New Stories for January 21, 2018
The seafront is deserted except for a bedraggled stray dog and an icy wind that whips cold spray across my face. With a hollow boom, waves pound the crumbling seawall, fling white droplets into the air and suck back before the next assault.
I run, avoiding pebbles washed along the desolate promenade. I run, not from anything, not to anything. I run because I must. I run on emotions that punch at me like the swell of the tide. I run to light the fire of transformation, to warm a cold and turbulent inner sea to steam, to burn away the clinging scent of death. I run to uncover hidden emotions, to lift them to the light where spray and wind will wash them clean. I run to keep myself alive in precious minutes of freedom before returning to my mother’s bed where she lies in a semi-coma before her final breath.
Every morning, after I spoon-feed her breakfast and drop my son at the nearby primary school, I hike the hill to the seafront, climb over a low wall to the promenade and stretch my legs against rusted railings on the sea wall that drops to a deserted beach below. I gaze out along a line of tar-soaked breakwaters that yearly disintegrate under the weight of storm after storm, that keep beaches from disappearing altogether as water slams the southern coast. High tide spray from the Channel coats my hair, dampens my clothes and stings my eyes. I turn left on the promenade and run toward the Martello tower.
Grief comes with the winter sun,
Slanting through the smudged window
On an ordinary afternoon,
My father Perry was a very good-looking stuttering man. His stutter was so profound that it would sometimes take a whole minute to get a word out. “Let’s go to the b…b…b…b…b…b, long pause, stuttering of breath…b…b…b…silence (count about 10 seconds) beach!” That stutter didn’t hold him back, though. Women loved him. Even my childhood friends had crushes on him.
Perry was a man of the 50s, a breadwinner, a guy handy with tools, a golfer, a drinker, a skier, a smoker. A very handsome man. And charming, despite the stutter, maybe because of it.
But for all his personal charisma, there was a disconnected quality about him in his relationships. He wasn’t one for physical shows of affection, except for my mother, and that, I later suspected was, for him, like many men (forgive my jaded attitude), probably motivated by sex. Our dog, Taffy? Nothing. He hated cats. I actually saw him kick his mother’s cat once. And kids, back in those days were, I think, looked on somewhat as little animals to be trained. No hugs there.
That no hugs, sort of self-centered aspect of Perry is a detail about him that comes to mind in the midst of a story I have told over and over, for years, since that summer of my 12th year. The image is in the story, but I never speak of it because it seems unrelated. It is like a dangling thread, but lately, while writing, a side door opened to reveal why that detail, that image persistently comes to mind, and why I suppress the telling of it.
“Police report a library employee was found dead at the city library this morning,” the radio announcer said. “His death appears to be a homicide. We’ll keep you up-to-date on this story. And now we’ll play you a great oldie from 2000!”
Maybe it was a great oldie for the twenty-year-old announcer. I thought it was just a bunch of racket. I turned the radio off.
Besides, I was about to have company. I could see Jeff Connors, our police chief, turning into my rain-slicked driveway. Good timing. The coffee pot was almost done brewing, and Chief Connors would be just in time for the first cup. Always the best cup.
“Thanks for letting me come on such short notice,” Chief Connors said, as he entered my kitchen. “I really appreciate this.”
“It’s no problem. After all, I’m retired, so it’s not like I’ve got a busy schedule.”
“I wish I could say the same,” Chief Connors moaned. He hung his coat up by the door, and then crashed at the small wood table my late wife bought when we moved in nearly fifty years ago. “It’s been a hellish day. I shouldn’t even be taking this coffee break, but it’s nice having a moment or two to just sit.”
I poured him a cup of coffee, and opened a bag of cookies from the local bakery. I sat down with my own cup.
“Ned, I came to talk about a new case.”
We are just stewards
without the earth we are naked
to place value on land
is to affront the sacred
and make it something to be subjugated and used
to put a price on what’s priceless and sell it on the news
If radical means root and the true seed is greed.
then regulating profits just trims the tops off a weed.
For-profit prisons just a representation
of a slave bearing system in a more profit nation
where a paycheck means payment
of the interest on a debt
that insurmountable scope
creates an un-traversable step
up the pyramid hierarchy
that “creates all men equal”
who by virtue of deeds
can transcend their own people