For Your Thanksgiving Consideration: The Beauty of the Days Gone By

The Beauty of the Days Gone By
~Van Morrison

When I recall just how it felt
When I went walking down by the lake
My soul was free, my heart awake
When I walked down into the town

The mountain air was fresh and clear
The sun was up behind the hill
It felt so good to be alive
On that morning in spring

I want to sing this song for you
I want to lift your spirits high
And in my soul I want to feel
The beauty of the days gone by

The beauty of the days gone by
It brings a longing to my soul
To contemplate my own true self
And keep me young as I grow old

The beauty of the days gone by
The music that we used to play
So lift your glass and raise it high
To the beauty of the days gone by

I’ll sing it from the mountain top
Down to the valley down below
Because my cup doth overflow
With the beauty of the days gone by

The mountain glen
Where we used to roam
The gardens there
By the railroad track
Oh my memory it does not lack
Of the beauty of the days gone by

The beauty of the days gone by
It brings a longing to my soul
To contemplate my own true self
And keep me young as I grow old

And keep me young as I grow old
And keep me young as I grow old
And keep me young as I grow old

Happy Rebirth-day To Gerard Vanderleun!

So glad he’s still with us. His post for today is familiar and comforting, like the narration of his neighborhood walk wherein the retelling of it is interrupted by an inconvenient detour. A clearing of the throat, and off we go again, just happy to walk with him and let him describe the passing scenery

Gerard can convince me that we’ve never seen the world until he showed it to us. He relates the miraculous within the juxtaposition of its own marvel and the quotidian acceptance of another day. A day to be journaled with its aggravations or amazements, but never not appreciated. Best get over there and enjoy every one he describes. Wish him many, many more!

The Bear

by Paul Griffin

As he slowly became aware of himself, the boy clutched the blanket closer to him.  He did not open his eyes, because he knew it was there and he knew he would open his eyes and look.  He squeezed his eyes closed and rolled to his left and put his back to the closet door, knowing the futility of this.  He could feel the ursine stare boring into his back, the compulsion to roll over and see its horrible shaggy silhouette building inside him.  His eyes slid open.  The room was dark and warm and he was still facing the wall but he knew it was there standing behind him beckoning his gaze, demanding to be seen.  He rolled slowly onto his back, staring at the bottom of the bunk above him, a comical arrangement for a child without sibling or companion save the one he wished more than anything was not there.  Despite his open eyes and supine position, he took great care not to look at the closet door.  He knew he would look at the closet and he knew what he would see and he knew that he would scream when he saw it.  The terror waited him out, patiently building up to its full roil.

He studied the cheap metal springs of the bed above his, careful to aviod glancing toward the closet.  He tried to tell himself to pay it no mind but in his core he felt nothing but the terror.  The time was nearly come and he knew he would see it and he knew would scream.

Trembling, slowly, he rolled to his right and darted his eyes quickly past the door of his closet which gaped wide and dark and malevolent and looked at the floor.  The last safe haven for his gaze before he looked.  It was only a matter of time now but that had been the case since the moment he woke up.  His building blocks lay strewn pandemonic across the low pile of the carpet, like the tiny plastic remains of some newly shattered windshield.  The trembling was uncontrollable and the time had come and he looked.  Finally he looked into the closet door and it was there standing horrible and black and massive.

Across the hallway of the second floor of the small apartment, the boy’s father nearly leapt clear out of the old rubber-scented waterbed at the piercing scream that reached his ears.  He quickly reassured his likewise startled wife and rushed out of the room as the screaming continued unabated.  He burst through the door of his son’s room and howled and danced cursing across the room as his bare feet came down on the boy’s building blocks.  Father and son in some malbolgian harmony of terror and pain.  The boy stared at the closet, still screaming.  His father, having the crossed the small ocean of tiny makeshift caltrops, stood staring at his son and grabbed him and shook him gently while calling his name.

Suddenly recognizing his father, the boy finally stopped screaming and tore his eyes away from the closet door and laid them on his father’s face.  The bear skulked off to whatever lair it had made for itself in the lakebed bowels of the metropolis.

Good Lord Almighty, boy!  You like to raise the dead!  What on earth happened?

It… it was a… a… bear…

The boy sobbed, shaking but not on account of his father, who had let him back down to the bed.

A bear?

There was a bear in the closet!  I saw him!

Son, there’s no bear in your closet, how would a bear get into your closet?

I don’t know…  He was there.  I saw him.

The man climbed into the small uncomfortable bed and held him close until the tears no longer flowed and his son finally lay sleeping, snoring softly, head moist in his tearsoaked pillowcase.

The next morning the three of them sat around the table in the tiny dining room downstairs eating their cold cereal.  The man exhausted and yawning for lack of sleep and the boy visibly shaken and looking quartercrazed from the night before.

Son, you gotta get this bear out of your head.  There ain’t no bears in the city.  If you think you see him, just remember that there ain’t no bears here, it’s just your imagination getting you worked up.

I’ll try dad.  I knew he was there before I saw him.  He made me look at him to make me scream.

I… I don’t know what to make of that.  Just remember there ain’t no bears here and you’ll be alright.

Three nights later, it happened again, just as before.  The bear awoke him to be looked at to be screamed at.  He could feel it grinning malevolent, if indeed a bear could grin.  He told himself that there ain’t no bears in the city, but after his eyes had travelled their usual path and when he finally looked at the closet, compelled by this hairy creature, there it stood, all blackness and shag, reveling in his terror and his screams.

His mother came in this time, falling to the ground when her bare feet got their first taste of the boy’s building blocks and struggled over to the bed.  The boy could not be consoled.  He stopped screaming, but could not release his terror or stop staring at the closet until his father came into the room and the skulky bear trundled off as before, unseen by either of his parents.

Over the next few weeks, the boy’s father tried to reason with the boy in the mornings, to convince him that the bear wasn’t there, or to encourage him to pray for God to show him that the bear didn’t exist or at least to clear a path through his building blocks so as to spare his father’s feet.  The boy did his best to follow his father’s advice and even believed himself convinced of the power of his father’s arguments while the sun shone.  Some days he even remembered to pick up his building blocks before going to bed.  However, as soon as it was dark and the bear awoke him and his dark grinning companion began demanding his gaze, all of his father’s words lost their weight and force and substance.  The bear was there.  There was no use telling it that it wasn’t.  The screaming continued, every few nights, and his father’s feet grew sore and red and he walked gingerly and haltingly from the pain of them.

One night just after lying down next to his wife and turning out the light, the man had a premonition that a scream was to be visited upon them.  He told his wife this and they laid side by side, their bodies wobbling along with the surface of their gelatinous waterbed, feet throbbing, and they did not know why they had been given this foretelling or what to do with it.  Neither of them slept.  They could only wait for the inevitable.  Things foretold came to pass not long after, the boy screaming at the top of his lungs.

His child’s screams filling his ears, the man suddenly felt himself no longer wobbly but solid and angry and resolved.

Damn it, if my boy says there’s a bear in his closet, then there’s a by-God bear in his closet, and I intend to do something about it.

He got up from the undulating bed and reached under the side of the wooden boxlike stand that held it off the floor.  There his hand found the old Mossberg 12 gauge pump-action shotgun he had bought from a friend of a coworker years ago with a thought toward defending his home from intruders.  Upon buying the gun, he had attached two large metal hooks to the underside of the wooden bedframe, and the gun was hung there safely out of sight.  It had sat there untouched from that day to this.  He pulled the gun out from under the bed and he held down the action lock with his right index finger and worked the pump partway back with his left hand.  Seeing an old dusty 7 ½ birdshot shell sitting faithfully in the receiver as though it had been divinely placed there years ago to await this very moment, he slid the pump forward and marched toward his son’s room, barrel pointed at the floor lest the floor refuse to hold him up.  His wife stared at him through the open door as though this new angle had afforded her a glimpse at some depth or perhaps some insanity not previously perceived.  She got off the bed and went to the other end of the apartment.

He was still screaming when his father came in the room.  His father did not look at him, but stepped into the room directly on the vicious building blocks, not flinching or giving the least indication that he was even aware of them as they dug into the sore flesh of his feet.  The boy stopped screaming and his eyes fixed on his father and he watched the man turn to face the open closet door, still standing on the innumerable plastic shards.  The gun came awkwardly up to his father’s shoulder. There was a click as he thumbed the safety forward.

Cover your ears boy, it’s gonna be loud.

The boy squeezed his hands hard to his ears until he heard nothing but the blood coursing through them and stared transfixed at his father and the gun and the bear no longer grinning.

The room flashed whitehot for an instant, suddenly too bright to see as the shotgun jerked and belched fire and roared forth all of his father’s anger at this bear, this invader that would extort screams from his onlyborn and rob him and his wife of their sleep and torture his own feet.  For all the boy could tell, the world ended in that moment.  He could not see, his ears refused to hear anything beyond a high-pitched whine, and he could smell only gunpowder, a scent strange and unfamiliar to him.

The first indication that the apocalypse had not yet arrived was the creaking movement of his bed as the man sat down on the edge and bumped the back of his head against the top bunk, still blind and twice as deaf as his boy on account of his ears being uncovered in all the riot.  He set the gun on the floor and sat waiting on the bed for some semblance of order to return to the world.  The boy, stunned but no longer shaking or even afraid, felt around in the white blindness for his father’s arm and drew himself up until he was sitting next to him in a similar manner.  Two weary men sitting on the edge of the world, one of them picking plastic building blocks out of the pads of his feet and casting them out into the strange white abyss before them.

A few minutes later, as his sight returned, the man stared through the hazy room at the last wisps of smoke trailing up out of closet and despite the ringing in his still-offended ears, he spoke, wondering what exactly he had accomplished.

That damn bear still alive?

No – no dad, I don’t see how it could have survived.  I can’t hardly believe that we did.

We did though.  And he didn’t.  So.  Alright.  I can’t hear a damn thing and I’m sure your mother is terrified.   I can only wonder what the neighbors think.

The following day was occupied with cleaning up the mess and placating the neighbors with hastily contrived stories of fireworks accidentally ignited.  No one believed the man and he did not expect to be believed, but they were content to accept his explanation as he was known and generally liked and had no reputation for being a troublemaker.

While his father mended the ragged hole in the back wall of his closet, the boy sorted through the toys that had been stowed there, throwing away those that had been shot beyond repair.  One of them rattled when he shook it, a hollow rubber dinosaur poorly rendered as an ungainly and pot-bellied lizard reared upon its hind legs.  Some of the birdshot had been content to travel through only one side of the already extinct creature and had become trapped inside, rolling and rattling as the figure was moved.  This toy the boy placed next to the pillow on his bed.

One single pellet of birdshot, appointed to its own peculiar mission, had managed to travel through two walls in a crazed ricocheting path with enough remaining force to puncture the old waterbed.  The giant grey bladder had leaked slowly out, but the stand, despite being wooden, managed to hold most of the water while the man and his wife scooped it out with plastic food containers and dumped these contents into the shower drain where it swirled away, stinking of plastic and rubber for all its time trapped in the bed.  Once the gray, formless rubber had lost enough water to be manageable, the man and his wife hauled it out of the stand and dried the stand out with old towels and laid their bedding in it for lack of another place to sleep in the small apartment.

That night, with the twin scents of gunpowder, now familiar, and ursine blood still lingering in the air of his bedroom and mingling in his nostrils and in his mind, the boy dreamt himself a giant, striding across a wooded and untamed land in long, slow steps, a small, straight pine tree for his staff.  He rumbled down a worn but dangerous path towards a higher ground, unseen despite his height but which he knew to be somewhere beyond the horizon.  Here and there a branch had been cleared or a stone removed from the path, but on both sides the wilderness and wildness that pressed against it threatened to overflow it and swallow it up.  Still he strode onward, his wide giant’s feet trampling down any thorny overgrowth unfortunate enough to find itself under his heel.

[ “The Bear” Copyright 2012 by Paul Griffin. Published with the author’s permission.]

It’s International Book Week

Mme Scherzo reminds us of the rules: It’s international book week. The rules: grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52, post the 5th sentence as your text post. Don’t mention the title.

“According to Mr. Tanner, Richard III’s only Parliament was the most liberal and progressive within record; and he regretted, did the worthy Mr. Tanner, that his private crimes should have militated against his patent desire for the common weal.”

It happens to be a very fun book I’m reading. Hope you’re doing something other than politics tonight.

Be well me hearties!  Fair weather or foul, you’re a damn fine crew fer the likes o’ me and I’m obliged to ye all fer your kind attentions.  Keep a weather eye on the horizon.