Romance Novel Parody “The Stiffening Kinship” Chapter 2 ~ Grab My Rainbow

June 21, 2020 Leave a comment

aromance

 

 

 

                                              Chapter 2 ~ Grab My Rainbow

 

 

                                                           By David Todd

 

 

 

Europe. The word alone made Constance’s kneecaps quiver like jello in the wind. As she ambulated nervously through the splendor that was Newark Airport, its busy energy squirming all around her, a warm wad of anticipation formed in her lower throat.

“I can’t believe I’m really doing this,” she warbled bemusedly to her older, yet homelier friend, Faith.

“You owe it to yourself to have fun,” Faith lectured to her younger, less confident companion.

“Hmmm,” Faith mused silently to herself as she rolled her eyes across Constance’s well-kept yet adequately rounded girl parts querulously. “I wonder if dear little Constance knows quite what she’s getting herself into as a single woman travelling alone?” she ventured noiselessly.

“I wish you were joining me on my trip,” Constance chimed as she gathered up her small ottoman-shaped carry on luggage article wistfully.

“But someone has to take care of little Jason,” Faith sibilated amiably, a pang of jealousy curling her nose hairs imperceptively. “Besides,” she added blithely, “you’ll have more of an adventure if you’re by yourself. And it’s time you had a fling, and knew for yourself the warm glow of romance, the excitement of erotic men, and the funny taste left in your mouth after oral sex.”

Constance blushed facially at this remark, fumbled with her oblong handbag and dropped her eyes kitten-like to the airport carpet. Yet she couldn’t help noticing a noticeable stirring within her pubic region at the mention of sex. She was all too well aware that her sexual inexperience was amusing to her less naive, yet double-chinned girl pal.

Constance was a virgin when she first wed Dick, and though they were two young people in love, Dick’s lovemaking was rather unvaried, he being a quiz show host.

“Flight 417 for Paris now ready for boarding,” the airport P.A. exploded announcingly.

“Well, that’s me,” Constance chirped, heightening her eyebrows plaintively. Faith felt a lassoo of melancholy tighten around her.

“Be good,” Faith imported. Then, curving her lips in a licentious yet whimsical grin, she amended, “But don’t be too good!”

After copious hugging between the two soon-separating companions, Constance and Faith separated, their tears streaking blue and green eye shadow, respectively.

“Now is your chance to grab your rainbow,” Faith phonated wisely.

“Yes! That is what I will do: Grab my rainbow,” Constance propounded faithfully.

“People should follow their hearts,” Faith tongued with angst. The inward irony of her words made her heart mope.

Constance turned and strode adventurously toward the boarding area. Faith folded her arms over her chest, attempting to conceal her nipples which were straining her blouse fabric conspicuously as a result of Constance’s embrace. Faith’s tear-moistened eyes followed Connie’s finely molded buttocks as it wiggled out of view and queried inwardly as to whether or not Constance shared her secret passion.

Repressing these feelings once again, Faith turned repentantly and trudged back toward Passaic, her hunger and lust pushed far back inside her like fresh meat stored in the back of a crowded refrigerator, sealed in Tupperware.

Constance gambled expectantly up the enclosed boarding ramp and into the airship, its phallic shape surrounding her symbolically. Storing her sizeable luggage specimen in the overhead compartment, she reposed snugly and began letting her eyes wander.

“Pendleton’s the name,” the man seated next to her ejaculated cordially. Constance directed a glancing smile toward him.

“Hi, I’m Constance, Constance Riley. Glad to meet you,” retorted Constance semi-amiably, noticing that he had begun to maneuver his eyes across her distinctly female regions. She felt his rapacious eyes on her tight fitting pink knit blouse as he optically devoured her breasts.

Constance was offended momentarily, but striving to overcome her pusillanimous nature, she opted to coyly respond by eyeing him in a similar fashion.

She noticed, too, that his face had a rustic, homespun posture about it; he had eyebrows that looked like two caterpillars kissing, green eyes, and a nose that held a large amount of distinction. His jaw jutted out like a statesman’s, and his brow curved roundly like the dashboard on an Oldsmobile. His ears were clean. She liked him.

“I sure wish these seats were more roomy,” he bandied curmudgeon-like. “A guy my size has trouble.”

Constance allowed her eyes to notice Pendleton’s body and found him to be garbed with eye-opening stylishness. A well-tailored suit of blue wool, a paisley tie, and a sky blue shirt covered his bulky yet athletic physique.

Just then, on the opposite side of the young widow Riley, an abrupt yet corpulent man in his fifties wearing sunglasses, sideburns, and a ferociously polychromatic sport coat took the seat beside Constance.

“I wish we’d take off already!” he brayed tersely.

“Flights are often delayed sometimes,” Connie mouthed informatively.

“Pshaw,” he snorted.

She frowned. “We’ll be off soon,” she opined.

“Not soon enough for me,” he blubbered lugubriously, tossing his eyebrows down energetically. Then, letting his eyes crawl sideways, he caught sight of the young widow.

“Well… How do you do?” he phlegmatically engendered, letting his caustic breath spill out of his inquiring nose and all over Constance.

“I’m Constance,” she stated flatly.

“Well, you should eat more prunes,” he pronounced pugnaciously. Then, standing anew, the vociferate gentleman bewailed, “I’ll see what this delay is all about,” and sallied down the aisle, stride bent.

“What’s with him?” Pendleton quizzed.

Constance shrugged.

Constance inclined toward Pendleton impishly. The odor of his person, a combination of cologne and old-fashioned neck sweat, smelled not unlike a leather bound volume of Dickens.

Suddenly, round and grumbling, the other man re-sat.

“My name’s Carl Flemister. I’m a herpetologist,” he verbalized stoically. He smiled at Constance, his face wrinkling tightly, the skin of which reminded Constance of wax paper wrapped around an egg salad sandwich.

The fully modern airship rushed impatiently up the runway and leaped into the atmosphere. Constance circumnavigated a gaze from the woolly Pendleton to the pompous Flemister.

“Life sure is funny,” she supposed, her mind alive with electric thoughts.

“Europe,” Constance ruminated expectantly, and once again felt a familiar oscillation in her kneecaps.

 

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Romance Novel Parody: The Stiffening Kinship ~ Chapter 1 ~ Bon Voyage

June 16, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Many moons ago, my friend and I wrote a parody of a bad romance novel. We called it The Stiffening Kinship. We’d recently come back from vagabonding in Europe, so we had just visited some of the sights and locales we’d put our characters in. Looking at actual romance novels, we couldn’t believe just how bad some of the writing really was, not to mention how unintentionally hilarious their euphemisms for sex were. So, we wrote our own. I wrote the first chapter, my friend the next. We alternated chapters the entire way. It’s a little smutty, and hopefully, a lot funny.   

               ——-Don Millard

aromance  “What’s the matter, Constance? You look like you just lost your best friend!” Faith Lincoln exclaimed.

 

 

This scene was taking place at the modestly furnished suburban home of Constance Riley. For five years now Constance had lived in this lemon yellow aluminum sided raised-ranch. She had always said that Passaic, New Jersey was far more beautiful than her native Des Moines; and once Constance Riley made up her mind, there was no changing it!

A year ago if you snuck into the Riley house and crept silently into their master bedroom, you would have found HIS and HERS bathrobes. If you snuck in now, you’d only find HER bathrobe.

“Constance,” Faith began, earnestly yet authoritatively, “when are you finally going to get over him?”

Constance was too choked up to form syntax.

“I’ll say it again,” Faith Lincoln said again, “when are you finally going to get over him?” she asked, repeating her previous inquiry.

“I loved Dick!” Constance erupted with emotion.

Faith frowned twice. “I know this is going to sound cruel, Constance, but as your best friend, I must say it!” Faith said, cruelly.

Constance Riley stared blankly at her friend, and wondered what it would be like to have a third nipple.

“Constance,” Faith repeated, beginning anew, “you must forget Dick! I know he was your husband, but you’ve refused to bury him ever since the funeral. You have to try to go forward with your life. You have to put Dick behind you.”

“Leave me alone!” Constance shouted loudly. “You don’t know how deeply I loved Dick! No one will ever know, Faith. A love like ours comes but once a lifetime!” Constance proclaimed.

“Yes, Constance, I think I know the kind of pain you’re feeling. I’m your best friend–I know how much you loved your Dick. It was incredible! But it’s almost been a year now since Dick was killed… I know, if he didn’t swerve, those school children wouldn’t be alive today,” Faith reminisced.

“And don’t you forget it, Faith! Those kids owe their lives to Dick!” Connie wailed.

“I know just how good a Dick man was,” Faith stated, her dyslexia getting the better of her yet again. “But,” she continued, “you must go on with your life and find another man to love. If you don’t, you’ll shrivel up and die, Constance Riley!” Faith predicted in Miss Cleo fashion.

“There will never be another Dick,” Constance said sadly, trying to hold back an ocean of tears while surfing on a wave of depression.

“You’ll shrivel up and die,” Faith re-predicted.

Constance nodded, and then her face fell.

“I know, Faith. I know,” Constance admitted.

There was a pause.

And then another pause.

And then another one.

“I know what you need, Connie! God, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner,” Faith remarked rather excitedly.

“What do I need, Faith?” Constance remarked sarcastically.

“A vacation! That’s what you need, Connie. A glorious vacation!”

“I don’t have the time, nor the inclination for a vacation,” Constance snapped back poetically.

“C’mon, girl! A vacation would do you a world of good and you know it,” Faith said firmly, scratching her carbuncle.

“I can’t take a vacation now,” Connie shot back angrily, scratching her carbuncle.

“Yes, you can,” Faith countered with determination.

“But how in the world can I get time off from the travel agency? I’ve only been working there for six months, remember?” Constance protested. “Besides, what about my five year old son, Jason?”

“Oh, Connie, I’d love to take care of Jason while you’re gone,” Faith declared out of the blue. “And as for your job at the travel agency, I’m sure if you explain to your boss your situation, he’ll let you take all the time you need, Connie. And–don’t forget–you still have the insurance money from the accident… Connie, girl, you owe it to yourself. Take a break! Maybe even find a little romance,” Faith smirked coyly, then smiled, revealing receding gums.

There was another pause.

“You’d really be willing to take care of Jason for me?” Constance asked verbally.

“It would be my pleasure,” Faith said tenderly, even though she had never been within ten feet of a child before.

“You really think my boss would let me take time off for a vacation?” Connie wanted to know, as she began to let herself be persuaded.

“Why don’t you ask your boss that question?” Faith smiled again, revealing more periodontal horrors.

“Faith, I know you’re right in saying that I should forget Dick. It’s just so darn hard!” Constance testified with tears in one of her eyes.

“I know it’s hard,” Faith replied sympathetically. “But you just have to let go of Dick. I don’t want you to forget him, Constance. Just don’t let Dick rule your life.”

Constance shrugged and flexed her eyebrows. She had to make up her mind and she knew it. Constance Riley, a Libra now at the age of twenty nine, sensed that she had to change her life, and change it for the better. But to forget Dick? That was a high price to pay for improvement! Every time she thought about Dick, her aorta fluttered. It was that simple.

Many a sleepless night Constance had slept in the red, heart-shaped bed alone. She would fall fast asleep tossing and turning. Once she was fully asleep, Connie would often dream that Dick was alive and well and laying there beside her, Needless to say, she was always heartbroken in the morning. The heart-shaped bed was cold indeed. Dick had only been deceased for a year, but it seemed like an eternity already. In short, woe was Constance!

These melancholy facts aside, however, Faith Lincoln wanted her best friend, Constance Riley, to answer a question of vital import. But Constance still hadn’t made up her mind. Her mind, instead, flashed back to something she had done just the night before this book began. Last night, when she was totally sure Jason was asleep, Connie retired to her own room, tossing aside the Curious George book instrumental in her son’s near coma. She walked slowly and somberly over to her large wall mirror. The mirror and the wall had been a wedding gift. Looking at herself in the mirror, Constance removed all of the garments from her body and thus stood Mother-naked, as did her reflection. She immediately struck a September morn pose, similar to the women she’d seen in her late husband’s magazine collection that she’d found in the shed. Constance examined her widowed body with the help of the jealous moonlight. She discovered that her moonlit body was crying out for attention after so much neglect. Her trembling hands glided to zones that hadn’t been touched in over a year if you don’t count battery operated devices. When Constance returned her wanton gaze to the mirror, she realized that her reflection was glistening. In the midst of this frenzied festival of self-love, Connie passed out with Dick in her head. The next thing she knew, it was time to go to work.

“Well, are you going to take a vacation or what?” Faith cut in wearily.

This repeated question jerked Constance right off of the past and into the present. Suddenly, she made up her mind, hastily.

“You know what? I’m going to take that vacation after all,” Constance declared with determination.

“Now that’s what I like to hear!” Faith exclaimed, throwing her arms wildly around Constance Riley and farting softly.

Just then the door was rambunctiously opened, revealing young Jason Riley.

Jason Riley was a beautiful child, and had inherited many of his mother’s best traits. He had dark, wavy hair, an oval face, a clear complexion, with burnt sienna eyes and an almost perfect nose–not to mention the boy’s most arresting feature: poet’s lips. Furthermore, Jason was wise behind his ears.

“Hi, Mom!” Jason exclaimed exuberantly, as he ran into his mother’s outstretched bosom.

“Oh, Jason, I’m so glad to see you!” Constance stated tenderly. “How was school?”

“School was great, Mom. Today we learned about the Sumerians.”

Faith Lincoln looked on in wonder, especially since she had no idea who the Sumerians were. As Faith continued to watch the boy and his mother go through various embraces, she realized right then and there that she wanted a son of her own to love and care for. Then she thought about her soap operas, and wondered if she had time for both.

“Jason… Mommy has something to tell you,” Constance began slowly.

“What is it, Mommy?” Jason asked with love in his eyes.

There was yet another pause.

“Now, Jason, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about what Mommy’s going to tell you… Oh, well, here goes… Mommy’s going to take a trip–just for a little while…”

“A trip? Oh, boy! Where are we going? Disney World?” Jason asked excitedly.

There was a pregnant pause.

The atmosphere of the Riley house suddenly had an air of uneasiness so thick you could have cut it with a chain saw.

“You can’t come on this trip with Mommy, Jason… Mommy needs a little time by herself, that’s all,” Connie declared.

“You’re gonna run away and leave me just like Daddy did!” the darling child screamed in pain.

“No! No! Mommy would never do that, Jason! I love you… As for your father, I told you before: God needed Daddy in heaven,” Constance explained absurdly.

There was a pause.

“Then you’re coming back?” Jason asked, with hope in his eyes and mucus in his nose.

“Of course Mommy’s coming back!” Constance replied truthfully.

“That’s right, Jason. Your Mommy would never leave you,” Faith cut in.

“But what about the play, Mom?” Jason suddenly blurted out.

“What about the play, honey?” Connie echoed, already starting to think about her vacation.

“I’m gonna be George Washington. Remember?” Jason probed.

Constance shuddered inwardly, as she realized that she’d completely forgotten about this event. However, as a successful parent, Connie knew the scale value of a white lie.

“Oh, I wouldn’t miss that play for the world, Jason,” Constance white lied. “You’re going to be the best George Washington that school ever had.”

“And while your Mommy is gone, I’m going to take care of you, Jason,” Faith declared lovingly.

“What do you think about that, sweetheart?” Constance asked her soon to be deserted son.

“Gee, that would be swell,” replied the young thespian.

“Oh, Jason,” Constance exhaled, then inhaled, then exhaled again. “I’m so glad you understand Mommy has to be by herself for a little while.”

“I understand, Mommy. You need some closure with Daddy, and to finish the grieving and healing process. Time is the only healer of wounds I know of,” stated the precocious child.

The very next day Constance Riley walked right into her boss’s office and told him her plans, omitting not a detail. She told her tale with such sincerity and conviction that even he, Mr. Lipschitz, was moved by the plea.

“Constance,” said Lipschitz, “take all the time you need. You are our best worker here. If I forced you to stay, I wouldn’t be getting one hundred per cent out of you, now would I? And then where would the customer be? Take all the time you need. Godspeed, Constance Riley,” said Lipschitz, fondly recalling the bevy of busty girls at the temp agency he always used during situations like this.

Constance thanked Mr. Lipschitz for his generosity. Then she sat down and was instantly transformed into a customer looking for a vacation package.

“This is sure ironic,” she mused silently inside her head. Then, after much debate with Penny, her club-footed co-worker, Constance decided on a tour of Europe. She had always wanted to see Europe.

“I’m going to see Europe!” Connie announced happily to Faith over the telephone just a few minutes after arriving home from the travel agency.

“That’s wonderful, Connie. Wow! Europe! When do you leave?”

“Tomorrow!” Constance exclaimed, as a ray of sunshine came into her life for the first time since the death of Dick.

“Humph!” humped Faith. “That doesn’t give me much time to get ready for Jason.”

“I know you can handle the little devil,” Constance said optimistically.

“You’re darn right I can handle him!” Faith bragged, downing a shot of Jack Daniels.

“I’ll drop Jason off at your place early in the morning. Is that okay with you, Faith?” Connie wanted to know.

“Of course it’s okay with me, Connie. Just think about the wonderful time you’re going to have in Europe!” Faith exclaimed, downing another shot.

“I’ll try not to worry about Jason, but it’s going to be hard. I’ve never been more than four exits away from him since he was born, Faith. I’m still a little worried that he thinks I’m really leaving him,” Connie confessed with guilt.

“Don’t worry about it, Connie. Faith has got it under control. Worry about finding a man in Europe!” Faith chortled, refilling her shot glass.

“Okay, but I’m not promising anything, Faith,” Constance promised.

“Just let destiny take its course,” Faith advised, emptying the bottle in her mouth, hoping it would make her forget about her anal leakage.

“I will, Faith. I will,” Constance pledged, not knowing the truth of her own words.

But there was one last person Constance Riley had to see before setting forth on another continent. That one person was Chad Beverage.

Chad Beverage was reputed to be the most brilliant lawyer in all of Passaic. Constance had first met the legal eagle at the funeral home. In a twist of fate that could only happen in real life and not in a bad romance novel, Chad’s buxom and beautiful wife, Beulah, had also been fatally killed on the exact same day as Dick Riley. It seems that Beulah Beverage had swerved out of the way to avoid hitting a Girl Scout troop. Her car skidded and she went off a cliff. Some people say that Beulah Beverage gave her life to save those Brownies.

Chad Beverage was an athletic twenty nine. His healthy frame stood a fully erect six feet. He had a magnificent face, with shiny black hair brushed off a suave low forehead. Chad’s chiseled features were reminiscent of a young Clark Gable. In addition, he had a set of the deepest, bluest, most hypnotic eyes God has ever given a man. He was also very good at sudoku.

During the past months since the accidents, Chad Beverage and Constance Riley had come to depend on each other, in a very quiet way. They had many long talks about the meaning of life and how to get rid of termites. They had their own special unspoken language because they were both partners to terrible tragedies. This created a bond between them that was stronger than Gorilla Glue.

Constance found Chad busily pouring over some legal papers on his desk, his muscular face buried in a document.

“Chad?” Constance whispered loudly.

The suddenness of Connie’s voice startled the handsome Beverage.

“Connie!” Chad ejaculated noisily. “What are you doing here?”

“I have something very important to tell you, Chad,” Constance said dramatically.

“Is there something wrong, Constance?” Chad voiced with phony concern.

“There’s something right, for once,” Connie revealed with sudden joy.

“So, what’s the big news?” Chad queried, brushing back his beautiful hair with his left hand.

“Remember how I’ve been telling you how much I’ve wanted to get out of the house?” Connie quizzed Beverage.

“Yes, Connie, I do,” lied Chad.

“Well, I’ve finally gone and done it, Chad!”

“What have you finally gone and done, Constance Riley?” Chad asked, his natural curiosity reaching its climax.

“I’m going to Europe. I’m going to see Europe!” Connie bragged, adjusting her bustier.

“Europe!? Wow. That’s terrific, Connie! I couldn’t be happier for you. When do you leave?”

“Tomorrow,” Connie gasped audibly.

“You sound a little scared, Constance,” Chad correctly discerned.

“Well, maybe just a little,” Constance lied. She was really scared!

“I want you to remember one thing, Connie,” Chad said in a sudden serious tone.

“What’s that, Chad?” Constance asked in order to get an answer.

“I’ll always be here for you, Constance,” pledged Beverage, hoping his hollow statement would win him some points and eventually motivate Constance to relieve him of his briefs.

“That means a lot to me, Chad,” Constance replied, her ankles becoming weak.

“Now don’t you worry your pretty little head about Europe, Connie. Just let destiny take its course,” urged the slick Beverage, plagiarizing Faith.

“I will, Chad. I will,” Constance agreed, once again not knowing the truth of her own words.

 

 

A Season In Hell: My Medical Nightmare Part 11 ~

June 7, 2020 Leave a comment

                              Part 11

 

amunchh                                 My rendition of another Edvard Munch painting

 

A carousel of emotions whirled round and round in my head, as I took the long, lonely bus ride back to Florida. As the miles slowly rolled by, I replayed the events of the last three and a half weeks of my visit to meet my birth mother for the very first time since she had given me up for adoption in March of 1965, nearly 29 years ago. It was the first time either one of us had ever seen each other.

It really was the agony and the ecstasy. The profound joy and excitement of finding and meeting my Mother was tempered by the shock and sadness of seeing just how hard her life had been in many ways then and now, and how her other two children treated her. I knew it could be a hard life wherever you go, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this dynamic. It was such a kaleidoscope of feelings, and very hard to put in perspective. I had no regrets, mind you, but it was definitely going to take me a while to get a handle on it all. The one thing I did know for sure, however, was that if I never saw my half sister again, it would be too soon.

I’m amazed at how cruel this world can be to gentle people. I know I shouldn’t be, but I still am. Life seems to pick on certain people. The gentler the soul, the harder the life, it seems to me. This is yet one more reason why I don’t believe there is a kind hand behind it all–or ANY hand, for that matter.

When I got back to Florida, my silly little telemarketing job was right there waiting for me. Only in the world of telemarketing back then could you desert your job for nearly a month, then return and be treated like you’d never missed a day. As I’ve said before, if you showed up two days in a row, they wanted to make you a manager. I guess it also didn’t hurt that I was paying rent to the boss.

Speaking of my boss, I’d already figured out that my initial impression of him as a cool guy was about as accurate as a reading from the Psychic Friends Network. By the way, that “network” went out of business about 4 years later. You’d think they would’ve seen that coming.

Anyway, back to my boss AND roommate… I’m going to call him Ralph because that was his name. Ralph was at least six feet tall, and had white, blondish hair. Though he was of German descent, of which he reminded me regularly, he looked like Sonny Jurgensen with fangs.

Not long after I’d moved in, as we were watching television one evening (probably NYPD BLUE), Ralph said to me casually:

“So, are you comfortable around me? I don’t make you uncomfortable, do I?”

Jesus, just him saying THIS made me uncomfortable. For me, this registered a 10 on the Creepy Richter Scale.

“I give great back rubs, by the way,” Ralph bragged to me on another evening. “Just let me know if you want a back rub sometime. I’m not gay or anything…”

I’m pretty sure he wanted to rub my front.

From this moment on, I made sure that my bedroom door was locked every night before I went to bed. The apartment complex we lived in was right in downtown Fort Myers and just across the street from the Edison Mall. Every night I tried to fall asleep to the sounds of multiple car alarms going off every 5 minutes, sort of like an unwanted urban snooze button.

Ralph had told me ad nauseam that he was a born again Christian. He was also, he said, some kind of mail order minister; the kind who usually preach in those churches that take over an abandoned grocery store.

I had been raised Catholic–even confirmed. But not long after my confirmation, I had rejected it all, becoming a retired Christian and active Agnostic before I even graduated high school.

But for now I pretended to still be a Catholic in front of Preacher Back Rub. I did so because I figured Ralph would kick me out or at least raise my rent if he found out that I thought God was just a Santa Claus for adults.

When he wasn’t offering back rubs, the Minister of Massage wanted to talk to me about religion. I can still remember him telling me with that silly certainty that only zealots know of how dogs don’t have a soul like us. Really? Surely dogs deserve a heaven more than our sorry asses.

“So, when did you make your personal commitment to Christ?” Ralph asked me out of the blue one day.

I wanted to say, “The day I moved in with you.”

Instead, I muttered something like “two years ago”, and then quickly changed the subject to the weather or O. J. Simpson.

During this same time, I would meet my Dad for lunch once a week at HOOTERS–his choice, not mine. I was never a big fan of their wings–too much breading. Most guys went there for the breasts, not the wings, anyway. But my Father thought their wings were the best in the world.

Every week, as we would be waiting for our order, he’d look around the restaurant with amazement and say, “Boy, I tell ya, they got a goldmine here. This place is always busy. They’re making money hand over fist.”

Gee, let me see, Dad… Beer, Wings and Tits… How can they lose?? Not really a big mystery here.

I was earning decent money doing a job that didn’t require any physical exertion, was inside, and air conditioned. My car was fixed, but I usually just walked to work, as it was just across the street and I could almost get there quicker on foot than I could in that horrible tourist traffic. I could pay my bills and still have money left for something I might want to buy. Yet it was one of the emptiest times in my life. I felt like I was having to live this alternate life in an opposite universe. The comedy club I had worked in had long since gone under, just as the new owners had planned. That was definitely a shame, as I’d got to meet and work with people such as Tim Allen, Rita Rudner, Frankie Bastille, Billy Gardell, Steve Harvey and Jon Stewart. When I looked at my full wallet, I just wanted to set a match to it. It meant nothing to me.

After living back home in Connecticut for about two years, it was depressing to be in Florida again–back at the scene of the crime where I had been robbed of my life and labeled a crank to boot.

Florida can be a great place for a vacation, especially to escape a harsh winter for a spell. But to live and work there year round is a very different pair of shoes. The two seasons of Hot and Hotter get boring very quickly. I always felt like I was just reliving the same day over and over again, like a sub tropical version of GROUNDHOG DAY without Andie MacDowell. Amy had always told me that she didn’t want to trap me down here. To everything there is a season–except in Florida.

For me, Florida held more bad memories than good ones. If this weren’t enough, I found the landscape to be flat and ugly with no real trees. Southwest Florida has always seemed to me nothing but one big tee shirt shop… That reminds me of a joke by Frankie Bastille, the best comedian of all the ones I ever worked with, in my opinion. He played at the club a number of times and we got to be good friends. He reminded me of Tom Waits. Anyway, he said Florida is an old Spanish word that means “tee shirt shop.”

And, if you’re a history buff like me, forget it! Southwest Florida is definitely not the place to be, especially if you grew up in a region like New England, as I did. You can barely go anywhere there without tripping over history. I remember one time when my Dad and I were going to BONANZA steakhouse with my grandparents in Massachusetts and my grandfather casually said, “There’s Herman Melville’s house.” Hell, my Dad was older than the town we had moved to in Florida. Sick or well, I didn’t want to live in a town that was only about as old as SPUTNIK any more than I wanted to live in a state whose greatest political achievement was to ban dwarf tossing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“So, when are you coming back up for a visit?” I heard the sweet, Southern accent of my Mom say through our cordless phone.

Well, I told her, it would have to be a few months or more, as I’d just taken nearly a month off from work, even though it was due to very special circumstances. I told her I was aiming for summer, as it would be slower at work and she would be out of school so she wouldn’t have to drive the school bus. This way she would be free from at least one of her jobs and could probably get a little time off from the restaurant as well.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her I wasn’t all that eager to be in the same orbit again as my half brother and half sister. I’m sure she sensed it, though.

My Mother had already written to me of how much she had been hurt by the way her other two kids had acted while I was there. She said she’d been “hurt beyond words.” At least my half sister no longer lived at home and my half brother was sometimes capable of being half decent when he wasn’t breaking things–and especially when his sister wasn’t present. I was the only one who had her heart, she said.

My half brother and half sister, she said, had inherited their Dad’s temper and cruel streak, respectively. My Mother’s husband was well thought of in the community, active in their church, but no one really knew how mean he could be to her. She told me of a time when she was doing a puzzle–something she loved to do and was good at–and he suddenly came along and flipped the card table over, pieces flying everywhere. I could sense that there were much darker incidents she never told anyone about.

If I believed in Hell, I’d like to think that its hottest pockets would be reserved for those who torture animals and for men who abuse women. To be honest, after hearing this, I can’t really tell you I was sorry that her husband was dead.

She told me that he had forbade her from ever talking about me or what had happened to her. It was to be treated as if it had never happened. He had always had a crush on her. In school he was the pudgy kid who pursued her but she always rebuffed him. After he found out what happened to her, I guess he saw his opening. My Mom said she felt like damaged goods and that nobody else would have her. They were married about a year after I was born and given up for adoption.

I have no doubt, too, that if he were still alive, he would’ve never allowed me to ever visit, let alone anything else beyond that. Even now, as I write this, I shudder to think about how he would have reacted to me finding her. I know it wouldn’t have been pretty. But, as it turned out, his mean heart wasn’t a very good functioning organ, either.

A few weeks after I’d returned from Virginia, I’d called Amy’s Mom. She told me that she had told Amy all about me finding and now visiting my birth mom. She said Amy was happy for me because she knew how much it meant to me.

It was then that Amy’s Mom told me Amy was getting married.

I was a bit shocked and those words cut right through me, but in the end, it was none of my business. She had been engaged to the guy she told me about moving in with the previous summer when I was still in Connecticut. I believe his name was Phillip, if I remember correctly, so we’ll call him that. They were getting married in October, her Mom said. Amy’s birthday is in October, so I figured it was to coincide with that.

Although it wasn’t my concern, I won’t lie and say it didn’t hurt to hear this news. But my medical purgatory and what had happened to my body is what hurt me–what seared my soul–not Amy moving on with her life like any normal, healthy person would do. But I still missed her deeply. Very deeply. But it wasn’t from a jealous, no other guy should have her mentality. I just missed HER. ALL of HER. I missed her personality, I missed her intelligence, I missed her humor, I missed her compassion and activism, I missed her silliness, I missed her…

It was like losing the love of my life and my best friend all at the same time. I could learn to live with the first part, but not the second; and that’s the part I’ll miss until I draw my last breath.

But, I also discovered that if you truly love someone, you are wishing for their happiness always, even if that doesn’t include YOU.

Because of this, I wanted to get Amy a wedding present to express this and as a way of saying goodbye to her. I wasn’t looking to get her something fancy or lavish, just something that would be special and unique to her; something she’d like more than a salad spinner.

Every now and then Ralph would come up behind me in the living room and start rubbing my shoulders for a few seconds.

“Let me know when you want that back rub,” he’d say, walking away.

Yeah, don’t hold your breath, fucko.

My Mom and I kept exchanging frequent letters and phone calls. She told me both kids had said they were sorry for the way they acted when I visited. She told them it was too late. I told her that it was a big adjustment for all three of us and there was bound to be jealousy and resentment. That’s what makes the world go around, especially in the USA. We have an entire political party based on selfishness and resentment, and I’ll let you take a wild guess which party that is.

When Spring came, my Mom told she was making a big flower bed in the middle of her large front yard. She was enjoying picking out all the different flowers she wanted in it. When a neighbor asked her why she was doing this, she sad:

“I’m artistic, like my son.”

She also told me that she had started writing a book about her life, beginning from her earliest memories as a child. It was just something she was doing for herself now that her big secret from so long ago out in the open and everyone knew. I thought this was cool, especially since I myself had kept a journal from around the time I was a sophomore in high school till the first few months I was in college.

My Mother also told me she could talk to me about things in a way she couldn’t with anyone else. I told her I felt the same way with her. Though we were from completely different worlds, we had the same heart.

When July came, I took off for Virginia and away from Rev Rub Down.

This time I was driving my own car: my trusty, sporty two seat silver 1986 Toyota MR2. Being in my own vehicle with my own music made all the difference in the world. I’d rather drink my own urine than get on another Greyhound bus. This time I would be going toward my destination the entire time, not just sometimes. It was a journey of a thousand miles. No surprise there. When you live in Southwest Florida, everything is a thousand miles away–except Cuba.

As always, it felt so good to leave Florida behind. Gone were the local landmarks that reminded me every day of how my life had gone off its axis in 1989. As I’d noticed the first time I left Florida in 1991, Virginia is the first state that looks like home and doesn’t smell like lard, with its bounty of real trees such as oak and maple. Let’s face it, Florida is really nothing but a swamp with buildings.

I got into Virginia and on to my Mom’s house a day before the 4th of July. It was great to have my own wheels as well as not be bound by Winter. Everybody was in a better mood. The weather was beautiful and unlike Florida, it actually got cooler, not hotter at night. We were near the mountains, so the night air was caressingly cool and a balm to my soul.

This visit went a lot smoother, as I recall. One reason, I’m sure, was because my half sister wasn’t around very much. She had recently ditched her “Cooter” of a boyfriend and was now dating a redneck cop who was about three feet taller than her. I noticed, too, that my half brother acted better when she wasn’t around, and we even had some fun playing pool and drinking beer in the out building near the house with some of his friends. Granted, ninety per cent of the conversations were about deer hunting and reloading shells, but there was that other ten per cent and we had MUSIC. They seemed to like some rock n’ roll, so it wasn’t a complete block of country music the whole time I was there.

During the week, my Mom and I visited many of her friends and relatives. It was great to meet actual relatives of mine on the Wichael side. The Wichael side–my Mother’s side–was the side I seemed to take after in looks as well as personality and I was very happy with that. They were all very welcoming and so nice to me. They all knew my Mother had had a hard life and they seemed so happy for her.

After a week or more, when it was time to make the long, lonely trip back to Florida, my Mom came with me! She was still off from school and her boss at the restaurant, Garland, let her take time off. She had never been to Florida, although both her kids and husband had. I believe she said he had taken them to Disney World with a church group years ago.

So, now, I was going from being an only child who’d been adopted and never knew his roots, to going on The Road with my birth Mom. Talk about the circle of life. It was still the heart of Summer and we were in no hurry to get to our destination. So we strapped ourselves into my little silver car and headed down the highway like a pair of asphalt gypsies. Eat your heart out, Jack Kerouac.

It took us three or four days to finally pull into Fort Myers. One of the reasons I hadn’t been in a hurry to get back was because of Ralph, of course. I wasn’t looking forward to my Mom meeting him, and I hoped he’d be able to dial down his creepiness, if just for a few days or so. Now that would be a miracle. Ralph would always answer our phone when it rang, so my Mother had spoken to him on the phone many times very briefly before he would hand me the phone. So, she had no idea…

After we got back and situated in the apartment, it only took about a day for my Mom to get a creepy vibe from Ralph. I hadn’t mentioned anything to her about the back rub offers. She could always size people up very fast. She told me she felt very uncomfortable around him. Like mother, like son.

“He sounded so nice on the phone,” she said.

Don’t we all?

It’s at this point that I must mention that Ralph’s “God” had cursed him with the most conspicuous set of upper canine teeth I’ve ever seen in a human mouth. It made for the creepiest smile and multiplied his inner creep by a thousand.

“He looks like Dracula,” my Mother said.

It was true! From this point on, I couldn’t get this comparison out of my head. I had an image of him now in a black cape, saying: “I vant to rub your back!”

A serious look came across my Mother’s face and she said, “He hasn’t tried anything with you, has he?”

“No,” I replied.

Luckily, my Mom and I had places to go and people to see almost every evening while she was there.

Our first order of business was to meet my Dad and his wife, Kathleen, at Applebee’s or Chili’s–I forget which. I’m sure Kathleen would’ve probably felt more at home at HOOTERS. That was more her speed.

I could see my Mom’s eyes widen just a bit when she first saw Kathleen in all her glory. Kathleen was wearing a bright green dress with parrots on it and her wide, sausage feet were stuffed into a pair of white high heels. Except for her swirled high top of snow white hair, she looked like Larry “Bud” Melman in drag. I could already see numerous fingerprints all over her prescription goggles. I think she put in her beer order before we were even seated.

“I’ll take a beer,” she said.

Still, we managed to have a nice dinner and made conversation when we could. When Kathleen wasn’t talking, I should say. As usual, Kathleen did most of the talking, in keeping with that great tradition of those who have the least to say never shut up. She was from New York and had an accent like Archie Bunker and a high-pitched voice that made your ears bleed. When she did try to rise above small talk, it was only to ask a nosy question or pump you for information. During one of these questions, my Mom saw my Dad kick Kathleen’s leg under the table.

After dinner and four beers later, we said goodbye to my Dad and Kathleen in the parking lot, and headed back to Transylvania Arms.

“Why is her face so red?” my Mom asked on the ride home.

My Mom just shook her head and told me that she had never seen two more mismatched people in her life.

“Your Dad is nice and easygoing and quiet, and she just talks all the time,” said my Mom.

Our next engagement an evening or two later was a lot more enjoyable.

Amy’s Mother had invited us over to her condo for dinner with her and her current boyfriend. We had a nice, relaxing dinner and it meant a lot to me that Amy’s Mom got to meet mine. After dinner we all played a game–SCATTERGORIES, if memory serves. All in all, it was a fun night, and nobody got kicked under the table.

I was back at work during the day now, so Amy’s Mom took Junelle out for lunch the next day. “I think Don and Amy will always have a bond,” my Mom said she had told her.

Soon my Mother had to get back to Virginia, which meant that she would have to fly home. The only trouble was that she had never been on airplane before. She was understandably nervous about stepping on a plane, but she did.

We hugged and kissed goodbye at the airport, back in the days when you could actually see somebody off. I told her we’d see each other again before too long. I hoped like hell she would have a turbulence free flight as I watched her disappear down the tunnel. I was very nervous for her since this was to be her very first time flying in an airplane. She kept a travelogue of the flight as a way to distract herself from her nervousness and ended up really enjoying the flight and was glad to have actually done it.

Soon it was Fall, that magical time of year in Florida where the leaves turn from light green to dark green and the mercury drops one degree.

I figured out what I wanted to get Amy for a wedding present.

One of the things I’d loved about Amy was that she loved old Hollywood movies as much as I did. We’d watched several classic black and white films in the early days of our relationship and they’d been some of the best hours of my life. She turned me on to Ingrid Bergman, who remains my favorite actress to this day. Amy was also a huge Lauren Bacall fan, and people had told her that she looked like her.

She did.

I sent away for and received a signed 8 x 10 black and white photograph of Lauren Bacall, from her early Hollywood days. It came with a certificate of authenticity, so there’s a chance it was real. I bought a nice frame for it and brought it to the big, snooty department store at the mall where they put it in a box and gift wrapped it for me.

Sometime in October I took Amy’s wedding present over to her Mom at the condo. I told her Amy didn’t have to open it with all the other gifts if that would be awkward for her or the groom. However and whenever was fine with me. I just wanted to give her something special as she started the rest of her life.

And then, about a month or so later, I was sick.

I certainly wasn’t shrinking again, nor was anything more happening with my skin, thankfully. But something was going on, and it was physical, not in my head. This much I knew, and I was scared. I hadn’t felt physically ill since the horror of 1989, and I wondered if this wasn’t some new machination of what had struck me down five years before.

I felt very strange. I couldn’t focus or concentrate on anything. Whenever I moved around, even just a little bit, I felt car sick. I tried to just rest in my bed, but it didn’t help. But the most disturbing symptom was a sudden and complete lack of appetite.

Despite what I’d been through five years ago, I’d never experienced this. I didn’t call my Dad because I figured he would just tell me it was all in my head or say something else equally stupid. Ralph, by chance, happened to be out of town when this hit me. He was away at some type of conference–hopefully one on how to be less creepy.

Panicked, I called my Mother in Virginia, instead. I told her, as best I could, what was happening to me. I’m sure she could tell by my voice that it was something bad, or could be. I didn’t want to be a burden, or add to her worries, but I thought my situation was serious enough that she should know about it.

Long as I live, I will never forget how she dropped everything, steeled herself to get back on a plane and was with me in Florida about 48 hours after this phone call.

I must confess here that I’m having trouble remembering all the details of this episode. I’m sure that’s due in part to me being so physically out of it as well as extremely distressed.

I do remember that the first full day my Mom was here, my hearing became altered and degraded. Everything suddenly sounded muffled, especially in my right ear. I still hadn’t eaten a thing or even experienced a hunger pang in at least 2 days.

I didn’t have a doctor’s appointment, of course. Quite frankly I had no desire to revisit any of these golden boys who dismissed my claims and labeled me a kook because my condition didn’t fit their paint by numbers diagnoses.

So, we settled on going into a nearby walk-in clinic on the main road in Ft. Myers. I really didn’t know what to expect–except the worst–the worst, as in, no answers.

When it was time to go in the room with the doctor, my Mom came with me. As the doctor began to examine me, he looked at her and said to me,

“Who’s this with you? Your sister?”

My Mom got a kick out of this for years.

“My Mother,” I replied.

I told the doctor how everything now sounded weird and muffled, and how I hadn’t eaten or even experienced hunger in about 3 days. He got out his light with the tip on it and looked in my ears.

“I think we found the problem,” he said almost immediately.

“Really??” I asked, almost in disbelief.

They laid me down on my back and he started working on my ears. He began in my left ear and soon that ear felt less full, as I seemed to feel him removing stuff. It was kind of like he was removing an earplug from my ear. I heard the sound of debris hitting a metal pan and then he started on my right ear. After getting a little bit out, he had to go in deeper, like he was going to pull my brain out. Finally, after what seemed like hours, he got what he was after: a giant mass of earwax the size of Cleveland. He said it had become impacted on my eardrum. As soon as he removed this meteor, I could feel all this glorious air suddenly rushing into my ear and the world sounded normal to me again!

The doctor told me it was one of the biggest pieces of earwax he’d ever pulled out of someone’s ear. I could tell by the look on my Mom’s face that he wasn’t exaggerating and that she could barely believe it, either.

I immediately started to feel about a hundred times better than I had in days, maybe even weeks. I couldn’t believe it.

“How do you feel now?” he asked.

“Hungry,” I said, smiling.

It was true. Just minutes after he took the wax boulder out of my ear, I was hungry–no, STARVING.

As soon as we got out of the clinic, we drove straight to a 50’s style diner that was close by, where I promptly devoured a big, juicy cheeseburger and fries, washing it all down with a Coca-Cola. It was heavenly.

Sometime later after we got back to the apartment, my Father stopped by. The first thing he said when he walked in the door was,

“So, is he gonna live?”

He didn’t stay long. After he left, my Mom and I went to the grocery store to pick up some food, including the ingredients she needed to make her fabulous stuffed green peppers.

This time when we came back to the apartment, Ralph was there. He’d returned from his conference or whatever it was. He was sitting in his chair, eating ice cream and watching television–the only thing I think I ever saw him do during the entire time I lived there. It was a two level apartment, so you either sat in the tiny living room and watch tv or you went upstairs to your room and made damn sure your bedroom door was locked.

Later that evening, in order to have some privacy and to just get away from Dracula, my Mom and I sat on our second floor stoop outside, smoking cigarettes and talking and talking and talking.

I told her everything.

I told her, as best I could, what had happened to me in 1989. I told her of how entire body had shrunk. I told her of how my skin suddenly didn’t feel like my skin any longer. I told her of how the doctors insisted none of this could happen and that it was all in my head. I told her of how I had lost everything and everyone I’d ever cared about–all the while not even being able to get one answer as to what really happened to me. I also told her of how my sort of diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a few years later didn’t even begin to describe what had physically happened to me during the week to two week period. “Your face is getting thinner and your butt’s going away,” I could still hear Amy saying.

“You’ve been fighting a losing battle,” my Mother said, after hearing all of this.

She took it all in calmly and compassionately, and never once did I sense that she didn’t believe what I was saying was true. As she’s told me before, she wanted to know everything that had happened to me during my life.

“I knew you were keepin’ something from me,” she said, softly.

It was a relief to have finally told her, to be sure, but I worried about her involving her in this nightmare. After what she had been through in her life, my Mother didn’t deserve a single piece of bad news or anything else to worry about for the rest of her life.

“You know I’d do anything to help you,” she began. “I know you don’t like Florida… I wish you’d come home…”

This was not the first time she had said this to me. But it was complicated. For her, I would be coming home; for me, I would be going to a completely different world.

“You’ve never felt at home anywhere since your Mom died, have you? she asked.

I didn’t say anything because I realized what she was saying was true.

Over the next two months, my Mother repeated her requests for me to “come home.” Although I was still hesitant to even be in the same state as my half siblings, I began to seriously consider moving to Virginia. After all, what could be worse than what had  happened to me already??

Moving to Virginia would certainly be more meaningful than my current existence–for me AND my Mother. I also started to think maybe it was time for me to be unselfish. I’d grown up an only child (with bunk beds) and had never wanted for a thing. I had TWO loving parents who showed me I was wanted every day. I’d grown up in Connecticut in a beautiful little town on the shoreline of Long Island Sound and had had a Tom Sawyer kind of boyhood.  Sure, as I got older, I did wonder from time to time about who my birth parents were or wonder why I was put up for adoption. But this was NOTHING. This was absolutely NOTHING compared to what Junelle had endured all these years. All the pain had been on her end. I had EVERYTHING and all she had was emptiness. I always felt that I was the luckiest little boy in the world because I knew my parents had really wanted me, that I didn’t just happen to them. They made me feel even more special than the other kids who weren’t adopted. I  wouldn’t have traded places with anybody.

But trading places is exactly what had happened and made all of this a reality.. And all of this had only been made possible by the hardest and most unselfish act of all–Junelle Anne Wichael giving me up for adoption and putting my happiness above her own.

Maybe it was my turn to return the favor as best I could. As best I could, because nothing I could ever do or say could even begin to approach equalizing what she had given me, starting with my very life. But I resolved to do my very best to at least make her world a kinder and brighter one.

I was moving to Virginia.

So, this Connecticut Yankee was moving to a small town in Virginia in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, a fertile region known as “the breadbasket of the Confederacy” during The Civil War.

Thomas Wolfe famously said you can’t go home again… Well, maybe you could, if you’d never lived there before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebel With A Cause: The Shocking Story Of A Young Man Who Gave Humanity The Finger! Chapter 2 ~ (Short Novel)

May 31, 2020 1 comment

                              Chapter 2

 

 

 

 

Do I like holidays? I don’t know. Let’s see… How about the 4th of July? There’s an American holiday for you. Just one Fourth of July in Crapville would be enough to damage even your psyche, Dr. Sheldon. Our Independence Day festivities wouldn’t exactly make a Norman Rockwell painting.

Like all patriotic Americans, we celebrate our many freedoms by lighting off illegal fireworks. But before I tell you about those colorful explosives, let’s see what goes on during the daylight…

My parents always invite my relatives over for this loud holiday. Every year we go crazy trying to prepare for their arrival. Our home must be cleaned and boiled so no one will see how we really live. This cleaning frenzy lasts until it looks like our home belongs to MONK. Then, and only then, will we admit our guests.

If it doesn’t rain, everyone’s garage door opens at the same time in the afternoon. Fat fathers in plaid Bermuda shorts appear with their grills. They soon start burning hamburgers and exchanging small talk until the whole dead end smells like lighter fluid.

But the worst part about cookouts is that you have to see your relatives in shorts. And before you know it, your backyard is swarming with people swapping stories about their bodily ailments.

When the food is ready, all of my relatives start milling around with paper plates in their hands. The men hand their wives a plate and demand it be brought back with their favorite food. Meanwhile, my mother comes out with her proverbial baked bean and the cookout can officially begin. Within five minutes, everyone has either a hot dog or a hamburger lodged in their mouth. Then one of my relatives–let’s call her Aunt Vera because that’s her name–turns to me, and with a hot dog clearly visible in her mouth, she asks:

“So, how’s school?”

Not only doesn’t she remember that I’ve quit school, but says further:

“So, how do you like it up in New Hampshire?”

“Oh, it’s pretty country up there, Aunt Vera,” I reply, not having the energy to tell her the school I left was in Vermont.

“We may come up and surprise you one of these days,” my Auntie say, on a roll, swallowing her hot dog, and turning around to inject the main conversation with her own opinion: “I think Elvis is still livin’.”

But I’m grateful that Aunt has decided to turning around because at least now I don’t have to see here bare legs. It always dulls my hunger when I see Aunt Vera’s varicose veins. It’s like looking at a road map–her veins become little blue highways and you can’t eat after that.

By this time my assorted relatives are rehashing the same old stories about me and what happened the day before I was potty-trained, how my rear end used to look and so on. Then they tell me how tall I got. I’m short.

“God, the last time we saw him he was only that tall,” someone will muse, as they put their hand out about three feet from the ground to show that I was once pretty small, believe it or not.

“Boy, he really was a cute baby,” someone will lie.

All of my in-laws are now patting their bellies with satisfaction; my father isn’t satisfied. He tries to bully them all into having just one more burger full of lighter fluid, or at the very least, a hot dog that looks like it came from THE TOWERING INFERNO.

“C’mon, get ’em while they’re hot,” he barks, crushing out his cigarette on the ground.

It’s so depressing, Dr. Sheldon. I look around at all the other houses on our dead end. What’s everybody doing? They’re all having cookouts! They’re all yelling at each others’ kids… I don’t want to ever be like them.

But never fear, Dr. Sheldon, it’s now time for every adult to speaks his mind about the state of the world. Yes, in no time at all, the adults have skimmed the surface of many profound issues. I like to tap a nap at this point. During the meeting of the minds last year, I fell asleep for about twenty minutes. When I cam to, I found out that world hunger was eradicated, terrorism wiped out, the war on drugs won, the Bermuda Triangle solved, all men were created equal and the Red Sox were going to win the pennant. God, if I had really dozed off, I would’ve woke up in Utopia.

After all this brain work the body must be exercised. This means I have to go into the garage and fish out the JARTS. This brilliant Caucasian game keeps our company from solving any more of the world’s problems for a few hours.

Darkness is falling, and it’s time to put up the JARTS. Firecrackers are already being set off in the distance. Mothers gather their children by their side as they take seats on the front steps of their houses. The mothers have the difficult task of explaining to their children how fireworks are very dangerous and illegal and why Daddy always has a big box of them.

The 4th of July would be the perfect day for some other country to attack us. We’d all think it was just part of the show.

All the fathers on my road are now bending over fireworks. My father lights off a bottle rocket with his cigarette. There it goes, high up into the sky. Wow, it blew up. Wasn’t that thrilling? The only problem is that he has sixty nine more to blow up. Meanwhile, our neighbors across the street are playfully throwing M-80s at each other, trying to steal the show. I’m sure when these patriots go inside they read THE PORTABLE THOMAS JEFFERSON. 

For about an hour you hear nothing but loud bangs. Then the women speak up:

“Light something pretty.”

\   Almost as a rebuttal, each father waddles back into his arsenal and brings out some dusty Roman Candles. When they go off, the women respond:

“Ooooh!”

“Aaaah!”

But all of a sudden a car turns into our dead end, its headlights showcasing the lawbreaking Daddies. Could this be the cops? Must be! The fathers scramble with the evidence cradled in their arms and head for their garages. But wait! It’s not the cops! It’s only the “new people/” who’ve been living in the old Anderson house for three years now.

As soon as the “new people” go inside their home, our loud display for democracy begins its second half. Constant explosions and the rocket’s red glare light up the night sky for another hour. But, after a long volley of M-80s, lights come on in the old Anderson place. The front door can be heard opening and closing. A shadowy figure seems to be walking toward the firecracking fathers. It’s the father of the “new people.” All is quiet so inquiring minds can hear everything that’s said:

“Look,” the new father tells the old fathers, “I don’t want to be a Scrooge, but you’ve been lighting off fireworks all night… It’s getting kind of late, you know? The fireworks are really scaring my little girl. She’s crying like crazy, and my wife doesn’t know what to do. So, uh, would you mind not lighting off any more tonight?”

“Move to Russia, buddy!” is the reply.

 

 

 

 

Rebel With A Cause: The Shocking Story Of A Young Man Who Gave Humanity The Finger! — Chapter 1 (Short Novel)

May 29, 2020 5 comments

                          Chapter 1

 

 

 

I was the first person in my family to have a nervous breakdown. Judging from the reactions of my relatives, I smudged our family tree–and that’s very dishonorable when you come from such an old family like mine. My family is so much more moral than your family. My ancestors were on the Mayflower or something. It’s either that or they helped organize the Boston Tea Party–I forget which. My parents told me this, so neither story is probably true. They only dig up my lofty ancestors when I get into trouble or quit a job. I am the first person in my family to have a brain. Keep that in mind.

My name is Ronald. I am nineteen years old. I’m not going to tell you my last name because I promised my parents I wouldn’t. Actually, that’s not true at all. They don’t even know I’m writing this. But if this ever becomes a book, they’ll kick me in the ass. They say I’ve embarrassed them enough already… I don’t know about that. I was born, never asked.

Oh, by the way, if you’re a normal person, you might as well put this thing down right now. I’m not going to follow any rules, and there won’t be any car chases–not even a ‘chickie’ run. Also, I don’t get the girl at the end. Still interested? I think I’ve alienated most of the reading public already. Good.

These sarcastic notes are being scribbled in a sanitarium somewhere in New England. This sanitarium is supposed to induce tranquility because it’s tucked away in the gentle confines of the woods. And like all rural areas of New England, the scenery looks like a puzzle cover, complete with babbling brooks and monotonous stone walls.

The neighboring community here is also very moral. In two weeks the townspeople will be gathering maple syrup from the trees. Now it’s impossible for another section of this country to be more wholesome than that–I don’t care how much Wonder Bread they eat.

Now that I’ve said all that, are you ready for the name of this nut house? It’s called Bliss Valley. Well, not really–but that’s not any sillier than the real name of this place, so I’m going to call it Bliss Valley.

I wish Randall Patrick McMurphy would show up.

It’s Monday here at Bliss Valley. Today is a big day for me. The psychiatrist is supposed  to see me soon.

I don’t know what to hope for… He’s probably one of those idiots who thinks he can talk me out of being unhappy. God, I hope he’s not one of those Freudian fools. If he is, he won’t even be interested in solving the problem; instead, I’ll have to tell him all about my childhood so he can see what supposedly caused the problem. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be a different kind of dope altogether. I bet he belongs to that select group who say it’s essential for the patient to reveal everything about himself. If I just open up and reveal what’s bothering me, I’ll be cured. This is what my parents believe. As usual, they don’t realize that this method is total bullshit. For Chrissakes, I’ve told my parents some of the things that bother me and that didn’t help one bit. But here at Bliss Valley I haven’t told anyone what’s pissing me off.

By the way, I don’t like to say I’ve had a nervous breakdown. The word “breakdown” is contradictory. I say this because the more I look at what happened, the more I’m convinced I’ve just seen the realities of too many situations in life. Now, in order to recoup my mental health, I must divert my attention from cold truths and learn how to ramble on about the weather. That’s why I’m here at Bliss Valley.

Guess what? He’s here. The doctor actually came. His name is Dr. Sheldon. He says that I should just call him Steve. I hate him already. He looks just like the manager of our local supermarket; he’s overweight, and has those dumb kind of glasses that turn into sunglasses. Although his curly hair is blonde, his thick mustache is poop brown.

I had to follow Dr. Sheldon to another room. This room looks like a great place for boring business meetings. The walls are off-yellow, and there’s an ugly painting of a rooster hanging above Steve.

We started to talk about the weather. This was his way of putting me at ease. Still, it didn’t take him long to pop the question:

“Ronald, why did you feel like you could no longer cope? What made you so unhappy?”

I was gonna swear at him, but I refrained at the last second.

“I asked you a question, Ronald,” Dr. Sheldon continued. “Why did you feel like you could no longer cope? What made you so unhappy?”

Like everyone else, I hate having to explain myself to somebody else. The person you explain yourself to is simply screwed up in a different way than you… But, I thought, what the hell? What have I got to lose? My mind?

“If you’re willing to listen to the whole thing, I’ll tell it to you,” I said. “I’ll tell you why I’m so screwed up.”

“Go right ahead, Ronald. Tell me everything,” Dr. Sheldon replied.

Dr, Sheldon smiled and took out his pad. I told him everything:

My town stinks. The stench is not from industrial waste; it is from intellectual waste. My town is basically an intellectual prairie. The people who live on my road are particularly dull and unimaginative. I live on a dead end, both literally and figuratively. This town I’m speaking of is in New England. Everyone here has a Yankee sense of humor, which means they haven’t laughed since a witch was burned. It’s a very small town, as you may have guessed. I grew up in this small town. It’s the kind of a town where you take a crap out of boredom. The highlight of the day is mail. After you open your mail, the day is over. It’s the kind of a town where all the young people go to a bar and talk about how there’s nothing to do. And all the kids who can’t get a fake ID, well, their social life is restricted to the Burger King parking lot. My town is the geographical equivalent of a hangover. It probably sounds a lot like your town.

In all honesty, my town can’t be blamed. It’s merely one of the many small towns where mediocrity and stupidity reign king and queen. But don’t get me wrong–I really do hate my little town. Let’s call it Crapville, to be nice. Crapville, like most small towns, is mostly composed of fools. Most Crapvillers are nothing but existers. What’s an exister? Someone who does nothing but eat, sleep, rake and mow. These are the same people who have children as often as they play the lottery. They all live in my town. True, some have moved away, but they must move to your town’ and then the existers from there move into Crapville. It’s a damn exchange program! I’m sorry, but we are supposed to live, not exist. I can’t live just to maintain things… Who am I kidding? I can’t even roll up an extension cord.

Where was I? Oh yes–Crapville. I was just thinking about what would happen if the people on my street could hear me now. It wouldn’t bother them until someone with a brain told them I really was talking about little ol’ Crapville. Once my fellow Crapvillers realized I was talking about them, their brand new rakes would fall from their hands and land on that green, green grass that nobody can play on. My comments would be discussed by all the neighbors still on speaking terms with each other. Our one black neighbor would be left in the dark.

But all the other good citizens would put aside their petty differences and band together in a pact of ignorance. If my sarcastic remarks were in a book, they would all shout that my creation was bad and should be burned. I can see them all before me now; they’re throwing all their bothersome leaves into a pile, and copies of my book are being sprinkled on top. Everyone is laughing again. The neighbor who is the first to cast my book into the fire is the same Puritan who used to confiscate our baseball when it rolled across his lawn.

My town stinks. As soon as you people think I’m normal enough to leave this place, I’m gonna get the hell out of Crapville.

I am now of the age where I can legally drink my brains out as long as I’m in the correct geographical area. Once I can drink without consulting with the chamber of commerce, I’ll truly be a man.

I used to go to college, Dr. Sheldon. I only lasted a year there. Surprised? You know when I went to college, I wasn’t in Crapville–I wasn’t even in the same state–yet I ran straight into another Crapville! I guess those two places are part of that sister city program. I thought college was a joke, Dr. Sheldon. It was just a bunch of people puking.

Before I had my nervous you–know–what, I didn’t have a job and was proud of it. I slept to the crack of noon and laughed at my neighbors all day long. I read a few books now and then, too. I’m sure my neighbors would love the books I read. Yes, I enjoy great literature. In Crapville this makes you an endangered specie… What am I saying? It makes you an endangered specie everywhere in this country. Book lovers are about as plentiful as bald eagles.

Nobody in family reads–especially my fat relatives. I only know of one uncle who reads good books. I was thrilled one day when I mentioned Henry David Thoreau to him and he knew who I was talking about! I mean, the closest my father ever came to mentioning Thoreau was when he said to me:

“Uh, Ronald, you wanna throw out the garbage?”

Dunce For The Confederacy: The Lost Cause of Shelby Foote

July 26, 2015 163 comments

By OTOOLEFAN

“Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”

—–Clarence Darrow

This statement has long been a favorite quote of mine, especially since it’s attributed to one of my favorite Americans (a triumvirate that includes Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln). But while I heartily agree with this sentiment in general, there’s one sinister exception in particular unrivaled in American history—namely, the Confederate cause during the Civil War. The Confederacy’s effort to establish a separate nation in order to preserve, protect and defend slavery is the most shameful hour in our nation’s life—an effort that must not  be forgotten, but also one that should never be celebrated. If ever a cause deserved to be lost and stay lost, it’s this one. It was a cause, Ulysses S. Grant said, that “was, I believe, one of the worst for which people ever fought…”

But don’t tell Shelby Foote that. According to him, “The “Confederates fought for some substantially good things.” Yes, some good things, folks, except of course for that whole pesky preserving slavery thing. But hey, no system is perfect, Yank!

shelbyfoote1Shelby Foote (1916 – 2005) was a talented American writer from the South in the tradition of William Faulkner who started out writing novels and then spent 20 years of his life from 1958 to 1974 writing a massive, three volume narrative history of The Civil War. But Shelby Foote is probably best known for his participation and 89 cameo appearances in Ken Burns’ landmark PBS Civil War documentary, which aired in 1990. The series turned Foote into a reluctant celebrity, but it also made him a millionaire with his Civil War trilogy reaching a whole new audience.

Although I love American history, I must confess that I didn’t see Burns’ celebrated documentary until about 2 years ago. Like so many viewers, I was initially charmed by Mr. Foote. With his Mississippi delta drawl and air, he looked and sounded like the perfect Southern gentleman right out of central casting–or a bourbon ad. I enjoyed the series very much. But a day or two after finishing it, I found myself thinking about a lot of what Shelby Foote  had said during those 9 episodes and something didn’t sit well with me. More about that later…

Watching Ken Burns’ documentary got me interested in checking out Shelby Foote’s celebrated three volume history of the conflict entitled simply: The Civil War: A Narrative. As a history buff since 8th grade, I’d read my share of Civil War books already and knew what had caused the war, so a narrative approach of the events appealed to me. I was genuinely looking forward to reading Volume 1 when I brought the dog-eared 800 page paperback home with me from our local library. So, that was my mindset when I opened this book.

I couldn’t get past the first 50 pages, folks.

For me, the trouble started almost right away where it seemed that Foote spent the first twenty pages doing back flips trying to make a hero out of Jefferson Davis. I suppose when your opponent is Abraham Lincoln, you do whatever you can to prop your guy up. Here’s an example: Foote relates how Jefferson Davis was selected by Franklin Pierce (routinely ranked by real historians as our 3rd worst President) to be Secretary of War. At least we were more honest about the job title back then. Anyway, Foote then goes on to say, “Whatever his reasons, Pierce chose well. Davis made perhaps the best War Secretary the country ever had…”

Huh?

This declaration is made all the more absurd by the fact that there wasn’t a war going on while Davis held the office and was being all fabulous. This is kind of like saying Jefferson Davis was the best fireman the country ever had, although he never went to a fire.

Of course Davis would have a very real war on his hands less than 10 years later with less than stellar results. Still, I guess Foote could also say Jefferson Davis made perhaps the best President the Confederacy ever had.

Yet another example occurs in the same opening chapter where, within the confines of a single paragraph, Foote manages to compare Jefferson Davis to both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Davis has just become President and is assuming his duties in Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the Confederacy. Foote writes,

“Rising early, he worked at home until breakfast, then went to his office, where he often stayed past midnight. He had need for all this labor, founding like Washington a new government, a new nation, except that whereas the earlier patriot had worked in a time of peace, with his war for independence safely won, Davis worked in a flurry against time, with possibly a harder war ahead. Like Washington, too, he lived without ostentation or pomp. His office was upstairs in the ugly red brick State House on a downtown corner, ‘The President’ handwritten across a sheet of foolscap pasted to the door. He made himself accessible to all callers, and even at his busiest he was gracious, much as Jefferson had been.”

What a guy!

To me, it wouldn’t be any sillier if Foote had written this paragraph instead:

jeffersondavis

“Their servile instincts rendered them contented with their lot.” Jefferson Davis, on slavery, post civil war.

“Similar to Washington and other earlier patriots, Jefferson Davis walked upright and breathed oxygen. Like Washington, too, Davis required sleep every night, with possibly a harder time getting any. Davis also found that he farted on occasion, much the same as Jefferson had done.”

Oddly enough, even in a literary sense, I found this book hard to read. Foote’s style struck me as very off-putting. I guess I was expecting a little more eloquence; instead I got anaconda sized sentences that contained more twists and turns than Lombard Street in San Francisco.

But it was just two scant paragraphs later, on page 42 of my library copy, that I ran up against the sentences that made me close Foote’s book in disgust forever. As he talks about the Confederate Constitution and how similar it is to our original Constitution, Shelby Foote actually writes these words:

“One important oversight was corrected, however. Where the founding fathers, living in a less pious age of reason, had omitted any reference to the Deity, the modern preamble invoked ‘the favor and guidance of Almighty God.’”

Huh?

Oh, goodie, the Confederates injected ‘Almighty God’ into their sacred Constitution—the same holy document that enshrined slavery and made it permanent. The Confederate Constitution says expressly that slavery can NEVER be abolished. NEVER. This vile document also decrees that any newly acquired territory is automatically slave territory. Yes, Mr. Foote, your beloved Confederacy certainly righted a wrong there, correcting those backward age of reason heathens. I bet George Washington and his bunch didn’t wear flag pins, either. I’m sure the Deity was pleased to be invoked in the founding document of a budding slave republic.

In the paragraph before this, Foote does mention that the Confederate constitution protected slavery in the states and any acquired territories on a FEDERAL level, but he fails to note the utter hypocrisy of this, especially since the South was supposed to be all about states’ rights.  Now this is what I would call an important oversight. As actual historian William C. Davis pointed out: “To the old Union they had said that the Federal power had no authority to interfere with slavery issues in a state. To their new nation they would declare that the state had no power to interfere with a federal protection of slavery.”

Clearly we see just how little the Confederacy cared about states’ rights compared to how much they cared about protecting slavery.

I got your states rights right here, Shelby.

If I had even one iota of guilt about judging this book too quickly after reading less than 50 pages of it, that guilt was erased when I flipped to the very back and found this last sentence in Foote’s “Bibliographical Note”:

“If pride in the resistance my forebears made against the odds has leaned me to any degree in their direction, I hope it will be seen to amount to no more, in the end, than the average American’s normal sympathy for the underdog in a fight.”

Huh?

Call me kooky, but I think the real underdogs in this fight were African Americans. I’d also like to think that the average American would have little sympathy for the side fighting to keep 4 MILLION souls in permanent bondage. But hey, maybe that’s just me. I guess I’ve always marched to the beat of a different drummer.

All of this brings me back to Ken Burns’ landmark Civil War documentary. Less than twenty minutes into the first episode entitled ‘The Cause’, Shelby Foote tells us that the Civil War happened “because we failed to do the thing we really have a genius for, which is compromise.”

And just what was it that we failed to compromise on? Gee, I wonder. What could it be? Could it be the thing we’d been compromising on ever since the writing of the Declaration of Independence? The answer is slavery, of course, but Shelby Foote never tells us that. Just like when he uses the term “Southerners” he fails to mention that he’s talking about WHITE Southerners.

shelbyfoote3closeup

“Black contribution to the war has been overemphasized.” Shelby Foote, in an interview after the Ken Burns documentary.

And just what form would any further compromise take? Would the slaves get weekends off? A half day for Jefferson Davis’ birthday? I’m pretty sure any new “compromise” would’ve still kept 4 million people enslaved. What an effing joke, Mr. Foote.

Slavery was the one issue that, in the end, could no longer be compromised on. That’s why it was the root cause of The Civil War. Abraham Lincoln knew this 3 years before civil war began, yet Shelby Foote still couldn’t seem to comprehend this over 100 years later. As Lincoln said in his ‘A House Divided’ speech in 1858: “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slaves and half free… It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Slavery was the lightning to the Civil War’s thunder. Without it there would have been no war, period. The same cannot be said of any other single issue or combination of issues that also caused sectional strife between the North and the South. Did John Brown try to lead a tax revolt? The Confederacy proved Lincoln right when they tried to become all one thing. Secession was the South’s final solution.

A mere twenty minutes into episode 2 Shelby Foote pops up again to tell us a little story. Foote relates that early on in the war a Union squad closed in on a “single ragged Confederate who obviously didn’t own any slaves and couldn’t have much interest in the Constitution or anything…” The Union soldiers ask Johnny Reb “What are you fighting for, anyway?” To which the rebel soldier replies, ‘’I’m fighting because you’re down here.’’ “Pretty satisfactory answer” says Foote with a gleam in his eye, like this was some sort of Confederate drop the mic moment.

Um, no, Shelby Foote, that is actually not a very satisfactory answer. It’s just another example of phony victimhood. I’m sorry, but you can’t start a war and then claim you’re being invaded. This logic reminds me of a story Lincoln told about a boy who killed his parents and then pled for mercy on the grounds he was an orphan. It makes it sound as if the South was just minding Her own business and these vile Yankees swooped down and attacked. Forget that the South defied a Constitutional election and then seceded from the Union; forget that the South didn’t even put Lincoln on the ballot in ten states; forget that the South started the war by firing on Ft. Sumter and the American flag–a Federal fort paid for and maintained by ALL the states, not just South Carolina, by the way. This was just Shelby Foote’s coded way of calling the Civil War ‘The War of Northern Aggression.’ The War of Northern Aggression… Now there’s a phrase that surely made George Orwell jealous.

As I stated in the beginning, Shelby Foote said that “The Confederates fought for some substantially good things.” In the year 2000 came the first debates on South Carolina’s display of the Confederate battle flag over their courthouse. The flag was put up in 1961 to commemorate the centennial of The Civil War. Originally there was a plan to take it down after 1961 concluded, but this proviso never made it into the final bill and the rebel battle flag flew all during the Civil Rights movement until 2000 when it was removed. But a compromise was struck and they flew a smaller one over by the Confederate monuments until July of 2015.

PBS News Hour aired a program in 2000 on this controversy and who do you think appeared as a guest on this show? Why, Shelby Foote, of course! One of the things Foote said during the program was this: “The Confederacy stood for a great many things other than slavery… It was other things, many other things.”

Wow, okay. Let’s see if we can find some things other than slavery the Confederacy stood for, shall we? I’d think a great place to start would be to look at some of the Southern states’ declarations of secession. Let’s begin with Shelby Foote’s own home state of Mississippi:

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union

   In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course

   Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion

Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.

Sheesh, not really seeing too many good things there, Mr. Foote. If you want to read the entire declaration, do so. But every sentence in it is about slavery and nothing but slavery.

But you’ve got to love the part at the end where Mississippi says they have more of a cause to leave the United States than the Colonies did to break away from England.  Well, they might be right, since that revolution was over taxation not SLAVERY.

Hey, let’s check out Texas’ Secession declaration… Maybe we’ll find some of those good things the Confederacy stood for in that document.

DECLARATION OF CAUSES: February 2, 1861
A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union.

   Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated States to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility [sic] and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery–the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits–a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon the unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color–a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and the negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.

Nope, not seeing any good things in that document, either, Mr. Foote. Pretty hard to get past the passage where Texas is berating the Northern states for “proclaiming the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color—a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law.”

shelbyfoote2

“There is some justice to the claim that slavery was overemphasized.” Shelby Foote, referring to the Ken Burns Civil War documentary.

Slavery is God’s Will, Yanks!

Surely we’ll be able to find some of those “substantially good things” Shelby Foote says the Confederacy stood for in Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone” speech, right? This speech was given shortly after the Confederate government was formed and just a few weeks before Lincoln tricked the Confederacy into firing on Ft. Sumter. Vice President Stephens tells us:

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

   Ooops, well, maybe here is the good part where Stephens gives us the corner stone of his new nation:

   Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

   You see, the actual people who were doing the seceding had no qualms about telling us it was to protect the institution of slavery. They weren’t worried about legacy or how awful this might look later on. Hell, a lot of them thought they were going to win the Civil War! Nobody goes to war thinking they’ll lose. It’s pretty hard to justify any public celebration of the Confederate cause if it was all about preserving slavery, which it was—as the above documents illustrate so clearly. It’s pretty hard to take pride in such a horrible cause, so the attempt has been made ever since to pretend the Civil War was caused by everything BUT slavery. Their favorite red herring is the weasel phrase ‘states rights’. Notice they never elaborate any further on those so-called states rights. This is probably because the ONLY ‘state right’ they cared about was the right of White people to own Black people.

On the eve of secession, wealthy Mississippi plantation owner Richard Thompson Archer declared it was time for the South to stand “united… in defense of the God given right to own the African.”

Yeah, it was all really about tariffs, huh?

Saying that slavery wasn’t the cause of the Civil War is like doing Hamlet without Hamlet.

One of the most exasperating things about Shelby Foote is that he was not an ignorant, overt racist. As Tony Horwitz relates in his book Confederates in the Attic: “But Foote had bucked the Southern trend and supported integration early on. He also quit his Sons of Confederate Veterans’ chapter when it chose to honor George Wallace on a visit to Memphis, and later abandoned plans to build a home on the Alabama coast because of a strong Klan presence there.”

That being said, let’s return to the 2000 PBS News Hour program. Here’s what Shelby Foote said when asked by the host what the Confederate battle flag meant to him:

SHELBY FOOTE: “The flag is a symbol my great grandfather fought under and in defense of. I am for flying it anywhere anybody wants to fly it. I do know perfectly well what pain it causes my black friends, but I think that pain is not necessary if they would read the confederate constitution and knew what the confederacy really stood for.”

His ‘black friends’??

Talk about putting your Foote in your mouth. This sounds like something Donald Trump would say. If only  Mr. Foote’s ‘black friends’ would read the Confederate constitution they wouldn’t be pained by the rebel battle flag?? Were you on acid, Shelby Foote? Seriously.

Yes, if only black people would just get off their butt and read that dandy Confederate constitution! If they did, they’d see that it’s only real difference with the original was the sentence where the glorious new Southern nation declared that “no law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

THAT’S what the Confederacy really stood for, Mr. Foote. Sounds to me like YOU were the one who needed to read the damn thing. Boy, I just can’t imagine why your ‘black friends’ would have a problem with that. Some people are just so sensitive! Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that anyone who uses the term “my black friends” doesn’t have any.

Oh, another difference between the two constitutions was that a Confederate president would serve but one 6 year term and have a line item veto. I’m sure this would be a great comfort to Shelby Foote’s black friends.

Continuing with his historical acid trip, Shelby Foote then says this about the Confederate battle flag:

“These things have got to be understood before they’re condemned. They’re condemned on the face of it because they take that flag to represent what those yahoos represent as – in their protest against civil rights things. But the people who knew what that flag really stood for should have stopped those yahoos from using it as a symbol of what they stood for. But we didn’t – and now you had this problem of the confederate flag being identified as sort of a roughneck thing, which it is not.”

   Huh?

I’m sorry, but this statement borders on the psychotic, in my opinion. I think he even manages to out Orwell Orwell with this one. Shelby Foote is actually trying to say that this wretched flag once stood for something “noble” until Southern racists of the 20th century misused it and turned it into a “banner of shame and disgrace and hate.”

second-flag

Take a wild guess at what all that white is supposed to symbolize. In a sublime case of poetic justice, Thompson’s flag had TOO much white in it; his design was later changed for fear that all that white would be mistaken for a flag of surrender.

But don’t just take my word for all this. Let me introduce you to William Thompson, editor of the Savannah, Georgia newspaper Daily Morning News. Thompson designed one of the Confederate battle flags that was accepted and approved by the Confederate government about halfway through the war. Here’s how Mr. Thompson summarized the Southern cause: “As a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race…” Thompson also went on to say his new flag design would “be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN’S FLAG.” By the way, Thompson put that in all caps, not me.

I hate to break it to you, Mr. Foote, but this flag has ALWAYS been a banner of shame and disgrace and hate. As a matter of fact, this symbol was never more shameful than when it originally appeared. This notion that the Confederate flag only came to symbolize white supremacy and racism during the civil rights movement is beyond ludicrous. It’s also historically false. I mean, how much more anti-civil rights can you be than fighting a war to establish a separate America where slavery was forever? As hateful as the white supremacists were during the civil rights struggle, at least they weren’t trying to keep FOUR MILLION souls and future generations in eternal bondage. If that’s not a “roughneck thing”, I don’t know what the hell is. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also put her Foote in her mouth when she said that the racist killer of the Emanuel 9 had a “sick and twisted” view of the Confederate battle flag. Wrong, governor, the flag itself is what’s sick and twisted and has always been. It is our American swastika.

Now before anyone says I’ve gone too far by whipping out a Nazi reference, I believe such a comparison is entirely apt. I really don’t see much difference in 6 million people being exterminated because of their race and 4 million being permanently enslaved because of their race. A holocaust by any other name is still a holocaust.Nazi-Swastika-symbol-on-flagconfederate flag

HERITAGE, NOT HATE?

But by far the biggest weasel word used by Confederate flag apologists is the word “heritage”. Of course this is just another slavery dodge like “states rights”. Those who use the word “heritage” hope like hell nobody asks the logical follow up question of “And what heritage would that be?” The heritage of seceding from America in order to preserve slavery? Nazism and the Holocaust are part of Germany’s heritage—and that was only 70 years ago, not 150. Yet you don’t see Angela Merkel declaring a Nazi History Month and you don’t see a swastika flying from a government building in Berlin, do you? It’s somehow sadly appropriate that the only state flag in the Union that still has the confederate battle flag within it is Shelby Foote’s home state of Mississippi.mississippi flag

Finally, here’s what Shelby Foote had to say about the original removal of the battle flag atop South Carolina’s capital in 2000:

SHELBY FOOTE: I don’t object to any individual hiding from history, but I do object to their hiding history from me. And that’s what seems to me to be going on here. There are a lot of terrible things that happened in American history, but we don’t wipe ’em out of the history books; we don’t destroy their symbols; we don’t forget they ever happened; we don’t resent anybody bringing it up. The confederate flag has been placed in that position that’s unique with an American symbol. I’ve never known one to be so despised.

Huh?

How the hell was removing the Confederate flag from a state capital building hiding history from you, Mr. Foote? How is that wiping ‘em from the history books? Although no swastikas fly atop German government buildings, I’m pretty sure we all still know who the Nazis were, jackass.

Shelby Foote died in 2005, at the age of 88. In their obituary of him, The Guardian noted this about his three volume set Civil War: A Narrative:

There has, perhaps, never been a history, even a popular history, so devoid of ideas, or economic forces. Few historians today share Foote’s blindness toward the considerable role of blacks in the war. He scorns northern extremists, blames the abolitionists for provoking the war, and has a fondness for the murderous cavalry exploits of Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose granddaughter he met as a boy, and who permitted him to swing Forrest’s sabre above his head. He did not mention that the notoriously racist Confederate general became one of the founding fathers of the Ku Klux Klan.

Shortly after Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary ended, Shelby Foote said in an interview that “Black contribution to the war has been overemphasized.”

Yeah, like HE would know.

But I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on Foote for turning a blind eye to this. After all, it’s pretty hard to notice Black contribution to the war when you’re busy swinging Nathan Bedford Forrest’s sword about your head.

If anything has been overemphasized, it’s Shelby Foote.

Another thing I’m quite sure Mr. Foote never knew is that more men from his home state of Mississippi fought for the Union than the Confederacy. How’s that for heritage?

Shame on you, Shelby Foote. He couldn’t or wouldn’t face the truth about what the Confederacy really stood for. And shame on Ken Burns, PBS and any other serious outlet that treated Foote like he was some kind of authority on The Civil War.

It seems to me that the person who hid from history was Shelby Foote.

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And That’s The Way It Is…

May 12, 2013 4 comments

By Liberalchik

Remember when facts were facts and lies were lies?

We have a serious problem in this country, rampant misinformation. Pitting brother against brother, family against family, friend against friend, what we have here is a telecommunications civil war.

This civil war has created a divide in our country that may never mend. It’s too vast and too personal. No one wants to say, I was wrong, I was deceived. It’s deeper thanTV1950s (1) political leanings, it’s bordering on psychosis, a giant national social psychosis.

Thanks to 24 hr cable news, the internet, twitter and facebook, there is no one central information system that ALL Americans can agree on as where we get our facts. Every day things happen, every day news happens, but depending on what source you use, the reporting of events is wide and varied.

In the past, in the good ol’ days there was the evening news. At 6 pm the family gathered around the TV for Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley to inform the public of what happened that day. There was one set of facts. And everyone agreed, yes this happened today. Maybe Democrats and Republicans were at odds in their reaction to these facts, but they still accepted facts as facts. Everyone had one jumping off point on which to base a RATIONAL discussion. Discourse is good, discourse is healthy, but it is only possible when all parties start with the same information accepted as fact.

We’ve always had the lunatic fringe who was recognized and dismissed AS the lunatic fringe, the 3 am radio crowd who in dark corners of the country whispered and reassured each other their madness was not madness.

Now every nutcase and conspiracy theorist has their own news source (see Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc.) to confirm their paranoia and now these nutcases (see Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, etc.) are running for office and WINNING.

The lunatics are running the asylum.

In an effort to bridge the gap and restore oneness of information, we have fact checking organizations who do nothing but try to give the public what it needs to be sane, the facts. Snopes.com and Factcheck.org are two of the most reputable, but in this time of misinformation, even they are scorned as ‘liberal’ leaning. The reason Snopes.com is more often accused of bias by conservatives than by liberals is that facts have a notoriously liberal bias. Facts are facts and lies are lies.

Stephen Colbert was right. And that’s a fact.

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Stop Praying For Rain

August 16, 2012 16 comments

By Liberalchik

I’m getting damn tired of hearing people say “Pray for rain, or Thank God for the rain we got today”. Here Imagewe are in the 21st century and there are people who are still attributing weather to a god in the sky.

People,  that stuff worked back in the days of Roman and Greek mythology because even though they were more advanced in their thinking than we are now, they still did not have scientific reasoning. Climate is a scientific matter. It is complicated. It is not dictated by a sky god with an iPad manually manipulating storm clouds for those who prayed the most or the best.

Never mind that Texas Governor Rick Perry held a big ol’ Texas size event last year with all the power prayin’ people in attendance to pray for rain for Texas. Guess what? It didn’t rain. I guess God just wasn’t listening that day.

You can pray all you want for rain, but the GLOBAL jet stream has been affected by climate change, also known as global warming, you know that fake scary hoax Al Gore perpetrated on all of us just to make money on new green technology.

If you feel you really must pray for something, pray for HUMANS to wise up and listen to the scientists before it’s too late, if it isn’t already.

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A Tale Of Two Mothers

May 13, 2012 15 comments

By Don Millard

Growing up as an only child, I always knew I was adopted. My parents told me this as soon as I was old enough to comprehend it, which was a relief as I must have known it instinctually because I always felt something didn’t quite fit; having blonde hair while both parents had jet black hair probably had something to do with it, too. After finding out I was adopted, I felt luckier than other kids who weren’t. I knew that I was really wanted and I loved to hear the story about how they “got” me.

My mom, Amalia Anne Millard, a full blooded Italian, told me of how I started drinking right out of the bottle when she first picked me up in her arms, which shocked the people at the adoption agency, because they had had a lot of trouble getting me to eat. I like to think that, even at that age, I knew a good woman when I saw one. As I would come to find out soon enough, I couldn’t have found a better mother. I was the luckiest kid in the world.

Still am.

Knowing all this at such an early age, the subject of my adoption was the easiest thing in the world for my parents and me to talk about, even joke about. Whenever I was being a particular pain in the ass, I would tell my parents, “Hey, you guys picked me out.”

The full ramification of being adopted didn’t hit me until 4th grade, when we were assigned to do a family tree. I remember being panicked about getting a bad grade because I didn’t have a family tree; I had a stump.   My mom tried to soothe my fears by saying that I did indeed have a family tree, even though I wasn’t related to it. But in my head, I knew that didn’t count and I was missing a heritage.

My mom quickly diagrammed her side of the family, tracing her relatives all the way back to Naples, Italy.

This isn’t going to be so bad, I thought.

Then I brought the diagram over to my dad, who was asleep in the chair, watching BARRETTA. After explaining the project to him, he grimaced and said,

“I don’t know, Donald. Jesus Christ, I’m trying to watch this.  I think we’re French or somethin’.”

Thinking back on it, I think we just made up his side of the tree.

My mom was directly responsible for my first political memory as a kid. It was August, 1974 and we were on vacation in Cape Cod. As we were walking around Provincetown, my mom heard that Nixon was going to resign on national television. I remember her saying to my dad, “I want Donald to see this. This is history.” Even though we had already had lunch, we started to search for any restaurant that had a TV. We quickly found a luncheon place with a television and took our seats in a booth. We ordered something just so we could sit there and see the 37th President of the United States resign in disgrace. This was my introduction to politics.

My mom was and still is the greatest person I ever knew.  Her character was summed up by the quote she chose for her high school yearbook.

“Private sincerity is a public welfare.”

As a young woman, she was a very talented pianist who wanted to go to Yale School of Music but couldn’t because it wasn’t open to women yet. She ended up becoming a secretary, transferring the dexterity of her fingers onto the keyboard of the typewriter. Those who heard her type would stop in amazement at her speed and skill. She was a staunch Democrat who proudly voted for Adlai Stevenson twice.  She listened to talk radio in the afternoons and hence, so did I. It was a call in show out of New York City and I remember one of the hosts she particularly liked was Barry Farber. She also founded a local political action group in Clinton, Connecticut which she named ACCT (Association of Concerned Clinton Taxpayers). As her son, it was impossible not to be aware of and interested in the issues of the day, both local and national.

Thanks, Mom.

As I got older and my interests in history, art, writing and reading grew, the closer we became. In her world, poets, writers and artists occupied the highest station in society and she always encouraged me to follow my dreams. We would have long philosophical discussions about every subject, including religion.

My mom was a devout Catholic, and she raised me as one. She was one of the few true Christians I’ve known. She was too busy being a Christian to tell everyone how Christian she was. By the time I was a senior in high school I had to tell her that I was an agnostic. Instead of lecturing me she said, “You’ve done a lot of original thinking about religion, which is more than most people your age do, so I respect your opinion.”  I truly believe there couldn’t have been a more perfect match if I had searched the world over five times for a mother.

After a year and a half of college, I decided I wanted to see some of the world. If I was ever going to be a writer, I needed some real life experiences besides puking in a dorm room.  I had already written 2/3 of a screenplay and was stuck on how to end it.

“He wants to have an adventure,” my mom said to my dad, who was asleep in the chair.

With a friend, I vagabonded around Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, and finally ended up penniless in Paris. The year was 1985.

When I returned home, I found out the very next day that my mom had cancer. The doctors told us the tumor was highly treatable and they were optimistic about her chances. I took her to all of her treatments for chemo and radiation, but her recovery was not to be. She died almost a year to the day of her diagnosis.  She was 56 and I was 21.

A few days before she passed away, she cleared everyone out of the hospital room by telling them she wanted to talk to me alone.

“You have to tell me that you’re a survivor. You have to tell me that you’re going to survive this.”

Of course I said yes, even though I had no idea whether I could hold up my end of the bargain. I was just scared and numb.

She had always told me and others that she hoped I would know my birth family and roots later in life.

This was the last thing on my mind when she died.

Two years passed and my dad was selling the house and we were moving to Florida. As we were going through a safety deposit box, we came across a paper from the lawyer who handled my adoption back in 1965. As I read the letter, I was stunned to see the following sentence which read… “the infant named Terry Lee Wichael.”

Terry Lee Wichael? WTF?

I can’t express how it felt to read this strange name and yet know that name was once mine. My first thought was, if things had been different, I’d be driving a pickup with a gun rack, sporting truck nuts.  Silly or not, this was my first thought.

I put this piece of paper away in a drawer with the thought that one day the time would come for me to pursue this.

I don’t know how to explain it, but in 1993, something told me it was the right time to try to find my roots and more importantly, my birth mother, if she was still around. This is not a decision you can enter into lightly. You have to get to a point that you know that once you embark on this journey, there is no turning around, no matter what the outcome. You have to accept that you might not like what you find.

It was the hardest decision I ever made. You can’t un-ring that bell.

According to my long form birth certificate, I was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia, at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. Sorry, but I don’t remember the room number, Mr. Trump.

Being a history buff, this lack of knowledge about my own heritage started to weigh on my mind, more than it ever had before, especially with the thought of someday having children. I thought I had no heritage to give them. I also realized I had no medical history, which was kind of scary on its own. My doctor had told me I had to write my birth hospital to get my medical records, which I did.

In the screenplay of my mind, I had this Hollywood hope that somehow they would forget to black out my mother’s name on my records. Upon receiving the records in the mail, I saw that everything was, in fact, blacked out. It might as well have been a CIA document. I laughed at myself for thinking that somehow I would get critical information leading to her identity. Then I happened to look at the photocopy of my own request page and noticed some faint writing going up the top right hand corner of the page. There, before me, was the name “Junelle Anne Wichael, moth.”

Holy Mother!

Someone at the hospital, for whatever reason, must have written my mother’s name on another piece of paper and it happened to transfer to my cover letter. The odds of this happening have to be pretty slim. I took this to be a good omen.

Turned out, my birth mother’s sister was the head pediatric nurse at the hospital where I was born.  She confirmed to me over the phone that Junelle was indeed my birth mother and then gave me her phone number. She also told me the circumstances of my adoption; of how my birth mother was stood up at the alter by my biological father even though he knew she was 4 months pregnant. My heart went out to her and I hoped with every fiber of my soul that none of my father’s cowardice was in me.

It was jarring indeed to realize that the charmed life I had been given was the result of such heartbreaking conditions.  It was my first glimpse into how truly unselfish my mother’s decision was. My first thought was the hope that I could in some way erase her pain by thanking her for my life.

Her life had been as hard as mine had been easy. Giving me up had left her feeling as though no man would have her. She married a man who had always pursued her, but then abused her. She worked as a school bus driver. She would later tell me “I could haul everybody else’s kid but my own.”

I talked to my mother for the first time on New Year’s Eve, 1993. It was so strange to hear a gentle, Southern accent on the other end of the phone and yet know that this person was the one who brought me into this world. We talked for two hours and watched the ball drop together.

About a month later, I went to visit and see her in the flesh, to make sure this was all real. It was real. Real  country. Despite the cultural divide, there was an immediate connection. People couldn’t get over how much we looked alike. She looked like a mini-me. I was happy to find out she was funny and that she was the kind of person that young people were drawn to. She got a kick out of me being left handed, as she was the only lefty in the family herself.  The first night we stayed up all night just talking. I got to thank her for my life and tell her how good I’d had it. She was very happy to hear this and it was a comfort to her.  She was so relieved to know how close I had been with my mom in Connecticut. All my life, she had worried that I would harbor ill feelings toward her for giving me up for adoption. I was reminded once again that all the pain of my adoption had been on her side; although I wondered about my heritage, I wasn’t really missing anything, whereas she was missing EVERYTHING. If a person is capable of a more unselfish act then what she did, I don’t know of it.

I felt like my role was to heal the pain in her heart and to make right what once went wrong. I felt like I was starring in my own personal episode of QUANTUM LEAP, without Al.

The hardness of her life was laid bare in that visit, as I saw how her own kids treated her and I heard stories from others about what she had endured from them.

She wanted me to live there straight away but I resisted for a time, for many reasons, not the least of which was the exact opposite universe that I would be moving into as well as a complicated family dynamic.

But then it hit me.  It was time for me to be unselfish.

So, a spoiled Connecticut Yankee moved to redneck Virginia and it all somehow worked out, despite the expected ups and downs of any upheaval.  This decision gave me every day moments with her I would have never had if I’d stayed away. I was so glad I made this decision because I didn’t know it at the time, but I would be spending the last 10 years of her life with her.

My mother was diagnosed with ALS in the fall of 2003.

As bad as it was when she told me the diagnosis, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else on the earth but where I was.

She knew she was facing a death sentence, yet her humor and bravery remained intact. She wanted to know everything there was about Lou Gehrig, When I told her about Lou Gehrig’s famous speech at Yankee Stadium where he said that he considered himself the luckiest man in the world, she said,

“How’d he figure that?”

In true fashion, the weaker she got, the more she cared about others. Towards the end of her own journey, she found out about a friend she had known all her life who had committed suicide. Even though she could barely get around or barely speak, she told me in tears,

“She should have called me, I could have helped her.”

I was never more proud to be her son or share even a strand of her DNA.

She passed away in April 2004, at the age of 61.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I give praise to TWO Moms. One who nurtured me, and one who gave me life.

Thanks, Moms.

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OKC Bombing Remembered

April 19, 2012 6 comments

By Liberalchik

The window in my office rattled as I heard the explosion and I immediately went outside, looking south toward the airport, thinking a plane must have crashed. Then I looked to the east and saw black smoke rising from the downtown Oklahoma City area. I ran back inside and hurriedly turned on the TV to the local news. And there it was.

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building had been bombed.

First reports were sketchy and reported few casualties, but those numbers didn’t hold up for long.

I worked at the Lions Club State Office in Oklahoma City and on that day, April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh took the lives of 168 men, women and children and seriously injured hundreds more. Yes children, as he so callously attacked a building which housed a day care center for the children of the men and women who worked there and in the downtown area.

Donations from Lions Clubs all over the world began coming in and in the weeks and months following that day I busied myself with helping survivors, acting as liaison between my organization and the Red Cross. I attended meetings, visited the site, weeded through applications for assistance, dispursed funds. Even then, in my head I had not processed what had happened. I had not cried.

For almost a year, I was consumed with the aftermath and what we could do to help. Then we received a $50,000.00 donation from a club in Boston, Massachusetts, asking us to use the money to build a memorial playground in honor of the children who perished that day. I worked alongside other club members, volunteers and city workers to ready the playground for the one year anniversary. I still had not cried.

On April 19, 1996 we all gathered at the playground at Lake Hefner with some of the families of the children who fell victim one year earlier. As they unveiled the red granite stone, marking the dedication of the site to the children, I saw them; the tiny handprints engraved into the stone. Two perfect tiny handprints… and then I cried.

I cried a year’s worth of tears and felt a year’s worth of pain and anger. This man, who so brazenly acted so selfishly, so full of hate and vengeance, had taken the lives and hopes and dreams of 19 children that day. He took mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents. He had broken the hearts of families and friends and even those who didn’t know them personally… like me.

And what did he accomplish? Nothing.

Today I still think about those tiny handprints. And today I still cry.

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