Friday, October 26, 2007

Swamp Witch

Click the title to hear one of the songs I love listening to this time of year at Halloween time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shadows From the Past

Mary was plodding through her Thursday afternoon on this hot California day, the lone air conditioner in the bedroom window not doing much to cool the rest of the trailer. Finishing her housework, she sat down at the computer to play her games but, as always, scanned through the news on Google first. Toward the bottom of the page something caught her eye. An article about a train derailing near Arkaneville, New Mexico. It was a town she had lived in for a couple of years as a young girl when her family was constantly moving all across the southwest. She'd forgotten the names of most of the places but this one stuck in her mind for some reason. Out of curiosity she searched and found an online newspaper from Arkaneville, the News Register. Looking through the pages to see if anything struck a chord in her memory she was disappointed, but hadn't really expected anything since she'd never made any real friends there that she recalled. Scrolling to the bottom of the Community News section she was about to leave the site when a name popped out at her. She read more closely: SAMUEL BENSON DISAPPEARANCE STILL AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY. Mary's head whirled. The air in the room suddenly became unbreathable. She ran to the bedroom and stuck her face in the cold air blowing out from the dirty vents of the air conditioner. She laid down on the bed to steady herself. In an instant she had remembered something so unbelievable that she had repressed it all these thirty some years. How had she forgotten something so horrible, and why did she have to remember it again now, like this, exploding in her face on her computer screen? Slowly she made her way back and read the article. It had been written on the thirtieth anniversary of his vanishing by the former police chief, recalling the event as one of the most baffling of his career. Mary pushed back from the computer and closed her eyes, facing her past.

Mary's father Joe was a mechanic for the railroad and was moving his family from place to place to be closer to his work, or so Mary was told. The real reason, she found out early on, was because Joe was a drunk and would spend all his rent money on booze, smokes, and anything he decided he wanted when he was wasted. Once he had lost his entire paycheck to a woman who lured him outside the bar with the promise of sex, only to be beaten and robbed by her boyfriend who was waiting in the alley. Ellen, Mary's mom, tolerated his behavior probably because she could ill afford to try and make it as a single woman with a daughter. Ellen had her own problems with the bottle, and many times Mary had come home from school to find her mom passed out on the sofa while the afternoon soaps played on tv. She would arise in the early evening to throw something together for supper right before Joe got home.

They had lived in Arkaneville for only a few months and Mary, as usual, had no friends as yet. She'd seen the boys in the school and neighborhood looking at her and thought they might start picking on her, but she realized their looks were different than the boys at school last year. Her mother had told her, in one of her more lucid moments, that Mary was starting to be a very pretty girl. Mary considered herself skinny and didn't think she was pretty except for maybe her hair which she made sure to brush well everyday because it was long and got tangled easily otherwise. Anyway, at nine years old she wasn't thinking about boys as anything more than nuisances who always caused trouble in class. It was about this time that she started seeing them.

The part of town in which they lived had been an Indian village years before but the Indians had long since moved on, or been pushed out, no one knew for sure.The house that they lived in then was a tiny two bedroom which sat at the end of a dirt road with no other houses closer than a couple hundred yards. With no street light close by it got very dark in Mary's bedroom at night. At first she was convinced her eyes were playing tricks on her. She would see shadows, darker even than the blackness which surrounded her, moving through her room. She paid no attention at first, but after a few nights she stayed awake and watched. As her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness she could make out forms, small rounded shapes only about three feet tall. She pulled the covers over her head and wished them away, her heart pounding so loudly she was sure they would hear it and get her, but nothing happened and she fell asleep. They came again the next night and she again hid under the covers, but after a few minutes looked to see if they had gone. She squinted and saw that they were still there, moving about as if they were conducting some sort of business, oblivious to her presence. Staring closer she could make out a face of sorts, with deep sockets where eyes would be but nothing else that she could see, although the fact that they were barely visible at all in the darkness made her wonder if she'd imagined those eye sockets. In fact, she was starting to think that her eyes were just playing tricks on her and that they were only in her imagination. She started to feel confident that this was the case. They surely couldn't be ghosts, as ghosts were luminous and made it a point to scare people, everyone knew that. These shadow people were just spots on her eyeballs that some people had. "Floaters" was what her mom had said one time when she said there was something in her eye that kept moving around. To prove to herself that it was just her imagination she slowly extended her hand toward one of the shadow people. She touched something cold and hard and pulled her hand back shaking in terror. The shadow seemed to stop momentarily and turn toward her before disappearing into another part of the room. They were REAL. It had felt like touching the shell of a turtle only slightly damp and much colder. She spent the rest of that night under the covers.

The Bensons were the most prominent citizens in the town, with Benson Limestone employing a third of the townsmen. Sam Benson was the fourteen year old son who was in and out of trouble all the time. He and his friends hung out in front of the appliance store most days and hassled the old ladies and young kids. People were reluctant to stand up to him because of who he was, knowing that someday they might be calling him "boss". He scared Mary because of the way he looked at her. Not threatening-like, but something else that was in his eyes as she walked past. He always smelled like his father's aftershave, probably worn to impress the older girls, something that most of the teenage boys tried to do most of the time. One day Mary had noticed Sam, who was almost never alone but was by himself now, had followed her at a distance until she turned down the road to go home. It had disturbed her a little but he hadn't chased her or anything so she put the incident out of her mind. It was shortly after that when everything happened.

Joe had gone on one of the maintenance jobs which took him away from home for a week at a time. Ellen drank more than usual when he went away, and on this day Mary came home to find her passed out in the recliner. As the afternoon wore into evening and her mother didn't get up to fix her supper Mary shook her awake. "Mama's not feelin good right now honey. Can you warm up some leftovers, ok? Then be sure to get yourself to bed on time." She took some pills from a bottle in the kitchen and stumbled into bed, leaving Mary to heat up some meatloaf and beans.

The warm air blew stronger than usual that night, which was a good thing since it had been so stinking hot during the day. Mary cleaned the dishes and finished her homework, then glanced at the clock. Ten thirty already, way past her bedtime. She quickly washed up, put on her nightgown and crawled into bed. The wind blowing the curtains and through the room gave her a comfortable feeling and her eyes were almost closed when the shadow people came. She gripped the sheet tighter, but she was starting to get used to them. They had never bothered her and didn't frighten her as much as they had at first. Mary eventually drifted off to sleep. Something woke her with a start. She thought instantly that the shadow people had gotten her but opening her eyes she made out a human form, someone who had his hand across her mouth and was fumbling to do something with his other hand. Terrified, helpless and totally in the dark she lay there as she felt someone trying to lay on top of her. Then, with a suddenness that made her attacker gasp, he was jerked from her and dragged across the room. Too scared to move she strained to see what was happening. A muffled sound, as if someone screaming into a pillow, came from the corner where she now could make out several dark shapes converging on a much larger shape whose feet were kicking the floor and the edge of her bed. A gurgling sound was the last noise she heard, and the shapes in the corner all gradually vanished, leaving nothing but an odor of aftershave that she recognized. She must have fallen asleep after that.

The next day it was all over town that Sam Benson was missing. Mary was just as surprised as the rest of the townspeople, as the events of the night before had buried themselves into her subconscious and would not emerge until much much later.

Finishing her thoughts, Mary looked out the window at the sun setting on the distant mountains. She realized that she was meant to see that article on the computer. Although shocking and unbelievable at first, she could now relive her past in her mind and sensed that she had changed somehow. She turned the lights off, got in bed and waited. She knew she would have visitors tonight.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

World Series Bound??

The Indians now lead the Red Sox 3 games to 1 in the playoff series, so if they win tomorrow night they go to the World Series. Of course you can't rule out the Sox just yet, they have an awesome team, but it would be nice if the Tribe made it. That would be two of the professional teams from Cleveland playing in the championship in the same year, as the Cavs came up a little short earlier in the year in the NBA championship series.
I love baseball.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Blogging

First of all, I was wrong in my last post when I said my wife was now a pediatric nurse. I found this out when I happened to call her that and she emphatically corrected me, saying that she was an OBSTETRICS nurse... I guess there's a difference, so I won't make that mistake again.
Speaking of my wife, she just wrecked her car this morning, hitting a deer on her way to work. She is ok, but it was almost a lot worse, as she hit it on an overpass and almost hit the side wall which would probably have flipped the car over the edge and onto the road below. Of course her car is smashed badly, so that'll be an inconvenience until it's fixed.

This is my last day of vacation. I'm trying desperately to think of a way out of going back to work. My lottery ticket let me down so my options are slim. It's heading into the busy part of the year so that's both a good and bad thing... it keeps me busy but sometimes too busy. I think I could be very happy as a stay-at-home-dad, stretching the housework out over the next 30 or 40 years - gotta pace myself so I won't get bored.

Well it's a gorgeous day out, great for getting the work done that I started yesterday out in the country. However, my wife has my car which has all my equipment in it so I think I'm stuck here all day. Maybe I'll watch football. That's something I never get to do, and considering the way the Browns are playing this year I'm not missing a whole lot. I might do some house cleaning instead...... hahaha... I crack myself up sometimes.

The Indians won last night. I turned the tv off after the eighth inning because I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. It was tied then. I turned on Sports Center this morning and was kinda surprised that they came back and won the way they did, scoring 7 runs in the 11th inning.

Hope your Sunday is going well!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Death to Life

My wife just switched jobs, going from being a critical care nurse to a pediatric nurse, at the same hospital. When she first started into nursing she had intended to be in pediatrics, but so did a lot of other nurses, hence there were no immediate openings anywhere for that, but everyplace needed critical care nurses. This is her first week and so far she says she loves it, going from making people comfortable as they leave this world to ushering new life in, quite a difference.

The seasonal change of life is under way in nature right now, as the trees are starting to change colors and the leaves fall. It's peculiar to see that happen when the temperature is in the upper 80's like it is. I won't complain though, because I love it being this warm, I can still work and play outside... ok, so I don't really do any work. Anyway, it can wait until late January to get cold and snow as far as I'm concerned. That way it isn't long before life begins anew in the spring.

In case you missed it, the Indians beat the Yankees last night! Bring on the Red Sox!! :)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Dead Eyes

He woke in a cold sweat, shaking and unable to comprehend his surroundings for a minute or so, caught in that in-between existence where he wasn't sure if he was still in the nightmare or not. His bed. His room. Real life. He turned on the light and tv, hoping to forget the dream, the same one that visited him almost every night since the accident, slightly different from night to night but not enough so to keep him from waking in a state of chilling terror. If only he hadn't seen her eyes.

Turning on the fire under the tea kettle, he tried not to think about that day some three months earlier, driving to the lake with Tammy. Then it happened, as it always did when he tried hardest not to think of that event. The floodgates opened and it all played over in his mind, as his body went into an almost comatose motionlessness, gripped by fear. The nightmare just a few minutes earlier fueling his memory, and forcing him to consciously separate the horror of that dream from the equally terrifying accident.

He and Tammy had been married eight years, and even though it was just the two of them they hadn't spent a lot of time together the last couple of years. His construction company had grown better than he had anticipated, so he was gone from early in the morning until midnight some days. Tammy had been promoted about a year ago to a district sales manager position for the cookie company she worked for, and she traveled more than he liked her to. He couldn't complain much because with both their paychecks they had been able to tuck quite a bit away and they both sensed it was time to make solid plans for a family.The last few months things had settled down at his job giving him more time to be home, and on this - a rare day off for both - she had gotten up early and packed a picnic lunch and dragged him out of bed. It had been years since they'd been on a picnic at the lake, and he really had a good feeling about this day, although he put up his mandatory "I don't feel like going" speech. It had become their trademark act. He would complain about being forced to go somewhere and she would give him her "Don't pull that with me mister!"eyes and tell him to march his butt out the door. He could never keep a straight face as she lowered her eyes and pointed to the door. "Oh all right" he would huff and shuffle his feet as he made his way outside. She would always pinch his butt cheek or tickle him in his side when he got past her. Today she waited until he was to the sidewalk then jumped on his back. "Give a piggyback ride! Take me to the car piggy, and I'm driving!" He settled into the passenger's side and laid the seat back. "I'm gonna snooze, wake me when we get there", he remembered telling her, but he didn't sleep. He watched her as she drove, thinking how lucky he was to have her. She was very pretty, and shapely also, but the thing that had attracted him to her was her eyes. Bright, flashy blue eyes that showed an eternal youth and which captivated everyone she met.

He had always hated this road because of the large number of semis which traveled it. Logging trucks were the worst. He'd always get as far to the side of the road as he could when they passed him. On this winding road there had been several accidents where the logs had shifted and rolled into the path of oncoming cars. The cars always came out the loser in that matchup. Those thoughts were barely a shadow in the back of his mind on this day though, as he was enjoying the way the sun was shining through his wife's golden hair. He found out much later that it wasn't a logging truck but a flatbed hauling well drilling equipment. One of the cables securing the pipes snapped on that turn in the road and whipped through the air, slicing through his car from front to back. The only thing he knew was that the next split second would freeze itself in his memory forever. A whistling sound, a pop, and a line of red across his wife's chest, all simultaneously marking the event. Tammy's head turned toward him in that split second and he saw something in her eyes, a look he'd never seen in his wife's eyes. It was as if she was in another place at that instant, someplace not known or imagined by human minds...another world... another dimension. Then, something else took over. That look, in the millisecond before her upper torso slid to the steering wheel and the car crashed through the guardrail, did not come from his Tammy. It came from someone... no, something he didn't recognize. Something from a very dark, sinister place, and it looked straight into his soul - through his own wife's eyes. Many people say they forget everything about an accident they were in. He wished with every part of his being that he would have been one of those people, but he remembered every second of it. Sliding across the cornfield for an eternity, his wife's head and shoulders coming to rest in his lap, her eyes staring, now blank and dull. He was frozen in his seat, trying to comprehend what had just happened. It seemed like hours later when someone pried opened his door and reached in to help him out before recoiling in horror at the sight inside.

What happened after that was blurry and jumbled, and he was trying to remember her funeral when the tea kettle startled him back to reality. After he had sufficiently distracted his mind from his nightmare by watching the late movie he went back to bed, but a feeling from the dark recesses of his mind told him that someday, perhaps in one of his nightmares, he would find that dark thing that had used Tammy's eyes to see into him, or rather, it would find him.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Things You Pick Up Along the Way

I just realized yesterday how much of an all purpose handyman I've become over the years. No, this isn't boasting because, as my dad always said, "I'm a jack of all trades and master of none". He knew quite a bit about a lot of things and got that way about the same way I have; picking up things here and there through the years. Little things that I've learned here and there, lessons from doing things wrong, and tricks to do things easier have all made me something that I never dreamed I could be twenty years ago - someone who knows a little something about a lot of things. This came to me yesterday when I took a chainsaw apart and fixed it, having never done that before, using only the things I've learned through the years.

Owning an older home like this one has helped me get to be a fixit guy around the house, because there's always something broken or needing replaced. And with all the old cars I've had over the years I'm kind of a half-ass mechanic too. Of course I also know enough not to rely on my brain to do things that take years of training, like trying to rewire the computer or put a new roll of toilet paper on the dispenser... A man's got to know his limitations. I think, though, that my wife lucked out by having someone like me, and I try to remind her of that as often as possible. But for some reason she doesn't see it that way when it takes me three months to do a ten minute job, and she nags me everyday for those three months, threatening to call in a "real" plumber to fix the leaky faucet. Eventually it gets done, and handyman Tim gets a "thank you" from his wife... and a reminder that the back door window still needs fixed.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Go Into the Light.....Then Take a Right, Down the Hall, Third Door on the Left

I guess maybe it's because I'm getting a little older and will actually be a grandpa next year (still trying to absorb that one) but I've been thinking about death more and more, although I don't dwell on the thought until it evokes an explosive panic attack like I used to do. I think I'm just trying to choose an ending that I like and trying to guide my life in the direction which will help me reach it. It's hard though, deciding what I think the afterlife - if one exists- will be like. Through all my life, and I think probably everyone's, there is an inner sense of things; right and wrong, good and bad, stand up or sit down to pee... things that seem to be instinctive and yet when it comes to thinking about life's end there's no clue as to what that future holds or what we should be prepared for. I know, you have to pick something and just have faith that you made the right choice, but that's what I'm saying... there are so many opinions on the subject of afterlife, and so many of them sound plausible that it's like trying to pick from the menu at Texas Roadhouse. Guess I'll just hang in there until someone convinces me that I need to be doing something different. That will probably come on my deathbed, when I become convinced that I should have been doing something another way for the past 80 years, and try to undo a lifetime of stupidity in a few hours from my hospital bed, although, knowing me the way I do and the procrastinator that I am, I'll probably decide to wait until I feel better to start. Anyway, all I can say right now is that I'll be here until I'm gone.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Living Amongst the English

I've always admired the Amish and their way of life, not relying on technology but getting most everything they need from the land. We have a big Amish community just north of here, and we sometimes go to one of the towns that is on the edge of their territory. There aren't many Old Order Amish there, as most have converted to the Mennonite faith. Sugarcreek - the town we visit- is full of shops run by Mennonites and ordinary people selling the Amish name. You can find just about anything you'd think of as being made by Amish, from cheeses to canned goods to quilts. The town is full of visitors year round, and when they have their annual Swiss Festival the main road through that part of the country is jammed with people coming to see an Amish festival, though what they really see are business people cashing in on the local - but mostly unseen - way of life.

As I said, the true Amish faith has diminished considerably over the last few decades, with more and more younger people tiring of the traditions and abstinences of the Old Order. Even most of the people who proclaim to be true Amish have found loopholes to enjoy the ease of the "English". If you look in their barns you'll likely find electricity with tvs, stereos and computers in many of them, although these things are forbidden inside their house. Still, the Old Order does exist, with many of its members shunning the need to outfit barns and sheds with electricity and modern conveniences. I have to admire their dedication. Although they are certainly missing out on the ease of our way of life, what they are doing is surviving, the way humans have for untold generations, from the fruits of the land. They have everything they need without feeling the urge to amass excessive amounts of material goods, and... they seem content. If you've ever seen an Amish baby or young kid throwing a fit in the store then you've seen a rarity. Their children are always quiet and well behaved, at least until the teen years. When I worked in a department store several years ago they would come to the store on certain days, mostly being driven there by a Mennonite friend with a large van out of which would unload about 25 people who would then all fill carts up and somehow cram themselves back into that van... but I don't ever recall a youngster misbehaving when they were in the store. I wish I could say that about my own kids.

The simple way of life has appealed to me for some time now, even though I still sit down and watch tv often, and get on this computer more than I should, but I think if I'd been born into that life I could make a go of it, and be content doing it.