Ole’ Tin-tin – Chapter Five

“For the first few days,” grandpa said, “we mostly just sat around, talking, wondering, waiting, and listening to George playing his harmonica. I swear, he’d have us rolling on the ground, laughing. We still didn’t have any idea what we were in for.”

“Then we were given orders to do a ‘seek and destroy’ mission.”

“We headed out, tromping through brush so thick, we had to cut it with machetes, and there were the times we had to walk knee-deep in water, hacking our way as we went. We’d get scraped, scratched, cut and soaked, and we’d be fussing, cussing and asking each other what the hell we’d gotten ourselves into.”

Grandpa stopped and I could see the tears in his eyes as he continued. I asked him what happened. He looked away and said, “there are things that are truly difficult to speak about. I’ll just say that what we left was a piece of countryside blistered and scarred with gaping wounds that still wept bloody tears and smelled of death and decay…but we did our job. We caused ripples.”

He said, “you know, war is sort of glorified in movies and books. There’s always the triumphant end when the heroes defeat the villains. There’s always a back story where the handsome soldier meets the pretty nurse and they get married and live happily ever after. But when you’ve seen war and the bloodshed and the desolation, there’s nothing romantic about it.”

“You may have heard stories about ‘Dear John’ letters. They were true. These men would get letters from their fiancés or wives, telling them that they were tired of waiting and had met someone else. Those men would be beyond devastated. Two men in our platoon got those letters. Tyler Hawkins was one of them and he put on a brave face and acted like it didn’t bother him. The other man, Pete Crawley was completely defeated. Nothing we said could assuage his grief.”

Grandpa took a deep breath, sighed and then said, “when we were under fire one night, Pete clenched the letter in his hand and just stood up. He was immediately shot in the head. I guess he thought he no longer had a reason to live.”

“He was one of those guys who were brave talkers…you know the type. He was always saying, ‘boys…we’re going to kick some’. He’d start howling like a wild dog or something and pretend to start shooting.”

“We all liked him and he was particularly fond of George. He loved to tease him, as we all did. He would chuckle and say, ‘we don’t have to shoot any of them guys…George will kill them with ole’ tin-tin. I mean, they’ll hear that ear-splitting squawking and they’ll walk right up to us and yell ‘just go ahead and fucking kill us…please’!”

It was interesting to hear my grandfather curse. That was something I had never heard from him but I had also never heard his story.

Grandpa leaned back in his chair and said, “one night when the moon was full, we watched them walk a guy what would be almost the entire length of a football field.”

At first I wasn’t sure what he meant. I admit, I was thinking he was seeing a soldier being captured, but I soon realized what he was saying. He witnessed that atrocity and it had stayed with him all these years.

Once again, he took a deep breath and said, “there are things I saw and did over there that I can’t talk about.”

“Those ripples. Those horrible ripples.”

To be continued_____

Ole’ Tin-tin – Chapter Three

I couldn’t wait for him to continue, although I could tell that it was going to be painful.  I could see it in his eyes and I could hear it in his voice.  A sort of agonizing rendition of a life he had lived so many years ago.

But again, his voice seemed to have a lilt when he spoke of George.  He laughed and said, “George and I got on that Greyhound and as soon as we started rolling, he started singing.  I wasn’t sure if the rest of the guys were going to throw us off the bus or join in the fun, but after a few minutes of his caterwauling, they chimed right in.  Later, he had the whole bus rolling in the aisles when he gave one of the worst performances of the National Anthem you ever heard, but at least he remembered all of the words.”

I’ll tell you,” he said.  “George never met a stranger, and I never met anyone who didn’t instantly like him…with the exception of his sixth grade teacher, of course, and there was no excuse for the humiliation he got from that old bitty.”

“After a few hours on the road, George reached into his pocket and pulled out a harmonica.  I remember thinking ‘Oh, Good Lord.’  Anyway, he took to playing what I’m sure he thought was a symphony worthy performance.  To the rest of us, it sounded like a screeching banshee who was experiencing decapitation.”

“He was so proud of that harmonica.  When I asked him where in the world he had gotten it, he said, ‘at Lords’ Drugstore.  Remember…old Sandy Lords’ folks owned it?  Shoot…I even got a good-bye smooch on the cheek from Sandy before I left’.  Then he winked and said, ‘she said she’d wait for me’.  I laughed and said that even if I believed him, and I didn’t, he should have told her that he was going to be gone for a minute.”

“George looked at me and said, ‘you’re just jealous because you didn’t get a smooch and you don’t have this wonderful, marvelous, magical musical instrument in your pocket’.”

“That, I said, is just a piece of tin.  Tin!  The other guys heard me and started chanting ‘tin-tin…tin-tin…tin-tin, and from then on…that’s what it was called.”

I was curious about George and I asked Grandpa what he looked like.  He said, “what do you think he looked like?”  I said, “well, I think he was probably around five eight or nine, had sandy blonde hair, wore glasses; maybe had a few freckles sprinkled over his nose, was of average build and always had a wide grin on his face.”

Grandpa leaned over and looked at me with his intense eyes.  I thought he was going to say something like, “wow.  Pretty good guess,” but he didn’t.  Instead, he said “you might want to hold onto your day job, because I’m not sure you’d make it as a profiler.”

“George,” he said, “was six foot, six and a half inches tall.  He had jet black hair, pale blue eyes and was built like a wrestler, but you are right about one thing.  He always had a grin on his face.”

I’m not sure that I would describe the way my grandpa spoke about George as nostalgic or poignant.  It was more bittersweet, and to me, that was somehow more painful.

“Tell me more,” I begged.

Grandpa took a deep breath and continued.  “Well, we finally got to the base and I remember how we strutted off the bus, like we were all somebodies.  But it didn’t take very long for us to find out that we were nobodies.  We were just the newest green recruits…grunts…wide-eyed and bushy-tailed innocent soldier-wannabes.  FNGs.”

“We didn’t’ know it then…but we,” he said, “we were lambs being readied to be sent to the slaughter.”

I felt numb and couldn’t find any words.

Then grandpa looked at me and said, “do you realize that if you drop the ‘s’ from slaughter, it spells laughter?”

 

To be continued________________

 

Ole’ Tin-tin – Chapter One

For as long as I can remember, it sat on the top shelf of my grandfathers’ bookcase, housed in a clear acrylic box with an engraved brass plate at the bottom that said “Ole Tin-tin.”  Next to it were several medals hanging from the picture of a young man.  I didn’t know who the man was and I had no idea what the medals were for…they were always just there.

I asked my grandfather about the box once.  I remember the sadness in his eyes when he looked at it and said, “that’s ole’ Tin-tin.  One day when you’re older, I’ll tell you the story about it; and when I’m gone, I’ll pass it along to you.”

I didn’t ask where it came from or what that name meant, and it was certainly nothing I would long for in the years to come.  I was too young to understand, and I really didn’t care.  To me, it was just some old rusty piece of metal.

I spent every summer with my grandfather and those warm, lazy days and nights would leave me with some of the best memories of my life.  I loved to listen to the stories he told about his childhood and he always had a twinkle in his eyes when he told me about the mischief he “got up to.”
He’d smile, shake his head and say, “my poor mother, bless her soul.  She had the patience of Job.  I don’t know how she survived raising me.”
Then he turned and said, “when I was a little boy, I was quite a handful, you know.”

As I grew older, I would come to appreciate the final five words he always said when it was time for me to go home.  “Be good to your mother.”

Sometimes my grandfather and I would go down to the lake and throw little stones.  He’d tell me to watch the ripples every time I threw one.  “See?” he said.  “Every time you throw a stone, whether it be little or big, it makes ripples in the water.  That’s a reaction.  It’s just like life.  Those ripples might not seem noteworthy to you, and may even be viewed as beautiful, but it disrupts the calm of the water.  Everything you do in your life will have a reaction.  It may be insignificant or it may be life-changing, so just be sure that you always try to do the right thing, and cause as few disruptive ripples as possible.”

I loved our times late in the afternoon.  It would be just the two of us, sitting on the front porch and drinking Dr. Pepper from the bottle.  I listened intently to his famous stories and what he called his “pearls of wisdom.”  He told me about how, as a little boy, he loved to run down the hill barefoot.  “There was a method to my madness, you see,” he said.  “If I could make it all the way down without stepping on a cow patty, I won.”

“Won what?” I asked.  He looked at me and said, “why bragging rights, of course.  Running all the way down that hill and making it to the bottom with nothing but a few grass stains on your feet was quite the conquest.”

“How many times did you win?” I asked.  He laughed and said, “only once, but it’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.  You see…sometimes, it’s the simplest, most innocent things from childhood that stay with you forever.”  His gaze drifted away as he quietly said, “and the loss of childhood innocence is always such a tragedy.”

He was a wise man, and a good man.  He never raised his voice, nor did he ever make me feel that I was anything less than the most special kid in the world.  When he sometimes used big words I didn’t understand, he always took the time to explain what they meant and would then smile and say, “see?  You just got a new wrinkle in your brain.”

The year I turned eighteen was the last summer I spent with my grandfather.

 

To be continued________________

 

 

 

Kaleidoscope “t-Eyes”

I think the center of this quilt looks like an eye, (if you don’t have on your spectacles or are perhaps a bit inebriated).  Imagine, under those same circumstances, seeing the “eye” through a kaleidoscope.

There are 288 different ties in this quilt.

 

Extended Car Warranty Call

For the last several months, almost daily, I’ve been getting those “car warranty expiration” scam calls.  Sometimes, I just let them leave a partial message…”press 2 if you wish to be removed from our calling list.”  Sure.  That works…NEVER.

I’ve played with them before.  When they ask the make and model of my car, I tell them that if they know the warranty is expiring, they should know the make and model of my car.  This pisses them off and they hang up.

The other day, I got “the call.”  I was feeling a bit playful, so here’s how the conversation went.

 

Caller:  What is the make and model of your car?

Me: (In my very best proper British accent).  Hello.  Are you there?

Caller:  Yes, I’m here.  What is the make and model of your car?

Me:  Hello.  Can you hear me?

Caller:  Yes, I can hear you.

Me:  Oh, good, good, good, good, good.  Now tell me, dear.  What is the model number of the item you wish to purchase?

Caller:  Um…what?

Me:  What is the model number of the item you wish to purchase?  You should see the model number next to the item.

Caller:  What are you selling?

Me:  Dildos, dear.  Which particular one will be tickling your fancy?

Caller:  Silence

Me:  Hello.  Are you there?

 

 

A Town Called Nowhere – Chapter One

Somewhere far off the beaten path, about thirty-eight miles from the city of Nine Times, is a town called Nowhere.  No one is really sure how it got its name, but if you ask someone who lives there, they would most likely say something like…”well, it’s called Nowhere because the old-timers ain’t never been nowhere, and the young-timers ain’t never going nowhere.”

I was born and raised in Nowhere, and was surrounded by friendly and charming people, who seemed to be somewhat frozen in time, as if living in a state of self-imposed limbo.  It was the kind of town where no one locked their doors, car keys were left in the ignition, and children could walk to school and back, never having to worry about their pictures ending ended up on a milk carton.  It was the kind of town where everyone knew everyone.  There was only one traffic light which didn’t work most of the time, but served as a place to hang a twig of mistletoe during the Christmas holiday, and jut say that many a smooch was had under that lone traffic light.

It was true about the old-timers and the young-timers, but not for me.  I had dreams of going somewhere.  I didn’t know where and I didn’t really care where.  I just wanted to get out of Nowhere.  It was a dream I kept to myself, because I wasn’t sure anyone would understand my deep-seated wanderlust.

The most popular place in town was a cafe/bar/pool hall/sit around jaw-jacking/catch up on the local gossip/hole in the wall, called “Right Here.”  If you thought about it for more than a minute, it was sort of comical.  Right Here was right in the middle of Nowhere.

It was owned by Geraldine and Floyd Diggle, who had been sweethearts since the fifth grade.  They had some age on them, and people marveled that after almost 65 years of marriage, they still seemed to enjoy each others’ company.  They spent their golden years, sitting on the front porch, holding hands and rocking in their chairs, reminiscing about days and times gone by.  A few years earlier, they decided to leave the running of the cafe to their three sons, who in polite company would be kindly referred to as “quite the characters.”

Barrett Boone, also known as Bubba, was the oldest and had been named after the great Daniel Boone, from whom the family laid claim to having been directly descended, and the poet Robert Barrett Browning.  Bubba was known as the quiet one.  He looked a lot like his papa, but he had a touch of regret in his eyes, as if they held a painful secret.  It was well known that he didn’t take crap from anyone…especially his brothers, but he had an extremely long rope of patience.

Chester Camp, known as Pockets, was the middle son.  His name came from a city in South Carolina, coupled with his mother’s maiden name.  He was the typical middle child and was known as the one who was a couple of bricks shy of a load but he was a master prankster.  He’d walk into the cafe, Bubba would look at him and ask, “what have you got in your pockets?”
Pockets would innocently say, “I don’t know what you mean,” and then smile like the cat who had just eaten the canary as soon as Bubba turned his back.
You never knew what he had in his pockets, hence the nickname.  His mama once found the corpse of a flattened squirrel inside one of her oven mitts.  When she asked why he had them, he said, “that little squirrel just looked so lonely out there in the middle of the street, and he was cold.”  All she could do was shake her head, give him a hug, and say, “Lord have mercy, child.”

Third, known as Third, was the youngest.  He didn’t have a middle name, but he had all of his hair, most of his teeth, and was quite fetching according to the local single ladies.  When asked why he was named Third, he grinned and said he reckoned it was because his ma and pa had the first, and then had the second, and then had the third.  “I figure,” he said,” they done run out of names by then, so they just give me a number.  “Heck, I’ll answer to just about anything, except son-of-a-bitch.  Ain’t nobody going to be saying that word about my ma.”
Unlike Bubba, there was a twinkle in Thirds’ eye, and it was clear that if any of them was going to be a rebel, it was definitely going to be Third.  He was a jocular fellow who had always danced to a different drummer, and didn’t take life or himself too seriously.  He had a delicious sense of humor and I suspect, like me, wondered about an existence outside Nowhere.

Bubba was the cook.  He could whomp up a steak that might possibly require a chainsaw to cut, or if your taste leaned the other way, serve you one that would holler when you stuck it with a fork.  His homemade apple pie was renowned and could rot your teeth before you ever took a bite, which might explain why two of those boys and many of the townsfolk had so few.  When he cooked up a mess of Collards, the sweet perfume of those greens would waft through the air and spread all through town like a hypnotic spell.  Someone would take a deep sniff and then holler…”eatin’ time!”

All the good ol’ boys would come flying down the street in their pick-ups, ready to tie that red and white checkered napkin around their necks and chow down.  They were proud of those pick-ups, even with the missing bumpers, rusted through beds and plastic over the back window.  And missing a bumper didn’t deter them from proudly displaying a “honk if you love Jesus” sticker somewhere.

Every couple of weeks, ol’ Pete drive would drive up to the cafe on his prized 1892 Waterloo Boy John Deere tractor, used by his daddy and his daddy before him.  It took up most of the real estate in front of the cafe, but weighing close to 300 pounds, he figured he ate two or three times more than the average person, so he didn’t worry much on taking up more than his share of the parking spaces.  He’d waddle in, sit down on his favorite bar-stool and yell, “Bubba, fix me up a juicy piece of cow that’s still a mooin’.”

 

To be continued__________________

Happy Birthday…To Sir

When I was just a little girl,
I had a Panda bear.
I kept him in a plastic bag,
To keep him clean in there.

I got him for my birthday,
When I was four or five.
I said a prayer and asked the Lord,
To make him come alive.

My granny gave him to me,
He always stayed with her.
She asked me what his name was,
I said, “I call him Sir.”

She’d sometimes let me take him out,
But only if I’d swear,
To not fall down and dirty him,
My little Panda bear.

I hardly got to play with him,
She feared he would get smudged.
I tried to understand the why,
And never hold a grudge.

I grew up and moved away,
And I left Sir behind,
But I knew he would never be,
Far out of sight or mind.

The years went by, and my life changed.
My world had been derailed.
I never thought that what I’d built,
Would ultimately fail.

I went back to that old house,
To walk down memory lane.
Echoes of the past reminded me,
Of my loneliness and pain.

I thought of Sir and wondered if,
Like me, he’d lost his way.
Or if he’d been discarded,
And cast into the Frey.

I found him in the attic,
Amongst my mama’s stash.
He was in a plastic bag,
With other bits of trash.

The memories came flooding back,
We were quite the pair.
A bruised and broken little girl,
And her ragged Panda bear.

My only friend when I was young,
Who listened to me cry.
Who never slapped me in the face,
And never told a lie.

His shiny coat was grey and black,
His eyes were not so clear,
But he was coming home with me,
My little Panda bear.

They say when you’re alone and old,
You talk to things not there.
I just nod and say okay,
And wink at Panda bear.

Bwahahahahaha!

It’s been a while since I posted about “the life of Laurel.”  Today seemed like a good day to write about it.

It’s been “a rainy night in Georgia” for about eights days now.  I’ve been watching my grass, which unlike corn, is not as high as an elephant’s eye, nor does it resemble the beanstalk that Jack climbed…but it was getting on up there.

It wasn’t raining nor was it cold today, so I decided to hop on my Deere and get to getting (as we Southerners say.)

The first task was opening the garage door.  I have three of them and the one on the end is where I keep the Deere.  It’s a heavy door that swings out and up and I’m not tall enough to get it high enough to “catch,” so I usually get a board, and using my butt, coax it up a bit, put the board against it and then get another one, lifting it just enough for me to do some trick riding on the Deere, (not to be confused with trick riding on a horse.)

Well…the first board I chose was a 2 x 4.  When I tried to put the lighter one up, the 2 x 4 fell and cracked me in the forehead, (not to be confused with my younger daughter’s humongous fivehead.)

I remember thinking, “that hut,” (not to be confused with those little primitive dwellings.)  I also remember thinking, “man.  I just knocked out what few brains I have left, and I was fond of those little pieces of grey matter.”

Anyway, I kept trudging on.  After a few more seconds and a successful erect board (not to be confused with the normal thing associated with erect,) I thought, “holy donkeyballs!  I’m sweating like a nun in a whorehouse!”

I kept wiping my brow and slinging the “sweat” off of my fingers, (never bothering to look at them.)  Eventually, I did notice that my sweat was now dripping on my hands.  Holy headbleed!  I was hemorrhaging!

I coolly and calmly walked in the house, all the while trying to keep my blood from dripping on the floor and made my way to the bathroom.  I watched and cursed as the blood dripped onto the sink I had just yesterday cleaned.

But when I looked in the mirror, I was suddenly distracted by the pretty pink hue my hair had taken on.  I looked like Pink!

Anyway, I wiped and dabbed and dabbed and wiped, all the while thinking I would have a four-foot gash in my head.  After I got it all cleaned up, I saw a hole, (not to be confused with a hole on the golf course.)

I imagine what got me was the nail sticking out of the board.  “Hmm,” I thought.  I went out and finished mowing the lawn and then thought I should probably put something on it.  (Pretty good former EMT.)  I put some alcohol on it, (not to be confused with booze,) and walked to the mailbox.

It’s swollen and it hurts like….well like somebody hit me in the head with a 2 x 4.

I should probably be worried about lock-jaw (which is what we used to call Tetanus.)  I don’t know if alcohol will stop lock-jaw, but hey…if it does, I still have my fingers.

Like Scarlett said…”I won’t think about that today.  I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

 

Pieces Of Life – Claire Bloom – Part Two

She had a movie star name but she didn’t have movie star fame or fortune. She didn’t have movie star looks, although she was often dubbed a “cutie pie.”  She would consistently pout and declare, “I don’t want to be cute.  I want to be glamorous.”

As a young girl, Claire had an unnatural obsession with death.  Finding a dead bird or a field mouse, especially in the final stages of decomposition, fascinated her.  Examining the remains, was like opening a gift on Christmas morning.  She carefully studied what was left of any dried and shriveled up organs, and the skeletal construction of wings and/or appendages.

She dreamed of someday becoming a coroner.  Cutting someone open and poking around was her idea of striking gold.  She would of course, marry a doctor and tease him by saying, “when you kill someone, I will be able to tell you what you did wrong.”

She studied hard and became a coroner, but found true love in the form of a young man named Willis, who was on his way to becoming a Master Electrician.  He was only a journeyman but he was driven and determined.

There was no money to burn, and they lived frugal lives, saving for a brighter future.  Her work day began a few hours before his and every morning, she would pack his lunch before she left for work.

They had fun together, but her sense of humor could sometimes be a little disturbing.  One morning Willis awakened, swung his legs over the side of the bed and noticed a toe tag attached to his right foot.  He shook his head and took it in stride.

Claire loved to talk about him in the break-room.  She’d giggle when she told them about the pranks she pulled on the unsuspecting Willis.  Once, she sent him a registered letter.  When he opened it, he found a certificate of death…his.

One day she came to work and seemed to be a little “not herself.”  In the break-room, she announced that Willis was making her quit her job.

This was the time when roosters ruled the roost and the hens did not yet rule the roosters.  It was the time when, in marriage vows, the woman promised to love, cherish, and “obey.”  Claire was going to obey Willis.

Millie, one of her co-workers asked why Willis was making her quit her job. Claire said, “well, he unpacked his lunch the other day and I had put an ear in it.”

The entire break-room erupted in laughter.  “An ear?” Millie asked.  “Yes,” said Claire.  “Willis was so mad at me, but he wasn’t as mad at me as I was at him.”

Millie asked what she meant.

Claire said, “The ear came from a woman who had donated her body to science, and I didn’t figure she’d be needing it, so I cut it off and took it home.  It had been pierced at one time, so I put one of my earrings on it and packed it in Willis’ lunchbox.”

“And?” Millie asked.

Claire said, “Willis was so mad, he threw the ear away…with my earring on it!”

 

•••

 

 

 

 

 

Pieces Of Life – Old Mr. Hilliard – Part One

Old Mr. Hilliard had been the neighborhood postman for as long as anyone could remember.  In the early days, the saying was, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  That certainly applied to old Mr. Hilliard.

In his youth, he walked proudly, toting his heavy bag, delivering birthday wishes, holiday cards, unwanted sale flyers and the even more unwanted, dreaded bills.  He delivered everything but the kitchen sink, and a newborn baby.

Through the years, old Mr. Hilliard had aged and grown weary.  The spring in his step had disappeared with the spring of his life and now, his swift gate had become an almost painful trudge.

After several years on foot, he was able to complete his rounds in a new truck, but there were still those houses whose mailboxes weren’t standing at attention along the side of the road.  Walking up to the door was becoming more and more difficult, and he viewed the trek as a pestering chore.

Sometimes, when seeing a neighbor, he would politely nod, but the days of stopping and having mundane conversations about how Sally and Bob were doing at school, had long since passed.  Also long since passed, at least for him, was the romantic notion that he was part of a history that hearkened back to the Pony Express.

He had heard the nicknames more than he cared to hear, such as “dogmagnet, postie, messenger of doom,” and the one he despised the most, “the snail man.”

One day, during his appointed rounds, he discovered a side road that led to a quiet patch of land, where an abandoned house stood in silent recluse.  On a whim, he parked, put his feet up on the dashboard and closed his weary eyes.  As he listened to the soft chirping of birds, he drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

He awoke with a start and realized that he was an hour behind in his rounds.  He quickly gathered his senses and continued as if nothing had happened.  Arriving late to the post office, he lied when he told the supervisor that time had escaped him as he was chatting with a new neighbor.  Getting away with only a slight scolding about minding his duties, old Mr. Hilliard grinned as he walked to his car.

Every day, he re-visited that patch of land.  It had become a sort of haven and he found himself anxiously awaiting each stopover.  As the days became shorter, his retreats became longer.

After several months of his coveted, blissful rest and relaxation, he began to realize that he would be unable to deliver the mountainous amount of mail still in the truck, so he decided to throw the contents down the hill behind the house.

Who was going to know?  He told himself that most of it was junk and would eventually end up on a hill of garbage anyway, so he didn’t feel the slightest bit of guilt after the first time.  He got away with it for quite a while, but eventually, people started complaining that they hadn’t received their mail.

The post office investigated and after following old Mr. Hilliard, they discovered more than six thousand pieces of mail at the bottom of the hill.

Due to his age, federal charges were not levied, but he lost his job and his pension.  The judge rendered what he thought was a fitting penalty.  He sentenced old Mr. Hilliard to pick up garbage people threw out on the street… for two years.

•••