Danny’s Training

IMG_2459Today I’m writing to my fellow dogs. I want to tell of how I trained my human, his name is Andrew.

I started the training right away, right after I adopted him. We were in the back yard and I was running around sniffing all the wonderful scents and enjoying being a dog when Andrew called me over. He had a ball in his hand and he threw it to the other side of the yard. Then he said “Fetch” and added, “Go get it boy!” So that’s what fetch means.

Well, I just looked at him and thought, If you wanted the ball so bad why did you throw it away to begin with? After Andrew fetched the ball and threw it a few more times and fetched it a few more times, he got the idea that I’m not a ball chasing kind of dog. I know some of you like to chase balls and sticks, but not me.

Next, I had to train him when we took our walks. We all know that walks are not for exercise, doing your “business” or to enjoy the scenery. Walks are for sniffing where other dogs have gone before. But humans just don’t get it.

At first, Andrew would let me sniff for a few seconds and then tug on the insidious leash he makes me wear. But I planted my feet, all four of them, firmly on the ground. The only thing that moved was my collar when it slipped off. Then he bought me a chest harness. It’s green and looks good against my brown fur if I do say so myself. Anyway, that didn’t work either, I just dug in deeper. Now Andrew waits patiently while I get my sniffing done.

The last thing I want to tell you about is what Andrew calls my passive resistance. You all know how much fun it is to roll around on the grass. Well, I happen to like it more than most dogs. And when I’m done, I lay there with a smile on my face. Of course, Andrew is always in a rush to get home. But I’m not moving until I’m ready, so he drags me along the soft grass like a sack of potatoes (it feels good) until he sees I’m not getting up. Then I’m left alone to get up under my own volition. I got that idea from reading a book about some guy named Gandhi.

Okay, that’s it. Now get out there and train your humans. They will thank you for it and be much happier.

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Danny’s Misery

IMG_2238Morning folks, it me Danny the Dog. I’m here today to tell ya’all of my two days of misery.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning., I mean the very beginning.

Ever since I was a little shaver, my human has alawys kept me near. He worked for himself, so I could always go with him on his jobs. We’ve been together ten years or more and I’ve gotten used to him. When I was younger, he did leave me home on occassion, but who cared? There was a cat next door that I used to watch from the window as it sat under a tree. That was fun, and it kept me occupied all day. Anyway, here’s the thing. Somewhere along the way, I got used to having him around. Oh, I forgot to mention that three years ago he stopped working and became a writer, so he’s home all the time now, he never goes out. Maybe that’s it, but whatever it is, I like having him around, but don’t ask me why.

So here’s what happened. The night before last, he went out for the first time in a long time without taking me. As he was leaving I asked him to take me with him. I know I was barking, but he understands me. We live on a boat now and he said only, “STAY!” I mean is that anyway to speak to man’s best friend?

Well, he was gone only a few hours and when he came home, I wagged my tail until it almost fell off.

After that, I reckoned everything would go back to normal. But no, Andrew, that’s my human’s name, got up bright and early the next morning (something he never does) and after I took him for a walk, he started to leave me, again! I couldn’t believe it, not again. It was invidious of him to say the least. And I let Andrew know it in no uncertain terms.  Well, it didn’t matter what I said, he left me alone anyway. And this time he was gone all day.

I was very unhappy, and kind of lonely. So the only thing I could think to do was was get up on his chair, where he sits when he writes, and spend the day there waiting for Andrew to come home.

When he finally came in, I cried a little bit (the first time in my life). But I’ve got to hand it to Andrew. When he saw how lonely I’d been he told that he would never leave me alone again for more than a few minutes. I don’t know what minutes are, but by his voice and the way he scratched my neck, I know he loves me. So I forgive him.

Sisyphus

I heard his footfalls, as I do everyday. He stopped in front of my cell as he does everyday. He smiled his evil smile and said, “Are you ready boy?”

Everyday I am given a task to complete. And if accomplished, I will be set free. However, the tasks are always inexecutable.

“Today,” said he, “I want you to write a story. It must be exactly seventy-nine words and have a plot and characterization.”

“Damn you to hell warden!”

Hard Love

(With apologies to Leonard Cohen)

As the man said, “I don’t have to be forgiven for loving you so much.” I need forgiveness for “not calling you soft enough.” There ain’t no cure for you babe, there just ain’t no cure.

I say our love is soft because we make no demands on one another; our lovemaking is soft and gentle. You are soft and gentle, and you have given me your soft and gentle love.

I am sorry I let you down the other night; I was not right in my head. I had a problem that does not concern you. I know that you would say that everything about me concerns you, but not this babe.”

That is as far as I got on the phone before we were cut off. That was two days ago. Since then I’ve been on the dodge; there are men who are looking for me and want to kill me.

It’s a long story, but I am slated to die. The only thing that matters is that I get to Julie without putting her in danger. I have to fade away, and I need her to go with me.

You see, I was doing work for these men and something went wrong. What went wrong is not the point. Just know they want me dead. However, my saving grace is that they do not know about Julie, yet.

I’m on my way to Julie and I will be with her. We will live our lives together or I will be killed trying to reach her. They know my car, and men have been sent out to find me.

Julie lives off of Pico near the Sunset Strip. I drive by her apartment and see her car, she is home.

I park a block away and before getting out of my car, I slide the 9mm into my back pocket. Just as a precaution. My plan is to tell her to pack for an overnight trip. I’ll buy her whatever she needs or wants once we get to where we are going, if we get to where we are going.

I scan the neighborhood as I approach her building, all is clear.

She is happy to see me and I con her into thinking I am going to take her to the mountains for a two-day romantic holiday.

She has packed a bag that I am carrying and we are on the street when all hell breaks loose. The first bullet whizzes by my ear, the second hits me in the shoulder and spins me halfway around.

The first thing I do is push Julie to the ground, and then I pull my 9mm. There are three of them. The first is an easy target. He is only yards away; a bullet to his right eye takes care of him. The second is half hidden behind a Mercedes, it takes two shots, but then he is splayed on the street, his lifeblood flowing into the gutter.

The third assassin is running for his life; we are safe for now. But he fired at me when Julie was with me, and for that he must die. There are no pedestrians. I take my stance and take my time. When he is sighted, I squeeze the trigger. I do not wait for him to fall, I know he is dead.

I reach down and extend my hand to Julie lying on the payment. When she is on her feet, I wipe the tears from her eyes and tell her that we have the rest our lives to discuss what just happened, but right then we had to hightail it before the cops showed up. That is why I love her. She didn’t ask any damn fool questions. Instead, she smiled at me, touched the blood seeping through my jacket and said, “Let’s go.”

That was three years ago. We are now living somewhere I do not care to mention. Our first child is on the way (Julie is so radiant). I found a job as a mechanic at a local repair shop and for the first time since I was a kid, I do not have to sleep with a gun under my pillow. We are very happy. Our love is no longer soft. It is hard as granite, as hard as the earth upon which we stand.

Probabilities

I’m in full battle gear in the year 2004 and I’m sweating my ass off. It’s gotta be at least 110 degrees and it’s not even daylight yet! We’re going out to man a checkpoint north of the city and we’re all kind of skittish. The day before, two of our outfit were blown to bits, one of them my best friend. And three others were so messed up they had to be evacuated to Germany for treatment.

I should never have enlisted, but sitting in my dorm room on that Tuesday morning watching the towers fall, I felt I had to do something. But I didn’t get to go to Afghanistan. No, I get deployed to Iraq to fight a murderous thug that had nothing to do with 9/11. And now the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that we don’t know who we’re fighting.

Because replacements for those killed and wounded yesterday have not yet been assigned to our platoon, I find myself in command. I am only a corporal, but I outrank the other five men. We’re supposed to set up a checkpoint on a lightly traveled road into the city. The captain told me we would not encounter more than twenty vehicles all day, which is probably why he put a twenty-three year old corporal in charge.

We are traveling in a two-vehicle convoy. I am in the lead Humvee and with me are Hernandez and Scott. Behind us are Reilly, Simms, Grabowski and our interpreter. Simms is sitting in his sling, manning the .50 cal machine gun. The night is dark in spite of the half-moon hanging in the western sky; electricity is sporadic, sometimes it’s on and sometimes not. Because of the darkness, the stars seem close and bright. As we make our way into the desert, I think of Jimmy, my friend that was killed yesterday, and what a waste of a life his death was.

Without warning, I peripherally see a flash and then I hear the explosion; it came from behind. Turning, I see the Humvee in flames; no one is moving. They’ve been hit with an IED, an improvised exploding device. Reilly has pulled off to the side of the road and we three run back to help our comrades. But we might as well have continued on. They are all dead.

Then Hernandez shouts, he is pointing to the east. He tells me he saw a shadowy figure running towards a house about one hundred meters away. I am in command and I must make a decision. I tell Scott to call in what has happened and stay here until help arrives. Then I take Hernandez with me and we start off for the house.

At the door, I do not knock, I kick at the latch. The door swings inward, it is not locked. Hernandez and I stand at the threshold, moonlight slants in through a window, illuminating the room before us. There are two couches against one wall that face a television that sits against the opposite wall. To the left, at the far end of the room, is a rectangular table with six chairs around it. To the right is a hallway the leads off into darkness. On the far side of the room is another hallway with four closed doors, two on either side. Figuring that the hallway on the right leads to a kitchen, and if the man we are looking for came to this house he would most likely be in one of the four rooms, I send Hernandez to the right with a nod of my head and I go toward the four doors.

A few minutes ago I was angry, now as I approach the first door on the right I am angry and scared. I flatten myself against the wall and with my gun at the ready I push the door open. I expect bullets to come flying out, but nothing happens. In the dim light I see two mattresses lying on the floor and not much else. Then I cross the hall and open that door in the same manner and see just about the same thing, two mattresses on the floor and a bureau against the far wall.

I don’t know what makes me so sure the man we’re after is in this particular house. Maybe because it’s the closest building to the explosion, but whatever the reason, I am sure he’s here. And I’m just as sure that he’s behind one of the two doors that I have yet to open. My mouth is dry, my heart is racing, and I’m scared. Where the hell is Hernandez?

I guess it doesn’t matter where he is. He’s doing his job and I must do mine. Because I’m closest to the door on the left, I choose that one to open next.

The door swings in easily. I am not against the wall this time because I have come to the realization that the walls are so thin they offer no protection from bullets. This room is different, there is very little light. There are curtains on the window and they are drawn shut but a little moonlight comes in from around the edges. A mattress sits on a box spring and a frame, it is a double bed. Great, now I’ll have to get down and look under it, but first the rest of the room. There’s a dresser and an old fashioned wardrobe against the near wall. In the far corner there is something indistinct. Is that the glint of moonlight on metal that I see? It is! It’s a man holding a gun!

Without hesitation I open fire. I rake my gun back and forth, twice, and then stop firing. By now Hernandez is by my side looking for a target. That’s when we hear the scream. Before we can react the lights come on; the electricity must be working again.

I wish the lights had stayed off. The sight before me is too much to bear. There is a woman sitting on the floor screaming, and as far as I’m concerned, she has something to scream about. Her face is covered with blood and she’s holding a baby or what used to be a baby. It is now a corpse with half its head missing. Next to the woman lie two children, both boys. One is about twelve and the other looks to be two years younger. They are both dead, their eyes open, but not seeing. The younger of the two holds a puppy, a mutt, also dead.

In front of the boys, and next to the woman is a man. In his left arm, and tight to his chest, he holds a little girl, and in his right hand he holds a knife. I can’t help but fixate on the knife. It is just like the one my father used on Thanksgiving. How many times did I watch him as he sharpened that knife in anticipation of carving up a big juicy turkey? The man and the little girl are dead, and still the woman screams. She holds the baby in her right arm and with her left; she shakes the boy nearest her, the one with the puppy, as though trying to wake him from a deep sleep. And still she screams.

Hernandez now turns from the carnage and says the words that I will never forget.

“That’s not the man I saw running. He was dressed in dark clothes. This man is wearing white.”

This man was only trying to protect his family. That was his crime!

The house is now filling with soldiers. The captain is beside me, he’s saying something, but the words are indistinct. My eyes are locked onto the woman’s eyes. She has now stopped screaming, she is quiet. She is looking right into my eyes. I want to turn and run, but I cannot break off the eye contact. To do so would prove me the coward that I am, so we look into each other’s souls until someone lifts her from the pooling blood of her loved ones, still clutching the dead baby. She is being led out of the room. She is docile, but at the door she stops and turns to give me one last look. I think she is trying to memorize my face. Her face, I will never forget, it is burned into my memory.

I’m brought back to the base where they try to debrief me, but I refuse to speak. Hernandez is then brought in and is asked what happened. He explains that he was in another part of the house before and during the shooting, he did not know what precipitated the incident. Hernandez is then dismissed. It is decided that I must be in shock, so I am sent to the base hospital for treatment and observation. Three days later, I am released and sent back to my unit.

While I’m in the hospital, a sergeant has been assigned to our platoon, and the replacements for Reilly, Simms and Grabowski are also in residence. I am surprised, and a little mystified, when I am not summoned to explain the shooting of an entire unarmed family. It seems the incident has been hushed up. Officially it never happened.

I no longer feel the comradeship or the Esprit de corps of our unit; I just want to be left alone. Eventually the men do leave me to myself after a few attempts to bring me “out of my funk” have been rebuffed.

The platoon has been idle since the night I murdered that family, all but the mother. I spend my days lying on my bunk, staring at the ceiling and seeing her face. I try to find out her name and where she is, not that I have the courage to approach her. But I’m told to let the matter lie, that there is nothing I can do to change what happened. I have to agree. Then I make a decision that is the first, small step to my redemption.

The captain walks in and tells the sergeant to have the squad assemble, he has orders to convey. The men stop what they are doing and gather in front of the captain. I remain where I am, lying on my bunk. I see the captain nod to the sergeant, who in turn yells, “Soldier, front and center!” I remain where I am. The sergeant comes to my bunk, and standing over me says, “On your feet soldier.” I remain where I am. He turns to the captain for guidance. The captain nods and the sergeant grabs the mattress and flips it and me onto the floor. The mattress and I remain where we landed. The sergeant once again looks to the captain. I cannot see the captain from my vantage point on the floor, but the sergeant retreats and I hear a whispered conversation followed by the captain’s voice giving orders for a mission.

The captain leaves and everyone gives me a wide berth lest they be contaminated by whatever is afflicting me. A few minutes later, I am surrounded by four MPs, very large MPs. Without preamble, I am hoisted to my feet and half dragged and half walked out of the door. Once outside, I am given the option of walking under my own power or being knocked out and carried. I chose the former.

The base has no jail or holding cells. If someone has to be incarcerated, he is sent to Abu Ghraib, Saddam Hussein’s infamous prison now run by the coalition. I, on the other hand, am thrown unceremoniously into a small, windowless room. The door is closed and I hear the click of the lock. There is nothing in the room but four bare walls and the floor.

About an hour later, sitting on the floor, I once again here the click of the lock. The door opens and in walks the captain with a major that I am not familiar with. “Attention!” the captain barks. I remain seated. The captain and major look at one another and then the major raises his hand as a sign for the captain to let him handle things.

“What’s the problem son? What happened the other night bothering you? asks the major. His voice is soft and kind, like he really wants to know what is on my mind. I stand and face him, “Yes sir, I wiped out a family and I will not take another order that will put me in that position again. You can court-martial me, hang me, shoot me or draw and quarter me, But I’m not going out there again, sir.”

The major nods as though he understands. Without another word, he turns and waits for the captain to open the door. Then they are gone and I am left with the vision of her eyes. They are dark, and surprisingly enough there is no hate in them. Only the one question, “Why?” She wants to know why. If I could, I’d tell her the simple truth. I was afraid. That is why her family had to die.

I am given an honorable discharge with the proviso that if I ever speak of that night to anyone, especially a member of the media, I will be prosecuted for murder. They need not worry on that account. I have no need to speak of it, I see her eyes, her face, and I think of those dead bodies every waking moment of my existence.

Black Haired Beauty

We were in love … so in love. It was summertime, it was the beginning of our lives. It was the end of our lives. She was a black hair beauty, loving me as no one has ever loved me. The time spent with her was so sweet. Her skin, her smile, her everything … I loved her so much. So it’s funny how things worked out.
Her father did not approve of me, he thought me a loser, not good enough for his daughter. When I came calling, he would show his disapproval of me by addressing me as the bug he thought I was. Never a civil word.
But she and I were in love. The old man didn’t matter … nothing mattered. We had nothing to lose. We had each other.
We decided to run away … we were in love … we were young …
So sweet …
I went to her house that night … that horrible night. She was to be outside waiting for me, but she wasn’t. Instead, her father met me. He had a gun.
I loved his daughter and because of that, he pointed the gun at me and squeezed the trigger.
The gun misfired.
Without thinking, I took the gun from him. Without thinking, I turned the gun and pointed it at him. Without thinking, I killed him.
Now I am awaiting my execution … I sit in a prison cell and think of my black haired beauty.

Fishin’

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Johnny Donohue was my best friend when I was twelve-years old. During the summers and on Saturdays we would go fishing in the early hours of the morning. Because we would arise at 3:00 am, and meet shortly thereafter, we called it “Going fishing at three in the morning.”

This particular Saturday morning when I arrived at Johnny’s house (his house was closer to the lake), two of his three brothers were milling about outside. His brother Terry was a year younger and hung out with us quite a bit, so it was no surprise to see him. But, his youngest brother Matt, who was only six, was a different story. Before I could ask Johnny what was up with Matt, he, Matt, comes running up to me saying, “I want to go fishin’.”

Johnny approaches me and says, “If I try to leave him behind he’ll just follow us or make such a racket, he’ll wake up my parents.” So we bow to the inevitable, and let Matt follow us as we start for the lake. It wasn’t really a lake; it was what was called a rock pit. A rock pit being a place that was once dry land until a land company came in and started dredging the land for use in driving back the Everglades, so development can take place where once saw grass grew. What was left when they had taken as much gravel, dirt, and muck as possible was a small lake. We were lucky, there were two such lakes within blocks of where we lived. They were identical, about a quarter mile long and half as wide, and they were separated by a spit of land about a hundred yards wide.

Our 3:00 am fishing routine consisted of me, Johnny, sometimes Terry, our fishing poles, a frying pan, a can of baked beans, and a stick of butter.  At sunrise we would stop fishing, clean our catch, build a fire, and cook the fish we had caught moments before. And of course, coming from good Irish (Boston) stock, we always had a side dish of Boston baked beans.

As a rule, we always fished the north lake. Why, I don’t know, probably because that’s the lake we swam in and we felt comfortable there. However, this morning we were fishing the south lake, and by the time the sun was fixing to come up, we had caught nothing. Matt may have helped our bad luck along by throwing rocks into the water right where our lines were. So, we decided to call it day, or a night, or whatever; it was still dark out when we reeled in our lines and started for home.

Johnny, Terry and I were walking north along the western shore of the south lake, Matthew was somewhere behind us. There was no need to fret about Matt, we were only blocks from his home, which he knew his way to as well as we did; and there were no “Bad Guys” to worry about, it was 1962 after all. But with what happened in the next few minutes, it just goes to show you how wrong a guy can be. At this point, it’s still pitch black out, but a gray sky is only minutes away.

As we neared the bit of land between the two lakes, we heard a sound, which immediately put us on guard. At the time our neighborhood was in the boondocks and we have never run into another living soul in all the years we went fishing at three o’clock in the morning. The sound was a scrapping sound, immediately followed by a sound that sounded like “plod.” “Scratch, plod, scratch, plod,” it had a kind of rhythm. By now the dawn had broken, it was light enough, barely, to see where the sound was coming from, and who was making it.

From fifty yards away, we could make out the silhouettes of two men and a car. The bigger of the two was leaning against the car, arms folded, watching the other digging a hole. That was the sound we had heard, the scrapping of the shovel as it was thrust into the sand, and the sand as it was heaved onto the slowly growing pile that lay in front of the man doing the digging. As we stood there watching this strange sight, it got stranger. The big guy went to the trunk, opened it, and dragged out a dead body, or what sure looked like a dead body in the semi-darkness.

At the first glimpse of the body, all three of us dropped as one and lay prone on the ground. After all, we were the first generation of children raised on television; we’ve seen enough to know that witnesses always get “rubbed out.” Dead men tell no tales.

Johnny and I were right next to each other, with Terry behind us. We lay in that position for about five minutes wondering what would be the best course of action to take that would not end up with all three of us with bullets in our backs. Johnny and I were for slowly crawling out so as not to be seen, and Terry was for jumping up and making a run for it. Well wouldn’t you know it, little Matthew decided which course of action we should take, and it was none of the above.

As we lay there conducting the great debate, we see Matt walking up to the two men from the opposite direction. He must have circumnavigated the lake, and was heading in the general direction of home; the only problem being two bad guys were between him and his home. Because he was so small, and the men so intent on what they were doing, Matt was able to walk right up the hole being dug and peer into it. Even from our vantage point, we could see the men react as all reasonable men would react when burying a corpse at six o’clock in the morning without a permit; they nearly jumped out of their skins.

After taking a moment to regroup, the bigger of the two, the one not shoveling, grabbed Matt by the arm, and forced marched him about ten feet before flinging him in the direction of the street. Of course, the little kid stumbled and fell. He sat there looking up at that big bully as the man pointed to the street. You didn’t need to read lips to know the guy was telling Matt to scram.

Now, if I may, I’d like to digress for a moment and tell you about Johnny, Terry, and myself. Johnny and I were good kids. We were altar boys, we never gave the nuns at school any trouble, we were the same in those days. We kept our noses clean. Of course, as we got older and joined the Boy Scouts, Johnny made Eagle Scout while I never made it out of Tenderfoot. Johnny went on to become an FBI agent, and I went on to break many, many laws with impunity. But, on that morning we thought alike. Now Terry on the other hand was a holy terror. Whenever he hung with us, we could expect to either be reprimanded by someone, or punished by our parents when we got home. All the Donohue boys, except Terry had red hair and freckles, Terry was different, he was a blond. Come to think of it, he was different in a lot of ways. I tell you these things so you will understand why things turned out as they did.

Back to the story: When we left off Matt was sitting on the ground with Mr. Big standing over him.

As Matt hit the ground, Johnny jumped up and yelled, “My brother!” and starts running in the direction of all the excitement. Because he’s my pal, I’m two steps behind him and Terry is a step behind me. We reached the scene of the crime and inject ourselves between Mr. Big and Matthew. When he sees us, the big guy turns to the guy shoveling and says,” Hey Nicky, the cavalry to the rescue.”

When he sees us, Nicky drops the shovel and pulls out a gun he had tucked into his belt, and points it at us. At this turn of events, Mr. Big says to Nicky, “Put the fuckin’ gun away, pick up your fuckin’ shovel, and dig the goddamn hole.” I thought Nicky was going to shoot him. I would have if someone spoke to me like that. But Nicky only shrugged, slipped the gun back into his belt, and resumed his spadework.

“So kids what’s the problem,” says Mr. Big “Why don’t you be good little tikes and just run along home.” When we heard this, Jonny and I looked at one another, and spoke in that silent language only very close fiends speak; we both knew our troubles were over. All we had to do was walk away from there, go home, tell our parents, and they would take the appropriate steps to deal with the situation.

As Johnny takes Matt by the hand, and we turn to leave, we hear, “You guys gonna bury that dead body?” “Fuckin’ Terry” was my only thought at the moment. I don’t know what Johnny was thinking, but by the look on his face, he was thinking along similar lines. With that bit of oratory, Nicky again drops his shovel and pulls out his gun. Mr. Big just stares at him until Nicky meekly puts the gun back in his belt. But in an act of defiance, he does not resume his shoveling duties. So there we are; four kids, two bad guys and a corpse. “What next,” was probably the only thought going through everyone’s head, except for Matt and Terry. Matt was too young to comprehend the situation, and Terry was just getting warmed up.

As we stood there in this Mexican standoff, we hear a groan coming from the corpse. Then the corpse raises itself on one arm and shakes its head. Now I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Big, if nothing else, he was a fast thinker. I could tell he was just as surprised as the rest of us at the resurrection taking place, probably more so; but without missing a beat he turns to Terry and says, “You talkin’ about Marty, he’s no dead body; he just had too much to drink.” I’m thinking, “Saved by the bell, all we’ve got to do is play dumb and we can walk out here.”

And no sooner had I thought those encouraging thoughts, I hear, “Then why are you digging the hole?”

You guessed it, Fuckin’ Terry again. But no one pays any attention to him, Marty is slowly getting to his feet, and all eyes are upon this Lazarus like spectacle. The only one present who does anything is Nicky; he pulls out his gun again. Mr. Big walks over to him, slaps him on the back of the head, and says, “Not in front of the k-i-d-s.” How old did this guy think we were that we couldn’t spell kids? But that was cool, if he wanted us stupid, we could be the stupidest sons of bitches you ever saw. But unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to exhibit our acting talents. Just then, Marty says to no one in particular, “You fuckin’ assholes, you tried to kill me!”

“We ain’t done trying yet,” was Nicky’s retort. With that brilliant statement, in front of witnesses none the less, Mr. Big loses his cool. He turns to Nicky and screams, “Alright, just shoot the bastard once and for all. Kill him before I kill you, you sorry son of a bitch!”

With that, Nicky grins from one end of his face to the other. “Right boss,” is his reply, just before raising the gun and putting two right in Marty’s head. The rest of those assembled, with the exception of Mr. Big, jumped a foot in the air with the explosion of the first shot. Marty doesn’t take it so well, he’s flung back against the car and stares at Nicky for a moment before crumbling to the ground. Us kids, we’re frozen with fear to the piece of earth we each happened to be standing on at the moment the shots were fired. Even Terry couldn’t think of anything stupid to say.

As soon as Marty hits the ground, Mr. Big orders Nicky to pull the body away from the car. He, Mr. Big, gets behind the wheel and yells for Nicky to hurry up and get into the car. When Nicky decides that Marty is far enough removed from the car, he walks over to the passenger side window, sticks his head in and asks Mr. Big, “What about the kids?”

We kids were still rooted to our respective pieces of earth, so we were close enough to hear Mr. Big’s answer to Nicky’s query. “Nicky, fuck the goddamn kids, fuck Marty, fuck you and fuck this miserable town! Get you ass in here or so help me “I’ll blow your fuckin’ head off right where you stand.” With this, Mr. Big pulls out his own gun and points it at Nicky’s head. Having his boss point a gun at his head didn’t seem to phase Nicky though, before getting into the car he turns to Jonny and me and winks and says, “See ya kids.” He then got into the car and Mr. Big backed it out onto the street, turned the car around and drove out of our lives forever.

But wait, the story isn’t over quite yet. After our friends had left, we formed a circle around Marty. We stood there looking down at him. He was lying face down in the fine white sand, and his blood had discolored the sand a kind of reddish brown. Terry says, “Cool.” Johnny looks like he wants to throw up, I am just paralyzed, and Matt is building sand castles in the sand. After a few minutes Johnny says, “Let’s go home.”

The walk home was the least eventful part of the entire morning’s fishing expedition, at least until we got to Johnny’s house. When we got there he said, “You guys wait out here, I’ll go in and tell my parents.”

A few moments later we heard a scream, followed by the exclamation, “My babies!” Within seconds Mrs. Donohue wearing an old blue bathrobe, and with curlers in her hair, flies through the front door, stoops down, and like a mother hen, enfolds Matt and Terry into her arms. After a few moments and a few sniffles, she rises and shouts, while pointing to the door, “Get in there misters, before I beat you!” At that, there was nothing left for me to do but make my way to my own home. I was hungry; we hadn’t caught any fish that morning. And for some reason we were never again allowed to go fishing at three o’clock in the morning.

Michael

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Michael was my friend. Michael died saving my life.

 Michael row the boat ashore … sister help to trim the sails … the River Jordon is chilly and cold … chills the body but not the soul … the river is deep and the river is wide … milk and honey on the other side …

I can only hope that Michael has found his milk and honey.

This is the story of Michael.

Michael and I grew up together. We went through grade school together. Then on to high school, where together we stayed. Neither of us wanted to pursue a “higher” education, so we decided to travel to broaden ourselves, as the terminology was in those days.  At that time, we thought good would always win out over evil. But we were yet to be taught our lessons of the real world. Evil does sometimes triumph over good.

Michael James was six feet tall. He had straight blonde hair and blue eyes. The bluest eyes I ever did see.  If limpid means clear as I think it does, then Michael’s eyes were limpid pools of blue. The color was that of the sky, perhaps a little lighter. Upon meeting Michael for the first time one was taken aback by his eyes. They did not bore into your soul; they lit up your life. Then there was his smile. I knew Michael for many years and I don’t think I ever saw him without that shit-eatin’ grin on his puss. And that grin, and its persistence, was amazing, given the fact that Michael suffered from a skin problem. He had large red patches on his skin, including his face. They came and went. I thought the name of the disease was Psoriasis, but I’m not sure.

Michael had no mother. She died when he was quite young, before I knew him. He had no siblings. He was reared by his father, which is probably the reason I am alive today. By that, I mean he was taught to be a man. He knew “The Code” of real men, which is: You do what you have to do.

Michael row the boat ashore …

Though we both had the travel bug, my case was more pronounced than his. During the summer between our junior and senior years of high school, I took off and bounced around the country while Michael held down the fort, so to speak. When I returned to finish my last year of school (at that time I still bought into the myth that you needed at least a high school education to survive in the world) I regaled Michael with tales of my adventures.

Well, after hearing what a wonderful world awaited us out there, Michael could not wait to hit the road. He wanted to leave immediately, and seeing as how I had just come in from a three-month run, I prevailed upon him to wait a few months and allow me to at least try to get my diploma. He said he would wait, but he did not, or he could not. Within six weeks of my return and within five weeks of the new school year Michael was on the road.

   … the River Jordon is chilly and cold …

Michael was hip, and the only place for a hip guy to migrate in 1968 was San Francisco. And that was the end of Michael’s roaming. He fell in love with the city. Michael did roam a little after that, but only at my insistence.

I endured my senior year as long as I could, but two weeks before graduation I said, “The hell with it!” stuck out my thumb and headed for San Francisco to rendezvous with my friend.

When I arrived, I didn’t know where Michael was living, however I knew if I hung out on Haight Street long enough I’d see him. It took less than two hours.

This will tell you something about my friend Michael: He always had a place to live out there, and never paid rent. People were always asking him home, and once there he just moved in. They were always glad to have him. And when I would hit town, he’d take me to wherever he was living and tell me to make myself at home. The person who actually owned the domicile never looked askance when he brought me through the door, they all loved Michael, and any friend of Michael’s …

   … it chills the body, but not the soul …

For the most part Michael stayed in San Francisco. I however, could not stay in one town for more than a few days. I was like a pinball, rebounding from coast to coast, and from Canada to Mexico. While on the road I was alive. When on the road I interacted with humanity. I had to live by my wits. I loved being on the road. Because of Michael’s reluctance to leave San Francisco, I had two homes, one on each coast. My mother’s in Miami, and wherever the hell Michael was staying at the moment in San Francisco.

On one of my forays to San Francisco I was introduced to Linda. The love of Michael’s life; his soul mate. They had met at a Clint Eastwood marathon. A movie house was playing the three Sergio Leone films; you know, A Fist Full of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly non-stop, twenty-four hours a day. Michael had a bag of Red Acid, and in 1969 what girl wouldn’t swoon toward a man who was into Clint Eastwood, and had a bag of LSD? It was love at first sight.

   … sister help to trim the sails …   

Now that Michael had himself a woman, he got his own digs. Every time I hit town they were living in a new place. It wasn’t always easy to find them, but somehow we would always meet up on Haight Street. I stayed with them on Geary in the Tenderloin. We stayed south of Market in the low rent district, we stayed across from Golden Gate Park, and at the end we were in the Haight-Asbury district.

One thing I must tell about Michael so you can get a sense of the man. And yes he was a man, though we were the same age, he was a man, while I was just a kid. I think Michael knew he did not have much time in this world. He could not wait for anything. Back then we were doing acid all the time. Now normally you would swallow a pill and wait for it to take effect. But not Michael, the twenty minutes it took was just too long for him. He had to shoot the acid into his vein to get off instantaneously. And of course Linda and I would have to follow suit or there would be no peace. And in those days I just did not have it in me to stick myself with a needle. Michael did the honors.

   … the river is deep and the river is wide …

The last time I came into San Francisco and saw Michael and Linda was in 1970, it was July. They were living in the Haight. It was a crummy neighborhood, the Summer of Love was three years gone by then, All the shops on Haight Street were boarded up with sheets of plywood, and the denizens of the street were the leftovers from that long ago summer.

True to form, it was not Michael’s apartment he took me to; he and Linda were living with a guy named Bobby. Bobby was a likable enough fellow. He just didn’t know bad men when he met them. Bobby had set up a “drug” deal to buy two pounds of marijuana. Nowadays it seems ridiculous to term buying two pounds of pot a drug deal, but in those days that was heavy shit.

It was my first night in town and we were sitting in Bobby’s pad smoking a joint when Michael told me he was going to be a father. I looked over at Linda, she was radiant, and she was also blushing. I was just about to say something appropriate when the door crashed in, and two guys burst through the entrance. They were the assholes that Bobby was supposed to buy the pot from.

   Michael row the boat ashore …

Only one of them had a gun, but that was enough for us. When told to lie on the floor we did so without protest. They then said to Bobby, “Where’s the cash?”

Bobby answered, “In my pocket.” The guy covering us with the gun told the other guy to get the money. Bobby, trying to be helpful, reached into his jeans’ pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. Then it seemed like a lot, but now as I look back on that night, it couldn’t have been more than $500.00.

As soon as the money was in the asshole’s hand, the other one with the gun walked over to Bobby, placed the gun to the back of his head, and killed him. Upon hearing the shot, Michael and I looked at each other and knew we were next.

   … the river is deep and the river is wide …

Before I could think of anything to do, Michael bounded to his feet and rushed the guy with the gun. When I saw Michael go into action it released me from my paralysis, but not soon enough to help Michael. He took a bullet to the chest. While Michael was being shot, I picked up a lamp from a table and smashed it over the gunman’s head while his partner stood frozen in place.

   …it chills the body, but not the soul …

The man with the gun went down hard and the gun fell from his hand. All this went down fast; I did not have time to think. I picked up the gun from the floor while the other guy stood still frozen. Obliviously they were not professionals, though at the moment that did not enter into my thinking. I aimed the gun at the one standing and shot him dead with two shots. Then I turned to the one on the floor, he was moving, about to get up when I put a bullet into his head.

… sister help to trim the sails …

By the time the second one fell to the floor, Linda was bent over Michael. I dropped the gun and went to them. He looked at her and smiled then he looked at me and said, “Get her out of here.” We both, Linda and I, said at the same time, “No!” Then Michael died.

   Michael row the boat ashore …

It took me a full minute, which at the time felt like an eternity, to make a decision. I grabbed Linda by the arms and pulled her into a standing position. She was numb. I told her we had to get out of there; that this was a drug deal gone bad, and there were dead bodies, four of them. I told her prison was no place to have a baby, and Michael knew that. That is why he wanted her out of there.

     …if you get there before I do …

  I told Linda to collect everything of hers and Michael’s that might identify them. I had the presence of mind to wipe the gun clean, but not to pick up the cash lying on the floor. Linda could have used it; she had a baby on the way. I took Michael’s wallet. He had never been arrested so I knew they couldn’t identify him by his fingerprints. After I had Michael’s wallet, and while Linda went about collecting her things, I took the time to vomit all over Bobby’s carpet, it was after all the first time I had killed. We left Michael and never looked back. Though it wasn’t actually Michael we left, only what housed that wonderful, brave man.

 … tell all my friends I’m coming too …

      Linda’s folks lived in New Jersey, so I hitchhiked with her to the east coast. She was in a state of shock and because Michael’s last words, though not implicit, were to look after her, that is what I did. After getting her to her parents, I stayed in the northeast for the next seven months. I kept moving, but would drop in to see her every few weeks. Seven months later when the baby was born, I was there. I was there for my friend Michael. It was a boy and I was asked to be his godfather.

   … milk and honey on the other side …

Once Linda had the child, and I knew she was in the goods hands of her parents, I said good-bye. And while I was still on the road I dropped in to see Linda and my godson every few months.

There are three human beings extant on this earth because of my friend Michael James. I am one of them.

   Michael row the boat ashore … Hallelujah … sister help to trim the sails … Hallelujah … the River Jordon is chilly and cold … Hallelujah … chills the body, but not the soul … Hallelujah … the river is deep and  the river is wide … Hallelujah … milk and honey on the other side …

  

 

Waiting For Greeneyes

I know it won’t be long, she’ll be here soon. Sitting here waiting for her gives me time to reflect on my morning. It has been a most interesting morning to say the least, I had never killed a man before.

The man I killed woke up this morning as I did. He thought, as I did, that it would be just another day trying to make it in this crazy world of ours. How did our paths cross? Why did we converge, why today of all days?

I’ve never been in love before, not until I met Greeneyes. She is my first and only love, but she was married, she told me right off. As the relationship deepened, we knew that we would spend the rest of our lives together. We planned our future with wild abandon, we were fools because now there is no future.

As I walked out my door this morning I was confronted by a man, a big man. He blocked my path and said, “What makes you think you can fuck my wife and get away with it?” I was momentarily confused, but not for long. So this was “hubby,” the man I was going to replace.

I know now that I made a mistake when I smiled because it enraged him and he drew a knife from somewhere and tried to cut me. He had thirty pounds on me, but I’m fast. I grabbed the hand holding the knife and twisted it. The knife fell to the pavement and it was in my hand before I knew it. And before I knew it, the knife was sticking out of his throat. Blood everywhere.

Today Greeneyes and I were leaving, running away if you will.

Here she comes. She is beautiful and I love her so much. But behind her I see the police, they are coming for me.

I am covered in her husband’s blood and I will never see my Greenyes again once the police have me, I cannot live with that. I still have the knife and I raise it to my throat and slice hard and deep.

Laying on the ground with her horrified face above me I want to say something, but I cannot speak. The police are taking her away. It is getting dark, I can’t speak, but I’m sending my thoughts out to my Greeneyes, “I’ll be waiting for you my love.”

Then everything went dark. Now I am in a strange place waiting for my Greeneyes.

Danny’s Friend Sam

Today I want to tell you about my friend Sam.

He spent the night out on the town. He was running with some of his own kind and they made a night of it. But it wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted a home and a friend. He had been taken from his mother when he was quite young. In fact, he could not remember his mother or his siblings. He was given to a family that did not treat him well.

At the first opportunity he ran away. Now it has been awhile since he has known the love of another. If only he could be loved.

On his way to find a place to sleep the day away, he came upon a boy of about twelve years of age; the boy, whose name was Butch, smiled when he saw him.

“Hi. What’s your name?” asked the boy.

“What’s my name?” he thought, “I don’t know! No one has ever addressed me by any other name than “Hey you!” When I was trying to cadge some food and the old woman would catch me, she would always say, “Hey you, get out of here.” Then she would take a broom to me.

Butch did not wait for an answer. Instead he approached and knelt down to eye level and said, “I like you. I think I’ll name you Sam.”

At that his tail started to wag. Sam sounds like a fine name, he thought.

So it was that the boy Butch and the dog Sam became fast friends and Sam finally found the love and the friend he had yearned for.31091_1348759650805_5378452_n