Archive for October, 2015



JANUARY 24, 2010

(This was originally posted as A DRUNKEN POST, on January 24, 2010)

Seems that a drunken post is a rite of passage for bloggers–at least those who drink.  So here’s mine.  I don’t drink daily, nor do I ever drink alone.  So when I drink, I make up for lost time.  I missed my singles group’s dinner last night, because of my still-twisted sleep cycle.  But tonight I called Delbert–my only friend in Singletons, and we went to Millers Ale House.  It was my choice–I’ve been pursuing a twenty-something gal there named Tara, a hostess, for over two years.

Tonight I asked that she stop by our table.  She did, and I was amazed–she was cute, though not nearly as gorgeous as I remembered.  But isn’t this typical of guys–to put gals on a ridiculously high pedestal?  Anyway, we went ahead and ate–and then stayed till after 2 a.m., just talking.  Delbert doesn’t drink, but I just put down one Foster’s (Australia) after another–I must have had at least ten, good thing he was driving.

Delbert is the only member of my singles group who’s an intellectual, like me–who enjoys deep discussions, and very intelligent conversation.  Only difference is that he is primarily left-brained, while I’m primarily right-brained.  His best subjects in school were math and science–while mine were English and history. Still, we get along well–it’s so damned good to have someone with whom I can really talk.  I even told him once that I wished I could find a woman like him. Maybe I have.  Cathy, the woman I mentioned in a previous post, has agreed to meet me for another lunchdate, on February 3rd.  And she is primarily left-brained (most men are primarily left-brained, most women are primarily right-brained–so she is an exception, like me).

I did most of the talking–centering mainly on politics and religion.  Yes, Delbert is the only person with whom I can discuss the most taboo subjects.  He claims he’s not intellectual, because he doesn’t read as much as I.  But he listens, and learns–and this is every bit as intellectual.  In fact, one’s desire to learn is far more important than his or her level of intelligence.  Intelligence is just a prerequisite–the desire to learn is the key to gaining knowledge.  And he enjoys learning, just as I do.

Anyway, I just sent an email to Tara, once again asking for her phone number. Odds are she won’t respond, but that will be nothing new.  Still, I remain undaunted.  That’s one area in which I wish women were a little more like men, if I may be politically incorrect.  Most women get rejected by men once or twice, and distrust men the rest of their lives–while most men get rejected by women, over and over, and still keep trying.  Reminds me of My Fair Lady, and Higgins’ song, Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?  In fairness, however, I’m sure women often wish a man could be more like a woman.

The fact is that, even though men and women differ genetically by only three percent, they are quite different from one another.  My friend Joseph, who (though somewhat shallow) brought me out of my shell, as a teenager, once said, “Girls want us because we have something they don’t have, we want girls because they have something we don’t have.”  And that’s one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard in my life.

Still, I often wish we weren’t so profoundly different.  And the Creator might laugh, and reply, “No, you don’t–the amount of difference is precisely what you want!”

Well I’ve got a headache, of course (the Janie Fricke song, Jose Cuervo, You Are a Friend of Mine is going through my mind)–and must cease writing, and sleep this off.

I may decide to delete this post, but probably not–since a blog is about the real blogger, naked, without pretense.  And if I’ve misspelled anything, gimme a break.

P.S.–If you want to Google Singletons and/or Millers Ale House, feel free–I’m not bothering to conceal them.  U.S. Singletons is an interesting group, and Millers Ale House an outstanding restaurant, so you can tell either entity Scott recommended it.

DECEMBER 8, 2012

(This was originally posted as DRUNKEN POST #24, on December 8, 2012.)

The Singletons ate at an Italian place tonight.  Delbert was back (he’d gone home to Oregon for a couple weeks), so it was good to talk to him again.  And even John joined us after dinner to talk a bit.  But Carl wasn’t there.  He died of a heart attack last week.  It was so surreal.  I’d just spoken with him at dinner last Friday.  Now he was gone–just like that.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he would suddenly show up this evening–if his death had just been a dream.  But it wasn’t. This is the first time a member of Singletons has died, since I’ve been a member. And I’m still the youngest member.

Death is a reality.  Of course it is.  But Carl was only in his 60’s (I think).  My parents are almost in their 80’s, and though they’re constantly bothering me with nonsense like, “We’re not going to be around forever, you need to learn to do things for yourself,” I know damned well that I will die before they do.

That Billy Joel song, “Only the Good Die Young”–that’s really true, for the most part.  The bad just keep on living.  My Grandpa Mayo, the greatest grandfather a boy could ever have, died in 1974, when I was only eight–and I still suffer from that early loss.  Then my Grandma Mayo died in 1999, after having Alzheimer’s for two years.  She was good too (though not as good as Grandpa).  Yet my Grandmother Pyle–a prudish woman–lived on into the 21st Century.  And my Granddaddy Pyle–a dry drunk, and cantankerous man–died last–in his 90’s.

It’s not fair.  Granddaddy Pyle should have died in 1974, and Grandpa Mayo should have died last.  But that’s how it goes.  The best people die first–the worst people die last.  I know of only one exception (not a family member).

There’s a song called “Sweet Mystery of Life”–but there’s no song called “Bitter Mystery of Death”.  I wonder why.

Speaking of songs, there was one that played several times at this Italian place tonight (background music).  I’d heard it before.  It’s a jazz piece, probably from the 1930s or ’40s.  But I couldn’t make out the words.  I want that song–I want to order a CD with that song on it.  I love it–at least the melody.  Before leaving, I whistled it to the waiter, but he didn’t recognize it.  Then I whistled it to the owner, but he didn’t recognize it either.  He mentioned that the CD he was playing was new–I really should have pressed him for the name of the CD, yet I didn’t want to seem too pushy.  After I’d got home, after I’d had several servings of Irish coffee, I called the local public radio station, and left a message.  For the message, I hummed the melody, and asked them to give me a call if they recognized the song.  They play a lot of jazz, so they may recognize it.  I hope they do–and return my call if they do.

In the meantime, I finished listening to the filmscore of “The Fly” (1986) again–love that filmscore–then Aziz Mian’s “Tere Ishq Nachaya” again–then the filmscore of “Splice”–and finally the first half of an Ali Jihad Racy CD called “Mystical Legacies”.  Told you I was eclectic!

I blank-out my last name, for now.  Because I’ve probably made a hell of a lot of enemies from this blog!  But borrowing from a country song called “Bakersfield” (I think), “See, you don’t know me if you don’t like me!”

My left nostril bleeds a bit.  It’s more because I’ve recently changed my medication regimen–then had to change it back–than because I’ve consumed both alcohol and caffeine.  But I’m drinking as much water as I can.  And it’s so strange because last Friday evening–after ordering an extra two helpings of rice because (as I explained) I’d read that a lot of carbs helps prevent a hangover–Carl said the best thing is plain water.  And now he’s dead.  It’s just so strange–so surreal.

I haven’t been so personally affected by the death of another since Donald’s (a very kind second-cousin of mine) daughter committed suicide–just down the street from me.  Before that it was the wreck of the Amtrak Sunset Limited near Mobile, where I lived at the time.  I didn’t know those people at all.  But it happened so close–over Bayou Canot–probably not far from where my dad and I had fished.  I really thought about my own mortality the day after that.  Now I really think again about my own mortality.  If I could have one wish fulfilled, it would be for immortality, invincibility.  Nothing could harm me, nothing.  I would live for thousands of years, maybe millions, even billions.  Imagine the power I’d have.  I could fix the world’s problems–make this planet as close to a utopia as possible.  And I’d have more women than I knew what to do with.

If you consider this an evil fancy, consider yourself.  No one would turn down a chance at immortality, invincibility.  Everyone has had (or will have) this fantasy. No, it’s not evil.  Just impractical.  Because everyone would prefer a dictatorship–provided he or she would be the dictator!

I’m tempted to end this post in the usual way–with a spread of a gorgeous gal. Yet the following would be more appropriate.

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DRUNKEN POST #42

“Mr. McGee, don’t make me sober . . . You wouldn’t like me when I’m sober.”

But because there’s alcoholism in my family history, and because none of my ancestry is of Mediterranean origin, I have to be sober most of the time!

key_art_the_incredible_hulk

WORDS OF AN OWL

There’s an owl in my backyard.  It’s probably a great horned owl.  It’s distracting me from writing a highly political, provocative post.  Yet I don’t mind.  It’s after midnight–almost 1:00 a.m.  The air conditioner came on, I just turned it off–so I could hear the owl.  God I love that call.  There are variations in it–it’s not exactly the same.  There’s probably an owl in my backyard every night, but it’s so rarely heard above the suburban noises.  I love this.  I’m just listening.  I don’t just listen often enough.  The owl really does seem to be saying something–or at least trying to say something.  It seems as if it’s trying to get through to me–or anyone else–with a message. Maybe this is why owls are considered wise, in folklore. Maybe it has some wisdom to impart.  It has stopped–I don’t know why.  And I suddenly feel very lonely.  Or has it?  My refrigerator has come on–maybe it’s drowning out the owl’s words.  I would unplug the damned thing, but I’ll wait instead.  I could swear I can still hear the owl, at times, above the refrigerator’s noise.  I just realized I’ve seen no hawks this year–that’s disturbing.  I’ve seen no fireflies for many years.  And I saw a honeybee a while back–first one I’d seen in over a decade.  It’s not pesticides killing the honeybees–it’s your goddamned cellphones and other mobile devices.  I’m still waiting for that refrigerator to shut up. I just want to make sure the owl is still there.  Your goddamned cellphones and other mobile devices are probably killing off the fireflies too.  And God knows what else they’re killing off–besides other human beings, on the roads, every single day.  I really despise your goddamned cellphones and other mobile devices. I also despise your ignorance, apathy, and complacency.  And your mindless patriotism nationalism–your proudly, mindlessly repeating, “God bless America,” while doing absolutely nothing to prevent America’s self-destruction. Because you are responsible for America’s future–we all are.  The U.S. Government will not save America; the Republican Party will not save America; the Democratic Party will not save America; the American press will not save America; the U.S. military cannot save America; only you can save America–you, each and every American citizen.  If you choose a president based on whether you think he or she can protect America from ISIS, you’re a goddamned fool. Because ISIS is nothing compared to your ignorance, apathy, and complacency. There are nations and organizations all over this world that are waiting.  They know they will not have to fire a shot to take America from you.  They know you will destroy America from within–all of you Americans, with your ignorance, apathy, and complacency.  They are laughing their asses off at the buffoonery of your political debates–your worship of celebrities, as opposed to consideration of those few Americans who really love America, and want to prevent its self-destruction.  The so-called Barbarians did not conquer Rome–they didn’t have to–Rome destroyed itself.  The Barbarians simply walked on in and took the spoils. And this is exactly what’s going to happen to America–the armies of other nations, and self-serving organizations will walk on in and take the spoils–after America has destroyed itself–from within.  But you can prevent this if you want to.  If you put down your goddamned cellphones and other mobile devices (your Digital-Age pacifiers), and take a good, hard look at what’s really going on in America.  Because of the wisdom of your founding fathers, you have more control over your government than the people of any other nation on earth.  But you don’t take control of your government, you let your government take control of you.  And to worsen matters, you believe everything your self-serving press, self-serving mass media tells you, without any questioning whatsoever–your gullibility is disgusting.  You are corralled by your government on one side and your press on the other–and if you don’t get out from between both forces of this massive vise, you will be crushed into nothingness.  If you don’t exercise your freedoms now, you will lose them later–freedom of speech being the most endangered of all.  So wake up, America, and take responsibility for your country.  And instead of mindlessly repeating, “God bless America,” say sincerely, “God help America,” because America needs help, not blessings.  The refrigerator is still going, and I’m not waiting any longer.  I think the owl is speaking–but its words fall on deaf ears, just as mine do.

AN EXPLANATION FOR EVERYTHING

There is an explanation for everything.  The unexplained is only that which we cannot explain–that for which we don’t know the explanation.  But it still has an explanation.  The question is not whether everything has an explanation, but who knows the explanation.  The explanations for some things are known by only a few people–others by only one person.  Yet for most things, only the Creator knows the explanation.  Some people, for example, know if there was a conspiracy involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy–and, if so, who was behind the conspiracy.  But no one knows what ghosts are–at least to anyone else’s knowledge.  And no one knows why bad things happen to good people–more specifically, why so many people suffer so much more than so many others. This is something only the Creator knows–God sees the truth, but waits.

And for many things–maybe even most–there are many explanations.

Yet there is an explanation for everything, whether we know the explanation or not.

UNFINISHED KILL: AN UNFINISHED STORY

UNFINISHED KILL

Scott Mayo

Grey was pissed that you didn’t have any more writing to present today, announced a voice.

I know, thought Mark, And you’d think he’d realize–after eight of his classes, over the past ten years–that I always come up with good material in the end.

Yes, the voice continued, And he probably does.  But perhaps repeating, ‘Get to work, or drop the class,’ is the only method which, he believes, will motivate you.

Well, it’s not!  Mark asserted.  I’ve told him that angry professors intimidate me, and he should be sensitive to this.

He may be, actually, the voice mused.  Yet he might feel that intimidation is the only force to move you out of this rut.  Speaking of which, why don’t you write about the events which led to it–those of Sunday evening?

I can.  But it’s a hunting story–and I don’t want to fuel the ignorance-based outcries of the fools who rally for the prohibition of hunting altogether.

Grey is not likely one of these, the voice argued.  Only he will read it.

Yes, agreed Mark.  However, the chapter will be included in my thesis–and perhaps ultimately published.

So?  The voice was comforting.  If your work is accepted into the academic world, certainly many of its readers will understand that hunters possess the same graces and failures as they–some may even be hunters, themselves.  And for those who oppose this ancient ritual, what better way to prove that the hunter has a place in creation, as the hunted does; that our lives depend upon the deaths of other living things; that life and death are transient realities–dancing together in a circle?

Yes, thought Mark.  Yes, but where do I start?

Where you wish to be, answered the voice.

Of course, Mark thought . . .

‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep,’ and I cannot imagine a more beautiful place in which to die.  I’ve turned off my flashlight, so the deer will think we’ve stopped looking for him.  My dad is returning to the four-wheeler to get some orange tape.  Until he ran out, he used the reflective clothespins Uncle Robert gave him.  I wait beside the last spot of blood we’ve found.  At eye-level, the shrubs, vines, and palmettos connect the trees with a layer of total darkness. Then the sky-light begins.  The stars are as thick as the forest, and I lie on my back to view them.  The pines cradle me, towering into space as if guiding my eyes toward Heaven.  And ‘Solvejg’s Lullaby’, from Grieg’s music for “Peer Gynt”, flows within my mind.  The four-wheeler rests at the edge of Food-plot #2, where began the events which brought me here . . .

Dad parked the four-wheeler in a small clearing off the road, at about 2:25 p.m. We walked downhill to the path that led to his shooting-house, at the #6 plot. There, he gave me directions to the #2 patch–which is nearest 6.  Then he disappeared into the trees, and I continued onward.

The road is unpaved, and it seems an equal measure of dirt, sand, and clay. Farther up, a crude asphalt is added–but not here, in what my Great-Great Aunt Pearl would have called, “bottom-land”.  And that’s better–the asphalt stinks.  In some areas, flat, layered rocks–obviously from the Appalachian region of Alabama, or some northern or desert state–are used for pavement.  (I’ve taken some of these to my apartment–my tarantula, Charlotte, perches on them.)  The road is nearly always covered with the tracks of ATV tires, hunters’ boots, paws of predator-scavengers, and–hopefully–deer hooves.  The larger the hoof-prints, the more promising–as long as they’re fresh enough.

Scrub oaks grow at the road’s edges, for a short distance.  Then the longleaf pines take over, some of which are harvested and replanted for lumber and paper pulp.  The deer prefer their discarded needles (pine straw) for bedding.  And there’s a lot of it on the ground, right now–so I paid special attention as I walked alongside it.  I also stepped as quietly as possible, in a method my father taught me–of placing one’s heel on the ground first, then gently lowering the rest of the foot.  I avoided dead leaves–which crackle–muffling laughter, as I pictured ‘Elmer Fudd’ saying, “Be vewy quiet–I am hunting wabbits!”

With my left hand, I carried my canvas bicycle pack by its handle–trying not to let it drag along the ground.

Previously, I’d worn it over my shoulders–but it made too much noise whenever I slid it off to climb into a shooting-house.  Mike carried his books in it when he was attending divinity school at Yale, and his address and phone number still show clearly on the tag sewn onto its back.  Now I wear it when riding my Schwinn Sidewinder long distances–such as the Highway-90 route from the Mobile city limits to the Mississippi state line (which, I must admit, I’ve only attempted once).  When bicycling, I carry my chain and lock, and an extra shirt in this bag–but up here, it contains most of my hunting equipment.  And on my left arm, I held clothing too bulky for storage in the bike pack.  I embraced it firmly against my chest, to prevent scraping.  This afternoon’s temperature was very mild–in the high 50’s, at least (terrible for hunting, since deer do not move around as often when it’s warm).  So I didn’t have to take much extra covering–just my Members Only jacket, and the big, goose-down jacket Mike wore through Connecticut winters.  I left my entire right arm free, in order to quickly position my rifle if necessary.  And I carried the gun over my right shoulder, its strap locked around the opposite side of my neck to prevent it from accidentally slipping.

The rifle is a Remington 30-06, with a mounted scope.  It is actually my father’s–he lets me borrow it when we’re hunting.  His own rifle is of the same make and model, but with less varnish on the wood.  I don’t know what “30-06” means–only how to pronounce it, and that it is some kind of measurement.  The cartridges are over three inches long.  Their gunpowder casing is brass, and their projectiles are lead, with a copper finish almost to the tips.  My father doesn’t know this–but I keep one of the unspent bullets at my apartment, as a souvenir.  Right now it’s on my dining table, and I frequently place my eyes at table-level and gaze upward at it–like those protohumans wondering at the monolith, in “2001: A Space Odyssey”.  Sometimes I even shake it, and listen to the powder inside–which is slightly foolhardy.  However measured, this cartridge–when propelled by the gun–is sufficient to kill a whitetail deer of any size, instantly–and probably an elk, a moose, and even a large grizzly.  I had loaded my rifle before we left the camp-house.  When loading, one slides a single bullet into the main hold of the barrel, then inserts the clip underneath it.  The clip (or “magazine”) holds four more cartridges.  This is a semi-automatic rifle–it fires each time one pulls the trigger, until all five bullets are discharged.

It’s always eerie when I’m hiking alone to a shooting-house.  Everything seems more quiet than usual, as if awaiting an explosion.  Leaves rustling in the wind, calls of birds, and barks of an occasional squirrel are all muffled.  And the loudest sound is probably my own breathing–whose volume and tempo fluctuate as I become less or more tense, and as the terrain gets higher or more level.  I try not to breathe through my nostrils at all–they’re always congested (as are my dad’s), thus noisy with passing air.  Instead, I exhale and inhale through my mouth–still regulating each breath for a moderate tempo.  Lately, I hadn’t been working out at Pro Health–and I had to stop myself from whispering, “Damn,” as I realized my lack of endurance caused heavy respiration.

Because a deer’s hearing is better than a human’s–and its sense of smell even better than that–my father says it is very unlikely I should encounter one on the way to my stand–but possible, nevertheless.  It has happened before, to hunters other than myself.  Thus ceaseless vigilance is required.  One’s eyes must be constantly, yet gradually, scanning the horizon–as if a buck will appear, in any second.  It was a little frightening, somewhat thrilling, when I imagined a twelve-point–his weight at least half that of my own–plodding onto the road ahead. There he stopped and turned, as if personally challenging me to shoot him.  I recalled an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, stating that the largest deer ever to exist on earth–which became extinct several million years ago–was over nine feet high, at the shoulder.  I fancied a small herd of such deer still existing in this forest–and my killing of its largest buck, forever establishing my fame among hunters, scientists, and the general populace.  I considered a short story I’d proposed–about a parallel universe in which deer are carnivorous.  The protagonist is trapped in his shooting-house by a buck underneath, with bloodstained antlers.  It continuously watches him, sporadically growling and baring its fangs.  The hunter attempts to follow this encircling beast with the tip of his rifle, knowing he must kill it before stepping down the ladder.  And I thought of ghosts–which deer so resemble whenever they materialize out of the woods in silence.  I remembered learning about Virginia Dare, the first American born to English parents.  By 1590, she had disappeared–along with all other inhabitants of the Roanoke colony.  Yet a myth remains–that she was transformed into a silver doe, by a native medicine man, and cursed to roam the wilderness.  All these things I pondered, as I held back from whistling an old Irish slip jig, called, “The Strayaway Child”.

Dad had told me #2 was alot farther down the road–nevertheless, I began to wonder if I’d passed it.  I looked at my watch, and slightly gasped–only seven minutes till 3:00.  I’d planned to be in the shooting-house before the hour, and hadn’t seen it yet.  Any house is discernible from the road, until sunset.  Each one is several feet above ground, and just off a food-plot–thus it initially appears as a blotch, among the pines.  Still, it can be easily missed.  On the outside, its plywood walls are painted in a green, camouflagic design.  Although deer are color-blind, they can distinguish variations of light–and a large image of a singular shade will alarm them, until they’ve become accustomed to it.  Hence the camouflage, which allows the occupant to wear monotone clothing–like blue jeans–since it’s hidden behind the walls.  But the dark multicoloring of the shooting-house–further complicated by surrounding trees–can obscure it from the hunter, as well.  And for all I knew, it was a quarter-mile away.

Before the season opened, my dad marked each path by tying a strip of bright, orange tape to a bush or small tree at its entrance.  It was this for which he’d suggested I look when attempting to find the #2 stand.  I scanned for the tape and the house, simultaneously–but soon decided to concentrate on the orange strip.  I’d forgotten to ask whether the path started on the left or right side of the road–so I watched both (though I was almost certain it would be on the right, because #6 was).  Each time I noticed my breathing had become more rapid, I inhaled deeply, and exhaled as slowly as possible.

Shouldn’t panic! I thought, realizing my pace had quickened.  At worst, I’ll never find the stand, and will have to settle down at the woods’ edge.  Then I’ll simply wait out the hunt, returning to the four-wheeler at nightfall.

But this is my final chance to get a deer!  Dad’s not hunting tomorrow–and the club won’t allow me to hunt next week, since it’s the last of the season, and I’m not a member.

True . . . However–since deer frequently cross the roads, and sometimes even use them as thoroughfares–I may yet kill a buck, right here.

I’ll be at a disadvantage, though–my plain-shaded clothing, human scent, and unavoidable sounds will give me away.  Furthermore, no buck is going to graze along the road, when there’s a patch full of does nearby–if I see one, he’ll be a rapidly moving target, and I’m not that good of a shot.

It was in the course of this pointless debate that I finally caught sight of an orange ribbon, and stopped.  The shrub upon which it’s tied is almost barren right now–and I probably wouldn’t be able to identify its species, were it even adorned with summer foliage.  The tape has obviously been there a while, because it’s not even a foot off the ground.  I’m certain it was originally placed higher–but its tender, supporting limb was apparently lowered by heavy rain, drought, some curious animal, or snow (which is rare, even this far north).  Yet I saw no trail. Then I peered into the forest–no shooting-house either.  Once more, I surveyed the area nearest the marker.  To the right, there is the remnant of an old path. But pine and oak saplings, as well as fresh undergrowth and pine straw, have reclaimed it so that it’s almost beyond recognition.  Thus I concluded that another, more recently created trail probably lay ahead.  If I would’ve taken this one–although it was the first encountered–I might have ultimately lost perception of its outline, and wasted thirty minutes or more, deciding where it resumed (as when mowing a section of my parents’ lawn where the grass is not quite high enough).  So I continued down the road–memorizing the location of this orange tape, in case I were to find no other.

The ongoing terrain seemed more and more repetitive, until I questioned my strategy.  How much time should I devote to this?  And I employed a simple method I often use when trying to locate one of those rural schools at which I apply as a substitute teacher.  The digital face of my watch showed 3:03–and I resolved to go back to the original marker at 3:15, if I hadn’t discovered a fresher path by then.

Well, I was rather surprised when I did come across another orange strip.  It looked new–and its supporting bush held it proudly above the road, like a tom turkey displaying his chest.  The path–directly behind it–was so clear that I could glimpse the margin of the food-plot at its other end.  To further validate this find, I looked for the shooting-house.  I sighted it almost immediately.  It was only twenty-five-percent visible among the trees–but appeared forsaken, as if in need of my company.

I started down the trail–glancing from side to side, yet focusing mainly ahead.  As the field got larger, I scanned it–and its surrounding woods–intensely.  I came upon the shooting-house earlier than expected.  It was just to my right–disappointingly exposed and low to the ground.  What’s worse–the food-plot was uneven.  The back third of it sloped downward–therefore any deer on that end could not be seen from the house.  Stopping short of a sigh, I moved on toward the ladder.

Pine needles! I thought, when I reached the bottom step.  (Because their fragrance is so strong, yet such an ordinary part of a deer’s environment–they are an ideal mask for human scent.)  Gently, I dropped my bike pack–then looked around, until I found a three-feet pine sapling.  Securing the tiniest branch with my thumb and index finger, I pulled the needles from its tip–then crammed them into my left, front jeans pocket.

Back at the shooting-house ladder, I peered into the grass again.  (Various cereals–including rye, oats, and wheat (but excluding corn, which is prohibited)–are sown to attract the deer.  Winter rye is the primary choice of this club.)  I laid my jackets on the ground, and set the rifle on top of them to protect its barrel and scope.  I was relieved that the shooting-house entrance was in the back wall–rather than the floor, as in some of the others.  A door of this location offers more room for the hunter and his equipment, thereby reducing scraping noise.  I picked up the bag, and began ascending the ladder.  The steps, as well as their frame, are two-by-four sections of pine–not intended to support a three-hundred-pounder like me.  And the legs of the house are several years old–in need of reinforcement.  I became nervously aware of these facts, as each rung wobbled, and the entire structure (no larger than a Fotomat booth) shook.  Perhaps the grip of my right hand–the arm of it being my only support–got tighter, as well.

When I reached the door, I braced my knees against it.  I took the large key ring out of my right, front pocket, and thumbed to the smaller, attached ring–which contained the keys to the cow-pasture gates (though Mr. Williamson had recently sold his cattle), the camp-house, and the shooting-houses.  I unsnapped and removed the Master lock, then pulled the door open.

“What the hell?” I whispered, as a swarm of gnats flew into my face.  Of course they were feeding on something, and I first suspected it was an animal carcass. Then my imagination strayed where I did not want it–and I pictured a rigid human corpse, its teeth clenched in frozen pain, and its eyeballs fixed directly ahead–as if it cursed me to remember that visage in nightmares.  Yet the smell was moldy, at worst–and no flies or roaches accompanied the gnats.  So my breathing slightly calmed, as I waved through them, and let my eyes adjust to the forgotten darkness.

Bits of yellow foam, torn from the seat cushion, littered the floor–along with loose pages of various outdoors magazines and catalogs.  A Ziploc bag, thoroughly smudged with food grease, lay unsealed beneath the chair.  But most blatant was the wide-open, plastic kitchen garbage bag, hanging by two pushpins from the left wall–lined with chewing-tobacco spit, and finished off with apple cores, potato-chips bags, and Vienna Sausage cans.  Ironically, the down-turned caulking bucket–by holding this masterpiece of refuse above the floor–further exposed its contents.

“That son of a bitch!” I said, against the one who had last occupied the house–whoever it was.  Dad had recommended that we go to the #2 and #6 stands because they hadn’t been taken for a while.  But he didn’t know about this mess–nobody did, except the bastard who’d left it behind.  Leaving garbage at a stand is perhaps the worst offense one hunter can commit against another.  It introduces a strange, human odor to the environment.  If whitetails regularly encounter this intrusion, without consequence, they will accept it into their ‘safety zone’.  However, the adjustment is gradual–requiring more time than that between human occupancies.  For a few weeks, the deer will maintain extra caution around the house–some even inspecting it before they graze. Furthermore, insects drawn to the scent annoy the hunter–thereby distracting him, and causing him to move his arms, head, and torso as he brushes them away.  (Although a deer’s vision is poor, in contrast to a human’s, it can easily detect motion.)  When I return to camp, I’m going to backtrack through the roster, and identify the last occupant of this shooting-house.  I think I know who it is–but I’m not certain enough to name anyone yet.

I climbed onto the plywood floor, and leaned my bike pack against a rear corner. I surveyed the open garbage bag, once again–and held my breath (to keep from inhaling gnats), as I ripped it from the pushpins, then grabbed its top edges, and rolled it into itself.  While holding this wad in my right fist, I lifted the bucket.  It was empty.  So I shoved the bag into it, and resealed it against the floor.  Then I exhaled.

As I descended the ladder, I watched the food-plot between rungs.  (One’s prey is indifferent–it can emerge at any time, whether convenient or not.)  I picked up the rifle by its leather strap–then worked my hand to the link at the tip of the forearm, and gently slung it around my right shoulder.  Next, I took both jackets from the ground, by their collars.  I double-checked the area, making sure I’d left nothing behind–then climbed the steps.  And as I oversaw the patch once more, I thought of driving through a yellow traffic light–wondering if it will turn red before escaping my field of vision . . .

If you quit now, warned the voice, you will probably never finish it.

Mark switched off the lamp, and clumsily held the blinds aside.  The clouds over Crestview were pink.

Same at sunrise, as at sunset, he thought.  And he saw a girl strolling along the boulevard in front of the Eiffel Tower–wearing a red-purple-pink, frilly dress, flowing up and down–as she danced in circles, smiling skyward, waiting for him. The plastic strips knocked against the window’s edge when he let go.  Cliche.

You haven’t even settled down in the shooting-house yet, the voice said.

Last night I added one sentence to the story, he replied, it took me seventeen minutes to do that.  (A languid, Old World violin melody–from some television commercial–would not cease, no matter how hard he tried to stop it.  Accept it.) I can recall the music to which I listened on my Walkman, the unexpected behavior of the various does and bucks, even the agony of that wasteful, misplaced shot. But I cannot experience any of it–too much time has passed.

You got an ‘A’ in Grey’s last course–you have nothing left to prove, there.  But this chapter might not stand on its own, against the glare of a thesis committee.

So be it, he said.  At worst, I’ll have to cut the scene from the novel, and transfer this last page to Chapter 1.  Life is haphazard and disconnected, remember?

1997

MOST FORTUNATE OF ALL

If you have something to live for, you are more fortunate than most.

If you have something to die for, you are more fortunate than most.

If you have something to live and die for, you are most fortunate of all.

FROM THE FRIARS CLUB #4

(This was originally posted on April 6, 2011–but I had to delete it due to technical issues.  I apologize to those who left comments on the original post.)

And this is my favorite from the fourth segment of The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes (categories under the letter, D):

A guy who has a stuttering problem goes in to his doctor… “Ex-ex-ex-cu-cu-se m-m-me d-d-doc but but I I have th-th-this st-st-stuttering problem and I I I was wo-wondering if you c-c-c-could help m-m-me.”

“Well take off your clothes and get into this gown and let me check you over.”

The guy gets into the gown and the doctor begins his examination.  Finally, the doctor, obviously surprised, says, “I see what the problem is.  Your penis is so large that it’s pulling on your abdominal muscles, which in turn is causing strain on your vocal chords.”

“W-w-w-well c-c-can you h-h-help m-m-me?”

“Sure I can, but we’ll need to cut off about eight inches.”

“G-g-go a-a-a-head, D-D-Doc, I-I-I-I can’t t-t-t-take this an-anymore.  D-d-do it.”

Six months later the guy goes back to the doctor.  “Well, Doc,” he says, “I must say that the operation was a great success, but my sex life really sucks and I would like my operation reversed.  Please put back what you took off.”

The doctor replies, “F-f-f-f-f-fuck off!”

A FRIVOLOUS LAWSUIT OF THE WORST KIND

Don’t take my word for this, it’s just something I heard on the BBC the other night. And it’s been bothering me, so I want to write it down.  This is the bizarre situation, as I recall what I heard:

Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Nestle have all been accused of taking advantage of child slave labor in Africa.  This has been going on for a while–children are being used as slaves on cocoa plantations in Africa–plantations that supply Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Nestle with cocoa for their chocolate.

Hershey, at least, has stated that it has begun moving away from this practice.

Yet here is the most disturbing part:

A large number of California residents has filed a class-action lawsuit against Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Nestle.  And a major law firm has taken on their claim.

And this is their claim:

They bought chocolate products from these three companies, without knowing about this child slave labor involved in the production of their products.  So these Californians feel they should be compensated for this.

As I listened to this report, I thought, ‘Wait a minute–this isn’t right.  Why should consumers of Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Nestle products in the United States benefit, financially, from child slave labor being practiced in Africa?  If these Californians sue Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Nestle, and win their case–this will do absolutely nothing to stop this abhorrent practice of child slave labor.’

In other words, the money that should go toward stopping the child slave labor in Africa will go into the pockets of California residents instead.

And that’s just wrong.

Again, don’t take my word for this–I’m only relating what I heard on the BBC a few nights ago.  But this is the situation, as I understand it.

WAKING THE BELOVED

The lock of error shuts the gate, open it with the key of love:

Thus, by opening the door, thou shalt wake the Beloved.

Kabir says: “O brother!  do not pass by such good fortune as this.”

Kabir

(translated by Rabindranath Tagore)


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