Tag Archives: Everything for Love

Bosnia’s Chuck Norris? Shephard strangles bear


I met men like this a thousand times in the wilds and on the frontlines of the Bosnian war during the 1990s. I recall one sort of simple bearded Serb soldier in the town of Vlasenica. Dressed, and over-stuffed into a Serbian combat uniform, he evoked images of the Serbian Hajduk(Hi-dook) fighters who battled the Turks through the 19th and early 20th Century. Rough mountain man would only be a partial description. He was a towering and imposing figure, with intense green eyes, untrimmed black beard and scraggly uncombed black hair. Being the only American in those parts, he took an unexpected liking to me, and smiled a yellow-toothed grin at my terribly broken Serbo-croatian. As he departed the bus, the man laid his massive hand on my shoulder, almost knocking the breath from me at the sheer power.

I tell that story to set the stage for this one. This week in the southern Bosnian town of Gacko, a typical mountain halfway point on the road between Sarajevo and the Montenegrin capital of Niksic, a legend may have begun. Local shephard, Blazo Grkic, 48, was tending his flock of sheep on a mountain near the town. A female brown bear appeared and charged into the flock. Bosnian bears typically are smaller than Alaskan and Canadian Brown bears, but not significantly.gacko map

Grkic, from his hospital bed, who had only an axe for defense, claims that the bear then turned and charged him, swiping away the axe. Earlier reports said that the bear had entered a nearby village and carried away two other sheep.

“One minute one of my hands were held in the bear’s claws,” he told a local reporter, “the other hand was around the bear’s neck until she fell down.”

The bear was found dead in the field. Grkic, who reportedly had a reputation for fearlessness in the village, was seriously injured, with severe bite and claw marks to his hands and legs. Grkic is expected to make a complete recovery.

Take that, Chuck Norris.

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The Big Benghazi Lie

I have avoided writing this article for some time. Not that it hasn’t been tempting. The oblique assault against the President is blatantly and completely partisan, and betrays either the outright complicit nature of the Press or their fundamental ignorance. Not that I’m an apologist for Obama. Though I was happy that he was re-elected, I also feel he is significantly beholden to corporate and money interests. The bottom line here is, I just can’t stand by any longer while the Right parades absolute untruths while the media wallows in blissful banality

Anyone who has been to a US diplomatic facility in an active conflict zones knows they are hardly consulates, let alone embassies. They are not there to spread the message of democracy and freedom. They are not sanctuaries. To the contrary. And how would I know this? I have been there. Well, not to Libya, but in Sarajevo during the siege in 1994.

This story is something of a third rail for the Progressive side; that tiny minority who at least attempts the truth.  but even the professed liberal side of the so-called liberal press has deftly side-stepped the Benghazi attack against a US “consulate.” Not surprising, and admittedly, not a lot of people have been to a consulate in a war zone. and now, two months after the incident, the whole affair is a dark and tangled affair.

First the facts. It was a terrorist attack. 4 Americans were killed. It did happen amid a sudden surge of unrest following the release on YouTube of an anti-Muslim film that saw simultaneous unrest in Egypt, and violence in Pakistan that left a number of Pakistanis dead. Libya was and is still in turmoil, and deeply divided following the civil war. The nation was still dangerous.

In October 1994 I found myself trapped in Sarajevo, with the fighting in the city growing and winter approaching. In the Holiday Inn along Sarajevo’s infamous sniper alley the United States maintained a “consulate.” It seemed logical an American out of reasonable options would look for help at a US Consulate, right?

The Sarajevo consulate was a spy ring, tasked either with collecting or getting intelligence, either on one or more of the warring parties or for the dozen or so other foreign intelligence services active in Bosnia, including the Russians and Iranians. Running a gauntlet of sniper fire to the consulate was a constant. in the hall outside the consulate suite sat a laconic Bosnian kid with an AK-47. He was tasked with keep interlopers out. Truth of it was, he  was just happy to be off the bloody frontlines, and could be cowed with the wave of a US passport and a bit of bravado bordering on arrogance. Once in passing, when he attempted to stop me I literally threw up a hand and said, “Have a seat, son,” with this stern sort of militaristic tone. the heavily armed types inside could hardly scatter from sight, startled by my sudden appearance.

When I pressed the issue of not being able to escape the city, at that point arrested by two different armies attempting to escape, the “officials” did not act as diplomats, but reverted to this sort of black market mentality. Now, I am not accusing who would then become the first American ambassador to Bosnia of corruption, but I will say this. The going rate to the actual Bosnian blackmarket at the time was $5000USD. This future ambassador coincidentally offered his help, and that I would need to pay him…wait for it…$5 grand USD “to rent” a seat on one of the airlift flights.

In 1992 an arms embargo, said to stop the flow of arms into the break up Yugoslavia, was championed by the United States and  later defended by the US. The stated intention was to stop the violence. The reality, and this was no secret to any government, and certainly not a secret on the ground in the war zone, but was a secret nearly everywhere else, was that it was a windfall for international arms dealers. The cost of weaponry skyrocketed to more than 20 times original value. those deals, worth billions in hard  and untraceable cash were rarely if ever handled by arms companies, but by agents of their national governments. and during the wars of the 1990s, everyone wanted to get in on that action.

The point of that story? The consulate in Benghazi, I am certain, was not tasked with diplomacy as its primary mission. And if that is the case, as all reports seem to indicate, whether from holding al qaeda suspects, or that all of these men had significant intelligence and military backgrounds, as well as none of the survivors have been heard from or identified, this was an intelligence outpost in a very unstable place.

Few will ever see that world, but it exists. the mythology is that they are the good guys behind the scenes keeping us all safe. The reality is that a world of international espionage absolutely exists, but they feed the unrest and tragedy of the world, rather than stem or assuage it. They are the problem not the solution. Theirs is a game of arrogant perspective parading as broad visionary strategy. They play that game among one another, but trample upon the rest of us in the process. They are an industry. They work for industry, but in the most cynical and insidious ways. The President and State Department will never cop to any of this. They can’t. No one is going to give up their own spies. They won’t, but that’s the reality, no matter what FOX News and the Right want to pretend

Romney supporter tries to kill husband for not voting…thank you, Talk Radio

I am new to doing talk radio, but not in listening to it, and certainly not to the arc of inciteful rhetoric, most especially on the Right. It has grown to an out of  control conflagration of hate since Obama’s election. below is an excerpt from a Reuters article by d:

PHOENIX – An Arizona woman, in despair at the re-election of Democratic President Barack Obama, ran down her husband with the family car in suburban Phoenix on Saturday because he failed to vote in the election, police said on Monday.Holly Solomon, 28, was arrested after running over husband Daniel Solomon following a wild chase that left him pinned underneath the vehicle. Daniel Solomon, 36, was in critical condition at a local hospital, but is expected to survive, Gilbert police spokesman Sergeant Jesse Sanger said. Police said Daniel Solomon told them his wife became angry over his “lack of voter participation” in last Tuesday’s presidential election and believed her family would face hardship as a result of Obama winning another term.

 In the months, weeks and days leading up to the election, Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter, Hannity and others pressed listeners to believe their lives, their children’s lives, the nation and Christianity were under direct threat if Obama was re-elected. Lies and innuendo covered the spectrum from Obama being a communist, not  an American citizen, a racist, to having a gay relationship.

When accused or confronted they claim it is all entertainment, confuse to obscure their guilt or outright lie. They know full well they are driving a culture among self-interested and gullible people, or people robbed by corporate media consolidation of balanced information(note: FOX’s Fair and Balanced refers to their perception of fair, and balances truth and facts with their  agenda) based solely upon greed-the greed of the 1%. 

Most of us understand this perversion, and understand that to sell the theft of the economy and government by a few they must swathe that in alarmist rhetoric about job stealing immigrants, collapsing home values caused by irresponsible blacks and a pretend moral degradation of the society. Some, like the misguided woman above, and working class people who voted for the likes of Mitt Romney- a true corporate oligarch took it hook line and sinker. Their hate speech is not political discourse, it isn’t entertainment, it is irresponsible speech.

The airwaves are public, not the private domain of these hosts. To borrow their line, there is nothing in the constitution guaranteeing their right to those public airwaves. They are free to express their views, but not to squat on the air to the exclusion of other viewpoints. The airwaves are publically licensed, and each station’s license can be directly challenged to the FCC by any person.

I am new to talk radio-progressive talk radio. I would not exclude other viewpoints, and I welcome challenges and arguments to my own. I would not prefer a nation in which only progressive ideas predominate on the air and in the media.  Media consolidation has done exactly that. 90% of all news media, television, print and talk radio are now owned by 3 companies.3 companies. THREE COMPANIES. All of them either skew Right or are blatantly Right. Goebbels and the Nazis could have only dreamed of that sort of media control… 

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Working out, P90X and Paul Ryan: Won’t someone think of the cannibals?

I awoke early this morning for work. The wife was asleep. She’d gone to bed after me last night, so, obviously I was now hunting throughout the house for possible places she might have left the remote control so I could check the day’s weather. I checked the usual places before expanding my search to the bathroom, the refrigerator and the dirty clothes hamper. Before finding it, I was stuck on an infommercial for some psychotic workout, called insane, or crazy or some such.

It was a rip-off of the P90X workout Paul Ryan cultists, particularly in the media, cannot help themselves from mentioning nearly every time they talk about the guy. They seem intent on mentioning with near psycho-sexual relish his 6% body fat, super tight abs, and great body, which would be fine from say FOX’s Megyn Kelley, but from Steve Doocy, it would get a bit creepy.

But as I was looking in the cat box, the microwave and the recycling bin for the remote, the infommercial had person after person with next to no body fat, I thought that this new proliferation with manic workouts seems, well, a bit inconsiderate.

I recalled, still hunting the remote in a flower vase, the washing machine and cupboard that I’d made pork chops the other day on the grill. These were nice, thick, juicy pork chops with a nice strip of tasty fat on the side. And let’s face it, that is the tastiest part of the chop. I would not want to eat a  pork chop from a half-starved pig.

Now I work out regularly, bike about 120 miles each week, hit the gym a couple of times a week. So I’m in good shape, just so I can enjoy a good meal and a beer or two, but I pride myself on a normal, healthy amount of body fat, and content myself with the knowledge that if ever captured by cannibals, at least I know they enjoyed the meal!

“Hon, seriously! Where is the remote?”

A lovely Garden

Young boys turn to young girls

To whittle away the time,

Young men turn towards war.

Comes a day when but a few young men remain.

In the bars and parks they congregate,

And polish their pain to badges of honor

With  stories so bold.

Comes a time when the stories all sound the same.

And then as old men,

Dog-eared stories put away

They turn towards god…

And perhaps a very lovely garden.


Full Circle: Romney VP choice is attack on the 99%

So we’ve come full, well…sort of. The Tea Party was begun to distract attention from the wholesale looting of the federal government, an effort only nominally  curtailed by resistance to so-called Social Security reform, and the Supreme Court’s upholding key provisions of the Healthcare Act. The Right, representing a menu of greedy banking, corporate and individual interests, the 1%, if you will have spent decades shrinking and narrowing the accessibility to unfiltered, non-politicized information and news, promoted a fiction that the federal government should be managed like a household checkbook. Folksy wisdom indeed. Reality it is not.

It was hardly out of some suddenly awakened national consciousness that the Bermuda shorts-Sandal and black socked and varicose veined Tea Party decried the burgeoning national debt. That might have made them believable, and even comprehensible. It might have deflected charges of partisan-ism, and even racism had they also risen against the unfunded debt-creating catastrophe of our trillion-dollar, trillion-dollar, the trillion dollar catastrophe of the Iraq debacle and Afghan War. Indeed, the cost of those wars  are estimated to be many times the price of the actual conflicts, as we now must care for tens of thousands of mentally and physically wounded veterans. The Veterans Administration and hospitals are taxpayer-funded.

But there was no such outcry from the Tea Party or the Right. Quite the opposite. Dissent against the wars, first on a moral basis and second, economically was assailed as partisan and unpatriotic. And so the creation of the Tea Party was a ruse. The creators spun innocent Americans against their own interests, and ultimately, against the interests of their nation.

The Occupy movement exposed the fakery of the Tea Party pretense. The true national argument wasn’t about the national debt. Most of that debt is owned by the government, and that debt can sink depending upon favorable trade conditions, which is what is happening now. No, the real issue was the economic devastation wrought by de-regulated banks and financial entities, a perversely bloated defense budget which primarily benefits industry and two unfunded wars. It wasn’t risky home loans going to “people who should never have gotten loans to begin with,” early 21st century code for Blacks. It was financial firms bundling those mortgages and selling their potential risk, then bundling the bundles of mortgages and selling that risk, then bundling the risk and selling the risk on the risk on the real…get the idea? And all of it ravaged the poor and middle class in this country. How did Romney put it at a press conference during the Republican primaries? “I’m not concerned about the very rich. They’re doing just fine.”

Within weeks the Occupy Movement fully discredited and overwhelmed the Tea Party fiction. Only the Right’s near absolute dominance-the status quo networks tacitly support the Right-in the media and their need to conceal continuing efforts to corrupt and loot the nation via populism has maintained that fraudulent message.

It isn’t about debt. It never was about debt or your children or grandchildren’s futures. The kids and grandkids of the wealthy and corrupt who use the Tea Party for cover already have the means to secure their future; to attend universities unsullied  by the poor and unwashed masses, to have exclusive healthcare access, to fast-track executive careers, homes and comfortable retirements to live their American dream. If there was truly an interest in solving the debt issue, there would be action towards encouraging trade reform, removing corporate incentives to play nations against each other for sub-standard wages and conditions to workers, and removing or limiting their organizational influence on government. Perhaps then we might allow the American people to decide what is in their best economic interest, and that if a company closes a factory here to set up sweatshops in Asia or Africa or Central America that they would be considered criminal enterprises and closed down.

And consumers, if they truly cared about reform, would be willing to pay a little higher for some goods. For example, it costs roughly 80 cents- that’s 80 cents for Nike to produce a $120 Dollar pair of shoes in the Vietnam factory. Call them. They’ll tell you. In April 2010 the monthly wage there was 4000 Dong, or 21 Dollars a month, a  severely sub-standard wage. By doubling, or tripling their pay, spread across the production quotas and output of that factory, that would have added another 80 cents to a doller sixty to that $120 dollar pair of shoes. The Right, of course would tell you that it would double or triple the retail value of the shoes, as they tried to argue with me on WLS radio some years back.

The point is, the Ryan choice  for VP is an effort to resurrect the Tea Party mantra, and make it the centerpiece of the Romney/Ryan campaign. They’ve said as much. This from men who accuse Obama of not having any business experience. But their plan, using their own folksy example about household debt and a balanced checkbook(apples and oranges really), would have them cutting out the kid’s schoolbooks, shutting off heat or  air conditioning in any room their not occupying and other austere cuts while they continue driving around in the gas guzzling limousine and taking fabulous 10 year-long vacations in faraway lands on their kid’s credit cards.

Full circle. Let’s see now if the American people will fall for it a second time. The answer comes this November.

It is really hard being a giant…

Sitting in the park across from the Sears tower the other day. It is a pretty little park with great shade and comfortable hurricane chairs. cashing in on a break in the triple digit temps, I took a quick office break for a rest in the park. From here the view down Wacker Drive is dominated by towering office buildings that all but erase glimpses of the sky. Fantasizing, as I am prone to do, I imagined  a huge, but friendly giant peeking from around the towers, his big round head hovering somewhere around the 40th floor. I wasn’t in a mood to imagine a terrible giant smashing through the downtown, but then I began to imagine how really difficult it would be even to be a friendly giant in downtown Chicago. I think it is some thing of a design flaw that the city really is not giant-friendly. I imagined that no matter how much he tried, ’cause he’s a good giant, he couldn’t help stepping on some people, and that all those smashed people would make it pretty slippery and treacherous for the giant. And as he inadvertently stepped on people he’d be like, “oh! Jeez, sorry!” And then some people would freak out and start screaming, which would hardly help the situation, and the giant would be trying extra hard not to step on people, but would step on more, or knock over a bus or smash a couple of yellow cabs, and then he’d be like “Oh my god, this is a nightmare!” And then the media would be like, “Giant Attacks Chicago!” and they’d call him evil or a terrorist or deranged or lumbering, which I think is a word giants probably really hate, because it just feeds a really negative body image. And then I think he would trudge off-which seems like another derogatory word to giants- through the suburbs where the Army and Marines would be waiting to shoot at him. And he’d be like, “It’s all a big misunderstanding, you guys!” And finally he’d just go up to Canada, where they have more tolerance for people who are different, but he’d still be haunted by that really awful day in Chicago.

It must be really hard to be a giant.

Evil and the Colorado shooting

In the wake of the Colorado shooting the word and concept of evil are likely to be used as a tool of the Right. It becomes the end of an argument. The gunman was “pure evil.” What is to be done with evil in that case? It can only be eradicated, for there is no negotiating, co-exicting or appeasing evil, only defeating and destroying it, in society with regards to crime, in dealing with the Iranians, your political opposition. It begins to rob you of true freewill. The word is initself a falsehood and a means of control.

Evil is, at it’s core a lie. It is the antithesis of the truth, and since truth can be manipulated, interpreted and degraded the line between evil and truth is terribly thin. The lie is certainly as old as mankind, undoubtedly the symptom of negotiations between our selfish souls and wants and desires of others. Separated from one another by the needs of the body and the ignorance of the mind we are certainly suffering the legacy of those first lies, and, hence, their inherent “evil.” We may also be suffering the echoes of the first recorded lie.

There are few words as misused or misunderstood as the word Evil. For some it is the embodiment of the worst the human heart and mind can conjure. To others it is a living thing, an ethereal essence or spirit that tempts and persuades us to cruel and selfish acts. Some believe that Evil is its own power, one that must be crushed and driven from the world. To those who eschew that belief, evil is a misnomer, a cartoonish way of describing a process. Some believe that strength and force are the only means of confronting evil, while others hold that if it can be dissected, and understood, that the roots of “Evil” can be treated or diagnosed before causing greater harm.

What is the nature of evil? Where does it come from? If a person does evil then we are left with but a few possibilities. That is, they are either seduced, are tricked, or are too weak to resist evil. If that is the case then someone or something ultimately must be responsible, and since the devil, or some dark specter, is not liable under the law we are left to judge the human perpetrator or accomplice to the evil act. If some one is under the influence of evil, is it something akin to a coercion, a trance or a drug? In that case, if they are control as if they were a puppet, are they truly laible for those actions? Finally we are left to ask if a person is evil? In which case they either succumb, fail to resist, or act upon that inherent evil quality. And who decides who is evil, partly evil, just a bit evil, and who is a bit good, partly good and good?

Does it require a catalyst, like a spark, or a particular environment to rage out of control? Can it be synthesized, controlled, vaccinated against or used commercially or for warfare? Some might argue that war is the attempt to harness evil for one side against the real or perceived or concocted evil of an enemy. Certainly the very word is a generic term, an umbrella word covering varied and even necessary evils. It also describes innocuous things, like an evil smell, and the like. Is sadistic evil different from abject evil, manipulative evil, genocidal evil and many others?

But the critical mind eschews the cartoonish conept of evil, which is all too easily  coward to in ignorance and fear. But the world is not trapped between light and dark, just as no person struggles with good and evil. We struggle against our inherent selfishness and the complex processes of our lives. Learning to comprehend the processes of the world leads to enlightenment and our best hope to one day intervene ahead of tragedies like that in Colorado. Failure to learn surrenders us to the control of those only too willing to manipulate our ignorances.

An ode to a great man you’ll never hear about.

It is natural, even necessary to ask a child, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” No one ever asked Martin Turck that question. No one ever wondered if one day he’d be a firefighter, an astronaut or evene a janitor. Martin, or Marty, as everyone more commonly called him, was born with severe Down’s Syndrome.

When he was born in the mid-1950’s doctors told his parents he’d be lucky to survive the month, and if he did, the best thing for him would to be institutionalized. That certainly would have sealed marty’s fate. Not from some endemic cruelty or neglect, but love is as essential to life as food or water or shelter. During the Rwandan Genocide, members of my team came upon a few dozen children huddled in an abandoned garage on the outskirts of the Goma refugee camp in, then, Zaire. Their defacto leader was a spry and spirited 12 year old named Michael. He was a lively and cocky kid when the team spoke with him despite that all the children’s parents had been murdered or had succumbed to disease epidemics sweeping the camps. The next day when the team returned they were told Michael had died overnight, simply giving up on life. That is the commodity of love in our lives. Marty Turck grew up in a family overflowing with love. He never suffered from a deficit of love.

He’d grown up in the forgettable little town of Emmetsburg, insulated from the world among the rolling farm fields of northwest Iowa. The Turck family was one of the biggest clans in those parts. Marty was one of 17 siblings. Later his eldest sister, Jeanne married into the Drew family. At a family reunion in 1991, held on the Drew farm outside of town, cars lined the gravel road for the better part of a mile. Every soul attending knew Marty. He was heralded by all, without exception, as the unofficial king of the family.

But it wasn’t out of pity. It wasn’t out of some guilty sense of obligation. It was all Marty. It was the love that he brought unconditionally. He trusted immediately and had faith in everyone he met with unquestioning sincerity and without reservation. Marty’s embrace was almost overwhelming. What one did with that love and respect was entirely their choosing. I honestly believe not a single soul that ever met Marty ever squandered that simple blessing.

I grew up with Marty. Like so many others in the family, Marty Turck was iconic to the family. I admit to being eternally fascinated at the supreme regimen to his life. The way he ate a meal in a precise pattern, tied his shoes carefully and with total concentration, or the way he set out his clothes. These things were taught to him, but he took to them, I firmly believe, as a means of erasing, however small, the differences he percieved between his life’s perspective, and those of the rest of us. Marty was deeply spiritual,  a stalwart fixture at Sunday Mass  at old St. Mary’s church. I can still see him there beside my grandmother in his short-sleeved white shirt, tee-shirt peeking near the collar, with his trimmed red hair, copious amounts of freckles, sort of chewing on his upper lip.

He lost his mother in 1976, and his father a few years later. His sister Jeanne and some of the other siblings took up the care for him. Marty soon managed a small room in town, he got a job and even bragged of a girlfriend. As the years went by I went to visit less and less, still trying to make the reunions, which more took the shape of a fair than a simple family gathering. Each time Marty would sweep me into those deceptively powerful arms, as he did everyone. It got so if Marty wasn’t there right off, something felt as if it was missing.

Last I saw Marty was some years ago. He was on a softball team, playing the infield. Over the last few years Marty developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Yesterday he passed quietly from the world, but he left behind a footprint of immense and beautiful proportions. He filled the world with love and touched everyone who knew him, which is why I wrote this piece. Call it a literary cremation, of sorts. Each thought here is a piece of Marty scattered throughout the world.

At the end of it all there is no purpose for our lives any larger than those we love, and those who love us. There is not some grand victory we all are striving towards. No flag to be planted at the end of the universe. All there is are each of us, alone if we choose, or filled with light and life and community if we choose that as well. Martin Turck taught me that. I rcall the wonder and curiosity as he gazed upon Jesus upon the Cross at St. Mary’s, and though I have never truly believed myself, what weight I give to the possibility of something beyond this life I owe in no small part to him. I hope that he found that place.

He was a great man, though I doubt he ever knew it. He did indeed aspire to something, despite never being asked. For those of us who take for granted the illusion of full faculties-so called-we should hope to fill the world with such love.

I love you, marty, and will miss you…

The Ballad of Don and Dean, or how pork sausage saved the world: part two of three


The afternoon slips into memory. Summer fades and the skies turn cold and gray. The breeze that whispered among the cornrows is now an icy wind rustling among dry yellow stalks. The oblong leaves of the maple are stained a rusty red, falling in great heaps to cover the yard and the two empty chairs beside the barn. It rained earlier, clearing the air so that everything appears fresh and new, the colors as crisp and precise as if from a painting. A pickup crests the far hill, barreling along the gravel road past the farm. Stones crackle loudly against the undercarriage.

Don and Dean stand on the porch looking out at the yard and the white gravel driveway, out past the tractor and the rusting green Oldsmobile that hasn’t run in years. The fields are plowed, mostly. The diverging lines of harvest rows run away in the distance. Banks of autumn trees are colored brown and gold. A thick carpet of clouds softens the world above with only glimpses of blue sky. The air smells mineral-cold like snow and holds the gingery bite of burning leaves.

Dean is dressed in his best brown suit, with a borrowed gold tie and a clean white shirt. Black would have been more appropriate, if only he had another suit to wear. His hands are buried deep in his pockets. His shoulders are heavy with the accumulated weight of life’s burden and ultimate sadness. Don is beside him wearing the same black suit he wore when he retired from teaching. The pant’s legs are hemmed a little too short. Don’s white socks can be seen below the neatly pressed cuffs.

Dean is thinking of Mary Lou. He recalls their first meeting at the high school sock hop, their first kiss and how she looked the first time they made love. He remembers the pea-green Buick and the Chuck Berry song that was playing when he asked for her hand in marriage. He remembers the birth of each of their children. His mind is a confusion of thoughts and tattered emotions. They are debris swirling in the storm of his mind, whipped by a single regret; that there wasn’t enough time. Somehow Mary Lou still feels close. Strange that a body can feel so far away, even when making love, but the soul is always close.

Was a nice ceremony,” says Don, rocking on his heels.

Yep.” Emotion hangs heavy in Dean’s chest.

Mary Lou would have loved it.”

Naw,” Dean frowns, “would have hated folks fussing and weeping over her.”

There is a long silence. The wind rustles through the dry corn. A crow caws from the field. Dean’s voice wavers. “Sure am gonna miss her.”

In a better place than hangin’ around listening to a couple old coots like us.”

Guess I‘m just selfish.”

How’re the kids holding up?”

Mostly. Grandkids’ll miss her the most. The old gal never missed a birthday. Knew every single one, which is why I never had to.”

Same way with Joanne,” says Don. The comment unexpectedly enrages Dean. Though he knows what Don means, knows the comment was innocent enough, Dean wants to shout that it isn’t the same, and that he has no idea until his wife is gone too. The feeling scares the hell out of Dean.

Is that right?” Dean manages.


Woman thing.”

Keep us civilized.”

Sure,” Dean drags himself from the rage. “Sure, or we’d be hairy, unwashed barbarians; fat, smelly and thinkin’ we’re God’s gift.”

The rage leaves him, but in this barren land where grief and guilt are one in the same, it is a simple thing to stumble from one treacherous footfall to another. Dean is suddenly confronted with the endlessly cold abyss of forever. Don watches Dean’s brow collapse. Hopelessness and terror crystallize in Dean’s eyes. Don searches for a way to rescue his friend.

Paint quite a picture there, Dean.” Don gives Dean’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. Dean looks up and finds strength in caring and familiar eyes.

Just call every so often to make sure I bathe once in a while.”

It’s that hairy part that has me spooked,” Don smiles. “But we’ll take it a day at a time.”

Dean nods. “Well, that’s something then.”

Come by now and again, make sure ya get a good meal or two.”

Sure could use a bit of breakfast right now,” says Dean. “Ain’t had much to eat since yesterday.”

Cook ya up a couple of eggs?”

Strange thing to worry about with all this goin’ on?”

Gotta eat.”

Believe I could use a bit of breakfast.”

That’s a trooper.”

Somethin’ with a bit of noise. Up for a ride out to the Hog’s Breath?”

Believe I could use a cup of their coffee.”

Good coffee.”


Got a taste for their pork sausage.”

Got a good one, do they?” asks Don.

Hear they make it fresh.”

Is that right?”

That’s what I hear.”

Believe you just might be right.”

Autumn gives way to winter. It’s like an ending to some, a transition to others and to some a beginning. It depends on where they’re standing at that moment. The snow comes early, arriving sometime before the dawn. It lays quietly among the plowed fields, a white blanket torn by dark rows. The light is soft, accompanied by a silence broken only by the whisper of fluffy-white snowflakes. Out past the tractor, a quarter mile or so away, a pair of deer move among the fields. Their brown winter coats are full, snow collecting lightly upon their backs and shoulders.

Out on the porch the air is cold. It puts a sting to the cheeks and nose, but Don barely notices. The cold air is cleansing, giving a new perspective to difficult thoughts and concerns, like Dean’s slow and apparent wasting in the months since losing Mary Lou. The cold and quiet bring Don a clarity that he has sorely missed. He wonders where it will end. He recalls how his own father seemed to give up on life after his mother passed. The thought leads him to his own life. From the first day with Joanne the thought was there. Seemed like it would take him away from a love that needed to be loved in the present. In retrospect he is still undecided, and wonders if his father’s fate was inevitable, like a comet plunging to an unavoidable end in the sun. He wonders if there is some pressure that will nudge his own heart from that certain destruction.

The door is open behind him. A soft golden light from the lamp on the bureau falls through the dingy screen door. Coffee is brewing in the kitchen. The warm, bitter fragrance finds him. He feels like he is standing on the divide between two worlds. The scent of the coffee comes with the scent of a house that feels every bit as substantial and familiar as any member of the family. He glances back at Dean who is visiting for the weekend.

Dean looks frail and much older these days, his eyes like long abandoned wells. He is awake, sitting at the edge of the sofa bed with his back to the door. His toes are tucked into a pair of well-worn brown slippers. A black and orange blanket rests upon his shoulders. Don smiles at Dean’s tossled wispy white hair.

Dean is staring blankly at the cold fireplace. His eyes are fixed there, lost in some groggy half-thought. He feels a draft from the open door across his bare ankles and worries about his wife in that cold, cold ground.

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