Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies Vol. 47, December 2016, Issue 3
To read the complete short story, click on this link:
Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies Vol. 47, December 2016, Issue 3
To read the complete short story, click on this link:
I tend to collect stuff – usually not collectible things like stamps or coins or Beanie Babies (are people crazy?). I like to collect odd things. It’s the child in me and I am not about to apologize for that and I am not about to change it. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I imagine he’s right (see what I did there?).
As to keeping the child in me alive, I would like to make the point that children start off with imagination, and then we adults try to force them into emptying the “imagination” part of their brains so we can help them fill those brains with knowledge. We do that in order to help them make rational decisions like buying Beanie Babies off eBay. Don’t ask me why; I don’t have a clue.
As to the motivation for collecting odd things, ask any child why they picked up and kept a rock that had an unusual band of color in it, had a fossil in it, or had a funny shape. Their reasoning tends to be relatively simple. They did it because they liked it and they liked it because it was cool. Try to argue with that. It will take all of the knowledge you’ve acquired and even then, you’ll lose. That reasoning is sufficient for them, and it is sufficient for me. Besides keeping something for the memories involved in whatever I’ve collected, I most often keep something because I think it’s cool – or I keep it because I can imagine a story behind it. Let me give you an example of something I’ve kept, and will go on keeping. It is something I am pretty damn proud of. Spoiler alert – it involves rocks.The fossils in this picture are called crinoids stems. They are the fossilized remains of an aquatic animal called a crinoid. When I was going to college in Carbondale, Illinois, I enjoyed hunting fossils in the old strip mines. I never found anything of value or anything very cool (I knew a guy who found a fossilized nautilus, the bastard!). But I did find a lot of fossilized crinoid stems – so many of them that I stopped bending over to pick them up. I kept a few, but over the years the majority of them have gotten lost in our many moves (my wife and I might be considered migratory).
The rock theme continues. I have some arrowheads. I keep them because they’re cool, and because my father, my brother (my last remaining brother) and I walked miles and miles of fields looking for them several years in a row in early spring, right after a rain. I keep them because someone spent a long time making them – some Indian looked for the right rock, and began chipping away all of the excess rock until the arrowhead revealed itself.So, how do crinoid stems and arrowheads converge in my story? This is how they converge. I was looking at arrowheads on eBay, thinking of buying a few nice ones to finish off a frame of arrowheads when I came upon one arrowhead – a single arrowhead on eBay. Unless the arrowhead is rare and valuable, no one sells a single arrowhead, but on this particular day, someone was doing just that. They had it listed as “Arrowhead with a hole in it.”
Look, no self-respecting arrowhead collector would ever intentionally buy a single arrowhead with a hole in it. But I like to collect odd things, and the description “self-respecting” left this old body long ago. So, I clicked on the link to look at the arrowhead; and sure enough, it had a hole in it. What makes the arrowhead unusual, and of interest to me is that the hole looked a lot like a doughnut. The hole had a ring around it. I zoomed in as close as I could to discover that hole with the ring around it was, in fact, a fossilized crinoid stem.
Here’s the thing. At some time in the past – not sure how long ago – some Indian found a rock with something in it. He (or she) kept it because it was odd – maybe he liked it because it was cool. He (or she) put his (or her) imagination to work and chipped away all of the excess rock until the arrowhead revealed itself. I like to think about this Indian and what motivated him (damn it! or her) to make an arrowhead that had no real value because the hole makes it damn near useless as an arrowhead – but that hole – the fossilized crinoid stem – made that arrowhead cool. I am thinking the reason the Indian made the arrowhead with the hole in the middle was – for the same reason I keep it – because it’s cool!
I turned 68 this past year which means I am less than two years away from being 70. That is not an age I look forward to. It is, in my mind, the age when we go from being old to being elderly. And elderly is one of the words people use when it is time to start looking for a retirement home or a nursing home – or to start making plans to move in with one of the kids. God help them; God help me!
I think of 70 in this manner. If life were a flight across the ocean on a Boeing 747, 70 is the age when the pilot shuts off the in-flight entertainment system, and announces the cockpit is making preparations to land. It is the time when he (or she) tells the cabin crew to prepare for the landing and tells all of us passengers to return to our seats, to make sure our tray tables are up, to make sure our seats are up, to give all of our trash to the attendants and to turn off all of our electrical devices. It is that time when the attendants walk down the aisle to make sure we have our seat belts fastened. It is that part of the flight that is filled with a certain amount of apprehension. Will the plane crash on landing? Will my luggage be at the terminal or will it be lost? Will I go to Heaven? If two out of three ain’t bad, I am more than willing to give up my luggage.
Things being what they are, I am not optimistic that I have another ten years to live. I suspect I will be lucky to make it to 75. It seems a lot of people die around that age; and from what I can tell, I tend to be one of those “down the middle” kind of people when it comes to statistics and shit like that. I am old – on the verge of elderly – so I can use word like shit.
I have a brother who is two years, two months and one week older than me. We are the last remaining members of a family of five boys – six boys if you count the first child who died shortly after birth. My mother saw fit to count him and mourned his death all of her life so I think I will count him too. With that in mind, perhaps I should correct myself, we are the last members of a family of six boys. Anyway, my brother, by rights of first in – first out, should die before me by at least two years, two months and one week. I am hoping that doesn’t happen. He has grandchildren who love him and for their sake, I hope he lives longer than me. I hope he is the last man standing so his two grandchildren can get the maximum benefit of his benevolent ignorance. It isn’t really ignorance – more like southern pseudo wisdom under the guise of entertainment. They, his granddaughters, love that and love him.
My mother lived to be 92. Ever hear of the term “one off?” That, I am afraid, is what my mother was. My father died in his late 50s, my brother got killed in the Navy when he was 26 or so, another brother died when he was in his mid 60s and another brother died in his early 60s. Taking my mother out of the equation, I am already tilting my family’s longevity scale. My brother has tilted it even more than me – again by two years, two months and one week.
I do not mind coming to grips with my pending death. I have lived a fairly interesting life and I am grateful to God that my journey went from being a sharecropper chopping cotton for $4 a day to flying in the back seat of Navy attack aircraft, to living in Europe and having expensive dinners at fine restaurants in Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne, London, Stockholm and Turin. I am grateful that I have two children who, just by thinking of them, give me joy, and a wife who has put up with me all these years.
Before this metaphorical plane that is my life lands, I have some shit that I need to get done. I spent most of my adult life looking after my wife and children, making whatever sacrifices I had to make for their individual and collective benefits. I gladly put aside whatever I wanted to do – what was important to my self-identity to make sure the three of them could extend themselves to distant horizons. The thing is, now that I believe I am within seven or so years of the end of my life, I have shit to do. People call it a bucket list. I don’t. I just have some things that I need to do. One of those is to write a ten volume series of novellas, to finish a novel I am writing, and to learn to draw and paint several painting that simply will not leave my poor bedraggled mind. These are the things I have to do within the next seven or ten years to confirm my identity, to prepare for land, so to speak. The plane is circling.
By DG Crum
Oh, how I fear to walk that final path,
To bring to end my destiny,
For I have carried not the load
My Master gave to me.
Death comes, unapologetic,
Belligerent, unremorseful, No knowledge, nor care about life.
Its only goal is to harvest,
The crops remaining in the field,
Who are running, stumbling, struggling,
Kneeling, dealing, pleading, dying.
Death coldly plays it to the end.
Death comes, uncaring about hope,
Selfishly plain; you live to die.
Do not talk to Death of intent
It has no interest in your dreams.
It cares only of your last fears,
That you tremble in its presence;
Knowing your hopes and dreams are gone,
That Death will coldly conquer life.
Death comes, belonging to no one,
Singularly detached, alone.
It deals in neither love nor hate,
And cares not about family,
Not of husband, father, brother,
Not of wife, mother, nor sister,
Families are but shocks in the field.
Death coldly reaps the family.
Death comes, as the eternal jester,
Willfully ignorant of life
And the omnipotent nature,
Of souls, present and eternal.
Death reaps blindly in the field
Playing its part without knowing
The soul has escaped its harvest,
And that only the soul is life.
Upfront, I apologize for this being so long.
Generally speaking, I should not be using this site for political comment because I do not want to alienate readers, but I am going to make a comment this one time. I think that what I have to say is not about one party versus the other or one candidate versus the other, but more about one of the mistakes we are making in the way we view our political system. I think, if we change that, we would start to resolve some of our social and political problems.
It seems to me that we, as a nation of people, are so polarized that it has become difficult to ever see a path toward coalescence, and this polarization is creating conflict:
Instead of a nation of 322 million people working as a team to solve our problems, we are fracturing our culture and breaking ourselves up into competing teams. I believe we can easily find evidence that this approach is not only not solving our problems, but may be creating additional problems.
The problem, as I see it, is that we view our political orientation as being either Right (conservatives), Middle (moderates), or Left (Liberals). It is a plane that serves as a sliding scale where folks who are very conservative see themselves as having nothing in common with folks who are very liberal. It looks like this.
This system came to us from the French National Assembly in the late 1780s. The labels of Left and Right came about because of where politicians sat, in relationship to the president, based upon their beliefs regarding the government. Those who sat to the left did so because they believed in revolution while those who sat to the right believed in religion and the king. The press used the labels Left and Right as a means of easily describing a politician’s position on the issue of revolution or support for the king. Today, as we apply this model to our country, we tend to make it a ‘one or the other’ scenario – no liberal can agree with a conservative and vice versa or the press tells us the sky is falling.
I believe the model we use to describe our political system would better serve us if it were a circle instead of a plane. I feel it should look like this.
With this model, we can see where Liberals on the extreme left and Conservatives on the extreme right (both considered radicals) can often have similar ideals regarding such issues as government involvement in our lives. It would explain why the ACLU often has similar ideals regarding the Constitution as do Libertarians. Oddly enough, people whose politics tend to be radical in either the Liberal or Conservative ideology tend to be polar opposite of people who consider themselves Moderate.
The model I’ve drawn is not quite accurate but it is the best I can do. The reality is that the blue Moderate range extends more into the Liberal and Conservative ranges, when seen as a percent of the population. For most social issues such as gun ownership, women’s reproductive rights, involvement in the wars of other countries, etc., better than 60% of the population fall in the moderate range.
I look forward to your feedback on this.
There’s a patch of woods along the road,
That leads from my house into town.
Through winter I barely took notice,
Of woods draped in a widow’s gown.
A frozen road of gravel and clay,
I walk it, seems like twice a week,
To the Village Store for food and post,
The owner nods, we rarely speak. Continue reading
Green is the garden of Greta Jones,
Who lives in a house that creaks and moans,
On the edge of town, where she lives alone,
And feeds her garden on the flesh and bone,
Of the village children, who with sticks and stones,
Taunt the spinster known as Greta Jones.
The instructor for our drawing class gave us the assignment of drawing an inanimate object and having it display emotion. We could not put eyes, lips, etc, on the object; but instead, we had to draw the object in a setting that would display emotion.
I kept thinking about that assignment and how it fits my life. My poor wife has been trying to get my inanimate butt to show some kind of motion around the house – to do some work. I know it is not the same as emotion, but still, for this story, go with me on it. It is not as easy as it would seem it should be. I am getting lazier as I get older and no matter how much work I do, there is still a great deal of work left to be done.
This is my second or third drawing and while I did not achieve all that the teacher wants me to achieve (does anyone, ever?), I think I did okay since I have only been in class for one month.
I’ve got too much crap. My house borders on being a landfill which probably means I live on the hoarder border. It is an addiction, and it’s not so much that I want to own stuff as it is an abused need to set things right. I want to be a hero to inanimate objects, and that is a problem.
When, for example, I see a table that needs some loving care, such as some wood glue, a few repaired or replaced pieces, a new finish or is just cool but …. broken, I will buy it. I bought an old rocker that had three good legs and one split leg that had so damn many nails in it (26 to be exact) that I kept the chair…. and the leg. (If I ever need an antique nail, I may know where to find one.) The chair had sat under a leaky something and suffered from water damage along the back and in the seat. I pretty much cleaned all that up, had a friend make a new leg out of oak, and then refinished the rocker. It now sits in our family room which is pitifully overcrowded with five desk, two sofas, two overstuffed chairs, a recliner, and two office chairs, a TV and stand, a book case thing made from an old ladder (another one of my misguided efforts to save something), an old trunk that I want to convert into something, and a curio full of stuff I’ve saved. Do you see what I mean?
I bought an 18 inch round beveled mirror the other day at The Salvation Army. I think it comes from the 50s. You know why I bought it? Because it was dirty and had crap crusted on it and I felt sorry for it. Yep! I felt sorry for a mirror – not because it had my reflection in it – that’s a whole different story. I bought it because the glass is thick and I can make a nice mirror top table with it. All I have to do now is find a small round table that has been mistreated and pulls at my heart strings, saying “Mr. Weird Man, will you please save me, I didn’t always look like this.” And I will buy it, find the mirror – after I’ve moved it from one place to the other five or six times – and create a nice little mirror top table. Or I won’t and the mirror will just get put out in my next garage sale this spring.
One of these days I will die and if my wife is still alive and lucid (my wife says I am driving her crazy – how damn far can that journey be?), all of my stuff will either go out on an estate type sale or will be placed into one of those large garbage skids to be taken away. I plea the 5th on any scenario that might occur if I outlive my wife. Regardless, when both my wife and I are gone, our son and daughter will bring in two large skids and empty the house. That seems like a good plan.