Now It’s Time to Get Real

For a number of months now, I’ve been posting short blogs that were mostly fiction in nature.  Among these were a few that were based on memories and dreams (reality or wish based?). Today, I’m going to begin to mix it up a bit with non-fiction ramblings and musings.  

This is where I get to mention my absolutely brand new book titled “In All The Wrong Places.”  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CJG0BXY

 

I am very pleased to offer this work to you.  I’m proud of the content I’ve chosen.  It is a collection of short stories and non-fiction.  In this book, you’ll meet Gnomes, Ghosts, Wicked Women, Loneliness, Loss and even a Mountain Nymph.  And there’s more, of course.  Seventeen pieces in all for you to sit back at the beach (don’t forget the SPF), curled up in bed, under two trees in a hammock, in a tent hidden in the forest or while stretched out on a cheesy mattress in a cheap motel outside Del Rio, Texas.  

So, come with me while I walk forgotten trails, sit on cliff-sides, pace city streets and wander dark alleys.  But you’ll be safe with me.  After all, the things that creep alongside us, hide in the shadows behind us exist only in my head.  In my brain that can’t stop wondering about lives and destinies of everyone I pass on the road or watch from a trolley window.

We are all held together by some kind of unknown chain…come and be a link in that chain.

I would like you to share your own dreams via my website:  http://www.patrickjegan.com

Love to you all on the eve of May, the month of my 20th anniversary, my birthday and the rebirth of the flowers that finally have a place to grow without the incessant snow. 

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Are You Somewhere Up Above?

That’s right.  It’s class reunion time again.  These events come around so fast these days, it’s like speed dating.  The years are passing rapidly now.  It seems like I was looking forward to my 20th just a short time ago.  Now, I’m dreading the approaching 50th.  So, one more time, I’ll sign up, send in the $50 and try to find a blazer that looks like it fits me in some way.  Maybe a tight belt will do the trick on the few extra inches at the waist.

I don’t dread seeing my old classmates.  Forget the teachers, most of them are gone now.  Sometimes I feel like I should be gone too.  But once I get to the Elks Club hall, people will know where to find me.  I’ll be sitting near the cash bar on my favorite chair…the one I have claimed for the last thirty years.  Here’s what I won’t be doing: out there dancing to Chubby Checker and looking just as foolish as I did in 1965. What I will be doing is fingering the twenties in my pocket and drinking the top shelf scotch.

One more thing I won’t be doing is looking happy.  My second wife died five years ago so I’ll be going stag.  I’m not looking anymore.  I’ll also be staring at the Memorial Table from a safe distance.  It’s usually on the opposite side of the dance floor, on a table near the stage.  I don’t want to see who else left us.  Did the guy that sat behind me in homeroom have to get shot to death in Viet Nam?  Did the girl (her name escapes me) have to die in her twenties of breast cancer?  And what about the childhood buddy of mine that impacted with a large oak tree in his brand new Mustang while going about 85 mph?  I don’t want to think about all that.

But if you buy me a double, I’ll gladly tell you the story of the death of my sweetheart while we were in high school (she was just sweet sixteen).  I wasn’t showing much promise those days in being good at anything.  My grade were slightly below average, but Laura loved me anyway.  She really loved me.  Her mother was not crazy about her being with me, but she stopped saying much when she realized that Laura and I would go ahead and elope if she kept on about how unfit I was.

We’d been to a dance.  They called them “sock hops” in those days.  Laura didn’t mind if I looked goofy doing the twist.  I had about as much rhythm as a fence post.  We were driving home that night with the top down on my ’57 Chevy.  Elvis was finally on the local AM station.  Too many of us kids complained that they didn’t play the really cool black music, so to buy time to rethink their song lists, they gave us Elvis.  That was OK with Laura and I.

The trouble started out on River Road.  We were just tooling along when the engine began to skip and make strange clanking sounds.

Shit, I thought, I was going to have to haul the block out again and check the gaskets.  We were approaching a railroad crossing…we’ve been there hundreds of times but the engine started shaking.  We made the wide curve that led to the crossing.  It was too rural to have wooden poles drop while the train passed.  No, there was clear roadway over the tracks.

Just as we approached the intersection, I heard it.  The distinct howl and nasal blast of the whistle.  You probably guessed it already.  We stalled right there on the crossing.  The train was approaching from the west which meant the engineer had limited views ahead…and not enough time to pull the stop cord.

Believe it or not, neither of us panicked.  We had a full 45 seconds to casually open the doors and get the hell out.  Which we did.

We stood, motionless and holding hands while the train bore down on my beautiful car.  And then, to my horror and absolute shock, she broke free of my hand and ran back to the car, yelling “Wait, wait!”  It didn’t take a genius to see that her getting to the car and the impact of the train were going to happen at the exact same second.  I took a step forward and then closed my eyes when I heard the explosive crash of a locomotive against the side of a two door car.  It was over in moments.

I told my story to the police and watched in dumb silence as the hearse pulled away.  There was no need for an ambulance.  The police drove me back home.  As we pulled away, I looked out of the back window at the unmoving train, blinking red lights and a mangled mass of steel that was once a’57 Chevy

Yes, I’ll have another double.  That’s the way it went, sort of.  I still have my secrets, though.  The police told me that she had my high school ring clutched in her hand, tight.

Private secrets.  No, another double won’t get me to tell you my secret.  The strange thing that happened that night that, somehow over the years, led me to this chair is going to to stay with me and me alone.  I see you’ve heard enough.  Good night, my friend.

Because I’m sick and my days are numbered, I’ll reveal that dark puzzle to you and to you alone.  You must promise you won’t tell anyone until well after I’m gone, and when I say gone, I don’t mean tonight.  I mean to the plot next to Laura’s.

You see, it’s never been explained WHY she wasn’t wearing the ring that night.  Why did she have to go back for it?  I must confess, I don’t remember whether she was giving it back to me or I asked her to return it.  I don’t even know what happened to it.  I had always supposed that she was buried with it…but I really don’t know.  So, I guess it’s not really a secret then, since I don’t know the answer.  I just don’t know what it was she was looking for that night.

It was gold and had a green stone with an image of an Indian on a horse with his arms outstretched.  1965 is engraved around the green stone.

If you find it, let me know.

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If You Build It They Will Go

I wish this story was not being written.  I wish the slate of my memory could be wiped clean.  I curse the Muse who invades my dreams, finds me in my idle hours and dumps thoughts I can barely recall would just go away.  Just go away and leave me to sit in peace.  But, no.  I am driven to this dreaded keyboard and another call of nature takes my fingers and makes me tell this tale.

Turn away if you must, Dear Reader, for my story will foul your minds with images that are not meant for your gentle and innocent eyes.

Like many of my tales, this one again takes place on the Juneau Icefield in Southeastern Alaska.  It is an awesome place and has been the scene of, shall I say, bizarre happenings.

It was in the distant and fair times of the 1960’s.  I was working for a glacial research Foundation whose main work was to keep track of the melting of the glaciers and the reconstruction of past climates through the study of ice cores.  Scattered over the vast Icefield were a number of research stations.  These were simple structures meant to function as base camps for the scientists and the assistants.  There were bunks, eating areas, laboratories and tool shacks.

There were also outhouses to be used when the need arose and privacy was an issue.

The Director of the summer season was an experienced mountain climber with an expertise in organizing and running, not only the scientific end, but also the day to day activities.  Now, Dear Reader, it is no secret that morale must be maintained at all times.  Any ships captain or  unit commander of a military operation will tell you that boredom is the Enemy.  The principle here was to keep everyone busy so they had little time to count the days to when the season was over and they could enjoy the fruits of Juneau (and it had many).

There was much work to do and time was of the essence.  One time waster was the waiting line for the use of the outhouses.  This began to play on the mind of the Director, and being a creative person, came up with two solutions that would get to the bottom of this problem.

Here is how it played out: He would identify those individuals who were savvy at carpentry.  Then he would order the supplies to be flown in.  And, in the end, he would build additional privies.  But on this particular summer, the Director decided to take the matter and go into a direction that has rarely been repeated.  Indeed, I know of no other solution, like the one he chose, in existence anywhere.

I know of what I speak, because I, myself, helped construct the buildings that sprang from his very “Creative Moment”.  This was no longer a mountain climber or researcher planning these designs.  No, he became an I.M Pei, a Dali, a Picasso of privies!

I will leave out the boring details of the moving of the rocks, the digging of the holes (not an easy thing on a rocky mountain surface) and get straight to the end of the story.  I need to do so.  It is now 12:10 AM EDT in New York State.  I need to go to bed now and contemplate the medical procedure I am having later today.  If I was one of those sleazy, hack writers I would go for the obvious irony here, that I was going to have a colonoscopy in ten hours.  But, I am not a 7th Avenue whore willing to bend over and change the storyline to get a cheap laugh.  In reality, I am going to have a tooth extraction.

So, the results of this curious few days building an outbuilding?

One of the new structures was set to face an icefall.  A truly awesome sight, best compared to a frozen waterfall.  So what did we do to maximize the pleasure of the…the (lest not mince words) bowel movement?

We put in a picture window.  It was a 6′ x 5′ sheet of plexiglass that had a hinged door on the outside lest someone wandered by to get a closer look at the ice dropping.  Well, we thought the idea was “cracking good”…so we did the only obvious thing.  We added an extra seat, or hole as it were.  In this way, two close friends, or a very loving couple could do their duty using a buddy system.  Seemed like a good idea.  After all, the plane had brought in several crates of toilet paper, so there needn’t be any sharing in that way.  I’ve often wondered since then if there were any proposals for marriage, of any kind.  Hey, nobody said it was for males or females only.

With that project completed, we moved onto another camp.  Space for a privy was an issue here as the exposed rock surface was limited.  Remember, you can’t build these on snow.  That would present it’s own set of problems.

The solution to this was simple.  We didn’t need a genius to work this one out.  It had to be a two-story privy.

Now, sitting side by side can have it’s advantages.  Two occupants could discuss the beauty of the icefall.  But a two-story structure was something else.  While one person would, I assume sit in the lower level, there was a six inch diameter PVC pipe that passed within seven inches of the sitting person.  Whatever movements were taking place upstairs could be plainly heard trickling or bumping against the PVC.  Under these circumstances, it was hard to concentrate on a year old copy of Sports Illustrated, even if it was the Swimsuit Issue.

Well, that’s the story of the two loos.  I guess it’s now up to you to decide which seat you would have chosen.  You need to do this.  After all, you never know if you will ever be faced with this in an emergency situation.

As I recall, for some reason the group that year became much more closely knit that any team before.  We all knew each other a little better when late August came around.

All done at the Two-Story Loo                                  Back of the Picture Window Loo

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