One down, three to go.
Not the comment you might have expected from parents who were delivering their first child to college, but it is what we said to each other as my wife and I dropped our oldest off in Ohio.
This leads to a few comments about Cleveland. Not that I am going to say anything bad. I have to say that most of the people we met were polite and nice. Some even went all the way up to helpful, which I have to say, is a bit more than the average stranger that I have met around my home town. The wife and I have even commented on how rude some of the areas near our home have become. Little old ladies who will glare at you for being in their way as they drive down the middle of the lane, for example, have become the norm in one particularly red and white town near us. The thing I am wondering though is why the people of Cleveland were so nice. I have a hunch.
They were drunk.
I have never seen so many bars, pubs, lounges and taverns as what I saw driving around Cleveland. I know I am exaggerating, but I honestly felt like there was at least one place to drink every block. For those places that didn’t have an establishment that served alcohol, there was the convenience of buying from the local grocery store, quick mart, gas station or super shopping center.
Maybe Indiana is just more or a stick in the mud. We do still have dry days of the week, but I never thought I would be surprised by booze. I drink; I don’t have a problem with you drinking. Hell, if you are a happy drunk, I’m even ok being with you when you are drinking if I am sober. But how many bars do you need in a square mile?
Truth is that I might not have noticed if it weren’t for breakfast. The wife and I had dropped of our son the night before and were looking for a place to have breakfast the next morning. We found a small restaurant from a chain that we were not familiar with and decided to give it a go. The food was good and she loved the omelet. That is all fine and dandy.
The thing that got me though, was watching the waitresses make mimosas’. I have never been handed a breakfast menu that recommended a bloody mary or a mimosa for breakfast. I have never been one to drink in the morning. Watching the groups around us put these three quarters champagne drinks away as the means of starting their day got a bit of a chuckle out of me.
Until I started reading the names on the signs for businesses on the way to my son’s new apartment. Good lord, how many places to drink does one city need?
Then again, they were nicer and more polite than some of the places around here, so who am I to judge.
L. E. White
I like to drink. Some people think I am a funny drunk and others say I am a mean drunk, but the truth is that they are both wrong. I am never drunk. I don’t get to feeling light headed or sleepy or relaxed. I don’t notice a difference.
I drink because I like the taste, the burn of the alcohol going down my throat. It makes me feel good but I don’t know why.
So I tried something new. I lit the alcohol first and then drank the shot. I wondered if it would make it burn more or not. I didn’t notice a difference.
That was when I realized that it was the fire that made me happy. I enjoyed the idea of the burn that I didn’t get. That was when I started ordering flambé.
The poor waitress burnt her arm. She screamed and cried and I took a deep breath and marveled at the smell. The burn made me; well, let’s just say I really enjoyed it.
So today is time for another first. I have a different waitress, a girl, barely old enough to serve me a drink. She thought she could drink me under the table, so I challenged her to shots after work and she took me up on it. We drank until she hit the floor and I carried her out to my car.
Now we are under a bridge in the middle of nowhere. She is still passed out, which is better for her. She is also soaked in whiskey from the two empty bottles that are now lying beside of her. I have my lighter in one hand and the other is busy. I struck the wheel, causing those fantastic little sparks to set the fuel ablaze and tossed the lighter into the air. It flickered as it arced away, a tiny comet in the pre-dawn light that filled me with a joyful tension.
I took deep, shuddering breaths. Trying to take in as much of the burn as I could, each breath sending a flare of burning ecstasy through me. This is so much better than just drinking the burn and I felt so happy, so complete.
It felt like hours before the fire went out and I collapsed in a spent heap while still leaning towards the slowly raising smoke of my first real happiness. I felt complete in a way that I had never felt before. I imagined that this was what great men felt like when they had accomplished what I had.
I had discovered my purpose in life. I now knew my place in the world.
Some men just want to watch the world burn. Most of them lack the courage of their convictions. I would not watch the world burn from an idle place. I would be a great man, sure in my destiny and complete in my focus.
Some men just want to watch the world burn, but I would set it on fire myself.
So today, Wednesday, August 15th of 2012, I begin a new journey. One that I am excited to see begin. I will be leaving my home and driving my oldest child to another state to attend college. I am at a bit of a loss for words.
Yesterday, I went to work and my darling wife took my youngest child to his first day of Kindergarten. This will be the last first for us.
Yesterday, my daughter officially started High School.
Yesterday, my middle son started second grade. I hope he hasn’t corrected his teacher yet.
Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our 19th anniversary.
August is always hectic, it is always busy, and this year, it is emotionally charged in ways that it has never been before.
Good luck Shawn. Work hard and take care of yourself.
Good luck Ian. Remember that yours is the third door on the right and that you are supposed to be nice to the other children.
Good luck Connor. Remember to pick up your brother before leaving the school.
Good luck Emily. Be careful and tell that boy to stop looking at you. You have a father with a gun, a shovel and no sense of humor.
I love you dearest. I always will.
L. E. White
Good Old Days
I don’t know what to think of these kids today. I would swear that my sons have no sense of what it takes to survive. The little monsters just want to watch cartoons and play video games. Games are fun but there is a time and a place. This isn’t it.
“Turn. That. Off.”
He looks up at me with sullen eyes as he shuts his little game system. I would grab it out of his hands and smash it but they are expensive. I don’t want to be wasteful.
But this is important. Today is his first hunt. He hasn’t been out before and I realize that he doesn’t know what it takes. I have tried to teach him how important it is. To explain why he has to learn but kids today just don’t get it. So, like his older brother, I will take him hunting. I will ignore his boredom until we see something to shot at and then I will watch his eyes light up as he sights down the gun. I will watch the boredom drain out and be replaced by desire.
I will watch him fill with hunger.
We are lying on the ground beneath a pine tree. The needles are soft and as long as you lie still you won’t get poked. He is just like his brother, fidgeting and hissing every time another needle pokes into him. He will learn.
The tree is low to the ground, offering better cover than a tree stand and keeping us protected from the elements. If it starts snowing, we won’t be leaving because of cold and wet. This is one of the best natural blinds I have ever found.
The trail in front of us is heavily traveled. I pointed out the droppings and prints as we walked in but my boy didn’t seem all that interested. A few years ago, we walked this same trail in the spring. I pointed out the same things and he stared in fascination. I remember stopping his hand when he reached forward to disturb one of the little piles of waste. “We don’t touch that, it’s dirty,” I had told him, mimicking his mother’s voice a little. Today, he almost rolled his eyes when I pointed these things out.
All that will change in a little bit.
He has a gun of his own; an ancient shotgun that my grandfather used to teach my father to hunt. Dad had used it to teach me just like I used it today. The two of us were sitting in a circle of heavy briars that he had enjoyed hunting in when it had started raining that first time. I will never forget sitting in the rain for an hour as we waited for something to come through. I had been sure that we were the only things foolish enough to be out in the rain but Dad had been sure that we would see something.
He was right.
I heard it before my boy shifted again, the crack of leaves being stepped on. He might not have heard the sound, but he knew it when I tensed up. I listened to his heart beat speed up and saw him raise the gun. He was aimed at the trail and focused on where it was pointing. While I realized that something could have walked by on any side of the tree I wasn’t going to say anything yet. I didn’t him making noise by whipping his head around.
The steps were slow, I wasn’t sure what was coming but I was sure that it was moving with caution. Either it had spotted something else, or it had heard the rustling noises that my son had been making. If we stayed quiet and patient, our quarry would still walk by. Most animals aren’t smart enough to just turn tail and run if they didn’t see you.
Ten minutes later, I saw our target. The soft brown of its coat shifted with each step and the ears twitched as they independently sought out sounds of predators and prey.
I smiled as my little boys eyes widened with the excited fear of a true hunter. He was feeling the thrill of seeing his prey and experiencing the fear of missing his shot. When his eyes darted over to me I nodded to the gun, giving him a slight, silent sign to go ahead. Giving him my consent to grow up a little bit today.
The only problem with this blind is that the branches and needles help hold the sound in. The old gun roared as a he squeezed the trigger and my ears were ringing from it. I don’t know if he watched or not but I saw the animal twitch as it felt the first sting of his shot. I then watched in amazement as it fell over. My oldest hadn’t managed to kill his first in one go and neither had I.
My boy, no, my little man, is almost dancing in his excitement to go out and check his shot. He is babbling questions as fast as he can speak, asking if I saw it and if he really got it. I hold him back to be sure that it is dead. I don’t want to slip out and find it just stunned. These things can be dangerous to begin with, much less if it’s wounded.
A minute or two pass and it is still just lying there. So we slip out, weapons ready in case it is just stunned, but they aren’t needed. The thing is shuddering as they always do when they die, twitching all over.
“I got it Dad. I got it!”
We stand there, watching the fur fall out and the claws pull back as a literal walking nightmare passes on. The legends aren’t true, werewolves don’t transform back and forth with the moon. They are walking monsters until they die, then you get to see who they were. The great werewolves of the northern world are ferocious, powerful and dangerous.
And in this case, still able to be killed by a young hunter on his first hunt.
“You did real good. Your mom is going to be proud of you.”
We go home. Him bouncing and talking ninety miles a minute while I smile or nod as needed. I would love to tell him to calm down, or to take it easy, but I won’t ruin this by making him behave. He earned the right to talk as much as he wants.
He runs in to tell his mother, to share his glory. I am gathering the guns when I notice his video game. It has fallen out of his pocket and in his excitement he left it in the truck.
I leave it there too and head in to listen to how much bigger the wolf has gotten as he tells his family what he has done.
Time isn’t like boiling water. It still flies away, even if you watch it.
My daughter is about to start high school. She is way to pretty for my sanity. Guns don’t kill people, fathers with pretty daughters kill people.
My littlest is starting kindergarten and the next one is starting second grade. The house will be empty all day, every day. I am excited and yet I also recognize this mile marker as the one way ride that it is. Our last first day of school. The rest of the first days are just another year. This is the last real first day we will get.
My oldest, my first-born, my heir.
Yeah, him. He starts college. We will be moving him to school next week. With fresh towels and sheets, his own grill and a deep hope that he will get his butt up and get to class on time every day.
I feel old. Plain and simple. I am watching time go by and wanting to grab it by the tail to hold it in place.
But I can’t.
L. E. White
The pain is coming back. A low humming that is felt behind the ears. Too bad it won’t stop there.
Soon, it can be felt across the back of my head. Like the band that holds your earphones together for those big, noise cancelling headsets, the kind that radio people wear. The band is complete but not across the top of your head, instead it runs around the back, connecting your ears.
Once it is there, the pain starts to move up, a slow, crawling sensation that hurts as it goes. A trail of pain that covers your scalp is left in its passing, kind of like the slime that a slug leaves if it crawls across your windshield. I can’t even comb my hair without feeling like I am pulling it out. Every now and then, I look down at the comb to be sure.
It takes days for this to reach its end. I always fight against it, trying not to let it get to me but I also know better than to believe that I will be able to resist. I know that the pain will continue to crawl over me until it gets behind my eyes. No medicine has ever helped, even though I have taken them all. I know that is when it will hurt the worst and I know, I know, I know that that is the time when my mind will go blank. That is when I will disappear and that is when I will sleep.
I will sleep for a day or two. I won’t remember anything. I will wake up thirsty and hungry. I will come to and I won’t know where I am, only that I have to go to the bathroom so bad that I will stumble and pray I don’t have an accident on the way to the closest toilet.
That is also when I will see myself in the mirror. Unshaven, unkempt and blood covered.
I have never yet managed to remember who the blood came from, but I know I won’t be hurt. There will be no wounds, and for a few days, there will be no pain.
Then, the pain will come back, and this will all happen again.
I finally managed to finish the most dreadful portion of my current work project. I have been working with my team to write the testing process. A bunch of documents that nobody wants to read which everybody hates to write.
But now that is done. That stage is behind me and hopefully it will stop sucking the life out of my writing. The last few weeks have been well beyond not productive. With the issues of life in general and the draining effects of work I was worthless.
Here is to not being worthless anymore.
So I will be working on a new short story for submission to an anthology. I will be working on my novel again, trying to put more words down so that I can make my goal of finishing a novel this year. The worst part is that it is all a BICHOK issue. I am the problem, so I must change to be the answer.
Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.
L. E. White
Run Between the Rain Drops
Sam stood at the window and watched as the clouds cam toward him. There would a storm soon and it could be his last. So he watched; looking at the living clouds. Roiling and writhing with the force of that Mother Nature had built into it. He watched and tried to find the beauty in it that Amanda always had but he failed.
Tears found silent paths down his face as he thought of her. Running and dancing in the rain, singing and teasing and even stripping in an effort to entice him outside with her. This had been one of her favorite things in the world and Amanda had always wanted to share it with him. “To share her love with her love,” she had said.
The two of them had watched those witchy paranormal shows because she loved them. It was on one of those shows that had said that fairies could only enter our world from the tween, the places that are in between. It had also said that the fairies could only get you if you were in the tween. She had loved that episode.
“So where are all the fairies then? Why don’t they just come here more often?”
“I don’t know,” she had said as she gave him a playful poke in the belly. “Maybe they don’t know because they don’t have cable.”
Maybe they had been eaten by the monsters. Sam didn’t know but he had guessed that someone got the monsters a cable subscription. They had learned about traveling in the tween.
He wondered if they had heard someone make a joke about running between the rain drops.
Amanda had been dancing in the rain; wearing white and dancing dirty to pull him out into the rain with her. She was going to win, dragging that thin, wet t-shirt over her head as the monster stepped out of nothing. Her arms were up and her head was covered when it ran its hand through her back. Sam had watched his wife’s heart pop out from between her rain-soaked breasts without seeing the look on her face.
She hadn’t screamed, but he had.
Now, Sam might be one of the last people on earth. The monsters kept coming and they were relentless. He had heard the news that they were coming out of thin air in doorways and from gaps in buildings. They came from between and killed anything they could reach.
It had been weeks. Sam had done his best to protect himself and had started carrying an axe for protection. The rotting arm in his front doorway was proof that it worked. They could be cut and he hoped that it had died in pain.
This wasn’t living though. He was hungry and he was heartbroken. So as the rain began to fall, Sam prepared himself, gripping the axe and walking out into the yard.
All he wanted was to take one of them down before he went to see Amanda dance again.