I Have No Time

 

I have no time for the likes of the Kardashians. I have no time for Monday Night Football where young men have their brains turned to mush. I’m on a trek. I’m trying to make it to the light.

I have no time for Twitter. I have no time for the inane. I’m just passing through this life. Here today, gone tomorrow.

I have no time for advertisements that treat me as though I’m an idiot.

I have no time for Walmart or their like who will not pay its workers a living wage.

I have no time for a religion that teaches hate.

I have no time for patriots. They hurt my head.

I have no time for the bullshit of our times.

I have no time for fear.

I do have time for love.

I love to see people going about their lives.

I love to see children in their youthful exuberance.

I love to see the green of the summer leaves.

I love to see the yellow of a summer sun shining on the green summer grass.

I love to see the white of the cold winter snow that lies before me.

I love to see the orange and pink of a setting sun.

I love the quiet of the deep woods.

I love the songs of birds in the morning.

I love the chirp of the crickets in the night.

I love the light of the stars as they sparkle in my eyes in the deep of night.

I love life.

 

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The Preacher

PreacherStanding on the graveyard grass, looking down at the freshly-filled grave, stood The Preacher, dressed in black and wearing a black, circular, wide-brim hat. There was not a headstone as of yet, but The Preacher knew the name of the occupant. It was his brother. Five days previously, he had murdered the man who now lay under the earth at his feet. The Preacher did not want to kill this one. But he felt he had to, and he knew with a certainty that he would have to kill again … and soon.

After saying a prayer over his brother’s buried body, The Preacher walked slowly back to the highway. As he walked, he thought of how unnecessary it had all been. All his brother had to do was not interfere in the Lord’s work. It should have made no difference that the work involved the killing of Junior McGuire.

He thought back to his last conversation with his brother:

“You must not interfere.”

“You’ve been killing since you were a boy. But you was family, so I held my own peace.”

“I am family to man.”

“You always were different, even when we was kids. But now you come to town and tell me you must take Junior McGuire. Well, Junior is a friend of mine. He’s the mayor of this town, for God’s sake.”

“Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Are those your last words on the matter?”

“Yup, I just can’t let you kill Junior McGuire.”

The conversation replayed itself repeatedly in The Preacher’s mind.

Now that there were no more obstacles, The Preacher could be about the Lord’s work. And this time, the Lord’s work was the quick dispatch of Junior McGuire.

The Preacher had been at this work a long time. Sometimes he wearied of the mission the Lord had bestowed upon him. However, he believed that no matter how weary, he must persevere until he was allowed a rest or brought to his just reward.

The walk from the graveyard into town was a short one. Before he knew it, The Preacher found himself standing in front of McGuire’s Dry Goods Emporium. He entered without hesitation and sought out The McGuire.

The store was empty, but filled with people or not, it made no difference to The Preacher. He was about God’s work. He proceeded to the back room where he encountered a man of about, fifty stacking cartons in a corner. The Preacher inquired of the man, “Are you McGuire?” When an affirmative response was forthcoming, The Preacher laid his hands upon the sinner.

The Preacher had been at this so long he felt as though he could see the soul of the damned leave the body and pass through the floorboards on its way to perdition.

As he left McGuire’s, The Preacher thought to himself, “I pray the time never comes when I enjoy this work.”

 

 

 

I Saw Jesus

I saw Jesus the night before he died, the night before he hauled that damn cross up the hill. I ran into him outside that little bakery, the one across from the wine shop on the main street. He was sitting on the stoop, talking to a gaggle of children. He always did love the kids.

“Hey, Jesus. What’s happening?”

“Hello, William. I’m just hangin’ with my little buddies.”

“If you can tear yourself away, how about I buy you a cup of wine at that shop over there? We can sit and talk and catch up. I haven’t seen you since forever.”

He smiled that smile of his.

“I’d like nothing better, my friend.”

He stood, patted one or two of the kids on the head, and whispered into one little girl’s ear. She looked up at him and smiled a thousand-watt smile.

“What did you say to the kid?” I asked.

“Nothing you’d understand, you old fart. Let’s get that wine.”

Of course, I had to buy. I never knew Jesus to have a dime on him. In the old days, I used to see him on the street with a bowl in his hand, begging for food. I would always tell him he didn’t have to do that. I’d be more than happy to buy him a meal. And he always said the same thing. “There are many hungry people in this city. Buy them a meal and you will have fed me.” I never understood what he meant, but then, Jesus always was an odd duck.

With wine in hand, we sat at a table overlooking the street. It hadn’t rained in a while and there was a bit of dust in the air, but we didn’t mind none.

“So, Jesus, what have you been up to?”

“Just walking the streets, talkin’ of love. What have you been up to?”

That was too much for me. “Never mind me. What do you mean you’re walking the streets talking of love? You’re in your mid-thirties. You should have been married long ago. When I knew you back in Nazareth, you had a thriving business going with your old man. Then you gave it all up. I worry about you, brother.”

He supped from his cup and smiled. “I thank you for your concern. But do not worry for me, I’m just passing through … as we all are. My needs are few. And come tomorrow, they’ll be fewer still.”

“What are you talking about, pal?”

“It’s not important, William. What’s important is that you live your life in love and not in fear.”

“Whatever. How about meeting up tomorrow? I’ll buy you lunch.”

“Sorry, my friend. I have an appointment with the governor. I’ll catch up with you in the next life.”

Jesus was always kidding. He had one wicked sense of humor. So, I paid no mind to what he said. I wish I had.

I was with Honest Abe the night before he died. He had lost a lot of weight. And he had more lines on his face than I remembered. He smiled at me as I walked into the room. “Well, well, William, it is good to see you. How have you been?”

“I’m cool, Abe. That was some war you just won. And I love how you had the band play Dixie right after Lee surrendered. You got class.”

He did an aw shucks gesture and asked me to sit down.

“So, Abe, tell me. What are you gonna do with all those traitors, all those rebels now that you beat the hell out of ’em?”

Abe stroked his beard and looked to the ceiling before answering. “I’m gonna treat them like I’d want to be treated. I’m gonna treat ’em like any human being would want to be treated. I’m gonna treat ’em with love.”

“So, what’s your plan, Abe?”

“Stop by tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about it. I’m gonna heal this country, by gob. I have a plan to bring the South back into the fold. But right now I have to get ready for the theater. There’s a play Missus Lincoln wants to see. But remember this, William. Approach your adversaries with love and there’s no way you can fail. I’ll leave word with Mister Kennedy that I’ll be having lunch with you tomorrow. Till then, my friend, pray for me. I have a big job to do in the next four years.”

I was with Martin King, Jr. the night before he died.

“So, Marty. What’s shaking?”

“Please don’t call me Marty. You know I don’t like it.”

“I’m just fucking with you, Martin. You’re finally getting there. You’re about to bring your people into the Promised Land. And it’s about fuckin’ time as far as I’m concerned.”

“One thing at a time, William. Yes, we’ve gotten to the mountain top, but it’s a long way down to the fertile valley below.”

“At least it’s all downhill now. I remember when you were in the Birmingham jail. Things looked pretty bleak back then.”

Martin smiled a sad smile.

“I don’t think I’ll make it to that valley,” said he. “I think it’s an illusion. There are so many more miles to travel and I’m running out of steam. But I can say with pride that I got the ball rolling. So, let’s not think about it now. How about a drink?”

We toasted with bourbon and branch water. We laughed and talked of old times. We hugged at the door as I said goodnight. The last thing he said to me was, “Go gently into the future. Go with love. You can never have enough love. Leave your fears at home. Go with Jesus.”

I saw Jesus the night before he died. I saw him in Abe and I saw him in Martin. I’m still waiting to see him in me.

 

Brother

Brother, help me please.

Brother, I need to feel. I need my soul to weep.

I need to cry for my fellow man. I need to feel his pain.

I need to understand why we are so filled with fear.

I need to speak out for the downtrodden.

I need to love more.

I need to put my fears aside.

Brother, help me.

Brother, lift me up.

I need to see things clearly.

I need this fear in my soul to go away.

Brother, reach in and take this fear.

Brother, throw it away.

Brother, please, please help me.

I need to love.

I need to be loved.

I need to belong.

Brother, take me in.

Brother, I love you.

Before I Die … Give Me a Drink of Cool Water

She was beautiful. She was like a sip of cool water on a hot day. I first ran into her on the beach. Romantic, huh? Damn right it was.

Her name was Maria. I flashed my killer smile, we talked for a while, and then she was mine. We made love in the sand, right there and then. I have never loved a woman as I have loved her.

There was only one problem; she belonged to another man. Not just any man, but the biggest bad-ass within a hundred miles. Hell … within a thousand miles. The asshole’s name was Jake.

Maria and I snuck around for a few weeks, but then I couldn’t take it no more. Was I a man or was I not? Fuck Jake! I told Maria that I was gonna confront him and tell him that now she was my woman.

She cried and begged me not to do it. She feared for my life. I asked her if she loved me. She said that she did. That settled it.

Jake owned a strip club down on 5th Street. I knew I could find him there on the weekends. So, it was on a hot Saturday night that I dressed in my best and took a cab to his club.

It was no problem gaining entrance to the inner sanctum once I told the bodyguard that it concerned Maria.

Jake was affable as I walked into his office. But that didn’t last once I told him why I was there.

“What makes you think you can take my woman from me?” he demanded.

“Because she loves me and not you,” I answered.

Those were the last words to pass my lips.

How was I to know he kept an old-fashioned Colt .45—the kind cowboys used to wear—in his desk? He cocked back the hammer and put a bullet into my chest.

Now I lie on a dirty floor as my life-blood pools beneath me. As I grow cold, as my vision tunnels, as I’m dying, I yearn for only one thing: A drink of cool water. And damn right, it’s a metaphor … I wanna see my Maria before I die … my drink of cool water on a hot day.

Six Feet

I come from the projects and I ain’t no pussy. In fact, I’d just as soon slit your throat as look at ya.

They have me now. I was stupid enough to get caught after that gas station robbery. What’s the big fucking deal? We got only forty bucks. The cops came a-shootin’. My man Daryl took a bullet to the head.

Under the law, I was charged with murder in the second degree because someone died in the commission of a felony. How do you like that shit? The cops didn’t have to shoot. We were not armed … we carried toy guns. Of course, I was convicted. It was an all-white jury. What else can a black man expect in America?

Now I’m looking at twenty years to life. I sit in my cell and think of my girl. Her skin is chestnut brown in color. It’s the softest thing I’ve ever known … next to the love she has given me. Her smile used to send me to heaven. But I can’t see her smile no more. Her name is Gloria. She was my life. Now my life is trying not to get shivved in the food line.

She has written me, asking to visit. I will not allow it! I do not want her to see me in a cage. I wrote her back and told her to forget me. Get herself a man as unlike me as possible, I told her.

It really don’t matter no more. I will not live my life in a cage. Big Dog runs us niggers in this place. He is big, I’ll give him that. We are in the yard … the whites are on the far side … the spics opposite. Us niggers have the middle ground.

I rush at Big Dog, looking like I’m holding a shiv. I’m not. One of his lieutenants cuts me down before I get close.

As I lie on the green grass of the prison yard, looking up at a pale-blue sky I’ll never see again—my warm blood pooling beneath me—I think of my girl and of all the wrong choices I’ve made in my twenty-three years of life. But that’s cool … there are no more choices that have to be made, unless you want to ask me how deep I want to be buried.

Just for the record, it’s six feet.

Turkey Shoot

Denneen

On a cold December morning in 1890 with snow on the ground, three hundred and fifty unarmed Lakota Indians (120 men and 230 women and children) were massacred at Wounded Knee Creek by soldiers of the 7th Cavalry—Custer’s old outfit.

The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded to twenty-three men of the Seventh. This is the story of one of those brave men.

(An Excerpt from the Novel, Yellow Hair)

All One Hundred And Twenty Men, one hundred and twenty-one if you included Yellow Hair, formed a single line. Each man was to place his weapons—knives, tomahawks, and war clubs, as well guns—in a pile as they advanced to the front of the line.

Yellow Hair was farther back; at the head of the line stood two soldiers with an officer off to one side. The Indians were to place their weapons on the ground between the two soldiers. Slowly the line moved forward. When Yellow Hair progressed to near the front, he saw the large pile of guns, but he had no intention of giving up the Winchester Sitting Bull had given him. He already had his knife safely hidden on his person. When it was his turn to place his rifle onto the pile, he would tell the officer his story and see what developed. If necessary, he would tell them that he was a White Man, and upon close inspection, he would be believed.

Yellow Hair was fourth from the front of the line when it stopped moving. The young man at the front, Šuŋgmánitu sápA (Black Coyote), raised his gun in the air and shouted, “I paid much for this gun. I will not give it up!”

A soldier approached Black Coyote and made a grab for his gun. In the ensuing struggle, a shot rang out. Black Coyote’s gun had accidently discharged. At first no one made a move. The entire camp was quiet. Then, without warning, the Hotchkiss guns started to rake the tipis, going through their skins as though they were not there. The people inside the tipis, those that were not killed instantly, ran out in panic. The Lakota men who had given up their guns ran towards the pile in an effort to retrieve them, but most were cut down by the fire from the Hotchkiss guns. The few who still had possession of their guns began to fire at the soldiers.

With bullets flying every which way, Yellow Hair ran as best he could, considering his limp, to a ravine that was off to the west. Without slowing, he jumped over the lip and almost landed on a dead woman sprawled on the incline. Next to her was an infant, still alive, oblivious to the horror going on around him.

He plucked up the child and made for the bushes at the bottom where he found a woman and a small girl hiding among the scrub. The girl was crying and the woman was shaking from head to foot. Yellow Hair handed the infant to the woman and said, “Do not worry, Mother. Neither you nor these children will die this day.” He made sure that his gun was fully loaded; he was prepared to shoot the first soldier that stuck his head over the rim of the ravine.

They were the only ones in that area, but one hundred yards to the north, men, women, and children were huddled at the bottom while soldiers stood above and shot down at them. Every once in a while he could hear someone shout, “Remember the Little Bighorn!”

The Seventh was getting its own back that day.

While that was going on at the ravine, the men behind the Hotchkiss guns continued to fire at anything that moved. Unfortunately, for some of the soldiers in front of the guns that meant them as well. In the frenzy, soldiers were killing soldiers as well as Indians.

Not all the Lakota ran to the ravine. Some ran to the open prairie in an effort to escape death. None of them had weapons; they were just running for their lives.

A few of the soldiers made for their horses and, as if they were on a buffalo hunt, ran down the fleeing people. As they approached their prey, they would cock their revolvers and fire. If they missed, they would turn their horse for another try. One trooper was heard to exclaim, “Great fun, I betcha I get more than you!” When the carnage was over, Lakota bodies were found as far away as five miles, which led some to speculate that the soldiers toyed with the Indians to prolong the hunt.

Back at the ravine, when targets became scarce, one of the soldiers on the rim started to make his way in Yellow Hair’s direction. His name was John Dinneen, a private in the Seventh. That morning he had killed fifteen unarmed people, ten of whom were women and children. Now he was looking for more “turkeys.” That is how he thought of the cowering Indians. At one point, he yelled to his compatriots, “Come on, boys, it’s just like an old-fashioned turkey shoot and I’m a-gonna win me a prize!”

Dinneen made his way toward Yellow Hair’s location, searching the bush for Indians. He walked slowly and purposefully; he did not want to miss any “turkeys.” Because of his slow progress, the tension built within the woman and girl. Finally, it became unbearable for the girl and she bolted from her hiding place.

Dinneen saw her and smiled to himself. Under his breath he muttered, “I oughtta git two points for this one. Them small ones is hard to hit, especially when they’re movin’ so fast.”

As he raised his rifle to his shoulder to take aim, Yellow Hair stood, sighted Dinneen, and fired.

The bullet, though aimed for the man’s heart, plowed into his left shoulder before he could fire at the girl. With a shout of pain, Dinneen dropped his gun. The look of astonishment on his face made Yellow Hair smile. He cocked his gun for another try at the man’s heart, but Dinneen turned and ran before he could sight him.

Yellow Hair looked for the girl, but she was nowhere to be seen. Looking down at the woman, he said, “Do not worry, she got away. She is safe.” He did not know if it were true, but it was the only thing he could say.

Private Dinneen’s wound was not life-threatening, although, because of nerve damage, he did lose the use of his left arm. But other than that, he lived a long, if not particularly fruitful, life. He—along with twenty-two other “brave” men of the Seventh—was given the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery at Wounded Knee. His citation read in full, “For conspicuous bravery in action against Indians concealed in a ravine.”

It seems as though Private Dinneen did indeed receive his prize for the turkey shoot.