Grave Winter, Light Summer, Falling Free
Today I present more from my Friday Free fall group: written swiftly without editing, then read aloud, and posted without editing. Of course, FF can inspire "real" writing where you agonize over getting it perfect, but the duty in FF is to just fall free.
To me, Canadian winters are grave because when you are outside the default is to die: From the moment you step outside, the cold starts clawing away your calories. You can’t lie out at night, there’s no fruit and berries, you can’t even drink from a creek when you’re thirsty.
Canadian summers are the time for outdoor stage comedies; today I am balancing two grave winter pieces with some chuckle pieces: these you may wish to read them “aloud” in your best comedy voice, as I did on the Fridays I wrote them.
Prompt-this was going to be my last Christmas
There is something American about the open road, and roadside diners, and diesel trucks. I was in the diner, with my own rig running because I thought I was only going to have a half meal—there’s something about a lemon merange pie when winter is in the air—I wasn’t thinking of it as a Christmas gift to myself at all.
Funny. All those mountain roads past lighted homes with strings of joyful lights hadn’t really put my mind in a Christmas mood. I was going through my Patsy Cline phase, and not the country stations. Besides, no radio in the mountains.
When the bearded man sat down I said “howdy.” He nodded: we were on the same wave length, no “merry Christmas.” From the teamsters pin on his faded ball cap I knew he was a trucker. “That’s my rig on the end” I said, by way of introduction.
“Mine’s the Kenworth” he said. I savored my pie and my coffee and I think it was because I didn’t talk very much that he opened up. Oh, we had the usual civility, so important on the cold winter roads, but then he opened up. “This will be my last Christmas,” he said.
I answered, “How come, where will you spend it?”
He looked far away. “I will be in a shack outside Greenwood, on the road leading to the dump. I’ve got running water, good insulation. A telephone line, electricity. What more can a man want?”
I nodded, stirred in a little sugar. He continued, “I want to live another couple years, but you can’t have everything.”
“Cancer?” I asked calmly.
“Yep, got it in one.”
I gazed at a passing waitress. “I wish I could have a waitress in my hotel room over Christmas. I’ll just watch re-runs…. Have you been thinking?”
“Yup. I’ve been thinking that more darn fools should get their prostate checked.”
We chuckled. He countered, “What would your deep thoughts be?”
“See more waitresses. Give Peggy Sue a call. And you?”
He stretched his neck. “Ah, we all have a Peggy Sue… Somewhere…”
Prompt-glad/blessed to be alive
He had the gout in his big toe again. What a way to wake up. The radio was crackling and popping. Blast! He must have left it on after Roosevelt’s fireside chat—to bad he was abruptly crashing asleep these days. Not old age, no, chopping wood to help heat the cabin will do that to you. At least, that was what he normally told himself. He shifted his legs under the old blankets, in rushed the fingers of old man winter, and swung his legs over, stocking feet to the rude cabin floor. And bent over. And his hips creaked and his back creaked and he stood up. Yep, he was old.
His cabin needed more window space. Nobody in his generation ever had the cash to put in decent window space, or the cash to heat the place either. And now the pesky govmint wanted him to go to a home in town. He looked out his bigger window. Snowing.
It had snowed yesterday, would snow today, and no doubt the next day too. And if he ever ran out of coal it would take four hours a day just to chop enough wood. Blast! And with the roads out, the coal man would have trouble. At least he wouldn’t quit. Too many fellows were enlisting.
Start the stove for the pot and the coffee pot with the grounds. No eggshells today. Plug in the kettle for pouring over the coffee. Heat the pot, force yourself to shave before anything else. Before the coffee, before the oatmeal: The road to despair is paved with small indulgences.
And stand before the shallow tin washbasin, hesitate as you always do, then shirt off—argg!— and enjoy the fluff swish fluff of a genuine badger brush.
Then time to open the door a crack and enjoy the same old oats and coffee. Forget the old folks home. Forget the snow—glad to be alive
I wonder how our boys are doing on Guam? I want to know.
prompt-no no don’t worry about it.
She moved like a sparrow, that small thin woman. Pardon me” I said, trying to get past her. We were in a concrete sunken courtyard at the courthouse. There was a summer crowd, and I wanted to get in the side door to get inside.
“No-no,” she said, sounding French. Her clothes were striped pink and grey, her age on the far side of thirty. She was darting about in a two meter long box, side to side, for no apparent reason. Harmless, but I wanted to get past.
I tried again. “Excuse-eh moi” I said.
Her eyes, heavily black under black lashes, opened wide. “Vraiment?” But she didn’t move. “Really? You’re Francais?”
Now I was locked in her gaze and I really couldn’t be rude and push away through the crowd behind me. “No,” I said. “I’m a cowboy, come to this grey city.” The entire courtyard was grey concrete, sides and walls, except where there was glass or doors. I guess now I sounded like an individual, like her in her striped arms and legs and cool vest.
So she said, “This is the rainy city, stranger. Esse ce you from?”
I didn’t want to talk, as I was thirsty, but I had enough voice to say, “From Bill’s Puddle ma’am, in the heart of cattle country.”
She looked intently, “Oo la la, I’m from Paris, Cheri, so I know cattle.” I was looking intently at the door, so I didn’t catch the reference. “I am Edith.”
I said “Eh?” I didn’t get why a French lady would be named Edith.
Edith moved right up against me, so I really felt like a cowboy or something. “I need you, cheri, to kneel down.”
I was so surprised I couldn’t even use my Canadian eh. I said, “What?”
“I need you to kneel down so I can test your shoulder.”
I found myself kneeling, and she took one hand regally, felt my shoulder, and then put her foot on it. She was wearing those slippers the Chinese ladies have, or the ladies in art school, or the mimes, or—then she put the other foot on and said softly, “Stand up.”
This time I had the wits to say, “eh?”
She yelled, “Come on cowboy, it’s Edith from Paris, Texas; and I like to stand tall!”
Prompt-Woe is me
I thought for a minute—the life of man on earth is full of woe, and short.—Thank God it’s short, because I just can’t take anymore. I am writing this in The Jail—that’s the name of the bar. “Honey, I’ll be late, I’m in jail.” And, “No I couldn’t answer my cell phone honey, I was in jail.” Speaking of cellphones, mine just timed out before I could reply to Maria. I just checked. Darn, now she probably thinks I’m two-timing her with Judy. I’ll have to buy Maria some flowers again. And I’ve already pawned my medical skeleton.
It could be worse. At least the kids believe me now. They caught me just as I was up my tree putting in a cat skeleton as a joke. “It was a joke!” I tried to say as they ran away screaming about the monster that, pick one:
Kills cats and just leaves them to decay
Traps cats in his tree and doesn’t even bother to recycle the remains
Doesn’t even love dogs—he has none.
Luckily it was the daytime, so the kids did not bring back a crowd of men with pitch forks, only housewives with rolling pins.
Trouble is, one of the more unruly boys had a slingshot. It’s not that he hit me in the head, although he did, and I don’t mind the headache, in fact I can’t even feel it, not over the other bones—when I was hit, I fell out of the tree! So that’s why I’m here in jail.