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I was as My Parents use to like to say, A Lucky Little Boy.

Early in 1965 My Father purchased a Baltimore & Ohio Private Railroad Car.

Made aware of it being up for sale after reading of it in The Chicago American Newspaper one morning.

Maggie Daly had written an item that day in her column “Daly Diary.”

It read,

“For Sale…We have learned that the elegant 1917 private railroad car that the new Wind disc jockey, Kassidy, used for a press luncheon yesterday, is for sale. It belongs to Ralph Atlass Jr. and is equipped with two bedrooms and adjoining baths, observation lounge, wood paneled dining room, office, kitchen, and chef’s quarters. For the ultimate in transportation, write to Mr. A c/o WIND.”

On March 8th 1965….My Father sent a letter to Mr Atlass expressing his interest in purchasing the private car.

March 13th an offer of certified check in the amount $12,000.00 was made to Mr Atlass. following a conversation they had on the telephone. Requested was the bill of sale Mr. Atlass received from The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for their office car No. 98.

March 18th The bill was received by My Father. Atlass had purchased the Car on November 8th, 1962 for the amount of $10,000.00 As Is.

The sale of the car was completed.

The Office on board was converted to a bedroom. now giving the car three bedrooms.

Shortly thereafter,

In The Daly Diary newspaper Column the following appeared.

“On The Track…Insurance executive Robert T. Hogan tells us as the result of our column item on Ralph Atlass Jr.’s private railroad car being for sale, Hogan bought the car. But the kicker is that because he found out about it thru this column, he is going to name the car “Maggie.”

In a letter penned to Ms. Maggie Daly of The Chicago American. My Father did indeed notify Maggie Daly of his purchase and added that…

“He has had the car adequately insured so that if it strikes some farmers cow whilst en route, you will be protected from claim conscious people in the claim conscious land of ours, which due to this trend, enables me to make a living.”

The Specifications of The Railroad Car were.

Length 81′ 11/12″

Height 14′ 10 1/4″ ATR

Width 10′ 6″ over permanent markers

Weight 189,000 lbs

The first trip the car made with My Father as it’s owner took place on Saturday March 20th. Destination Saint Louis Missouri. Returning to Chicago on March 21st.

This was the first of many trips across the country.

In 1965 alone, The following trips were made by our family. Easter brought us to Los Angeles California on The Sante Fe “Super Chief.” along the way, we made stops in Las Vegas and San Diego. The Kentucky Derby in late April, The Indianapolis 500 in May. The Northern Woods of Wisconsin for The Fourth of July, Glacier National Park in August, Sun Valley Idaho, Seattle down thru Oregon to San Fransisco then homeward through The Rocky Mountains. In The Fall Notre Dame Football games in South Bend on Saturdays. Late December we travelled South first to New Orleans Louisiana then to Miami Beach Florida for Christmas and To Ring in the New Year.

Little did we know what awaited us on our return trip.

Early Morning January 3rd 1966, Franklin Kentucky.

Two Cars of The Miami-to Chicago South Wind Derailed.

One of those cars was ours. Seven of the nine people traveling with us were injured. Those people included My Father, Mother, Sister Jane, Our Aunt Louise Patton, Close Family Friend Cicely Clarke, our Cook Samuel Toole, and Waiter Mel Hartsfield.

My Brother Tom and I were fortunate to escape injury.

I was awake in the rear of the car’s observation lounge that morning reading a comic book. Immediately I knew something was very wrong. Through the windows I could see gravel being kicked up. The train began to shake and rock from side to side, throwing me back and forth across the car from chair to chair, I was bouncing from floor to ceiling finally landing upright in a chair with not a scratch. My father and brother were asleep next to me in a couch that opened into an upper and lower berth. I watched as my father bounced off the top berth onto the floor followed by my brother from the lower berth.

From the front of the car I heard screaming of My Mother, Aunt and Sister. hurtling forward completely off the tracks at this point, the car fell on it left side throwing furniture and bodies throughout. The dining room table landed on my sister’s head, My Mother and Aunt were both trapped in their bedrooms pinned underneath furniture.

After the derailment My Father would tell Newspaper Reporters the tale of what occurred.

The story making Front Page News in both The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Suntimes dated January 4th 1965.

“I had the most peculiar feeling that I was going to die-the first time I’d ever had it. As the car slid on its side in a ditch. The sensation continued to get worse until we stopped with one final jolt. Thanks to the car’s 180,00 pounds of steel, our lives were preserved.”

Dad also told the press. “He doubted that it would be worthwhile to repair the car, which lost some wheels. it’s interior trim, of vermilion wood lined with mahogany, would probably be too costly to replace.”

 

 

Injury settlements were reached with The Louisville and Nashville Railroad who would agree to pay for repair of the car.

In April of 1966, The Hogan Party would roll on. Completely repaired the car’s exterior was now Kelly Green.

Many articles were written over the years during our family’s ownership appearing in The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Suntimes.

From The Wausau Wisconsin Record Herald July 3rd 1965

By Dewey Pfister.

Robert T Hogan an Oak Park Insurance claims investigator, his wife, their two sons and daughter were the envy of Milwaukee Road passengers and residents in the Depot area Friday night as they prepared to sleep aboard the car before journeying to Manitowish this morning by auto to spend the weekend with friends.

“He has a horn and sits on the observation platform at the rear of the train and toots at everyone as we go by,” Mrs Hogan related, explaining her husband’s pleasure with open air rail travel.

The trip to Wausau Friday brought back memories for Hogan.

“It was 43 years ago that I came to Merrill to visit relatives who lived there. It was my first train ride.”

He expressed a sadness that passenger service no longer goes into northern Wisconsin on the Milwaukee Road, a feeling probably shared by many and to be missed by many more who will never experience the thrill of going to the depot to see the train come in.

In 1971 Amtrak was created. President Richard Nixon signed the Rail Passengers Act in October of 1970. Amtrak began operation May 1st 1971.

My father had enjoyed dealing with the various private railroads during the years 1965-1971 of our families ownership. no longer would he be able to deal directly with railroads, The Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe. Union Pacific. Great Northern Railway. Louisville and Nashville (L&N) just to name a few.

We road The Super Chief, El Capitan, The Chief, The San Diegan, The Great Northern Railroad, The South Wind, The Rio Grande Royal Gorge Route, The Hiawatha. and many, many other routes.

He made the decision to sell the H&H 98.

Looking back, I realize I saw parts of the United States that are no longer accessible by rail.

Saw many of the Grand Old Train Stations before they were torn down. 

Many of the routes we covered are still there. Though many are gone, too costly to maintain.

We travelled on tracks over and through Mountains and Tunnels. Across Deserts. Through Forests and Farmland. Over Bridges and Around Lakes. Up and Down the Coastlines. Into and Across Canada.

Privileged to see this country in a way many never will.

I survived a train wreck.

I lived the life with my family.

Thanks to My Father and his love of Trains.

I was indeed, A Lucky Little Boy.

 

 

It’s All Gravy

 

 

Takes a while to get here.

It doesn’t happen overnight.

The journey is different for us all.

You’ll know it when it happens.

It’s a feeling. an understanding. an insight.

There is appreciation. There is awareness. There is knowledge.

It washes over you, you well up with compassion, empathy, humility.

Age brings it on, youthfulness must be patient in its expectation.

One day you’ll wake up and look at your life.

It’s been a good life. you’ve accomplished many things. maybe travelled, perhaps achieved, discovered.

It has been a grand journey.

In it, you found talents, mastered, performed, practiced and polished.

You feel contentment, pleasure and happiness.

If your lucky? peace, tranquility, and comfort flow through you now.

You’ll see others experiences vary from your own. the path is different, everyone’s qualifications are acceptable. there is no right or wrong. it’s beautiful.

Everyone arrives in their own time, at their own pace.

Witnessing it unfold Educates you. Enlightens you, Delights you.

In my mind’s eye I saw this all unfold recently.

Cashier: “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

Me: (unloading full cart.) “First of all, I wasn’t looking for any of this.”

Yet it happened, and for that? I’m so eternally grateful. thankful, appreciative.

Life, Love, Enthusiasm comes at the speed of light. or is it the speed of sound?

I have a friend, born with a tremendous artistic gift. he raised a family, inherited his family’s business, I’m not sure his heart was ever in running the company? He possesses the soul of an artist. In time the company closed.

He Endeavored to Persevere.

Along with his bride, they raised six children. every one of them a success or are on their way to it. lately in speaking with him I see and hear the immense pride he has in putting them in the right place to succeed.

What more can a human being ask for? he did right by his family, sacrificed much to get them in a position to succeed. he worked so incredibly hard. and now for him? he has the good fortune to look at the fruits of his labor of love, savoring all of it.

Finding a peace that I earlier, either didn’t see, or missed as we grew up. He has more work to do. he knows this, better than anyone. and yet? no one can ever take away what he’s created. what he’s shaped, what he’s produced. What a great life he’s lived. I look in his eyes these days and see it. I hear it when he tells me stories of his family and how they’re doing. the pride and the joy is a wonder to me. an inspiration. I’m so incredibly proud of him.

As I stated earlier, the journey is different for us all.

Everyone’s qualifications are acceptable.

Enjoy your ride.

Whatever it may be.

It’s a Beautiful Thing.

Muldoon

 

 

Characters

Tommy Doyle, mid-sixties

Jimmy O’Leary, mid-sixties

Place 

Pub in Ireland.

As the evening sun goes down.

Two men sit at a table, coupla pints between em.


Jimmy Who found him?

Tommy Da Kelly widah. on da side of the road.

Jimmy Was he already gone already when she got to him?

Tommy Dead as a dodo.

Jimmy Tis Fierce Warm.

Tommy It’s Fierce Early. Ya?

Jimmy Aiye.

Tommy I was going to mow the lawn today. Maybe I’ll just wait until it burns?

Jimmy Ders no sign or notice of Muldoon’s funeral. Are they incinerating him?

Tommy Dunno.

Jimmy Would ya be buried or burnt?

Tommy Buried.

Jimmy Why’s tha?

Tommy What iffa we find hundreds of years from now, some advanced Alien race comes to Ireland ta resurrect those poor old souls whose lives were cut short too soon?

Jimmy How’ll they do tha?

Tommy Dunno? Der intelligence has to be far superior to ar’s.. My point is…iffing yar burnt, they have nothing to work with, do they now?

Jimmy Hundreds of years being buried? what’s left of ya to work with anyways?

Tommy Dunno? old bones mostly. Shar, they’re still pulling up dinosaurs bones n’ mummies from time to time.

Jimmy Dinosaurs? Ya fooking Eegit. Why is it them aliens haven’t resurrected the dinosaurs or mummies yet then?

Tommy Dunno? Perhaps they have a reason? Upsets the natural balance of things. Could happen. who knows wha’s out there? certainly something smarter.

Jimmy Well? Ol Muldoon wouldn’t be first choice to be bringin back now would he? He wouldn’t give ya da itch if he had twenty bags of it.

Tommy Ar ya goin to da mass.

Jimmy Shar, Shar.

Tommy  Even wit da guitars?

Jimmy The day they let the guitar in the mass was a bitter day for us all.

Tommy ‘Twas.

Jimmy What was da name of da nun when we were lads?

Tommy Ehh? Sister?…eh…Sister? Sister……Placenta!

Jimmy Placenta? No you!  Ya eegit. She had bad eyes. Wan lookin at ya, and wan lookin for ya. Use to fall asleep in class. Narcoleptic.

Tommy Was it Sister Innocenta?

Jimmy Innocenta…..That’s her!

Tommy I threw an eraser at her wan time when she went inta her trance. Tree months cleaning da blackboards as punishment. She had it in for me.

Jimmy They all had it in for yas.

Tommy A wild size of a woman. She couldn’t clap hands. She was that fat. Use to hit herself in da side a da face with her wan hand.

Jimmy I can smell the rain coming. Shame about Muldoon. Don’t like the idea he was alone.

Tommy Ah, Here. We all go dat way.

Jimmy On da side a da road?

Tommy Alone…..ya eegit.

Jimmy Will da brother be coming in for the funeral?

Tommy Doubtful? he’s in Iceland.

Jimmy Iceland Ya?

Tommy Got himself a job milking polar bears in Reykjavik.

Jimmy Hows tha?

Tommy For the zoo ya EE-git. He’s not doing it for kicks. He’s helping with the breeding of em.

Jimmy Wha?!? Breeding em?

Tommy Assisting….he’s not…..look…stop saying tha…….Jaysus!

Jimmy It’s none of me business wha he’s doin. I Just Hope he’s being careful?

Tommy Last time I saw Muldoon. He had a big ol hearing aid on. I’d swear it had a diesel engine on it. you’d want good hearing to hear through that fucker.

Jimmy His Maam and Da ar long since gone. is der any other family?

Tommy Sister named Sharon? awful tongue in her head. The family was blighted. Ahh Poor Ol Muldoon, He was a man you don’t meet everyday.

Jimmy Knew exactly how many grains in a bushel of wheat.

Tommy A well known agitator. Was proud to call him my friend.

Jimmy He couldn’t stand the sight of ya.

Tommy There’s the rain now. That’ll keep the dust down.

Jimmy It’ll be as wet as a duck’s foot soon.

Tommy Damp as an otters pocket.

Jimmy Passed a wild pile of wimman on da way over.

Tommy Wha’s that?

Jimmy Wimman I said. didn’t spare the varnish either. Had he been ill?

Tommy Who?

Jimmy Who? Muldoon!

Tommy Looked healthy to me, who can tell? feeling awright one minute, eternally resting on da side of da road da next.

Jimmy Aiye. until they come to collect ya.

Tommy ‘Tis awful, poor ol Muldoon. I’ll miss him.

Jimmy What about his former Missus?

Tommy Moved to Galway. Muldoon told me she blamed him for not getting her pregnant. never could accept that it was her that prevented them from having wee wans.

Jimmy So?

Tommy So? She left him. Fell in love with some professor fella, moved to Galway where they live today wit der 2 adopted children.

Jimmy ‘Tis Awful.

Tommy Destroyed him. takin to the drink fierce. Renouncing the church, after they found him to be at fault by the tribunal hearing da annulment.

Jimmy Wha? Is that all then?

Tommy It is.

Jimmy Jaysus.

Tommy You’ll remember? Ol Muldoon didn’t work t’all.  4-5 years ’twas. And him not on the dole? Fierce proud man. Wouldn’t accept any charity. His Mrs had enough of em. What, Wit da fertility issues and him not workin? provided just the out with da church allowing her to remarry.

Jimmy Poor Ol Muldoon.

Tommy Ah well? he got over it. was quite popular with the ladies for a time.

Jimmy Aiye Ol Muldoon…..find a clitoris in a haystack.

Tommy Not anymore.

Jimmy No, Never no more.

Tommy I’d like to find a clitoris. doesn’t have to be in a haystack either. have ya seen any about?

Jimmy I told yas, wild pack of em. headed this way. fix yer face princess.

Tommy I Wish he was here, I’ll miss him.

Jimmy Aiye, I will as well.

Tommy Poor ol Muldoon. Gave her everything he could for as long as he could. Til he had nothing left ta give her. right big sap, the sacred vows meant nothing. Sad, Never liked her.

Jimmy She felt da same way bout ya.

Tommy Wha’s tha?

Jimmy Sad I said.

Tommy Aiye.

Jimmy Well? best be gettin home then. Cowld as an eskimos arse out.

Tommy It’s as cowld as a ministers visit.

Jimmy Cowld as a trouts hole.

Tommy Cowld as a hoors heart.

Jimmy Goodnight to ya. Go right home ya squint.

Tommy Where else?

Jimmy Stay off da side of da road.

Tommy Words to live by.

The MRI

MRI

 

It wasn’t my first. I have had three before this one.

Technology is a fascinating thing.

I don’t understand a lot of it. the science of how it can help in medicine has always been of interest to me.

I arrived early. the requisite paperwork needing to be filled out.

They ask you for a complete run down of your medical history. allergies, medicines you might be taking. past surgeries, any possible medical devices permanently installed in or on your person. metal specifically I guess? best way to understand it is. you don’t put metal or any foil in a microwave do you? no, you do not. same thing applies here. it messes up the functionality of the machinery.

The paperwork is about two pages. I’d reckon 40-50 questions. needed by them for no other reason than to make you aware of what you need to do, how you need to prepare.

MRI or CT scans come in all different types. all three of the prior ones I’ve had, focused on taking a look-see inside my noggin.

This isn’t some? you got a splinter you can’t get out. it can be serious. hopefully, it can confirm you are ok.

You can’t be treated if they don’t know what’s wrong with you?

Best you can, you put your faith in your doctor and go with the request.

This is done to give them, and your goodself the best look at what might be going wrong?

Maybe? Hopefully? it’s nothing.

Doctors have to cover all the bases and check you out before they assess what is happening inside of you.

The Day arrives.

After you arrive at either the hospital or medical center.

You check in for your appointment.

They ask you your name and your date of birth.

Confirming with you, your Doctor’s name and the specific procedure you are having done.

Then you head to the locker room, where they have you remove your belt, take out your keys and other metal you might be carrying. since they were focusing on my head. I only had to remove my shirt, this was done so they could give me an IV before my procedure. the test being run required that they inject a dye the name of which I could not pronounce.

The IV now in place. I headed into to the room to begin the MRI. Inside is a large circular contraption that is standing on its side. A table or gurney is attached to it.

There you lay on a table. where they position your head inside a brace to hold you steady. you will need to remain still throughout the procedure. some take a few minutes. some take longer. mine was about 45 minutes long.

My technician Lynn was incredibly nice, she answered all my questions prior. making me feel more at ease with what was being done. they’ll ask you if you are claustrophobic. because the machine surrounds you. If you begin to panic. you are wasting your time and theirs. lastly, they’ll place comfortable headphones on you. The MRI is loud when in operation. this will mute the noise, letting the technician communicate with you on the headphones.

So there I was. all prepped, questions answered. IV in. dye injected. noise reduction in place and ready to be slid inside for the MRI

As I looked up at the ceiling two thoughts came into my mind. one was the placement of a portrait of tall trees above me on the ceiling. this is the last image you see before you head inside. The second was a tingling feeling in my feet.

The table I laid on slid slowly inside for the MRI. I followed my instructions, keeping still as possible.

The technicians voice came on my headphones to let me know that we would begin the tests. I would have a series of them some lasting 3 minutes, some lasting 8.

Once inside, I had trouble finding that meditative landscape I so often escape to.

Yeah, yeah, it’s my happy place. Go ahead, poke fun. It works for me.

We hear what we want to hear. life is too short for some questions. things are either revealed to you or they’re not. if they are? Great!

If they’re aren’t? well? nothing you can do about it, so try not to waste too much time on it.

In the end that’s all the counts, all that matters. believe what you will.

After the test…? life might never be the same. life is like that. things change. life changes. sometimes control is no control at all. Just hold your breath, then exhale…and step forward.

The MRI ended, the table I laid on slid out. I sat up and looked at my feet.

They were enormous.

How was I gonna get my shoes back on?

How would I drive home?

How would I explain this to my wife?

I panicked.

I don’t do panicked well, admittedly.

Things get loud and things get busted.

“What The….? Look at My Feet? What Did You Do To ME?”

A  Mars light began to spin. Loud sirens sounded. My technician Lynn bolted from the room.

“WAIT! LYNN?! HOW AM I GONNA GET MY SHOES BACK ON?”

I gotta drive home.

I gotta work in the morning.

I reached for the door handle.

Locked!?!

I heard a voice over the intercom.

“Mr. Hogan, Are you OK?”

“No! I’m Not OK! Look At My Feet!”

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the wall. My face was beet red.

“Shit! OK! OK! OK! I want to speak to someone right now! Someone in Charge.”

The doors to the room flew open. Guards rushed in holding tazers. “Don’t move!”

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I Want to Speak with Whoever is in Charrr…”

The tazer hit me in my mighty left foot.

I flopped on the floor like a fish out of water.

ZZZZZ! Zap!

The guards pulled me to my feet. restraining me.

“I Want My Lawyer!”

“Calm Down.” A voice said over the intercom.

“Calm down? Calm DOWN! Look at My Feet. Look at My Face! You Calm Down! Next guy who shoots me with a tazer is gonna regret it.”

A Man and Woman wearing lab coats entered the room, The Man held a clipboard. they immediately began speaking in low tones to each other.

After a brief discussion, they looked at my feet, then up at me.

“Mr Hogan. I’m Doctor Leake. This is Professor Funt.” The woman nodded to me. “We’re here to help you.”

“Is that why you shot me with the stun gun?”

“That was an accident.”

“A regrettable mistake to be sure.”

“Mr Hogan, we are going to remove your restraints. Can we count on you to remain calm?”

“Get these things off! What the hell is wrong with me? What did you do to me?”

“Please, if you can’t remain calm…”

The Professor nodded to a guard who took off the cuffs.

“I’m calm. calmer than you are.”

“Mr Hogan, have you recently had an encounter with a being not of this earth.

“You mean the Squirrel? Yeah, I know him. I mean, I’ve seen him. Couple times. He’s not from another world? Is he?”

“Squirrel?”

“Nevermind.”

“Have you begun to have dreams and exhibit behavior for which you cannot account for?”

“Boogie man been paying me a visit lately. But I’ve been dreaming about him since I was a kid. He’s not very fast. so I always get away or wake up. What’s this have to do with my face and feet?”

“Sir we want to help you, but you need to sit down and let us examine you.”

I’d heard enough.

I kept asking questions to which I was getting no answers.

The exit was a mere few feet away.

It was now or never.

I yelled “Look Out!” Pointing to the back wall.

Works every time.

The minute they turned to look?

I bolted for the door.

In the hallway. I ran headfirst into an older woman who screamed at me.

I pushed past her.

“Outta My Way Grandma!”

I kept running through double doors marked Lab.

Inside the room, an operating table. people were dressed in scrubs, everyone’s face covered in a surgical mask. all eyes turned towards me.

I ran back out.

Someone yelled “Hey You!”

In the Hall, Three more people ran by me with massive feet?

A young woman shouted.

“C’mon This Way!”

I fell right in step with them.

Our Feet on the cold floors made a loud slapping sound.

We sounded like a team full of flat footed basketball players running the floor in an empty gym.

Three guards rounded the corner of the hallway.

“Let’s Go!”

One of the three, whose name I found out later was Knut dove head first out a 2nd story window.

Without questioning, the other two followed.

The sun had just gone down.

I looked out and saw them rolling in the grass below.

The doors to a van opened and a woman and a boy jumped out. The boy yelling “DAD!”

Knut hugged his son. everyone climbed into the van. The woman in the passenger seat looked up at me and said.

“Come with Us, It’s your only chance.”

So…..I jumped. thankfully I didn’t break anything.

I dove in the back of the van.

They slammed the door and the kid driving punched the gas pedal.

We sped out of the medical center parking lot.

Looking at the others in the van you couldn’t help but notice, our giant feet and red faces.

Still out of breath, Knut hugged his wife. And put his hand on his son’s shoulder.

The rest of us were struggling to get more room. It was tight inside the van and had a really funky smell.

I asked them to let me out at the next corner.

The kid looked at his dad.

“You could be a bit more grateful you know?” Knut said.

No one else said a word.

I kept quiet. I had no idea who these people were.

We drove for a bit, making sure we weren’t being followed. satisfied, we turned down a dirt road. the kid killed the lights and pulled over.

Knut got out.

I was as confused as I’d ever been in my life.

And Manny? I’ve been confused a lot.

“Can someone tell me what’s happening? I went in for an MRI?”

“So did we.”

“Who are you? what did they do to us?”

“They lied to you. they lied to all of us.”

The third man who extended his hand introduced himself as Tom.

“This is Sally, Knut you’ve met.

The woman extended her hand.

I looked at her feet. “Umm.”

And she glanced at mine. “Yeah….”

“Bunch of army types. Kept us locked in cages. Cameras on us. guards watching us round the clock. We’re Guinea Pigs! Nothing more.”

“Heard a couple of guards talking last night. Some kinda experiment. Testing some vaccine. We weren’t suppose to get out. Knut here smashed a guard in the face with his food tray, We grabbed his keys and made a run for it.”

As I was talking to Tom and Sally.

Knut came over and said we needed to spilt up. He was taking the van and heading to Canada.

The rest of us? Would have to fend for ourselves.

What about my wife? Surely they have contacted her. Do I dare try to reach her? Are the phones safe? What if somebody’s watching our house?

Knut had to go. We shook hands, wished each other luck. And they left.

The three of us stood in the road watching the vans tail lights fade from view.

“I think Knut is right. We need to spilt up. One of us needs to get to a newspaper or someplace with internet access.”

“Screw the internet. I want to talk to someone and find out if they can correct this?”

“Look? people disappear all the time. Best get it on the web first.”

“North is taken. I’ll head east. Sally?”

“South, I guess? Right…..now?”

“Yeah, our best chance to get some help. We can’t hide forever like this.”

I said, I’d head west. Although that was BS. I was heading home. Who knows what the hell they told our families? Maybe I’ll call from the corner. Make sure the coast is clear.

We shook hands and set off into the woods.

Overhead helicopters circled. I could hear loudspeakers.

They had someone. Maybe both of them cornered?

I kept moving, fast as I could, given the circumstances.

They caught me climbing a fence on the highway. There was nowhere to run.

You’d think with big feet I’d be able to run faster?

I was put into a helicopter and flown back to the medical center where I was put into a cage.

Back where I started from.

The next morning.

I woke up and my feet were back to their normal size.

Whatever they did to us? was temporary.

I was interviewed by a mysterious man in a black suit, after which I was given paperwork to sign.

I was told if I signed? and kept my mouth shut? I could go home.

If I ever divulged any piece of what happened? I would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I have no proof this ever happened. No paperwork, photos. nothing. Just a piece of paper with a phone number that’s been disconnected.

I had no case. no one believed a word I said.

Not my family, my friends, not even my doctor who had ordered the test to begin with.

Something about the man’s tone, told me it was best for me and my family to keep quiet.

The man in the black suit had disappeared. Like he never existed.

Numerous attempts were made to contact someone, anyone, who could give me answers.

I tried locating the others, to no avail, all I ever had was their first names.

My Doctor tells me he has no knowledge of what transpired the day of my test? they claim I was a no show. informing me, I would be required to pay for the missed appointment.

There is no record of any technician named Lynn working at the medical center. No Doctor Leake or Professor Funt on the buildings staff directory. No one had ever heard of any mysterious man in a black suit. nor did they employ any security guards with tazers?

All I got? was the run around.

I couldn’t get any help, no information.

To this day, the government refuses to acknowledge anything of the experiment I underwent.

Why talk now you ask?

Well? I decided to come forward mostly to warn people.

We are cattle, people take advantage of our nature. Our belief that we’re all in this together.

Take this story to heart.

I have a feeling I’m being followed.

I think my phone is bugged.

The people I thought I could count on? Have urged me to let it go. To quit goofing around.

Thankfully the neighbors dog still listens to me. He’s not much help mind you? But it’s good to have someone to talk to.

We speak every night, and sometimes in the morning at the fence after he’s done his business.

I’m not sure what my next step is?

I haven’t gotten any results back from the MRI I took. my doctor claims I never took it, and that we need to reschedule.

I don’t relish the notion I have to go back to do it again.

Would you?

My doctor tells me they still don’t know what’s wrong?

Apparently? he wants more tests done.

What can you do?

You get the tests done right?

What’s the alternative?

Cross your fingers, Hope for the best?

This is my life we’re talking about.

Without your health you have nothing.

The man in the black suit is a worthy adversary.

If you see or meet him?

Act accordingly.

Trees up and down our block were filled with toilet paper.

Garbage cans overturned in the street. grass bags gutted. mailboxes knocked off their hinges, lawn art destroyed.

An old woman wearing rhinestone rimmed glasses stood in her front yard weeping into her hands.

The remains of a bird house lay in shambles at her feet.

Someone had knocked it down?

She and her father had built it when she was just a little girl.

Now? it was gone. with it, a sweet memory of time spent together.

Lois Ahnya removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes.

We all knew who did it.

It was those Macgillycuddy Bastards.

I’d dealt with these two before.

Troublemakers. make no mistake about it.

Rocks, bottles, bricks, boards and bats were the instruments of their trade.

If you had a son or daughter the age of these boys? You spent the better part of your day dodging em.

Not an easy thing to do when you’re from a small village.

Timmy Macgillycuddy , younger of the two boys. Shifty eyes, mean, cunning. I wish I could say he was highly intelligent. but that would be a lie. he was trouble, a weasel. equally adept using his feet or fists to inflict damage . His preferred weapon of choice was anything he could get his grubby little paws on. Didn’t matter. rock, stick or garbage can lid. anything he could throw at your head.

Billy Macgillycuddy, the older brother. When he looked at you? It felt like he wanted to chew on your face. something was just not right about that boy.

First time I saw them. they were standing in the street in front of our house throwing rocks at a mailbox.

They had moved onto our block a few years before we did. people felt helpless. some gave up, moved out.

Surely it can’t be as bad as that?

You got a minute? My neighbor Monty Asked.

When they first moved into town, the boys were invited to a birthday party for one of the local kids. You know the Monahan’s? Their son Finn?

Well, At the party……One of the other children made the mistake of telling Timmy to…Stop chewing with your mouth open.

Timmy took it up to ninety. flipping the table over on top of the birthday boy. His older brother unaware of what was happening, having just come out of the bathroom, picked up a chair and threw it into the melay. both boys grabbed an armful of gifts. and fled out the front door.

Nobody knew what to do? call the parents? they’re just kids after all. kids being kids.

They’ll grow out of it. right? isn’t calling the parents a little excessive? You want to do it? go ahead. The Mother is a Nut. The Husband? a hardchaw not to be trifled with.

I asked if anyone ever saw them at parent teacher conferences?

Responses varied from. “Oh Thank God, No!” to “Holy Jaysus, I hope not?” to “No? Is She Here?! I said good morning to her once…..she told me to go shit in my hat.”

The entire neighborhood had their fill, it was looking like the next incident would push good people too far.

We all wanted these little hooligans gone.

We just didn’t know how to do it? the coppers weren’t being much help.

Garaging was rampant in the neighborhood. Items reported stolen included, tools, balls, bats and bikes.

Most of the handy work having been done after dark. no one saw a thing. people were installing security cameras, The town locksmith was working overtime. One of my neighbors suggested we dig a pit in his backyard and try and trap em.

Lois had reached her limit. enough was enough. from then on? anytime the boys made an appearance on the street. they got the hose. playtimes over now eh?

When the boys hit or kicked a ball onto her property. she’d burst out the front door, grab the ball, stare the boys down, and return with it to her home.

If they tried to enter the property from the rear? she’d sick her dog on em. German Shepard, Named Doug.

Something was gonna give. a few bets were made on the side. everyone had their money on the boys.

I wasn’t so sure.

Weeks passed. things quieted in the neighborhood.

Tuesday Night turned to Wednesday morning.

A favorite pastime of the boys was ghost riding bikes.

Our street has a slight grade to it, which makes it the perfect test track.

Ghost riding a bike is an art form. you have to know exactly when to dismount. when to release. and a general idea where you hope to have it go.

One judges a good ride on the length. the longer it travels un-piloted, the better the rush is.

Lois was backing her car out of the driveway.

The bike had been released. rolling on its own accord. Riderless.

On impact the back tire rotated over the front. striking the passenger door window shattering it.

Broken Glass flew every which-ways.

Lois catching most of it in the beehive.

Thankfully she was wearing her glasses.

Bridie Donovan out watering her porch plants shrieked. she had witnessed the whole diabolical thing from across the street. barreling inside to call the police.

Billy and Timmy scattered.

Ducking between the Mulligan and Kelly’s straight home to establish an alibi.

At The Macgillycuddy residence.

The boys were questioned by our village finest. One Officer Fink. followed by a trip with their mother to the station to fill out some paperwork. their attorney apprised of the situation would meet them to assist.

Malicious mischief, destruction of property were the charges. all misdemeanors. sadly? not a felony to be to be found.

They claim to have only borrowed the bicycle. and were on their way to return it when it jumped up, took off and plowed into Lois car.

This wasn’t the boys first trip to court.

“No Boy is Bad If Given a Chance?”

Father Flanagan of Boys Town obviously had never met these two. Pah! What did he know about good boys? No boy is bad is it?

Well aware of who was in front of him. The judge sighed and shook his head.

A warning was not going to suffice this time.

1500-2500 to fix the damages estimates provided the court stated.

In Addition, Her attorney asked the court for compensatory damages to her bird house.

The judge, while being sympathetic to her testimony. was unable to indict the boys on the bird house destruction. there were no witnesses after all? unlike the ghost ride.

Seated nearby, Lois enjoyed the proceedings immensely. leaning forward cupping her hand over her mouth while she listened intently.

The judge heard the case as put forth by the attorney’s representing each party. after which he remanded the boys to juvenile detention for 30 days.

What started as a giggle turned into uncontrollable hysterics.

Rising from her seat. she exited the court room laughing all the way out.

The Macgillycuddy’s glared, watching her in silence.

A month? that’s it, is it? Well?

Better than a sharp stick in the eye.

All anyone knew or care, was they were gone. for now.

Everyday is a gift.

I’m excited to find out what’s next?

You never know what tomorrows going to bring.

The Skunk

 

Skunk

 

 

The town I live in has been over run by skunks.

They’re everywhere. if you own a dog? The chances are its been sprayed by one.

I was told that if you encounter one and it’s getting ready to blast you? You’ll know it because the tail raises right before it releases its stank. if you can move fast enough and pin its tail down? you just might avoid getting blasted.

I tested this theory out recently while taking care of my mother in laws dog.

I’m gonna refrain from using his name here, I’m not sure he’d like me involving him.

Upon coming across a skunk on a walk with “the dog.” I startled it.

Now a skunk moves very slowly. The don’t run away. More like waddle away.

I should mention I was as scared of it, as it was of me, I wasn’t looking for any trouble.

We were minding our own beeswax.

Try explaining that to a frightened animal with a brain the size of a pea.

I panicked dropping the dog’s leash as the rotten little stinker raised its tail.

It nailed me mid charge squarely in the chest.

Stunned me. can’t describe it. it was awful.

The skunk took off between a couple of houses.

I looked over at my mother in laws dog.

I swear it had this look, like, “What the hell were you thinking?”

I was, after all? only trying to protect him.

I ran home dog in tow, thinking….how am I going to explain this?

Why didn’t I just leave it alone?

It’s a skunk.

My wife bathed me in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and liquid dish soap. which? trust me on this, sounds a lot better than it is. The concoction is supposed to lessen the smell. it did help a little. I guess? Though not enough to be let back into the house.

I had to throw out what I was wearing, and sleep in the garage.

My mother in laws dog got an apology in the morning. me? I got nuthin.

He had to sleep in the garage with me. We didn’t say much to one another.

I’m not going to have to dog sit anymore, I’m pretty sure.

I was told by my wife and mother-in-law I can’t be trusted.

And if we do get to watch the dog?

My wife can walk him. I’ve been asked to stand down. I’m out. done.

Too bad really, Cause I love the little guy. We were friends once. maybe we can patch up our differences someday and move forward. people do it all the time.

Skunks? really? getting to be no ones safe outside after dark. take heed.

They’re out there you know? waiting. watching.

I’m just lucky none of my neighbors saw the exchange. This kind of stuff is not what I want to be known for around town. I’ve already made a few bad judgement calls since we moved in according to my wife. I’m trying to fit in here, honest I am. but we’re talking about a wild animal. and they can be unpredictable. you never know what they’re thinking.

If I could have somehow communicated with it? I would have told it, ramble on little friend, the dog and I mean you no harm. he’s just got to take a leak, and I’m only out walking him because my mother-in-law is out of town.

Alas that would not matter. no words or hopes or prayers would save me on this evening stroll. I was dealing with a force of nature. one that could not and would not be reasoned with.

If only? I had not panicked.

If only? I had not listened to my co-workers advice.

Maybe I would have avoided the ordeal? I really am not the monster I appear to be. I love animals. its true animals sense something inside of us. they have a sixth sense. this animal like other animals I have come into contact with in my life decided that enough was enough. he must pay. there is a bill that must be paid. a debt that must be settled.

I’m not going out after dark anymore. let them tangle with someone else for a change.

I’m through with the animal kingdom for a while. at least for the time being.

I cannot look back on a life of achievement anymore, or of challenges met, or competitors bested.

This obstacle was not overcome. I was.

Raking Leaves

DSC01593

Leaves were falling. the village was beautiful. the richness of colors, stunning. you don’t get this living in the concrete jungle. or if you live in an arid landscape. We deal with cold temperatures Bub.

The beauty of the changing seasons is our reward. something to embrace.

The doorbell rang. I opened it.

They thought I didn’t recognize them. It was The Macgillycuddy Boys.

Billy and his younger brother Timmy.

Both boys ran with the gang that would throw snowballs at my car last winter.

It was them. make no mistake about it.

The older brother was doing the talking now.

“Mister? do you need someone to rake your leaves?”

I locked eyes with the little one. he was giving me the stink eye.

“Is there something wrong young man?” he wouldn’t answer me. “Is this your brother?”

“Un-huh,” Billy responded.

“Are the two of you registered to rake leaves in this state?” they looked at each other.

“Are we what?” Billy asked.

“Registered. are you Registered? Do you boys speak English?”

“Un huh.” Billy said.

“So, let me get this straight? You two are Brothers. You live in Illinois, You speak English. You’re here today to ask me to rake the leaves in my yard for money. Are you boys Troublemakers?”

The younger one rolled his eyes. I looked at him. “Do you remember me Timmy?”

“No.” Timmy said.

“You Don’t?” I asked him very directly.

“No.” he said. I stood there staring at Him. Timmy starting tugging at his brother’s coat, he cupped his hand whispering something in his ear.

Billy spoke up.” “Mister we gotta go.”

“Go? but you just got here? wait a second, you came here today with a business proposition and now you want to run off before you get an answer to your question?”

“Umm? we…Umm?” Billy stuttered.

“Young Man ask me your question again.” they exchanged glances.

Billy softly asked “Umm…Would you like somebody to rake your leaves?”

“Somebody? Who?”

Timmy rolled his eyes again. exasperated he blurted out, “Us.

I shook my head from side to side like I was being offered something that smelled rank.  “No Thank You.” and closed our door.

I woke the next morning and looked out our window. the nine bags of leaves I had left out on my curb for pick up were spread all over our front lawn. the bags were missing and so were the yard waste stickers you are required to purchased from the village. no sticker? no pickup. someone was sending me a message.

It was The Macgillycuddy Boys.

Standing in your yard trying to clear it of leaves while more leaves drift down on you from the trees above can wear on you. Last year I raked 47 bags of leaves. a few of my neighbors were quite amused at the eager new guy on the block who thought he could stay ahead of Mother Nature. Mother Nature wins every time. don’t even try to take her on. she’ll kick your ass pal. Imagine trying to keep snow off your driveway in the middle of a blizzard? That is the feeling you get on my street when the leaves start to fall.

“Why don’t you hire a couple of kids from the neighborhood?” My neighbor Nancy asked me. “Why are you putting yourself through this?”

I smiled and almost bit through my lip. I wanted to throw her in her bushes.

Pay someone to tend our land? Never!

Never say Never……Ever.

I woke up and felt like a hundred year old man. My Back was killing me. my left shoulder ached.

I went over to take a look at the community bulletin board at our grocery store to see if I could find someone to handle the leaves for me. Tacked on the board was a piece of paper. It read in bold print.

FALL CLEANUP. We Rake Leaves.

At the bottom of the page was a phone number.

I called the number, a woman answered.

“I’m calling about the Fall Cleanup.”

She said, “Sure, hold on a second. SHAN….NON it’s for You!”

Shannon? a few seconds later a girl’s voice on the other end said, “Hello?”

I introduced myself. “Are you the person to speak to regarding the fall cleanup?”

“Yes.” she said. “My friend Eileen and I will rake and clean up your yard.”

“Great, How do we get started?” she informed me that they could come out tomorrow after school for an estimate. I gave her our address. we arranged to meet at 4:30.

4:30 on the dot. I was out in front of our house when two young girls with rakes walked up. Shannon the young woman I spoke with on the phone said “Hello.” then introduced me to her friend Eileen.

I showed them the yard, “Ladies? what’s this going to cost me?” they gave me three options. once a week 40 dollars, twice a week 60. and for the season 160.

“I’d like you to handle the season. When can you start?”

They looked at each other smiling.

“Right now? If you’d like?”

They went to work. no smirking, no shuffling of feet, no stink eye.

They raked both the front and backyard. bagging about 17 bags of leaves all neatly stacked at the curb. Once they finished they knocked on our door, still smiling. telling me they would be back on Saturday.

“Ladies? before you go? do you know the Macgillycuddy Boys from down the street?”

“Yeah, We Know Them.” Shannon replied.

I sensed an edge in her voice.

“Ladies? I’m worried that Billy and Timmy won’t be happy with you taking their business. I have it on good authority that these two boys are known troublemakers around town, it’s possible they might try to undermine your business.”

“Undermind?” Shannon inquired.

“Yes, undermine, They want to try to keep all the business to themselves. we’re not all bad ladies. but these boys? The Macgillycuddy’s? I just don’t trust them. Billy told me that if you want a Woman to do your work for you? go ahead hire one, see what kind of job they do? they’ll take your money and never show up. they also said you two ladies had been in trouble with the police?”

“Police?!?” The smiles disappeared.

“Yes, The Police. I also suspect that they might try to sabotage your work by dumping the leaves you worked so hard in raking on the ground.”

Eileen looked at me and said, “They better not.”

“Yes.” I pointed at Eileen. “They better not, keep an eye out for them.”

They told me they would, and to not worry.

Want to be treated like a professional? prepare like one. project yourself as one.

It was clear these girls knew the score.

In the business world today. when you look to provide a service to someone. you better be able to provide the customer with the factual information they need to make a well-informed decision that is best for them. You can’t stand in front of someone during a sales pitch and say, Umm? and Roll your Eyes at the potential customer. You sure as shooting can’t give them the Stink Eye and then expect them to give you money?

“Tell that to your little brother, The Eye Roller.”

Uncle John

Uncle John

Uncle John lived a couple of doors down from us at our neighbor Bobbi Carrs house.

Bobbi ran a rooming house. the only two people I ever knew to live with her were Alec, 75 years old. german national. a very quiet, round old guy who walked around with his hands behind his back like he was contemplating something? nothing sinister, mind you? plotting? perhaps. most likely, only reliving his life through memories long past.

The other gentlemen renting a room was Uncle John. Now…John wasn’t my real uncle. I just called him that. John was in his late 60’s, early 70’s I’d guess? he was 6 foot something. to me? he might as well have been a giant.

As a boy, I thought Uncle John was the coolest guy around. former US soldier who served in WWI. a retired widower. His wife had passed of an illness twenty years prior. he never re-married. moving around the country holding various jobs to makes ends meet.  settling in Oak Park Illinois just a couple a doors down from our home at 830 Wenonah Avenue in the late 50’s.

Oak Park Illinois is located just west of the city of Chicago. a stones throw on the Eisenhower Expressway or The Ike as locals call it.

I’m not sure how it was that Uncle John and I started taking walks together?

I’d see him from the window and wave. he’d smile, waving back. I was about 4 going on 5 then.

Perhaps Mom saw it as an opportunity to watch her daytime soap operas without some ungrateful little sneak underfoot. I used to beg her to let me go with him.

Uncle John was shy and polite to everyone in the neighborhood.

I was grateful for his company. we got along. He listened to me blather about this and that. I had questions man. lots of questions.

If he had the answer. He was patient and kind and would explain things to me. If he didn’t? He’d let out a deep sigh. look at me and shrug.

I wanted to be just like him.

What I enjoyed most about our walks together was ignoring my normal boundaries. those set by my folks.

“No farther than the corner.” they’d say, “Stay on this side of the alley.”

Uncle John didn’t operate on that frequency. he wasn’t gonna be content just walking back and forth on our block.

I knew it. so did Mom I imagine?

Uncle John was a smoker, While on our walks together he always took the opportunity to light up a butt.

Sometimes we’d walk to Al’s Grill on Madison Avenue. Where he’d get a cup of coffee, I’d have a glass of water.

Al’s was a great place, typical fifties diner. long counter. several booths. if you sat at the counter you could see the cook. this big guy moving around in the kitchen. I’d watch him shoving the food through a small window to the waitress. wondering how he fit through that tiny window? did he live in there? was there another way in?

One particular afternoon as Uncle John enjoyed his coffee and cigarette, I was spinning myself around on the counter stool, content for the moment, trying to make a revolution without using my hands.

A Large Cadillac pulled up out front. A man in a black suit stepped out and headed inside.

He ordered 3 cups of coffee at the counter from the waitress. placing five dollars on it. She brought him his change. followed by his coffee to go.

I didn’t see the man from behind when I spun kicking the cups of coffee onto him and all over the floor.

He started waving his arms around. Shouting. mostly at me.

Uncle John got between the man in the suit and me.

“It was an accident. He’s just a boy. Look? I’d like to buy you the cups of joe to replace what you spilled.”

“What I spilled!?!”

My Friend held out his hands palms up. “Please the boy.”

The man glared at me.

I wish he hadn’t.

He leaned in to whisper something to Uncle John.

Who then looked at me and said, “we’re leaving.”

The man immediately stepped in front of us. Putting his hand on Uncle John’s chest.

I never saw Uncle John move so fast. he hit the man with something he’d pulled from his pocket. knocking him to the floor unconscious.

It was a blackjack he carried for protection.

The cook came out from the kitchen

“Do you know who that is? he works for Momo. you better get outta here quick. C’mon let’s go!”

Uncle John grabbed my hand and the cook led us out the back door into the alley.

“Run.” was all the cook said. “Run.”

We did. couple of blocks away we stopped. I looked at Uncle John who was breathing hard.

He kept asking me if I was OK?

“Who’s Momo?” was what I wanted to know?

“Robert, time to go home.”

He might as well have been Walt Disney for all I knew or cared.

Alec was sitting on the front porch of Bobbi Carrs house as we hurried up the street.

John said something to Alec. who got up and went inside.

We knocked on the door of our house. My Father answered. Mom came to the door behind him.

John asked if he could come inside a minute, first looking over his shoulder and up the street as we entered.

He spoke with my parents in the front room a few minutes.

I went in the next room to turn on the TV. Hoping to squeeze in a couple of cartoons or some Three Stooges. Maybe Garfield Goose was on?

I knew I was in trouble. Though? I had no idea of the severity.

I thought I’d probably get a spanking? maybe no tv? very likely have to go to my room? dollars to doughnuts going outside to play was out.

I heard Uncle John leaving and went out to say goodbye. I told him I was sorry. he knelt down, looked me in the eyes telling me it wasn’t my fault. Then he mussed up my hair said goodbye and left.

Alec met him on the sidewalk in front of our house carrying what looked like….is that a gun?

Closing the door behind him, I thought, here it comes. Dad’s gonna yell. Mom’s gonna send me to my room. only they didn’t?

Mom came over knelt down and hugged me.

Then Dad walked over putting his hand on the top of my head for a second. before he picked me up.

Something was wrong.

We all went to bed early that night.

I slept in bed between Mom and Dad.

They sent my Brother and Sister to sleep over that night at their friends.

When they got home the next morning. my brother would explain that the man I kicked coffee on was a bad man. he might come looking for us, try to hurt Uncle John and me.

In the weeks that followed, word went out. someone was looking for an old guy with a little kid.

Questions were being asked.

It wasn’t good at home. everybody was acting weird. mood was wrong.

I had to stay inside for a while. if I did get to go out? my parents, brother or sister went with me.

Mom and Dad were constantly looking out the front door or back windows of our house, scanning the street and alley. certainly no one went out after dark. my brother and sister were driven and dropped off everywhere.

it was a Friday Night, the light in the alley behind our house went out. it never went out. ever.

Dad wasn’t home, Mom grabbed my sister, brother and I, we headed for the basement.

Someone was in our house. we could hear them upstairs.

Mom immediately called the police from the phone we had downstairs.

We all huddled in the corner quietly. listening in the darkness. terrified.

The police arrived, entered and searched our entire house. they could find no sign of forced entry. no signs anyone had been there but us.

I knew better. we could hear them walking around, our floors creaked. there was no mistaking the sound. Ask my sister. we all heard it.

Eventually things seemed to calm down.

Mom and Dad acted like Mom and Dad again.

I didn’t complain, a rarity in our household at the time.

A few years later after my brother graduated high school, and went off to college. my parents sold our house in Oak Park, moving us to a suburb north of the city of Chicago. I was 8 years old.

When I got to be my brothers age, I became aware of the facts. the man I kicked coffee on worked for a man who lived on our street.

That man was Sam Giancana. The Boss of the Chicago Mob. the man in the black suit who Uncle John belted worked for one of the most powerful mobsters in America. certainly in Chicago.

Giancana lived quietly in Oak Park.

My Brother Tom explained that Dad spoke with one of his guys. telling him what had happened. that it was an accident. the guy listened. then, made a call while dad stood there waiting. after the call? he told him, no one would bother me or our family.

No such assurance was made for Uncle John.

So? Unbeknownst to anyone, Dad gave Uncle John some money, he disappeared the next day.

I never got to take a walk with my friend ever again.

Every year on my birthday I would get a post card from him. usually from some place with palm trees and a swimming pool.

When I was 14 or 15 the post cards stopped?

Mom and Dad sat me down.

Uncle John died peacefully in California in 1975. he was 81 years of age.

No one ever came looking to harm my family. and they never found our friend.

Uncle John had protected me. Dad recognized that.

For all the negatives others attached to my father over the years. this time he got it right. This man had done right with his son. And it was his job to do the same for him. In a time when things like loyalty and honor meant something.

Funny how things work out? nothing ever happened.

You worry. you wait, the bad you think is coming, doesn’t.

On June 19, 1975, 67 year old Sam Giancana was shot in the head and neck at 1147 S. Wenonah Avenue in Oak Park Illinois.

His killer was never found.

To this day.

Several times a year I take a ride to Oak Park and drive down our old street. I’ll Park. look at our old house, think of my childhood. Remembering those innocent days of my youth.

Then I drive down Madison Avenue. Al’s Grill is still there. Though, I stay in the car. I’m always afraid to look inside. maybe that old gunsel is in there? waiting for me?

I don’t take foolish chances anymore.

I just want another day. you know? another memory.

Sadly for me, Everybody is gone now. Uncle John, Dad, Mom, My Brother. Bobbi Carr, Alec. They’re all gone.

I miss my friend. I wish so very much we could take a walk and talk about that day so long ago.

I’ve got questions man, lots of questions.

You can’t ever go back. Nobody’s there anymore. You can only go forward.

We All Just Move On. We Have No Choice.

uncle-john-2

Suspicious Vistors

Noises in the back yard.

Whispering. couldn’t make it out.

Last winter something broke into our shed and ate a bag of sand.

Unusual things were happening.

People behaving oddly.

This was familiar. I’d seen this kind of thing before.

I was suspicious, green-eyed, uptight and ornery. Doesn’t take much to get me riled.

Did I mention someone or something ate a bag of sand out of our shed?

Strangers appear at our door. a man and woman.

Asking me if I accept Jesus Christ as my savior? Looking left, then right. I slowly step outside onto our porch.

Who are these two characters?

They appeared to be alone?

One can never tell, can one?

I grab the man by the lapel of his suit.

Shouting,

“WHO SENT YOU!”

His eyes widened, his female companion backed away cautiously.

“Why? Jesus Did.” the man said.

“OKAY. Good Answer, Good Answer.”

I release him. helping to straighten his coat, brushing lint off his shoulder.

“You think you could come back next week? I have sinned repeatedly today and I am in desperate need of a shower.” I said winking at him.

The man looked down and away, moving to where the woman now stood in a defensive posture on our front lawn.

“A word of caution my friends. be careful, the house next to mine has some bad hombres living in it. if I were you sir? I would not let the woman approach the door. their teenage boys will surely tear through her like locust. let her wait the next one out in the car.”

The man nodded.

The woman, balled up her fists ready to tussle if necessary.

Neither appeared to be intoxicated or concealing a weapon. was the lord truly what they wanted?

I thanked both of them politely for stopping by. finally reassuring, discreetly. so they would know. and not worry.

“I have nothing but good intentions. should you try to tell anyone differently? well? No one will ever believe you.”

Maybe they were up to something? I had good reason to be cautious.

Suspicious visitors, curfew violators and backyard fornicators have me in a heightened state of alert.

I would stand watch tonight in the garage with a shovel. anyone who thinks they can infiltrate our security perimeter. Is in for a surprise.

3 AM. I wedge a chair up against the garage door and go to bed.

Not sure how long I slept? It wasn’t long enough.

Was that the doorbell?

“What time is it?”

I look at my wife who is sound asleep.

Suddenly.

Bright light fills the room from our window outside. I hold my arm up to shield my eyes.

Shadows move in the backyard. the glass to our backdoor shatters.

Something is in the house.

Whispering.

Floors creak. then stop. in the hall, outside our bedroom. whispering.

Our bedroom door opened. I couldn’t move. the fear. paralyzed me.

Something throwing shapes entered the room.

Next to the bed. it moved into view. 4 feet tall, pale, almost translucent skin. head too big for its body. small mouth. big old creepy fish eyes with long skinny arms and Nosferatu crablike fingers.

Rolling his large fish eyes at me, Johnny Fishbone slapped his noggin with his creepy little crab leg fingers. trying to communicate.

I couldn’t make out a gurgle.

The visitor pointed to the window. then at the ceiling, then turned to the bed.

It didn’t look like he wanted to be pals.

Staring into my mind. I could hear it’s thought’s.

“The Shrimp , Crab And Lobster you so love to eat? They’re beings from my world. we came here many years ago. seeking refuge. settling in your oceans. never meaning you any harm. yet? you hunt us for food. we left our planet to preserve our species. we asked only for a place to be safe. to live and raise our young. instead you cover us with hot butter and lemons, cocktail and tartar sauces. serve us as appetizers to fat people who could afford to skip a meal. Your Doctors warn you that eating us will give you high cholesterol which leads in some instances to early death in adults. matters not. you just keep shoveling it in. Shell Fish as you call us. can’t you hear us scream when you cook and kill us? We obviously underestimated the numbers who would find us delicious. in hindsight we should have been more careful, we thought the oceans would be safe. until your fishing industries became more relentless. tell your leaders. to stop now. before we are forced to defend ourselves.”

He waved his left hand in front of my face.

Then it was over.

Johnny Fishbone vanished. his bright light was gone.

Darkness returned. along with it silence.

I wanted to wake my wife, take her in my arms, look into her eyes and tell her everything was going to be alright.

I chose to let her sleep, she looked so peaceful. I would tell her in the morning.

There would be no sleep for me until I knew we were safe. I went back out into the garage and stood guard until sunrise.

Look to the skies. imagine what’s out there.

Now? imagine that one day, it shows up, breaks into your house and tells you how it’s gonna be going forward.

Hopefully? you’ll just get a lecture. a word of warning from Johnny Fishcakes.

Why Me? Why did he choose me to deliver this message? who are my leaders anyway? are they in the phonebook? will they pick up the phone if I call? what if I get the answering machine?

Do I enjoy those Shrimp, Crab and Lobster delicacies? wellll? yeah.

I’m suppose to speak out for Johnny Fishsticks and his tasty little friends?

Somethings coming. something with an agenda.

Do this, don’t do that, act this way and not that way. listen to this and listen to that. you should do this and you shouldn’t do that. this is how you should be, how you should do things. I have the answers you need. know it alls. some wearing overalls, clipboards in hand, looking to have you take a stand. do you have a minute? no? well then? I’ll come back later.

Lock your windows. Do not answer the door.

Take precautions.

Was that the doorbell? At this hour?

This is it.

Oona and Eamon

Oona and Eamon

Characters

Oona O’Brien fifties

Eamon O’Brien fifties

Place

Rural Ireland.

Present Day

Interior of a small cottage. a table with four chairs. a sink and stove. couch and television. a small fire burns in the fireplace. it’s late. a womans loud voice is heard, screams intermittently fill the room. in the corner of the room Eamon has his ear to the wall. his wife Oona enters.

Eamon  Jaysus! they’re still going at it.

Can ya believe it darlin? Did ya hear what she was saying to that lucky lucky man? got us a hairy growler living next door. better lock the doors and shut the windows. hate to think of what she might do to me, were she to get in here?

Oona  She’s a grin on her like a dead hare.

Eamon  She’s a mauler alright, are you listening to that? Oh my Jaysus! easy now. take it easy woman. the man has to work in the marning!

Oona  Steal the blessing from the holy water. face on her like a plate of mortal sins.

Eamon  Maybe I should talk to er, let er know we can hear em going at it?

Oona  If you could hear what I hear? you’d never speak to yourself again.

Eamon  I wonder how long he can last in there? Da poor fella. she’s eating the head off.

Oona  The wheels turning. but the hamsters dead innit?

Eamon  Good Fuck. Didja hear it! Call the Peelers. God Help Em! something broke in there.

Oona   Settle Down, Careful, Careful Now. your blood pressure is shar to be up. It’s a Dangerous Game yar playing.

Eamon  Yore Ma!

Oona Ya Gobshite, Me Mam Warned Me About Ya!

Eamon Ah Here now woman. I’d be lost without ya. if I upset yas? darling? I,I, I was only….

Oona  …..Don’t talk about me Mam.

Hang on? it’s gone quiet.

Eamon  Maybe they’ve finally gone to sleep? I’ll just go next door and listen through the lock?

Oona  Is that what you’d like? is it?

Eamon  It is.

Oona  Well go on. Get a leg over. maybe you can join them.

Eamon  Well now, I don’t think I could keep up with em.

Was it not too long ago that was us now woman? have you forgotten? I remember the first time I saw you in secondary school. walked right into an ambush on me heart. you batted those eyelashes of yours and smiled. was mighty. you didn’t know it at the time. I hid it from you. fearful you wouldn’t feel the same. make no mistake about it. you took my heart that day. I’d had it. making me pursue you throughout school, letting me get close. though never close enough to me liking. seemed like the longest courtship a young lad should ever have to go through.

Standing outside at night, looking into the sky, wondering if you were awake. if you had your knickers on?

Teasing me, ever so slowly, letting me. go a little farther.

Oona  I remember the where’s and the when’s. they are treasures I hold in me heart.

Eamon  Ah me as well darling.

I wouldn’t trade the journey we’ve been on together for anything in this world. in the darkness, we found each other. at that right time. in that right place.

I hope those american kids, enjoy their youth, that she flattens him every night for as long as possible. for as we both now know, it’s slips away all to soon. maybe we can’t have what we once had. though perhaps? we can find something new, something different.

We all make plans. somewhere along the road. in ways we never expected. change occurred. through it all. we stayed loyal to each other. life got interesting when it got tough. once I was old enough to understand that bad things weren’t just happening to me. that they happen to us all. my perception of life changed. I stopped feeling that weight. all that sorrow I carried around inside me for so long? disappeared.

I miss us the way we use to be Mrs. I get lonely. don’t you have feelings for me anymore? yer me bride. I love ya. is there no hope for us? it’s not natural. is it? acting like there’s nothing wrong?

Ever since they moved in? and all that racket began. I’ve been thinking of when that was us.

I can still see ya with one leg up’n the dash and nothing on but the radio.

There was a time. everywhere and anywhere we could, we did. do ya remember? in the woods, up the hills, by the stream. we couldn’t wait to see each other. anticipation. passion. ohh darling, in the park. on the beach, at night, during the day, if we thought we could get away with it, sometimes, not caring if we did or not. we were free. I want that back. my heart is not long for this world. I can feel it. is it too late for us to try, to try to…perhaps recapture a little of our youth?

Maybe they’re taking a break in there? poor mans gotta be exhausted. didja hear what she was doing to him? what she was yelling. he’s lucky to be alive. did ya not hear what I heard? the walls shook. screaming? like they were killing each other.

Darling please. come here, give us a kiss.

Maybe I should just go over there and check on their well being? it’s called a well being check. Garda does it all the time. there’s no sense in involving the law if we don’t need to. but Mrs? I’m worried. we’ve only met her the one time. I’ve never seen him. not once. what if there is evil living next door to us? what if after they’ve had a bit of drink that like us all, the true revealing really begins? what then now? what if they burst in here naked some evening? and we’re forced to fight for our lives? would ye fight with me Mrs? WOULD Ye? For God’s Sakes Woman! look at me. stop yer laughing this isn’t the least bit funny.

Ah here now, I need to feel the warmth of ya. to hold ya, smell ya. let’s go to bed. ah darling, yar the only one for me. you have me heart, me spirit. me soul. you have me. I’ll be needing them back when your finished with em mind you. but for now? they’re yours.

Oona You troublemaker. I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.

Eamon Just you love, only you.

Oona I like when you’re gentle with me. Gently Sweetie. Gently.

Eamon Can I carry ya to the bed? cross the thresholds.

Oona Will you not be listing to the woman shouting through the wall?

Eamon Do the best I can darling.

Oona Eamon?

Eamon Yes Dearie?

Oona Eaaamon?

Eamon Jaysus Mary and Joseph. What is it you want me to say?

Oona May the Cat Eat You and The Devil Eat the Cat!

Eamon  Are we going to bed then?

Oona Married to the likes of you am I?

Eamon I told yas? magic. we were meant to be together.

Oona Away and pull ur wire.