head he, too, cried.  He dressed hurriedly and walked west

to the church right on time because he knew the wives of time-clock

punchers were watching him through their partially opened blinds.

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As I Walked from the Car to the Wine Shop

As I Walked from the Car to the Wine Shop

 

As I walked from the car to the wine shop for a bottle

of pinot grigio, I was intercepted by a slim, pretty-

well-built, not yet dissipated looking fellow begging

for something, anything monetary to get him by

 

 

for a while. These guys are no dummies. They play

on the guilt of those buying booze. I’m sure it’s

better than standing outside the local Goodwill.

Unfortunately, apparently, this wasn’t his day.

 

Actually, before he got to me to beg a bit, I saw

two young women coming out of the store and

back off from his advance and overture. One said,

speaking for both of them, “We don’t have anything.”

 

I guess they spent it all on booze. He moved to the

other side of the big, welcoming sliding doors and

approached a thirty-something guy heading in who

waved him off with condescending disgust. The brush

 

off was a violent sweep as he entered the sanctuary

of the enveloping arms of welcome and warmth.

I could have gotten safely through those doors myself

before he approached me, but the dismissive wave of the

 

arm really pissed me off.  Nobody deserves to be

waved off like that. The panhandler actually

blessed the guy and it sounded like he meant it. I don’t

know if maybe it is the ploy in which Fagan coached

 

young Oliver. I gave him a couple of bucks and you

would have thought I was Prince Rainer inviting him

off the streets of Monaco to a seven-course, royal feast.

“God bless you.” “I’m sorry that jerk blew you off.  No-

 

body deserves that.” “It ain’t right, you know,” he said.

“I’m a vet. I served my country.” I saw his dog tag

and cross. “Thank you for your service to our country.”

“No, thank you.” I saw him panhandling when I headed

 

 

for my car. I asked him what branch he had been in.

He had six years in the Air Force and left for the

love of a woman, which lasted two and a half months.

He said he should have stayed fourteen more for

 

the obligatory twenty. He would have had it made.

I smelled a bit of booze, but what the hey?  There

go I but for the grace of God and dumb luck. “Thank

you, sir. And God Bless,” I heard as I drove off.

 

I had put a Lincoln in his hand and you would

have thought I handed him the keys to the kingdom

when, in fact, he handed me the keys

for only two bucks and a fiver.  Go figure.

 

 

My Wife Listens to Classical Music

My Wife Listens to Classical Music

My wife listens to classical music on public radio.

I know they are hurting for money because by the

Start of each new week they talk a lot about

Sunday broke.

 

It must be really hard for them, because they can

Hardly get the word out of their mouths. They

Stutter two syllables out of one.  Two weeks ago

They had

 

Their pledge drive and I guess it didn’t go real

Well and what with all the government money

Going, going, gone I understand why NPR would

Be broke

 

Every Sunday from nine to twelve. Thank heavens

It isn’t all day or I don’t know how they could stay

On the air. I’d help but we’re still in this God-

Awful recession

 

(Feels like a depression to me and I’m sure

Poor old NPR, feels that way, too), and

I’m broke every other day of the week with

Just enough

 

Left on Sunday to slip a Lincoln in the collection

Plate and take the little woman to IHOP for brunch,

As she likes to call it.

Happy Hour in the Life of a Sexually Oriented Minority

Happy Hour in the Life of a Sexually Oriented Minority

 

The really, good-looking, blond, blue-eyed young

woman lounged in her bed and I wanted in the

worst way to make love to her. She consented to

the tryst except that as we began she kept working

on a crossword puzzle, made a cell-phone call and

watched something very small crawl slowly

across the ceiling.  Well, for heaven’s sake,

 

 

she was barely going through the motions.

All the fun went out of the encounter. It seemed

like a less than half-hearted effort of a friend. I

rolled over and she asked me what was a seven-

letter word for gay. It was then I remembered she

was a lesbian.  I said, “Lesbian.”  “No,” she said,

“ Content.”  “Hmm,” I said. I put on my clothes

 

 

and left. I headed down the block to visit Janet,

my old, social worker, desk-partner and a lesbian.

I told her about my short-term memory loss and my

aborted tryst with our mutual friend and she just chuckled.

I remember years ago when we were just getting

to know each other as desk-mates that Janet turned

to me and said flatly, “I bet you sit around fantasiz-

 

 

ing about the sex life of me and my partner.”  She

paused.  I didn’t know what she expected but I tried

not to blanch. Actually, Janet is short, squat with

just about no waist change from her boobs to her

butt. I heard that her partner was pushing fifty at

the time with a teen-age son.  The thought of Janet

and her partner cavorting in bed in the throes

 

 

of passion never entered my mind.  Well, as

soon as she mentioned it, the thought actually

did pass ever so fleetingly. It was like the thought

of some of my broad in the waist and beam, post-

middle age, post-menopausal, low-testosterone

friends trying really hard to work up a lather in

the sanctity of their marriage beds. Neither entered

 

 

my catalogue of erotica. I hmmed matter-of-factly.

Janet then said, “Well, for your information, mister

horny hetero-sexual (She hung on the last syllables —

o and al), we are like two, old, boring

married people who fall asleep after a hard day

and snore through the night.” I just hmmed a hmm

again. Coming back to the moment, I asked if she

 

 

and her partner would like to go to happy hour.  I

asked if we should invite our mutual friend the

pretty, young, blond-haired, blue-eyed lesbian.

She said, “Sure.” After one drink and a half-

priced appetizer, I asked to be excused. The three

fates stared at me and asked judgmentally, “You

aren’t going to spend the night cruising for

 

some perverted, slutty, straight female are you?”

“Hmm. Well, okie dokie then. I’ve guess I’ll have

another vodka up

chilled.”

 

In the Conundrum

In the Conundrum

In the Conundrum, if I read it right, we read

that all attempts at efficiency fall short

because efficiency boomerangs into

greater consumption of everything

made to be more efficient which

was invented and intended to help

us stop global warming, particle

pollution, environmental de-

gradation of everything

we hear, see, touch,

taste and smell.

 

Oh, I can feel good about my hybrid car, my

solar panels on my oversized suburban

house in a subdivision which sprawls

south of the city – not to mention

the Saturday car trips in my fuel

efficient, hybrid, plug-in which

I know uses electricity which

would mean more coal

burning except my solar

panels cover that with

enough to sell back

 

some to the electric company, so you see I’m

feeling pretty good except for this gnawing

sense that I haven’t changed anything,

really in my life; sacrifice isn’t even

on the scene, I’m sorry to say, some-

what. And so, I take those trips to

the local farmer’s market to purchase

organic produce for everything

except for the thing I can’t get

there and so get wherever I can

get it; driving is no problem

 

even if it means driving more and more and more

because the mileage is so good. I see my Yuppie

friends pushing their precious, precocious little

ones in the super-duper, safe as can be, super-

hard plastic strollers. But in reality, I’d do much

more for the environment if I sold it all and

moved to the eighteenth floor of a high

rise in the most environmentally efficient

city in America – the Big Organic Apple.

But I was raised to grow horizontally as

Recommended by the egotistical,

 

narcissistic, idea stealer Frank Lloyd Wright whose

utopian villages were based on car and individ-

ual helicopter travel from home to work and

back again.  The reality is that unless we can

convince all governments across the face of

the globe and multi-national corporations to

find ways for all the people of the earth to

attain equal distribution and significantly

less consumption of goods by the First

World Countries, then even with all

the scientific, technological,

 

environmental efficiency,

we’re cooked,

doomed

done,

toast.

Concerning the Question

Concerning the Question

Concerning the question of whether or not

we will have a personal identity in the after-

life (not to mention the question of an after-

life itself), there are those who contend that

 

the experience of the eternal is the experience

of selflessness, not knowing that one exists,

not even thinking about it because one is so

totally taken up into the experience of the

 

moment which itself is moment-less –

totally absorbed, making a painting, sculpting,

sewing, solving a mathematical problem,

engaged in a solution to a Sudoku,

 

fashioning a drawing, working a crossword

puzzle, reflecting on a complex situation,

listening intently, absently as a matter

of fact, to another, forgetting to eat lunch,

 

perhaps even writing a poem.

 

So the question is, “If someone totally loses him

or herself in the eternal now and no one else is

there, does that person exist now or will that person

exist in the afterlife, or should we just be glad

 

the person disappeared happily into eternity

now and really found him or herself –

forever?”

He Can’t Begin to Express

He Can’t Begin to Express

He can’t begin to express

The terror he feels as he steps,

As an eight year old, off the railroad

Tracks between 107th Street and one

Little block to 108th Street Christian

Elementary School.

 

He sits along the window and recalls

The blond boy with the devil in his

Blue eyes sitting across from him

Who poked a #2 pencil into

The arm of a pretty little blond, blue-

Eyed girl who sat directly in front

Of him.

 

“The authorities looked at my hair and

Into my eyes and asked me instead of

The boy where my #2 pencil was.

I couldn’t find it.”

 

He doesn’t remember being accused of

The crime but then again he wonders

If he remembers history correctly at all.

What narrative would prevail?  That the

Blond haired, devil in his blue-eyes boy

Stabbed the pretty little blond, blue-

Eyed girl who sat directly in front of him,

 

Or that the authorities had it right to begin

With?  He stands in the kitchen, pulls the

Knife, sees his blue eyes reflected in the

Blade, runs his finger across the blade and

Puts it back in the knife holder.  He picks

Up his glass of white wine, takes a sip;

Franz Kafka pops into his mind and

 

He thinks he sees Franz’ blue eyes.

Here in the Wild You Have to Save the Sandwiches

Here in the Wild You Have to Save the Sandwiches

“March, April and May Are The Three Months When Rattlesnakes Are The Most Active,” read the poster on the wall in the veterinarian’s office.  Being a seasonal, I didn’t know. It’s been unseasonably warm. We went for a hike with the Chocolate Lab early on in March and heard about rattlers on the trail.  Two slithered up the mountain side and the other was just sunning itself along the side of the trail we were told. “Best watch out for your dog,” a hiker warned. Not to worry, I have my hiking stick I thought. Saw a coyote on the second fairway and on the sidewalk by our condo and scared up one, one evening. It was sleeping in the brush beside the pool. Boomer, the Chocolate Lab, was confronted by one in the dark and the dog shot out of the wash and halfway up the parking lot toward our condo. He hasn’t gone there since. Oh, and a bobcat sauntered across the street way up near Cave Creek as we drove by and another one, a really big one, moved purposely down in the wash along that same fairway near the South Mountains as we got ready to hit our second shots. Javelinas wander at night where we take the dog to do his business.  I think I saw a tiny scorpion scurry under a desert plant as I passed by and I thought I saw the tail of a Gila Monster hiding under a rock as I hiked down Piestewa Peak but was told by a veteran climber who burst my “I’m a seasoned outdoorsman” bubble, that, undoubtedly, it was a common, harmless, though rather large lizard.  What I didn’t count on here in the wild, wild West was roof rats scratching between the walls and ceiling trying to get our oranges, lemons, grapefruit and peanut and jelly sandwiches.

In Light of the Absurdity

In Light of the Absurdity

In light of the absurdity

Of today’s political landscape,

There is this completely non-

Political view of all things existent:

 

Up-swing toward the heaven of

The Greeks, Hindus, Buddhists,

Christians, Sikh’s, Bahá’í’s and

Shintos, as different as they may

Be here on earth,

 

Lifting higher, higher, away

From the mundane to the sublime,

Am I invoking the greatness of the

Gods or just humming, “Up, up and

Away in my beautiful balloon,”

 

And dreaming of Marilyn McCoo?