Freedom Candy – Part 2 of 2

Big Rock Candy MountainThe trek to the man’s store was less about the candy for her, and more about the limited freedom it afforded.  A sheltered, smothered little girl, she felt like fine China that never came off the shelf.  While her parents tried to protect her from bullying and the less savory aspects life, the result of their loving efforts was a much too shiny innocence that attracted the attention of the most insecure brats, both on the block and in the halls at school.  She often felt helpless and brittle, caged and uncertain of herself.  The walk into the little town was practice for the walk she longed to take into a world she could own and dominate, away from the rules and control of her over-bearing parents.

Past the bank, past the bakery, the phone company and the library, past the church where her parents took her for exposure, they walked.  No one questioned a gaggle of children in those days, in the small little towns, making their way down the center of everything.  They stopped here and there for sidewalk treasures:  rocks that fit their youthful hands, uniquely bent nails, bugs and frogs.  Rounded stones and undamaged bottle caps clicked against each other in their pockets.  Broken glass they weren’t supposed to touch was defiantly scooped up and tossed into trash cans, proving to each other they weren’t concerned with the dangers.

In time, as the only girl along for the trip, she became one of the boys.  She spit and cussed along with the others in a show of solidarity, and because it made her feel empowered.  In time, the brittleness shattered from her core, and what she found there was an angry but strong, confused but determined individual.  She didn’t want to wear dresses or jewelry like the other girls because it reminded her of that frail little China doll that she wasn’t allowed to play with, for fear of breaking it.  She didn’t care what kind of candy stick the man sold her, as long as it wasn’t green apple.

The candy store, with all it’s choices, was the world in vivid splashes of truth and facades, twists of choices and obligations.  She wasn’t yet ready to map out her future, but she knew she could not let anyone draw that landscape for her.

In high school, years later, Al put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger.  It had nothing to do with her.  Anyway, that’s what she told herself.  He had proposed to her the year before, much to his brother’s dismay.  She had been kind but firm, but suddenly, it was as if the last six years disappeared and they were right back at that bus stop.  She was a “dyke,” and much worse, he’d said, and he would let everyone know.  The bully of her childhood had fallen in love, and then betrayed that sentiment when she declined another prison of protection and sheltering.  With his putrid words of anger and a faulty, broken heart – he’d voiced her worst fear.

She’d hugged Benny when the news of Al’s suicide made the rounds.  She remembered his gift of courage on the school bus, and would later cherish his brother’s gift of self-discovery.

(Read Part 1, edited)

 


I cannot get this story “just so.”  I can’t figure out how to tie all the ends.  As is, it gets out the points fine – but I cannot help but think there must be a better, more lyrical way to transmit the story.  Please – I would great appreciate any feedback fellow writers or avid readers provide.

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Freedom Candy – Part 1 of 2

Candy sticksThere was a man who sold candy.  Thirty years past its prime, his store held rows and rows of jars with different flavors of stick candy for ten cents a piece.  I’m sure there were other things for sale, but a dime was something a kid could come by easier than a dollar.

Weeks were full of restless drama with the neighborhood kids, crowded buses with seats, sticky from dirty hands and snot, bustling hallways separating the sanctuaries of classrooms, and the after school, latch-key scenario – she wasn’t allowed to go out and play until one of her working parents came home.  Such weeks had this one thing, this occasional adventure, to look forward to.  If the rain let up long enough, she could convince her folks the ground wouldn’t be muddy.  If the sun was glowing and their spirits less taxed, she’d get to go with some friends into to town, and buy a candy stick or two.

The field between the newly developing housing complex and the road into town was flat and low.  She and her friends would walk, skip, or run across its mowed green carpet, and then climb the embankment to the fortified road four feet up.

Cal, her next door neighbor, awkward and lanky with little muscle on his growing frame, was always along for the trip.  They were in fourth grade together and yet, strangely they rarely spoke at school despite their “best friend” status in the neighborhood.  Her parents probably wouldn’t have allowed her to go if he hadn’t been present.

A tiny skeleton of a child with a big head misnamed Mike usually wanted to go.  He was only in the first grade, and lived across from her in the biggest house on the block.  Although he was an annoyance in their daily play adventures, he was always welcome when they went to the candy store, because he always had enough to buy extra for everyone.  Little Mike was either too generous to consider what other candy he could have purchased with his two or three dollars, or else they maneuvered him away from the possibilities to protect their sugar striped interests.

Al and Benny, usually her tormentors at the isolated morning bus stop, were also allowed to go.  Such enemies in the desolate frontiers where parents were typically absent, were not recognized for their evil in the presence of adults.  Not if you wanted to live to tell the story.  Adults clouded the dynamics of power when it came to bullies, and while Al and Benny might cease their abuse for a time (when her father visited their house and spoke with their parents), eventually their anger over being “ratted out” would come to a head.  They brought an actual rope as their threat one morning after.

A year later, Benny would walk off the school bus with a bloody nose.  Confused at his childhood crush on her, he would express himself with fists that bounced harmlessly off her bulky snowsuit.  Realizing her worst fears were coming true, no one was coming to her aid as he pummeled her with this assault, she pulled back and straightened her arm – right into his face.  The motion of the bus may have helped the outcome, and the bus driver was relieved to watch the age of tormenting the girl come to an end.  On that day, Benny gave her the best gift any boy (aside from his brother) would ever offer – his actions opened her eyes to her capacity for courage.

(Read Part 2)

Taco Boy

Taco (5076902674) (2)
Yesterday at the Seattle ferry terminal I grabbed what will be the last good fast food/restaurant food I will have for at least another month – a couple of Tacos from Taco Del Mar.  Don’t judge.  Living in rural Idaho has given me a new appreciation for … convenience.

The ferry was running late and the terminal was packed.  Crowds are not our kind of scene, but we were fortunate to grab a table and chairs just in time.  Sitting there, eating my dripping taco, a tiny little head and face appeared to my left, just over the table edge.  A little boy was staring at me, or rather, my taco.  It was sort of akin to those times you eat at a friend’s house, and their pet starts to beg.  Awkward, and uncomfortable.

I swallowed my bite and just stared right back at him.  He smirked a little and I smiled back.  His father then revealed himself to be the man sitting at the table next to M, along with presumably his mother and an older sibling who were totally disinterested with the whole thing.  His father called to him, ordering him to leave us alone and come back to their table.  This boy couldn’t have been more than three or four.  He wasn’t helpless (obviously) and also wasn’t talking.  Whether he could speak at all, I do not know.  One thing was certain – he completely ignored his dad, and if I didn’t have ears, I would never have known he was being called just to look at the little brat.

I say “brat.”  It’s not that this child was being extremely annoying.  He wasn’t grabbing at things that were not his or tossing his animal crackers at anyone.  He wasn’t screaming at the top of his lungs or repeating anyone’s words over and over again.  He was just being, independent.  It was soon after our staring contest that he traipsed over to the table next to me and his father got up and grabbed … not his hand … but his leash.

The little dude was wearing a leash.  And not the bungee cord type that expands and contracts, but a bonfire leather, sturdy, on a metal swivel do-hickey – leash.  It attached to a body harness he was wearing over his clothes.  And his dad pulled him back to their table and spoke to him as the little tyke looked neither hurt, angry, or amused.  In fact, he looked elsewhere as his dad spoke and in adult terms, totally blew him off.

The boy attempted to part their company again shortly after his father’s diatribe.  His dad gave the leash a tug and he instinctively grabbed the leash out of his dad’s hand.  Strangely, dad let him have it, becoming to interested in something they were doing at the table.  So, with his leash in hand, the little boy proceeded to traipse around the tables and into the ferry terminal toward the door that lead to Seattle.  His father turned once and called to him, then turned around again.  It was so surreal.

I lost interest when his father got up and went after him at some point after.  I sometimes have to shift gears before what is in my head comes out in real life.

So I thought of a story that my better judgement declined before it hit the page.  It was about a child stealer who watches this whole scene, and easily whisks the boy away.  Later, when the boy is in a box with air holes in the back of a horse trailer headed for who knows where, the evil kidnapper says, “Bet you wish you’d listened to your pappy, huh!”  And the police take the family’s and the witness statements and call CPS.

My beta-reader told me recently I should be very cautious about killing a kid I have in my Malone story.  He said it would turn off any parent readers and make people angry.  I have to agree.  I feel the same way about this story.

George Mowgli – 9

He’s back.  If you haven’t followed George from the beginning of his adventure, feel free to seek out his stories by scrolling down to the “Be a Seeker” box on the right side and typing in “George Mowgli.”  You can also start from the very beginning by clicking here.


Her cackle from some location below elicits an involuntarily response, pushing the left side of his nose and mouth into a sneer.  “No doubt she’s turned on the stupid box and is laughing at some brain-sucking sitcom.  She’ll probably find it imperative to try and repeat the scene to me later.  Won’t matter if I’m engrossed in a good book or napping.”  He pulls his face out of the sneer as if putting a long abandoned piece of laundry back in its drawer.  Matter-of-fact.  No point letting more bitterness creep in.Airwalk Men's Mason Mocassin Slippers

In about three hours, Micah will either shut himself in the garage (AKA his workshop), or he’ll change into something similar to what he’s already wearing and head to his idea of a night out.  Thirty-eight years old and he’s still playing Dungeons and Dragons with kids ten or fifteen years younger than him.  Such a disappointment.

The moccasins that are his house shoes await him somewhere in the darkness above.  He should have put them on when he came down for breakfast this morning, he knows that now.  The climbing, always the climbing up and down, it was all he could think about after his morning ablutions.  “Is this what athletes go through before every game,” he wonders, “or maybe soldiers before a battle? Knowing they’ve done it many times before, but worried they might just be all tapped out?”  Another step … and then another … almost there.

George Mowgli – 8.5 (Note)

Dear Readers,

 

George needs rest before continuing his perilous journey into the recesses of his mind.  He is taking a brief hiatus while his writer attempts to create something from scratch for a mystery writing contest.  He was a bit appalled at my thirst for competition, but when I mentioned I wasn’t 38 years old and still living at home his objections fell silent.  I apologized for hitting below the belt, to which he replied he probably wouldn’t feel it anyway.   I believe he has a much better sense of humor but I was careful to laugh politely out of respect.

In an effort to compromise, I allowed him to leave a forwarding address in case anyone wants to write him.  You may address any comments or questions to him below and I will be happy to serve as his personal secretary until his return.  You’ll also be happy to know that he guilt-tripped me into slapping up some poetry since it is National Poetry Writing Month.  So feel free to stay tuned for some flow.

 

Sincerely,

George’s Writer

George Mowgli – 8

His palms are slippery.  He turns his right hand over, barely recognizing the mottled exterior, the soft-skinned canvas of his lifelines loosely draped around the bones and swollen joints.  Like ghosts in his mind, a false duet of memories and the present, he can still make out the muscles of his youth as he twitches his thumb.  Days were when his calloused hands put in time at the lumber mill, returning home with nubby, dirt encrusted nails as evidence, scrapes and bruises the “war wounds” of their service.

A bar of Lava soap, wrapped in the dirty imprint of this or the other hand from those days, still convalesced on the shelf in the mudroom.  He thinks about tossing it once in awhile.  Recollections of the texture, the solace of that gritty lather under soothing warm water, prevent  further consideration.  Comforts of the past.  He splays his fingers and turns the decrepit looking thing away from his view, wafting air along the sweaty underside as best he can.  He dares not loose his grip on the railing yet.

 

READ ON –>

George Mowgli – 7

He’d wanted to name the baby, “George, Jr.” but Sarah whined it wouldn’t do.  Not poetic enough.  Not ear catching.  What would the girls at work think?  Looking back, he was certain she’d only agreed to have a baby because she wanted an excuse to stop working and stay at home.  It was clear, once the mission was accomplished, she was ill-prepared and had as much motherly instincts as a harp seal.  He’d watched one of those television documentaries on the creatures and experienced deja vu when he discovered the mothers abandon their defenseless babies vulnerable to predators, alone on the ice after only twelve days.

Now he knows what that must feel like.  Hadn’t put two and two together back when she forgot Micah was playing on the sun porch and locked the door.  Poor kid had nearly fainted of dehydration by the time she realized.  From all accounts over the years, Micah could have been one of those poor little babies that baked to death in the back seat while his mother lollygagged at the mall.  But for the strange ironic brew he’d come to accept where good things happened to bad people and bad people happened to good ones, Sarah would be seeking all manner of reporters and gullible ears to question “Why on Earth any legitimate legal system would put a poor mother behind bars for an innocent mistake that had taken her child from her bosom of love …”  Her flair for drama and talent for overlooking reality was cemented in the fabric of his familiar.  Try as George may, he can’t get the stain she leaves on his attitude to wash clean.

 

READ ON –>

George Mowgli – 6

It would never be said of his son – Micah, “A chip off the old block.”  A  middle-aged man of pale complexion and reddish brown hair – these and his glasses were the only traits that could be claimed as ever being shared between the men.  His son’s exterior was a contradiction.  One could easily make out his hefty midsection, still within the socially accepted picture of “average,” but gaining.  His choice in the latest alternative band t-shirts attempted a distraction to the mismatched area in contrast to his spindly legs and scrawny neck.  Lanky but graceful – his straight, wiry hair sat atop his globe as a wig might.

It was clearly his own hair; its roots visibly clawed into his head nearly a full inch behind where his forehead should have ended.  It seemed to follow a set of standing orders as it cascaded back and then, in tune with gravity, down the sides of his head in the form of a sort of academic-looking mullet.  That pasty, waxen forehead was accentuated by his choice in eye-wear.  Dark wire rims joined his cartoonish appearance, and together they defined the word, “spectacles.”  At 38, the boy had not acknowledged his adulthood, it seemed to George.  He dressed in rust colored jeans that hugged his legs, the shirt bloused over the waistline.  Wore suede construction boots with the ensemble.  “As if he’s worked a day of manual labor in his whole, enabled, meaningless life,” mutters George, as he counts and thinks, and waits for his lungs to join him once again in this life.

 

READ ON –>

George Mowgli – 5

George reaches up and pulls himself up again.  Amazing what energy can be found in those “cringing moments.”  His left toe catches the ledge as he brings it up and his right arm swings itself forward on its own volition to counterbalance his imminent demise.

Sarah had a mole that could be mistaken for a cold-sore.  She tried to apply her makeup to under accentuate its redness.  Lingering just above her lip and southwest of her right nostril, it could have become her trademark.  Entering her 40s  she should have accepted the “opinions and rumor mill be damned” attitude that is a right of passage most other older women enjoy.  Instead, her collaboration with her flamboyant beautician produced a pair of eyebrows – reminiscent of the golden arches – relegating her mole to a sideshow in the vaudeville that was her presence.

 

READ ON –>

George Mowgli – 4

He parked himself in denial years ago.  A stereotype behind the wheel, he refused to ask directions and insisted on reading his map any damn way he wanted.  It was upside down.  He smoked his smokes and drank his drinks and chuckled at the naysayers who warned him of death.  Now he smirks, and thinks, “They were still wrong.  Its not the death that means anything.  Its the landscape.”  His lungs confirm this assessment.  Bristles of perspiration tingle him all over, under his tummy rolls, beneath his unmentionables.

His real name is George, but today he thinks of himself as the boy raised in the rainforest (or was it a jungle), surrounded by pitiless wild animals with only the thought to devour him, or ignore him if a better meal is in view. It fits rather well given the selfish, oblivious nature of his son and ex-wife. These stairs are his daily hell. He is too proud to refuse or complain. The 38-year old man who still lives at home, his son, remains a “mama’s boy,” which explains why he remains clueless and disengaged from his father’s plight. His ex-tormentor, Sarah? He divorced the woman 18 years ago. The only difference George had been able to enjoy was that she’d moved out and occasionally (he’d begrudgingly learned of her debacles through their son) played the fool for all to see, flirting with the butcher at the supermarket.

He was actually in line once at the front when he’d heard her cackle.  He’d instinctively whipped his head toward the hideous but familiar squawk as one would turn at the sound of screeching tires, only to see the encore.  “Oh, hellooooooa!” she waved her entire 63 year old body at the poor man behind the meat counter.  “God help us! What is wrong with that ridiculous witch?” George snarled to himself.  The timid Mr. Schultz, caught in the middle of handing a more sane customer a pound of salami, had issued forth an awkward cough.  It was sort of the thing you would expect to happen after realizing your credit card was declined, or you’d locked your keys in the car.  Susan had turned to the lady friend she was with in line and giggled like a school girl, as if the camera was on but her mic wasn’t working.  She hadn’t even noticed her friend’s mouth agape or her pink cheeks of embarrassment.  Oblivious!

 

READ ON –>

George Mowgli – 3

Regrouping, he lifts his chin and peers into the void again.  “Not today.  They cannot win today.”  This silent affirmation does nothing for his motivation.  It summons several questions, and they roll around in his skull like mismatched cufflinks in a dead man’s shave kit.  “Will they even know of their victory?  Do they even know I’m fighting them?  How long will it actually take them to realize I’m gone?”  They had lived in his peripheral (or he in theirs) all these many years, yet had managed to miss every detail of his heart, his longings, his needs, his pain.

What is that poem?  He can’t recall.  Something about how people will laugh when you are up and leave you in the dust when you cry?  He remembers that paperback book of 101 poems he used to carry in his pocket as a young man.  His grandmother had given it to him and asked him to memorize one of the pages for her.  To this day he can still recite Longfellow’s “The Day is Done.”  “How very prophetic,” he thinks, and the dimple on his weathered face makes a small appearance.  He resigns himself to the irony and pulls himself up once more, before he has time to think about it.

 

READ ON –>

George Mowgli – 2

His lungs still struggle with each inhale, but the pace slows and he grabs the limb with his right hand, wiping the sweat from his left palm and repositioning.  He shifts his weight and raises his right knee just high enough to shove his foot onto the next ledge.  Leaning forward, his muscles strain and quiver as he brings his other foot up to stand nearly upright.  He is keenly aware of his bladder starting its familiar press, notifying him of a most basic human need.  He takes the next climb with similar awkwardness, but has to stop again for fear of falling.

Dizziness pervades his head and chest.  He can feel a cold sweat break out around his ribcage, and he is wheezing again.  He is only halfway there and doubt creeps into his mind, seeps into  little cracks in his soul, and darkens his outlook in billows like  octopus ink.  He tries not to cry, although his throat tightens and a few tears mingle with the sweat on the bridge of his nose.  He lets them drip, along with the sweat, to the carpet below.

 

READ ON –>

George Mowgli – 1

Yet another series.  If you haven’t discovered yet, I’m a bit fragmented and prefer to work in a million different directions.  So please enjoy what I believe to be the best I have so far … in little paragraph installments over the next few days.  … Unless I get bored and do something else again.    I’ll get wise soon and create a page to list all my series so you, Dear Reader, can follow those that tickle you.

 

George Mowgli

 

Mowgli squints into the dark jungle ceiling.  He grips the limb in his left hand and pauses to listen to his surroundings.  A low, mechanical hum emanates up from below.  A rhythmic ticking noise stalks him from behind.  His breathing heavy, he waits, and feels the slithering beads of sweat roll down this lower back.  Up overhead he can see nothing – no light spears through to help make out any shapes.  He closes his eyes and waits.  In the pitch black of his head, he hears the growl of some sinister creature nearby.  His eyes snap open.

There it is again, but this time he recognizes it.  His shoulders relax slightly as he acknowledges his stomach’s anger for leaving his meager breakfast unfinished.  He closes his eyes again and focuses on his breathing.  He will not worry about the growl.  There’s only so much cream-of-wheat one should be expected to stand.

 

READ ON –>

ChalleNGe (March 1999)

young and older
tolerably bolder
striving to touch
a piece of the gold
not asking for much
just a touch

grown down from the playground
clubs, streets, or hallways
built them up in other days
adult to child to adult again
ending to begin again
peeling egos and pride
not just here for the ride

momentary rebellions
commentary from hellions
morphed by boredom
strive for freedom
not from oppression
but from regression
forward always
open doorways
let them pass

they’ve seen nothing
they’ve seen everything
warrants pending
young lives ending
a little girl shamed
a little boy tamed
by the knuckles of the father
why should we bother
stepping in the shadows
of each one’s life blows?

if cycles recycle
the drug of the mother’s
the drug of the brother
the pain of the sister
is some other mister’s
chance

or maybe just self-esteem
or lack of a full home team
peer pressure?
fear measures
each new stone in the road
each new weight to the load
too much romance
can’t stay in their pants
filled with rap and rants
underage drinking
not enough thinking
lack of popularity
or too much hilarity
don’t play sports
’cause they don’t like the gym shorts

chance is the magic
to face off the tragic
burn down the failure
if you post the bail you’re
lending confidence
denting the offense
opening a window
to let fresh air flow
shaking the dust from
dreams that will come
out from the inside
where they were left to hide
not long ago

turning it around
boots pounding on the ground
beating out the cadence sound
efforts to become the crown
of their own new kingdom

making what’s theirs more
started from the ground floor
rocking with brilliance
shining self reliance
standing on their own two
what can they not do?

crossing the finish line
i give you class 1-99.