The Story of Me

Like I’ve said, the story I’d most like to see finished is the one where I come to a natural and satisfactory end.

That, however, did not happen.  And for that, I feel deep regret and sadness.

That I lived my life ever aiming forward, that I fought and flailed and tried and failed, gives me a glimmer of gratification, but certainly not fulfillment.  For that, fulfillment, comes with completion and there was much I did not complete.  And here in the inky, foggy blackness, my insides ache to do still more, for there was more needed doing.

I needed to speak to my sister Pidge, I’d so many questions, about having babies, about completing a degree, about being so highfaluting and accomplished and yet still be my faithful sidekick and cheerleader.

I needed to speak to my husband George, wondering if he made any real money on my posthumous biography, darn him.

I needed to speak to my co-pilot Flighty Fred, curious if he saw the same anomalies I did during those last tormented and hectic minutes airborne and aloft.

And did he see the same black void rise up to meet him upon the cessation of our not yet historic adventure.

I’d much to do, as much needed doing.

But I’ll never regret, not once, I took a chance.

A.E.

*************

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The Story of Me

I hit it out of the park.

No, I mean I really did.

I. Hit. It. Out. Of. The. Park.

Said I couldn’t play.

Said it couldn’t be done even if I did.

Well, you can tell me “no.”  You can tell me “later.”  You can even tell me you “maybe, sometime in the future, I’ll let you know, how about we have some lemonade.”  Can’t say I’d be satisfied with any of those, but they don’t ruffle my feathers like telling me I “can’t.”

Even now, that just gives me the angry shivers.

Now, all these boys (and how they grow every summer I come back to Kansas), they know to a man I can run faster, throw farther, think quicker, jump higher, holler louder than any one of them.  I’ve become a game to them, who can run, throw, think, jump, holler, whatever, better than Amelia.

Well, not one.  Not yet.  I’ve too much of Grandfather in me.  And Grandmother.  And Daddy and Mama, and even my sister, too.  Set back?  Give in?  I think not.  These fellows, they see the iron in my eyes.  They tell me I get a sideways grin on my freckly face when I get a challenge.  I must grin a whole lot, as they do challenge me regularly.

The one thing, the only thing, the singulary thing I’m not allowed to do, rules of the Great State of Kansas set down to paper state it clear, is this:  “The Ordinances of the Great State of Kansas do hereby and forthwith encourage the fair and honest play of the game of Baseball between organized teams of boys aged 8 to14 representing their communities and towns to be played by the rules and regulations set forth hence.”  And on and on it goes.  But I’m always stopped right there.

Boys?  BOYS?  Well, what about me?

What about you, they toss over their shoulders, heading down to the city diamond at the bottom of the bluff by the river.  In this one case, they don’t bother, even once, to argue the point.  It, they say, is the law.

Well, hang the law.  (That’s what I later told Grandfather, retired judge for the County, just before he bade me exit his presence and rethink my comments in the quiet and loneliness of my room.)

Well, I’ll say it again.  Hang the law.  Just like fences were made to be leapt, laws were meant to be circumvented.  (I was wise enough not to confess those thoughts to Grandfather.  I might have been banished for a month!)

One day, middle of the hottest, muggiest of July days, flys buzzing around my frizzled curls, I’d run completely out of gas.  Nobody around anywhere.  I searched for occupation, but the heavy wet air weighed me down.  I thought about replacing the fallen birds’ nest I’d seen at the bottom of the big oak down by road, but that ended quickly when Mama bird, a blue black Great Tailed Grackle dive-bombed me, pecking my ears and sending me running for the covered porch.  All my ideas for retaliation were shot to heck as I watched her return to her hungry chicks in the fallen nest.  Thought they never did that.  Glad she did.  So I forgave her.

But I was itchy.  Something was calling to me.

I knew what.

And you know what.

I snuck out to the clothesline where Grandfather’s top man, Otis, had  his dungarees out drying.  Grandmother’s ladies, they were nice enough to wash his workclothes every now and again, if he asked real nice.  I hoped he’d not miss them.  They weren’t quite dry yet, anyhow.

And a mite uncomfortable, too.  But rolled up from the bottom, and rolled down from the top, and held up with a leather strap hung just inside the shed, I grabbed an old greasy hat from the garage and marched myself down to the river.

And to the baseball diamond at the bottom of the bluff.

Now I could see from a far off the game had been stalled.  Just a bunch of boys, all doozed up in their baseball finery milling about here and there, not a ball being tossed, not a bat being swung.  I eased myself up into the splintering bleachers behind third base and gave myself a listen.

“You’ll have to forfeit,” said a stringy boy in blue striped socks.  Must be one of them from down to Leavenworth.  They were a tough crew.  Had to be.  Federal prison in their midst either toughened them or scared them away.  That’s what Grandfather said about the population at large, anyhow.

“Won’t do any such thing,”  retorted Jimmy Fair, one of my pals.  “Butch or Isaac or Martin, one of them’s likely to show up any minute.”

Well, you and I know they did not, discovering later they were all sitting side by side on a courthouse bench, caught throwing unripened apples at old man Holyoke’s deaf and dumb donkey.

Then, what you and I know would happen did.

“How ’bout that feller over there on the bleachers?”

Huh?  Jimmy Fair twisted his head around my direction.  I nodded.  His face turned red as an ember and he started to blustering,  denying my very existence.  That’s when all the other Leavenworth boys started in.

“Yeah, let him play!”

“Yeah, he looks like he could play.”

“C’mon, we want a game!”

Jimmy Fair struggled, “Ain’t got an extra glove.”

But those Leavenworth boys, they came prepared.  “Why, feller can use one o’ ours!  Hey, you, kid!  You wanna play?”  They hollered my direction.

You and I know I did.  And with only one sideways grin at Jimmy Fair, and none at the others who watched in silent flabbergasted amazement as I slid off the bench with nary a splinter in my backside, accepted the offered glove and headed yonder to the outfield.

Can’t say I was spectacular in the field that first inning.  Of course, I chased everything that came my way.  Made no errant tosses.  Stayed at the ready.

But it was when I came up to bat, well, you and I know what happened.

I. Hit. It. Out. Of. The. Park.

That, rounding third my cap blew completely off, loosening all those frizzled curls, well, that was what ended my participation, for that day, at least.  That a couple of those Leavenworth boys hollered “Foul!” and chased me half up the bluff, well, that was sport in itself.

Dang.  I hit it out of the park!

A.E.

**************

 

The Story of Me

Summers, those long hazy hot days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, have surely been my favorite, freedom-ridden, frollicking-filled prime times of my life.

There simply isn’t nothing for it, but I obligate myself to jam-cramming every minute with every possible adventure my brain could possibly concoct.

My grandfather, retired judge and man of substance and means, he gave my my head, saying, “Boys will be boys…and Amelia will be, too.”  Grandmother cared not a whit for that little saying, puffing and harrumphing each time Grandfather gave me a free pass.  She’d likely put her thumb to her mouth, then smooth my renegade brows.

I did despise that so.

But when, with a chuck and a grin, she’d send me off to do whatever I was wont, to whomever I wanted, well, it seemed a small price to pay.  I did so revel in my summers out on their farm.

But I always swore I’d not subject any offspring I sprung to that particular indignity, no sir–ee–bob!.

Having one of those minds, I can recollect nearly every day, every cockamamey plan, every slice of seed-speckled watermelon of every summer stay.

One summer, building was my labor of choice.  Built a tiptop treehouse.  Built a ladder first, though, then once up, I pulled that sucker apart rung by rung and used the sections and slats to fortify the platform, then built a second level up so high, the wind waved the floor side to side.

Grandmother sighed.  Grandfather chuckled.

Built a rack for my bike to sit up in.  Built a leanto on the barn to house the rack for my bike to sit up in.

Then I took my bike apart, piece by piece, laid out neat as a pin on the dusty musty floor of the hayloft where I’d hoisted it.  Then piece by piece, I put in back together.  Then I tied it to the hayrope, then wrapped the hayrope ’round me, then swung her out the uptop hinged hatch.  Failed to check the age and strength of the hayrope, and oversight i made but once.  I flew only a second or two, but my oh my, it was worth the bruised bum and sprained wrist I endured.

Grandmother insisted on a sling.  Well, that lasted till I was out the door.

Mechanical doings, though, they fell together in perfect order for me.  I found my head wrapped around gears and engines and belts right well.  Rebuilt that bicycle, improving the gears and even added a small engine to give me speed.  That it also scorched the calves of my skinny legs only spurred me to pedal all the faster.  Grandfather and his workmen allowed me a birdseye view of tractor maintenance.  Even helped change the oil once or twice.  Built Grandmother a conveyer chute to carry her laundry from the upstairs bedrooms to the backporch where the ladies had the wringer.  Sadly, it took up too much of the stairway and no one except rail thin me could pass by.   Then, I built a trap.  Built a trap for run-away chickens.  Grandmother’s straying chickens were constant nuisances and I reckoned doing my part to right this torment might give her a modicum of joy, and me a modicum of peace.  I did give her such a headache.

And this contraption, this contraption worked like a charm.  Not the usual rat trap baited with cheese and a trap door, mine had gears and chains, whirring when the door closed behind the errant chicken, then ding dinging a bell when the chicken put its weight on the springed and sprung floor.

I won’t say this invention, while clever,  was my finest, for the purpose for which it was made lacked portent.  Chickens, stray or not, had no reason to be, other than perhaps scrambled eggs with cheese and Sunday dinner.

Simply, they could not, or would not, fly.  So what then, I ask, was the point?

A.E.

**************

The Story of Me

I’d like to finish the story of me.  I had no chance to end it right the first time.  The sky was black, sounds were black, my footfalls whispered through fields birthed of blackness.

I began my story running through pasturelands waving silver and gold with wheat and grains, arms out wide, feeling the wind and the lift.  I’d find a hidden away spot, flatten down the grasses to cushion my recline, then tuck my hands under my curly mop, scanning the wild blue.  I’d follow the path of the geese both coming and going, feeling the glide of their wings in flight.   I’d flit with the hummingbirds come summertime, even hover with the bumblebees around the clover.

I invented flying machines built of broken yardsticks and Mother’s old sheets, leaping spread eagle from the smokehouse roof.  A painful but encouraging proposition.  The first time she forgave me the cutting into her good ones, saved for company, the second set I borrowed she only gave me a passing scolding as they were the ones cushioning the bottom of the dog’s bed.  She made it abundantly clear the last set, the oldest of the bunch and covered in faded blue and yellow flowers given to her by long dead great aunt, this would be the last.

Mother does not lie.

And when those went to shreds, threadbare and scissored to oblivion, she only glared, eyes clear I was not to ask.  

Mother does not change her mind when it comes to her sheets.

Which led me to lengths of waxed paper.

Which led to even more skinned knees, a continually bruised ego, but enlarged determination.

So you can clearly understand, when the whoop-di-do flying acrobatic pilots came to our stretch of the grand prairie, I was first on hand.  Barely containing myself, I’d watch, mesmerized for hours, feeling the wind and tilting at the whirls and spins and stark dives.  Mother’d send cousins after me come twilight.  They’d like as not find me chatting up the mechanics, or climbing atop the wings when they the fellows’d give me the go ahead, or when they weren’t looking.  

I’d found my wings.  

My name is Amelia, and all I ever wanted to do was fly.

**************

“Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope n’Hang Me!”

To:  Who may have concern

From:  Punkett Boyle, free man

Lonesome, plumb starved, fed up, lit out.

Dang sure, I did.  Took all i had to yank that chain from the wall.  Cain’t quite get my big ol’ feet out the ring and ‘llowed m’boots was more valuable to me this day, so I give up on that and got me a chain necklaced ‘roun my neck, not once but twice.

Chains don’t hurt none, when you’re free, let me tell you.

Left me in that saggy shack longer’n I care to recall.  Feed sack o’food and jug o’water don’t account fer tendin’.  Daddy may have his dreams, but i ain’t like to be a part of ’em, no sir.

So.  I lit out.  I am done.

Not that ever, well once or twice, did I buy into that Texas oll-drillin’ flimflam.  Crazy mean son-of-a-muledriver, all he wants is somebody to beat on ever’ once in a while.  Well, that someone shore ain’t a’gonna be me.

So.  I lit out.  I am done.

Pulled down half that rottin’ shack he stowed me in, gettin’ loose.  Fallin’ timbers cracked me upside the head a time ‘r two, but that there?  That’s the price o’freedom.  A couple gooseeggs and some stingin’scratches and some pitchy ringin’ in my left ear ain’t causin’ me no hurt whatsoever.  That there?  That’s the price o’ freedom.  Crashin’ and bangin’ to who laid a chunk when it finally come down but in these here woods, who the hay be ‘roun’ to hear?  Right simple it was to slip the chain off the end o’ the rusted metal stave what once held the whole place upright..

And that there?  That was that.

Well now, that was some hours ago, and the sun, it’s sashayed clean to the other side o’ the sky, and I’m feelin’ the cool of the evenin’ teasin’ my brow.  But I’m headin’ west, somewheres west, far and away where friend or foe, not nobody can fin’ the likes o’ Punkett Boyle.  I got me no plan but to head on out.  Figure for the time bein’, that there, that’s sufficient.

And sure, these here chains, they’s startin’ to chafe some, heavy suckers, too.  And the bugs, little skimmers and big honkin’ stingers, they be buzzin’ ’bout my eyes and my scratches.  Couple even bit me, swole spots on my neck size o’ silver dollars. My feet, they be two gi’nt blisters.  My belly, it be one gi’nt em’ty hole.  ‘Cain’t even sweat no more, I’m so dry.

And that there?  That’s the price o’freedom.

***************

“Oh the Places You’ll Go!”

I am, I am a journeyman.

I’ve happily lain my head many places.   And hope to rest myself at many more.

I even claim the homes of those gone before.  Stories passed on down and on down become real, like my own memories.  That’s alright by me.  Those places remain alive and well as long as we don’t forget.

What’s the point, if not the journey?

And then the landing.

And then the telling.

 

 

Daddy’s home was whatever ramshackle homestead HIS own daddy could negotiate for.  Rent was a struggle, as Daddy’s daddy had many skills but never a real job.  Rent payment was nearly always at risk, and always in arrears.  More than once, Daddy and his daddy and mama and all the kids and cousins and hangers-on (and there were always hangers-on) would pack up and move on in the middle of the night.  It was a troubled life.  Daddy learned early wherever he found himself come night,  that was home.  Mama’d hang the same curtains, put out the same faded stiff black and white photos, make the same biscuits from the same cast iron skillet.  So whether it was tumbledown shack, an abandoned hen-house, or the back of someone’s barn, it was home.

Daddy vowed he’d never live that way again.

 

Mama’s family, they were big business, at least in their neck of the woods.  Why, they owned nearly one hundred fifty acres of the finest, blackest, most fertile farmland east of Kansas City, Missouri side.  They raised livestock, even named a few, although Mama says she learned early on not to become too friendly, seeing as saying goodbye when they were hauled off to market was a tearful affair.  Every year,  a box of live baby chicks arrived via the U.S. Postal service.  They had dogs, hunting dogs and lap dogs, and cats lived in the barn.  Mama climbed trees and had Kool Aid stands to tempt the odd farmer passing along the dirt road out front.  They got a new tractor every two or three years, but always longed for one with automatic transmission or a cab to keep out the rain.  Settling for a sunfaded umbrella wasn’t, however, half bad.  They had a big white barn with cartoon characters on horses painted on the rough-hewn insides by where the cows, always named Bessie, were milked.  They had a smoke house and four chicken coops and a machine shed and circular grain bins of all heights.  She played in the hot and dusty barn loft. She skated on frozen crystal ponds in winter, and swam in the same come the summer thaw.  She and her sister walked the half mile to a one-room schoolhouse for their first eight years of schooling, and visiting the empty sagging building years later, she salvaged the blackboard where she had carved her name into the black slate.

Mama was a rapscallion.

 

Memories of my first home begin with a fire.  A flu fire.  It was dark, must have been nighttime. I remember the smell and some orange flames poking out from the black pipe snaking up the wall from the round black stove.  Mama reminds me I was two years old when the place caught, so the visions burned across my mind (pardon the pun….came way too easy!) must be  powerful ones.  Our little community was out in the country, some distance from town.  I recall being pulled quick from the bath by my mama, then wrapped tight like a sausage in a white towel with two big brown stripes.  I remember the jogging, jostling run over my mama’s shoulder to the neighbors’, then being dried off on a chenille bedspread sprinkled with green and yellow fabric flowers by old Mrs Price.  I remember peering through her side window when the firemen came and pumped the back of an old fire engine, then sprayed the blackening rooftop.  I remember my daddy had a hose, too, and mama was running in and out of the back door, boxes and clothes, and funny, a cowboy hat sideways on her head.

Last I remember was Mama tucking me back in my own bed with the high wooded slatted sides.  I still had the white towel with the big brown stripes around me.

Where that old towel got to, I don’t know, but I’d give my eye teeth to find it.

(Here’s where I’d gleefully add some comment about keeping “the home fires burning,” if only I’d the courage…)

 

And the voyage continues!  Some like being planted, some revel in the trek.

 

Either way, what’s the point, if not the journey?

And then the landing.

And then the telling.

 

*************

 

 

 

So, a beetle and a broomstick and a marshmallow walk into a bar….

….no wait….

So, a clown deep fries some cannibals for dinner and says, does this taste funny to you?

…..no wait…..

I had a cheesy pizza joke for you….but it was a pepperoni….

….no wait….

What’s the last thing on a bug’s mind when he hits the windshield?  In a bug’s mind?   Something about his backside?

…..no wait….

Then’s there’s that Nacho Cheese joke I can never get right….like all the others…..

I CANNOT tell a joke for the life of me!

NO JOKE!