Uncle Earle’s Half-Uncle

Earl.MayThe following story is a 2-part chapter from a collection of fictitious stories about my imaginary Uncle Earle and Aunt May.  I presented the first part on this blog around a year ago.  Last night, I took the 2nd part of this story to my writer’s club meeting – but I realized that the first part of the story is necessary to explain the second.  Therefore, I’m including both parts in this posting, in case you may have missed the first part.

 

UNCLE EARLE’S HALF UNCLE, Part One

Uncle Earle’s Grandpa Clovis settled in Tennessee.  Not Memphis or Nashville, but way out in the sticks – a place so remote, as they say, sunshine had to be piped in.  Grandpa Clovis married late in life, just after he’d started a little pig and tobacco farm.  Back in those days you didn’t hire farm hands, you had ‘em!  So Grandpa Clovis married Adeline Wilson… and started up a family of farm-hands.  While Adeline was expecting their first child (it turned out to be a girl), he built a simple, but comfortable, ‘dog trot’ house for his growing family.

A dog trot was like two houses joined together.  They shared one big floor, and one roof covered both.  The two ‘house’ areas were separated by an open hallway that ran front to back.  Because there were no doors on the ends of this ‘hallway,’ yard dogs simply trotted through, hence the name.  Bedrooms were on one side and the kitchen and sitting areas on the other.  Of course the privy was out back, as this was way before inside plumbing.  Grandpa Clovis expected to have a large family, so he built a three holer.  The first 3 children were girls, who unfortunately, don’t usually make the best field hands.

About that time, Grandma Adeline’s younger sister Elvira married a fine hunk of a man from the next county.  Rudolph, Rudolph Benson was his name, and he worked at the saw mill just over the ridge from the dog trot.  The old saw mill had seen better days.  It had been powered by a rickety, wood burning steam engine.  The mill owner complained about burning up all the profits fueling the steam engine – so his remedy was replacing the wood burner with an old T- Model Ford.  The old Ford had been wrecked, so he replaced the radiator, took off the wheels, put it up on blocks, and began powering the mill with that old Ford.

Like I said, the old sawmill was in sad shape.  The apparatus that fed logs into that big spinning saw blade needed manual assistance.  And like I said, Elvira’s new husband Rudolph was a hunk of a man.  By default, he became the log pusher, manhandling a rough-cut 4 x 4 ram.  If you’ve ever used a table saw, it’s the same principle.  When you’re not careful, the spinning blade can kick the wood back at you.  This is exactly what happened to Rudolph.

The day started out badly.  It was cold, damp and foggy.  It took quite a while to get the old Ford started.  Rudolph got a bad splinter picking up his 4 x 4 ram.  (He’d left his work gloves at home.)  As he was feeding the first log of the day into the saw… it kicked back violently.  The log struck Rudolph squarely in the chest.  The blow crushed his chest like an egg, killing him instantly.  The log hurled him backward, slamming him into the T- Model, rupturing the gas tank.  The gasoline splashed all over Rudolph and everything else for six feet in all directions.  Because of the nip in the air… they had a fire going in a 55 gallon drum nearby.  With a sudden WHRRRRRRUMPHHH… everything exploded in a fireball.  It consumed Rudolph, the old T-Model, the mill itself, everything.

Everyone escaped, except Rudolph.  After the fire cooled, all that remained of Elvira’s poor husband was a few brittle bits of bone, charred to a snowy white.  Perhaps this was a blessing.  Elvira was so attached to Rudolph that she’d have found it exceedingly difficult to let him go.  Now there was precious little left to hold on to.

After the funeral, Clovis and Adeline invited the grieving Elvira to move in with them for a while.  Grandpa Clovis converted one of the rooms on the kitchen side of the house into an apartment for her.  ‘For a while’ stretched into years, and years, and more years.  The three of them lived in that old house for the remainder of their days.  But it wasn’t long before the grieving widow and hospitable sister were sharing more than just the kitchen and privy.  It wasn’t long before the yard dogs weren’t the only ones trotting back and forth through the hallway.  Over the years Grandpa Clovis and his wife Adeline raised six kids in that old house, and Grandpa Clovis and Elvira, (his wife’s sister), raised five.

“Clovis was no better ‘n a dog his-self,” raved Aunt May when she first heard the story. “DOG TROT was a fittin’ name, that’s fer sure!”

Uncle Earle’s father was Clovis’ six child by his legal wife Adeline.  And Uncle Earl’s favorite uncle, Edward, was the third child of Clovis and Elvira.  So because those two boys were HALF brothers, Uncle Earle just naturally considered Edward to be his HALF-uncle.  It makes sense to me!

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UNCLE EARLE’S HALF-UNCLE, Part Two

Uncle Earle received a letter from relatives in Tennessee, saying they’d just buried his favorite Uncle, his Half-Uncle Edward.  And… the letter also said that, at the same time, they’d also buried Edward’s wife, Connie.

Now Edward’s burial came as no surprise.  The old gent was way past ninety.  What came as a surprise was the burial of Aunt Connie.  Uncle Earle KNEW she’d been dead for fifteen years or more!  The letter contained a long newspaper clipping, which explained some of these strange circumstances.  Uncle Earl knew about Edward and Connie’s early years.  It took some digging to turn up the story of their latter years.

It seems that after the eleven ‘dog trot kids’ were grown, they moved away, all that is but Edward.  He stayed on and looked after the old threesome until they died.  2 years after the last one passed away, the old place burned.  By then Edward was thirty-seven, and ready to look for a wife himself.

Down the road lived the family of a staunch Baptist minister who presided over no less than three small congregations in the area.  His eldest daughter, Connie, was the conscripted organist/pianist for all three churches.  I suppose that 4 Sunday Services each week (one of the churches met Sunday Mornings and Sunday Nights) and 3 mid-week services a week were a bit much for Connie.  It didn’t take a crowbar to pry her away from her family.  After the wedding she and Edward promptly moved to the other side of the mountain, too far away to be the three-church organist/pianist anymore.

What Connie may have lacked in physical beauty she more than made up for in inner beauty.  As if in reward for caring for his elderly parents, Edward was blessed with the grandest wife a man could hope to find.  Although they never had children of their own, their home was a haven of love and joy to every child in the area, and for friends and neighbors alike.  And then tragedy struck.

Connie was stricken with a rare and incurable liver disease.  Edward was positively devastated.  I suppose Edward had heard his mother, Elvira, talk about the loss of his father, and all the pain caused.  As he approached the loss of his beloved Connie, Edward could not imagine that eventual reality.

Now Edward often hunted and fished with a strange recluse who lived in the next ‘hollow.’  Folks in the area called the ole fool Wild Bill.  He was a wild unpredictable half-wit… the often result of backwoods inbreeding.  But Wild Bill was an expert fisherman, and a crack shot.  His humble dwelling was filled with game trophies… a large mouth bass, seemingly as large as a tuna, adorned one wall.  There were snarling bobcats, dainty foxes, rabbits, squirrels, deer heads, and even a large black bear standing erect and threatening.  On a table near his front door was his pride and joy, a large bullfrog holding a lamp, the first animal he’d ever done.  Wild Bill was an amateur, yet quite proficient, taxidermist.

“Earle, one a these days I wanna to do me a person,” Wild Bill had once confided to Edward.

Connie lived only 3 months after her diagnosis.  By then, Edward had made his decision.  Like good economy, supply was ready to satisfy demand.

When you live as far back in the sticks as these people, the niceties of civilized law and custom aren’t always followed.  Few had birth certificates.  Death certificates were practically unheard of.  So Edward convinced everyone that Connie didn’t want a viewing… that she wanted everyone to remember her as she was in life.  She died at home, in Edward’s arms.

Edward built a pinewood coffin, beautifully varnished and waxed… and with brass fittings.  It was fitting tribute to his beloved Connie.  Into this farewell box he carefully laid several bags of sand… and nailed it shut.  The afternoon of her death, he and Wild Bill ‘did’ Connie.

Of course, a human doesn’t have the same hide or hair as a bass or rabbit.  So when finished, Connie left a bit to be desired.  Edward had to apply a LOT of make-up, causing her to look not at all unlike Tammie Faye.  But at least he still had his beloved Connie.

After dressing her in her finest Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes, he laid the body on an old frame bed hidden away in the attic.  Then he contacted her family.

After a tender and sweet farewell service at the Baptist Church, they took that beautiful pinewood box (of sandbags) and buried it beneath a stately oak in the REST IN TRUTH CEMETERY.  Rest in peace.  Ashes to ashes.  In this case would that be sand to sand?

Of course Wild Bill had been sworn to secrecy. He proved to be a man of his word. It was only in the past few days, when Edward too had passed way, and his few remaining relatives began searching his old house for family remembrances… that someone happened into the attic and discovered the true resting place of Aunt Connie.

For a man to have had such a checkered ancestry, dog trots, half-uncles, and a taxidermied aunt… I suppose we can cut Uncle Earle a little slack.  I know I can.

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THE BOY WHO COULD SEE TOMORROW

© 2018 Bill Murphy

People often ask writer’s how their stories come to be.  I my case, it’s usually that I first meet the characters – in my mind – as if meeting a flesh and blood person for the first time.  Then, these factious people tell their stories to me.  Their story simply unfolds. Such is the case of the boy who could see tomorrow.  I met his parents first.

Their story is, I’ll admit, a dark tale. It’s neither dark in the spooky sense, nor is it evil.  It’s just a story that we hope will never happened… period.  Some things, although not specifically sinful per se, simply should not be.  I’ll not ask you to enjoy this story.  Just think about it. 

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THE BOY WHO COULD SEE TOMORROW

Paula Wilson, the Mother –

Bucky was our middle child.  His birth was special, as was his life.  He was not suppose to be… and that in more ways than one.  His older sister, Connie, had a difficult beginning herself.  I was sick much of her pregnancy, and her birth was a long and difficult affair.  The small country hospital where she was finally delivered didn’t make matters much easier, on either of us.  Connie was a late talker and walker.  But when she blossomed, into a beautiful, radiant bloom.

The doctor’s told us that I’d probably not be able to conceive again.  That’s why Bucky was such a welcomed surprise.  We thought of him as our miracle child.

My pregnancy with Bucky went as smooth as silk, and his delivery also.  He was such a healthy baby.  We considered everything about him such a blessing.  He was always spot on with his developmental abilities – and even early with some.  He was an early walker and talker, much to our amazement.

His special ability, if I can call it that, was difficult to spot at first.  There were small clues to be sure, but when one is not expecting something like this, it’s difficult to grasp, and impossible to understand.  Looking back now, I think the first clues were those exhibited at feeding time.  Even as adults, all of us have differences in taste.  So it’s not surprising when a small child refuses strained spinach or squash.  Bucky was always a good eater. But when he didn’t like a food… say… beets – he’d turn his head away before he’d ever sampled it.  See what I mean?

By the time he was three, my husband and I knew that Bucky was different.  Evidence of his unique ability began to surface more frequently.  And it frightened us.  But Bucky was far too young at the time to discuss it with us.  And there were his frequent headaches. He whined and cried, holding his head.  They didn’t last long, but were frequent.  The doctors were baffled.  They could uncover no reason for them, none at all. Of course, we didn’t discuss with the doctors our growing knowledge of Bucky’s ability to seemingly peer into the future.

The first time Bucky seriously spoke with me about this was when he was 4.  He was having another of his headaches.  He’d crawled into my lap, cuddling close.  He turned and looked into my eyes.  “I don’t like the headaches,” he said.  “I don’t want to see tomorrow.”  Then his little arms squeezed me tightly, as if he was attempting to bury himself into my body.

I’ve never believed that seeing into the future could be a good thing.  And I’ve never believed in so-called fortune tellers.  I can’t see how this would be a natural and normal, in any form.  If it were possible to see into the future, it would open wide a door to opportunities ripe for corruption and ruin.  It would not be a blessing.  It would be a curse.  But somehow, my son was gifted with this curse.  He could see into tomorrow.

Franklin Wilson, the Father –

Bucky was the son I always wanted.  I was one happy camper at his birth.  I considered changing jobs when he was born, just to have more time with him.  Traveling like I did may have brought in more money, but then, money isn’t everything.  I missed the day he first spoke a recognizable word, and when he took his first step.  I missed a lot of his early days.  Perhaps this was why I was the last one in the family to admit the truth of Bucky’s unbelievable ability – or maybe that should be… disability.  It was a disability, for sure.  It set him apart from all of us, from everyone.  It made him different.  Our great love for him was intermixed with fear and dread.

Yes, I know that in certain cases, a glimpse into the future could be a reassuring and positive thing – but for the most part – personally, I have far too much stress coping with the present, to add knowledge of the future on top of that.  And this ability could be exploited – a unique tool to increase personal gain, wealth, influence, leverage.  But that would be like having the keys to every safe in town… and this could not be good.  The weed of temptation finds itself in every garden – there’s no point in watering and fertilizing it!

Once I accepted the unassailable fact that my son somehow possessed this dangerous ability, it shook me to the very core.  Oh what an tremendous responsibility had been give my wife and I – to raise and protect this ‘innocent’ child – a child who was of such great danger to himself, and to others.  Only a fool would think of it otherwise!

Our first ‘scare’ came when Bucky was almost 5.  I’m not sure what we were thinking at the time, but to give the lad as much ‘normalcy’ as possible, we enrolled him in a local daycare/kindergarten.  Bucky loved it!  By this time, we’d talked to him about the fact that no others ‘saw tomorrow’ as he did – and that they would be alarmed if they thought that he did.  We strongly urged him to keep his ‘visions’ or what ever they were, to himself.  What were we thinking?  Bucky was only a kid!

Bucky’s group was scheduled for a field trip on Friday.  They were going to the Municipal Opera House, for a tour, and hear the orchestra practice.  Friday afternoon, when his mother arrived to pick up Bucky after school, she was directed to the principal’s office.  Something very strange had happened concerning Bucky.  It seems that there had been a change in plans for the field trip.  The orchestra’s conductor had fallen ill – so the Opera House tour was off.  Instead they’d gone to the zoo.  This was not known until after school on Thursday.  The conductor was hospitalized late Thursday afternoon, and the school notified after the end of the school day.  It was then that the plans were changed – to take the kids to the zoo instead.  Thursday night, the principal called Bucky’s teacher, and told her the change of plans.

Then Thursday morning, as Bucky’s teacher greeted each child as they entered the building, the first thing out of Bucky’s mouth was, “I’m glad we’re going to the zoo today instead.  That opera stuff is boring.  I can’t wait to see the elephants, they’re so neat!” How did he know?  The change in plans had not as yet been announced to the children.

Monday, the daycare was called, and told that Bucky was ill.  And the family made plans.  This scare of discovery had been too close!  Bucky never went back to the daycare. Within 3 weeks we moved to Birmingham… 500 mile away.

Connie Wilson, the Sister –

Bucky was born the summer before I started 1st grade, which would have made me six, barely old enough to be somewhat of a help with Bucky.  Dad was ecstatic when Bucky arrived.  He’d wanted a boy, and Bucky was the answer to all his prayers and dreams, or so it seemed.  I admit to being thoroughly jealous, up until the newness of the new baby wore off.  Neither Mom nor Dad had any siblings, and where we lived, so far out in the country, meant that neighbors were few and far between.

I was not often around other babies or small children for comparison, but Bucky seemed to me to be just like what others were like.  We went to church, but not on regular basis.  Dad traveled in his work.  Although it was only a two state area, it was the states of Iowa and Nebraska, meaning a lot of driving for little business.  Dad needed his down time at home on weekends.  But we still considered ourselves Christians.

The first time I remember seeing Bucky using his – strange ability, was when I was in 4th grade.  It was a school day, and I was walking to the front door to board the school bus, when Bucky stopped me.  “Don’t go,” he said,  “I don’t want you to get hurt.”  But I pushed past him, laughing.  Little did I know – that he knew.

At recess, Moli Trent applied greasy sun-screen to her arms, and then climbed the jungle-gym.  I was behind her, my hand slipped when near the top wrung, and I fell – breaking my arm in two places.  Bucky knew it would happen.

This awareness of future events happened more and more often.  But even once a month was too much for me.  They frightened me.  Bucky frightened me.  And then we moved to Birmingham, I thought that things might be better.  They weren’t.

Paula Wilson, the Mother –

After the day care scare, my husband and I had a long delayed pow-pow.  What to do about Bucky?  We were both in agreement that Bucky’s gift was laced with danger, and not just to himself.  We where forced to look at the big picture.  His ability posed a threat not only to our family, but – if we were honest about it, to all of humanity.  I’m forced to agree that in some specific cases, a peek into the future could be a positive thing, but on the other hand, in the grand scheme of things, this unique ability could adversely cause great havoc.  Yet – think about it – if one knew what tomorrow will bring, can one still alter tomorrow and make it different?  I think not.  And I was not about to test this hypothesis with some hair-brained experiment.

This was way over our heads.  This was an issue, a problem, out of our league.  But still, try as I might, I could see no reason to believe that Bucky’s strange talent was anything but a curse, an unwanted and unneeded freakish ability.  It could serve no positive purpose.  But it could propel him, and our family, into great turmoil and danger.  But what were we to do?

For starters, we decided to homeschool Bucky.  We thought about moving to some remote and desolate location, to live off the grid, to hid ourselves from the world.  But we are not off the grid type people.  We moved to Birmingham to get away from the daycare fiasco, to distance ourselves from the fallout we feared it would bing.

Birmingham is definitely not off the grid, but at least, no one knew us, or knew of us, there.

Franklin Wilson, the Father – I’m not sure what the founding fathers of Birmingham were thinking when they turned over that first spade of soil.  There’s actually a lot of level ground in Alabama… but not in Birmingham.  And yes, we did buy a home in the suburbs of that great city, where it is much, much hillier.

We got a fantastic deal on the place!  The home was in foreclosure, and we bought it, as is, from the bank.  The former owners had gone thru a bitter divorce.  The struggling, weak willed mother, who got the house, was left with two traumatized teenage daughters.  She allowed the two girls to redecorate the house, any way they wanted.  The colorful result was a cross between psychedelic brothel and carnival fun house.  And the girls painted it themselves, in what looked like one weekend.  You’d have to have seen it to believe it.

It took us several weeks to restore the place to its original sanity.  The house was set on a hill, a very steep hill, especially in back.  The backyard had no problems with drainage, the 25+ degree slope took ample care of that.  The driveway was on the left side of the house, with a large parking pad beside the house, where it opened into the garage/basement area.  The front of the house and entry way, were at ground level, with steps leading upstairs to what for all practical purposes, was the ‘first floor.’  This contained the den, dining room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  All were large and spacious.

Just off the rear of the house, and at ground level to the house, was an addition – a small ‘mother-in-law‘ apartment with 3 rooms.  This apartment could be accessed from steps inside the garage and leading down, or directly from an outside door on the rear of the house.  A small, brick and stone patio wrapped around two sides of the apartment.  Above this patio, a small narrow balcony had been added off the master bedroom upstairs.  It was almost 20 feet from the balcony to the patio below.  The view of the backyard from this balcony was breathtaking.

Connie, who was eleven at the time we moved, begged to have the sub-basement bedroom.  But we thought she was too young at that time.  We promised it to her when she turned sixteen.  Until then, Paula and I would share it as our office/hobby/crafts area, and where she would homeschool Bucky.  Connie then asked for the first bedroom off the upstairs hallway, and we agreed.  Bucky’s room was just down that short hallway and directly across from their shared bathroom.

Within a month, we’d settled in to our new normalcy.

Connie Wilson, the Sister –

It’s been six years now, since that terrible night that changed our lives forever.  I seems more like sixty.  Gone are the happy days with a happy family.  Gone too is the crazy house in the hills of Birmingham – at least it’s gone from my life – as is Bucky.

That night, Dad was downstairs in the hobby room, working on his electric trains.  Mom fell asleep watching TV in their bedroom.  I thought Bucky was in his room.

Because mine and Bucky’s bathroom was right across the hallway from his bedroom, all he had to do was crawl out of his bed, and walk in a straight line, out his door, across the hallway, and into the bathroom.  From Mom and Dad’s bedroom, if Bucky got up from Dad’s side of the bed and walked straight, he’d walk through the sliding glass door that led out onto the narrow balcony directly over the stone patio below.  This patio had a wooden railing.  Whoever built it, didn’t use pressure treated wood.  The railing was rather rickety, and Dad had not as yet gotten around to replacing it.  Mom left the patio door open that night.  She enjoyed the cool night air of Autumn.  Bucky’s death was a terrible accident!

The investigation dragged on for over two years.  No charges were ever filed.  The authorities were divided over what had actually happened.  The lead investigator was of the opinion it was an accident.  He theorized that Bucky had gotten into bed with Mom, then later, groggy with sleep, walked off the balcony thinking he was going to the bathroom.

The chief of police believed that either Mom, or Dad, had actually staged this accident, and pushed Bucky off the balcony.  But he had difficulty proving it, because he could never uncover a possible motive.  He flatly refused to believe our accounts that Bucky could see into the future.

Bucky’s death, coupled with the trauma of the long drawn out investigation, took their toll on Mom and Dad.  It changed them, hardened them, stole from them their very joy and joy of life.  They drifted farther and father apart.  I now live six months with Mom, and six with Dad. The divorce was finalized in March.

For many months, the investigators attempted to pit me against them, wanting my assistance in extracting the truth from each.  To be completely honest, I have no idea what to believe.  Both Mom and Dad clearly loved Bucky, although they hated his unusual ability.  But I can’t believe that this would bring either one, or both, to kill him.  I hope it was just an accident, an awful accident.

A few months before the divorce, one of the officers even asked if I had done it.  He said that sometimes children love their parents so much, that they can do unbelievable things for them.  I loved, and still love, both my parents, that much I know for sure.  I know I do.  But if I did do it, I can’t remember that.  I don’t think that I could do it.  If I did, then I’ve pushed that memory far, far away.

I loved Bucky too.  I really did.

 

 

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THE ULTIMATE BUG

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© 2018 by Bill Murphy

It was a strange bug indeed, very strange.

He noticed it quite by accident, when he thought he saw movement on the carpeted steps leading to the upstairs bedroom.  It was tiny, hardly 1/2 inch long, and beige in color.  It blended perfectly with the carpet.  He snapped on the stairway light, and leaned to have a closer look.

It appeared spider-like, but this bug had 6 legs.  Two long antennae poked from the head, giving the illusion of an 8th set of legs.  For a brief moment, he thought the thing had turned to look at him.  That’s when he stepped down on it, hard – and continued on up the steps.

Paul Nelson had packing to do.  He‘d pick up the dead bug when he returned downstairs – with a wad of tissue in hand.  That morning, before reporting for his shift as a 911 operator, he’d taken the time to lay socks, underwear, and pajamas on the bed.  Two suits, dress and casual shirts, and pants, on hangers hung on a rack attached to the back of the bedroom door.  Soon, his suitcase and hand-up bag were packed and ready.

Grabbing a length of toilet tissue from the upstairs bathroom, he headed back down the steps, careful to watch where he stepped.  The bug was on the 4th step from the bottom. But it was not where Paul Nelson had ground it into the carpet… it was a full 18 inches closer to the wall… and still crawling.

He stepped down on it again, harder this time.  Lifting his foot, he saw that it was again, obviously dead.  It looked dead.  He continued down the steps and into the kitchen.  The kitchen trash, where he knew he’d find an empty soup can, sat in the corner near the steps.  He returned to the steps, picked up the bug with the wad of tissue, and stuffed both into the soup can, which he crammed back into the trash can.  There!  That takes care of it.

He returned upstairs, took the suitcase off the bed, and sat it beside the bedroom door. He then took the hang-up bag downstairs and hung it by the front door.  He would have taken the suitcase downstairs also, but he still needed his shaving bag in the morning, so he’d add it to the suitcase then.  On his return upstairs, and as he walked past the kitchen trash can, he didn’t hear the soft scratching sounds coming from deep within the trash.

He set the alarm for 5.  One of his co-workers would be picking him up at 5:45 to take him to the airport.  His flight to Washington DC would be leaving at 7:45.

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Paul Nelson had a strange dream that night.  At least he thought it was a dream.

The alarm rang 5:45.  He pulled himself out of bed, and seemingly by rote, completed his morning bath ritual, and dressed.  Next he packed the shaving kit into the suitcase, and took it downstairs – and waited, until he heard the honk of a car horn.  Picking up the clothes bag and suitcase, he exited the front door.  It was a short walk to the curb, where his co-worker sat waiting in his vehicle.  Paul Nelson placed the luggage on the back seat, and then sat in the front, staring ahead.

“What’s wrong Paul? You look funny – troubled, or something,” said his friend.

“No, I’m ok. Let’s get to the airport,” replied Paul.

“I’ll bet you’re just nervous.  I know I’d be.  I’d be as nervous as a long-tail cat in a room filled with rocking chairs.  Golly, and meeting the President too.  And getting that award – Paul Nelson, 911 Operator of the Year.  How lucky can one man be!”

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Paul Nelson didn’t have a strange dream as he thought he did.  It was real.  It was very real.  He only thought he was dreaming – that is, while he could still dream, and while he remained in possession of his own brain.  He thought he was dreaming about the strange insect crawling into his ear, and into his brain.

But it wasn’t an insect.  And it wasn’t a dream.  Paul Nelson is now no longer thinking for himself.  The mind of Paul Nelson has ceased to exist.  It has been hijacked, and replaced.

It is less than 40 feet from the kitchen trash can to Paul Nelson’s bedroom upstairs.  It is approximately 400 miles from Paul Wilson’s home to Washington DC.  And it is close to 4 light years across the milky way, to the home base of the mechanical insect-like drone.  Tomorrow the drone will made its final journey, an undetected transfer from Paul Nelson into the most power and influential leader on this element-rich planet.

The President is known to be a hugger.  4 inches is all that is required for the transfer… for that final journey.

The rest, as they say, will be history.

 

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PONIE

Horse copy© 2018 Bill Murphy

I was 12 the day that Ponie walked onto our property and into our lives. I was the first to notice the dirty, yet beautiful colt which came from who knows where, and was to alter or lives forever.

Ours was small dirt farm/ranch, mostly dirt, of 30 something acres, nestled in a small valley surrounded by low mountains. We were the only homesteaders in the valley, our closest neighbors over the hills were at least 30 miles distant. But we loved the simple farm-life, and quiet isolation. It was as if our family was alone on the earth.

Dad said that Ponie looked to be about a year old, give or take a few months. Obviously, she was well accustomed to people, because she approached us willingly. It was as if she was seeking us out. No doubt, she’d walked away from her own home. But who’s?

Trips into town were few and far between, and then a 2 day trip. On Dad’s next trip into town he inquired about any missing colts, but learned of none. He left a description of Ponie at several locations, taking care not to give too much detail, lest someone, using details they didn’t previously know, might come claim and take Ponie from us. There were never any inquiries.

We all loved Ponie. I thought her eyes were her finest feature… they seemed to be unnaturally large. ‘Cow eyes,’ Mom called them. But perhaps Julia, my older sister by 3 years, loved Ponie best. The two bonded quickly.

Julia had a soft and tender heart. Perhaps it was because of her frail and sickly early years. They say she spent her first 2 years almost constantly in Mom’s arms. Julia was a voracious reader, and wrote the most beautiful poems. She soon developed the habit of taking tablet and pen, and riding Ponie off into the hills to think, write, and as she put it: ‘to become’ – in peace and solitude.

Early on we learned that Ponie had one unusual trait. She was afraid of thunder – and terrified of lightning, especially if both were close. The first storm which visited our humble farm after Ponie arrived, reviled this. That summer night, over the thunder, we could hear her wails coming from the barn. Julia and I raced to her side. We found her cowed in the corner, trying to bury herself under the hay. Oh how our hearts broke at the sight. We snuggled next to her until the storm passed.

It was a freak storm which changed our lives. Far stronger than most, it roared over the hills to the northwest as if out of nowhere, suddenly, and with unbelievable strength. It ripping our land with terrible winds, while heavy rains plunged daylight into darkness. Yet this night appeared to flash into day – with every brilliant explosion of lightning. The accompanying thunder was deafening. And – Julia and Ponie were out there somewhere! Hours earlier, she’d ridden out to her writing place.

Dad grabbed his heaviest coat, and his lantern, and headed toward Julia’s spot. He was gone for hours, or so it seemed. The storm was just beginning to wain, when we saw Dad’s lantern thru the rain. Ponie followed close behind. As they drew neared, we saw Julia, draped across Ponie’s back. Dad stopped yards from the house, and shouted for us to stay inside, but Mom raced past me and to Julia’s side. I’ll never forget her agonizing screams. I thought they’d stand there in the rain forever. Looking back, I’m glad they did. The rain bathed most of the blood away.

Soon, Julia’s lifeless body lay on the table. She looked as though she was sleeping. It was the first time I’d witness a lifeless person, and this was my beloved sister! As I stood over her, not knowing what or how to think, I noticed the deep imprint of a horses‘ hoof on her forehead – Ponie’s.

I’d not noticed that Dad had walked away. There was another crack of thunder, but I quickly realized that it was the sound of a shotgun blast. I raced to the door, to see dad standing over the body of Ponie. I’d lost two of my closest companions that awful night. Mom and Dad were never the same again. They seemed to age daily, right before my eyes.

I was too young then to understand, but looking back now, I can see why Dad took Ponie’s life that night. We all do what we believe is best. We all act and react to events beyond us, and beyond our ability to change. Even Ponie had.

Julia had been compelled to ride out to her hallowed spot, to put on paper her thoughts, her desires, her plans, her hopes, and her prayers. Her keen focus on these things, I know, blinded her to the fast approaching storm.

Ponie surely reacted in terror to the sudden storm that summer afternoon, and in her inability to cope, she had somehow struck Julia. It was not something she would have done otherwise. Her action was simple in-bred reaction.

And Dad, in his helplessness to face the being which had taken his beloved Julia from him, had forever removed Ponie from his sight.

I now know that each one involved, Julia, Ponie, and Dad, were each simply doing that which they were apt to do, that which they were compelled to do, that which their hearts and lives led them to do. There was no right or wrong involved, no guilt or innocence. They were simply doing and being themselves.

It was a painful lesson for me to learn. We each have our personal lives, our unique dreams and ambitions.  If we were all alike, this would be a most boring world. But sadly, many people never learn this simple lesson. When I am just being myself, someone want me to be like them. They never realize that I perhaps, might wish that they were like me. Can’t we just be ourselves?

I miss Mom and Dad. I miss Julia. And I also miss Ponie. While it lasted, Ponie brought joy to all our lives.

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The illustration above that I chose to use for Ponie was painted by me, for my grandmother in Carthage, Mississippi in 1953, when I was 12 years old.  Bill Murphy 

 

 

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Dirty Pigtails

Intro

Writers often use word ‘prompts’ to prod their imagination. These can be single words or short phrases. I enjoy writing from prompts. Last night the words “Dirty Pigtails” came to mind, quite out of the blue. That thought was soon followed by this fictional story. Beware: it’s not an altogether happy story. It’s more tragic than most things I write.Pig Tails

 

DIRTY PIGTAILS © 2017 Bill Murphy

Today is the anniversary of the death of Katy Winstead. I think of poor Katy often, especially on this date. I always have, and always will. She’s been gone since 1962, when we were in the 6th grade.

People might ask, “Did you love Katie.” Of course I did. But not in a boyfriend/girlfriend sense. We were only 12 at the time, far too young to understand what true love was all about. Yet I loved her still, as much as a friend as anything.

Had she lived, and we’d continued to grow up together, then our relationship might have morphed into something more serious. We’ll never know.

Katie came from what we called back then, ‘the wrong side of the tracks.’ Katie’s father had abandoned the family when Katie was 5 – forcing her under-educated mother to go to work to support the family of 4. Katie was the middle child. The other 2 were boys.

Life was hard for Katie and her family. If something wasn’t broken or in short supply, then it had been stolen from some heartless neighbor. Katie never wore brand-name clothes – it was either thrift shop, garage sale, or do without. I would say that at least Katie was always clean, but I’d not be truthful. She and her clothing always bordered between dingy and dirty. Perhaps there was not enough hot water, or not enough clean clothes, or not enough time. Who knows. Like I said, life was hard for Katie.

Most people at least bathe more than they wash their hair. So Katie’s hair washing was far less frequent than most of us. Katie’s hair was auburn, but most often looking more like brown. And, she always wore it in pigtails.

Katie and I were friends – close friends. We ate together in the lunchroom, hung out together on the playground, and walked to an from school together – at least as far as where our paths intersected. We spent even more time together in the summer, much to my mother’s dismay. She said that our relationship was ‘unhealthy.’ When she said that, it was like she was referring to Katie’s personal hygiene, and I resented it. I always stood up for Katie.

I’m really not sure what drew us together. Our backgrounds were so different. They say that opposites attract, so perhaps that explains it. And like I said, perhaps, just perhaps, Katie and I would still be a pair, if it were not for that terrible night that October.

It was Wednesday night, and I was in church with my family. Katie sometime went with us. Truthfully, Katie would simply ‘just show up.’ But that was because I’d asked her to. But this night – her mother had to work especially late, her older brother was spending the night with a friend, so Katie had to stay home with her younger brother.

The evil, heartless character broke down the back door and walked in. According to her brother, the man grabbed Katie, and took her.

Katie’s neighborhood was nothing like Mayberry of TV. It was a rough and tumble neighborhood. And just over the back tumble down fence, was a sprawling junk yard. The perfect place for vermin like Katie’s captor.

Precious time was wasted before police finally arrived to ‘investigate the situation.’

Katie’s crumpled body wasn’t found until the next morning. The police were amazed by the terrific way she’d fought back. We heard later that her fingernails on both hands had been broken or bent backwards – where she’d clawed fiercely at him over and over again. There was as much of his blood on her as there was of her own.

Her assailant was never found. Perhaps he was from out of town.

But somewhere today, there may still be an evil character walking the earth who looks for all the world as if he’d been mauled by a grizzly bear. Katie didn’t go down without a fight.

Such was Katie – sweet, innocent, Katie. I miss you girl! I do.

 

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A Giant Problem

giant

©2017 Bill Murphy

Once upon a time a weary traveler stopped at the little hamlet of tiny Lilliputberg, home of the little people. “Please, may I have but a small drink of water, for I am parched,” the exhausted traveler asked.

“Would that we could,” the diminutive mayor of Lilliputberg replied, “But our water here is magical. It is all that’s required to sustain us. It’s our bread, meat, and drink all in one. Who can say what it might become to you! No, good sir, we fear to allow you to drink of it.”

So the weary traveler, a normal sized man of no more than 5 feet at most, trudged out of town.

But he hid himself behind a hill. After darkness fell, and all of Lilliputberg was fast asleep, he crept back to the magical well. Using their thimble sized water bucket, he drank, and drank, until he could hold no more. Then he crept back over the hill and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, when he tried to stand, he could not, for he was he exceedingly weary. So he fell asleep again. He slept the whole day through, and all of the night.

This happened day after day for six more days. And each morning, he fell fast asleep once again.

The morning of the 7th day, the tiny people of Lilliputberg beheld a very strange sight. On the opposite side of the hill, a new hill had appeared, one that was blue and white in color, with a unusual black stripe angling across the top.

The town-folk raced up to the summit of the first hill, and were stopped in their tracks by a most unbelievable sight. Outstretched on the ground before them, lay the stranger who had asked for water just the week before. But now he was immense in size!

To them, he had been a giant of a man at only 5 feet when they first saw him, but now – he was well over 300 feet! The magical waters had caused him to double in size each night.

“It’s a good thing that his body lies East and West,” said the Mayor.

“And Why?” asked the Mayor’s wife.

“If he lay North and South, soon his body would block out our beautiful evening sunsets,” said the Mayor.

“True,” replied the Mayor’s wife. “He must have drunk from our well after all.”

“Truly he must have,” said the Mayor sadly. “Why wouldn’t he listen to our warnings? I hope he’s happy now. There’s no fool like a big fool!”

The moral of this story is: Only a fool listens only to his own council. This foolishness leads to foolish decisions. And foolish decisions lead to giant problems.


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A Place I Always Try To Avoid

mirror

© 2017 Bill Murphy

When I first heard this topic, my immediate thought was – Across the table from my wife when she says, ‘We need to talk.’ That being interpreted as – ‘I need to hold a mirror up to you.’

We’ve had mirrors in some form or fashion since mankind first discovered vanity. The first primitive type was no doubt simply still pools of water. Then we progressed to polished stone and metal, perfecting this all important device with the invention of glass.

Yet the best mirror that money can buy, be it from Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Neiman Marcus – is imperfect. They all have a common flaw. The image we behold in the mirror is not what other’s see. Our image is reversed.

60+ years ago my childhood pal, Buddy Gorday, asked this thought-provoking question: ‘Since our image in the mirror is reversed, why isn’t it also flipped upside down?’ Of course the answer lies in the physical mechanics of optics.

But putting physics aside, don’t we all too often attempt to see an opposite and upside down image of ourselves?

There have been countless comic movies centered around the naturally aging woman of 50 who dresses, acts, and attempts to believe that she’s still 18. Yes, she uses mirrors (and plastic surgery) in her promotion of this false image. But it’s all smoke and mirrors. For all of time, time has relentlessly marched onward.

The biggest lies we tell are those we tell ourselves.

But the mirrors we use, the one from Bed, Bath and Beyond and that figurative mirror we use to see our inner self – can both expose our self-deceptions.

But like the woman in the movie, we can deceive ourselves only up to a point.

And then the wife says, “We need to talk.”

That’s an easy conservation (with the wife) compared to the one where the inner self finally awakens – or an outside spiritual entity slaps you in the face with reality and truth – and you are led to that uncomfortable place where you sit across the table from yourself.

The room is bare except for an empty table and two chairs. A bright light hangs from above, the room is thick with tension. And then the uncomfortable interrogation begins.

This will be uncomfortable.It may be painful, but believe me – it is a very, very GOOD thing. Robert Frost said it best:

Wad the gift the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us.

Only when we are given this gift of perfect vision – can we finally see ourselves as we really are! And only when we accept this precious gift – can we understand and know!

We can know who we are.

We can know what we are.

And we can see and know what we can be!


 

 

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