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Ode to Momma

Oh how I love her-

Sunken eyes,

Bruised, Hepatitis B yellow skin,

Jumpy movements because the rock she smoked is

Finally kicking in

 

Where is she?

Where is Momma?

 

Waiting for her dealer on the corner

Making a Lincoln on the side

Sucking cock on Colfax for a line

Trading stamps for a rock

“Just a hit

one hit baby to make

momma feel good.”

 

 

When they shoot their guns outside our home

When the bullets enter the bodies of the

Young and old,

Weak and strong

Drug rich and welfare poor

 

When my little sister

Look at me with empty stomach eyes

Asking when dinner will come

When will we eat again?

 

When my brother leaves

With his 9mm in hand

When I’m never sure if he’ll

Be there when I wake-up

Or when I’m ready to learn

How to be a man

 

When the ghetto bird flies high

Exploring the streets with its one bright eye

Illuminating my room like a stage

Casting shadows upon the nothingness

That surrounds me

 

 

 

When I hold the blade to my wrist

Wanting to cut deep

To end this ghetto life

To just fucking sleep

 

Where is she?

Who fucking cares?

It’s bed time-

Bitch is never here.

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Sleeping Mind

Sleeping Mind

Waves of white are a blanket to this night.

Two lives unraveling in one mind.

The coldness embraces the truth,

And the warmth blocks out the lies.

Waves of white are a blanket to this night.

A broken mystery of time to this

Mind whose story a spirit can not find.

Waves of white are a blanket to this night.

A body of fear possesses a darkness that

No damp death could ever reach.

Waves of white are a blanket to this night,

And this sickness is a shield to this mind.

Stephanie Mattson

 

Jack Holloway stood on the deck and looked out across his yard.  His body swayed back and forth; something he learned in the in the Marines.  Don’t lock your knees or you’ll pass out, Devil Dog.  The Marines taught him so many things that seemed to stay with him.  They would come out at odd times and surprise even him.  It wasn’t a way to raise kids.  Always looking at the messes they made and suddenly reflecting upon the values he learned in the Marines.  No scuffs on shoes. No wrinkles in uniforms.  Nothing out of place inside the footlocker or his barracks room that would cause the Staff NCO to hit him.

It was wrong to raise them that way, he thought to himself as he stared out at the yard.  It wasn’t all good.  Hell, I was in Vietnam.  I watched so many men around me die and leave that rotten jungle without arms and legs.   Join the Marines and watch your friends die all around you, but at least they died with clean footlockers.

Jack stepped down into the grass and began to hop up and down.  Once the grass under him was patted down, he stepped a little further and began to sweep his bare foot over the blades.  This isn’t good.  There is probably an ant down there watching the tips of this grass rip apart my skin.  Balancing on his left foot he looked at the bottom of his foot and ran his thumb across the white skin.  There were no cuts that he could see, but he knew they were there. Small, tiny cuts that stretched across his foot and were now becoming infected.

 

The cool water from the faucet felt so good on his foot.  He could feel the poisons pouring out of his skin and the healing power of the water doing its work.  Water can cure anything.  It keeps us alive.  It keeps the trees from dying.  You know they absorb it?  Yes they do.  They absorb the water all year long.  It keeps them alive during the winter.  There isn’t enough water to keep the leaves, but they come back. Why?  Water of course. Not all water is good though.  PFC Billy Corban can tell you that.  He was from California…or was it Iowa?  Everyone in the military is from California, Iowa, Ohio, or Florida, except me, I was from Colorado.  Billy used to think that Colorado was nothing but snow filled mountains and ski bunnies.  He just couldn’t believe I lived on a farm.  He had a hard time believing anything.  When Sergeant Morris told him not to drink the river water because it would kill him, good ole Billy filled his canteen with that buffalo dung and Vietcong piss filled water and drank it down.  Poor kid shit himself to death. Diego said that he saw Billy actually shit his intestines out.  I’ll tell you what, not all water is good.

Jack quickly pulled his foot out of the water.  He stood up cussing at himself for the mess he made.  Water prints were now soaking into the fluff pink bath mats his wife picked out at the local Wal-Mart.  He always hated those bath mats.  Every time he sat down to make a movement he would read the Readers Digest hoping that he could hide those mats from his thoughts.  It was even worse when Larry and his wife Marie would come over for their weekly bridge games.  During the breaks in hands, Jack and Larry would go out onto the deck to have a cigarette.

“I thought you were going to tell Diane to buy some new bath mats?” Larry would say as he sucked down on this non-filter Camels.

“She likes them,” Jack would say preparing for the same stupid jokes Larry would use.

“They remind me of the carpet in this whore house in Saigon.  Every time I go in there to take a piss I expect to have some Vietnamese whore come in and shake it off for a buck.”

Yeah you Army Staff bitches had the time for whorehouses.  Us Marines were in the jungle getting out legs blown off.  That is why I joined the Marines though.  It had nothing to do with that fight with my father like my mom used to say.  I joined to see action.  I’m sure my dad knew that.  Every time he got drunk he would tell me about his days as a Marine in the South Pacific.  All those damn Islands.  All those Jap’s that he killed in Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.  Oh yeah he knew.

            The Army is nothing but a bunch of kids that the government sends in to get killed.  Those poor bastards should just paint a damn target on themselves.  Oh Larry, he was one of those lucky ones.  He made staff for some damn General.  That’s the kind of luck guys with fathers that know Senators get.  Not that I ever complained.  My dad worked the farm.  He didn’t have time to kiss the ass of some Senator.  And it’s a damn good thing he didn’t!  I wouldn’t be the man I am if he did.

            Those Navy boys were all right; except for those damn mess cooks.  I still can’t believe any of them bastards could have any respect for themselves.  How can some dumb ass go home and be proud that he served his country when he did it as a cook?  The Navy has some hard workers though.  I give them sailors a lot of respect.  And those Seabee’s are a great bunch of guys.   I never met a bunch of guys that worked harder than them, and went on patrols with us on top of that.  Those are the types of guys that a Marine loves.  A guy that can set up a shower in the middle of nowhere in less than ten minutes and can handle a rifle almost as good as a Marine.  I say almost because that one Petty Officer shot his damn foot off on my patrol. Damn fool.  Shoots his damn foot off and exposed our position.  That was how Diego bought it.  Good ole Diego took a bullet in his head because of that idiot Petty Officer.

Then there are those How’s My Hair Force bastards.  Luck sons a bitches.  Sit around on a base while real men are out fighting a war.  They were good for one thing though.  It sure felt good to find a group of them in a bar.  Nothing in the world like getting in a bar fight with a group of Where’s My Chair Force girls.  Oh the feeling of breaking the nose of some pretty boy Air Force prick.  Nothing in the world like it, I’ll tell you.

 

Jack turned around and saw his wife smiling at him.  She stood in her baby blue bathrobe and her fluffy baby blue slippers.  After forty years she still had a way of catching his eye.  She maintained her beauty in more ways than one.  She was constantly watching what she ate, she worked out with her videos every morning just after the Today Show; she just loved that cute little Katie Courik.  There were streaks of gray in her dark brown hair, but it seemed to enhance her beauty.  Though she was in early sixties she still looked so young.  On this day in particular the gray was missing from her hair and her skin seemed so smooth.  She looked so young and beautiful.

            “Well are you just going to stand around smiling, or are you going to get me a towel?” The frustration was evident in his voice.

I think I’m just going to smile.”

“Well, enjoy.”  He reached over and pulled a towel from the rack and sat down on the toilet seat.  As he dried his feet he couldn’t help but stare at his wife as she stood in the doorway.  Her breasts seemed so pert this morning.  At first he thought she was wearing a bra, but after forty years of marriage he knew he routine like the back of his hand.  She woke up and fixed breakfast.  Weekdays were scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee.  Saturday was pancakes and sausage, with coffee and orange juice.  Sunday was church and  breakfast at Denny’s; the Grand Slam was still his favorite.  After eating breakfast she would turn on the television and watch the Today Show as she folded laundry or vacuumed.  After television was her work out session, which was quickly followed by her bath and she would start her day taking care of the shopping and cleaning.  She lived the life of a housewife.  And in all those years she never wore a bra before eleven o’clock in the morning.

A body like hers was and still is the death of me.  How could any man ignore those breasts and that wonderful butt of hers?  I know I couldn’t.  No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t ignore her.  Of all those little high school girls that came to the country club on Saturday afternoons, Diane seemed so mature for her age.  I still don’t know what she saw in me?  I was twenty-two years old, working at the bar near the pool to help pay for junior college.  I guess it had a lot to do with my body. I was fresh out of the Corps and worked out every day.

            She just would not leave me alone.  She should have known better.  Seventeen-year-old girls should not talk to older men.  It was her parent’s fault.  Her Dad should have taught her better.  Her dad!  What an asshole that guy was!  Like I didn’t know he was nailing Mrs. Baxter?  His wife was playing bridge in the main house thinking he was down playing 18 holes by himself.  No man plays 18 holes of golf by himself at a country club.  No, Mr. Flooming was only playing one hole, and that belonged to Mrs. Baxter.

            Mrs. Baxter was one hell of a woman.  She was in her late forties and widowed after Mr. Baxter was hit by a bus while crossing the street to meet his mistress.  At least that’s what Mrs. Baxter told me.  She told me the oddest stories after we had sex in her private cabin at the club.  Her favorite stories always consisted of the male and female members of the club she had had sexual relations with.  She must have slept with every board member at least once and the wealthier members at least twice. She was a real woman, confidence in herself and in her appetite for men. She had long legs that extended to one of the greatest bodies I had ever seen on an older woman.  Her two packs of cigarettes a day caused her voice to be raspy and extremely lustful.  I hated the smell of those damn cigarettes, but I loved the way they felt after we finished having sex.  Nothing better than a cigarette after having sex with a rich, beautiful, older woman.

             I had a lot of fun with Mrs. Baxter, but there was something about our love affair that didn’t seem right.  Must have had a lot to do with knowing that I was one of ten other men that she was sleeping with.  That is the odd thing about men.  You have a great piece of ass, but the smell of four or five different aftershaves on the sheets just seems to dim the light of excitement.

            It wasn’t long after saying good-bye to Mrs. Baxter when I truly began to notice Diane.  She would sit on the lounge chair right across from the bar with her friends.  She just sat there in the sun in her pink bathing suit staring at me.  Before long her staring turned into polite conversations, and not long after that we started dating.  A year later she graduated from high school and we were married that summer.  I finished junior college and went into the police force.  And Diane became a housewife.

 

            “They should have been here by now,” Jack as he hung up the towel.

I’m sure traffic on I-80 is terrible.  It is Easter Weekend Jack.”

            “I raised them better than that.” He stared into the mirror and traced the lines on his face with his fore finger. “Leave earlier than scheduled.”

Kelly has the kids.  She can’t plan everything to the exact moment.”

“There you go again…giving them excuses.  For once I’d like to hear their excuses without you helping them.”

I was just saying…”

“I know what you are just saying,” Jack said and turned to Diane. “Kelly and that damn husband of hers are the most irresponsible people in the world.  She wasn’t always like that.  She was the one that got straight A’s in school.  She was the one that went to UCLA.  I should have put my foot down when she brought that damn Hippy home.”

Nathan is a good man.  He treats Kelly and the kids great.”

“He’s a horse’s ass.  I mean what kind of man passes up a full partnership in one of the biggest law firms in Los Angeles to work with that damn Hippy cult?”

Amnesty International is not a Hippy firm Jack.  It does a lot of great things for people all around this world.”

            “That’s the problem, Diane.  He’s off running around the world helping trash when he should be home with his wife and kids.  He ruined our daughter with all those fascist ideas of his.  I’ll tell you this.  If she married that boy that she was dating in high school she would be here on time.”

You only liked Patrick because he joined the Marines.”

            Oh yeah, that was his name, Patrick.  Damn good kid that Patrick was.  He reminded me a lot of myself when he was my age.  Respectful.  That’s how you make it in this world…Respect.  If you show people respect they return respect ten fold.  Patrick McCullay.  Damn good Irish name.  I never really trusted the Irish, but Patrick was a damn good kid.  He actually came here on his lonesome to ask me if he could take Kelly to the Prom.  Now a boy like that had his head on straight.  It was a damn shame him getting killed in that Gulf War.  Fresh out of boot camp and takes a bullet right off the plane. 

“No, I liked Patrick because he was a good kid.  Kelly should have stuck to those types of men.  How she ever married that idiot Nathan I will never know.  Giving up her career in education to become a housewife to that horse’s ass.

            “I gave up my career for you.”

“Career!” Jack said and began to laugh. “You lasted one semester in junior college before you quit.”

I quit because I got pregnant with Johnny.”

“You could have finished after you gave birth.”

            “How?  Take Johnny to classes with while you slept all day?”

“I slept all day because I was working the graveyard shift.”  Jack slammed his hands on the sink counter and closed his eyes. “So after forty years of marriage it comes out.”

What comes out? What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about your resentment about marrying me,” Jack opened his eyes and stared at the reflection looking back at him. “After forty years of marriage it all comes out like the water out of this damn faucet.  You regret ever marrying me.  I held you back from the life you wanted.”

This is the life I wanted, Jack.”

 

Jack sat in his bedroom and stared at the wall.  His mind seemed to race at a pace beyond recognition.  Faces, dates, times, events all seemed to be scrambled within his mind.  He wanted to scream, but fear seemed to grip his tongue like a lion with a gazelle between its jaws. He shook his head and lay back onto the soft bed and let his eyes slowly close.  Now the events became pictures. Gruesome pictures of death and destruction.  Where they came from though become the new mystery in his life?

Jack, I think I hear the door.”

            He opened his eyes to see nothing but a baron room filled with photos, old furniture, and dolls. “Why don’t you go get it then?”

With no answer from Diane, Jack pulled himself from the bed, found his slippers, and began the long journey downstairs.

I never use to feel like this.  I could run like a cheetah.  Sergeant Mills said I was the fastest damn recruit he had ever seen in his life.  I loved to run.  There was just something about the feeling of out pacing everyone else around you.  When the word came down to retreat out of an area, I was always the first one out.  Not that I was chicken! It was that damn Lieutenant of ours.  Every time things got a little to hairy he would always pull that damn picture of his family out of his pocket, stare at it for a minute, and then call for a retreat.  Thank god that bastard wasn’t leading our troops in Germany; otherwise we’d still be sitting in England waiting to cross the channel.

“Johnny, it’s so damn good to see you son,” Jack said.  His son stood in the middle of the living room wearing his letterman jacket and a pair of jeans.  “I knew you would be the first to show-up.  You were never one to be late for anything.”

Well, pop, I learned from the best.”

Diane came into the living room and hugged Johnny and began to straighten out the loose hairs on his blond head.  Johnny smiled at his father and allowed the grooming only a mother could give.

“Alright,” Jack said as he shook his head in disgust. “Leave the boy alone.”

Diane stepped back and looked Johnny over with a loving smile.  “My, you are the most handsome boy I have ever seen.  So are you seeing anyone? I know you have to have the ladies knocking down your door.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Jack said throwing up his hands. “Will you leave the boy alone? Why don’t you go into the kitchen and get us a couple of beers.”

Diane looked at Jack with a smile. “I’ll let my two men have their testosterone moment.”  She walked away and disappeared into the kitchen.

“Have a seat,” Jack said and pointed to his chair that sat in the middle of the living room.  It was an old faded, green, cloth chair with red yarn blanket covering the seat hiding a large rip.

Nah, pop, that’s your chair.  I’ll sit on the couch.”

            Jack looked his son over as the two sat across from each other.  “So, what is the female situation?”

You know how it is, pop.  Love them and leave them.  I have a couple of girls I date off and on here and there, but nothing serious.” 

“Well, keep your options open.” Jack reached down, pulled on the chipped wood handle of his chair, and slowly reclined. “The last thing you need is to get tied down with some girl.  You’re too damn young for that.” Women just hold you back from the better things in life.  That’s what my father always said. “Live your life boy and settle down when you have drained all the energy out of yourself.”  I should have listened to him.  I had way too much energy still left in me when I married Diane.  There I was living in Southern California with all them damn beach bunnies running around in those bathing suits.  They wouldn’t give me the time of day with that damn wedding ring on me.  I guess that’s why God created Prostitutes.  Whores only care about one thing…money.  The ring was nothing more than a piece of jewelry to them.

            I never slept with any Vietnamese whores though.  I saw too many guys wake up with puss pouring out of places on the male body it just shouldn’t be coming out of.  Plus you never knew which one was a whore or some Vietcong woman going to shove a blade in your gut.  That’s how PFC Kilmer got it. We came out of the field for three days of Rest and Relaxation.  We earned it.  We lost twelve men in our platoon on that patrol.  Poor Harry Kilmer decided he wanted to waste some of the pint up energy on a whore.  That woman carved him up like a pig.  Dumb bastard. Lives through one of the worst firefights we’d seen since being in the bush and he buys it in a whorehouse.

            Diane never knew about the Prostitutes.  There were only four.  I guess after the forth one I had spent all that energy I had left inside me just like my dad said.  It’s not like I really cheated on her.  I mean Garry Olson spent five years cheating on his wife with that secretary of his.  That’s cheating.  You’re sharing your life with a steady fling like that.  A pro is just an hour of fun.  You don’t talk to pros about your life, because they don’t want to hear it and you are there for sex not conversation.  I love Diane too much to really cheat on her.  Besides I only slept with pros when she was pregnant with Johnny.  What’s a man to do?  Women get pregnant and suddenly they just expect a man not to want to have sex for nine months?  It’s just not right.  Men are like machines.  Machines need fuel to run on.  Men need food, beer, and sex to run and maintain.

“Where is your mother with those damn beers?” Jack said then called out for Diane.  There was no answer and Jack could feel his mouth start to water as he thought about the taste of a cold Coors Light.

She’s probably out checking her flowers.  You know how mom is during the spring.  Always out in the yard checking the flowers.”

            “What are you talking about?” Jack said as he pulled himself out of his chair. “There haven’t been flowers in the yard for years.”

Jack stood in the kitchen and stared out into the backyard.  Diane was out there tending to her flowers beds.  She was wearing her gardening jeans and apron.  I haven’t seen her in that get-up in years.  Having the kids coming home for Easter must have her in one of those moods.  She drives me crazy sometimes with all that motherly crap of hers, but it is cute.  I guess women just have that gene in them that makes them more loving than men.  You’d never see me making sure that Johnny’s hair isn’t out of place.  I could care less.  Women!  I will never understand them.  Just when you think you have it all in place and in order they always throw a turn on you.  Like when Johnny had his accident.  She spent all those days in one of the strangest moods I had ever seen her in.  One minute she was looking at photos and laughing at pictures of Johnny in his sailor suit swinging on that tire swing I set up in the backyard.  Then before I knew it she was upstairs in the room crying.  Women.  They just make no sense to me.

Jack came into the living room holding just one beer, and then sat back down in his chair.  He struggled with the flip top, and then finally cracked it open.  The beer foamed out and Jack leaned up and allowed the froth to drip onto the carpet.  Leaning back in his chair, he brought the can to his lips and took a long drink.  When he finished he looked over at Johnny with a large smile.  “Nothing like a cold beer to start your day.”

I thought you were going to bring me one, Pop?”

            “Now, do you think that is a good idea,” Jack said as he took another long drink. “You know what happened the last time you drank beer.

That was a long time ago, Pop.  I learned my lesson.”

            “I just don’t get it.” Jack leaned forward in his chair and stared at his son.

Don’t look at me like that, Pop.  It was one mistake.”

            “I just don’t understand why you had to go out and drink like that.  I thought I taught you better than that?  I mean drinking like that when you know you had take Samantha home. And don’t tell me it was because you just graduated from high school. That is no excuse at all.  Graduation means you are a man.  Men don’t go out and do stupid things like that.  Men act like men and think about what they are doing.  Men know better than getting drunk like damn fools.  Have you ever seen me drunk like that? No, and why is that?” Jack noticed the confused look on Johnny’s face and a smile began to crack his lips.  Suddenly Johnny didn’t look like the forty something year old he should be.  No, Johnny looked like a young man.  He looked as if he just came home from high school rather than just coming home to Easter dinner.

Jack liked this look.  He always liked the way Johnny looked at him when he began his rants.  Jack felt as if he were some parental teacher and not just a feared father.  It was not often that he witnessed this look from either of his children, especially from Kelly.  Kelly was a free spirit that kept to her self and seemed to avoid Jack at all costs.  Whenever Jack came home and saw Kelly and Diane sitting at the kitchen table in silence he knew that they had stopped talking because he came in.  Kelly and Diane would flash that smile that Jack hated so dearly, and then Kelly would leave without ever saying a word to her father.

Their relationship was never close.  One time after drinking a little too much and burning himself on the Bar-B-Q grill, something he blamed on the fact that Kelly was trying to get his attention to show him the hair style she had performed on one of her Barbie dolls, Jack blurted out that he wished he had never be blessed with a daughter.  He tried to apologize for his comment, but he had waited two days too long.  Kelly was only six years old at the time, but she would spend her life holding that moment over Jack’s head.

My god, you make one mistake and they hold it against you forever.  Women!  They are blessed with a memory bank like Fort Knox, and they remember every goddamn sin a man commits.  Why can’t be more like men and forget?  I can’t remember the first time Diane pissed me off, but she can tell me the exact day, time, and reason I pissed her off.  I come home drunk and piss all over the bathroom and the next thing I know I’m apologizing for things I did twenty years ago. 

            “What do you have to say for yourself?” Jack leaned back in his chair took a long drink.

Pop, I seriously didn’t think I drank that much.  Bobby Armer drank just as much as I did. Actually I think he drank even more than me.  He made it home just fine, and he lived a lot further away.”

            “If Bobby jumped off a bridge onto dry land and lived would you do the same thing?”

Of course not, pop.  We were just having a good time.” 

            “Having a good time!” Jack said then suddenly jumped out of his chair.  “You should have stayed at that party and just kept having a good time.  Instead you got a hair up your ass and drove a car.”

It was late and Samantha had to get home, Pop.”

“Well she never got home did she?  You made sure of that didn’t you?  Driving drunk and wrapping your car around that light post.  How stupid can a person get?  Tell me!  Tell me how dumb you can be to get behind the wheel of a car when you can barely walk?”

I could walk just fine, Pop.”

“That’s not what everyone at the party told the police.  They all said that you were stumbling all over the place.  They said they tried to take your car keys and you refused.  They said you snuck out of the house without anybody knowing it.”

“C’mon, you were young once.  You know how it is when you have a few beers in you and have a pretty girl on your shoulder.  You stop thinking with the right head and things take over.  Hell, Samantha and I had been dating for two years and I never got past second base with her in all that time.  Then there I was with a few beers in me with Samantha telling me her parent’s were out of town and we had the whole house to ourselves.  I know it was stupid.  I know I wasn’t acting like man.  I know all this, but its hard being young and horny, pop.”

            Jack’s temper rose when he saw the coy smile on Johnny’s face.  He threw his beer to the floor and only shook off the mess he had made. Diane can clean it up.  He felt the rage explode throughout his body.  It was a rage he had not felt in years.  He wanted to reach out, grab Johnny by the throat, and squeeze the life out of him.  He could not believe that the boy sitting before him was his son.

I raised you better than that.  You were my favorite.  I know it’s not right to have a favorite child, but damn it you were mine.  You were my boy.  You and I sat and watched the World Series and Super Bowls together.  We sat out on the porch, you with your Kool-Aid and me with my beer, and listened to the Giants games while we grilled burgers.  I could never do that with your damn sister.  She had those damn dolls and always talked about school and gloated about her grades.  You think I gave a rat’s ass about good grades.  I barely passed every year of high school and I made it just fine in life.  Good grades don’t mean nothing more than a kid getting accepted to a good college that cost parents every damn dime they have saved their whole lives.  What’s wrong with being average?  Why do people feel that they have to be better than the next guy?  That’s what’s wrong with the world.  Everyone is trying to top the next guy.  What’s that get you?  Nothing but war and pain.

            You were my boy.  I missed every one of your sister’s spelling B’s and choir shows, but I never missed one of your Little League games.  That’s what fathers do.  Mothers do all the daughter things.  Fathers do all the son things.  I’d get fired from my job before I missed a football or baseball game you played in.  Why?  Because you were my boy and I was your father.  The day that doctor came out and told me that I had a son was the proudest day of my life.  From that moment I had your life all played out in my head.  You would play sports and do your best.  You would graduate high school and join the Marines.  You would come home after your tour of duty and we would find you a good job close to home.  Instead you went and got drunk and drove.  You went out and killed yourself.

And Suddenly Jack’s world came crumbling all around him.  He found himself standing alone in his living room.  There was no Johnny.  There never had been.  Johnny had not come home for Easter Dinner.  They had not been sitting in the living room together.  He had not seen that confused and wanting looked in his son’s.  It had not been real.  It was all a mist of memory and things he wanted to say.  No, there was no Johnny.  Johnny Andrew Holloway had died twenty-two years ago in a drunken driving accident.

The memory of that night flooded Jack’s mind like a damn had just broken within his head.  It all started three in the morning with a knock at the front door.  Jack thought Johnny had forgotten his keys again.  It wasn’t so.  Instead there were two police officers standing before him.  One of the officers was Donny Young, a friend of the family for years.  Donny told Jack about the party.  Then he explained how Johnny had snuck out with Samantha and had crashed his car into a light post.  Johnny died on impact with Samantha dying in route to the hospital.

Jack looked down at the beer that was now seeping into his socks.  He clinched his fists and lowered himself back into the chair.  None of it was real, but there was one good thing about all this.  He still had Diane.

“Diane, come in here please.”

Jack waited for a few seconds, but there was no Diane.  She would not be walking into that living room or any other living room.  She had been dead for years.  The cancer had taken her life.

Jack leaned back and allowed the tears to flow out of his eyes.  He hated these moments.  The moments when his dreams succumbed to reality.  He felt stupid.  He felt as though he was losing his mind, but he wanted to lose his mind.  He hated his reality.  His reality was loneliness and dreadful memories.  His reality was an empty house that was nothing more than a transplant of his empty life.  Blades of grass that were his thoughts and memories were ripping apart the thin layer that protected what was left his mind.  He could imagine little ants within his head watching the blades cutting his thoughts into shreds.  There was no water that could wash this poison away.  There was no cure for the disease that was now eating away at him.  He was alone and water could not wash that away.

There was one bright spot in his life though.  He could make it all up once again.  He could create a new reality within his mind, and maybe, just maybe, he would not awake from this one.  Instead of Diane being his wife, he could choose Audrey Hepburn or Greta Garbo.  Maybe he could be married to both, Audrey living in Los Angeles and Greta living in New York, with his mistress Marilyn living in Chicago.   There would be no Johnny or Kelly.  In fact there would be no kids at all. Kids only hold a man down.  No, there would be no children in his new life.  He would spend his days and nights with Audrey sitting on the porch of their big mansion over looking the Pacific sipping on Bourbon.  He would enjoy the best that Broadway had to offer with Greta then spend his nights at the trendiest nightclubs in New York.  And with Marilyn he would visit smoke filled Jazz clubs in Chicago and drink expensive beer and smoke Cuban cigars.  The choices within his mind were limitless.  Diane and his life with her was nothing more than his first try to pass the endless time that he had.  The pain within him had invented the pain in his made up life.  There would be no more pain.

 

Jack Holloway stood on the porch of his mansion that over looked the Pacific Ocean far below.  He wore a white pair of slacks and a baby blue dress shirt.  In his right hand he held a glass of Bourbon, in his left, a fine Cuban cigar smoldered.  He breathed in the cleansing ocean breeze and a smile rose on his face.

Honey, should be get ready for the party?”

Jack turned around and saw the long, dark flowing hair of his wife Audrey Hepburn.  His eyes followed the curves of her petite body and a smile rose on his sun-tanned face.  “You know I was thinking that we could stay home tonight and just watch the sun set.”

Audrey stepped outside and wrapped her small arms around Jack’s waist.  She looked up at him with her large brown eyes, and with her light accented voice said, “What ever you want my lovely.”

 

 

A Navy doctor stood over the body of PFC Jack Holloway with a clipboard under his arm.  He looked at the young Navy nurse on the opposite side of the bed.  “Time is 0900, November 21st, 1970, Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland.  Patient number 114601, Private First Class Jack Nelson Holloway arrived here in a coma after injuries suffered during the current conflict taking place in Vietnam, three months ago.” The doctor looked at the nurse and smiled. “How is our patient doing today?”

“He’s the best patient here,” the nurse said with a smile. “He’s quiet, doesn’t complain, and doesn’t move a muscle.”

“I’m sure he would like it another way.”

The two walked to the foot of Jack’s hospital bed and just stared at the tubes that protruded from his mouth.  Plastic and rubber were the only things that were keeping him alive at this moment.

“How much longer?” the nurse asked.

“If we don’t hear from his family soon we are going to pull the plug on this poor Marine.”

“What do you think they think about when they are in a coma?”

“Nothing,” the doctor said.  He hung the clipboard on the hook at the foot of Jack Holloway’s bed and turned to the nurse with a blank look on his face. “They think about nothing at all.”

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#10

RRRSHHH, the waves crashed against the rocky cliffs far below us.  We lay in a field of yellow daisies and listened to the music of the birds singing in the towering Redwoods behind us.   I watched as a bee sucked the sweet pollen out of a daisy then flew away to bow down before his queen with his bounty.  Her soft brown hair fluttered in the ocean breeze as her head lay comfortably on my chest.  Life is so beautiful.

“Corpsman,” Captain Branch called.  He stood high, too high for most men of his rank.  I had never seen him in this state…a smile.  Where did it come from?  How was his dirt covered face able to crack through the muck?

I looked down at my hands.  They were black with the dirt mixed with the blood.  My fatigues covered in crimson and black.  Kneeling down, low under the volcanic rock, I made my way over to him.  My knees cracked under my weight and I stumbled at his feet. I pulled myself to my knees and looked around making sure I was still under some sort of cover.

            “We got outfitted with two more corpsman this morning,” Branch said as he lit a cigarette and allowed the smoke to enter his lungs. “I’m giving one to 3rd Platoon.  They lost one of theirs last night to a sniper.  I’m giving the other to 1st Platoon.  That gives them three so I’m giving you a little R and R.”

“Shouldn’t I stick around and break the new guy in?” I asked.  I opened my canteen and took a long drink.  I allowed some of the warm water to filter through my mouth then spat it in my hands and cleaned some of the dirt and blood.

“Neely can do that,” Branch said and knelt down next to me.  “You’ve been bloody since we landed.  Take 36 hours at the beachhead.”

“Yes, sir,” I said with a brief experience of an uncommon word on Iwo Jima…Joy.

            Branch flicked his cigarette.  “Don’t let them Doc’s down there try to put you to work.  I need you fresh and ready when you get back.  Charlie and Easy Company’s are taking the airfield in two days.  I’ll need you top notch.”

 

I traveled to what us front line grunts called “Heaven” with a group of Marines from Easy Company’s 2nd and 3rd Platoons who were also given a reprieve from death.  I knew most of these men.  Actually I knew the names or faces of every man in Easy Company.  I trained with these men at Camp Pendleton.  Traveled on the same ship with them from San Diego to Hawaii, and from Hawaii to Iwo Jima. These men were covered in dirt and blood from friends and comrades, but somehow they allowed humor to hover above them.  They joked about food, cigarettes, and of course women, especially Rita Hayworth, as we traveled over the black jagged rock towards the Beachhead.  Just as one of the gaunt Marines named Breaker was about to dive into a story about his girl back home in Nebraska, he slumped over dead.

“Sniper!” The other Marines scrambled to the cool rock.  I lay on my stomach and watched these men; better trained in a situation like this, scan the area.  Their dirt covered fingers pressed against the triggers of their weapons ready to kill whatever moved.

 

Iwo Jima, or better known as “The Rock” to the Navy and Marines, was nothing more than a dormant volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Prior to 1945 the Japanese considered this island holy land for some ungodly reason.  For America in 1945 Iwo was a thorn in the backs of the military machine trying to win the war against Japan.  Long Range B-29 bombers leaving from the Island of Tinian with their pay-loads marked for Japan’s industrial centers, were being shot down by Japanese fighters leaving Iwo.  For every 5 B-29’s that left Tinian, only two would return, and most of those being held together with the dried blood of its crew.

In February 1945, America’s Island hoping campaign finally made it to this small Rock.  Prior to landing more than 20,000 men, the Navy and Army Air Force pounded this island into a smoldering crater filled rock.  It was assumed that the Japanese Army inhabiting this Island was nothing more than a few thousands troops and we would take it with little or no bloodshed.  We quickly learned that this island was nothing more than a hollowed out rock of tunnels, pillboxes, and around 40,000 Japanese troops sworn to defend it to their death.

The Marines had pushed the Japanese inland, but at a costly rate. Thousands of men were either killed or injured for every inch of this pebble of hell.  Even now, with our goal insight, we were still fighting Japanese snipers that still traveled through under ground caves behind our front lines.  It was said that every Japanese soldier swore to take ten American lives before he lost his own.  I have no idea what number Breaker had been, but deep down I was hoping he was number ten.

 

“Flash!” A hidden sentry called out.

“Thunder!”  A Marine next to me quickly screamed the counter password.

The sentry exposed himself holding his M-1 Gerand at his hip ready to fire.  Purple blotches protruded beneath his eyes telling me he had not had a good nights sleep in days.  “Jap’s been moving in and out of here since day one,” he said never lowering his weapon.  As we passed by him he asked a Marine about the front.  “Bloody,” was the only reply.

A sign hung over the camp entrance that read, “There is no Joy in Leadville.”  It said it all.  The Marines on the frontlines talked about the guys back here at camp.  They talked about how nice it must be to take showers everyday followed by a hot meal and a cup of Joe.  The sign though said it all.  There was no peace in this part of the island just as there was no peace on the rest of the island.  Death was everywhere.

When the beachhead was first formed and a camp was built the Japanese had started off with an extensive mortar barrage.  Once we started to push them back, the Japanese began to attack the camp with suicide patrols.  They would run through the sentries and act like human bombs killing everything insight.  Now that we were on the verge of victory, Japanese snipers were now the new enemy for this small piece of Heaven on an island of Hell.

 

I looked into her deep blue eyes and allowed my heart to flutter within my chest.  She was so beautiful.  The sun hung high above us with puffy white clouds floating by.  This was always our favorite spot.  When we were kids we used to meet here with our friends and search for buried Pirate treasure.  We never found buried gold, but Nancy and I found the buried emotion inside the two of us in here…love.  Just outside the small town of Crescent City along the California Pacific coastline a small boy and girl grew up to become young adults and would come here to lie in the daisy’s and talk about our future together.  Nancy dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, which was kind of funny to me since she hated almost every animal there was.  I dreamed of playing baseball for the New York Giants or Brooklyn Dodgers.  Lying here though, with her head on my chest, there was nothing more that I dreamed about than having this moment last forever.

“Hey, Graves,” A voice called out.  I pulled my face from beneath the cold stream of water.  It wasn’t the greatest shower.  Actually it was just a 55-gallon drum filled with ocean water that had a small spigot hanging from one side.  It helped clean the blood and dirt off my skin so I had complaints.  In the shower next to mine was a Corpsman from Charlie Company named Dutch.  I was surprised to see him.  At Pendleton a bunch of Corpsman and I sat down one night and bet on which one of us would not make it back to the States.  All of us agreed Dutch would be the first one to take a bullet.  He was a short dark haired kid from Brooklyn who had a big mouth that usually got him into more trouble than any man we had ever known.

“I heard the Navy brought in some beer,” Dutch said with a large smile. “Can you believe that?  A bunch of the hospital staff scored on four cases so they are having a little get together tonight?  I haven’t had beer since our last night in Pearl.  I’ll probably drink a whole case to myself.  You going?”

“Yeah,” I said.  The last beer I had was also in Pearl.  Bentley and I went out our last night in Hawaii with one mission in hand…get as stinking drunk as our military pay would allow us to get.  By three in the morning I was bent over the pier puking my guts out as Bentley kissed the girl he met that night good-bye.  The Second day on Iwo Bentley tried to pull a Marine out of the wake and had his head blown off.

“You here about that Corpsman from A Company?” Dutch asked and brought me back to the moment.

“No,” I said and turned on the water.

“A corpsman from A Company went missing about three days ago.  They actually sent Marine patrols out looking for his dumb ass.  They found him this morning.  A patrol came across one of those Jap caves and moved in to clear it out.  They found that corpsman inside.  The only way they could identify him was because the Jap’s left his dog tags on him.  They beat him beyond recognition, gutted him, then cut off his testicles and stuffed them in his mouth.  What a way to be found, huh?”

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine Nancy and I on that Cliffside back home, but the only image that crept into my mind was that poor corpsman.  I saw him in that cave with his wrists and ankles tied together so tight the rope actually cutting into his skin. I could see his swollen face and his naked body lying on that cold black ground.  I imagined his mother back home with her only thoughts filled with her boy fighting in this war.  I could see his girl back home lying in her bed with his picture clutched against her heart.  I could see his father at the factory or in the local bar talking about his boy and how he was fighting for his country.  I prayed that they would never hear how he had died.

 

We gathered outside the hospital tent with a fire burning in a 55-gallon drum.  Dutch was right about the beer, but he was wrong about the number of cases the staff had acquired.  Instead of the four Dutch had promised the number was eight.  We sat around talking about the front and how wonderful it was when those Marines raised that flag on Mount Sarabachi.  Of course the photo that had been printed on the cover of Life Magazine was not of the original flag.  The first one that was raised was small and could barely be seen.  The famous flag on the cover of all the newspapers back home was the second and larger flag raised that day.  I could have never been prouder than knowing one of those men, John Bradley, was a fellow corpsman.

A tall dark haired Captain came over and sat down with the enlisted men.  He looked more like a Doctor that you would see in a Hollywood picture than a man serving on Iwo Jima.  He had Clark Gable looks with a Humphrey Bogart grin on his thin lips.  Most of the Hospital staff called him “Doc”, he was known to the rest of us only as Captain Tyler.

He sat quietly and listened to our conversations about the end of the war and what we would do when it was over.  He just stared at each man that spoke with a hollow glare in his eyes.  I looked at his hands.  Blood was stained in the cracks and they shook uncontrolably.  Suddenly the conversation changed to what some us had been doing before the war.  I personally had been lying on that cliff, but I held those memories to myself.

“How about you Doc,” a corpsman asked.  “What did you do before the war?”

Captain Tyler looked up at the man and grinned.  He lit a cigarette and let it hang from his lips as he told his story.  “I was a biology teacher,” he started then leaned back against the rock. “The morning of December 7th, 1941 I was at church listening to Father O’Brien preach about the end of the world.  I got home after a picnic lunch with my wife, turned on the radio and heard about Pearl.  On the morning of December 8th I found myself standing before a classroom filled with 17 year old seniors.  I looked at those kids and began to ask myself how many of these kids will be shipped to Europe or to the Pacific?  How many of these kids are going to be alive in two years?

“Now? Now I ask myself how many of those kids are on this fucking island with me.  Here I am sitting here with you guys drinking cold beer and all I’m wondering is how many of those kids are out there on that front line lying in pools of their own blood and guts?  I’m waiting for that day when a kid comes into this hospital with his intestines hanging out of his abdomen dragging on this fucking black rock.  I’m waiting to look down into that kids eyes and recognize him from my Biology class.  I’m waiting for that one kid to come in, grab my arm, and say to me, ‘Mr. Tyler don’t let me die.’  You asked what I was doing before this war?  I was praying to god that my kids would not die in this war.”

He raised his beer to his lips and suddenly his brains exploded out the side of his head and his body peacefully slumped over.  A Japanese sniper made sure he would never see that student.

 

“What are you thinking?” Nancy asked.  She rolled over onto her stomach with her chin resting on her arm.

“Just how beautiful you are,” I said then leaned forward and kissed her.

I looked up into the sky and saw an elephant in the clouds.  Nancy rolled onto my stomach.  Her hair hung in my face and I could smell lilacs and roses.  I looked up into her eyes.  I could see my future.  I could see our wedding day.  Nancy’s long flowing white dress trailed behind her as she walked arm and arm with her father down the aisle.  I could see her holding our son’s hand walking through this field of daisy’s on a day as bright and beautiful as this.  I could see our home; yellow with white trim with a white picket fence keeping our Beagle safe from the passing cars.  I could see us in our old age sitting around a large table with our children and Grandchildren celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  I could see us sitting hand and hand on our porch swing.  Nancy’s head was lying gently on my shoulder and again the sweet smell of lilacs and rose filled me.

Nancy reached back, removed her St. Christopher necklace and placed it in my hand.  “Wear this where ever you go.”

I looked out across the cliffs and smiled at the sight of the blue ocean that seemed to flow into infinity.  I knew a war was raging across that beautiful expanse of blue, but here with Nancy I had never felt safer.

 

I awoke to the first bright day without rain in the three weeks since landing on Iwo and looked across out to the blue ocean that sparkled under the suns rays.  I could see the Navy Battleships sitting off shore with their big guns pointed towards me.  Those massive gray ships faded into the blue and I could see those cliffs outside of Crescent City not far off in the distance.  Nancy stood on those cliffs waving to me and I found myself waving back.

“Mitch.”  I turned and saw Dutch standing behind me.  “The Marines are moving out. They moved up the attack on the airfield.  They need us up there ASAP.”

I turned back to Nancy and blew her a kiss good-bye.  She caught it and brought it to her full red lips and smiled.  I didn’t even feel the bullet enter me.

I hope I was #10.

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The Smell

I awoke with fear gripping my soul.  The clock on my nightstand struck the three o’clock hour.  Musk.  All I could smell was sweat and heat.  The two combined reminded me of a hot humid Chicago summer day.  It was the smell of melting road tar and dried hobo urine in gutters.  It was the smell that plumed out of city alleyways filled with spoiled trash, decomposing rat carcasses, and again dried urine.  My room was cool with the chill of Colorado Autumn seeping through my slightly cracked window, but the smell was still there.  That smell of a city street on a hot humid day.  Where was it coming from?  Why did it have that smell?  No, not a hot city street.  It wasn’t that.  I closed my eyes and allowed the aroma to fill my senses.  It was a different smell.  A bar smell.  Not just a bar, but a certain part of a bar.  A restroom!  Yes!  A smoke filled restroom with the hit of beer shifting back and forth.  There it was again.  That smell.  The smell of urine filled stalls in a bar bathroom.  With my minds eye I could see that stall.  White porcelain fading to a dirty brown.  A blue, half dissolved cleaning ball barely illuminating through unflushed urine and cigarette butts.  Yes that was the smell.

OH DAMN, I pissed my bed!

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Pajamas to School

I want to wear

Pajamas to school.

Fuck this,

“What am I going to wear?”

Shit.

I want to go to school

Right out of bed.

My Giants Boxers

with the ripped ass.

My cock and

Balls waving

To all the pretty girls.

Not every day though

On Thursday,

History 300.

Cock and

Balls waving

to Lauren, Christy, and Mimsy.

I want to go to school

free and open with

bed hair and crusty eyes,

scratching my balls

As I

stand and smoke

while farting and pissing.

I want to wear

My pajamas to school.

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You festering

Blister.

Volcano of puss filled

Boil.

Sickening to the sight

Spreading

Devouring

Like a virus at night.

 

You sprawl across,

The land

The lines

The oceans

The sand.

Regular

Super

Warehouse club,

While Mom and Pop,

Are nailed to the cross.

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Crushing,

blows of pleasure

through extended tunnel of,

Life.

Screams of painful

 Joy,

agony to the virgin ear.

Sweet liquid to sting,

eyes open to eyes.

Skin melts to skin

become one,

as fluids mix.

Five add forty

movements of time,

child conceived.

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