The Woody Johnson Free Press

VOL. 1 -- NO. 2CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADASaturday, July 13, 2024

Poetry Corner

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ALL MATERIAL COPYRIGHTED GREGORY LAHEY EXCEPT WHERE INDICATED

PLEASE NOTE: "Madrid - Circus Maximus" and "Misterioso" HAVE BEEN REMOVED TEMPORARILY PENDING COPYRIGHT VIOLATIONS


SONGS - SOME OLD, SOME UNKNOWN, SOME SHINY NEW and NEW-ISH




Thalestris

(Gregory Lahey, December, 2023)


And so, sent one of her lieutenants

to arrange a meet historic

of unexampled precedent


He, The Sovereign, acquiesced

Unskeptical, without reserve

with courteousness did accept


No arrogance in His demeanour

Greeting Her upon His throne

She attired in Her armour


Poised, on Royal Nissean steed

The equal of Bucephalus

King of Akhal Teke breed


Queenly, She dismounts, suggests

Emperor and Emperess

Convene, entwine, and coalesce


And in so doing protect by law

Illyria, Dardania,

Thrace, and Macedonia


His military acumen

Her politesse, diplomacy

Protecting Zadar, Trigur, Rhizon


Krespian, Athenian,

Uscanion, Pellasian -

Keeping Peace eternal - now 'til then


And, so, thus coupled

Combined their strengths

To show the troubled


World that minds of such

Perspicacity

Can act yet unaggressively


And then she does abandon him

Most suddenly - and without due -

Like some cold capricious whim


He ten years without his Queen

Conquers Darius, Porus, too

and three years hence ne'er seen again


Ah! Fair Monna Innominata

How akin you to that Queen

of Amazonia

How much I

Am like to Him, that regis summi:

Ego adoro, that she who lives in thee:

Thalestris






Thick Glass Veil

(Gregory Lahey, December, 2023)


On that day

of idle chat

of jokes and puns and easy laughs

you did not know that

while the phonograph played those songs about love lost

love tossed aside

longed for

pined for

love denied in misplaced ire

in foolish pride -

I in shame,

in the ver' same room as you

constructed yet

but once again

a thick glass veil and

carefully placed it in between us

so you would not hear my forlorn wail

my mewly gasp

my anguished rale

as I disguised my shame behind that wall

with smiles and laughs -

and loved you anew

on that day





The Queen Of Kazabazua

(Gregory Lahey, August, 2022)





"I have no money," I boldly stated

But her, it didn't seem to bother

"My hands were made for low wage labour"

She grasped and kissed my calloused paw

The Queen Of Kazabazua


She danced and sang her Carmen song

And the nights were like forevermore

"Surely it's not me you've searched for,

"Who neither heeds nor 'bides your Law,"

I told The Queen Of Kazabazua


Again she came to me unbidden

With spice and wine and rare perfumes:

Ill I was,

And yet my rooms she entered them.

“I’ve only sorrows and woe to give ya"

Said I to The Queen Of Kazabazua.


I gave what silver my pockets held

To keep her near, but treasured

Gold nor diamonds quenched her

Need for Kubla's Domes of Pleasure

This Queen Of Kazabazua


She keeps you close and in her favour

As ribboned coquettes nearby hover

To fan desires of waiting lovers -

She false abides you - Ah!

The Queen Of Kazabazua


Queen Of Want Queen Of Desire

Queen Of Get At Any Price

Queen Of Must Have All - And Twice!

Of Babylonias In Perpetua

She Lives! The Queen Of Kazabazua


The Queen Of Kazabazua


Chapter I




I guess she had hitched up her skirt to increase her chances of hitchin' a ride, a foot on her bundle, pirate-like, smoking a cigarette and just waiting there like that.


But I'd have stopped for her anyway. Who wouldn't have?



She didn't flag me down, stick out her thumb, or wave her red-ribboned Panama around. She was just standin' there like I said, under a mid-west sun that was beating down unforgivingly, scoldingly,


commanding everything - bound and unbound, living and dying - to shut up and quit complaining.




I pulled off the soft sticky macadam as soon as I saw her.


I was on my way to The Big City from Nevada - Reno, to be exact - where I had won a lot of cash and lost a lot of dignity - and came to a stop in a cloud of swirling dust and lingering regret.



She leaned on the passenger-side door and said,"Nice car, Cowboy. Where's it goin?" If she had sung it she'd have sounded just like Peggy Lee, I swear.



"I dunno," I replied, scratching my chin,"Kazabazua? Madawatchewan?" I paused to look at her: "The Twelfth of Never?"



I smiled. "East, as long as it's straight, paved, and smooth. What about you?"



"East - and Kaza-whatzua sounds good to me - anywhere there has gotta be better than anyplace here," she mumbled with a cynical smirk, throwing her bag in the back seat and slamming the door.



She kicked off her high heels and put her feet on the dash. She pulled a pack of Pall Malls out of her pearl-closured clutch, took off her broad-brimmed Panama and punched the cigarette lighter.



"Better buckle up, Miss."


"You mean this boat is fast?"


"Fast boat to China," I sing-songed.



I put the pedal to the mat, tires spinning and spewing out bad memories and barely forgotten pain.



I noticed her crimson lip paint had stained her front incisor as she smiled one of those lop-sided Elvis grins, and when she looked at me with those green eyes of hers I thought of Hedy Lamarr,Bing Crosby comedies, and pearl-handled Saturday Night Specials.



"You - er - from around here?"



Silence.



Then:



"Maybe." She threw her head back and exhaled.



After that reply I just stared straight ahead in abject silence. I'll bet we traveled ten miles before she said another word.



"What's wrong?"



"Gas," as I slowed down to pull into a Texaco.



She climbed out and turning to me very matter-of-factly, stated,"Look, Cowboy... er ... you probably already know this, but I'll say it anyway: I don't like talkin', OK? So, if you're lookin' for conversation,maybe you oughta just continue on without me - " and she motioned towards the highway with a bow and sweep of her right hand, putting her left hand to her forehead in a see ya later salute.



"I will take my chances on some other ride to Madawatchawaza," and turned away shouting, "I'm goin' to the ladies' room," her finger pointing straight up like she was trying to poke the sun in the eye.



"Sayonara, Cowboy - or - maybe not! Who knows?!"



Unh uh, darlin'," I thought. Adios and gazoolikins, to you, too...".



She walked away confident and cool, then suddenly teetered on those patent leather pumps she was sportin'. She straightened up, though, like a slouching soldier caught by his sergeant during drill. That made me smile a lop-sided grin myself.



I noticed she had a curious way of walking. It kind of reminded me of Robert Mitchum's gait: her right shoulder sort of drooped a little, and her head was slightly - almost imperceptibly - cocked to one side, her spine raking slightly to starboard, like the mizzenmast on a Cape Cod ketch. Didn't realize she was so tall.



The gas jockey ambled out drinking a soda. He was very thin, all elbows, knees, and bony shoulders. He had a small cut on his neck, just above his bobbing grandfather-like Adam's apple. Too young to be shaving just yet, I thought, and then noticed his remarkable equine-esque overbite.



"Fill 'er up, son."



"Nice car," he proclaimed enviously, snapping the license plate back. "Where are y'all headed?"



I looked at him so that he'd know I thought the question impertinent.



He took a swallow of his Coca-cola and pointed towards the east, squinted one eye and cocked his head to the side like he was aiming a rifle at me. "Well...ya see...mister...we got some rain comin' this way in the next coupla hours, so if you're travelin' any distance you might want to put your top up here so ya won't have to pull over and do it down the road there..." he spat, "in a thunderstorm," and motioned with his Coca-cola towards the gathering ominous-cumulo-nimbus' in the not-so-far-away distance.



"Thanks for the tip," and I sauntered over to the cooler to grab a ginger ale.



"Check the oil, will ya? And bring that stuff on the back seat in here when you're done."



"Yessir...mister.



The kid came into the store and gave me the total; said the oil was good. I told him to make sure the lady got her stuff, paid him, left, and got behind the wheel of the de Ville. As I pulled out and onto the highway I looked over at the closed door of the ladies' room. Too bad, I thought, I was just startin' to like your attitude.



Chapter ll



Sure enough, about 20 miles down the road the air cooled considerably, the clouds took the blue sky hostage and the thunder rolled and echoed like a guilty conscience.



I pulled over and pressed the "top up" button. A minute later I looked in the rearview and noticed a pick up truck barreling down the highway. It seemed to be traveling pretty fast so I waited for it to pass before pulling out.



It didn't: it slowed down and pulled in behind me.



Well I'll be damned...



She stumbled yet again in those heels, trying to maintain her balance on the gravel shoulder as she slow-motioned her way towards me, concentrating on keeping her composure, no doubt.



"My bag, Cowboy...?" she grinned, as pleasant as a housecat, her hands gripping her parabolically perfect waist as she stood titan-like peering down at me slouched behind the massive steering wheel of my Cadillac.


The lipstick smudge I mentioned earlier gave her proximity a vaguely vampiric aspect.



"...and my - hat!?" she added, still smiling, with a slight shake of her head.



I shut the engine off and got out. This required her to take a few backward steps to allow the massive door of the Caddy to arc, reducing her cool factor by more than somewhat.


I took a sip of ginger ale as I looked her over: those green eyes as shiny as the Canada Dry bottle I held; the windswept and tangled coppery-tinged tresses reminding me of washes of Irish moss after an east Atlantic summer storm.


I took in all of her Amazonish height, the cut of her jib, so to speak, and her perfect complexion. I worked up a sweat trying not to look non-plussed.



"I left your things with the kid back at the garage. Didn't he... tell ya?"



She was flustered - and showed it for a half second or so.


"I guess if you were a little more... conversational... you'd have... er... inquired about them." I took a sip.


The nostrils of her pert little nose flared ever so slightly as that Elvis lip curled into a good-natured, almost-friendly, grin.



I thought I heard her utter an unlady-like word under her breath as she turned and Robert Mitchum-ed her way back to the pick-up. She leaned into the passenger side window and said something to the driver, then reached for the door handle only to have the truck tear out of there squealin' rubber like a Detroit door-slammer in a staged start quarter mile.


She walked back to where I was standing with all the dignity of a camel rising from the sand in that gonna take my good ol' time, if you don't mind kind of way.


I took another draught of my Canada Dry desperately trying not to smile, hoping she wouldn't hear my heart thumping like the hooves of Northern Dancer on a limestone track.


She didn't say a word: She just stood there, arms akimbo, and raised a perfect elliptical eyebrow.



....



I waited for her to go get her things. The kid walked over to me, leaned into my window and said, "What is it with her?"


"What d'ya mean?"


"I gave her her suitcase, like you told me. But she wanted to talk to you - gave me 10 bucks to try and catch you. After I did, she came back to my truck and called me every name in the book. I was so mad I left her there. And now you're back here with her?! What the fuck!? Are you both crazy or somethin'?"


He walked back to his truck, his little anecdote leavin' me to do some beard scratchin'.


I watched her stumblin' back to my car with her bag and that Panama floppin around, a big smile on her face, like she just won the Irish Sweepstakes.


She lit up another Pall Mall as we drove away.


There was a flash of lightning in the distance followed by a far-off - one might even call it, if this were a novel, which it isn't - portentious - boom. It started raining.



"So, how far is it - you know - to Kazabazua?"


....


I gotta say, she was an incredibly handsome woman, more beautiful than Paris himself could have judged anyone to be, and I was soon to discover, twice as much trouble.




Chapter III



We drove - the windshield wipers squeaking out a rhythm to Kansas City as we left that town behind - until it got dark. I was getting pretty tired: I had been driving for seven hours.



"I am going to have to stop for the night," and looked over at her. I wasn't sure she had heard me; she sat there in silence - like a truant in a principal's office.


"You - er - want me to drop you somewhere?"



She mumbled something I couldn't quite understand.



"What?" I sighed under my breath, turning down the radio. I didn't know if she took it as a what did you say kind of 'what' or an are-you-kiddin'-me-with-an-exclamation-point kind of 'what', but she practically yelled when she repeated it.


"I don't have any money!"



I didn't respond to that. I had to consider what it was she actually meant.



"OK?!" she added, by way of a pithy apology.



"Ok," I said, patient and motherly. "Everything is going to be all right. Relax."



Silence reigned once more, so I turned up the radio. Loretta Lynn's poignant rendition of How Great Thou Art was playing.


I let a few minutes pass.



"OK. So... are you asking me for money, then?"


She nodded.



"For a room?"



She nodded again.



"So, I'm guessin' you want to continue traveling with me tomorrow?"


"Just until we get to wherever the hell you're going. Don't worry: I'll pay you back! If you're thinking I won't, you're wrong, Cowboy. I pay what I owe. That's one thing he - " and she stopped.


"Hmm hmmm," I hmmmed, not thinking further about that last remark.



Until you get to wherever the hell you're going... So I thought, she's running away from something and needs to get as far away from whatever - or whoever - it is, and as fast as possible - and I am that ticket.



I pulled into a place called The Goodnight Motel on the outskirts of Boonville. I remember thinking that I wouldn't want to live in a town with a name like that, but I supposed some people did as I watched a myriad of


distant lights in the hamlet twinkle like sequins in the drizzle of rain and early evening mists.



And sure enough, there was another melodramatic boom of thunder...



A neon sign was flashing a ancy. There was a restaurant attached, a bar called The Straight Up next to the dining room, and next to it a fenced off area surrounding an outdoor swimming pool.


"Let me go check the rates. Be right back..."


....



"Ok. I got two rooms - 'cause I know you don't like talkin'."


She smiled Elvisly and thanked me.


"Don't mention it... er - grab your bag... don't forget your lid."



The rooms were next to each other. She went directly to hers. When I got to mine, I kicked off my loafers and lay down for what I thought would be a few minutes rest before taking a shower. I turned on the tv and watched


the latest horrors broadcast from Viet Nam narrated by Walter C. on the CBS evening news. I closed my eyes remembering horrors of my own: the way children stared at us as we patrolled villages and poisoned rice paddies;


the whistling sounds of the falling bombs, the pop and woof of the mortar fire - it still haunts me, especially at night... I managed to put those thoughts out of my mind and thought about her instead and the next thing I knew I was in Sleepy Town.


Chapter IV



I woke up the next morning with a start, not from a Da Nang nightmare, but because she was next to me. Granted, she was clothed, like I was, and in a Rip Van Winkle slumber - but it still rattled me. Her things were by the door.


But the door was locked wasn’t it? Or did I lock it?


“Jesus,” I sighed.



I put my shoes on and walked over to the restaurant. When I got back she was standing in front of the mirror brushing her hair.



She glanced at my reflection behind her and paused. I held up the coffee.


“Hope you take cream and sugar,” I said off-handedly. “I drink mine black.”


“I hope you take cream and sugar, Cowboy, 'cause I drink mine black."


I stood there slightly flabbergasted.


“I’ll be right back.”


....


She was sitting on the bed.



“Anything wrong?”



She shook her head and clasping her hands together and with an anguished moan she spoke in an almost inaudible whisper: “I want to thank you,” she began, “I haven’t been very - er - fair or kind or cooperative. I’m just not used to people being nice to me.”



I put my coffee down and sat next to her on the edge of the bed, both of us quiet as swallows on a wire. I was almost afraid to to touch her, so I leaned my shoulder into hers and gave her a little push.



“Look - I don’t take it personally. If I can get you to where you want to go, well, I’m just glad I can help.”



She pushed back playfully and said, “Well... Thank you, Cowboy.”



Then she did something that surprised me: she lay back on the bed and pulled me down with her.



“I like you, don’t you see? That’s a problem for me... I like you...”



That’s when she kissed me.



....



I suddenly realized it was getting close to check-out time.



“I’m not even gonna ask,” I whispered, as I got dressed.



“You don’t have to. I know what kind of man you are,” as she buttoned up her blouse, her back turned to me.



The coffee was now definitely cold.



“And?”


"And...! Here’s your damn money - Cowboy!”



“Now, don’t be like that - I said you can keep it.”



"Keep it?!" she yelled. "I don’t want it or need it. What do you think I am - a - a - "



I was astounded at this sudden outburst and stared, slack-jawed. I nearly wet my pants.



She threw the bills in my face.



“There. Now we’re even."



My curiosity, though, got the better of my anger.



“How’d you get in here anyway - without a key?”



“I asked the manager to let me in. His name is Dan, by the way,” petulantly.



“What time?” I asked, cock-eyed and still baffled by her sudden change of demeanor.



She turned and went for the door.


“I’m hungry,” and walked out.



So, I showered, shaved, put on some fresh rags - stashed the money she threw at me in my shirt pocket - and went to the restaurant. I ordered 2 specials - scrambled - and more coffee.


....


She came in pony-tailed, pink, and perfect, despite her hair being damp, and still mad as a hornet. She had got rid of the pumps and was wearing a pair of flats, some white hip-hugging clam-diggers, and a pink Daisy Mae blouse unbuttoned at the neck and tied at the waist, a matching purse slung over her shoulder, looking like someone in a Jerry Lee Lewis song. From a distance she could have been Marilyn Monroe.


....


The waitress sauntered over.


“You guys married or somethin’? You don’t talk much…" Then, with a sigh, "More coffee?”


The waitress looked at me, then at her. We shook our heads simultaneously. The waitress stood there kind of dumbfounded.


“Just the bill then?”


We nodded.


“Together or separate?”


“Together,” I replied just as she said - and quite emphatically - “Separate!”


The waitress rolled her morning-shift coral shadowed falsely eye-lashed eyes.


“Together or separate?” a little louder, this time, slightly exasperated.


“Separate!” she shouted, tooth-clenched and close-fisted.


“Separate,” I whispered.


“I thought you were broke,” I said, after Miss Hollywood Eye Shadow left.


She inhaled, blew smoke out her nose, dragon-like, and glared. I thought for a minute her skin might erupt into scales.



We paid at the cash register. I walked back to the table and left a tip.


Neither of us mentioned the fact that it was a beautiful morning in Missouri.


I hit the ‘top down’ button, pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the I-70.


....


I was preoccupied by her sudden wealth and anger. First, the money: She couldn’t have gone to a bank - Boonville was at least 2 miles from the motel - 3 miles coming back uphill in the rain. Did she lie to me when she said she had no money?

She must have been lying, I thought.


As for her and her seething silence, I didn’t know what she was thinking. And true to her nature, she wasn’t talking. I adjusted the volume of the radio.



You see that woman


Walkin’ the street


You see that police-man


Walkin’ his beat


But when my Lord


When he get ready


You got to move



“Reverend Gary Davis,” I shouted over the roar of turbulence as we raced down the blacktop towards St Louis.


She turned to me, curled her Elvis lip into a tooth revealing grin - or was it a sneer? Everything had changed; I couldn’t be sure of anything anymore.


I thought I detected a “Uh huh?” over the roar of engine and wind.


That, at least, is somethin’ I thought. Or was it?


As we got closer to St Louis - “The Gateway To The West” - we could see the glistening stainless steel parabolic looming ahead in its shiny perfection.

“There it is!” I said, pointing off to her right. She grabbed the top of the windshield with one hand and, holding her Panama behind her back with the other, pulled herself into a semi-standing position to get a better look.


It was the first time I had seen her so animated.


“It’s beautiful!” she yelled, her hair streaming behind her. She looked like a modern Diana rendered by Al Capp chasing after a stag in her white chariot somewhere in Dogpatch, USA, minus the bow and quiver.


“Can we drive through it, Cowboy?”


Bouyed by her sudden politesse, I looked for the downtown exit and headed for Washington Avenue.



Chapter V


We headed for East St Louis. Toodle-oo, as one whom I admire might say...


She held her hair back with one hand and turned to look at the Arch.


“I can still see cranes - I thought they finished it - it looks finished,” she stated flatly.


I had been following the construction of the Arch in the papers - mostly The St Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as various magazines like and The New York Times. It was Saarninen, himself, though, who was the focus of my interest, his architectural and engineering projects generally.


“They’re putting a roller coaster in it,” I shouted, with a certain irony in my voice, trying to instigate a meaningful exchange with her, to no avail: She just stared at me, puzzled, and again, that lop-sided smile.


“So you’re right," I continued, "they aren’t finshed yet.”


And that was our first civilized conversation, such as it was.



...

Twenty minutes later we were crossing The Eads Bridge and the Mississippi, on our way to Ohio.


“Right now we are on one of the most famous bridges in America - more famous than that arch will ever be. More famous than the Golden Gate!” I added. "There'd be no Golden gate without The Eads!"


It was true: I had read a lot about the construction of The Eads my first year of university: its construction demanded new engineering techniques and the deepest drilling ever attempted at the time. Its entire length was built using a cantilever construction system. Eads himself, the engineer, was self-taught and solved many of the mathematical problems on his own.


“This old thing? It’s just a bridge, Cowboy. But, The Golden Gate is spectacular. It's a wonder. My father worked - "


I glanced over to see her pulling out her Pall Malls.


“Your father worked on the Golden Gate? Was he an engineer?” I asked, curiously. I would have been very interested to hear that little passacaglia.


She waved me away with a dismissive left hand. “Keep your eyes on the road, Cowboy.”


She became all moody and silent again.


I turned onto Highway 64 after we crossed into East St Louis then headed for the I-70; I cranked up the radio. Finally, some un-country music:



Well no one told me about her


But they all knew.


No one told me about her,


What could I do?


... Let me tell you ‘bout the way she looks,


The way she acts, the colour of her hair.


Her eyes are clear and bright,


Her voice is soft and cool,


But she’s not there.



The Zombies, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Ray Charles, and countless other Gospel and R and B influenced bands serenaded us through Ohio. If this were a movie, which, it ain't, well... think "irony"... just sayin'.



...


I noticed the gas gauge needle had been trying to get my attention, bouncing around in an epileptic rage pointing to “E”.


I pulled into a gas station at a wide spot in the road called Richmond.


The proprietor was an old guy with a long grey beard, wispy-strands of silk-like hair waving and weaving in the breeze like seaweed on his balding crop; he wore a patch over his right eye, and took quick little steps as he walked, using a hickory cane to steady himself, bent-backed, but still lithe for his age.


“Fill ‘er up and check the oil, will ya?”


“Nice rig, mister. I had me one of these once. O’ course back in those days Cadillacs t’weren’t as fancy like this one here is, no sir; but it was a beauty - a convertible, too - 1947. Had a V-8 that snarled just like that there lion ya see in the movie thee-aters… Hee hee hee!”


“Really? You sell soda, old timer?”


“Inside - there’s a cooler at the back.”


“Hey, Cowboy,” she said, opening the door to the john, “a Coke..?”



...


I found a cheap motel on the outskirts of Columbus. The rate was reasonable, the management was cheery, middle-class, and seemed respectable enough.


“The rooms are nice, I proffered, “Clean. Air-conditioned, too.”


She didn’t seem interested. She sipped in silence. I continued, still trying to engage her.


“The manager’s a real chin wag - likes to chat. Her name is Alice, if you happen to see her. Her husband is Mike. He told me Miles Davis stayed here once. How about that! Maybe I have his room!”


She continued to stare straight ahead.


I handed her a key.


“You’re four doors down from me this time - room 408...”


She nodded.


Turning in my seat I asked: “Isn’t it about time we introduced ourselves?”


“I dunno, Cowboy. Is it?”


Hmmm, I thought, she’s warming up to me.


I drove to the parking lot on the far side of the motel.


“Will we meet later, then - for dinner?”


She got out of the car and grabbed her bag.


“Brenda,” she said flatly.


“I’m Lawrence.”


No handshakes.


“Well - Brenda? Will we?”


“I dunno - Larry. Will we?”


“Hey! Brenda! Your hat!”


As she strolled Mitchumly towards her room she stopped and turned.


“Y’know, Larry, I think I like Cowboy better. I’m gonna stick with 'Cowboy'.


“If you call me Larry one more time,” and I pointed my finger at her, “I’m gonna insist you do!”


That was the first time I heard her laugh.



...



I knocked on her door about an hour later, but there was no answer. She, too, was probably tired. I walked down the street to a White Castle and ordered a fast food supper and took it back to my room.


Couldn’t bear to watch another Cronkite newscast so I read a local newspaper instead and hit the rack early.



Chapter VI



That night I was awakened by the sound of more laughter. It was loud and boisterous. I checked the time: 2:30 am. I got up and pulled the curtain back. Brenda was leaning on my car - she was wearing her red skirt, a white blouse and a pale blue bolero jacket - the same clothes she was wearing when I picked her up - and those crazy high heel pumps. There was some guy in a leather jacket, chinos, and motorcycle boots leaning into her, pressing her up against my car.


I pulled my pants on and headed towards them bare-foot and shirtless.


“Look who’s here, Fritz! Hey, Cowboy! How’s it hangin’?”


She was drunk.


Fritz was young - I guessed about 25. His hair was jet black, cut short, slicked back with Brylcreem or Pommade and parted on the side. He sported a Boston Blackie moustache, had a tanned, swarthy, complexion, smallish ears flattened to his skull, and eyes that, if they were any closer together, would have made him cyclopic due to his joined-in-the-middle eyebrows.


“Guten Abend, Cowboy! How’s itz hanging iz its, Cowboy?!”


Brenda was in a fit of laughter.


I would have burst out laughing, too, if the scene playing out in front of me felt anything less than dire.


He had a scratchy falsetto voice - almost girlish - its tenor reminded me of cheap hotels, stale beer, sawdust tavern floors, clove cigarettes. I sensed a certain anguish in it, a distress. It sounded angry and defensive. Perhaps that was because of his height - he might have been 5 feet 8 - much shorter than Brenda - maybe shorter than Napoleon himself.


“Hi, Brenda - everything ok here? What’s goin’ on - who is -"


Fritz interrupted: “Brenda! Nein nein, Cowboys, das ist Gretchen! Gretchen, ya!”


“Cowboy, this is Fritz, from Austria, he tells me! Fritz, this is Larry! Oops... I mean LAWRENCE!” She is so drunk she can hardly stand.


“Hey, Cowboy, I borrowed your car - just for a little little little little while; you understand… " illustrating the inconsequence of the act by squinting and squatting, her index finger and thumb measuring out the unimportance of the betrayal. “So... don’t be mad… and I met Fritz! Fritz, this is the Cowboy I told you about! Say hello!” She was so out of it she didn’t realize what she was saying.


Fritz began walking towards me to shake my hand and I was thinking at that point Maybe he ain't so drunk...


I ignored his gesture and looked beyond him, directing all my attention to her.


“Brenda, it’s late and we gotta get on the road early tomorrow. Fritz - I think the party’s over, buddy.”


“Nein nein nein, Cowboy… nein… Gretchen unt me haf a business arrangement fur to discuss diese nacht - in her room - vinkee vinkee…! Now - ich denke you must be gegehen from here, mein freund. Bestimmt, ya. You runs alongs… wiedersehen! Bye bye…”


“What’s he talkin’ about, Brenda?”


By this time he had Brenda in an over the shoulder fireman’s lift and was heading for her room. He held up the room key, dangling it in front of me as he turned away with a smirk.


“Ciao, Cowboy!”


“Fritz!” she yelled, and started laughing. “Fritz, put me down for Christ’s sake!” She was giggling like a three year old.


I snatched the key from Fritz’ hand: “You’re both a little too drunk to be doing anything... Fritz.”


Fritz gently lowered her to the ground. She had put her arm around his shoulder and told him to never mind me, called him “baby”, and took his hand leading him towards her room.


He suddenly reached behind his back and pulled out a revolver and pointed it at me.


“Just gif me za keys, Cowboys, and everytink iz gut, ya.”


Brenda had not realized just what had transpired; she was behind him trying to regain her balance and couldn’t see the gun.


“Give him the keys, Cowboy - we have a little business to talk over, Fritz and me. Oh!” she added, her nose in her purse, staggering backwards, “and here’s your keys - I took ‘em after you fell asleep, and yes, I got the manager to let me in… again! And you were asleep - again!! Hahaha! Her name is Alice! And she’s a talker alright!”


She started to snicker and laugh as she threw the keys at me; I managed to catch them.


That’s when she saw the gun.


“Now, Fritz? Really?! I told you - I fucking told you!” and as she said this, standing just behind him and to his right, she swung her purse around in a wide graceful arc and, with a grimace of frustration and demonic ire, slammed it into his face.


He staggered backwards. He turned to look at Brenda and raised his right arm to protect himself from a second blow. That's when I lunged at him holding my car keys in my right hand and jabbed them directly into his left eye as hard as I could. He fell to his knees and dropped the revolver. Brenda continued yelling at him - it sounded like she was scolding him - saying, “I told you, you fucking idiot!" and kicked him in the groin, telling him again and again how stupid he was, and then, completely off balance in her heels, fell to the ground.


I kicked the gun away and it slid beneath my Caddy as I helped her to her feet.


“C’mon, Brenda, we have to get out of here.”


Fritz was badly injured - blood was spurting like a geyser from his left eye - and he was totally incapacitated by pain. He could still see with his right eye, though, and was struggling to get to his feet, crying like a baby, yelling and screaming in panic-stricken agony, swearing in English and German, feeling the ground in front of him searching for the weapon.


We didn’t have much time. I practically dragged her to my room with me, grabbed my shoes, and throwing on my sport coat and snatching up my shirt and suitcase, made my way back to the car.


I could hear Fritz screaming in the parking lot: “You ist töt, Cowboys. Töt!” he wailed sounding like a thirteen year old in a pouting conniption. As we were leaving the room I noticed lights going on everywhere, doors opening, people gawking.


“Brenda." I pleaded, "you gotta sober up. C’mon!” I guided her to the Caddy and saw that Fritz was still on one knee trying to get his balance. He grabbed me by the arm as I passed. I gently pushed him backwards onto the ashphalt with my now loafered foot, and managed to get her into the car. “My things, my things!” she moaned.


I got in and drove the short distance to her room, struggled with the key in the lock, entered and gathered her stuff as quickly as I could. I then drove around to the manager’s office, tires squealing, engine roaring.


Inside was a teenage girl doing the night duty, snapping her gum, casually thumbing through the pages of Tiger Beat magazine, her knees against the counter. The radio was turned down low, a Patsy Cline ballad in the background serenaded the room. I could hear a housefly lazily buzzing around the soft glow of a reading lamp behind her.


“There’s been an accident!” I yelled in a panic-stricken voice conveying as much urgency and alarm as I could.


“Oh my god! A guest? What room?”


“Room 404. It’s pretty serious - you go sit with the guy - he can’t walk… I shouted. “I’ll call an ambulance! Go!” explaining he was at the far end of the building: “He’s in the parking lot. Hurry!”


As soon as she'd gone, I grabbed the register and tore out the last two pages. I didn’t know how many people had checked in since we had arrived, so I figured I must have our names and the number of my tags somewhere within those pages.


I rushed back to the car and burned rubber fish-tailing all the way onto the I-70 leaving behind the slack-jawed, gob-smacked, bleary-eyed guests.


I noticed Brenda had passed out, her head resting on the passenger door.


Christ!



Chapter VII



When I checked the clock, it was morning: 10:30 am: I had put about seven hours distance between us and Fritz that night. It wouldn’t be long before we made New York City: once there she could be on her way and I could look up some friends, think clearly, figure out how I was going to get out of this mess.


...


Brenda - or Gretchen - having woken up, was speaking in a raspy bark.


“I am so thirsty.”


I noticed the gas gauge needle was having another tantrum. I pulled into a BP service station near Allentown.


Inside was a teenager of about 17 who had stepped out of the garage bay and into the main building. He was wiping his greasy hands on a rag he had pulled out of the back pocket of his overalls.


He had a blonde Brian Jones page boy haircut and Ringo Starr’s nose. He was affable, chipper, pleasant.


I asked him for some water.


“Water? If your rad’s gone dry you gotta wait, mister: Mechanic won’t be in ‘til Monday.”


“No - just really thirsty.”


“You want a Coke then, dontcha?” he asked, with a Gomer Pyleish look on his face.


Exasperated, but remaining calm, I told him: water would be just fine, then added, “If you got it! If you don’t, that’s ok, too - I’ll get a Coke instead.”


“Yeah sure - I can get you some water - but we only got these little paper cups.”


“Sure - paper cups - fine fine fine.”


“You ok, mister?”


“Yeah. Why?”


“Looks like ya got some blood on your coat there.”


Christ!


I walked back to the car with the 4 cups of water.


“Here, Brenda - this is what you need.”


She drank them in rapid succession.


“More,” she gasped.


I returned with 4 more.


“Where are we?”


“Allentown.”


“Pennsylva - - what?! We’re in Pennsyvania?” shaking her head confusedly.


“Brenda - that’s your name, right?” I asked quizzically.


“What are you talkin’ about, Cowboy?


“Ok ok ok… Do you remember anything from last night?”


“Last night?”


She paused a minute, then her face suddenly became contorted. Her eyes widened and she started hyper-ventillating. She put her hands to her mouth and ran from the car towards the main building but she didn’t make it. Retching and falling to her knees she vomited and coughed uncontollably. She retched again and stood up very slowly.


I walked over to her and took her by the shoulders intending to turn her towards me and comfort her. She twisted away and walked inside to find the washrooms.


While she was gone, I filled the tank and examined the pages I’d torn from the register. I searched through and found our names: L and B Smith and the plate number of the Caddy, sighing in relief that I didn’t use our first names. But a car like mine - well, last names wouldn’t matter: my car could be identified easily - and if someone remembered the plate numbers, then phoney names weren’t going to matter.


I removed my jacket. It was blood, all right, on my right sleeve, but it had turned that dull rust colour after it dried. The kid recognized it as blood, too. How could he tell? I wondered. He must have seen dried blood on fabric before - I guess mechanics and car repair people on interstate highways see a lot of that.


I opened the trunk and grabbed my windbreaker out of my suitcase. I removed my wallet, the envelope, and car keys from my sports coat and put the jacket on, despite the early morning humidity. I balled up the sports coat and tossed it in the garbage along with the pages from the ledger.


I had told Alice that Brenda was my sister - not my wife - and that’s why we had the same last name and needed separate rooms. I was careful to write only the initials of our Christian names. But, as I said, Lawrence is a name you don’t easily forget. She then asked where we were heading. I supposed she was just making conversation: curiosity. She was so friendly and down to earth that I felt comfortable chatting.


So, I told her I lived in New York, and was returning there from a trip I made to California. But now I regretted telling her anything.


We had beaten Fritz pretty badly and everything I told her about me could now be reported to the police - if he had pressed charges. I already had a criminal record. A lot of us veterans coming home ended up in jail at some point back then. For me, it was always a resentment or a money thing. I was in college and was encouraged to sign up by my father - I was in an ROTC program - and he suggested I go now instead of being forced by the draft to join later.


When I got back - well - I was changed: I couldn’t hold down a job and I decided not to return to school - I wasn't interested in anything anymore. All my cynicism stemming from a hatred of myself for the things I did over there. Here, back in America, I robbed and cheated people. My attitude was “Why should they have more than me after what I’d been through?”


For other vets - most of us, I think - it was an anti-authority attitude. Again, a cynical bent about what we went through and many of us came back resenting the police, politicians - any authority - and a lot of us ended up in the can for assaulting cops and security guards and meter maids and loudmouths - anyone who challenged us or attempted to control us.


But that was all water under the bridge now. Once the police found out my last name, and looked at my criminal file, I would be a giant sitting duck - with antlers.


But would Fritz have involved the police and would they, in turn, have interviewed Alice? I had told her my first name was Lawrence - she’d certainly remember that if asked. I had entered the name “Smith” as my last name, she might remember that, too, but would she remember the California tags? If they checked vehicle registration in California they weren’t going to find many guys with the first name Lawrence driving white Cadillac de Ville drop-tops.


So, the question of whether Fritz would have brought assault and battery charges against me preoccupied my thoughts. If they were looking for us they would for certain have the make and model of the car, probably our first names and our physical descriptions. And if anyone noted the plate number of the Caddy last night as we careened out of that motel parking lot, the police would soon be on us.


...


Brenda came out of the building. When she got to the car she demanded her things.


“What d’ ya mean? You’re leaving!? Brenda, we’re almost in New York, for god’s sake!”


“Give me my fucking bag and my fucking hat and leave me alone!”


Jesus.


I tried to explain.


“Brenda, listen to me: I hurt that guy pretty bad. He is goin’ to be lookin for me - for us. If he finds you, it’s not gonna be a romantic reunion, let me tell ya. And if he finds me, he’s gonna want to hurt me.”


At this point she turned around so abruptly that she lost her balance and, glaring at me, yelled, “What the fuck are you talking about, Cowboy? What fucking guy?!” her arms outstretched and her head shaking in total bewilderment.


I took a step back. She doesn’t remember??


She reached into the back seat and pulled out her suitcase and hat.


“Brenda - look: let me at least tell you what happened and try to help you.


She continued towards the highway.


“Ok. If you don’t want to listen, well… I have some money I can lend you if you are dead set on this decision.”


She kept walking. I kept following.


“If he’s lookin’ for us - for you - and you’re hitchin’ rides on the interstate - he is going to find you. He knows - at least I think he knows - that we went east. He knows that much if he spoke to Alice.”


She stopped and turned to me. “Alice - that’s the manager of the motel we stayed at last night, right?”


“Yeah. When I checked in she asked me lots of questions - where we were going, where we came from. I told her Nevada - said we were going to New York…"


“Vegas. Yeah. That’s where I was coming from when you picked me up…”


“We’re only a couple of hours from Manhattan, Brenda. I have friends there. If Fritz knows that we are going there because he talked to Alice - you remember Fritz?” I asked inquisitively.


She nodded. “He sat with me at the bar and he paid for my drinks.”


“Well Fritz was the guy you were with last night at the motel and he was probably going to hurt you. So I stopped him.”


I tried to explain as the noise of passing traffic and wind tried to drown me out.


Brenda dropped her suitcase. She had a confused sad look on her face.


“I took him back to the motel with me?”


“In my car - he knows my car, too, Brenda.”


She put her hand to her mouth.


“I don’t remember anything about that. I took the car - yes. But I don’t remember driving back to the motel with him… "


She paused. “What do you mean - he wanted to hurt me?”


“You were drunk. He had a gun. I had to jab him in the eye with my car keys or he probably would have killed us both.”


She started sobbing and fell to the ground on her knees.


I got down on my knees.


“Brenda, you really can’t remember?”


Sobbing uncontrollably, she cried: “When he said his name was Fritz, I laughed. So I told him my name was Gretchen… It was funny, I thought it was funny, that’s all… that’s all it was!” She sobbed and embraced me.


“It was just a joke… a joke… I thought… I thought… it was a joke…!” She looked up at me: “A gun!?”


“C’mon. We are goin’ to get some coffee in you - I know, I know - you take it black!”


She surprised me with that lop-sided smile - in hindsight I realize it was actually of weird - through all those tears.


The mom in me rose again: “Everything’s going to be all right, Brenda.”



Chapter VIII



“His eye! Cowboy?! You think you took out his eye?”


“Yeah… Well, it was bleeding badly. I know that. He had a gun - and he was going to use it, Brenda. All I had were those car keys.”


“Fuck!” She reached for her cigarettes. She grew very quiet, distracted, deep in thought, whispering curses under her breath, angry, even.


Then she suddenly turned calm and cool. She threw the book of matches down on the table, did one of those French inhales, then exhaled through her nostrils, like some French philosopher contemplating the existence of God.


She locked her eyes to mine saying “I don’t remember any of that, Cowboy. Nothing.”


“You were pretty drunk, Brenda.”


“I couldn’t have been - I only had two glasses of wine. I don’t even remember finishing the second glass. In fact I can’t remember anything after the first glass. So maybe he slipped something in my drink...”


“Why did you tell him your name was Gretchen?”


“I told you: He came over to me when I was sitting at the bar and introduced himself. Right out of the blue. Hi! My name is Fritz. Can I join you?"


“Ok, ok… yeah yeah… Do you remember leaving the bar with him?”


She turned on me at this point and got pretty salty.


“You sound like a fucking cop, you know that? Are you a fucking cop, Cowboy!? If you are, you’re required to tell me! You know what entrapment is? Huh?!” She flicked the ash of her cigarette into the ashtray.


“I know how you guys operate!”


Jesus! Has she gone crazy?!


“Look,” I said sternly, “this is serious! How long were you at the bar?”


“I dunno. Maybe 2 hours? I was sipping white wine. Not enough to get drunk.”


“Hmmm… Did you leave the bar for any reason? He could have - like you said - slipped something in your drink when you weren’t looking. That could have affected you.”


She seemed very different now; suddenly defensive; aggressive; like she was a different person.


“Yeah. He must have. Look: I remember ordering a second glass of wine and I went to the ladies’ room. I dunno. I DON’T KNOW! Maybe he slipped something in my wine while I was gone.”


I didn’t understand this sudden hostility. I mentioned trying to protect her - because of the gun, the possibility of him raping her - and she turned cold.


I decided to stop the questions at this point. I thought maybe when she feels better we could talk more comfortably.


“Are you hungry? Can you eat, do you think? You’ll feel better,” I offered.

“No,” she replied sharply.


I didn’t want to upset her any more than I had, even though I wanted to ask her about the “business arrangement” she made with Fritz and the reasons for bringing him back to the motel.


It all sounded fishy, though. Is this how she comes up with money? Prostituting herself? Was she a hooker back there in Nevada? And why had she insisted on getting away with me to where ever I happened to be going? Even if it was Kazabazua?


But I found it hard to believe: She seemed highly intelligent, she was well-dressed and well-mannered for the most part; she had a dry, quirky sense of humour, rather sarcastic, but amusing for all of that, with a flair for irony; and she seemed grounded, too, though guarded about her past: she didn’t want to talk about herself and she got pretty defensive when I asked about her father.


I couldn’t fathom what it was that possessed her to bring Fritz back to her room. What was this business arrangement? It certainly sounded like solicitation.


And what about the first motel we had stayed at in Boonville? She got angry when I told her to forget about paying me back for the room - throwing the money in my face after our heat-of-the-moment morning tryst. And if her liason with Fritz had been successful, she might have had even more money today, to “pay her own way”: is that what she meant by that remark? Was it Fritz that taught her to “pay what she owed”?


Christ! The whole thing was wacky! Who is this woman, I thought.


Considering this wackiness, I did some soul-searching myself. Should I rid myself of this albatross? It was she who pursued me, after all; it was she who changed her mind and asked me to take her with me when we went back to the gas station for her luggage. I owed her nothing.


True, I had come to enjoy her wit and charm; I found her impertinence and sarcasm entertaining; and there was an innocence about her, too, a certain naiveté that I found refreshing. I smiled to myself recalling that morning in Boonville.


And now she could be in danger because of this Fritz character - if and when he decided to avenge the beating he endured. I felt a certain responsibility to, at the very least, make sure she got to someplace safe.


And I liked her, despite her quixotic moods and unpredictability. But, then I thought: was she stable?


...


After breakfast and some uncomfortable silences we talked about what we ought to do next.


“I am going to have to sell or ditch my car for starters.”


“Why?”


“Well, it’s quite distinctive for one thing. A huge white boat, as you called it, and a convertible at that… Fritz would spot it in an instant - if he is looking for us… Not only is it easy to spot, if he is tracing us, following us, and knows we are heading to New York - Allentown is the last stop before we hit Manhattan - all he has to do is ask about it at any of the service stations we stopped at on the Interstate and ask. People who saw it remember it. If that’s the case, he’ll know we traveled on the I-76 to Allentown. There is that chance. So I need to dump the Caddy and get something nondescript - like a Ford or a small Chevrolet - something common.”


“What time did we leave last night?” she asked contemptively.


“It must have been 2:30 or 3 am. Why?”


“Well, if this Fritz maniac is going to come after us he might be here by now.”


“You got a watch? What time is it?”


“I don’t like watches.”


I looked at the clock behind the counter. It was almost noon.


“I kind of doubt it - I am pretty sure he lost that left eye: he will for certain have had to have seen a doctor. He’s gonna require surgery. He’s probably hospitalized. But if he’s plumb crazy, yeah - you could be right: he might have bandaged himself up, swallowed some aspirin and spoken with Alice - found out we were goin’ to New York and, like you say, is driving around Pennsylvania lookin’ for us as we speak.”


She paused to consider this.


“Let’s go.”


We walked back to the garage and I asked for a phone book. I looked up car dealerships in the Yellow Pages and scribbled down the names and addresses of the ones that were, according to Kid Mechanic, located not far from the garage.


We went to one of those Hanna Rub-A-Dubs and had the car hand-washed to get rid of the desert dust, dirt and road tar. Car looked brand new - inside and out - ready for trade-in.


Selling the Caddy was going to cause me a whole new set of problems, though. In order to sell it, I would have to produce my registration - which had my name and the state of California Vehicle Identification Number


printed on it. And I’d have to produce my driver’s license.



...


I bought the car new in San Francisco 3 years ago - after my tour in Viet Nam. I worked a few odd jobs, robbed some people, gambled a little and bought the car. I still had the bill of sale with me. I opened the trunk and dug it out of my suitcase.


Looking at it closely I could see there were 11 characters in the Vehicle Registration Number. I could easily change a couple of them: there were two number 8s - I could easily change one of them to a 3. The second character was an “L” - I could change that to an “E” or an “I”… That might be enough. As for my name, I could change the last name easily, but not my first.


I examined my California Driver’s license and the vehicle registration card. I would have to make the same changes to my name on both and that would be more very difficult: the lettering was very small.


We went to a drug store where I purchased some pens and pencils, a magnifying glass, and a package of Wilkenson razor blades. We drove to a diner and found a booth at the back. We were isolated there; I could work undisturbed and unseen. I tested each pencil and pen to see what kind of mark they made and matched them against the ink on the bill of sale.


Changing the letter “L” in the registration number to an “E” on the bill of sale was simple enough, but such an alteration had to be neat and exact. Any variation from the other characters might draw attention to it.


I took the pencil and started on the letter L. with the sharpened lead point of the pencil. Using the magnifying glass I carefully added tiny dots - lightly at first, until I created the extra lines that made the capital letter “E”.


I had to continually sharpen the graphite to a super fine point. When I finished I had to add the ink, a tricky process. I removed the pens plastic reservoir of ink and cut the top off with the razor blade. I let a small amount of ink dribble on a piece of paper. I dipped the finely sharpened point of the pencil in the ink and very carefully re-traced the tiny dots of graphite with miniscule dots of ink.


It was painstakingly slow work. I examined the changes I made and they looked almost perfect. Only an expert eye would notice. I checked the clock in the restaurant - it was late. Every minute we spent in Allentown meant the possibility of Fritz - if he was here - identifying the Caddy.


I decided that changing the letter L would be sufficient. But my name - it, too, had to be altered.


“Lawrence” I couldn’t possibly change, but “Grant” could be altered. I looked closely at the “G” and decided to change it to a capital letter C. I also considered the lower case “a”. It could be changed to an “o” and the “n” to the letter “h”.


Croht. But was there such a surname in existence? I had no time to check.


First, I dampened the horizontal bar in the letter G with the corner of a paper napkin. I had to be very careful: too wet and the ink might run, the paper might tear. Then I used the corner of the razor blade to carefully scrape the ink away that formed the black horizontal. The background matrix was white, so when the ink was scraped away, it wasn’t noticeable. That process took a lot of time.


Brenda sat opposite me drinking black coffee and chain smoking.


As I worked I laid out my plan.


“Brenda,” I said, and immediately got lost in those green eyes, “We have to separate - "


“What? Where am I gonna - "


I put my finger to my lips to quiet her.


“Brenda - shh shhh - don’t panic - I have it figured out. Listen…” I bent down to my work as I spoke.


“You need to darken your hair and cut it - a bob or a pixie cut or something - they are looking for a very tall strawberry blonde with long hair: how tall are you, anyway?” and I looked up.


“I’m five foot 10 inches barefoot.”


“That alone makes you stand out in a crowd. Get rid of those 3 inch pumps you’re carrying around; stick to your flats,” pointing at her feet.


I bent to my work again and finished transforming the lower case “a”. It looked pretty good. The “h” was easy…


I went back to making the changes on the driver’s license. I had to be meticulous. It was very difficult, but the print was so small that a slight imperfection might not go unnoticed.


I glanced up at the clock.


When I finished I examined the results: the changes were not noticeably different, but under the magnifier they were obvious.


“Now listen. I have to get another car. You are going to wait here. I will be back in an hour with scissors, hair colour, stuff to make it curly - you need to transform yourself. The car lot is just a few blocks from here. I will come back for you and I will tell you what we are going to do.”


I headed for a place called “Trader Dick’s New and Used” on North 6th Street. I was going to need cash and I knew I could trade the Caddy for something cheaper and make some money on it. I was going to need lots of it since my bank account might very well be frozen.


...


Dick was a real cosmic cowboy type: a white Stetson sat atop a head that was too small for his body. He wore a yoked satin purple shirt with mother-of-pearl buttons straining and wanting to catapault across the room, and a cream and orange Nudie suit studded with rhinestones, sequins and glitter - he looked like a small town after dark on the 4th of July. He completed the outfit with pink snakeskin cowboy boots and a belt-buckle the size of a hubcap with “Yahoo Buckaroo” embossed on it.


“What are you lookin’ for, partner? Sports car? You a family man, are ya? I got a couple of station wagons out there - lots of four-door see-dans - and low priced, too!”


I nodded.


“I got a Cadillac de Ville I want to trade.”


He raised an eyebrow.


“Hardtop or convertible?”


“Convertible.”


“Well now! Don’t see many of those! Well, now,” he repeated, “Great! Where is it?”


I pointed out the window.


“Beautiful car! Looks new! Looks new!”


“It’s a ‘63. Not even four years old!”


“Let me take a look,” he turned towards the exit, "Yeah... let's take a look..."


We went outside together. He started the engine. Put the top up, put it back down. Checked the wipers, the lights. Then he looked at the tires, checked the suspension. He opened the hood: “Ahh! Well now! The 429!


Beautiful! Very nice, indeed! Yes, yes! Very very nice!”


“Cars like these sure get a lot of attention! She’s a beaut! A real beaut!"”


We went back to the office and he took out his little blue book, made some calculations.


“Well, partner - I can offer you - let’s see... let's see..."


He took his damn time, let me tell you. What’s he doin’? I thought, Calculating the Theory of Relativity??


“I can give you $3000 for it.”


I swear to god my teeth rattled.


“What?!” I asked, perplexed. I paid seven thousand dollars for that car, mister!” I was adamant and stood my ground.


He held up his hand: “Ho ho hold it right there - that was over three years ago, compadre…! Three years ago!”


Then the son of a bitch had the nerve to point his finger at me.


“… and you put quite a few miles on it, too! Quite a few miles, partner!”


Trader Dick was the reason I - and 99% of America - didn’t like car dealers. They were eels: slippery and conniving bottom feeders; always chippin’ and chiselin’ for an extra hundred bucks here, an extra fifty there.


“I won’t take anything less than $4500.” I took out my notepaper and showed him my list of the other dealerships that would be happy for a trade-in as nice as mine."


He tapped his pencil on the desk and looked at the Caddy parked outside, stuck his tongue out of the side of his mouth, then wiped his brow with one of those colourful cowboy kerchiefs. I was feeling rather desperate


myself, as it was getting pretty late - but I couldn’t let him know that, although I was sweating like a Sicillian street-walker at high mass on Easter Sunday: haggling through another negotiation like this one with


another dealer somewhere down the road wasn’t something I wanted to do.


“All right, all right…” and he put on his phoney happy car salesman grin sayin’ “You drive a hard bargain, partner” and “I’m doin’ you a favour, son”.


I asked to see the used cars he had in that price range.


“I got a ‘64 Ford Galaxy 500 ragtop right out there for 4500$ exactly. You wanna see it? Take it for a spin?”


"What colour is it?”


He looked at me with surprise, squinting, removing his hat and scratching his head.


“Yeah. What colour is it?” I repeated.


“Well - it’s a white one - like your Caddy there - if that makes any difference.”


“What else you got?”


“Well now... if colour is so important to ya, maybe we oughtta go out to the lot so you can see what we got. Yeah. You can see what we got...”


Didn’t he ask me when I came in if I was a family man…??


That’s it, I thought: I’ll tell him I’m a married man. A station wagon would be the exact opposite of a Caddy convertible.


“I just got married last year. I might want to look at a station wagon,” I said. “We’re expecting a baby in October.”


“Well now! Congratulations, partner! Sure - we got a couple of wagons out there. Congratulations," he repeated, "A baby! Well now, ain't that grand!"


I chose a ‘63 Plymouth. It was powder blue. Nice and ordinary.


“Good choice! It’s got a 270 cubic inch V-8 and an automatic transmission, and low mileage. Low low mileage.”


“How much?”


"Well - let’s see what the sticker says….”


We strolled over.


“$3000!”


I was in no mood to haggle.


“I’ll take it.”


“Plus tax, of course,” removing his hat and placing it over his heart with a grimace. "Plus tax."


I produced my bill of sale for the Cadillac.


“Where’s your registration?”


“I left it in my other wallet in San Francisco. That’s where I bought the car. See?” I pointed to the dealership’s letterhead on the bill of sale.


“There’s the phone number and there’s the VIN, and there’s the mileage when I bought it, everything is right there.”


He looked up at me.


“Usually I don’t make such transactions without the actual registration card,” rubbing his chin, biting his lower lip.


“I don’t have it. It’s in San Francisco.”


I pointed at my name. I showed him my driver’s licence. I indicated the photo.


“Well - I don’t usually do this - it means I have to get it re-registered right away here in Allentown before I can list it. I need to hand a signed registration card to the Motor Vehicle Registration Offices.”


“You can do that with a bill of sale. Shouldn’t be a problem,” I replied.


“… and I don’t usually pay out cash on trade-ins, either. Highly irregular. I don't usually...”


“Well,” I sighed, grabbing the bill of sale, “Dirty Dan’s House of Cars will certainly be interested in it.”


“Hold on there, partner, don’t be hasty!” he smiled broadly.


He again glanced at the Caddy in the lot outside. He shook his head and with a heavy sigh, opened his desk drawer and pulled out the transfer papers.


“I keep my cash in the safe out back. Give me a minute.”



He went to a back room and I watched him bend down and open it.



I signed the papers. He counted out my fifteen hundred dollars and put it in an envelope for me. We went back outside.


“Gotta change the plates.”


“Got a screwdriver right here, partner!”



I took the plates off the Caddy and put them on the Plymouth. I opened the trunk and removed my suitcase and put it in the back seat of the Plymouth.


“Well now... here’s your keys- and here’s the spare set!”


I handed him my set of keys. I had forgotten about my spare set in the suitcase.


“You only have the one set??! It’s practically a brand new car, Larry. You don’t have the spares?" he inquired, quite surprised.


“It’s Lawrence, Dick - and I only have the one set - one for the ignition, one for the trunk. My wife lost the original set a couple of days ago.” That was a lie, but I was in a hurry to get out of there


and didn’t want to waste any more time digging around in my suitcase.


“Well now, Larry, If I’d known that I woulda only given ya $4,499 for it!” and he slapped me on the back.


“I believe you would have, seein’ as your original offer - after all that calculatin’ - was 3000 bucks… and it’s Lawrence. Dick!


He stopped smiling when I said that.


“You know where the DMV is, don’t ya?” he asked with a surly Moe Howard grin on his mug.


I shook my head.


“You can register it Monday. But from here, you just drive straight down 6th and…”


He went on with directions for about five minutes - mentioned one way streets and landmarks and buildings - repeating these more than twice. When he was finished he asked if I wanted him to draw a map.


I got in the car and fired it up. I realized I still had the screwdriver in my left hand and, thinking it over for a second, decided to keep it. I placed it on the seat beside me and tore out of the lot like a bat out of hell.


I picked up Brenda. It was almost 4 pm.


….


I turned on the radio. Petula Clark was belting out Love This Is My Song - it seemed to be on every radio station.


“Feeling any better?” I asked.


“Not really.” She took a puff of cigarette.


“Hmmm… well. We gotta get you some Breck hair colour, maybe some curlers and a good pair of scissors. And we need to rent a room where you can do it without distraction.”


Just then the news came on.


Halfway through the newscast came a report of an assault in Columbus.


The victim an exchange student from Austria studying Law at The University of Las Vegas.



“Christ Almighty!”


“They’re talking about him! Damnit - he went to the police!" Just then, she said something under her breath that kind of made the hair on my neck stand up:He is such an idiot!


Then she started to panic, twisting in her seat, looking out the back window. She lit another cigarette.


“Calm down,” I whispered, “we’re one step ahead: we got a different car; they probably don’t even have the plate number of the Cadillac, but if they do it’s going to take them time to check because I changed


the registration number - relax.”


For a second I thought maybe she was over-reacting; kind of melodramatic.


The suspects are considered fugitives from justice and are believed to have crossed the state lines eastbound into Indiana, Pennsylvania and may be heading to New York. They are driving a white, late model


Cadillac convertible with California plates. Pennsylvania, Indiana, and New York State Police are asking the public to come forward if they have any information and advise the public not to approach as they are considered armed and dangerous.

Armed and dangerous?! Couple? Christ! What kind of cock and bull story did Fritz tell the police. He could have told them anything. His injuries must be severe. He must be pretty angry, too - and crazy - crazy enough to carry a gun with him when he went to the police to file charges...??



Chapter IX



I realized at this point that I had to be very cautious. I had to think things over and plan every move carefully.

If Trader Dick was listening, he was probably calling the state police right at that moment. Then again, he was a busy man. Maybe he was in the middle of a sale… but if he heard the report, he would be obligated to call


the authorities and if he did they would be going over that car with a fine tooth comb within the hour: fingerprints, hair samples, soil remnants from tire treads and dirt samples taken from the carpet and floor mats.


I only got it washed and vacuumed so I could get top dollar for it - now I was glad I took the time to do it.


I also took into account that the police would have interviewed Alice and Dan and every hotel night clerk and gas jockey working every motel, hotel and filling station on the I-70 between Columbus and Reno.


Then it occurred to me that Fritz would be doing the same thing: asking gas station attendants and hotel managers specifically about my car. It was that kind of vehicle: every place I stopped someone commented on it.


I also had to get Brenda to some isolated area where I could reassure her, convince her of a logical course of action. We were both in this up to our necks and there were only two possible ways to resolve it: turn ourselves in and take a chance on telling the truth - and not be believed - or like a ‘dame and and a chump’ in some George Raft gangster picture, which this ain’t, ´take it on the lam’.


First thing to do was get her out of town. If Trader Dick did call the police, it would take them some time to figure out that the numbers on the VIN and driver’s licence had been changed. But a Cadillac matching


such a description being sold the day after the assault was more than a coincidence. So now was the time to speak to Brenda about a plan and time was of the essence.


The state police might have, by this time, figured out my name and would soon be sending my mug shot to every police department and sheriff’s office across the northern US. By now they could be looking for a powder blue Plymouth station wagon as Trader Dick would have probably given them the receipt with my phoney name on it - plus my description and my plate number.


I drove down a number of side streets and pulled over to try and explain these things to Brenda.


“Now, here’s what I’ve decided we gotta do.”


“What d’ ya mean, you decided?! Don’t I have a say in this, Cowboy?”


“I mean - ok, Brenda: first thing: stop with the Cowboy! My name is Lawrence, Ok? Fun and games are over.”


“Ok. Ok. Ok. Don’t get so testy!”


She seemed to be back to her old self…


“Listen. They are looking for a tall strawberry blonde woman with a dark haired thin man. First, you are going to cut your hair and dye it. They won’t be looking for a single brunette with a short hair cut. Then I am going to put you on a bus to Detroit - I have to get you far away from me.


“Detroit!?”


“Yeah. I have a friend up there. I am going to call him. You are going there and you’ll be safe for a while.”


“You sure? Harbouring a fugitive could get him arrested.”


“What are you? A lawyer? What do you know about the law?”


“I have had my run-ins with pimps and the ‘transportation of girls over state lines for immoral acts’,” she replied miming quotation marks with her fingers.


“Technically, you’ve violated the Mann Act, Lawrence, crossing state lines with me in your car.”


“The Mann Act, huh: You speaking from personal experience, Brenda?”


She took a puff of cigarette and blew smoke in my face. She was definitely her old self.


“I am going to have to dump this car, too - and soon. But first, we need to get our stories straight. Here’s what happened: he - Fritz - drugged you, that’s for sure.


He then drove you to the motel in my car. He was going to take you to your room and rape you. I intervened. He pulled a gun. I defended myself and you. Got it?”


Brenda nodded. “But didn’t you tell me back at the café that I threw the keys to you? That means I must have driven.”


“This is why we need to get things straight. Sure - you threw me the keys but you were drunk - or drugged - so we need to say he drove. You somehow got the keys after he parked the car at the motel. Got it?”


“Ok. I get it, I get it... I say I took them from the ignition after he parked...”


She then abruptly held up her hand for me to stop talking. A dramatic pause, if you will.


“I have to tell you something Lawrence. Something you don’t know about me.”


She was silent. Then, a deep breath. All of a sudden she began sobbing.


I was speechless at this sudden change in her demeanour.


“What’s wrong, Brenda? What is it?" I asked sympathetically.


“When I was in Las Vegas - that’s where I was coming from when you picked me up -"


Another long pause. Then she started crying. She was shaking, gasping as she tried to speak.


“But I’m not anymore, Cowboy, I swear -"


I grabbed her by the shoulders and I shook her.


“Not anymore, Brenda? Not what anymore?”


She hung her head and sobbed.


“A prostitute… I’m not anymore… I’m not I’m not I’m not…”


She used to be a prostitute? Great! At that point I started thinking: What did Fritz tell the police?


He told them Brenda was a prostitute.


It was she who propositioned him.


It was she who took him back to the motel. Which meant he will have portrayed me as her pimp - he will have portrayed me as the aggressor and he probably told the police it was me who pulled the gun on him and stole his money - and god knows what else!


And Friz would also get to explain to his mommy and daddy how he lost an eye and how a bad girl and her bad boyfriend beat him up and stole his money. Poor Fritz!


Then the thought occurred to me that maybe Brenda isn’t Brenda! Maybe her name really is Gretchen. Maybe she is a prostitute.


If she is really Gretchen - a prostitute from Las Vegas - and Fritz was just another client, or worse, her boyfriend, and I "interfered" with her "business arrangement", then what were the chances


of me beating a rap like aggravated assault with their word against mine, the two of them corroborating each other’s story? It was me, after all, who was the pimp, according to Fritz.


Not a snowball's chance in hell.


Once my record was revealed - that I did 2 years for robbery - I would have no credibility and with my previous sheet, I’d do a hard 5 to 10.


She was still sobbing as my mind reeled. I let her cry, staring at her all the while. She couldn't - or perhaps wouldn't - stop. I finally spoke.


“Brenda! Brenda! Listen to me. Stop crying! Listen: that first night! The night we stayed at the hotel in Missouri, you gave me some money for the room. Look at me!”


She raised her head. She looked so forlorn, so lost. But, was it an act? I couldn't be sure anymore.


I became stern, serious.


“Brenda - where did that money come from? Where did you get that money?”


“Oh Cowboy!” She started to cry again. It was funny - I thought of Lucy Ricardo pleading with Ricky. She started drooling and moaning and gasping for breath again; tears falling like a summer shower onto the car seat.


“Oh Cowboy!”


“Tell me, Brenda! Tell me, goddamnit! Did you turn tricks for that money! Well! Did ya!!??”


“No no no no no no - Cowboy I am so sorry… I am so sorry…”


I became more disgusted and even angrier as I came to realize that that kind of evidence - her behaviours and actions - were going to put me back in the pail for a long time.


“Cowboy - I -"


“Shut up! Just shut up, Brenda or Gretchen or whoever you are! I gotta think here! I am not going back to the joint because of you!”


I paused.


“I was really starting to like you, Brenda - Gretchen... Brenda; I was starting to enjoy your moods and your sarcasm and your jokes! Goddamnit!”


I was holding back my own bitter tears. I wanted to get away and just leave her there.


“It’s Brenda, my name is Brenda,” she sobbed. “Don’t be mean to me, Cowboy… please… I - I…”


“What Brenda? What? What?!”


“Your wallet. Your wallet. I took that money out of your wallet. I am so sorry, Cowboy…"


My wallet? She stole that money from me??



Chapter X



I did make a killing in Reno - close to $8 000 at the tables. It was the most I’d ever won. I was going to count it later - I wasn’t keeping track of my spending after checking out of my hotel: gas, food, lodging, incidentals - these were pitances; I wasn’t concerned - I was going to tally things up later when I got back to New York.


So - she came into my room and took money out of my wallet! She probably knew I wouldn’t miss a measly - I counted the money that was in my shirt pocket - 50 bucks.


My money!


While she babbled on about how sorry she was and how she had changed her ways and left her past and ex-boyfriend in Vegas, I fumbled through my wallet to see if she had taken it all.


I counted out twelve five-hundred dollar bills and ten one-hundred dollar bills. The remainder was in fifties and twenties, I spent a couple of hundred for hotels and gas and food after leaving Reno.


It was all there - she took about eighty bucks.


I suddenly felt relieved. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I reminded myself I also had the $1500 from Trader Dick.


I took her hand. She pulled it away from me.


“Brenda Brenda - I am sorry! Look - I don’t care what you took or how much or why you did it.” I embraced her and tried to calm her.


She seemed so fragile; so innocent; all that attitude and indifference and sarcasm - was it a front? She’s just a damaged little girl inside, I thought.


“Listen: Everything’s going to be fine. Believe me. I am going to get us out of this - don’t you worry. Hey!” I lifted her chin and looked into those green eyes: “We’re ok. Everything is going to be all right.” And I hugged her.

We drove around the city looking for a cheap hotel. Some place that had a ledger filled with Mr and Mrs Smiths and John and Mary Jones’. All of a sudden, who do I see coming toward us in my white de Ville ragtop but Trader Dick himself with a bleached blonde snuggled up to him.


“Shit!”


Brenda was preoccupied, looking into a compact wiping all the dried mascara from her eyes and cheekbones - she didn’t see my Caddy pass.


“What’s wrong, Cowboy? You forget something?” as she calmly applied pancake makeup.


“Christ - he’s drivin’ around town in it!”


“Who? What are you talkin’ about, Cowboy?”


I checked the time on the dashboard of the Plymouth. It was 5 pm. Trader Dick has closed up shop and is taking the Caddy out on a joy ride with his wife or somebody.


At least the cops haven’t traced it yet.


I decided to follow him so I pulled over and did a U turn.


“What are you doin’, Cowboy? Where are you goin’?”


“Nothin’. Nowhere. I forgot somethin’…"


Traffic was heavy - I didn’t want to lose him.


He pulled into a steakhouse on North 4th St. It had valet parking.


Fancy joint. I thought.


I parked on the street about 50 yards past the restaurant and watched him in the rear view mirror.


Brenda was still preoocupied with lipstick and mascara. Trader Dick tossed the keys to the valet, said something and laughed, pointed at the car, then took his lady friend by the elbow and entered the restaurant.


“Brenda…”


“Uh huh,” peering into the compact painting her eyebrow, “when you see me coming out of that parking lot over there,” she turned and looked to where I pointed, “you follow me in the station wagon. Got it?”


“What?! Follow you in this? Where? While you’re walking?? Why don’t you just get in and I drive you?”


“I will be driving a car. A white car.”


She looked baffled.


“Just watch that parking lot. Slide over here.”


I got out of the Plymouth and opened the back of the wagon. I found the spare key to the Caddy that I didn't give to Trader Dick and strolled down the sidewalk. I waited for another customer to drive up and occupy the valet.


It didn’t take long.


I followed him to the back of the lot and he parked the vehicle next to the Caddy. He went back to his booth on the far side near the front of the restaurant and entered the information - make, model,


probably plate number - into some kind of log. He hung the keys on a hook.


While he was occupied with that I took out my spare key, got in the Caddy, started her up, and slowly drove away. He didn’t notice me.


I made a right and drove down the half block stopping next to Brenda.


She smiled her Elvis smile and followed.


My plan was to take the new plates off the Cadillac, the Pennsylvania plates, and put them on the Plymouth, then take the Cadillac and dump it somewhere where it wouldn’t be found - maybe drive it into a river or a lake. I had to dispose of it someplace so that when Trader Dick reported it missing it would take a long time for the police to find it and realize the new plates - the Pennsylvania plates - were missing. Brenda and I would be in Detroit before anyone realized those plates were on a pale blue ‘63 Plymouth Valiant station wagon instead of a white ‘63 de Ville convertible.


I kept checking my rear view to make sure Brenda was following me. We continued traveling north on 4th Street. The clock in the Caddy said 5:20. I was totally vulnerable driving around in such a conspicuous vehicle, especially downtown on a Saturday evening. I had to take that chance. Getting rid of the car was the only way for us to get to Detroit - then into Canada.


I kept on 4th Street and was directed by an arrow to Riverside Drive via Tilghman St. I signaled and turned. Checked that Brenda didn’t get lost in the traffic: I didn’t realize it was a major thoroughfare - it would be heavily patrolled. But I had to find Riverside - with any luck it would lead to the Lehigh River. About 2 miles further down I saw the sign. I signalled right and was heading south again but this was a much less traveled street. I checked my rear view. Brenda was there behind me and there were only two cars behind her.


I continued south looking for signs for a park or directions to a scenic tourist sight. None. I kept going with the intention of turning around but the next thing I knew it came to a dead end in a heavily treed area.


Just beyond the pavement I saw what looked like an abandoned service road.


I came to a stop and got out of the car. I went to Brenda’s driver side window.


There was now only one car behind her, so I had to be quick.


She fumbled with the window - it only went part way down.


“We need to wait for the guy behind you to leave.”


She nodded.


“Then I’m gonna need the screwdriver on the seat in order to switch the plates.”



Chapter XI



“What screwdriver?”


I opened the door and motioned for her to get out.


The car behind must have thought they were witnessing a romantic tryst or something because as soon as she got out of the station wagon, it backed up, did a three point turn and left.


I checked the seat. She must have knocked it onto the floor as she slid over to take the wheel when we were back in town. I plunged my hand under the seat, feeling for it.


Ah! There it is.


I inspected the service road to see if I could drive the Cadillac through the brush. I cleared some small bushes and rocks out of the way. There were no deep ruts, just clusters of alders and sumac, a few sapling maples, a couple of large puddles of water. The Caddy, I thought, would easily navigate its way through.


I fired it up. I could hear the eerie squeak and scrape of wood on metal and got that odd feeling of being frightened when you are watching a scary movie as a kid, but like I said before, this wasn’t a movie.


I finally came to a small clearing where I had room to get out of the car and look around. I could hear the rushing current just beyond the sumacs and bushes, about 30 feet off to my right and down an incline.


I went to work removing the screws on the rear plate. It was marked “Pennsylvania Dealer Temp” across the top. That’s good, I thought, that means there’s only one tag to deal with.


I went back to the station wagon, removed my California plates and put them under the front seat; then attached the dealer plate to the rear of the Plymouth.


“Gotta get rid of the car, Brenda. Sit tight, I’ll be a minute.” She lit up another cigarette but said nothing.


I was thinking I would just put the car in low gear and let it drive itself into the river. But when I walked down to the river’s edge and looked around I saw the Tilghman St Bridge was just a half mile away and realized that we had just crossed the river a few minutes earlier on that very bridge. I was totally visible from there. What if the car didn’t travel far enough into the deep water to sink - what if it stalled part way in the shallow water and sat there only partially submerged and completely visible? I scrambled back up the incline through the bushes, shrubs, and trees,


thinking to myself that submerging the car in the river was a bad idea. I decided it was better left hidden where it was.


Just when I reached the Caddy I heard a car door slam, then the sound of an engine starting up and the sound of gravel churning and rubber squealing.


I ran out into the clearing and saw there was still only one car there - but it wasn’t the Plymouth.



Chapter XII



The sun was behind me to the west and was reflecting off the windshield: I couldn’t tell if there was anyone inside. Then I heard the door opening and a strained voice called out to me.


“How’z itz hanging ist, Cowboys? Huh?!” The loud report of a gunshot almost deafened me.


I ran back into the bushes and through the alders just as a second shot rang out.


I rushed past the Caddy, tripped on a rock, and rolled down the hill into a pine sapling near the bottom. The pain hit me like a bolt of lightning - I was pretty certain I dislocated my shoulder.


Another shot rang out and I heard the zip-zip-zipping as the bullet skimmed tree bark and burned through layers of leaves and branches to my left.


“You may as well comes out, Cowboys; come out - you cannots run away. I find you easy. A car like zat?! Alles volk remembers diese car… Come - come Cowboys - I only wants your money. I knows all abouts your money von Gretchen, you dummkopf headed man! Oh! Wait! Did I says Gretchen?? Ha ha! Nein - I mean Brenda, ya? Ya - your fett vallet… ha ha!! Gretchen!”


Silence. He was looking for me through the brush and alders. I heard him open the car door. He’s checking for the keys He'll be coming down that hill any minute!


"Alles you had to do vas go to your zimmer unt sleep, Cowboys - and no troubles, no Gretchen, no Fritz - dann wir gehen ist. Well… come now - za vallet, Cowboys and I vill no hurt you.”


I was crawling towards the river, every movement excrutiating - but if I stood he might spot me through the brush. He’s only talking to keep me listening, to keep me from running while he’s searching I thought. I could hear the rushing water - it was only a few yards from me. I knew that I would have to make a run for it as he was coming down the hill.


He fired a fourth time - the bullet again a mere foot from where I was stretched out. He was so close - in another thirty seconds he would be on me. I was very close to the edge of the river now.


I stood and staggered towards it. I was ankle deep, then knee deep.


I plunged. I was certain I felt the point of a hot poker thrust into my thigh as I went under.


The current was strong and when I surfaced I saw him a quarter mile up river. He was shouting, his voice carrying across the water. I could discern the white bandage around his head and over his left eye.


“It’s a gut tink I haf just one eye, Cowboys. But you ist töt! Töt! I vill find you again!”


I let the current carry me, barely able to keep my head above the surface. I was in a lot of pain but the cold water was helping.


About a mile or so down it grew very wide and the current slowed. I side-stroked into shallow water and limped and crawled to shore. It would be getting dark soon and I was going into shock: I started shivering and was finding it difficult to breathe. This was a bad situation.


I saw a sign that said Salisbury Park and on the shore some rather large, perpendicular boulders. There was a cover of trees and I could see the roofs of some buildings. I made my way to one of the larger stands of rock and, facing the sun, leaned up against one of them, absorbing its warmth. The sky was cloudless; the air was warm; I could feel the heat radiating from the stone's surface. I started warming up.


As cold as I was, I grew calmer, my breathing slowed; I was able to pull up my pant leg with my right hand while my left arm hung like a broken tree branch. I examined the wound in my thigh: the bullet had penetrated the quad muscle at the front above my knee, the tissue above it had stretched and opened up, making a gaping, open gash - it looked like an axe had sliced through the skin. The outer layers had been torn as the bullet passed underneath.


I could see the yellowish fat cells and the darkened - as though burned - tissue above: it had been blackened by the bullet as it passed through. There wasn’t a lot of blood, but there was a clear fluid leaching from the opening. I’d always wondered what was meant by a flesh wound - now I knew exactly what it was. I was pretty lucky the bullet didn’t hit bone or artery.


My pants were soaking wet. I figured the sun wouldn’t set for maybe an hour and a half. My clothing might dry somewhat as long as I faced west. I had no idea what time it was - perhaps 6:30. Maybe 7 pm.


The late July temperature felt warm, though, perhaps 76 Fahrenheit.


I managed to take off my windbreaker. I had the presence of mind to make sure my wallet and the envelope were still there.


I then removed my shirt - a slow deliberate process - and stepped on one end of a sleeve while twisting the other end, wringing as much water out of it as I could. I placed it on another stone to dry.


I removed my shoes and socks, as well. I suddenly felt relieved. I wasn’t shivering as violently anymore. My breathing was steady, even. My teeth were still chattering but even that passed after a few minutes.


I looked around and took stock of my surroundings. In Nam, when on manoeuvers or reconnaissance we were often in similar situations: wading waist deep through muddy rivers, we were constantly scanning the treeline, aware that we were vulnerable, keeping stock of landmarks, watching for movement. I could see from my location in the park that I was fairly isolated. I noticed there were other buildings in the area partially obscured by trees: perhaps these were residential homes, I couldn't be sure; I spotted a larger building that could have been a three story walkup. There was a pathway that led away from the river - a hiking trail, perhaps, leading to that neighbourhood. I lay there, inclined against the huge boulder, enjoying its warmth and I dozed off.


I was awakened by the bark of a dog.


It ran up to me and licked my left hand dangling at the end of my useless arm.


Then I heard a voice - a child’s voice.


“Lucky! Here, boy!”


The dog barked out an answer, then whined, and the child appeared from behind the boulder and faced me.


He gasped. The dog whined again.


“Hi,” I said with a forced smile. The pain in my shoulder had worsened.


“Hi, mister. Are you ok?”


“Is this your dog? Here fella, c'mon,” I whistled and the dog let me scratch him behind the ear.


I looked at the boy.


“Be careful, mister. He has a sore paw. We just came from the vet and I was supposed to carry him home - but he jumped out of my arms.”


“I got a sore paw, too,” I said pointing at my arm and extended hand.


“Gee - your arm looks like you were hurt pretty good.”


“Yeah - I am hurt pretty good,” I said with a grin as big as I could muster.


The child grinned back.


“Is he far from here?”


“Who?” he asked inquisitively.


“The vet."


“Nope. Dr Vic’s is just up there in that big house,” pointing at a roof showing just above the trees.


“Maybe he can fix my paw, too!” and I smiled. “What’s your name, son?” I stooped to pick up my shirt and put my good arm in the sleeve while the boy helped me as best he could.


“Ivan,” he replied good-naturedly, as he pulled the other side of the shirt across my bad shoulder. I fastened a few buttons with my right hand.


“Well, Ivan, my name is Lawrence. And I got pretty much the same kind of skin and bones as Lucky over there. Think ol' Dr Vic can fix me up, too?”


“I dunno, mister, she’s a animal doctor.”


“Really! Dr Vic is a girl, huh? They make the best vets. Did you know that?”


He shook his head.


“Well trust me, son, it’s true all right.”


“Can you put the jacket over my shoulders buddy? Hey, how old are you Ivan?”


He draped the windbreaker over my back and I adjusted it with my good arm, covering my shoulder. I left my socks where they were and managed to get my feet in my loafers.


“Ten,” he replied.


“Ten! Well my goodness, you’re almost as old as me!”


Ivan let out a giggle. “You’re funny, Lawrence! Hey, how come your jacket and shirt are all wet?"


“Well, I’ll tell ya. My clothes are all wet because I fell off a boat. Can you believe it?? And when I fell in the river, no one saw me and the boat kept going. The water was flowing really fast and I was trying to swim but I hit a big rock and hurt my arm. So how do you like that!”


I stood and staggered a little on the river stones, trying not to show the boy how bad the pain was.


“Hey - you’d better carry Lucky so he doesn’t hurt his paw again.”


I knew I was in bad shape, but I could walk, awkward as it was, despite my injuries and being cold. But there was a doctor up there in a big house. Man! That was luck.


Ivan led me to the hiking path that wound its way through a copse of hardwood trees and up the hill to a residential neighbourhood. It wasn’t a great distance, but it felt like miles.


The sign out front read Dr Victoria’s Animal Hospital and Shelter and in small letters the words They don't know how to talk but they sure know how to love!


“Oh oh - they’re closed now, Lawrence. Look.”


Hours: 9 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday; noon to 6 pm Saturday.


“How long ago were you here, Ivan?”


“Just before I saw you at the river.”


“Well - let’s ring that bell and see what happens. Maybe they haven’t left yet. You stand here with Lucky, ok? So she sees you when she opens the door.”


“Hello, Ivan. You’re back?! Is everything ok? Is something wrong with Lucky?”


“Hello, Doctor Vic! This is Lawrence. He is hurt and…”


“Well, Ivan, this is a hospital for pets. Not people-" and she looked me over as though I was a crazy person. “And we’re closed.


“But, Dr Wolinska, he says girl doctors make the best vets and he says he has skin and bones just like Lucky and you’re a doctor…”


Lucky backed up Ivan’s argument by barking once and whined a little, pleading my defence, I was certain of it.


It was now or never: “Dr Wolinska - it’s a dislocated shoulder - it happened an hour ago - if I don’t have it set now I’ll need surgery for sure. Take a look - the swelling is getting worse.” I lowered the jacket and pulled the shirt away to reveal the bruising and swelling. “Please… please help me…” I begged.


“He fell off a boat into the River and the boat didn’t stop.”


Lucky barked again.


I could see that the boy’s concern - and Lucky’s enthusiastic support - was having an effect on her. She bit her lower lip.


“All right... ok... come in.”


“Ivan - shouldn’t you be on your way home now? Your mom is going to be worried.”


“Can I watch? You let me watch you take the glass out of Lucky’s paw before.”


“Well this is different, Ivan. You run along and tell your mom I’ll send Lawrence home as soon as I’m done.”


“He don’t live with us, Dr Vic,” Ivan chuckled.


She paused and looked at Ivan with that tell-tale expression of puzzlement and surprise that told me she was going to change her mind any second and pick up the phone.


“No - that’s true.” I grinned. "You run along home, Ivan, and tell your mom Lawrence Croht is in town! Ok? She’ll understand.”


“So you know the family, do you, Mr Croht?", is it??"


Ivan turned and said, “Bye Dr Vic! Bye Lawrence!” The dog barked “so long, Lawrence”, too. If anything, Lucky’s goodbye alone should have convinced her to help me.


“With the extended family - I was in Viet Nam with her brother-in-law. Four years ago - 1963. We were the first ones to go, you know. Advisors they called us..."


She hesitated and sat. She was again deciding what to do, I thought.


She stood, finally, and led me to an examination room. I winced as I removed the windbreaker.


“Is there something you can give me for pain, Doctor?”


“I can give you a Demerol - but I don’t know your medical history or anything about you, Mr Croht. I’ll have to guess at the dosage. I’d say you were - 170 pounds? Give or take?”


“I’m 160, actually.”


“Good - about the same as a St Bernard,” she smiled as she helped me remove my shirt.


“Your clothes - still quite wet!”


She examined my shoulder. She opened a drawer and took out a container of pills.


“Demerol. Take 1 of them right now - keep the vial. You’ll need them later in case of pain - but only take 1 - and only as needed. It’s a dangerous narcotic.”


She paused again, weighing the facts as she now contemplated exactly who and what she was dealing with.


“So, Lawrence, while it’s taking effect tell me how you know Ivan’s uncle.”


She put a small step on the floor and told me to climb onto the examining table and helped me lay on my back.


“Well - I will tell you - but, please, Doctor - don’t judge me.”


“I’m all ears, Lawrence,” she said, with just a hint of sarcastic incredulity.


“First, the part about knowing Ivan’s uncle is not true - I only said that hoping it would convince you to heIp me, to make you think I was connected to Ivan’s family. But the truth is, I am not.


I tried to help out someone in need - like you are helping me right now. But the person I tried to help found out I had money - I won it in Reno, gambling - a lot of money. Well, that person I was trying to help, she decided to call her boyfriend and they put a plan together to rob me. I got away, but I got hurt pretty bad. That’s the God’s truth, Dr Wolinska. And thanks to Ivan and Lucky, here I am… I am pretty banged up, but alive and - well - almost kickin’…” and I pointed to my leg.


“What about your leg?” She reached for the scissors.


“Please don’t - it’s the only pair I have at the moment. Unless you have a pair you can give me - do you? But - I don’t suppose you would have any men’s clothing laying around - you being single, I am guessin'.”


“And what makes you assume I’m -"


“You’re Polish - your name - Wolinska. But of course, you're right: that is just an assumption - there may very well be a Mr. Wolinska..."


“Ahhh - so, you're a smarty pants, are ya?" She smiled. "Ok smart guy, the Demerol should be kicking in by now. Let’s fix you up.”


She cut through the pant leg.


“I’ll give you some blues to wear - you can’t continue to wear these: otherwise the river water - which is far from clean - this is Allentown, remember - will soak through the bandage and infect your wound.”


She gingerly drew back the soaking wet pant leg.


"Oh - that is nasty! Knife?” she glanced at me, her forehead knotted.


“Bullet,” I winced. She was cleaning it with alcohol. I nearly passed out.


“It’s deep - down to the subcutaneous and prone to infection - probably already is. I’m going to have to stitch you up.”


She gave me a local anaesthetic and went to work.


“Right now I am irrigating the wound. It’s filled with debris and filthy Allentown river water. I am going to disinfect it now.”


She threaded a surgical needle with a suture.


“I’m sewing you up now, Mr Croht. The sutures will have to be removed in 2 weeks. You’ll need to go to a human doctor for that.”


After bandaging the wound she said: “I am going to give you some St Bernard sized antibiotics. Take one every day for 20 days. You should be ok. Now let’s fix that shoulder.”


“Do you think it’s swollen too much to put back in place?”


“No. It’s been an hour you say?”


“Give or take 20 minutes. Plus the time I’ve been here.”


“How long were you in the water?”


“Half an hour maybe.”


“The cold river water kept the swelling down, plus you were practically weightless, so that kept muscles and ligaments stable. I should be able to put it back in the joint without too much trouble - lucky you - but it may be painful, so brace yourself.”


She took my left arm and slowly pulled it downwards alongside my body; then gently pulled - using two hands. She then pulled it until it was perpendicular to my torso. It was painful, but not as bad as I thought it would be. She then walked alongside me pulling it straight back towards the wall behind me and released it. POP! I felt it slip into place.


“Wow! So, you know a thing or two about doctoring humans, too, huh? So why did you change to veterinary medicine? Why didn’t you continue through med school?”


“You know - “ She rubbed her thumb and fingers together indicating money.


“I did 2 years of pre-med and ran out of money. Vet school I could afford, but I still had to work 2 jobs. My father was an immigrant during the war - one of the lucky ones that escaped to France in 1939 - . He and my mother got here in early 1940. He took a job as a factory worker at the steel mill in Bethlehem.


"He had the foresight to sock away a little money for my education after I was born. It ran out by my second year of med school.”


“Sorry to hear that, Dr Wolinska.”


“Yes, well - ”


“I know what it’s like to have a dream slip through your fingers like that.”


“It’s a little different than losing the pot in a game of blackjack, Mr —-“


I interrupted: "You misjudge me, Doctor: I, myself, was in my second year of university studying engineering before I signed up.”


I paused and looked up at her: she was listening intently.


“I was in the ROTC program during my first year of study and because I had that training and did well in the courses, I was a perfect candidate - twenty-one years old. I was encouraged by my father to sign up. So I did. That’s the part of the story I told you that is actually true. We protected villages and we destroyed villages; we did some good things and many bad things over there, I am sorry to say.


"When I got back, I didn’t care about anything, much less a university degree. I took up gambling, n’ere-do-wellin’ and some other, rather unscrupulous activities, but I recovered, thanks to the grace of God.”


She hung her head. “Sorry, Mr Croht - I shouldn’t have -" and as she turned away I reached out and held her arm saying, “It’s ok. Like I said, I know what it’s like to have a dream slip through your fingers; it isn’t the end of the world.”


I let go of her sleeve and she went to the sink; she washed her hands for a long time.


She grew very quiet, and spoke softly as she prepared a bandage saying, “I am going to wrap your shoulder and bind your arm tight to your chest instead of putting you in a sling. That will keep it stable and allow it to mend faster, but you must get to a doctor - a human doctor..." and smiled, “...in three days to have the bandage re-applied, as it will loosen over time.”


“And how long must I keep the bandage on - and how long will this take to actually heal?”


“The bandage can come off in six days. Healing? It will take more than a month to get full mobility, so long as you don’t strain it or over use it - or get shot again.” She grinned.


“Don’t do any heavy lifting. If you like to swim, you could try that as it is non-impact and will help you recover sooner. But I’d stay out of the Lehigh River if I were you. Like I said: this is Allentown.”


“You would make a great human doctor, Doctor Wolinska - you have that good-natured, warm, bed-side manner.”


I think she blushed when I said that. That's when I noticed how pretty she was - she looked like Honey West, with that innocent smile, even had a mole.


“You know, Mr Croht, if I was a human doctor I would be required to report the treatment of that gunshot wound to the police.”


“Yes. Yes you would. I know this; please know that I am very grateful to you, Doctor but, please - ”


“...but since you are - er - since you are a St Bernard…” She smiled .


I had been under so much stress, so full of pent up emotion and anxiety, and now, suddenly so relieved, tears welled up and I was unable to speak. I could only mouth a “thank you” as I slid off the examination table. The effect of the Demerol put me off balance as I stood and she rushed forward quickly and pressed her hands to my chest and back. I placed my hand over hers to steady myself and tears fell, slowly winding their way from my hand onto hers. I gasped and tried to suppress my emotion but just couldn’t.


I turned away to wipe my eyes and reached for my shirt.


“Never mind your clothes - and get out of those pants - I have some hospital blues for you.”


She handed me the scissors and told me to cut them off: “It’ll be easier than straining and bending, I’ll be back with some dry clothes for you in a minute.”


“I hope they have pockets.”


She helped me get dressed and I reached for my windbreaker. From the inside breast pocket I removed the wallet and the envelope Trader Vic had given me.


I placed two one thousand dollar bills on the counter and said: “That’s for medical services rendered by a very kind Doctor Wolinska.” I placed the other two bills next to it: “That’s for graciousness and trust from a very kind Victoria Wolinska.”


I took out 2 one hundred dollar bills.


“And this is to cover Lucky’s recent visit and his next, should he need to come back,” and with that I picked up my soggy windbreaker.


Turning to her I said, “You know, Lucky can almost talk…”


That made her laugh.


“I will take your advice and stay in town until I am able to use this arm. Could you recommend a hotel? Some place comfortable, reasonably priced?”


“Yes. I know there’s one just a short cab ride from here called The Selby.


“Would you be kind and call me a taxi, Doctor Wolinska?”


“Certainly, Mr Croht.”


“Oh - and Doctor Wolinska - I want to be perfectly honest: My real name is not Croht. It’s Grant. Lawrence Grant. The man who tried to - er - rob me - who did this to me - I believe he went to the police and made up a story about me robbing him. It isn’t true. I had to change my name as a result of that. But I want you to know the truth. You might hear something on the news about it. If you do, I ask that you give me the benefit of the doubt once more and trust that I am being honest with you. You certainly have no reason to believe me, I know, but - ”


“I believe you - Mr Grant,” she replied softly. Her hand on my shoulder was reassuring. The way she said it - the look in her eye - she wanted me to believe her.


“By the way - the woman you tried to help, where is she now?” as she picked up the telephone.


Without thinking I shrugged my shoulders and winced, despite the Demerol. I grimaced in pain as I described the scene by the river. "She took off right after the boyfriend showed up - and she stole my car, too. They are probably holed up in a hotel somewhere planning their next job."


She dialed a number: “Yes... 525 Whittier Drive, please. Lawrence Croht…. Yes - The Selby Hotel…”


She walked me to the door and gave me a paper bag.


“What’s this?”


“Some reading material - just reminders about the medications I gave you, their side effects and cautions, that kind of thing.”


“Well - I know St Bernards can’t talk, but I didn’t know they could read.”


The expression on her face told me - for sure - that she did believe me.


“Make sure you read it, Mr Grant. It’s important.”


She told me to take care of myself, and wished me luck.


“Woof woof!” I said, and wagged my tail goodbye.



Chapter XII



Where to, Mac?”


“I need to get to a hotel. It’s called The Selby.


“Right, right - I forgot - it ain’t far from here.


He hit the meter handle.


“Say - ah - what happened to your arm? I mean, if you don’t mind me askin’…"


“No - I don’t mind. I fell in the Lehigh River and a rock bit me - dislocated shoulder.”


“Ooh. I did that once. Yeah. High school football. Hurt like a sonofabitch. Got arthritis in it now. That hurts just as bad sometimes.”


He continued questioning me: Cab drivers are, like Alice in Ohio, sorta-kinda curious about itinerants.


“You’re not from around here, are ya, mister? Allentown, I mean.”


“No. I’m from Saratoga Springs.”


“Oh yeah? Great racetrack up there!”


“Yup.”


"You're not, either - from here, I mean."


"No, I ain't."


"Chicago?"


"Hey, that's pretty good!"


“Bein' from Saratoga Springs, I'll bet you’re a bettin’ man, aren't ya?


“I have been known to do some speculatin’…”


“What d’ya like: Horses? Cards? Rollin’ the bones… hehe?!”


“Sure; roulette, playin’ spreads, poker, steeplechase - anything and everything.”


“You - er - make a living at it?”


“Gettin’ kind of personal aren’t we?” I glanced at his hack license posted on the back of the front seat, “… Moe?”


“Sorry, Mac - didn’t mean to be nosy.”


“That’s ok.”


I decided to introduce myself.


“My name’s Lawrence.” I almost said “Grant”, but suddenly remembered Doctor Wolinska’s face. “Nice to meet ya, Moe.”


“Likewise. So, ya here on business? Family? Pleasure trip? I can think of a lotta places more fun than Allentown!”


“No - just passin’ through, y’know… lookin’ for The Twelfth of Never.”


“Hey! That’s my wife’s favourite song! She loves Johnny Mathis! We been married 25 years next month! That was our weddin' song!”


“Twenty-five years! Sounds like you and her found it, Moe. Congratulations!”


I started likin’ this guy.


“Ok… here’s your hotel right up here. See? Told ya it wasn’t far.”


He pulled into the entrance.


“Hey, Moe, let me ask you: if a fella wanted to catch a longhauler and hitch a ride north, what’s the best route to go?”


“There’s a couple ways to get north: Route 33 is the most used. There are some streets and single lane roads that also go north but the truckers don’t use ‘em unless they are headin’ west. But to get to Syracuse, and points east - Buffalo, Saratoga Springs - your hometown - Plattsburg and from there up into Canada - they drive all the way over to Bethlehem and get on Route 33.


I’m guessin’ you’re thinkin’ about gettin’ back home, huh?”


“Yeah. But what about going north to say Buffalo or Cleveland?”


“To get there - up to Lake Erie - you got no choice: you take MacArthur Road North. That’s a very busy thoroughfare, though. A lot of truckers use it and hook up to Route 329 and connect to the 248 and head west and north from there. Ya see, Allentown is easy to get to but a hell of a place to get out of! Ask anybody!”


I had Detroit on my mind: With the police looking for me in the East, maybe it would be better to head north, to my friend in Detroit, Freddie.


“How far to MacArthur Road from here?”


“About 20 miles. But that’s west of here, like I said. You’re headin’ east - or are ya??”


“Oh - right… Yeah…”


“My buddy Norton is a trucker. He makes trips all over the country. Let me talk to him - maybe he can help you out if he’s makin’ a run.”


“Sure - that would be great! But if that doesn’t pan out, what would it cost to get to the 33 by taxi?”


“Around 20 bucks.”


“I’ll be calling and asking for you in a few days. You got a card or somethin’?”



I left him a good tip, so he wouldn’t forget me.



Chapter XIII



I checked in.


The desk clerk was suspicious: No luggage, except for my paper bag full of medical reading material.


He was a dapper looking man: around 35 or so, hair parted down the middle, a moustache and goatée, a carnation in his lapel. He looked a little aenemic, though: Had bags under his eyes.


He looked as though he had a lot on his mind. I wondered if his problems were worse than mine.


“Not Croft, it’s C-H-R-O-T.”


“I beg your pardon, sir.”


"Quite all right - it's an unusual name."


"You - er - have no luggage," stated like a prosecuting attorney going in for the kill on a hostile witness.

“My luggage is being traced as we speak - I caught a flight from Philadelphia right after getting out of the hospital,” pointing at my bandaged shoulder, “almost missed my plane, and when we landed they told me my suitcase was in Pittsburgh! Should be here tomorrow.”


He hummed once. “And how long will you be staying with us, Mr Croht?”


“Well, I plan on staying a week - can you give me a rate?”


“Yes, we rent rooms weekly and monthly. Let me check. A single room, I’m assuming?”


I nodded.


He hummed and hawed again. “We always ask an advance payment for such bookings.”


“I understand,” holding up my wallet.


“That will be… with tax, of course, a total of 360 dollars and five cents.”


I paid - told him I was good for the nickel - and got my key.


....


I opened my vial of Demerol just as the pain in my leg flared up again. Dr Wilonska told me to be careful so I only took half a pill. I also took the antibiotic. I started reading the do’s and don’ts that Dr Vic gave me and fell fast asleep.



I woke the next morning surprisingly refreshed. I was in some pain, but I was feeling relieved, nonetheless.


Those hospital blues were not too worse for wear even though I slept in them - but I would have to continue to wear them until I could buy some clothes on Monday. Nevertheless, I was hungry and, rather than limp through the city in conspicuous hospital clothing, I decided to get some room service breakfast.



....



That night, I counted up my cash. I was pretty flush at $6500 and change, plus the extra $1500 from the sale of the Cadillac. Between Reno and Allentown I had spent around $500 on food, gas and motels - plus the doctor’s bills - counting what Brenda had stolen and the the cost of my current digs.


Feeling comfortable with my finances, I took a painkiller and hit the rack.



Next morning I swallowed another half Demerol and limped to the hotel entrance to hail a cab.


He dropped me at a local haberdashery where I bought shoes, shirts, an off the rack suit, and a lid (just to keep my facial features less discernable).


I found a diner where I was about to order the trucker’s special: didn’t realize how hungry I was - other than yesterday’s breakfast it had been two days since I’d eaten a proper meal.



I sat at the counter. It was a busy spoon all right.


Just then two Penn State Patrol officers entered.


The waitress knew them by name, shouted out a greeting: “Hi, Wayne, Ken! You eatin’ or just coffee?”


“Just coffee, Joy."


“Coffee and pie for me, Joy!”


They sat at a table directly behind me.


She turned to me, “You ready to order, handsome?" Then shouted over my shoulder: "What kind of pie, Ken?” and almost busted my eardrum.


As hungry as I was I didn’t want to be hanging around with two state troopers behind me.


“Just coffee, thanks,” I whispered.


“What kind d’ya think, Joy??”


“Ha ha! Funny, Ken, very funny!”


She called to the cook: “Belva - slice o’ cherry pie, please.”


“Let me guess - Ken’s here again?” she remarked quietly, a cynical smile on her face.


I felt ok as long as they were distracted and not looking around and noticing things. After all, I was just another Joe sitting in a diner having a coffee. With my shoulder and arm wrapped up tight, I didn’t want to bring further attention to myself. I just had to remain non-chalante, though my heart was pounding like a full contingent of Harley's on a Hell's Angels road trip.


The place was crowded and noisy. A lot of regulars shouting out the names of the two waitresses, the cook, and someone named Molly, who I figured was the woman at the cash.


Joy brought my coffee and I sipped quietly. I had left my hat on, trying to keep my face hidden. I looked up and noticed a newspaper on a shelf next to the coffeemaker. I got Joy’s attention and asked her for it.


I turned to the crossword and asked for a pencil.


“Sure! Here ya go, handsome!” and she dug a pencil out of her apron pocket.


Suddenly, there was a voice calling out for the newspaper. It was one of the patrolmen.


"Sorry, Wayne, just gave it to this gentleman."


A few seconds later I was aware of Hai Karate after shave and a baritone growl in my left ear as a hand reached across in front of me, pointing to a clue. The twill sleeve and dark colour was more shocking than somewhat, but I stayed calm despite my increased heart rate.


It was either Ken or Wayne - I didn't bother to turn around to distinguish which, but either way, I was scared and nervous as a cut cat.


“My wife did the crossword this morning. You’ll never get 72 across, buddy!”


I tried to remain calm.


“Oh yeah? Let’s take a look…”


I pretended to read the clue but I was falling apart inside.


“No - I have no idea what that could be. Eight letters - hmmm,” I mused.


I used the pencil to search through the list of clues, and acted as though I was preoccupied with what I was doing. I put the pencil down and took a sip of coffee.


I found an easy “down" clue to solve and wrote it in.


“Wayne - do me a favour and deliver this slice of CHERRY PIE!” she shouted, “to Ken for me? It’s not that I DON’T TRUST HIM - it’s just that NONE OF US TRUST HIM!”


So - it's Wayne, I thought.


“Ha ha! Joy! You’re funny! Did ya hear that, Ken?” and he withdrew his hand and returned to his table.


I looked at the clue again for 72 across:


One on the run.


“Keep shouting like that, Joy, and I’ll arrest ya for disturbing the peace!”


The diner erupted into laughter.


"Mmmmmm - lovin' your cherry pie, Joy!"


It was a good time for me to toss a dollar on the counter and get out of there.


As I was leaving I heard Joy shout: “Hey, Wayne, here's the paper!”


I didn’t look back.


I just wanted to get out of sight. I limped across the street and went into the gas station. I checked the clock. I didn’t look back at the diner - the two cops had a window seat and I wondered if Wayne might be one of those suspicious types that I had encountered during my criminal days after I returned from my second tour. He might be observing me from his seat at the window. I bought a pack of cigarettes to justify my visit there. I lit one even though I didn’t smoke. When I got outside I pulled my pork pie down tight and walked down the street. I saw a phone booth and used it to sneak a look back at the diner as I pretended to speak into the receiver. I could see the police cruiser in the parking lot, and I decided to wait until I saw them leave.


They were in there for a half hour counting the ten minutes I spent sweating at the counter. I watched them exit and get into the cruiser. I left the phone booth, and hid behind a pick-up truck watching them drive south towards the downtown.


I returned to the diner.


“You’re back! You forget something, darlin'?”


“I had to make a phone call but, y’know, I am actually kind of hungry. They tell me you have great food here.”


“The sirloin is pretty good. The truckers like it.”


“Sounds great - but you're goin' to have to slice it up for me," I replied, pointing at my arm.


"We can certainly do that for ya, handsome." She took the pencil and pad from her apron. “Mashed or fries?”


I placed my order and asked for the paper again.


"Sure ... What kind o' pie?"


"Anything but cherry," I whispered conspiratorially. I caught her eye and smiled.


"Y'know, I'm startin' to like you, handsome!" she giggled.


I looked at seventy-two across: I pencilled in fugitive.


....


I got back to the hotel at 4 pm.


I went to the front desk and made an inquiry about my luggage, for the sake of appearances.


“And there's a package for you, Mr Croht.”


"A what?" I almost dropped my crock of molasses. "A package?? When did that arrive?”


He checked my box and read the receipt: “10 am, sir. We called your room.”


He passed me a hefty envelope - no name or writing on it.


“Did the person leave a name?”


“No sir. They did ask me a curious question, though, to verify your identity: She said you checked in last night, gave me your name, said you had dark hair and weighed about the same as a St Bernard.”


“Really?” I replied with mock surprise. “I guess that’s me, all right.”


In my room I opened the oversized envelope. It was the morning edition of The Call-Chronicle.


She included a note: “If you’re just waking up, this will ease a lot of pain and do you a world of good. Page 2. And that photo of you: you were a hippie??”


The headline, in 36 point Times New Roman, read: Bonnie and Clyde Twosome Arrested In Niagara Falls.


The smaller headline below it read - with an irony that only a Sam Fuller type newspaperman could appreciate - Capture Rules Out Honeymoon In Canada.


The story stated that the couple, Fritz Splittzenbaumer and Gretchen Brendinger, had made their way east from Las Vegas:


robbing unsuspecting businessmen, gas stations attendants, and 24-hour convenience stores. Their modus operandi involved the female suspect, Gretchen Brendinger, a prostitute, hitching rides with single men while her accomplice followed, waiting for an opportunity to rob their victims at gunpoint. A sharp-eyed Border Patrolman in Niagara Falls noticed the Penn State Dealer plates and searched their car where they found a set of California plates, a Webley long barrel .38, and a wad of cash hidden in the spare tire compartment. The suspects were on their way to Canada. A similar manhunt had been organized for the same woman and another accomplice - identified as Lawrence Grant - for aggravated assault on Splittzenbaumer in Ohio on Friday. Brendinger has maintained innocence, claiming she was kidnapped by Splittzenbaumer at gunpoint and forced into the scheme. She also said he ordered her to corroborate his account of the assault by Grant. She has told police Splittzenbaumer had tried to rob Grant at gunpoint resulting in Grant having to defending himself and that she is in no way involved in the alleged crime spree across 5 states. Grant is no longer a suspect in the alleged assault on Splittzenbaumer but is being sought by authorities for questioning in relation to the arrest of the couple.


The investigation is ongoing.



I guessed that Gretchen either took a sudden liking to me or was trying to squirm her way out of her involvement with Fritz and his attempt to rob me in Columbus. I remembered how she called him an idiot when she realized he had pulled a gun on me. I guess the gun wasn’t supposed to be part of their plan that night.


Honour among thieves...Christ.



Epilogue



I got off the elevator and handed the concierge the Yellow Cab business card.


He took a moment to comment on my new suit.


“Your looking quite different than you did when you arrived, Mr Croht. That is a fabulous suit! I take it your luggage must have arrived? Or are you getting married today?”


“Why - no it hasn’t yet… but thank you! Yes - it’s new. As for marriage? Well, ya never know!”


I handed him the Yellow Cab business card.


“Yes, sir.” He picked up the phone.


“And where to, sir?” he paused and looked up at me.


"Ah... I am hoping The Twelfth of Never.”


“Yes, sir,” he replied and then did a double take. “I’m sorry?” he asked, squinting an eye and pressing down on the disconnect button.


“Oh - sorry! The Twelfth of Never, in Salisbury... and ask the dispatcher to send Moe - he knows where it is.”



The End




La Lavendería

(Gregory Lahey, September, 2020)
Verse 1



I was distracted,

Sorting colours in my basket

When she walked in;

Her work clothes all grease and dried mud from toe to cap

We were down at the Laundromat.


Verse 2


I could tell she was hard-working

A single mom proletariat;

Children’s pants with grass-stained knees

Kids’ pyjamas covered in puppies and cats,

Stuffed into machines

Down at the Laundromat.


Verse 3


Her hands, I noticed,

Were chilblained, scratched, and calloused;

And I said to myself,

“I’d like to get to know a woman like that…”

Down at the Laundromat...


Bridge 1


I could tell she had worked hard all day,

As she slowly removed her baseball cap.

Her falling midnight tresses

Were something we all marveled at -

It was down at the Laundromat.


Verse 4


She wiped her forehead with her wrist,

Before she finally sat

I turned and retrieved 2 waters from the vending rack,

We didn’t say a word – she just smiled and looked into my eyes and just like that!

We were down at the Laundromat.


Verse 5


Folded my towels and as I packed

She wrote “Thanks” with her name on

A dryer sheet in eyeliner black;

Then we smiled once more and suddenly just like that!

It was down at the Laundromat.

It was down at the Laundromat.

We were down at the Laundromat.



Jim Thompson Blues

(August, 2021)


The sweeter the dream, the grimmer the dawn,

Everything I owned was sold or in pawn,

Spendin' other people's money to keep her in gowns,

Jim Thompson blues all day long,

Jim Thompson blues all day long.


Mr Low Wages, meet Miss High Expectations,

Another losin' streak down at the track speculatin',

Can't pay the rent when your 'rithmetic's wrong –

Jim Thompson blues all day long,

Jim Thompson blues all day long.


She was the brass ring, real thing and I reached for it, Roy,

A heeled-high Gilda, poutin' and poised,

I was carousel dizzy after the clutch and the noise,

And I stumbled into her parlour.


Now, some fellas’ll plan to rob some grocery store clerk,

Some fellas’ plans include powders and crystals, with a smirk

on their mug and a pistol in their palm,

Jim Thompson blues all day long,

Jim Thompson blues all day long.


Where the dark meets the deep is a long ways down,

The last beat of a heart is a helluva sound

Could still hear its echo as the house burned to the ground,

Jim Thompson blues all day long,

Jim Thompson blues, all day long.


She was Lulu Baines she was Jezebel,

A Babylon queen ready, willin', and able,

A cautionary note in a Grimm Brothers fable,

Darker and colder, her heart was upside down.

Jim Thompson Blues all day long

Jim Thompson blues all day long.


They finally caught me down at the border in Texas,

Got 25 hard despite no habeas corpus.

Looks like I'm still payin' though she's long gone -

Jim Thompson blues all day long,

Jim Thompson blues all day long.


Beater

(A Short Story)

(Feb., 2021)

A young woman is driving a late model vehicle through the city. As she grips the steering wheel, holding it with both hands, we can see her engagement ring sparkling in the bright light of a sunny autumn day. She is mid-twenties. Sitting atop her hair, which is bobbed, cut in a modern style, is a green silk pillbox hat to which a diamond brooch in the shape of a butterfly is attached.


Her name is Sally.


Next to her is her fiancé, also mid-twenties, peering at the screen of his cell-phone. His hair is nicely cropped, his beard is neat and trimmed setting off his lantern-shaped jaw-line. His eyes are dark, his shoulders square, his face tanned, his complexion clear and of youthful vigour, the kind that defines a radiant, perfect health.


“But we are gonna need a second car, honey, once you get a job, I mean,” she explains. “I just won’t have the time to drive you like before.”


“Hm,” he grunts.


“And you’re gonna love this car, Frankie! It’s orange!”


“Hmmm...”


She pulls the car to the curb. “We’re here, honey!”


“But seriously, babies? We are gonna needs that dineros when comes junio.


“I said you needn’t worry about that!” slapping his forearm in a familiar “aw-shucks-don’t-even-think-about-it” way. “I got the loan myself and I will be taking care of the payments. You just need to concentrate on finding a job.”


She exits the car.


She is dressed in a retro 50s style pleated dress that matches the colour of her hat. She wears a pair of white leather kitten heels. She waits on the sidewalk clutching her purse close to her chest as a cool breeze chills the October morning, waiting for Frankie to get out. He is looking at his cell phone. She taps the window and he lowers it.


“Aren’t you coming?”


“Do you really needs me to make theeses purchases?” raising his hand in question, squinting as though the sun is in his eyes - which it isn’t.


“Well, I thought you might want to see the car yourself.”


Exasperated and muttering, Frankie gets out of the car.


He puts on a pair of Vuarnets. He is wearing a perfectly fitted burgundy jacket, matching slacks, a white linen shirt unbuttoned at the top exposing a thick gold chain; he is wearing a pair of expensive red and white running shoes.


She reaches out and smooths his lapels. “This jacket looks fabulous on you, Frankie! Happy Birthday - again!” smiling effervescently - like a child - and kisses his cheek.


Frankie smiles. Then doesn't.


............


Inside the main office of the lot is the receptionist. She is an attractive 20-something with long, straight blond hair. She is casually dressed in a pair of jeans and a loose fitting yellow and green flowered blouse with a lace collar. She is filing her nails. She is not chewing gum, though one might expect she would be.


“Can I help you?” she asks absently, not looking up as the door closes.


“Yes. Hi! Well… we’re here to look at the orange car you have for sale in the lot... right over there,” pointing out the window behind the receptionist, who, looking up suddenly pauses mid-manicure, mouth slightly agape.


We?” she asks, closing her eyes, shaking her head incredulously.


The young woman looks over Sally's shoulder just as the door opens. Frankie enters, putting his cell phone in his jacket pocket.


............


At the back of the office is seated an older man, balding, grey-stubbled, slightly overweight and wrinkled. He looks - and is - tired, in that haggard, world-weary, wants-to-retire-but-can't-yet, way. He is the owner of the lot. He wears an '80s plaid jacket, a pair of beige trousers, and a too-wide-and-too-short-for-the-shirt multi-colored striped neck-tie. There’s a dark coffee stain right in the middle, acquired just that morning on his drive to work. After arriving at the office, he had looked in his desk drawer for a cleaner one, but decided to keep the one he was wearing on as the others were mustard and/or ketchup spattered.


From behind his desk he peers over bales and reams of brochures, work orders, receipts, and invoices at the young lady who has just enetered the office. He watches her as she speaks to the receptionist. After a few moments he sees the young man enter, and, not realizing they are together, he thinks to himself, Ah! Two today!


............


“Oh! There you are!" Sally whispers, "What were you doing, Frankie? You’re such a slow-poke sometimes!” She slaps his forearm again in that "aw,shucks!" manner and smiles her cheery, loving, devoted smile. Frankie smiles back like someone in love and kisses her cheek. Sally gushes warmly.


Sally turns once more to the receptionist. “We’re here to look at the orange Toyota in the lot?” she repeats, again pointing out the window behind the receptionist as she slips her arm around the crook of Frankie’s elbow, hunching her shoulders, still smiling, unflappable, full of hope and sunlight, sweet and pure and gentle: Mary Pickford before the fall.


The owner has now risen from his desk. Ah! So - it's a couple!.


Our salesman is a smart man. One might even describe him as a wise man. He knows human nature and he has sold all kinds of cars to all sorts of people in circumstances existential, cynical, and faithful. He doesn't like selling cars, but he's good at it. In his mind he sees a flip-book flash of faces whose names are lost in a past he is constantly trying to escape - young and old, male and female, poor and not-so-poor - and the corner of his mouth curls into a cynical smile.


Although he is no longer married, he still wears his wedding band, which he often rubs absent-mindedly with his thumb. He is doing so now as he observes a naiveté that reminds him of something so long ago and so far away – lost and irretrievable in the fog of his middle-age – that he almost tears up: It is her - his beloved - seen through a cloud of was-and-can-never-be-again: she is all ribbons and bows and dreams of wild Sable Island ponies, dressed in green crinoline and rhinestones. He shakes off the fog of that long-gone past, straightens his tie, and rises to once more attempt to quench his regret with the waters of the Lethe.


“Hello!” he says cheerfully, with a slightly wry, but warm, grin that turns up the corner of his lip. His arm is outstretched in an effort to shake the young woman’s hand.


“Welcome to Better Than Beaters Gently Used Cars!” he beams.


She walks towards him and he peers over her shoulder to see the young man remove his sunglasses and smile at his receptionist.


He discreetly places his left hand over the stain just in front of his heart and shakes her hand. “My name is Frank.”


“How do you do, sir,” shaking his hand vigorously, “I’m Sally – we spoke last Friday about the ‘93 Corolla...?”


“Right!” and as he points at her with his index finger in a sign of having recalled the conversation, he repeats the word, his voice trailing off as he peers over her shoulder at the young man leaning over the receptionist’s desk. He watches him stand upright, extend his hand as though holding a phone, pretend to tap it with his index finger, and, looking at the receptionist, hold the pretend device to his ear, smiling broadly.


"Right, right, right..."


Frank-eee!” Sally sing-songs and turns just as the young man is walking towards her. “You and the owner here have the same name! Frankie, this is Frank!”


Mucho gusto. Nice to meets you, senor,” as they shake hands.


Igualmente,” replies Frank, the curl of his lip is now more, but just slighty.


“Well - his real name is Francisco!” adds Sally, gushing and holding him tightly by the arm as though she will never let him go. “He’s from Columbia!” Frankie closes his eyes and kisses her cheek again, taking her hand.


The owner says nothing as their eyes meet and he finds himself squeezing Frankie’s hand a little more firmly than he would someone else's and says, "You - er - remind me of -" he stops abruptly, "- well...anyway..."



Still half smiling, he says, “Let’s go take a look at that vehicle, shall we?”


Frankie does a quick-step ahead of them and opens the door with a My Man Godfrey valet flair. They exit the office and Frankie turns once more to the receptionist, who has returned to her manicure. Frank watches Frankie giving the receptionist one last wink-and-a-smile, noticing Sally is oblivious to the drama that has just unfolded behind her.


Frankie pulls his cell phone out of his pocket and stops outside the door. Sally, too, has stopped and she turns to say to Frankie, “Hurry up, honey!You are such a slow-poke sometimes!” She takes the sleeve of his jacket, pulling him behind her as he types.


When they get to the Corolla, Sally proudly says, “This is the nicest looking one on the lot! And I love the colour! Do you like it, Frankie?”


The owner of Better Than Beaters puts his hands into his pants pockets and stares silently at the ground. He shuffles his feet. He looks at Sally, then beyond, at her phone-obsessed fiancé.


Orange and Green he muses.


"So!" she says excitedly, "This is the one!"


Frank is deeply moved by her innocence. He is almost speechless, not quite sure how to begin, rubbing his wedding band nervously, rapidly, neurotically. He hears the poplar trees whispering in the clear morning air; a crow clears its throat.


Frank cocks his head to the side and stares at her a moment in silence. The air is cool: winter is coming, despite the sun’s forgiving gleam and momentary warmth reflected on chrome, glass, and steel. Frank hunches his shoulders and wards off a chill that suddenly embraces him.


“Well, Miss,” says Frank, straightening up, hands still in his pockets, “What you’re looking at here..." he kicks a tire,"...came in a long time ago." He pauses briefly. He purses his lips. "I’m sure it was a fine ride in its day, but..." he looks at Frankie, "...it was brought in on a tow-truck, don’t ya know.

"I’ll be honest with you, Miss: It’s got a lot of miles on it. You’d never know it, though, looking at the body here – there’s some surface rust on the rockers there, and on the trunk… normal, really. And, yes, it once was a reliable vehicle – but – well, this one? I have to tell you, Miss Sally, this one: not so much anymore."


Sally is suddenly rapt.


“What you’re lookin’ at here, Miss, well, yes, from the outside looks pretty good. But I wouldn’t depend on what’s under here,” tapping the hood with an index finger and at the same time nodding towards Sally's fiancé, preoccupied with his phone a short distance behind her.


Sally, unsure of why Frank is speaking to her and looking at Frankie, turns her head slightly to the side listening intently, a puzzled unsure-of-what's-going-on smile flickering now and again.


“You say you need somethin’s gonna last you through the winter, maybe even get you to that wedding in June,” smiling broadly, and nodding towards her engagement ring.


“Well, listen now, Miss, I’ve been at this car-selling game a long time – and I think this one,” slapping the fender, "just might break that little heart of yours in two.” Again, he looks at Frankie, as does Sally as Frankie pivots away from her gaze, speaking softly into his phone. Sally quickly turns her head, almost in alarm, to look at Frank, her face contorted and strained, confused and questioning, almost painful, as though her finger was suddenly pierced by a splinter.


“I could quote you a price, Miss, but don’t you know that what you’re lookin’ at here - why, it's somethin' that I would not class as, shall we say, dependable; this particular vehicle, Miss, lies somewhere between what we call in the business, the might and the might not, so to speak.”


Sally is listening in disbelief. Sounding hurt, she says, “Might? Might not? Isn’t - this - a good car, Frank?”


Frank takes a pearl diver's breath. “Well, let me put it to you this way, Miss Sally: I would like to sell everything on this lot..." and he makes a sweeping gesture with his arms, " ...today. Now, what do I mean by that?" He brings his hands together, palm-to-palm. He looks to the sky, as though asking for guidance, and begins: "Well – I'm a salesman – a Used Car Salesman, don't you know," and stares directly at Sally, pausing a long time. "So, I'll say it again: what you’re lookin’ at here - well - it's a chance I wouldn’t take.” He looks over her shoulder at Frankie, assiduously poking at the keyboard of his phone. “But, if you want - if you insist on this one - I will cut you a price below the Blue Book value ‘cause – let me tell you - it’s gonna take more than a new set of tires to turn this something you think is - well – this car you think is fine into something that – well, this one just isn't fine, Miss Sally, and it will never be fine... and won’t ever be - fine.”


Sally looks at the car that she thought was a great car. She looks at Frankie, who has his back to her and is whispering quietly into his phone. She stares at him a moment and calls to him in panic: "Frankie?!" He furtively peeks over his shoulder at her, hunched up like a cur dog caught stealing. He holds up an index finger in a one more minute, honey gesture. Sally turns to Frank, stares at the stain on his necktie, the high volume of his charcoal/fuscia/grey checkered jacket, his balding pate, his wrinkled and weathered visage, his scuffed unpolished oxfords. She looks into his eyes which are melancholy, but shining nonetheless.


Frank feels the warmth of the sun on his greystubbled face. “There’s no guarantee this vehicle will even get you through to tomorrow - unless you're willing to spend another couple of thousand on it. And even if you did, I don't think it's gonna live up to your faith and wonder in it.” He looks at the ground, then, looks at her sideways. "That's the truth," hands still palm-to-palm pointing heavenward.


Sally is disheartened, dumbfounded, deflated. With arched eyebrows and the sorrows of the world reflected in her eyes, she mouths the word Really?


Frank looks over her shoulder at Frankie, looks back at Sally, and responds in a nodding silent way.


Sally bites her lower lip and gazes at what was once the blue and gold and sparkles of the future, at what once had been filled with the Grace of all kindnesses, the used-to-be clear aqua marine of a now cobalt-blue sky. She removes a tissue from her pocket and suddenly feels ridiculous in her satin sheen and pill-box silk, and wipes away a tear. Looking at Frank again, she mouths the word. Frank, lowers his chin to his chest, tilts his head to one side raises his eyes to her, brow furrowed, lips a straight line across his face, and nods.


She looks over her shoulder. Frankie watches her direct her gaze to her parked car in front of the Better Than Beaters office. She reaches into her purse and removes her car keys. She stares into Frank's brown eyes as another tear forms in her own, then furtively takes his hand and gives it a heartfelt squeeze. She whispers a "Thank you" in his ear, and slowly walks away.


Frank notices that she has slipped something into his hand and as she gets into her car, she manages a smile. It is a sad smile.


Frank returns a slow sad wave, shoves his hands into his pants pockets, shakes his head forlornly, and rubs the gold band of a different ring.


Hold on, babies, I gots another calls coming in.


END


Beater

(Sept. 20, 2020)


What you’re lookin’ at here

Came in a long while ago,

A fine ride in its day,

Was dragged in here with a tow.

It’s got a lot o’ miles on it,

But you’d never know,

Once was true and reliable,

But not anymore.


What you’re lookin’ at here,

From the outside looks pretty good;

But I wouldn’t depend on

What’s underneath that hood;

I could quote you a price,

But it’s understood,

What you’re lookin’ at here,

Lies somewhere between the “might” and the “could”.


Chorus


You say you need somethin’s gonna last beyond the winter,

Maybe get you through the Spring, maybe a weddin’ in June.

Well, listen here, Miss, I’ve been at this game for a long, long time,

And I think this one might break your heart clean in two…


…‘cause what you’re lookin’ at here,

Is a chance I wouldn’t take;

But I’ll tell you what,

I’ll cut you a price below the goin’ rate;

It’s gonna take more than a new set o’ tires

and a coat of paint,

T’ turn this somethin’ that was

Into somethin’ it ain’t.


Chorus


No guarantee it’s gonna get you through tomorrow,

Unless you spend another thousand or two;

And I don’t think it will honour such a commitment on your part,

So, Miss, I wouldn’t recommend this one to you…


‘Cause what you’re lookin’ at here,

Came in a long while ago;

A fine ride in its day,

Was dragged in here with a tow.

There’s a lot o’ miles on it,

But you’d never know,

Once was true and reliable,

But not anymore.


The Non-ist

(Gregory Lahey, 2012)

I am anti:

I descend when others clamber up:

Formally attired when others are not;

I un-imbibe while others sip

At parties, and bars and on vacation trips.


I'm abstract:

Formless in a world of representations,

Flat in a world of 3-D demonstrations,

Yet occupy both Space and Time

in Einstien's manifestations,

And transparent in a world of flamboyant excitations.


I am black and white in a land of a million hues,

Kaleidoscopic when the world's all greys and blues;

Monotone and taupish while all around is crimson,

But luminescent in the depths of my prison.


I cannot be while others do

And yet I will, when others fail to;

And when they're still not halfway through,

I remain retired, subdued.”


My Horse Keeps Fallin' Down

(Gregory Lahey, May 20, 2020)


My horse keeps fallin' down,

My horse keeps fallin' down,

My big round world is turnin' brown

And my horse keeps fallin' down.


I'm just tryin' to get to the border,

I'm just tryin' to get to the border,

My horse needs hay and water,

I'm just tryin' to make the border.


Gotta swim across that river,

Gotta swim across that river,

The water makes me shiver,

Gotta swim across that river,


Bridge

I've already gone under twice,

I've already gone under twice,

And the water's colder than hell,

Oh, why do I do the things I do?

Why do I do the things I do?

Why do I do the things I do?

I'm a nice enough fella.

Why do I do the things I do?


I'm crawlin up the shore,

I'm crawlin' up the shore,

I'm alive and well, thank the Lord,

I'm crawlin' up the shore.


Here comes a pretty little woman,

Here comes a pretty little woman,

She's bringin' me some tea,

She's awfully concerned about me.


She says, "I will take you in",

She says she wants to take me in,

I say thank ya with a great big grin,

Oh, why do I do the things I do?


Bridge

Why do I do the things I do?

Why do I do the things I do?

I'm a nice enough kind o' fella,

Why do I do the things I do?


My horse keeps fallin' down,

My horse keeps fallin' down,

My big round world's turnin' brown,

And my horse keeps fallin' down.

I'm just tryin'to get to the border,

I'm just tryin' to get to the border,

My horse he needs hay and water,

And I'm just tryin' to get to the border


Bridge

Why do I do the things I do?

Why do I do the things I do?

Why do I do the things I do - why do I do the things I do?

Why do I do the things I do?


Ya Gotta Like A Fella Like John

(Woody Johnson, April 9, 2020)


Well, ya gotta like a fella like John,

Ya know, he's been around:

He's been to the country

He's been to the town

Smokin' and a'drinkin' from dusk 'til dawn,

Even passed out a couple of times

On somebody else's lawn -

But ya gotta like a fella like John.


He dusts himself off and

Goes back to the farm,

Writes it all down in a slap-happy song:

Three chords and a Gibson

He got from his mom.

Like some kind o' angel guidin' him along,

Kept him safe as a baby in a mother's arms and

Kept him on a path between the right and the wrong.

Ya gotta like a fella like John.



Yeah, ya gotta like a fella like John,

Knows that things worth doin' are worth the fight;

He once lost his pride and a woman he liked,

He couldn't sleep through a goddamned night,

But he put it all down with a heart that was light,

To teach us all a funny lesson 'bout life.

Yeah, ya gotta like a fella like John.



Yeah, ya gotta like a fella like John,

'Cause he keeps on keep keepin' on,

Knows those past deeds are long since gone,

That the secret to keepin' regrettin' from gnawin'

Is the Grace to forgive our own trespassin' bones,

'Til we're rollin, by god, we're flowin',

'n' laughin' 'bout it all the way back home,

Laughin' 'bout it all the way back home...

Yeah, ya gotta like a fella like John.


I Think There's Something Wrong With Me, Miss Cole

(Woody Johnson, March 7, 2020)


I think there's something wrong with me, Miss Cole...

Yeah, I think there's something wrong with me...

I'm walkin' around bumpin' into things, Miss Cole;

I'm hearin' violins and cellos when I'm listenin' to Rock 'n' Roll.

Yes, I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole.


Yeah, I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole,

I think there's somethin' wrong with me...

I'm out there doin' my grocery shoppin', Miss Cole,

Find myself in a flower shop contemplating the bright and beautiful.

Yes, I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole.


Bridge

But, y'know, I've never felt better;

Then again, I've never felt worse;

I think it might be my heart, Miss Cole,

This bittersweet pain's gonna make it burst.


Yes, I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole.

Yeah, I believe there's somethin' wrong with me...

I walk to church on Sunday I hear bells a'ringin', Miss Cole,

It's pouring down rain I'm singin' out loud from the bottom of my soul...

I'm singin': I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole.


I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole,

Yes, I think there's somethin' wrong with me...

I'm callin' you up on the telephone, Miss Cole;

I got my coat and boots on,

You're not even at home...yeah, I know:

You think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole.


But, y'know, I've never felt better;

Then again, I've never felt worse;

I think it might be my heart, Miss Cole,

This bittersweet pain's gonna make it burst.


Yes, I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole...

I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole...

I'm gonna have to go see a doctor, I guess,

One of them there Specialists

To try and diagnose this

Ailment Mysterious...

'Cause I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole,

Yep, I think there's somethin'wrong with me, Miss Cole...

I think there's somethin' wrong with me, Miss Cole.

Bless my soul, what's wrong with me, Miss Cole?
>

La la la la la la la la la

La la la la la la la la la


The Things I've Done

(Woody Johnson)


"These things I've done," said I to him,

In his office that day, by way of confession:

"I have emptied the cup that overflows,

"From the garden I clipped the finest rose...

"Interrupted the poet with my praise,

"Smothered butterflies -

"Then pinned them in collectors' trays...

"Made the silent initiate shout in frustration,

"Brought a child to tears with my intonation..."


"I have drunk the last of the rationed water;

"Struck the last match to light my cigar, sir;

"Thrown the baby out with the bath;

"And never bothered to check my math...

"I did not look - I just leapt,

"And just like Sagittarius -

"I aimed right while looking left,

"Resulting in disastrous."


"I've accepted the fact that einmal ist keinmal,

"And disregarded the family motto:

"Did the things that one ought not to,

"Again, once more, y a infinito...

"Yes, I've done these things," said I.

And he replied:

"Well - you should be an addict - why!

"At the very least, in jail - or dead, sir!

"None should have borne such ills you've bred!"

Yes - that is what the doctor said.


Lament For Kim S.

(G. Lahey, October, 2019)


So full of joy

Of living and song

And yet never said

Anything was wrong

Played guitar and sang

Jumped and danced around

All night long


She laughed long and loud

Loud and long

Spoke her mind in poem/rhymes

Stood tall and strong

Dignified and graceful

In the face of borrowed time


Bridge

In the little she had left

She said what she had to say

'Bout love and happiness

Keeping the shadow at bay


And the day finally came

When she pulled up lame

With her hands on her hips

Her smile restrained

She put down her guitar

And without any help

Hobbled to her room

Never once complained

Or cursed the fact that soon....


And so she soldiered on

Denying its claim on her

And smiling even though

It crippled and it maimed

And I am not ashamed

To admit that I cried

The day that I found out


She made the hard things easier to bear

And, Lord, I wish

She was still here...


Grateful

(G. Lahey, October, 2018)


I go to church on Sunday

Yes I do.

Sometimes I'm asked, "Why? For who?

All I can say is "I am grateful, don't you know..."


I am renewed after I've considered

those things for which I was not mindful.

For example: a kindness shown
Which, upon reflection of the weekly

of a sudden becomes known to me.

The thoughtful things that people do

out of love, or goodness, or out of concern,

Discerning needs of which I, myself, was unaware,
are realized in contemplation here.


A simple gesture that indicates a measure of interest in my day

meant someone cared enough to ask:

I say a prayer of thanks for that.


All within this sanctuary where
there is time enough to

Meditate

Contemplate
Search my pate and ruminate

on seemingly trivial moments

overlooked in my conscious state.

But here - in meditation's light - they become gargantuate,

Revealing themselves as such

in the sacred silence of this space
where I am reminded to be grateful.


Abyss



(G. Lahey, September, 2017)

If you find

there are no words

or symbols or signs

to express or define

this feeling of loss and the void that it left;


And this chasm

this abyss you fell into

with no Earth below to finally embrace you,

so that life becomes an endless descent...


Into silence

and stillness

that you try your best to ignore

so that you can go on with your life once more...


Let me tell you:

There's still joy and beauty

and love and life

and kindness and goodness in this world as before

and just because you opened a door

and found yourself on the outside

looking in

let me tell you, my friend,

it's not the end.

It's not the end.

It's not the end.


Goin' Down Swingin'



(G. Lahey, September, 2017)


I can hear

The crowd a-hollerin'

But I ain't ready to go;

I hear Ratchett caterwaulin'

But me and Randall still got one more;

We're comin' up swingin'.


I can hear

The people shoutin'

Tellin' me to stay down;

But me and ol' Lucas Jackson

Are gettin' up to go another round,

We're comin' up swingin'.


Chorus


Yeah there's evil

in this world

We're not gonna let it win;

We're comin' up swingin'.


I can hear

The siren's a-wailin'

But we're not givin' up, sir;

It's me and Terry Malloy,

We're blind but we keep flailin';

Yeah, there's evil

In this world

But we're not gonna let it win, sir,

We're comin' up swingin'.


Birthday



(Woody Johnson,September, 2015)


Well, my best big boy...

Another birthday's here,

Hope you celebrate it with friends and celebrate it heartily.

I wish you all kindnesses and Grace,

In this, your 27th year...


Remember: use wisdom,

Not just your knowledge,

To temper what you know with what you believe;

And use your intuition, too,

Against those who would decieve.


Lastly, remember

That there is much Love

On this Big Round World: Music, Song -

So many reasons

To celebrate and give thanks

All year long,

My best big boy...


Falling


(Woody Johnson, July, 2016)


I am not looking for a lover,

I am not looking for a friend,

I only want to recover

From this falling that does not seem to end.


I'm not looking for a doctor,

I do not need a police man,

Thirsty, but I don't need water,

I ain't lost - don't need no preacher, ma'am.


Shaman and magi are of no use to me,

Shelter from the elements - no...

Betrayed, but it's not truth I seek

anymore...

And as I fall towards some place below

I'm not looking for a hero,

Or redemption from the Holy See,

And I'm not waitin' for a miracle, no siree,

I'm just waitin' for someone -

Waitin' patiently for someone -

Just waitin' for someone

to save me.


For My Son and Daughter


(Woody Johnson, August, 2015)


I'm an old and bent-backed man now,

And I love 'em more

Than when they both were infants;

In that New Mornin' room back then,

That sacred light shinin' down on them,

In the loving arms of their perfect mother:

My darling son and darling daughter.


Everything that they believe

About whales and trees,

And seeds and light and water,

And caring for and loving living things,

They learned from her and me;

And, conversely,

Everything we didn't know back then,

About forgiveness and love,

About letting go -

What we truly need to grow -

Indeed, was taught to us by them

Before they learned to read and cipher:

My darling son and darling daughter.


And even now, as they mature,

I become a wiser man

With each passing moment here,

For they still teach me lessons

Every day.

And despite the failings

And broken things on this big round world,

I become a better person

Because of them,

Each and every passing hour...

That's the magic they have got, sir:

My darling son and darling daughter.


And I endure the pain of knowin'

That, by and by - yes -

I'll soon be goin';

Leavin' 'em on their own again.

And the reason it's so difficult,

Is a result of the knowledge

That I should've made

Their lives much better.

This sense of abject lack and loss

Causes me to fret 'n' toss

As, ever aging, I await the approaching Shade...

So much more, sir,

I oughta've done...

My darling son

And darlingdaughter.

This Ol' Guitar

(Woody Johnson, August, 2015)


This ol' guitar just can't take much more,

Like my life and the stripes it's bore:

There's marks on every place and part,

The aches and pains of a broken heart.


All kinds of little dents and scratches,

Breaks repaired with tape and patches,

All them little splits and cracks,

Bound with glues and cleats and tacks.


The first one, not so serious,

But ya thought it got hit by a bus!

All because your very first crush

Was holding hands with such and such.


And the second one, in high school land,

You took her out to hear that band,

She left with a guy in a really fast car-

Yeah, that one hurt, and left a scar.


And 40 years on, when the kids were grown

And went out in the world to make a home,

That old git hit the floor once more,

"It ain't gonna sound like it did before",

And you strummed it, thinkin' "It's broke for good".

But, lo and behold, though worse for wear,

The varnish scratched, the wood laid bare,

By god - there was another song in there.


So, when you look at this old guitar

You can see the map of the near and the far,

The miles it's been, the trials it's seen,

Goodtimes, badtimes, nightmares, dreams.


Now: how careful I'm goin' to be,

How protective of its delicacy,

And though it's battered, it's gracefully agein' -

Just listen, mister... it's still singin'.


Blue Highway

(Woody Johnson, May, 2015)

Well it makes no never mind

Which way the wind is blowin'

'Cause you're goin',

And there's nothin' I can do about that;

And it really don't matter

Which way the river's flowin'

It's early mornin',

And you've put on your coat and hat.

It may be early Spring, child,

Or days of last leaves fallin',

Blue Highway's callin',

You gotta do what ya gotta do.

And it makes no difference

Who you leave behind a'waitin'

Don't be hesitatin',

You just gotta see this through now...


Chorus

Your travelin' shoes

Pen and paper

Hm hm - your old guitar,

You got a long way to go

And a short time to get there

So don't delay,

Hear what I say...

You're gonna start out walkin',

But you might catch a ride,

On and on that

Blue Blue Highway.



And if one day you find

That it's eleven in the afternoon,

Rooster crowin' at the moon

You just stand your ground and fight.

And it won't matter, child,

If it's mid-day or mid-night

Keep doin' what you're doin'

'Cause everything's gonna be alright.


Your travelin' shoes,

Pen and paper,

Hmmm...that old guitar

You got a long way to go

and a short time to get there

So don't delay;

Hear what I say,

You'll start out walkin'

But you might catch a ride

On and on that

Blue, Blue Highway.


There's Still Love

(Woody Johnson/Ron Kassner, 2011)

Well, it's Christmas time again...on this starry night.

All the stores are decorated nice... all those coloured lights

And great big signs that say "Half Price"...

And it all looks so... pretty, really...

And the radio's playin' hymns and carols,

About angels and the birth they herald.

And there's funny songs, too,

About Mommy kissin' you-know-who,

And Christmases both white and blue...


And it all sounds so... sweet, really...

And I guess this, too's, a Christmas song,

A reminder to remember the day you're on...

Amid the shopping throngs and distractions

that I mentioned above,

You know what I'm speaking of:

The lost, the sick, the lonely -

The ones who miss their one and only,

And all the ones who may have forgotten

That there's still love

On this big round world...

STAND-UP GUY

(For Paul)

(Woody Johnson, 2005)

I’d like to say a word about my brother,

He’s strong and tough and a stand-up guy,

And we’ve had our share

Of difficult times:

Patches on our clothes,

And sleepin’ in the cold,

Money woes,

And leaky roofs,

He’s strong and tough and a stand-up guy.


He always finds a way to make us laugh,

And we forget about the world

For a couple of hours,

And remember a time

When we were young,

When we were bold,

Swimmin’ in the ocean,

Strugglin' through school,

Tryin' to follow all the rules,

He’s strong and tough and a stand-up guy.


He always told me "Try to do what's right",

And when you are, never back down from the fight,

And even if you lose, you can look at the scar,

And know in your heart that you done the right thing,

Then, the innocent will know that the fight that you bring,

Means you're strong and tough and a stand-up guy.

Well, I'd like to say a word about my brother...


THE MUSIC

(G. Lahey, January,2013)


And the music just calls out to me:

I have no choice:

The piper's tune,

The hypnotic stare of Nosferatu,

The sirens' voice...

I answer.


The music is her attitude: spherical…

It's everything about her:

The softness of her perfect skin,

The sensual depths of her voice,

Grace:

A miracle…

WHAT IT IS

(Woody Johnson, November 5, 2013)


What love is

Is regretting all those birthdays you missed...

What wisdom is

Is knowing her very touch is a gift...

What happiness is

Is not realizing that you are...


That's what

What

What it is...


What trust is

Not doubting, just accepting every day...

And what truth is

Are the words to a song that never goes away ...

And what time is

Is a monster that love won't let enter...


That's what

What

What it is...


And what life is

Is caring for what brings us joy...

And what faith is

Is never giving up, never giving up, never giving up...

And what you are

Is everything I believe in...

And what you are

Is everything I believe in...

And what you are

Is everything I believe in...


The Fire Next Time

(Woody Johnson, July 7, 2012)

Brother, are you righteous?

Sister, are you righteous?

Tell, me have you cast the first stone?

Brother, we're all sinners,

Sister, we're all sinners,

Tell me, do you want to be reborn?

It's an easy thing to do, my brother,

Such an easy thing, my sister:

Forgive yourselves for what you have done...

Refrain

Mark my words, your soul will shine,

See it shine, see it shine...

Mark my words, your soul will shine,

See it shine...

Forgive yourselves, forgive yourselves,

Or else it's the fire next time...

Next time fire...

Next time fire...

Oh it's gonna be the fire next time...

So, Brother, are you ready?

Sister, are you ready?

Let that gentle rain from heaven ease your mind...

Brother, you get ready,

And Sister, are you ready?

Let that gentle rain from heaven ease your mind...

Let that gentle rain from heaven ease your mind...

Pillar of Salt

(G. Lahey, 2008)

I followed these,
My only visions: there, ahead of me, my future;
The becoming that would save me;
Strength and ease.
No longer solo; rising before me, City of God:
The belonging I was craving.
Then, Odysseus’ seas,
Then the Sirens’ call:
No cords or chains for binding -
And I cast my gaze behind me...

Growin’ Up

(Woody Johnson)

Well, you’re just a little boy
And with your brand new little toy
You break a tiny feathered thing.

Then, when you’re a teen
It’s words you fling and
They injure, too, and sting,
An’ cause a lot of suffering and pain.

And when you reach your youth
You’re more physical and ruthless,
And when you strike, you’re guiltless, with no signs of remorse...
You didn’t think about forgiveness,
Didn’t think about redemption,
No pity, no regret, no conscience - or even consciousness...

Then, one day you’re a man,
And you’re in love, but you deny it,
Without knowing what effect that’s gonna have upon your heart.
And that little feathered thing,
You see it gasping in your fingers,
And you think about unkindness
And those words when you were mindless,
And the hurt you put upon those who were weaker, blind, and blameless,
And you begin to pray in earnest,
And you beg for Grace and Mercy,
And you weep in abject silence
For absolution
And for peace.

Hard To Bear

(For the Parents Of Angie Pirog)
(G. Lahey, November 23, 2009)

We seldom know what to expect
Even when we know it’s comin’ down the line.
When it does, finally,
It’s always "Lama sabachthani?"

And the ones that know
That it’s comin for them -
Well it’s so hard to bear;
The ones that Know it’s comin’ -
It’s just so hard to bear
The knowledge that they do.

Mornin’ After The Last Day

(Woody Johnson, 2009)

It’s the mornin’ after the last day,
Mornin’ after the last day.
I’ve been waitin’ all my life
For the mornin’ after the last day.

Sun’s a-comin’ up.
Sun’s a-comin’ up.
Been too long since I seen the light,
Now it’s the mornin’ after the last day.

I’ve been ridin’ ’round on the wrong wagon.
’Ridin ’round on the wrong wagon;
Too many mornin’s my jacket’s been striped,
Now it’s the mornin’ after the last day.

Gonna live on this big round world now.
Gonna live on this big round world,
Ain’t gonna run or hide no more,
It’s the mornin’ after the last day.

It’s the mornin’ after the last day,
Mornin’ after the last day -
Listen now children, to that train whistle whistlin’...
It’s the mornin’ after the last day.

Movin’ On

(Woody Johnson, November 23, 2009)
(lyric)

I’m movin’ on,
Nothin’ wrong with that.
Where’d I put my hat?
I’m gonna follow that callin’...

Nothin’ wrong with that.
I’ve had enough,
Throwin’ in the towell, an’
There’s nothin’ wrong with that anyhow...

Bridge

I’m done hangin’,
With that stranglin’ hold ya had on me,
Wonderin’ if we’re done,
Well, honey babe, I’m all out an’ down.


So, cancel that beer,
I’m movin’ on,
On outta here, sister.

Yeah, I’m movin’ on,
There’s nothin’ wrong with that.
Where’s my goddamn hat?
I’m followin’ that callin’...

Never Knew

(G. Lahey, December 25, 2009)

I never knew
That what I was holding in the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
Was what I was seeking.

I never knew
That what I was holding in the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
Was what I was needing.

I never knew
That what I had in the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
In the palm of my hand
Was the key to my being.

Now it’s ramblin’ and rollin’ and the kindness of strangers,
Sleepin’ in graveyards where you’re never in danger,
The open road, ’n’ freightcars in trainyards,
Don’t ask my advice, sir, ’cause I’ll just steer ya wrong.

The Silver Tree

(G. Lahey, September 21, 2009)

This was your vision,
As we writhed, entwined,
Together,
As those who are destined by fate often do.
Above your head, captured by your eye in a fleeting moment,
A daisy,
Perfect in its elegance,
Simple, pure, radiant,
Its base a fractured mirror, luminescent - like rippled water, flowing.

This was when we became true lovers.

The Raggedy Man


(Poem by James Whitcomb Riley, Bowen-Merrill Publishing Company, 1886; adapt. Gregory Lahey, 2007)



The Raggedy Man he works for Pa,

He's the goodest man that you ever saw.

He comes to our house every day

an' waters the horses,

Feeds 'em hay.

And when he opens the shed, well, we just laugh

When he drives out that wobbly-legged calf.

And if the hired girl says he can,

He'll milk the cow for Elizabeth-Ann.

Ain't he an awful good Raggedy man...?


The Raggedy Man, why, he's so good

He splits the kindlin' and chops the wood;

And then he spades our garden, too,

Why, he can do most things two boys can do.

And once, he climbed clean up that tree

And he shook down an apple for me,

And another one, too, for Elizabeth-Ann

And another one, too, for the hired hand;

Oh! Ain't he an awful kind Raggedy Man...?!


Y'know, The Raggedy Man, well, one time he

Was makin' a little bow and arrow for me,

And he said, "When you're big like your pa is

"Are you gonna keep a fancy store like his?

"And will ya be a rich merchant, and wear fine clothes?

"What ya gonna be, boy, Goodness knows?"

Then he smiled and laughed at Elizabeth-Ann

And I said, "I'm a-gonna be a Raggedy Man.

"I'm gonna be a good, kind, Raggedy Man - just like you!"


Tender Mercies

(Woody Johnson, May, 2015)



Monday mornin'

Clock's a wailin'

Sun ain't even touched the hills.

My back's complainin'

Take a couple o' pills, sir,

And it's one foot in front of the other again.


Coffee black,

Eggs over easy,

Out the door 'fore 6 a.m.

"How d'ya do it?" everyone asks me,

"Day after day, after each and every?"


Bridge


You might say,

"Hey - how d'ya do it?

"Don't ya get sick and tired and done?"

I say Nope -

I'm a lucky old git:

I love the rain as much as the sun.


Through the gate,

Hello to the fellas,

Foreman's still hollerin' in the yard.

Grab my lid

Lace up the ol' Stellas,

Sip my coffee, punch my card.


Work, eat, sleep,

Six days a week,

Paid on Friday, church on Sunday...

Ain't complainin'

I'm just sayin' that's how it is

From Monday to Monday.


Spare time

I go see my children,

Thank the Lord for the little things.

Am I lucky?

Well ain't I smilin'?

Oh! tender mercies - of thee I sing.


Work day's over,

Earned my dollar

Tired and sore, but feel pretty good.

Dust myself off,

Take a swallow o' water,

Did my job just the way I should.


Bridge


You might ask me,

"Hey ain't ya fed up?

"Doin' the same old day to day run?"

Hell, I got my health,

And these tender mercies

Love moon beams as much as the rays o' the sun...


You might say,

"Why don't ya give up?

"Give your back a rest, have a little fun?"

Well, I don't mind sweat, sir,

Toil or swelter,

'Cause at the end of the day tender mercies come.


FROM OUT OF THE BLUES

(Woody Johnson, March 3, 2011)

I sent my dream aloft so many times: the thinnest thread attached to it...
And as it rose, I always held it tight,
Afraid to release it, afraid that I would lose it forever each time...
My toes just touching the earth
As it tried to set itself free...
Then I whispered, "There it goes..."
Each time thinking, "The wind that blows shall divert it from its course - god knows..."

Then, one day, out of the infinite blue of sky and cosmos
I received a reply:
A sunny smile and her beautiful child,
The one
I hope to never lose...

CHOICES

(Woody Johnson, Feb. 23, 2010)

Somewhere out on the edge of time,
Wonderin’ if I was even alive or just dreamin’...

And a light was streamin’ from somewhere above,
And a voice said, "Do not fear."
And beckoned me with open arms,
Sayin’, "Here is better than there..."

And I saw angelic faces, Miss,
And I heard the rustle of wings,
And a choir of a thousand voices
Singin’ "Swing low, sweet chariot, swing..."

But I know I wasn’t dreamin’, sir,
It was real, I could tell,
And it was temptin’ to close my eyes
And forget the tollin’ of the bell.

It was a funny place to find myself,
On the Universe’s edge -
Between the woods and icy lake,
Exactly like what Frost had said...

And I remembered all the things I loved,
And I recalled the one I hurt,
I remembered musicians and painters and poets,
All the angels who walk this earth.

And I resolved to change my life, sir,
No matter what consequence or cost,
And somehow find some way to regain,
All the good that I had lost.

Somewhere out on the edge of time,
Knowin’ that I was still alive, ma’am,
Not dreamin’ or wonderin’ what was real,
Just knowin’ that I was alive...

The Brand New Heartbreak Hotel

(Woody Johnson, September, 2006)

At the brand new Heartbreak Hotel
Nobody’s cryin’ in their beer;
We're laughin’ and singin’,
And dancin’ and doin’
some serious drinkin’ over here.

We’re gamblin’ away the last of our pay
And actin’ just like we don’t care;
But ask any of us why,
We’re so merry and bright,
We get quiet, tear up, and just stare.


Chorus

At the brand new Heartbreak Hotel
Nobody feels any pain, sir;
’Cause Doc sets ’em up,
We keep knockin’ ’em back,
Again and again and again, sir.


And everyone’s smilin’, talkin’ and grinnin’
As the last call for the bar approaches;
The music gets louder,
The dance floor gets crowded,
As the band plays "The Tennessee Waltz".


Break

At the brand new Heartbreak Hotel
They turn up the lights and we see
How crowded and lonely it gets at the bottom
At the bottom of every empty.

Antonio

(G. Lahey, September 12, 2009)

Who was she? What was her name - the one who made you pray...
She called to you, you answered;
She asked, and you came,
She whispered in your ear and you listened,
And then you made her smile.

Why did she do to you those things that made you sad?
Why did she not listen to your words of truth, of devotion, of strength, of love?
You were a light, Antonio, and a fire; and now your heart - the heart that was the eternal source - it beats for no one.

We miss you, Antonio.

My Name, Your Name

(Woody Johnson, October,2006)

My name is important because
It means I have a family.
And your name is important, too,
’Cause it means you have a family like me.
And our names are important because...because...
Yes, our names are important because
It means that we are loved

Now your name might sound unfamiliar
To my ear
And my name
Might sound funny to you,
But it doesn’t mean what I’m sayin’ isn’t true.

That our names are important because...because...
Our names are important because
It means that we are loved...

ASCHENPUTTEL

(G. Lahey, December 30, 2009)

Poor little Aschenputtel
Works so very hard in Schule.
And when she returns home
She works her fingers to the bone -
Then Stiefmutter works her harder...

Poor little Aschenputtel,
Her Stiefschwestern are so cruel,
Sometimes they send her to her room,
And when she’s all alone
She is mehr das traurigere.

But little Aschenputtel
Has eine freunde und ein aufrechter Mensch:
A little Fee-Schwester,
Who takes away her pain
And offers her a refuge
When her hands begin to blister...

Little Aschenputtel,
Don’t you worry, not a little,
There’s a home for you out there,
A place for you to settle...

Sorge’ Sie sich nicht, Little Aschenputtel,
A Prince is searching for you:
Für eine hübsche Prinzessin in einem Arbeitskittel.

My Good Book

(G. Lahey, December 18, 2009)

My Good Book ain’t about killin’ for glory,
It’s not about vengeance,
In the name of the faith.
It’s not about hatred
For them that are pagans,
The withdrawal of the sword in exchange for compliance.

The words I read don’t mention some world
On some other plane
Beyond this vale of tears;
They don’t need repeating
Again and again,
These words plead for tolerance towards those without shame.

My Good Book is about making this life
A musical place full of art and belonging;
My Good Book calls for study and playing,
It’s for children and freedom,
For redemption and song.

So wrap them all up in bright scarlet ribbons,
While those jasper gates up in Heaven are swingin’,
Release all the innocents you’re holdin’ for ransom,
And return them to those
Who claim Life as their King,
and Love as their Queen.

Everything

(Woody Johnson, October 9, 2009)

I took the strings from my guitar,
and I gave them to a vagabond.

I gave away my numbers,
and I stopped my world from spinnin’ ’round.

I gave away the colours that only I could see at night,
and I gave away the mornings that I found.

I gave away my water,
and all that grew from my furrowed ground.

I gave away my seasons,
the axis of my stone.

I gave away warm golden rays,
and the force that strengthens bone.

I removed the rhythms and the beat,
and gave away time’s home.

I gave away the spoken truth,
now I live by its secretive tone.

I stopped the machinery of desire,
and from the infinite keep an only one.

Mother

(Woody Johnson, October 26, 2009)

"Is there something wrong?" I asked,
"Is there something wrong?"
She wiped away her tears and said,
"This day was not very long."
And then she sighed, and bowed her head.
"Too soon the day is over."

"Whatever do you mean?" I asked,
And I asked her once again.
She dried a tear and then another,
"Another day’s come to an end,
"I awake, and soon it’s over.
"I awake, and soon, it’s over."

Too soon, too soon -
And all of us, I know -
We take for granted the sunlit hours,
We forget that ill winds blow,
And see only the blooming flowers.
And then, too soon, it’s over.
And then, too soon, it's over.

Oh, mother, my dear mother,
How well you understood,
The simple truths of Love, of Grace,
Humility and Good,
Prayers and Joy and Kindness and Faith...
And then, too soon, it’s over.

And the days for me pass quickly;
And my nights are blue and restless,
And labour is tiring and difficult now,
And though every effort is my best,
My heart sighs and my tears flow, too:
This lovely day - too soon it’s over.
This lovely day how soon it's over.

Curds and Cream

(For Paul)
(Woody Johnson)

Paul will never know
That I wrote this for him.
He won’t know what you now know: that I love him dearly,
’Cause his life is filled with Grace and Charm.
Loved by many, for he does no harm to anyone.

He laughs with the honesty of the innocent.
He satisfies his appetites without offense
And with the manners and politesse of ambassador and prince.
His wealth is empathy and sympathy and justice.
And this will sustain him,
For he is loved by many, because of his kind ways.

His art is in his living,
His ability to understand and analyze
Each all too human fault.
He gently reminds, and with kind gestures redirects,
Until we realize that we can be just like him:
Loved by many, if we change our ways.

I Ain’t Lookin’ At The Moon No More

(Woody Johnson, lyric, 2009)
(October 5, 2009)

Every time I look at the moon,
I see the past.
I ain’t lookin’ at the moon no more,
I ain’t lookin’ at the moon no more.

Waxin’ moon, wanin’ moon,
Now I know that nothin’ lasts.
I once was rich, now I’m so poor.
I ain’t lookin’ at the moon no more.

When it’s ghostly lemon in August,
I remember walkin’ through the snow,
And not even carin’
How far we had to go.
Lookin’ up there and thinkin’
How beautiful the night,
Laughin’ in the wind,
You holdin’ my arm that tight.

And the thumbnail moon in May,
Makes me think of cool November,
And all those nights gettin’ warm -
And oh how I remember,
That light streamin’ in through a sleepy window,
Seein’ the magic of its caress
Upon your perfect face, resting on my smilin’ pillow.
I just can’t look at the moon no more.

And that round yellow August moon:
I wonder where you are now, an’ wonder how you’re doin...’
I once was rich, now I’m so poor:
I ain’t lookin’ at the moon no more.

Ukelele Girl

(Woody Johnson)

Wrote this tune ’bout a gal I know,
When she sings my little heart go’...

musical notes

She’s so pretty she makes me smile an’ it
Make’ my heart beat a mile a minute - goin’...
musical notes

An’ when she leaves, I don’t know why,
My little heart it’ll heave and sigh;
Sometimes I think I’m a-gonna cry
My little heart a-goin’...

musical notes

One o’ these days an’ it’s gonna be soon
Gonna set her down and play this tune
While my little heart goes ’Boom Boom Boom’
Goin’ ...

musical notes

’Cause she’s so pretty, goodness sakes,
If I can’t see her my little heart aches.
Sometimes I think it’s just a-gonna break,
Goin’...

musical notes

Hellhound On My Trail

(Woody Johnson, August, 2006)

Oh, Lord,
I got a hellhound on my trail.
Oh, Lord!
I got a hellhound on my trail,
His path is sure and steady,
He ain’t got but one thought in his head, Lordy, Lord!
I got a hellhound on my trail.

Well, he knows me better than I know myself.
He knows me better than I know myself!
He’s peered deep inside my heart,
And he knows my future’s dark,
Lord, he knows me better than I know myself.

Lord, you know that I ain’t scared of dyin’.
Lord, you know that I ain’t scared of dyin’!
In this world of fear and lyin’.
Well, I done my share of cryin’,
So you know - I ain’t scared of dyin’.

And I can feel his cold breath on the back of my neck.
I can feel his cold breath on the back of my neck!
He’s whisperin’ somethin’ in my ear now,
But, Lord, I don’t feel any fear,
An’ I can feel his cold breath on the back of my neck.

Well, I’m just gonna turn myself around now.
Lord, I’m just gonna turn myself around now!
I know my time has surely come,
I’m gonna stop now, I ain’t gonna run,
I’m just gonna turn myself around now.

Oh, Lord, have mercy on me please.
Oh, Lord, have mercy on me please!
Yeah, I caused some folks lots of pain,
I ain’t gonna ask You but once again,
Oh, Lord, have mercy on me please.

On The Lost Highway

(Woody Johnson, 2008)

You know what they’re sayin’ ’bout him,
’Bout why he don’t come ’round no more?
They say it’s about that woman
In them last songs he wrote.

And some folks they’re claimin’
That he don’t come ’round no more
’Cause of somethin’ that changed him,
Tore him apart, note by note.


Chorus

They tell me he don’t come ’round,
They say that he left town,
He’s gone and gone to stay,
And some say he’s dead and gone.
Some say they heard he went out west,
Some say he went to Spain,
Some say he’s gone to see the King,
Up there singin’ with old Blind Willie.

He’s well nigh on his way, sir,
Forever ramblin’, that’s for sure,
Draggin’ that old guitar behind him,
Down that long Lost Highway, amigo.

Well he stopped makin’ hay, ma’am,
Lost all hope, and there ain’t no cure,
A Blue Highway that has no end,
and it’s ’Adios, para siempre, senor’.

Levee Camp Moan

(trad.)

I’m goin’ where nobody knows my name, Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m goin’ where nobody knows my name.
I’m goin’ where nobody knows my name.

I’m goin’ where the chilly winds don’t blow, Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m goin’ where the chilly winds don’t blow.
I’m goin’ where the chilly winds don’t blow.

I’m goin’ where they don’t shovel no snow, Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m goin’ where they don’t shovel no snow.
I’m goin’ where they don’t shovel no snow.

I’m leavin’ on the KC line this mornin’, Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m leavin’ on the KC line this mornin’.
I’m leavin’ on the KC line this mornin’.

O baby, where you been so long? Lord, Lord, Lord.
O baby, where you been so long?
O baby, where you been so long?

O baby, let your hair hang down, Lord, Lord, Lord.
O baby, let your hair hang down.
O baby, let your hair hang down.

O baby, you done let your hair grow long, Lord, Lord, Lord.
O baby, you done let your hair grow long.
O baby, you done let your hair grow long.

[Additional verse by W. Johnson]

I’m leavin’ baby, don’t you want to go? Lord, Lord, Lord.
I’m leavin’ baby, don’t you want to go?
I’m leavin’ baby, what you waitin’ for?

Miss M’Lindy

(lyric)

(attributed to Joel Chandler Harris)

Oh my Miss M’Lindy,

You’re much too sweet for me,

I cannot come to see you,

Until my time is free.

And when I come to see you,

Gonna take you on my knee.

Oh my Miss M’Lindy,

Don’t you go away,

I cannot come to see you,

For another day,

And when I come to see you

Y’know I’m gonna stay.

Oh my Miss M’Lindy,

You’re the only one,

I cannot come to see you,

Until my time is done.

And when I come to see you

You know we’ll have some fun.

Oh my Miss M’Lindy,

My heart belongs to you,

I cannot come to see you,

Until my time is through.

And when I come to see you

Gonna come in my canoe.

Oh Solitude

(lyric)
(Music: Henry Purcell; Words: Katherine Philips, adapted from Marc-Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant)

Oh! Solitude! My sweetest choice!

Oh Solitude! Oh solitude, my sweetest choice!

Places devoted to the night,

Remote from tumult and from noise,

How ye, my restless thoughts delight!

Oh Solitude! Oh Solitude! My sweetest, sweetest choice!

Oh Heavens! What content is mine,

To see those trees, which have appeared from the Nativity of time;

And which all ages have revered,

To look today as fresh and green,

To look today as fresh and green,

As when their beauty first were seen?

Oh! Oh how agreeable a sight

These hanging mountains do appear,

Which the unhappy would invite

To finish all their sorrows here;

When their hard, their hard fate makes them endure

Such woes, such woes as only death can cure.

Oh! Oh how I solitude adore!

Oh! Oh how I solitude adore,

That element of noblest wit,

Where I have learned,

Where I have learned Apollo’s love

Without the pains, the pains to study it:

For thy sake I in love am grown,

With what thy fancy, thy fancy does pursue;

But when I think upon my own,

I hate it, I hate it for that reason, too;

Because it needs must hinder me

From seeing, from seeing, and from serving thee.

Oh Solitude!

Oh how solitude I adore!

Hymn: Thou Art Lovely Source of True Delight

(Anne Steele 1716-1778)

Thou lovely source of true delight whom I unseen adore
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight that I might love Thee more
Oh that I might love Thee more

Thy glory o’er creation shines yet in Thy sacred word
I read in fairer brighter lines my bleeding, dying Lord
Oh my bleeding, dying Lord

’Tis here whene’er my comforts droop and sin and sorrows rise
Thy love with cheering beams of hope my fainting heart supplies
My fainting heart’s supplied

And ah too soon the pleasing scene is clouded over with pain
My gloomy fears rise dark between and I again complain
Oh and I again complain

Jesus my Lord, my life, my light, oh come with blissful ray
Break radiant through the shades of night and chase my fears away
Won’t you chase my fears away

Then shall my soul with rapture trace the wonders of Thy love
But the full glories of Thy face are only known above
They are only known above

Hymn: Saviour Do Not Pass Me By

(Fanny J. Crosby, 1868)

Pass me not, O gentle Saviour,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Saviour, do not pass me by.

Chorus
Saviour, Saviour,
Hear my humble cry:
While on others Thou art calling,
Saviour, do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.

Chorus

Unforgiven

(Woody Johnson)

I’ve been all around this world, sir,
East and west, and up and down.
With the witches in Navarre,
And the Zubaroa gypsies.

With the pilgrims doing penance,
El Camino de Santiago,
It was there that I confessed a sin,
God nor devil could abide.

Asked the strong-willed and the feeble,
The humble and the pride-filled,
"Is there mercy in this world,
For the harm that I have done?"

I sought blessed and condemned men,
"Is there redemption for not returning love?"
They scratched their beards and turned away,
And their eyes were filled with tears.

Their silence even louder,
Than the strongest condemnation.
The women, too, turned and closed their eyes,
Made a sign and whispered prayers.

Now I travel through this desert,
In sackcloth, and unwashed, sir,
Without a name, seeking Grace,
Alone, unforgiven.

The Sacred Heart of Second Chances

(Woody Johnson, October, 2009)

They just don’t come along that often.
But, sir, they sure do come along.
Don’t be afraid to look to heav’n,
Close your eyes and sing a thankful song.

’Cause they just don’t come along that often.
But, ma’am, they sure do come along.
And believe it or not, it’s Mother Mary,
That you can thank - ’cause she’s the one.

Refrain
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances,
You can’t deny when the day is done.
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances,
The day, for sure, that bell’s unrung.

And when that day arrives - ’n’ it will, sir,
You have to seize it and you have to run.
And don’t look back - or you’ll regret it:
It’ll slip through your fingers ’fore day is done.
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances
Is watchin’ out for you, my son,
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances,
Calm after storm, sure enough’s gonna come.

So, don’t be afraid to look to the sky,
Then with a bended knee bow down.
The Sacred Heart of Second Chances
Will hear you askin’ an’ come around.

Gunnysack Riley

(Woody Johnson 2009)

"Ol’ Gunnysack Riley a-rollin’ along,
"An ol’ guitar an’ a heart full o’ song...
"On the mornin' after the last day
"On the mornin' after the last Day."


Yeah, Gunnysack Riley's rollin' along,
An old guitar and his heart full o' song.
But a Railroad Bull hit him with his stick,
Now Gunnysack's gone, a-lickity-split.


The Bull had him beaten, rolled and baled,
Why, they hit him so hard the yellow moon turned pale,
Went behind a cloud, his eyes teared up and closed,
Why it would've made your very own blood run cold.


Then buried him out where you don't hear the cock crowin',
Out where flower nor seed is growin'.
So deep he'll not ever hear Gabriel's horn
On that mornin' after The Last Day,
On that mornin' after The Last Day.


Well, all's they found was his old guitar,
His ragged rucksack and his empty fruit jar,
A red honeycrisp in a brown paper bag
That he stole from an orchard and wrapped in a rag.
And an old photograph with an address writ' down,
A young child and her ma somewhere in Hogtown.
Old Gunnysack - he never hurt no one,
Now Gunnysack's dead, buried and gone.
There's people out there, though, still singin' his song:
"Ol' Gunnysack Riley's rollin' along,
"With his old guitar and his heart full o' song,
"On the mornin' after The Last day,
"On the mornin' after The Last Day".

When Ol’ Sis’ Judy Pray

(James Edwin Campbell)

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
De teahs come stealin’ down my cheek,
De voice ur God widin me speak’;
I see myse’f so po’ an’ weak,
Down on my knees de cross I seek,
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
De thun’ers ur Mount Sin-a-i
Comes rushin’ down f’um up on high–
De Debbil tu’n his back an’ fly
While sinnahs loud fur pa’don cry,
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
Ha’d sinnahs trimble in dey seat
Ter hyuh huh voice in sorro ’peat
(While all de chu’ch des sob an’ weep)
“O Shepa’d, dese, dy po’ los’ sheep!”
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
De whole house hit des rock an’ moan
Ter see huh teahs an’ hyuh huh groan;
Dar’s somepin’ in Sis’ Judy’s tone
Dat melt all ha’ts dough med ur stone
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
Salvation’s light comes pourin’ down–
Hit fill de chu’ch an’ all de town–
Why, angels’ robes go rustlin’ ’roun’,
An’ hebben on de Yurf am foun’,
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray,
My soul go sweepin’ up on wings,
An’ loud de chu’ch wid “Glory!” rings,
An’ wide de gates ur Jahsper swings
Twel you hyuh ha’ps wid golding strings,
When ol’ Sis’ Judy pray.

Cadillac Man

(Woody Johnson)

Chorus

Cadillac Man, Cadillac Man,

I’m just waitin’ for that Cadillac Man,

I done some bad things in my day,

Looks like they’re catchin’ up to me -

Anyway... I had me a wife and a family,

Wife said, "Eddie, why d’ya mistreat me?"

Late one evenin’ I went out for a walk,

Wasn’t ’til I gained Atlanta that I finally stopped.

I met a gal, she was long and tall,

Told me her man went to the wall,

He got out the very next day,

He’s lookin’ for me now -

Anyway... I passed by a funeral just last week,

I was tired and hungry, branded on my feet,

I followed ’em back to where the widow stays,

They rolled me ’n’ baled me, ’n’ called the police.

I met a gal who was true and good,

Told her I’d stay ’cause I thought I would,

She loved me and fed me and kept my nose clean,

Caught me out gamblin’ an’ she turned mighty mean.


Chorus

Yeah, Cadillac Man, Cadillac Man,

I’m just waitin’ for that Cadillac Man,

Done some bad things in my day,

Looks like they’re catchin’ up to me -

Anyway... I fell in with some bad companions,

Said, "Listen, now, Eddie - ya out or ya in?"

"All ya gotta do is look out for us all,"

He had a 32-20, now I’m runnin’ from the law.

I always tried to do what I should,

But I turned out bad like Daddy said I would,

Went to school, learned readin’ and cipherin’,

Now it’s cards and dice and a life o’ sin.

That Cadillac car's shiny and black, son,

Takes ya to a place ya don’t come back from;

Cadillac Man is tall and talks nice,

But he’s as cold as the pennies he puts on your eyes.

Yeah, Cadillac Man, Cadillac Man,

I’m just waitin’ for that Cadillac Man,

Done some bad things in my day,

Looks like they’re catchin’ up to me...


Anyway...

Dreamy Town

(lyric)
(Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar)

Come away to Dreamy Town, Mandy Lou, Mandy Lou,

Where the skies don’t never frown, Mandy Lou;

Where the streets is paved with gold,

Where the days is never cold

And no sheep stray from the fold, Mandy Lou.

Ain’t you tired every day, Mandy Lou, Mandy Lou?

Take my hand and come away, Mandy Lou;

To the land where dreams is king,

And my heart holds everything

And my soul will always sing to Mandy Lou.

Take my hand and come with me, Mandy Lou,

Where our hands and hearts are free, Mandy Lou;

Where the sands all glisten white,

And the river shines so bright,

In that dreamland of delight, Mandy Lou.

Come with me to Dreamy Town, Mandy Lou,Mandy Lou

Where the fruit is bendin’ down just for you;

Smooth your furrowed brow of brown

And my love will be its crown,

Come with me to Dreamy Town, Mandy Lou...

Sleepy-Eyed Charlie

(Woody Johnson, February 17, 2010)

You know,
There’s fellas out there
Who never complain,
Mild as a new-born calf;
They talk soft and low,
Never talk mean,
And laugh an easy laugh,
Yes, they laugh an easy laugh...

Sleepy-eyed Charlie was one such a man;
Never said anything much.
Kept a close council,
Worked steady and hard,
A kind-hearted man, sure enough,
A kind-hearted man, yessiree.

He was big and burly,
Had a gap-toothed grin,
Had a smile that sparkled and shone;
His hands were bigger
Than an ordinary man’s,
He sang work songs all day long,
Sang them work songs all day long, sir.

I was nine years old, way back then,
And he kinda took a shine to me;
Told stories ’bout the railroad,
And Parchman Farm,
And stealin’ chickens to feed his family,
He stole chickens to feed his family.

One day I says, "Charlie...",
"Yes, cap’n," says he,
I said, "Charlie, what happened to your eye?"
He looked down at his feet,
Got kinda quiet and said,
"Well, cap’n, I ain’t a-gonna lie,"
"No, suh, I ain’t gonna lie..."

He says, "Now lis'n up, son,
"You’ a'mos' a man,
"Show me dem muscle o’ your’n!"
Then he took to laughin’,
When I stood tall and proud,
He says, "Now lis'en up, cap’n, an’ larn.
"You jus’ lis'en up, now - an’ larn..."

"Ya know I wo'ked de rails
"When I's nigh on 17 -
"Swung a twe've-poun' hammuh lak it 'as play,
"One mawnin' de boss says,
"I wants dat las' hun’ad ya’ds,
"Done by de end o’ t’day,
"Done by de end o’ t’day."

"Now some o’ dem boys
"Quit on de spot,
"Othahs drapped t' der knees and mawned,
"I picked up muh hammuh,
"I wasn a’-gonna stop,
"C’menced singin’ whal de rest o’ dem groaned,
"C’menced singin’ whal de rest o’ dem groaned."

"Now when ya swing dat hammuh,
"Fram de hip on down,
"You mak dat col' steel rang,
"Ya gotta 'it dem spikes,
"Raht dead on,
"Else dey come at ya lak an arry 'n' stang ya,
"Come at ya lak an arry 'n' stang."

I was lookin’ at him talkin’,
He wasn’t lookin’ at me -
He was starin’ out to the west;
Seemed to me he’d forgotten,
I was sittin’ at his feet,
Wonderin’ what was gonna happen next.

He looked down at me, finally,
And with that wonderful grin, says,
"Ya wanna be de bes' when you’s young,
"Ain’t it so?
"Pride’s a mighty pow'ful sin, cap’n,
"Pride’s a mighty awful pow'ful sin, doncha kno'."

"Sho’ will make ya suffah 'n' regret you’ pas'..."
And he looked back out to the westland,
Then he looked at his arms,
Examined them slow,
And he clenched those two mighty hands,
He clenched those two mighty hands.

"We laid de las’ rail, an’ I's still thro'in’ strong,
"Den I felt a li’l pul' in mah sho’dah,
"Jus’ enough t' mak me long,
"An’ when I brought dat hammuh dawn,
"I jus’ di’n’t haf de time t' move ovah,
"I just di’n’t haf de time t'..."

Then he grew kinda quiet, and he looked down at me
And he smiled that careless grin,
Rubbed my head with his hand,
Says, "Time we be gettin’ in,
"You’ mamma’s in de kitch'n cookin’ dinnah,
"You’ mamma’s in de kitch'n cookin’ dinnah..."

You know,
There’s fellas out there
Who never complain,
Mild as a new-born calf;
They talk soft and low,
Never talk mean,
And laugh an easy laugh,
Yes, they laugh a long easy laugh...

First Love/Last Love

For Ж’Н
(Woody Johnson, Dec.30, 2009)

Far from the city streets,
Beyond the country road...

In a deep and sacred forest,
Beneath the high forgiving sun...

At the edge of a lush green field that is yours and yours and yours,
The Great Gates are opened for you...

And the joy and pain of Knowledge is revealed -
To you and you and you,
Who are guilty of nothing more
Than Youth and Innocence.

At The Food Emporium, Toronto

(G. Lahey, Jan. 17, 2010)

Shoppers and sellers,
Mean step-sisters and Cinderellas,
Princes and paupers...
At the Food Emporium.
Hmmmm...hmmmm

Orphans and mothers,
Sisterless brothers,
Family-less others...
At the Food Emporium.
Hmmmm...hmmmm

Grooms and widowers,
Widows and bachelors,
Old maids and party girls...
At the Food Emporium.
Him without her,
And those without them
Always somethin’ happenin’
At the Food Emporium.

And someone’s watchin’ me
Starin’ without blinkin’,
And writin’ somethin’ down
Prob’ly what I’m thinkin’
At the Food Emporium...
Hmmmm...hmmmm

"Please - No More War, Please"

(G. Lahey, January 25, 2009)

The Romantic poets - who write of love, of pain, of loss -
express their joy, their hurt, their overflowing cups,
with words that melt the hearts of all people.

And the Poets of the World
who speak for the children of Palestine,
the children of Somalia,
the children of Chechnia,
the children of Rawanda,
the children of Sierra Leone,
the children of Congo,
the children of Israel,
the children of Mumbai -
the children of all gods -
express their pain, their loss, their love -
with the words of children,
with words that all ears comprehend,
with words that all hearts feel,
because those words are the arrows of truth
and they carry with them one plea...

Now, I Know

(G. Lahey)

When we walked alone at night,
I just wasn’t sure,
Even when you held my hand that tight,
I couldn’t be certain.

And even when we watched exploding stars,
When we marveled at the infinite,
Aurora Borealis,
Even then I questioned everything.

But, that was then...

Now, I know -
And not only that, I am unwavering in my certitude,
About everything - everything.
And now, in my solitude,
I know that only one thing matters - - -
But it is too late for that.

What Frightens Me

(G. Lahey, November, 2006)

What frightens you?
I’ll tell you what frightens me:
The thought that I denied the Truth.

What frightens you?
I’ll tell you what frightens me:
The thought I could be blind to the Truth.

What frightens you?
I’ll tell you what frightens me:
The thought that I ’s unkind
’cause jealousy had blinded me;
and I was caught reeling from the Truth.

What frightens you?
I’ll tell you what frightens me:
It’s the thought that I wouldn’t
Be the man she thought I could.

To Babylon

(Woody Johnson, September, 2007)

Yesterday I thought I saw you,
Walkin’ down the street,
And my heart began to break,
My heart began to break,
My heart began to break all over again.

If ya only knew how much I missed you,
How I struggle to find peace,
Each day I ask the Lord to bless you,
Each day I ask the Lord to bless you,
Each day I ask the Lord to bless you, "Have mercy on her, please."

On that long lost road to Babylon.

I know I’m shoutin’ in the wilderness,
I know no one understands,
But if I cannot do this,
If I cannot do this,
If I cannot do this, I’ll surely lose my mind.

On that long lost road to Babylon.
On that long lost road to Babylon.

My Life

(G. Lahey, October 7, 2009)

When will my life begin again?
I have changed my voice,
I have changed my body,
I have changed my mind.
I have changed myself.

From this placenta I have emerged,
Ageless, yet with rooted teeth;
Thoughtless, but with one vision.
Innocent, yet awaiting judgement:
On my all too human soul the stain of love’s denial...

I await the darkness and I await the light.
And with this rebirth, I am out of time.

Hello, Words

(G. Lahey, September, 2009)

Hello, words.
You have something to say to me?
Go ahead - I’m ready...

What’s that?
You say that life is good.
Yes... continue.
You say that there is no need to fear, to want, to need, to obtain.
You say that I can go on.
You say that I can dream, that I can breathe again, that I can travel this endless road and be inspired.
This is true? I hope this is so...
You say that the things that seem to matter don’t, and the things that don’t seem, will.

I will breathe the fire of desir.
I will search for those things that will make me stronger.
I will hunger for The One and my hunger shall be sated.
You say the journey is the destination, and that to fall into love is to love.

Yes.

The Things That Matter

(G. Lahey, October 10, 2009)

The things that matter are not things.
They are not material.
They are not made to sell.
They cannot be unwrapped and held.

The things that matter are of the heart.
Do you know what I mean, son?
They are not what is given, but rather what is understood by the giving. It is not the gift that brings joy, it is the giving’s reason.

The things that matter are time,
The things that matter are gestures and warm glances,
The things that matter must be taught and
Never forgotten.

Why The Caged Bird Sings

(G. Lahey, September 15, 2009)

"I know why the caged bird sings", says one whom I admire...
To be captured and imprisoned by love - it’s a burning inner fire.
Then, you sing of l’ennui, ’cause you’ve lost your freedom and flight,
And being possessed, and limited: then you covet all that’s within sight.

We were together - no, not for long, but that’s just what you required,
To be held, to be subdued, then to regret the dousing of desires.
And when we danced, you danced for them: la coquette, yes, this I know,
’Cause they came to you, and as you spoke you caressed their ribbons and bows.
And you danced, the dance of Salome, mi cabeza that was your prize,
And this you won, and when I conceded, shock and remorse was your disguise.

Tom Waits’ Voice

(Woody Johnson, October 20, 2009)

His voice says: "I have measured the depth of emptiness - I have been to its centre -
I have come back to tell you about the joy of life."

The voice says: "As you drive along the back streets, look at the sparkle of broken glass
Listen to the howls of brief laughter,
Watch for the smiles that appear only seldomly on the faces of the forgotten ones
And remember them."

The voice says: "I have only a short time to tell you something of vast importance,
so listen closely."

The voice says: "I have been beaten and left for dead,
But I have come back to tell you not to give up."

And the listeners, they seem to applaud, not just the songs,
But the simple truths about Love and Hope;
They applaud the Joy of Life.

The Eighth Island

(Woody Johnson, July 19, 2011)

Beyond the snow-capped peaks

of the island they call Tenerife,

West of Las Palmas is a land of endless mystery.

On this forgiving island

We sail away...

Its ancient mists protect us - para siempre

Y siempre...

Y siempre...

My love and me, my love and me,

Forever to be - el Paraiso...

The music of the conch shell sounds,

And we hurry to the circle of stone,

To be welcomed by the King...

Where we are blessed,

We are blessed,

Where we are blessed beneath the sacred sun

Of San Borondon...

My love and me, my love and me,

Forever to be - el Paraiso...


Sunday in Madrid

(Woody Johnson, July 10, 2011)


Stranger in a strange land,

No money to buy flowers,

But even if ya did,

All the shops are closed right now,

´Cause it´s Sunday...

...Sunday...

...It´s Sunday in Madrid...

And everyone´s so kind,

And they tell you where to find a bed

´Cause you´re lost and tired

And it´s Sunday...

...Sunday...

...It´s Sunday in Madrid...

And all you want to do

Is tell her that you didn´t mean

All those awful things you said

and that summer sun keeps beatin´ down...

...Sunday...

...Sunday...

...It´s Sunday in Madrid...

Amazon II

(Woody Johnson, April, 2011)

Why respond to those things with which you disagree

amygdalacly?

Why draw your sword, raise your shield -

rattle and hiss and take a battle ready position?

I’m all frontal lobe, babe -

Thought you knew at least that much

about me...

So - we disagree about some labour strife -

and politics;

about sex and love, and whether you’re a wife or not...

So what?

You have to prove you’re right

with some offensive strategic strike?

That’s not what my mind is like...

All I wanted - ever wanted -

was to make you smile once in a while...

Amazon

(Eddie Figures)

Whine and complain to me, I’ll never ignore you;

Cry and explain how the pain never ends and I’ll just reach out and hold you.

She

(Woody Johnson, December 21, 2004)

She’s so pretty,
You just wanna smile when you look at her face,
And when she speaks,
You want the whole human race to listen,
And when she loves ya,
You just wanna love her back,
But she won’t let you,
She makes her escape
And you just gotta let her.

She’s so pretty,
Everybody wants to be her friend,
And when she smiles,
She mends everything that was broken,
And when she’s hurtin’,
You just wanna hold her in your arms,
But she won’t let you,
She makes her escape,
And you just gotta forget her.


Bridge

She’s so wise,
You just wanna sit at her feet and learn,
She’s so honest,
You know what you’re hearin’ is always the truth,
And when she’s silent,
You want the whole wide world to hush,
And leave her in peace,
So she can forget
So she can escape.

And after she’s gone,
You know you won’t see her no more,
And so you try to get back to life before you met her,
And then she returns,
Knocks on your door and wants to come in,
And so you let her,
’Cause you just can’t forget her,
And it starts all over again.

She’s so pretty,
She turns every head in the place,
And when she looks in your eyes,
You feel your heart begin to race,
And maybe she’ll let you,
Hold her in your arms for a couple of hours
And then she escapes,
And ya gotta forget her all over again,
Yeah she makes her escape,
And it starts all over again...

She’s so pretty....

What’s Truth, Daddy?

(G. Lahey, November 18, 2009)

Truth is not, and never was, anything.
Truth is everything, and always will be.

Truth is sacrificed every day on the altar of human vanity.
Truth is worshipped only by those who cannot speak, cannot hear, cannot see.

Truth must be avoided by as many people as possible, as often as possible.
Truth must be confronted now.

Truth is like ancient parchment: only broken fragments remain.
Truth is unbreakable, unshakeable, adamantine.

Truth is Beautiful,
Truth is often Ugly

Truth is despair.
Truth is hope.

Truth is an enemy of the people.

Truth is the mother of Justice.

Driftin’

(G. Lahey, August 27, 2009)

Used to be sailin’,
Friends and relations
Along for the ride,
My baby - yeah, by my side.
Just sailin’, mister, sailin’.

Tamed the wind: tacking, navigating,
Glidin’ along,
Singin’ all those sailor songs.
Land was another planet, cold and foreign
’Cause we were sailin’.

With the minstrels, now, and the bards,
Smilin’, but this life is hard.
Now the wild breezes push us
Along these boulevards,
And I long for the sea, the salty westerlies,
Drftin’, mister, driftin’.

There are other wanderers
Dancers, poemsters, wordsmiths,
Songsters, and old snake charmers,

Heading for the theres, appearing at the heres,
Wearing their hearts on sleeves stained with tears,
We’re driftin’, mister, driftin’.

The Highway, yeah, it’s blue, alright,
We start out walkin’ ’cause we might get a ride,
And sometimes at night, a Malaga dancer by our side,
Swaying to the music - ah! the music! - that’s what keeps us alive
While we’re driftin’, mister, driftin’.

Little Niña

(Woody Johnson, 2006)


Long, long ago...
...so long ago...
There was a soundless child who stood
On one side of an old shopkeeper’s window...
Always very quiet... very very still - and silent, don’t you know...
...but with such eyes...!
And a little doll, in a plain and blue and shabby dress
Became the world to her...
When suddenly a mother saw
Her ponderous, lovely daughter
Staring through and smiling at the ragged little moppet.
She asked if there was something there
She wanted to possess...
And ever oh - oh ever oh - so - slowly...slow,
The tiny dark-eyed stoic one
Raised her hand with fingers clenched,
Unfurled her tiny curled up fist
And placed it on the cold clear glass
And looking up,
And blinking once,
She whispererd in her raspish voice,
"La..."

Away

(Woody Johnson, October 28, 2012)



Like the leaves in autumn,

The winds carry you away.

They take you.

And there's nothing I can do...


The moon and sun

That pull the tides away,

They take you, too.

And there's nothing I can do...


Though you are strong

Like granite stones, away,

The river takes you.

And there's nothing I can do...


When the day is done,

The shadows come, and soon, away,

They take you.

And there's nothing I can do...


Nothing I can do

To change you.

Nothing I can say

To keep you

From the things that take you

Away...


I know better...

Such folly

To keep you

From the things that take you

Away...


Because I know

That to heed the call

Of all the things

That take you

Makes you happy;

That you need nothing more

Than to be in thrall

Of all the things that take you...

Away.


And I will be content,

To do nothing to keep you,

From these things that make you happy,

From those things that make you happy,

From all and everything that takes you...

Away.


Onegin’s Fate

(G. Lahey, 2010 - 2011)

I


And here – does Onegin’s story end?

But why? Yvegney is not one to cry,

And, if his heart’s forever rent,

What’s he to do? Go off to die?

Is this his fate: left on a page

Like a bird locked in some cage?

Here then – the poet’s fate thereafter:

What follows: Yvegny’s disaster.

I know the course that he has taken;

I know the compass points that lead him.

His poet’s heart reduced to tin,

All alone now and forsaken.

This will be his and Tanya’s story:

Will they find sorrow? Will they find Glory?


II


And what of Tanya? Now recovered,

The Prince gives her a gentle kiss

And whispers, “What’s all this?” Discovers

The door flung wide, as she dismisses

It as nothing. “Just a guest,

“Who had to leave; he sends regrets.”

She smiles, and easily conceals

Her pounding heart, her mind that reels.

But she remains composed,

As she takes hold her husband’s arm.

Her hardened soul can feel no harm,

Yet to the door her glance is cast:

Now closed against the night so vast.


III


Soon, the music is diminished,

The last guests compliment their hosts.

The evening blossomed, bloomed, and finished,

The happy couple, lovers, like most,

Go arm-in-arm. Then Tanya places hand to brow,

And makes a sudden complaint that now

She feels such pain, as though

She’s received a serious blow,

And whispers that she must lie down,

As Prince N. takes her in his arms,

To the drawing room, conceals alarm

And sends for Tanya’s nurse to come.

He sits, and looks into her eyes,

He sees her pain, but knows not why.


IV


Prince N, unsure of a course of action,

Sends his coachman for the doctor,

He flies off now in that direction,

Swiftly passed the town’s clocktower.

Now he bangs the door so furiously,

The physician answers, looking curiously

Upon the blacksmith’s face and asks,

“Why come so late? A birth? A casket?

“What cannot wait

Until the morning?” The smithy, breathless,

Weak and tired, fearing death – or worse! – states

“Princess Tanya! We must make haste!”

And without another word,

The physician packs elixirs and cures.


V


And Onegin’s carriage, through the night

Is racing, too: his purpose fierce,

And halts outside his grand estate.

Onegin, forlorn, his face is serious,

With deep despair, takes all his notes,

Sonnets, ballads – all he’s wrote –

And into the hearth dispatches

All and sundry: cards and letters from paramours,

Collected over many years.

Pictures of lovers once “près du coeur”,

Then reaches for his finest cognac,

To watch the inferno - ‘till all goes black…


VI


The doctor dismounts from the hack,

The valet, maids and household staff,

All a-twitter, the doors flung wide with a resounding “clack”,

Tanya delirious: “Has he come back?!”

Then furrows her brow and with a grimace

Falls into a deep morass.

The Prince arrives, the doctor in tow,

Taking her pulse, “Her heartbeat’s slow!”

Touching her cheek, “She has the fever…”

Opens his bag, prepares the injection,

“What is it, Doctor?”

“I fear, infection!”

He sighs, and says "We musn’t move her…

“Prepare her bed and toilette here!” Then turns: “She will endure.”

Prince N whispers, “Are you sure…?”


VII


Morning: The sun, again arisen,
Onegin’s fire, long diminished...
He awakens, cold and stiffened,
While Tanya’s warmed by flames unfinished.
Yvegney blinks: His eyes are stinging,
He stands, unsteady, his ears are ringing
With the sound of a name – Tatyana’s name.
He looks at the fireplace once again,
Then turns, and now begins to gather
The things he’ll need for his endless journey:
Boots, shoes and box-back coats, serenely
Placed into valises – what’s left? No matter,
Except the safe-box: Removes his bonds,
His deeds – all that he owns.


VIII


He splashes water on his face,
Then to the stables, the door is opened
To Sasha Goncharova’s place.
“Prepare the coach!” and poor Sasha’s sleep is broken,
“And load my trunk and my valise!”
“Yes, sire.” And Sasha’s on his feet.
Windows are locked, all doors secured,
Messages sent to those inured
To mind the estate in Onegin’s absence,
“…and forward mail to…? “I know not yet.
“I’ll send you word when I am settled.”
And soon they’re beyond the country fences,
And at la Gare St. Petersburg,
“A one-way passage -” a whistle blows: he can’t be heard…


IX


Cold compresses are held in place,
To the forehead of Tatyana.
Temperature checked and heartbeat traced,
The doctor prepared throughout the night the
Concoctions he knew to cure her ills:
Some were elixers, some were pills,
As Tatyana writhed all the nocturne
And mumbled a name none could discern.
Her nurse, close by, filled with concern:
The others cannot know its meaning!

She heard his name throughout the evening,

And now knows what has brought this on...

And praying to god in silent hope,

Prince N finds a means to cope.


Part II

X


The train can have healing effects:
One speeds through countrysides and towns,
There’s rhythms in the railway tracks,
There’s comfort when the whistle sounds.
The atmosphere is slow relaxing,
Arrivals, departures - their calculating
Is done ahead of time;
No tables to clear after you dine,
Your sheets and towels are always clean,
Your meals and bed prepared for you,
Each morning one awakes, renewed!
The coffee’s served with Berkshire cream,
And one forgets one’s cares and woes,
One sleeps and dreams of kind tomorrows


XI


But for some, this isn’t true:
The train does not speed fast enough,
And the clicking rails are only due
To poor construction: the ride is rough.
And when the whistle sounds, it’s harsh,
Abrupt and loud, like a mongrel’s bark;
And can one relax when bored to tears?
The angst of being here nor there?
And meals aren’t served fast enough,
Berths not ready when you want to retire,
Sleep’s uneasy: one awakes with ire...


XII


And the people!! Just want to converse!
Inquring into the personal:
"What do you do? (How thick’s your purse!?")
"Reasons dark or pleasurable
"You go to ’here’ or come from ’there’ "?
And traveling by train, there’s
No escape, from questions like these,
The folk filled with curiosities
About their fellow passengers.
And after dinner become revelers,
Prone to drinking wine and liquors,
And talk into the wee wee hours...
Such was the state of Onegin’s mind,
His trip a long unpleasant time.


XIII


After several days like this,
Onegin makes a good decision:
Once the train arrives in Kiev,
He"ll call upon his friend Hnatysin,
A painter and a man of letters,
Known to set girls’ hearts a-flutter,
And known to turn wive’s husbands cuckolds,
Yet known in aristocratic households.
Onegin sends a message to him:
"I’m bored - and free! What are you doing?
"I’m here on a whim, and need a fling!
"I’m staying at the B**** Inn."
He taxis there, he bathes and dresses,
But still he feels unease and stresses.

XIV


Hnatysn’s thrilled his friend’s in town,
Immediately sets a plan in motion
To take Onegin on his rounds,
To cafes, restaurants, in rotation.
He first makes a reservation:
A favourite restaurant near the station;
Contacts all his friends and then
Tells them to meet exactly when
The sun goes down (at 5 pm),
At the bistro known as "Svend’s".
At four he’s off to meet Onegin:
"Has it been 2 years!!?" and they again
Embrace each other, quite forgetting
Past heartaches as the sun is setting.


XV



And what of Tanya? Her fever breaks,
The Doctor quite exhausted smiles,
Prince N.’s awakened and he takes
Tatyana’s hand and all the while
Kitchen staff and maids and servants.
All of Tanya’s nurse attendants,
Exhausted, too,by anxiousness
Sigh, and pray and sign the cross,
While Tanya in her restful sleep
Is by her husband watched and guarded;
And reassured, begins to weep.
How many days how many nights
Did Tanya fight? Yes, more than seven; no less than eight.


XVI



And on the evening of the eighth,
She announces that she’s feeling better;
She says that she’s regained her strength,
Sits at her desk, with pen an paper.
The servants bring her teas and cakes,
And Tanya carefully makes
A list of all her bon vivants,
Inviting them si ils peuvent,
To travel and accompany
Her to the coast of Spain where sea
And pleasant clime will be
Helpful to her recovery.
She seals every note with wax
And sips her tea: "Time to relax..."


XVII

What thoughts race through the minds of those
Who’ve lost the one they held so dear
And now feel cold, beset by woes?
For Tatiana, the path was clear:
Onegin, in her heart’s beloved;
As for Prince N, she holds him above
All others, but for him no inner passions stir...
One thought, though, from which she won’t deter
Is that she must forget them both;
She must escape, find some solution,
A distraction from preoccupations.
Such pain adds years to pristine youth...
Adventure’s the way to escape such angst:
New and unique experience.


...to be continued...


Oh God, Almighty Father

(Traditional Catholic Hymn, Anonymous, German, © 1948, Ralph Jusko Publications, Inc.)
(Harmony by Healey Willan)

Oh God, Almighty Father,
Creator of all things,
The heavens stand in wonder,
While earth Thy glory sings.

(Refrain)
O most Holy Trinity,
Undivided Unity,
Holy God, Mighty God,
God immortal, be adored.

O Jesus, word incarnate,
Redeemer most adored,
All glory praise and honour
Be Thine, our sov’reign Lord.

(Refrain)

O God, the Holy Spirit,
Who lives within our souls,
Send forth Thy light and lead us,
To our eternal goal.

(Refrain)

Dirge

(Woody Johnson, 2010)


All them grains of sand,
And all them drops of rain,
And all the hope I got,
Don’t amount to anything...

All the places that I’ve been,
And all them smiling faces,
Like some disappearing dream,
Don’t amount to anything...
Without you.

Without you... you.

Without you,
All them waves out on the water,
All those prayers and wishes for daughters and sons,
And all them stars up in the heavens,
They just don’t mean nothin’...
Without you.

Everyday is Valentine’s Day

(Woody Johnson, January 19, 2010)

There’s a time for buyin’ red roses,
And there’s a time for dancin’ ’til three,
And writin’ Romantic prose and poems,
And takin’ picnics out in the country.

There’s a time for sparkin’ ’n’ flirtin’,
Awkward moments when new lovers blush,
For courtin’ and doin’ things on a lark,
When there’s no earthly reason to rush.

Cards and long love letters,
And little things that mean so much,
Things that you don’t realize are gifts,
Like the softness of a lover’s touch.

I see it all the time now, sir,
And I have to look away,
Reminds me of everything that I lack: Yeah, everyday’s Valentine’s Day.

Everything just loses its meaning -
It’s like losin’ your only best friend:
The places you can never go back to,
That emptiness just never ends.

Every morsel I taste, each aroma,
Every colour and every sound,
All that candy and perfume around me,
All those people laughin’ out loud...

From first frost to spring’s final thawin’,
From high summer to when fall declines,
Reminds me reminds me reminds me,
Every day is Valentine’s.

Thelonious Sphere Monk

(G. Lahey, June 23, 2009)

He knew what he was doing,
With those discordant sounds;
That rhythm-a-ning thing:
Asnaturalas
Jazzbrea - th-ing,
Jazzthought/think - ing,
Jazzsoul - sou - nd - ing,
Jazzli - ife/liv - ing,
Jazzfoo - ood/eat - ing,
Jazzdrin - k/drink - ing,
Jazzlove, jazz-love, jazz love/lov - ing -
For Ruby,
For Nellie,
For The Baroness,
For Orrin Keepnews,
For T.S. and Boo Boo,
For his piano.

And watching him play, doesn’t it make you cry?

Threnody For Antonio Caldarella

(G. Lahey, April 29, 2009)

Maintenant les oiseaux chantent une chanson mélancolique .
Les fleurs ont perdu leur lumière intérieure.
L’air a perdu sa chaleur.
Les gens semblent solitaires.

Et le monde a changé.

Nous ne nous étions jamais rencontrés,
Nous n’avions jamais parlé ensemble,
Nous n’a jamais cassé du pain ensemble,
Mais je lui connaissais bien.
Son coeur était lourd, j’ai pensé.
Il eut aimé pour une fois dernière moment
et ensuite - une personne elle a écrit ’FINE’ dans cire rouge...
et a apposé un cachet à l’anéantissement de ton coeur

The birds sing a different song now.
The flowers have lost their inner light.
The air has lost its warmth.
The people look lonely.

The world has changed.

We had never met, never spoken together, never broke bread,
But I knew him well.
His heart was heavy, I thought.
You loved one last time, and then - ’END’ - embossed in red wax,
the seal affixed to the destruction of your heart.

Highwire

(Woody Johnson)

Up on the highwire
Some of us are here for different reasons
Up on the highwire
Some of us are followin’ our dreams and
Up on the highwire
Some of us are tryin’ to change our luck,
And some of us just haven’t given up.

Up on the highwire
Some of us are tryin’ to have some fun
Up on the highwire
Some just got no where else to run
Up on the highwire
Some of us got a song to sing
And some are just tryin’ to make a livin’.

Bridge
And down below there are some
Hopin’ that we’ll fail
And there’s some down below
Bitin’ their lip prayin’ to St Cecile
And down below there are some
Who can’t look and cover their eyes
And some have got the music inside ’em.

Up on the highwire
Some of us are livin’ just like gypsies
Up on the highwire
Some of us don’t own no keys
Up on the highwire
Some of us head back to a house and home
And some of us are just like rollin’ stones.

Up on the highwire
Oh God, bless and keep us please
Up on the highwire
Lord, some of us are sinners on bended knees
Up here on the highwire
Some of us are barely holdin’ on
And some of us are just here
Some of us are just here
Some of us are just here
Because of the song.

Up here on the highwire
Up here on the highwire
Up here on the highwire
Up here on the highwire

La Belle Dame Sans Souci

(G. Lahey, October 27, 2009)

I see them on the streets,
They walk by with their heads bowed down,
Their faces scowlin’,
And I wonder why they keep on goin’
And I think, "This will never happen to me"

I had an uncle,
He drank a lot, and he’d dance beside the sea,
Then sit in silent reverie,
Recalling what he’d left behind.
And I’d hope this would never happen to me.

Sittin’ with my friends,
Avec la belle dame sans souci,
In a basement like some kinda refugee,
You never thought it’d be games of chance,
That this would ever happen to me.

HER

(Woody Johnson, 2006)

She’s a high-waisted girl,
Her belt pulled tight.
And ready to fight.
She’s a high-steppin’ long-legged gal,
Heeled high and steady,
With her hair pinned up,
And her lip like that.
A high-strung,
Two-fisted girl,
And ya think she just might,
'Cause she's an easy-dancin' girl,
Her make-up's just right,
And she’s slow grindin’ t'night;
And she's gonna look you in the eyes,
An’ hypnotize you.
She's a low ridin’
Don’t say much kind o’ gal.
Smooth calves
And waist grabbin’,
Hard livin’,
Loves lovin’ girl.

El Padre de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

(G. Lahey, August 30, 2009)

I said, “I guess my problem is one of faith,
I can’t believe that all it takes
Is the askin’,
And suddenly I’m all clean and shiny.
For what I done I’m gonna require
More’n the grace of God and heaven’s choir
And the blessin’ of the Trinity and Mother Mary, too.
‘Cause the only one who can absolve me,
Though she loved me true and so completely,
Has turned forever away
Turned away."

And the water rose and the light grew dark, I felt that weight
Upon my heart,
’Cause I knew
The askin’
Wasn’t gonna get a givin’.
‘Cause the pain and sufferin’ that I caused
The Devil woulda never done to Job,
And I’ll forever be a vagabond a-wanderin',
A vagabond, just another wanderer.

The Padre said: “You must forgive her unforgiving way
With all your heart, and one day,
Your soul will finally rest, my son.”
But I knew
That was gonna be a test
That Jesu in the desert would never have passed,
So I thanked him, and turned away,
I turned away.

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