. We were driving back to our home in Corbin Kentucky. It was mama and daddy and my big sister Jenille and me. I was 5 years old. We had been to the Disney Land. Daddy told me to "Remember it son, cause you may not be back for a while". I think he was right about that. I'd had a lot of fun at the Disney Land as best as I can remember. I'm 19 now. It was a long time ago. We lived in the house with paw-paw. I reckon he didn't care anything about the Disney Land. He said " I don't see why your daddy drags you 500 miles to watch The Whore of Babylon ridin' a roller coaster". I didn't understand much then. I'm smarter now. Paw used to say my daddy was a" black heart and raisin' me in his black- heart ways" . He probably was. Paw is usually right about things. I kept the mouse-eared hat that I got at the Disney Land for a long time until I got ashamed about it. One day out in the yard I heard paw tell daddy " What's that boy still wearing them damn rat ears for?" "He should have a lick of sense by now". I reckon he was right. Paw was right about a lot of things. He had made atonement with the redeemer. He said he aimed to walk them celestial hallways and march up them sapphire stairs. He said he aimed for me to do that too. I reckon I will, directly, but for now I'm going to the old smoke house down in the holler to fetch the 6 2- gallon jars that sit on the shelf down there. One for each of the 3 Deacons and 2 for the elders. The last one is for for paw. Paw says "The sting of the serpent is no match for The Word." I suppose he's right. He tells me that I will know that some day. I do believe that I will know that some day.
I got a message the other day from the wife of an old friend and co-worker. It seems that another person we all knew and was very fond of had died of a heart attack a couple of weeks prior. I'm 58 and the departed was 7-8 years younger than me and I guess that would have made him 50 years old or so. Too young to die, but I'm heading a bit off subject and the subject is a story (a true story) that I want to share with you. Back in those days, in the small town we lived in , we did an awful lot of things to amuse ourselves and each other. Some of those thing involved trying to trick or scare each other. There were a lot of spooky places about and we would go on these ghost hunting outings or we might just be in the woods coon hunting or camping or any number of other things. Anyway, this guy (the departed), his little brother ( not really young, but certainly "little") myself and another guy were out in the deep woods for some reason or another in the middle of the night. I must point out that the "little brother" was about 23 years old, pale as a sheet, and terrified of his own shadow. He was someone that you could send into a fit of terror quite easily and we took every advantage of this. This guy would become physically shaken and might even bolt and run depending on if he was more scared at the time to be where he was or more scared to leave the group and run off alone through the dark. He was the perfect person to torment. Anyway, we are deep in the woods and we see in the distance, up in the trees, 3 glowing, illuminated spheres. One was yellow, one blue, one green. Now nobody knows what they are looking at and it's certainly not the kind of thing you expect to encounter in the woods back where nobody goes. So we continue to move towards these "things" and we're all a little scared, we're all a little concerned, anxious and we're getting a bit spooked, but we are all thinking the same thing: It's more fun to scare the "little brother" than to worry about it. Brother is probably going to pee in his pants at any minute and that's worth facing whatever spirits or UFOs or glassy-eyed swamp creatures might be up in those trees.
Well we arrive at the place and figure out that it's some glass balls up in the tree limbs that we have been seeing and they are hanging by chains from those branches. They didn't look dangerous, but we still didn't know why they were there.
It turned out that as we talked it up a bit around town the next week we found out that some other guys had carried some solar powered yard ornaments out in the woods with them in a backpack when they were out hunting one day and had thrown them up in the trees. The chains looped the tree branches and it marked a spot for them to find there way back to those same trees and the fact that they were solar powered luminaries meant that as long as the sun kept shining there was the chance of scaring the daylights out of somebody (like us) that happened to be moving about those woods at night. It's just a cute story but it's one that illustrates the friendships and fun times we shared during a simple, happy time not so long ago. Aliens, ghosts, coon hunts. RIP my friend, and RIP those by-gone times.
All Souls Day just came and went. That's the day that the Catholic Church and some other denominations set aside to honor the dead. It's a day of prayer, reflection and it's not necessarily a day of remorse and sadness although it could be. All Souls Day, or the Day of the Dead as it's also known can actually be quite festive in a spooky halloweenish sort of way as it's honored in Latin America and some Latin neighborhoods here. Anyway All Souls Day spurred me on to think about what else? Death! Actually, my own death and what I could do to make it more enjoyable, and by that I mean more enjoyable for me!
First I'm going on the assumptions that I will sort of somehow sense when death is imminent and my soul will be allowed the traditional 4 1/2 minutes to hover over the room right after I pass on. That's when the fun begins!
I'll need a "death kit", and I'll have one ready. The "death kit" is the shoebox full of crap that I'll carefully litter my bed with. These are the things the nurse or unlucky family member will see when they discover my demise. Let's see......I'll want a penny whistle, maybe a farmers almanac, a pair of needle-nosed pliers, a topographical map of Bolivia, maybe a pack of firecrackers, a recipe for New England clam chowder and a ticket to the drag races. Oh, and I'll be clutching an American flag, preferably one with 48 stars although that might be asking a little too much. I've gotta be reasonable. A good added touch or two would be a pogo stick tucked away under the bed and some empty D-Con boxes in the garbage. Yes, I think all of that would do the trick, and by "trick" I mean it would make the explanation of how they found me pretty spectacular and frankly hard to believe. A damn big fat lie! But why?
Now next there has to be a note, or notes. I want to leave one at my bedside that basically says nothing or at least only address superficial problems that may occur tomorrow at latest, something like "There's a coupon for 50%-off a family-size bag of Doritos in my top dresser drawer" or "The air looked low in your front driver-side tire, but I could be wrong about that. I'm dead now, you know?" Also, I have to leave a more serious note somewhere to be found later. I'm thinking "The money is under the seat of the swiveling captain's chair in the back of my Dodge van. It should be plenty to sustain you for a long, long, time" Now the joke is that by now the long gone van has either been crushed for scrap metal or is hauling illegals across Baja Mexico . There would be no names and no dates. I would just finish it with "Who could have thought one night in Paducah could end like that?"
I'm not making plans for my funeral or my estate. I figure those things just have a way of working themselves out, right? I do want one thing in the announcement for the service: "In lieu of flowers please stock his pond" I'm laughing already as I picture a scene weeks down the road when a well meaning person says to my wife "I sure am sorry to hear about your husband" and through tear filled eyes my wife says to them "Did you stock his pond?" and they have to sheepishly reply "no".
Well anyway that's how I imagine it. Tomorrow is All Saints Day. Maybe then I'll think about something else.
I walked across the yard, entered the dirt path that lead through the cane break and came out on the other side facing the tidal creek. I trod on down the bank to the short ramp that extended 10 feet or so over the edge of the water. I had not built the ramp. I supposed the previous owners had. Maybe it was for docking a boat although the water only rose high enough for the ramp to really be useful at certain hours of the day. That was o.k. though, for I only used the ramp for thinking. I usually took a fishing rod with me although my line often never entered the water. I sat on the edge of the ramp and watched a leaf fall from a tree and slowly begin a travel towards the tidal basin. I pondered the futility of spring growth and how at this time of year when you can sense that the winds are going to shift soon and the temperature will begin its slow gradual drop that the life around you will soon shift and drop as well, give up and let go and surrender to the dark the damp and the cold. I watched the water slowly carry the leaf away. Warm, wet, flexible and inviting, drawing you towards it, making you stare at it from a distance, inviting a glance, inviting a visit, sharing your thoughts. I thought about the ice I would soon scrape from my windshield. It would be cold, solid, ugly, a trick of nature. The same water as before only now hardened, cold, an added weight to whatever was unlucky enough for it to cling to. My life was caught between the moving water and the thin ice. I was slowly being frozen with anxiety and stress. It was then that I first had the thought. I was mindful that there can be no action without there first being a thought and so I knew that the thought was the beginning of the action. I was in fact beginning the action by just having the thought. Where, when, how, what tools, what method? Alibi? Excuse? Plans? Logistics? I then begin to think of many things. My mind became a buzz-saw with splinters and shards flying in all directions. Slow down. Must have a time-line. Planning is essential. Poker face at all times. Don't tell a soul. Don't let on. Just sing "Happy times are here again". Create my "happy time". Plan it, think it, DO IT!
It was then I had the next thought. It was exactly at 6:39 on October 30th, 2021 when that thought occurred. I looked at my watch. I knew the time and date would be important to me later. I thought of my work shop and of the table I had been crafting. More precisely I thought of the table leg that I had finished on the lathe, how it resembled a human leg, narrow at the bottom like an ankle, fat at the top like a calve.....or a Samoan war club. The table leg was about three feet in length. My arms also are about three feet in length. That's six feet of distance between me and the hollow thud that was inevitable. Plans, logistics, where, when, how?
I picked up my fishing rod and climbed the creek bank and started back through the cane break. Winter was going to come on whether I liked it or not. I thought about what was in my basement. A fine piece of mahogany wood.