If I roamed in speech like Mark Twain, Making sure of my woods, river, sea, I'd wander in a circle, find an old goat, A grandfather, a porch, gold, river pirates. A wooden rocker and an audience, newsprint. Of innocents abroad, of jaded women here. If I enlisted like Mark Twain, casually, Caustic humor, avoiding combat, dinner. Serving for two, yes two, weeks And late for dinner. Tents and shovels. Tour of duty, the South, Rising late For breakfast, late home for dinner, Lectures from well meaning adult fools Who don't understand that war means blood. If I prayed like Mark Twain, for he did, It would be short, sweet, to the point, An argument of reason, intellect, An avoidance of familiarity, a face, questions. He prayed for salvation for his absurd truths. He never even got a letter in return. I am not Mark Twain, although I ramble in A concrete jungle, a zoo of originality, Of pauses and starts, hesitation, then Galloping on two feet with little hands. Children are my joy, his too. I enlisted, found a hole with my name, Foxlike I waited for the big dog, But all he wanted was sex. Sex, with me! Fraternizing with peers, I said no, and no, I found the door to file papers of abuse. Learned men are a grouping of Rotten apples, grapes on a vine. I have no time for old boys. Networks, bah. I don't pray. No, never got an answer, Not even a no. I figure God will Send me a postcard, or an email Asking for money, when God gets around. Everyone wants money. I have a hole in my pocket. Leaking. I am an emotional clamp, holding together A family of squirrels. Who knew? Mother always knew best, then I, Me, became the All Knowing Mother To mine own be true. Schools and crossbows Peeking from Concrete towers of sand. Sand stolen from the river. Free. Wait, there's a charge? Grumpy black bear, Moose Feet, It's something Twain saw, In the City of Gold at sunset In San Francisco, My dream city. Twain and I would have whiskey Talking politics, reading Dickens. Laughing at the words lost On a system of learning. Unlearning. Creeping, shadowing, loathing. We'd chat, sympathize, reconnoiter The political landscapes with Enough comedy for years of shows. Appalled that thinking people still hate. Appalled at the randomness of the bible Applied at a voting booth. Politics And religion rarely join joist to hinge. Mankind at its best, condemning sky, water, Others because they can, do, lust after. He'd shake his head, write a book, Find Adam in the park. Discuss with disdain, And I would listen, rapt, filing for later All of the similarities through time, A century of time, of things he thought Would mend, but haven't. So I write.
Could it have ended any better? Perhaps, but when you adopt a little old man hitchhiking by the side of the road, a good ending is the most wonderful thing of all. He pulled me over by sheer force of will. His thumb extended, his blue eyes immediately boring a hole into my soul, and I was hooked.
“You’re late,” he said, while climbing up in. “I’ve been standing on the corner praying for an angel. What kept you?”
“I’m not sure. Where are you heading?”
“I need to get a prescription filled, I fell down the stairs last night. The emergency room wouldn’t give me them, because no one would give me a ride home. I’ll give you twenty bucks for the ride.”
“I’ll take you, and angels don’t accept money. It’s bad form.”
I was his chauffeur that day and for many days which followed. His son had stolen his money from savings, the title to his house, and all of his investment accounts. His family wanted his money, but not him, and he wasn’t dying fast enough. I learned his story, became angry, and when I get angry, I take action. I got him a pro-bono lawyer, hearing aids, and painted furniture in his garage, because that bastard of a son had stolen all his furniture, too.
I met the lawyer for the first time while we were painting furniture for his kitchen with a blue stain. He needed a table and chairs to have company over. The lawyer walked through the house, took the notes I had prepared for him, and said that his son was suing for custody of the old man. Bill exploded.
“I worked for a living starting at age 8. I picked up coal from the sluice fields and saved my family a winter’s worth of warm. I worked every day during the depression, and I don’t resent giving the money I earned to my mother. I saved 20% of every payday. I served in World War 2. I saved enough money to buy my sister a condo and move her from Pennsylvania. I manage my own bills. I have health care and I pay for it. I know what day it is and I know who is running for president. Why is he suing me for custody? He’s a thief and a pathological liar.”
“Any proof of that?” the lawyer asked.
Oh, there was plenty of proof. His son had a history of exploitation. It had soured Bill’s marriage. He had beaten his wife and baby son, so that they ran away. When the divorce went through, he was ordered to pay child support and paid absolutely nothing. His wife was so afraid, she went into hiding. Bill and his wife never saw their grandson again. That was one of the reason’s his wife gave up and died. She smoked and drank herself into her grave to cover the pain.
His son had tried to weasel himself back into the old man’s grace, had pretended he was sorry for all he had done. Bill believed that even his son deserved another chance. As soon as he moved in with Bill, the verbal abuse and pushing began. He coerced him into a nursing home, stealing everything he could.
He went to court to take the old man’s driver’s license. That’s when Bill checked out of the nursing home and went to his bank to find one dollar left as a balance. The bank refused to act on the theft of $75,000 dollars. That was the only thing his son got away with. I made sure of that.
I met with his investment banker, set up a lunch date and drove Bill there. His broker immediately acted to protect Bill’s money. I got a lawyer to fight the title change of Bill’s home, and he succeeded in regaining the title. Bill was protected now, and with the money from the sale of his house, he bought a condo near his sister’s. The only thing he asked was that she visit him once a day for lunch or dinner.
She called me and told me to find a nursing home, that she couldn’t stand her brother any more. Then she left on a vacation he had paid for. Nice?
We put the condo up for sale. I asked him where he wanted to go to live.
“The only place I’m welcome is your house, Gabby dear. Will your husband mind?”
My husband is saint. He didn’t even question my decision, although he might have questioned my sanity.
Bill lived with us until the age of 91. I took him on cruises, stayed with him when he was in the hospital. I drove him enough miles to drive across the United States. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner together. John Wayne movies were permanently etched into my memory.
The night he died, his bedroom had been flooded with golden light from the sunset. We watched The Quiet Man, who wasn’t very quiet. He dozed off and I snuck off for a moment’s rest. At three in the morning, I woke. Something was off. I went to check on Bill and he was awake and lucid.
“We had a good time, didn’t we, Gabby dear?”
“Oh, we raised some eyebrows. You’re my best friend, Bill.”
“Your husband only fusses when he’s worried about you, Gabby. No more tears over arguments, just tell him you love him.”
“I really did vote for a black man for president. Who would have thought an old racist like me would have had all his help come from people of different colors. Why did you help me, Gabby?”
“There was something you needed to learn, God wasn’t done with you.
“Have I learned it yet?”
“I feel strange. Will you say the Lord’s Prayer for me?”
I panicked. Then I sang the Prayer from Bernstein’s Mass. His face looked flushed.
“Gabby?” Pause. “Gabby? I’m forgiven.”
The hunt began at dawn, like most hunts. Mother’s first warning was a shotgun blast over the water. The enemy were coming. They came in droves. She whirled gathering her children, feet muddy from the moment of peace by the water where she had brought them for their daily chores. They ran together, the youngest in her arms. Her oldest pulled the middle child, firmly determined that they would not face the sorrow, the useless sacrifice again. This family had suffered too much in earlier hunts.
There was a platform standing on the top of the hill. It filled slowly, giving the prey time to lose their way, to blunder.
It was time for older prey to gather as many of the young they could find and shepherd them to places of safety dug into the ground, tunnels thirty and forty feet long. These tunnels were destroyed by rangers when found, but new ones replaced old, and here was kept the center of their society. Here oral histories were passed down. Here grandmothers prevailed still, preaching love, and understanding. Preaching hopes needing to be fulfilled. They couldn’t believe how many years they’d been hiding. According to their mothers, it had been 200 or more.
“Sometime these others must come to their senses. We pray for it to happen, to end this senseless butchery. They promised us sanctuary.”
The men of the clan scoffed, and left the mothers and young. They felt themselves too valuable to be killed in a run. They were small in number, after all. If they died, the hiders would die out.”
Homo sapiens sapiens, of the greatest God-fearing country on Earth, rushed to the platforms. It was Winter Hunt Time, time which shouldn’t be lost. They arrived laughing: armed with their picnic baskets, bottles of beer, soda, water and milk bottles for the babies. They brought cameras, cell phones, electronic tablets and recording devices. Adults, their parents and preachers turned out for this mid-winter hunt. Family time.
They brought drums to be beaten, trumpets to shout, and the fine town’s leaders all hung in finery warm. They were waiting for the first victims to run, for then they would cheer. They brought out their shotguns, their rifles, their bows, with ammo designed for one purpose below. Something would die today. More than one would die. They would celebrate that night with presents and dinner with toasts. The excitement grew, and so did the boasts.
Laughing with joy at a kill shot, they took turns turning the soil to red. They were a powerful people, opening their arms to refugees worldwide, giving homes to some while others disappeared, or were labeled terrorists so they would not be missed. Glorious leaders of this strong nation kept it all in check, using mass rallies of their glory, and corrupt political policies, too. Their godlike speeches belied their intentions.
During the growing time of Summer, the prey were joined by runaway natives who tried to learn languages, record stories and take them back where they were labeled fiction and unprintable. The journalists, teachers, advocates and writers were vanquished to the kill zones. The government thought that a rat trap was a good place to hide all of the rats.
Mother ran, her heart beating so loudly she was afraid it would be heard. Her eldest murmured words of encouragement, taking the lead away from her mother and trying to turn them all deeper into the woods. That’s when the closest gunshot became loud and real.
The baby exploded in Mother’s arms. She had time to gasp “no” as the bullet continued through the child and into the mother’s heart.
Eldest child threw her brother into the underbrush with a whisper.
“It’s under the rock. Find it,” she whispered. She had a plan.
He wiggled and dug in the earth pulling an old plastic bag from beneath him. She snatched it from his fingers and whispered again.
“Stay here, in the ground, until they have gone home to celebrate. I have something to do.”
Aged six, her brother understood the action that was needed. He wiggled under the leaves, into the mud, out of sight and mindful of the killers as Eldest bolted away toward the platform. As the trees thinned, she stood tall. She opened the bag. The gun in her hand had been dropped from the platform as an insult when the killers had killed her grandmother and her father. She had taken it.
She moved through the bush and gathered her cold sense of honor. Her actions gathered the attention she sought.
“Look, a small one begs for more attention from you, Hunter. It’s only fair you should end her. She won’t survive without her breeding mother and is almost old enough to start breeding herself. Just an animal.” They laughed the hunter back to a spot on the wall.
The hunter was smartly dressed for this celebration day. She lifted her rifle, focusing her sights on the child, and then abruptly brought the gun down.
The crowd jeered her as she succumbed to the first thought in her life involving compassion. It didn’t last.
She raised her rifle again. Two shots rang out in unison. One shot from above, and one from below. The bullet struck the hunter in the forehead spreading brains, blood and skin bits everywhere. The platform emptied screaming.
Eldest child staggered to her brother and dropped the gun. “Hide it,” she murmured.
Middle child tried to stop the blood. He was too small to treat such an injury.
Eldest child’s name was called in the moonlight by a search party of old women. They found her brother shivering and in shock. They found the bodies. They heard the child’s story. Life changed that night. They learned a lesson.
They could fight back.
(I wrote this after watching the news about the fears we should have in giving shelter to those in need. I thought about what might be the outcome if the Tea Party took over the government and watched the ideas being flown as flags about what Americans are and who we are. This is a last possible case senerio, aside from war. “Bring me your tired, your hungry, your oppressed…” and thinking of what use the immigrants would be to such a government. Things like this have happened in history before, hunts based on religion, cruelty, mocking the ideals of “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Do I believe us on a one way course? No, that’s why even with a corrupt government I had people trying to help these prey, even at the cost of their own freedom and life. I’m hoping for a good hopeful topic to be selected by my flash fiction group. I don’t like this place in the shadows.) Placed 5th in Linked In Writer’s Hangout Flash Fiction Contest.