Thursday, 26 November 2015

Cowboy and the Angel.



ONE: ANGEL

The day that Bingo died was the day I decided to put on my walking boots and leave town.

Bingo had been like a brother to me, hell scratch that, he had been closer than a brother – if that’s even possible. We used to suck in the air at the same time, it was that close – no funny stuff – just brotherly love through and through. And then he goes and dies on me and you know how people say ‘I felt as if my right arm had been amputated’? Well that was how it felt. Honest to God, I felt like I had lost a limb right there and then.

It was his mother that came to the door to break the news and break my heart (the only one I’ve got). I walked back down the path on account that she didn’t invite me in. So as I’m walking down the path, I’m thinking that a few seconds earlier I had almost skipped up the path as I knew nothing about what was waiting on me behind that door. 

Boom! That was what happened. There was a kind of boom in my head and I could see his mother’s lips moving but I wasn’t sure what the old lady was telling me. I thought I heard her tell me that he was red and I’m thinking to myself that sure is a strange thing to say about someone. Then I realized she’d said he was dead and my whole insides disappeared and the blood in my legs shouted ‘so long’ and I felt like I was going to hit the floor.  Next thing I know she’s closed the door on me. I reckon she thinks it was all my fault. If he hadn’t met me, Bingo would still be alive. 

That just ain’t true. Bingo did what he wanted, always did – just then I was going to say that he always would but he won’t , not any longer ‘cause Bingo is well and truly dead. 

I met Bingo when he was in that zone where he’d been lost for a time and was just crawling back to where he should have been. I had already been to that place and I told him so. I ‘d just sat down on the big chair in Tubby Brown’s Bar when this kid, probably about 17, sits on Tubby’s chair and says ‘beer’, just like that. Well Tubby told him that was his goddamn chair and that he should get the hell out of it, then he asked the kid how old he was and he spat out ‘21’ right away, like he’d been rehearsing it and all. 

“Sure, you are kid, sure you are.” And Tubby must’ve taken a liking to the kid because he served him beer without another word. 

Seems that Bingo was ready for the world long before it had been ready for him which explains why he kept ending up in trouble more times than his goddamn mother was ready to admit. Bingo had strayed from the righteous long before we had clapped eyes on each other. 

Just at that particular time I had been running a small business over in Saturday County and I was in need of someone who’d work cheap and fast. When Bingo was sober he was the fastest I’d ever seen. The fastest, no kidding. 

Bingo got real drunk that night and painted a clown’s face on Mayor Atholl’s statue. Now there are some who might say that the statue never looked better but his widow wasn’t one of them. She went to the newspapers, then she went to the TV stations, she even went to a meeting of the Hell’s Angels to ask if anyone knew anything about the ‘perb’traitor’ – I ‘m spelling it like that ‘cause that’s the way she said it and it made me smile. 

One early morning in July, a beer truck - minus its driver - ran into the statue and broke it for good. There are some folks who say that Bingo was the one that started the truck rollin’ down Hickory Street in the first place but nothing was ever proved. 

So Bingo came to work for me and he did a job (and then some) but he was like a trapped desert cat and could never settle. You’d find him lookin’ out to the horizon and wondering what was over that next hill. 

Then one day – the day after his 18th birthday – he got up and left. He placed a note in the pocket of my jacket that just said ‘Thanks’. 

The next few years got swallowed up and wasted on living. I got married, became a father and then got divorced and nothing to show for it except empty pockets – well not quite empty, I kept Bingo’s note in one of them. No idea why, I guess I thought he might come back one of these days. My wife , strike that, I meant to say when my ex-wife and kid moved out to the boon docks, it meant I  rarely saw them and so the morning that Bingo turned up was the start of a really good day.

In all the years in between, Bingo had grown and become a man. There had been women here and there but not so you’d notice - he said.  The woman that stops Bingo in his tracks is going to be a mighty fine specimen when she does, at least that’s what he boasted. 

That day when Bingo met Angel, it was a balmy and thundery one. The kids on the street had opened the hydrant and the water was shooting up in the air in an arc. Bingo and I had been smoking and keeping our feet cool by sitting on the edge of the sidewalk and letting the river of street-water run over them. We talked about this and that but nothing real serious you understand. 

I couldn’t see Angel at first, the sun was behind the face and I was a little blinded. Angel sat on the sidewalk and smiled at Bingo and a sort of peace flooded over Bingo’s face. I’ve never seen that happen before or since – with anyone’s face. 

They called him Angel, not on account of any good works that he had done - no, they called him that because he had the face of one of those paintings you could see in a dusty old room. The ones with saints painted in blues and reds and who always pointing to Heaven - in that weird way that they did.  

It's a strange thing I gotta say but the kindest person in the world, with the biggest heart, could be looked on as sort of bad guy just 'cause his face was worn down by life and rotten genes, and the most evilest heart you could ever meet, might hide behind the face of an angel and people would think they were real good-natured. We folks really are shallow when it comes to reading faces.  Now I ain't sayin' that Angel was mean or that he was a saint and all - I ain't sayin' that. When I'm tellin' you is, that Angel was worth watchin'.

With those kind of looks, Angel could have cut off one of your little fingers and sold it back to you for a buck (and wrapped in your undying gratitude). You're thinkin' that I was jealous of Angel 'cause he shuffled into town and into folks lives without a bye or leave? That he took over almost everything, including Bingo's time and that didn't sit too well with me?


Well you might be right, in a way, but it wasn't the whole story. Whatever magic dust that Angel sprayed over ever soul he met, it didn't seem to work with me and that left me out in the cold. Let me tell you folks that it ain't a nice place to be. It's like being in a dance hall and everyone is swallowing Pastor Jones' hooch and you ain't allowed to drink on account of somethin' or other. Lonely as Hell, folks I tell you, lonely as Hell. 

Sometimes I would look at Bingo as he was laughin' so hard that I thought he might burst open right there and then, and I'd look at Angel and he was just dancin' and messin' with those folks' hearts and souls and I felt sorry for them  - I kid you not, I felt real sorry. 

They'd all look at me and I'd laugh so hard and loud, so as to make them think that I was in his power too, but I could see when Angel slyly looked over at me, that he knew. Oh yeah, he knew all right. I was taking none of the crap that was fallin' out of his face hole - none. 

I remember one night, the night of a harvest moon if I recollect, we were all walking back from Tubby's. Angel and Bingo were helpin' each other walk along the sidewalk, when Bingo turned off to go home and that left just me and Angel. I did my usual joshin' and laughin' as if I had too much of old Tubby's beer - and that was when Angel stopped and looked me straight in the face. Real serious like. 

"You ain't foolin' me, you never did have a drink of beer," he said. 
Now there was two ways I could go with this. Either I could act as if I didn't know what he was up to, or I could just come clean and tell him what I thought. I gotta tell you, I made an enemy that night. Not the kind that turns their back on you, oh no, this was the kind of enemy who runs silent and deep. An enemy who draws you in even closer, so as not to let the natives see what is really happening. 

Angel was real cute when it came to things like that. He'd mosey up to you and put an arm around your neck, like you were a long lost pal. But although the hold was just a little too tight, it was subtle enough that no one else saw. You could feel just enough burn to let you know he was there.  You knew that you were on his radar and that you weren't going to escape unless he said so. 

That night Angel asked me why I was called 'Cowboy', and then told me that it was a real stupid name anyhow. I could have said that 'Angel' weren't too much better, but I let it lie, instead I just said that it was on account that I shot a man. Killed him, stone dead. 

"What he do that upset you so much, 'cow....boy'?" Asked Angel. 

"On account that he asked one too many questions," I said. Now I could see that he wasn't sure if I was telling the truth or not - and quite frankly I didn't really care what he thought. Although if he was getting around to thinking that I was a cold-blooded killer, then that might not be so bad. 

He walked away, that's all he did that night, walked away. Stopped, spat on the ground, waved his arm as if I wasn't worth the bother and staggered off home. I knew that me and him were finished - that I had just declared war on Angel and that he might come to get me. 

I just didn't figure that the war was gonna start the very next morning at sun-up.I kid you not on that fact - but let me tell you good folks that I was ready for him. Oh yeah. Real ready. 

bobby stevenson 2015

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

To.......


To all the love,
That died unspoken,
To all the hearts,
So quietly broken,
To all the tears,
That fell unseen,
To all the things,
That might have been.

bobby stevenson 2017

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Santa is a Weirdo

Sometimes you just do and sometimes it ain’t happening; and that pretty much explains my life and everyone I know. I honest to goodness don’t remember what started it all off – I honestly don’t, I swear on the biggest stack of comics - I just remember my ma telling me I wasn’t getting a bicycle for Christmas, ‘cause Santa couldn’t get it down the chimney.

I remember saying couldn’t he just bring it in the front door and she told me to go to my room. I mean what kind of weirdo only wants to go down peoples’ chimneys. I shouted kinda crazy like through the bedroom door about what happens when a kid ain’t got a chimney but my ma just turned the radio up in the kitchen and didn’t say nothing. 

Not I ain’t a moody kid but sometimes life gets me down, or maybe it’s just that there’s one good man in the world, Santa and even he’s not quite right in the head. I’m just sayin’.

So that was when I made a plan to go and see Santa and tell him to stop going up and down peoples’ chimneys like it was the most normal thing in the world – ‘cause it ain’t and I was gonna tell him plainly.  I mean if I went up and down like that – folks would call the cops but ‘cause he wears a big red suit folks think it’s cute.

I got my bestest bag from the closet and packed a pair of socks ( I might be away for a long time and I might need to change them), my toothbrush and my comics. I think that kinda stuff would get anyone through a long time away from home. I stuck some candy bars in too, just in case I got hungry.

When I asked the man at the bus station for a ticket to the North Pole, he just told me to step aside and he served the next person. What kinda person does that to a kid? I ask you.

Anyway (and I ain’t proud of what I did next) I sneaked on the bus that was going to the big city – it was kinda easy ‘cause I just hid behind the biggest, fattest man I ever did see and the driver never noticed me – he musta thought I was just another bit of the fat man.

Man it took a long time to get to the big city. I ain’t lyin’ when I tell you that. It was so long that I had eaten all my candy bars by the time we arrived. I looked and looked around the bus station for one goin’ to the North Pole but I couldn’t see nothin’. I wasn’t gonna go through that ‘stand aside and let the next customer come forward’ stuff again, so I decided to go for a walk and think about things. I tell you, it helps real good to take a walk now and again when you’re tryin’ to fix things in your head. More kids should do it and school would be a better place – I kid you not.

Then it happened, Santa wasn’t in the North Pole, he was actually standing on the corner of Hoover street and Lansdale Avenue. Now I ain’t gonna kid you. He was just standin’ there lookin’ real shifty and (get this) smokin’ a pipe.  When I went up to him and said I wanted to complain about somethin’ – he just said out of the side of his mouth ‘beat it kid’ – I’m tellin’ you that’s what he said, ‘beat it kid’.  Just then the cops tried to arrest him - and Santa and his table with playin’ cards on top, were all folded up real quick and he ran away. 

So you see I am right - Santa is a weirdo. Anyhoo, the cops asked where I was going and I said it didn’t matter anymore ‘cause I had told Santa what I wanted to tell him. And the cops? Well they gave me a ride back home in the cop car. Guess that’s what I’m gonna be when I grows up. Or maybe a pirate - ain’t sure yet.

bobby stevenson 2015

photo by  atultodankar.blogspot.com

Buzz and Fishin' and Growin'

Fishin'
 
Buzz’s pappy left home only a day or two before Buzz’s fifth birthday and if I can re-call all that way back, his pappy told folks he was real ashamed that he couldn’t support his family and then disappeared to Tijuana with a flamenco dancer.

Somehow I don’t think it was his family he wanted to give his support to.

The day he left, me and Buzz were fishin’ down by Pastor’s Creek which sits next to the Big River which flows all the way to the coast. We always talked of taking a raft to the sea but like most things we talk about, it never did happen; least ways not yet.

Anyhoo I’m shootin’ off here - so on the day that his pappy left, Buzz asked me where the tide went, as it was way out on this side of the Big River.

Me being me, told Buzz that it went to the other side.

I explained to Buzz that when it was low tide on this side it was high tide on the other. He took my word without question. He just gave one of those – that seems right to me – nods and went on with his fishin’; not another care or another word -  that’s why I love Buzz like a brother.

Now I ain’t stupid, not like Buzz and I knows the real god’s honest may I spit on your hand and hope to die truth - just like my grandmama told me. She said there’s a big hole under the river where the water runs through to the other side of the world – kind-a like that sand in an egg-timer – like the one, our teacher with the bad teeth from England showed us once.

When all the river water goes through their holes, the world turns upside down and it becomes night for some and day for others. Then the water comes back down the holes and we turn over again. If that ain’t the simplest explanation, then I don’t know what is.

My grandmama always had a big smile on her face when she told me that one. I guess I’ll tell Buzz the truth one of these days.

Buzz’s pappy never did head back up this way, but I did hear that the flamenco dancer once drove through town in a big red Cadillac – although this town is always full of stories like that.

You just ain’t sure what to believe.


Growin'

One night, me and Buzz were lying out back in his mama’s yard just hanging. We wanted to go hiking across the top of Yellow Ridge but his mama was having none of it. Since Buzz’s pappy had gone, she was feared people coming to her house and stealing things; to be honest with you, his mama had nothing worth stealing.

So there we were looking at the stars, we must have been about five years old and right there and then I convinced my friend that the fireflies were little people and the lights were their little city. I kind-a guessed back then that Buzz wasn’t gonna be no Einstein. 

Now Buzz would tell you that he’s a gnat’s wing taller than me but he ain’t telling the truth. All thru’ schooling he was always the small one - I guess he thought back to the fireflies and was hoping that he wasn’t the smallest thing on this here planet.

Nope, between you and me and the kitchen stove, I was always the first between me and Buzz to feel the rain, I swear on a stack of bibles that’s true.

Then one day he grew more than me and I was kind-a suspicious until I check and see he’s been messin’ with his boots, stuffin’ them with old socks so he looks taller.

In his naked feet he still ain’t bigger than a grasshopper – I tell ya he could look one right in the eye.

I swear that boy has an inferiority complex, at least ways that’s what Stevie (the cleverest kid in school) told me. Not too sure what it means.

One day Buzz says to me ‘Jay, ain’t it time we headed over to Duchess County a spell’ and of course I asked him if that was where all the short kids went these days.

He said nothing until his fist hit my face. He was that quick that I didn’t see nothin’ till it was right there on the end of my nose - which was now as flat as Corry Mitchin’s chest.

Of course I ain’t for hittin’ my best friend, on account that he’s so stupid – no sir, so I did what anyone would do, I threw his boots into the river. Even the Sunday preacher would have said I had a right.

No man should put a fist to his best friend’s nose.

Buzz keeps saying that on account of his good looks – only his mama told him that – that maybe we should think of headin’ out west to California.

I drag him to the old barber shop to show him on the Civil War map that hangs on the wall there, how far it is.

Buzz says, ‘it can’t be more than 11 or 12 inches at most’ and that wasn’t too far - from where he was standing. Can you believe my best friend, just how stupid he is?

So the upshot is, me and Buzz are heading out west just as soon as he finds another pair of boots.

Guess he’s scared he might get beaten up by the grasshoppers on the way there.

bobby stevenson 2015  

Monday, 16 November 2015

THING and the GLORIOUS DAY




Looking back after all those years, Thing can still sit back and sigh a little about that day.

It was the day that his life was made complete. Sure, he would had never given up hope, for there was always a flicker in his heart that said they would meet again, but it was sometimes too difficult for his mind to handle.

That day had found Thing sitting at the door of the cave, watching – always watching – for his mother and father to return. It had been more years than Thing had wished to remember, but still he kept his dreams and hopes afloat. In those orphaned years, Thing had learned to accept his differences from those in the town below. He had learned that some people were cruel but most people were kind. He had also learned to be happy with who and what he was; those who burned with unhappiness would have to fend for themselves – you can’t help everyone in the world, thought Thing.

The sun was just setting behind the far forest when he saw the silhouette of a figure climbing towards his cave. When the figure got close enough, Thing could see it was his father. HIS FATHER. At first Thing wept, and then he hugged and prodded his father to make sure he was real. Then Thing wept some more.

When the hugging was over, Thing sat with his father beside a big fire at the back of the cave – a fire, they had both built – and said nothing.

“I just want to look at you,” said Thing’s father. “My boy, my beautiful, glorious boy.”

Thing let a few tears run down his face, as he smiled back at his father.

“I will tell you everything in the morning, my boy - as for this evening let us sleep as I have never slept before.”

Thing and his father slept side-by-side and it felt wonderful to be held by his Papa once more. He hadn’t wanted to ask about his mother just in case the news was very bad.

In the morning, Thing sat at the mouth of the cave and watched the sunrise. He did, what he had always done when he was a child, he had applauded the sun coming up for another day. As his father had said, ‘no one says it has to’.  This time instead of watching the horizon for his family, Thing whistled a little tune, the one he used to whistle to make himself happy when the kids in town were making his life difficult.

His father awoke too, and he came over to the mouth of the cave and sat with Thing.
“I hope you applauded the sun rising, son?” Asked his father.

“I did,” said Thing.

And together they both repeated the mantra: “because no one says it has to rise.”

The both laughed and hugged, and then his father looked at Thing.

“Now I will tell you what became of us, your parents - my wonderful boy. Some of it will be difficult for you to hear, but hear you must. As you remember, I had planned to take your mother to the hospital in Capital City. I had heard that they could deal with our people, kindly there. We stopped in a little cave just to the north of the city in order to sleep and prepare for the next day. In the night a gang came, ones who were on the lookout for exhibits in their circus. They kidnapped both me and your mother, and took us to be part of their freak show. They would not let us see a doctor and so your mother grew weak. We moved from town to town and every time, we performed a show, I would look for a way that I and your mother could escape. Each time I tried and failed, they would beat me. When the shows were not selling well, they would have one of the workers dress as me and go into the town to cause havoc. Sometimes they burned buildings to the ground. The owners would then tell the townsfolk that I and your mother had escaped and carried out those evil deeds. The crowd, who had grown angry, would pay money to throw rocks at me and your mother. Your mother, my little angel, did not survive. I am heartbroken to have to tell you this. Her final words were ‘tell my son, I will always love him, and you, my darling, must escape from here.’  When your mother finally closed her eyes, I was feeling so much anger, I lifted your mother and walked from the circus. The tried to stop me, but our God watched over us. I found it hard to carry your mother so far and so I buried her just outside of the city. I will take you there, one day.”

Thing sat and contemplated what he had heard from his father – and decided that if his Papa could deal with those troubles and survive, then so could he.

Thing’s father lived with him and Thing’s family for many years. He watched contentedly as Thing met a soul mate and then they brought their own children into the world. Each year, on her birthday, Thing would take his family to the grave of his mother and when the time finally came, he buried his father next to her.

As his children grew, Thing found that his family were more accepted in the town below than he had been. This made him smile and gave him hope for the future.

But on that day, that glorious day, that his father returned home – was the day that Thing’s life really began.
Thing was truly happy, at last.


THE END.

bobby stevenson 2015