Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creative Writing Assignment 2 -Narrative Poem

I was assigned the task  to write a narrative poem and by accident wrote a dramatic monologue that my professor actually liked:

              Swamp Rose

Old Tony Todd wanted to find a woman
of quality, who at least didn't have the clap
So he got him one of them mail-order brides.
Rose  was  from Ireland as I recollect.
I don't remember her last name, Mc somethin'.
He had  to go all the way to Wilmington
to pick her up from the docks.
When she arrived at the logging camp
she caused quite a hubbub,
we all wanted to get a look at 'er.
She weren't near as purty as Old Tony and us had  hoped
and she was a bit long at the tooth,
but Tony weren't exactly no Gary Cooper,
and there ain't much in a loggin' camp
to compare her to.
She was friendly enough, but 
I couldn't hardly understand  a thing she said,
but I doubt she could understand us  either.
She was a big strappin' girl
with curly red hair and green eyes,
and took  to  loggin' right away,
so I reckon Old Tony was pretty happy.
She had only been here about a year
when Old Tony up and died,
right there in his cabin.
You can imagine there was a lot of joking in camp
about what actually killed him.
She mourned  for a little while
and then went right back  to work.
She stayed in their cabin, minded her own business
and didn't look to have any intention
of going back to Ireland on no boat.
A few guys tried  to court her
and had nothin' but bruises to show.
One of them Johnson boys,
they are always up to no good,
tried to break into the cabin
and climb in bed  with her
She cut his pecker  clean off
with a buck skinner knife.
After more pain than I can imagine,
and more blood  than I thought a man held,
he finally died, which is just as well,
as it ain't much worth livin' without a pecker.
Rose disappeared into thin air.
We all think the Johnson boys kilt her.
It is easy to dump a body in the river.
It has been done before.
But that is another tale.
Lots of people claim to have seen her
through the many years since,
hauntin' the banks of the Waccamaw.
I don't know who started calling her
Swamp Rose, or when, but it stuck.
And  you know what? All them mean old
Johnson boys is dead. 
And not fall asleep, peaceful like, deaths. 
They was all kilt outright.  Weren't pretty.
Sometimes at night there are sounds,
I have heard 'em.
Sounds that ain't natural. 
That don't come from no animal or bird
I ever heard of.  Human like:
Wails and howls, moans  and screams.
The kind that make the hair
on  the back  of your neck stand up. 
I have no doubt that she is out there
Now my beer is empty and I talk better
when  my  tongue is wet.  
And I think better when my memory is greased.
After all,  some of this tale is 60 years  ago.
A feller can fergit. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Creative Writing assignment 1 - Short Story Fiction

This is the draft of my first fiction piece for my Creative Writing course:
I can't remember how or why Jerry and I became such good friends.  It was like he was always there, a part of my life.  Often a sad part.  We met in Mrs. Johnson's 4th grade class.  My family had just relocated to Conway from Charlotte.  My dad was, as Jerry liked to say, "a  hot shot, big city lawyer".  The Davis family had a small truck farm out on Highway 90, just southeast of Conway.  Jerry was the oldest of, I never really figured out how many kids.  His dad was not a hot shot anything, but a very prolific inseminator.  I don't think I ever saw Jerry's mom without a baby in or on her.  Though not prosperous, they were hard  working people, eking out a living on the same piece of land that Davis kinfolk had occupied for generations.  Jerry's  dad  was mean as a snake and didn't care much for "city folk", like me.  Jerry, being the oldest was the focus of much of old Cletus Davis' wrath.  We never talked much about that.
Jerry and I could not have been more polar opposites.  Where academics seemed to come easy to me, Jerry struggled through school, but what he lacked in "book learnin'", Jerry more than made up for in life skills.  While I could diagram a sentence or solve an equation for x, Jerry could rebuild a discarded outboard motor or rig a trotline that attracted the biggest catfish in the Waccamaw river.  I never acquired the skills that seemed to be imprinted in his DNA.  But we always had one thing in common;  our love of the river.
Jerry was totally at home on the river.  We used to laugh that mosquitoes and noseeums would eat me like a gourmet meal, but not even land on him.  He knew more about snakes, cooters, and alligators than anyone I had ever met.  He had no fear of anything that inhabited the river.  He sometimes used my inherent fear to amuse himself.  But I also was certain that he would offer his life to save mine.   We did not have to talk about that. 
Jerry also cherished bourbon, particularly Jack Daniels.  That love affair began sometime early in high school.  I would share a drink with Jerry, but never developed the penchant for it that he did.  That usually resulted in me being the designated driver and though I was nowhere nearly as skilled on the water as Jerry, designated boat captain.  Alcohol became the sad part of Jerry's life.  By the time I graduated from Conway High School and Jerry would have, had he not dropped out after our Sophomore year, it had totally taken him over.   We still enjoyed a great summer on the river before we went our separate ways.  Or rather, I went away.  "Some people are meant to stay put".
All of my best memories of Jerry are on the river.  We spent a lot of time fishing, swimming, talking about girls who would have nothing to do with either  of us, and sometimes just floating and enjoying the serenity of a sheltered cove.  One of our favorite places was Pitch Lodge  Lake.  Jerry was particularly  fond of it because it was water that "went nowhere, just like me".  We laughed a  lot, though I could sometimes see pain in his eyes that betrayed  the joyfulness of the moment.   
When I departed for Duke in the fall, we had a tearful goodbye.  Though I was only going to be a couple of hundred miles away, I might as well have moved to another planet.  Jerry would have been as out of place on campus as me on the river without him.  We stayed in touch, but a full course load, a girlfriend, and later  on law school and a family, made my visits  to Conway less frequent each year. 
Several times through the years dad would represent him as a favor to me in some minor  scrape he had gotten into with the law.  Misdemeanor transgressions gradually escalated:  Drunk and disorderly and DUI eventually became breaking and entering and assault.  Jerry was only at home on the river and never obtained the skills that society required.  He never married and lived mainly in a small apartment that I rented for him above dad's office.  He would disappear for long periods of time and when dad reported that to me, I told him not to worry.  He was somewhere on the river.  He would be back, if only to sleep it off. 
He was  there when we buried  my mom the same year I passed the bar.  He was a husk of the Jerry that I knew.  He had aged like a carved pumpkin.  His year-round  tan had turned his childlike, round, face to leather and the years of drinking had  clouded the clear blue eyes and etched  lines into his face.  He was excited and animated at my suggestion that we take a trip to the river.  We both knew it was just what I needed at my time of mourning.  It is hard to feel sorrow on the river.  Yet, by the end of the weekend, I felt a sadness in Jerry that even the  perpetual optimism of the Prothonotary Warblers could not enliven.  We did not talk about it.  That was the last time I saw Jerry.  It was five years ago. 
I slowly hung up the phone after dad told me about "the boating accident" that had taken Jerry Davis' life.  My eyes drifted from the view of Central Park that my 40th floor law office afforded me, to a picture on the wall of two adolescent boys struggling to hold up a string of fish.  Jerry could  have navigated  the Waccamaw with his eyes closed in a hurricane.  There was no accident.  In spite of  my tears, I managed a smile.  Jerry had simply come  home. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day - 2013

I have written several articles  about my dad but have not given my mom equal time.  Today being Mother's Day I decided to share the two anecdotal memories that best describe my mom.  While my dad was a soft-spoken, highly functioning, alcoholic, my mom was exactly the polar opposite.  She was a tea-totaling "Christian" woman inclined to speak her mind at all times.  She was not a racist or bigot by choice, but by situation.  

I think this may have been taken on their wedding day, though my dad had been there all my life.

My dad definitely had as my mother would have said, "a snoot full."

Mom was born in rural north Florida in 1917.  The south was  still reeling from the devastation of the Civil War and she was  not exactly raised in a nurturing and progressive environment.  I don't believe I could find her lineage with a free  weekend of  I have  had websites ask my mother's maiden name as an identity verification and I settled on Sanders. My parents' Marriage License (issued in 1960. I was born in 1952. Yeah  I know what that makes me) shows her father's name as  George  Sanders Sr.  I had never heard that name mentioned and judging by his being a senior,  my mother must have had a brother, who I have never heard of.   I believe that name was made up to fill out the form.  I believe her birth dad was Native American.  My mother was married previously to a man named Cosson and had two daughters, one of which I have never met.  The other I wish I never had.  My mom only attended school through grade nine.  My point in providing this back-story is that mom was pretty much a redneck.  She was a great and loving mother, who could cook her ass off, but a redneck just the same.  I hope that will mitigate the language that I am about to attribute to her.

When I was about 12 we were traveling from to Jacksonville, Florida.  It was dark and we had stopped somewhere in southern Georgia for gas.  A car pulled up containing several black men and one of them asked my dad how to get to Brunswick, Georgia.  My dad told him and mom was very agitated.  "There ain't a nigger in the world that doesn't know where Brunswick is."  When we pulled  out of the station, the car pulled out behind us and followed closely behind.  "They are following us," mom whispered as if the  men in the car could hear her.  She never considered  that possibly they were following us because we were headed  on the same road that dad had pointed out to them.  She was convinced they were going to run us off the road and rob us.  This was unlikely too, as their car was much nicer than ours and they probably had  more money on them than we  did.  But mom took an immediate course  of action, as she was prone to do.  She pulled a broken down double barreled shotgun from underneath the seat and, rolling down the window, stuck the barrel menacingly out the window.  At the next crossroad the car pulled over and stopped, probably worried that this crazy, shotgun toting, white woman was going to rob them.  From that day on, my dad and I called her, "Gun Barrel Annie."  

I was home on leave, on my way  to the Philippines and we were in K-Mart in Spokane, Washington.  My son, Rick, was a toddler and was decked out in a leisure suit.  A young, well-dressed, black man walked towards us and looking at Rick's outfit, pointed at him and said, "man, you are ready."  He did not even come close to getting out of earshot when my mom said (not using her indoor voice), "Ricky, that nigger likes you."  I tried my best to crawl into a food display.  Admonishing my mom would do no good. She honestly did not understand what was wrong with what she said.  It was not said maliciously.  It was how she talked.  It was in her DNA.  

This photo was taken about the time of the K-Mart episode.  She looks harmless. 

Thankfully, I broke that chain and neither I nor my children use that language, nor do we judge a person by their race.  I have always professed that assholes have no common race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc..  I use the word nigger here because it is necessary to tell the stories accurately.  Those who knew my mother, know she was not a hateful person.  It was the environment she grew up in.  Nature and nurture.

There are many stories I could tell about my mom that would give a totally different impression of her, but these two define her as well as any.  Happy Mother's Day, Mary Louise Sanders Cosson Wainright Wainwright (how it is spelled on her marriage license and death certificate). 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Scripted Life

I enjoyed the 100 Word Flash Fiction so much I thought I would try it again:

Bill was going mad.  He could not get over the feeling that his every moment was scripted.  That he was being controlled like a Frank Oz Muppet.  He tried to explain to his friends and family, but they were as clueless as Ferris  Bueller's parents.  His life was spiraling downward faster than Harvey Keitel's in The Bad Lieutenant.  His  heart was racing.  He was sweating like Ted Striker on final approach.  He felt an excruciating pain in his chest, as he collapsed to the floor.  As his eyes closed he heard Quentin Tarantino's voice from the darkness, "that's a wrap."