Tag: brchitwood

Why am I Still Alive?

Why Am I Still Alive?

Ah, let me list the ways!

Why am I still alive?

To annoy people who tire of my sometimes pedantic and/or melancholy matters of the heart and mind!

A mechanic will tell you what’s wrong with your car, often times, not words you wish to hear!

“A cracked engine, you say! My God, man, don’t tell me that! Can’t you caulk it, put cement along the crack and seal it? I drove it in here! It was running fine! I just wanted gas! Now, you give me more gas than I wanted! You must be wrong! My engine cannot be cracked! I just drove this car off the showroom floor! You’re mad! Yor’re a scoundrel!”

Now, a noble ‘Romantic’ comes along to tell you that his words can bring you joy! If not joy, his words can bring you sadness! If not sadness, his words will speak to you of murder and mayhem, of love lost, regained! If not sadness, his words will squeal with fashioned glee he has never truly felt! But, then, what is a writer for but to create whatever it is you wish to feel!

Why am I still alive?

I’m still alive because I must, I need, I require before saying goodbye to my three fans and these earthly orbits a ‘Best Seller’ – allow me to repeat that, please: I must, I need, I require before saying goodbye to my four friends – I picked one up with just these first few lines – a BEST SELLER!

I’m still alive because I’m told by the Gods on Olympus that my time won’t be up until the frost on all pumpkins dehydrate at the same time and the world of Halloween knows no bounds. The Gods tell me I can even create an event that does not even exist!

Yes, it’s true! Take, for example, the fine scholar of a gentleman (or, perhaps, lady, for I know not the gender of ‘Anon’) who wrote: “Life is really simple! We people insist on making It complicated.”

Oh, where was I?

Oh, yes! The mind goes, you say, so it is written that I must be on way to death’s uncertain embrace! Yet, still, I beg to stay for that BEST SELLER! And, I shall stay until you merry lads and lassies fulfill that dream I carry in this villainous old head of mine… Oh, that reminds me, you get to see the steady decline of my head (that is to say, my brain!) but only after you give me my BEST SELLER!

So, ask not what you can do for other authors! Ask what you can dor for me!!!

I’m now working on my seventeenth novel! It is also that golden moment I’ve written of in this brilliant post: it is that BEST SELLER of which I speak…with the understanding that books I’ve already written should have had that high rank of BEST SELLER!

But, I shall trifle no longer with my quaint words which the Gods of Olympus provided me!

My acquaintances tell me that my subtlety is one of my finer traits, along with the ‘boy scout’ honor I’ve carried with me all these many years!

So, had you expected more than I’ve given here, I truly would like to be sorry! But, the Gods on Olympus speak to me directly and tell me not to be sorry! That, they say, shows weakness in my character. The Gods on Olympus also tell me leave now whilst I still might add my fifth friend.

The foregoing words relate so much better than I could speak it to you: Why I’m Still Alive! (Until age, 105, I hasten to say!)

Billy Ray Chitwood – September 16, 2018

Please preview my current 16 books at:

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BUY MY BOOKS

BUY MY BOOKS

Guess it could be considered foolhardy to look too far into the future when you’re old in age but young in heart. Whether it is or it isn’t, if you’re breathing and still have a working mind, use every millimeter of it. AND, go BIG in your thinking and planning. It’s just as easy to think BIG as it is to think small.

So, here’s what I’m thinking…

Get all your friends together, ALL of you, and insist, by cajoling, by insisting, by threatening loss of friendship, by any means available to you, except, of course, mind-altering drugs, weaponry of any kind, or, poisons of any kind.

Now that you’ve got all of your friends together, ALL of you, brain-whip them into buying BR Chitwood’s books, either paperback or e-book.

‘WHY’? You Ask!

Because it’s simply the right thing to do! They will see how a most worthy author writes excellent books, nay, quintessential books, literary quality (though lacking leather covers!), and for the price that one might pay for apple pie al a mode or a small pack of lung-oxidizing cigarettes…that is, if anyone smokes these days – it’s been thirty-five years since I gave them up. And, I had just bought a pack…crushed them with one hand. But, back to ‘breathing and working minds’ and ‘buying my books’!

‘BUT, WHY’? You ask again. So, being the right thing to do is not enough! Then, gracious! Think of book stores, of those unseen electronic elves that magically form the words onto a screen attached to a ‘mis-nomered’ tablet and/or laptop…did you know that a “‘killer whale’ is a ‘misnomer’ for what is one of the gentlest marine creatures known to man?” Actually, that is a very good description of my books (NOT, the ‘marine creature’ thingy!) AND a good reason for you, ALL your friends and all your neighbors to BUY my books. Hope I didn’t make you think of going to Sea-World…that’s much more expensive than buying my books.

Now, go back and read the first line of this missive! I believe you folks to be good and honest people, so I ask you, did I not convince you to buy my books?

It’s not easy to make a fool of oneself, but for the sake of my books I’ll do that in the very next blog post I write but, for now, think of these good reasons I’ve given you here to buy my books.

‘Dimwittingly’ yours!

BR Chitwood – September 11, 2018

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The Cargo

The Cargo 

The man stopped, turned, shook his head, scanned the horizon 180 degrees, pivoted, and continued walking.

After twenty paces Adrian Jacobs stopped again, repeated his scanning of the horizon. In a low voice, he spoke to himself, “What is it? What’s this crawling, gnawing feeling matching each step I take? Did I forget something? Leave something behind? What the hell’s eating at me? Dammit! I’ve been here   before! Something is wrong! Am I being forewarned? What? Is my mind playing with me?”

The escarpment was just ahead! He dreaded the trek down the steep incline, but he would not want to climb back up the damned thing! He almost lost it on the way up, thought he was going to pass out, die, have a stroke, just not ever again! Next time, a helicopter!

There was a boulder on his left. He would sit for a while, clear his mind, re-think it all. He was bone weary after the past few hours. He had to be sure! Too damned many moving pieces! He had to sort them all out, make sure he was not missing something!

He sat on the boulder, took a deep breath, and looked at the valley down below. Lights were beginning to twinkle in this early stage of twilight, dusk not far away. He needed to get started down the slope before darkness came. Weather didn’t appear to be a problem, but he needed to be at least halfway down the slope before he used the flashlight.

“Okay,” he spoke again, quietly to himself, “let’s go over the inventory…” He closed his eyes, projected in his mind the steps he took since leaving the car parked and hidden down below. What? He looked at his watch – nearly five hours so far.

“Car in garage. Nobody saw cargo loaded in trunk of car! Check, 100% sure!”

“Nothing left inside Allie’s patio home to implicate her or him! Check! 100% sure!”

“Car not followed! Check! 100% sure!”

“No one saw him on the up-slope. Check! Toughest part! Heavy-load, with a few stumbles! 99% sure!”

“Cargo buried deep in secluded spot Allie picked out at the far-end of Molar Peak! Check! 100% sure!”

“Information not shared with anyone! Check! 100% sure!

Adrian smiled… “What the hell am I worried about? It’s clean! Like a whistle, it’s clean! This time next week Allie and I will be on the white-sand beach in Aruba, sunning and splashing in those incredible powder-blue waves! I’ve been paid well! Wonder where Allie got the money? Not to worry! Said she would explain later!”

Adrian lifted his sore, well-worn body from the boulder, endured a sharp, involuntary pain in his solar plexus area, stretched, winced, and began his hike down the slope. He scattered loose gravel with each step, and the over-amplified sound filled the early night air, eerie in its hollowness. As the daylight still allowed he kept a wary eye out for rattlesnakes. This was the time of day when they came out from under a mesquite bush or rock to forage for food.

He hated snakes! But this little trip was worth the effort! He sang softly some tunes he knew, hoping to keep the snakes away.

Adrian stopped. Darkness was coming fast upon him…faster than he imagined. Vision was becoming a problem. He would need the flashlight and he had not yet reached the half-way point. He did not want the light to reach curious campers who might be nearby. Considering the time of day and inevitability of darkness he would have to use the flashlight. He did not want someone noticing a light and mistaking it for an SOS signal.

As darkness came the flashlight beam seemed brighter and more encompassing in its breadth of coverage, but he knew he had no choice but to use it. Otherwise, his footing and his balance would surely fail him. He also knew there were a few scattered cabins nearby that would possibly have the tenants sitting on their decks watching the night unfold and peering into the sky. Some, indeed, might have telescopes for their amateur star-gazing. No matter, the flashlight must be on for him to safely make his way down the steep slope. He simply had no choice, and the odds would certainly be in his favor. The cargo took longer to haul up that slope than he thought.

On he slowly moved down the slope, slipping, stumbling at times, the gravel sounds reaching decibels very loud to his ears So focused on his decline and the noise element, he paused at times, switching off the flashlight, standing still and waiting for the gravel rush to stop, listening intently for other possible sounds.

Hearing no sounds, seeing faint lights too far off to matter, he continued down the slope.

Amid his step-crunches and the gravel-rush, his mind began to play tricks on him. He heard or thought he heard hissing noises in the brush nearby. He stood motionless, perspiration blurring his blinking eyes, concentrating on the perceived noises around him. He heard only the slight stir of a zephyr floating by or a distant caw of a bird.

He took a tentative step down the slope and felt a sharp sting in his left calf.

He let escape a loud unwanted yelp! The yelp blended with unmistakable sounds of rattlers. Then, there came another   sharp sting on the right calf.

“Ow! Oh, my God!” His mind began to remind him of all the stories he heard from people or read in Arizona newspapers about rattlesnake bites, how fast they entered the nervous system and rendered one immobile. He felt another stab of pain to his left ankle. He started to dash down the slope but fell and tumbled head-long into the brush and gravel in front of him. A cholla shrub sent cactus needles into his arms and face. Some fifty yards down through cholla, sagebrush, and gravel his body slammed into the thicker thorns of a saguaro cactus. 

Barely conscious he felt the bloat of his calves and ankles, the blood on his upper torso and face from the thorny saguaro. He lay on his back looking up into the starry skies and felt his life draining from his body. “Oh, God!” He softly murmured, “not like this, please!”

He tried to move, but some parts of his body were broken. He lay there, short gasps emitting from a mouth now with tongue swollen and his energy gone. His mind caressed the final irony of his life. For once, he was to become someone, wealthy, free to be noble of gesture for worthy causes. He was to have Allie, someone beautiful to love and show off to the world.

In his dying throes he managed a weak smile and a mild ‘Ahh’ of capitulation to a God he once knew as a child. In a barely audible breath he muttered, “You are there after all!”

***

The next day, an Arizona newspaper’s first page lead head-line read: PAYROLL ROBBERY OF MAJOR INDUSTRY. In the smaller type below the headline, the copy read: ‘… No leads in the case.’

Two months later, on the society page, an Arizona newspaper announced the news of an ‘Allie McBride’ wedding, the bride a wealthy young lady of little history, the groom, an also rich and powerful politician in the state.

Six months later, on page five of an Arizona newspaper, a small headline spoke of a man’s bones being found on the steep eastern slope of ‘Molar Peak’. The DNA from the body’s remains gave no clue as to the identity of the man.

©The Cargo – A Short Story by BR Chitwood – August 27, 2018

Please preview my sixteen books at:

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Hammer’s Holy Grail

Hammer’s Holy Grail

by BR Chitwood

-Coming July – 2018- 

 

“Hammer’s Holy Grail” is a relatively short read of 36,000-+ words. It will be published without launch, without fanfare (except for this blog post!) later this month! The book is about a kid who has an emotional family situation – angry father, his critical Appalachian uncertainty, gifted with football talent and a beautiful girlfriend he’s known since junior high.

Wesley Walton is a sophomore at Garden View University in Knoxville, Tennessee, has a great passing arm and faces a great future. The pro-football scouts are already looking at the kid with a golden arm.

Wesley meets a man named ‘Hammer’ who is both a decorated veteran and a person of great wisdom and with a unique hobby. Wes and Hammer become immediate friends.

The short tale follows Wesley’s football season as well as his parental love and woes. The book is not a ‘thriller’ or destined to be a classic by any means, but the pages do carry some interesting moments, and I believe it to be well-written… In any event, it will be an inexpensive read and one I hope the book buyer will like, PLUS, I’m giving you the first chapter free of charge in this post. Feel free in letting me know what you think.

So, no launch, no parades and graffiti, just my usual ‘do nothing’ marketing campaign with a hope some of you will buy the book, give me some ‘reviews’, and ‘PUSH’ it forward.

Here’s the first chapter (working on the cover):

HAMMER’S HOLY GRAIL

Chapter One

The darkness and fog are palpable viscid sweat things crawling all over my flesh! A gentle wind stir comes and my skin does shiver dances. I swallow and it’s like I’m somewhere between passing out and regaining my breath.

My eyes cannot be trusted. I rub my eyes and they project things that are not really there. My mind questions the logic that brought me to that decision. My concentration is drawn to these vague flashing images that keep popping up in spaces to the front, sides, and back of me… I figure it’s the mind doing its reckoning! I’m likely trying too hard to see and my brain is trying to accommodate me.

Okay, I admit it. I’m a big boy, scared. I mean, there is no way this world can be this dark and foggy.

“Why?” Someone might ask, “are you so stupid to be standing where you’re standing?”

The reason is really simple, but I’m going to make it complicated for you…not out of a warped and evil sense, but because this is a story I need to tell and it has some crazy turns and twists. Call it a weird psychological need if you want! That’s as good a description as any, but, please understand, I have not lost all my marbles. Then, again, maybe my bio here is not so unusual a tale after all. Maybe you readers have experienced some of the same events in your life – only, framed differently.

So, this little journey on which I’m taking you, please stay with me. An Epic? Probably not, but it might have some stuff that’ll stay with you for a while after I’m finished with the narrative – up to the point when I run out of words.

***

When I was a little boy, my crippled cousin had to have the light on during his dark bedtime hours. Now, I didn’t tease him about that but if I just mentioned it he chased me up one country road and down another. If I didn’t have a pretty good lead he’d catch me. Then, we would end up wrestling until one of us said ‘Uncle’ – usually me! We were best pals and I loved my club-footed cousin-buddy, but he would get madder than a frigging copperhead on LSD if anyone brought up sleeping with lights on.

That’s not part of this rather complicated story, at least, not in a major way. This darkness and fog just makes me think of JB – JB Hill, that’s his name. He’s the son of my Dad’s sister, Norma Hill.

I don’t want you to think JB is so crippled everyone has to be sorry for him. He turns out later on to be a top scratch golfer. He’s gone now, died too darned early in his life because of some darned rare breathing illness. His sisters and brother were with him when he left us. His wife should have been there with him, but, earlier, JB caught her screwing the next-door neighbor, and my cousin beat the shit out of the neighbor and threw all her clothes – and her – out of the house. Sure, he was club-footed but he was no chicken yellow-belly. Nobody gave him any crap, that’s for sure.

Well, again, that’s not part of the complicated story either – but I won’t lead you on any further.

It all starts with my sister, Sarah Lou. She’s sixteen going on twenty-four, if you get my drift, built like a brick shit-house, big boobs, long silky brown hair, great figure, pretty, and she reckons she’s the ‘cat’s meow’. It seems she knows early on she wants to taste some parts of life she is no way ready to taste.

I’m convinced Sarah Lou is the genuine product of her – and, my – dad. No question about it! He gets madder than hell and beats up on her and my Mom. Well, he did when he was coming around more

Dad has this fiery temper, and it’s his way or the highway, so to speak. This is when he’s visiting us. He and Mom are divorced, and Dad seems to have these demons inside him that make for crazy flip-outs at any moment. I’ve noticed his behavior changes when Mom mentions her side of the family – they don’t like Dad and he doesn’t like them. Of course, that gut-searing corn whiskey could have something to do with it. He likes his hooch! He’s also tall, good-looking in a George Clooney kind of way (sort of!) and has a thing for the ladies. How can I know that? Well, that’s a whole different story, and it’s doubtful I’ll ever tell it!

Well, anyhow, the genes running loose through Sarah Lou must be near-identical to Dad’s.

Moving the story along, Sarah Lou turns sixteen and elopes with an army corporal, runs off to another state when the corporal gets transferred. Mom is heart-sick and scared because she knows she’s got to tell Dad the news. And, me, well, I’m scared right along with her. You see, it’s just Mom and me since Sarah Lou eloped, and I sure have sleepless nights worrying about my dear sweet mother. She works so hard to make ends meet, has no time for socializing and being with her friends. It’s part of her nature to worry and fret about things. Did I fail to mention? My Mom is a beautiful lady, big brown eyes that sparkle and brown hair to go with them. She looks like a famous old-time movie star by the name of Claudette Colbert, famous actress during that golden era of Hollywood. Mom and I are fans of ‘old movies’.

Through some rough times, Mom has done her best to shelter my sister and me from all those emotional ills of divorce and the economic crises that rise from working sometimes two jobs. She has done well by Sarah Lou and me despite the troubles she’s had to bear. Dad’s visits end up most of the time in bad arguments and fights. As a young kid, I saw him too often physically abuse Mom and, somehow, I still love the man.

Enough ugly truth for a few sentences. Suffice it, Mom worked hard and got me through high school where I played quarterback for the football team and got a scholarship to Garden View University. Garden View is part of the greater metro area of Knoxville, Tennessee, and the university sets on a lovely and lush campus of about one hundred acres. It is a university that dates back to the 1940s and has academic achievement awards that any higher institution would covet.

Well, as implied above, here is more ugly truth.

Mom and I, my now older club-footed cousin, JB, and Lulu, his big sister on my Dad’s side of the family, go to the Hooper Hotel in Knoxville where my Dad is living to tell him about Sarah Lou’s elopement.

In Dad’s hotel room, my Cousin and his sister take the two chairs in the room and I sit under a window on an old radiator…you know, those ugly heavy metal gray vertically-elongated rods connected all in a row as one unit. Now, the heat isn’t on during this visit, but those units are particularly awful and uncomfortable to sit on. And, you’re right, those heating units were not built to be sat on. I just keep changing my sitting ‘this way and that’, dictated by my butt cheeks.

Now, Dad knows right away that something is up, and, he knows it isn’t good news – guess our sad faces and body language give us away.

When Dad hears the news about Sarah Lou, he stomps around the room in a fury, the anger and prelude to eruption showing on his face. Abruptly, he stops in front of Mom who is sitting on the bed. My sweet hard-working, lovely Mom sits there very still with her hands clasped on her lap with a blanched and pitiful look on her face, puffy from crying and the awful dread of telling Dad news of Sarah Lou’s rash elopement.

My ‘tainted-gene’ Dad hovers over Mom, his face distorted with fury like a dragon breathing fire, gritting his teeth, and says, “Damn you, Maureen.”

Suddenly, he gives Mom a hard looping open-hand slap to the face with so much force it knocks her over. My immediate fear is that he’s knocked something loose in her brain or upper body…and he’s getting ready to do more hitting.

I’m petrified and watching it all from this hotel room radiator and l reckon something snaps inside me. I’ve watched this kind of madness too many times before as a young kid. I’m a lot bigger now and I rush him and tackle him onto the bed, crying and mumbling something stupid, like, ‘I’ve seen you do that to my Mom too many times’. I’ll never forget – he’s got this look on his face like a slight smile and surprise all at the same time.

Multiple times I hit him with my fists, lost in my own anger, my tears dropping down on his face. Mom moves from the bed and stands crying in the corner of the hotel room.

Soon, Dad is not moving. I must have connected with a vulnerable spot on his head. It’s like he just turns his head over to the side and goes to sleep.

Seconds pass and I realize what has happened. I’ve attacked my own father and knocked him out. His pulse is okay, and I feel a bit better. After several anxious minutes of trying to revive him, I tell our little group that Dad will be crazy mad when he comes around so we likely should leave.

We hustle out of Dad’s room and loudly close the door. I feel bad leaving him unconscious on the bed, but more afraid of what he might do when he comes out of it and we’re still there.

Mom cries all the way down in the elevator, and we go unnoticed out a side entrance of the lobby.

I drive my Cousin and his sister home, and, except for the sound of the car engine, no one makes a sound. Tears flow down our faces, and the only sounds in the car are from our sniffing. We all hug and kiss each other when they get out of the car at their place.

Next, I drive Mom to her folks’ place some forty miles away.

We give Grandma and Grandpa all the news about our fateful visit with Dad, and they’re madder than hornets in a whirl-wind. ‘Is he dead?’ ‘Is he alive?’ They want to know. I ask Mom to promise me she’ll stay with the grandparents until she hears from me. There’s no way Dad, assuming I didn’t kill him, would want to go around Grandpa because of a fight they had some years back. Grandpa gave Dad quite a whipping.

After a few more tears are shed, I take off. Mom pleads with me to stay but she can’t talk me out of leaving. I’m worried about my dad and want to go back to the Hooper Hotel and check on him.

Beneath my tousled blond hair, my head inside is churning with thoughts as I drive back to the hotel. The closer I get, the more I become anxious and fearful of what I’ll find.

There’s this grim need to know about my Dad, whether he’s okay or dead. I’m a sturdy 6’2” young man now, 185 pounds, playing quarterback as a Sophomore at Garden View University. It’s difficult to calculate how hard I hit my Dad – I feel like a part of me was holding back.

There is just no way to forget what I did in that hotel room. Now, after a few hours, I’m making a return visit to the Hooper Hotel. I need to know, one way or another, about my Dad. Is he alive? Is he dead? Despite losing it and hitting him, I still love my Dad. Guess I should hate him, but I don’t. Seeing Mom so fearful and frozen in place I denied my own fear and went after my Dad.

I park Mom’s car fifty feet down the street from the Hooper Hotel and walk to the side entrance into the lobby.

The elevator is on the lobby level as if waiting for me. On Dad’s floor, the elevator comes to a stop, doors open, and my heart jumps into my mouth as I reflexively take a step forward!

My Dad is standing in front of me, his eyes blinking like he is trying to clear his head.

“You coming off of the elevator, young fellow?” Dad asks in an impatient and impersonal tone.

He wrinkles his brow as he notices the apparent surprise on my face. “You all right, boy?”

“Dad, it’s me!”

He did a fast look behind him like I was talking to someone else.

Dad blinks some more. “You’re mixed up, boy, I don’t have a son. Now, stay in the elevator or get out. I fell and cracked my head…have to get it taken care of.”

“But, Dad, I hit you when you hurt Mom. You slapped her so hard I was worried for her. I must have given you a concussion. I just couldn’t stand by and watch you hurt her. Please let me help you!”

Dad grabs my arm and pulls me out of the elevator onto the hallway carpeting. “Told you, boy, I’ve got no son.” He goes into the elevator, pushes the lobby button on the control panel and is gone.

I can’t say how long I stand rooted to that spot in front of the elevator. I’m aware enough to know that there are other people entering and exiting the elevator while I’m standing there. I’m dumbfounded by Dad’s reaction – He seemed so sure about what he was saying.

Finally, worried sick, I take the stairs down seven floors and walk out the hotel’s side lobby entrance. My befuddled mind is on automatic pilot and leads me down the street to Mom’s car. At least, I know he’s alive. Guess that’s something of a relief.

When I pull away from the curb, confused and frightened, I drive around aimlessly, turning left here, turning right there, lost in cascading thoughts, my mind reviewing over and over the events of the day.

I drive for miles not mindful of where I’m going. Tears flow until my eyes get all misty and puffy from rubbing them with my shirt sleeve. My brain tells me to pull off the road.

I’m somewhere out in the ‘boonies’. There is an old rutted country farm road, and I turn onto the dirt and gravel, drive a quarter mile and notice that, suddenly, I can’t see. I’m in an ultra-thick cloud bank of fog, suddenly frightened by the swift change in weather and mad at myself for being so self-absorbed I let this happen.

Yes, I know! I know! How does one get so locked onto something in his mind that he doesn’t know where he is? It’s crazy, but it happened!

At this point I’m crawling along, the car barely moving, trying to see, wiping the built-up vapor off the inside windshield, hoping for better vision. After a few moments, I see the futility in my feeble efforts, utter a not-so-nice but appropriate word for the ugly foggy dilemma.

I carefully edge to what I hope is the outer side of the country road, get out of the car, touch the hood metal, holding on to the only reality given to me at the moment.

Standing there, leaning on the car’s hood, my Dad’s face flashes in front of me in the darkness and fog, along with snakes, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and other beasts of the world. I cannot see my hand when I hold it out in front of me. There is a most vivid sense of desperation.

With Dad’s face, there comes to my mind some bad recalls of life with my Dad in it, not long after the ugly divorce. I push those bad thoughts away and force myself to think of the good moments.

Much of those times were rough, but there were tender moments as well – farther back in youth, when Dad bought me the little boy’s gray suit with a gray hat, and he called me his little business man. He took many pictures of me with a cigarette dangling from my six-year old lips, pictures on train-rides, car-rides while on the way to visit his parents, my grandparents, his nearly-blind grandmother, my great-grandmother. They lived north of Knoxville some sixty miles, near the Kentucky border.

On one visit he drove us off the main US highway into the hills of High Cliff, TN. We stopped not too far from the turnoff in an area of open fields and meadows. The bucolic scene presented to my young mind cows grazing in the meadows among huge oak trees, and there was this lonely looking clapboard house setting alone on this small knoll. Dad’s sweet old grandmother sat on an old rickety wooden porch that had an excellent chance of falling plank by plank to the ground below. She had a lovely weathered and leathery face, was almost blind and sat in an old wooden rocking chair. She looked so frail behind the horn-rimmed spectacles she wore.

She was so beautiful sitting in that home-made rocking chair on that wood-warped porch, like a picture in sepia tone, like a scene in an old-time movie. She sat there with a corn cob pipe in the corner of her mouth. She was in her nineties, and Dad had to get within inches of her face before she knew we were there. She squinted and finally recognized Dad.

She formed a sweet smile on her face, hugged him with shaky thin arms coming out of the gingham dress sleeves. “That you, Thomas? Lawdy, mercy me! you are a sight for these sore eyes.” She had a thin, squeaky voice that seemed a whisper. She used up a lot of breath as she talked and maintained that sweet smile.

She then peripherally noticed me, made over me as well, and I felt an awesome sense of history – the events, all the things she had seen in her long lifetime, things I would one day study. In the remembrance, it was all so nostalgic, dream-like, and, looking back, it somehow had a time-travel feel for me, so quiet, serene, like pages of history flipping backward. Those time-worn wrinkles on her bony arms and face, the faded gingham dress, her gray-hair in a bun on the back of her head, and the slow steady motion of her rocking chair as her eyes fixed on the parts of her life that were important to her. Her time was almost used up, but she would keep rocking on that graying rough-plank porch, smoking her corn cob pipe, looking out over the blurry land playing back misty memories.

Funny, how wonderfully that memory is so vivid in my mind, so fresh and firmly planted. A country song by Alan Jackson playing on the car radio is all I need to complete my ensemble of fuzzy thoughts and tears. Guess that might say something about my southern genes.

A few happy times flashed by, those times when we played at being a family, without the tempestuous flares of raw emotions: the Saturday movie matinees; Mom and Dad smiling happily when my sister and I danced to the radio; when I attempted to write a poem; the endless questions I asked of them both – the insatiable curiosity that stayed steady on a little boy’s mind.

I love them both so much, and, now, my father has no son.

The tears do not stop until my mind reminds me of where I am, in the middle of proverbial nowhere with only those scary image-flashes coming at me from too much eye concentration, and those conjured up memories that are both keepers and throwaways.

So, the world can be dark and foggy, and, maybe, reasons for standing in the darkness and fog are not so simple.

Standing at the front of the car, measuring each stride, I take a few steps, pivot, return to the car, do the same strides on each side of the car. Feeling secure enough that the car was far enough off the road, I climb into the back seat, and lock the doors.

Assuming a fetus position on the backseat, I try desperately not to think any more about past events, the present, and the future. I can wait out the darkness and the fog.

Tomorrow will come, and the sun will replace the dismal darkness and fog with thoughts of hope.

I love my Mom and Dad.

Maybe I still have both to love.

-END OF CHAPTER ONE-

Let me know what you think! My best wishes to all.

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 7, 2018

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