UNDETERRED

first published: Halfway Down the Stairs, June, 2013

frogner-happiness.jpgfrogner-ecstasy.jpg

About six years ago, a dark-haired, thirtyish man in a white T-shirt pushed an arresting young woman in a wheel chair up the main aisle of the hardware store. She had intense brown eyes, smooth tan skin like her companion, and exuberant, thick eyebrows.

     He approached me. “Do you have a little time you can spend with my sister? Anna has a few questions.”

“Sure. What can I help with?” I said. I was grateful. I am a rover in the store, free to help almost anybody with pretty much anything, but especially a  pretty girl.

The girl had the same shiny rich, black hair as her brother, shoulder length. Her upper body was brown and broad; her legs were in jeans, but Velcro-wrapped to the foot rests of the chair.

“Well, I hope you can help me with pulleys, because I have to invent some things. I can picture it, but I need help to get the pieces together.”

Her eyes were mirrors into which I didn’t dare look. “Okay.  Anna, I’m Jerry. What are we building?”    Continue reading

Rafael Garcia Meets the Devil

Published in anthology here:  6-9-2011

The Spanish horse patrol was on route to Bodega on the Pacific. Rumors, then reports, had come to the fort beside St. Rafael near San Francisco Bay that other Europeans had been seen in the headlands around the mountain called Tamalpais.

The five leather-coated soldiers, their priest companion and the native servant stopped awhile to stretch their legs and barter food at a poor village.  The missionary, mildly drunk, was still able to talk with the village elder in Bay area pidgin.  The man had apparently seen nothing.

Private Rodrigo played with the kids.  They got him into line with them in the field and passed a rawhide ball from one to the next, then faster, then two lines formed and raced to see who was fastest.  They laughed; he laughed; no one used words, but cheered and yelled and slapped each other’s back.

It turned into tag and racing through the woods.  The Miwok kids were quick as deer and knew the paths, but Rodrigo’s heart made up the gap. Continue reading

Tempeche, b. 1799 d. 1824

photo: outlaw chapbook c/o bannock street books

published here

Tempeche willed one of the bullets into his own skull. The fusillade threw his corpse backwards, still tied to the iron ring.

Monterey’s angry court officials were not to be swayed, so he had sung them quiet forgiveness. He chanted thankfulness to the four directions, to the earth, to the sky. While they convicted him of murder, he recalled the lush taste of raw salmon, the heart-pounding scramble ahead of a grizzly, the brief eternity of taking a woman.

Fickle Coyote was elsewhere, though he’d inspired Tempeche’s other escapes. Tempeche knew that even the chance to slash the Corporal’s throat while in custody was just a final trick, not a path of escape. Caught immediately. Execution guaranteed.

*** Continue reading

Runway

stormcoming c/o petergreenberg.com

Published here

We were in starry sky stretching to glimpse the lights of San Francisco past our seat-mates one minute and the next we were surrounded by dark fog bouncing and knocking shoulders, certain we would collide with Mt. Diablo or another plane. My ears were ringing like Christmas at the cathedral. Our jet shook and dipped and maybe dropped through the fog and then, Bam! we felt a huge hand-like slap on our plane. We startled and were screaming and trying to inventory the engines while the Captain’s voice apologized for turbulence. We dropped out of the fog into dark night with bright lights and smashed onto the concrete runway like a carton of eggs.

Rattled, hurried, subdued, we were herded to the jump chute exits by a terse, pale steward, who was ignoring a forcefully cheerful forty-something stewardess whispering behind her teeth like a ventriloquist: “Is it on fire?” They had us hop outward feet first, while crossing our arms on our chests. A woman seemed to snare her feet on the inflated ramp and bounced face forward onto the pavement where she lay still. Two uniformed men with Red Cross insignias on their sleeves bent over her while the police gathered the rest of us into an old yellow bus out of the drizzle that had already penetrated my light jacket. The bus said ‘St. Francis Academy’ on it. Continue reading

Hummingbird

pubbed here

I had to make it easier to whip out Wishes and show I was up to the next level. Up to the Miracle Corps light-before-the-end-of-the-tunnel standards. I don’t have to be another Jenny; just good enough to set up a trip to a waterfall with wheelchairs, or some other midsize Wish Fulfillment.
Jenny’s great, no doubt. Except for that one parent that one time. She can set up families of ten coming from eleven states arriving at twelve different times with thirteen different food allergies and all sleeping over with Mickey and Minnie in Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
What do I get? Look at this old folder:
“I want to go surfing.” What’s the big challenge? With a six-month window, I had to get a fourteen year old from Boulder to Huntington Beach.
Or: “I want to see snow.” In eight or nine months, a second-grader from Louisiana to the Rockies.
“I want to ride a bike.” Oh this was a good one…six or seven months, an eleven year old with no use of legs. Easy actually…hand cranks instead of pedals.
See what I mean? So basic.
So during my last review with my supervisor, Randy Lawson, I asked for tougher stuff. Some measurable way to prove that I was ready for five-wheelchairs-on-a-plane-change-at-O’Hare level logistics. What did I get from good old Mr. Lawson? Check this out:
“I want a hummingbird to kiss me”; 3 months.
Balboa Park, San Diego, Bird House. Ka-ching. Continue reading

Keeping Time

pubbed here

It was close to 9 A.M. when he hoisted his case and stepped outside. He felt late. The day had started badly. Green Bay was out of Super Bowl contention already. Shake it off. The street was filled with black grit and slush and snow lay like old manna on strips and patches of grass. Up the street, pitch and run. Sell. Tune in. Make it.
“Look, just bear with me a minute,” he told the short, shiny man wiping the snow from a parked car. “How many ways do you know to boil an egg? One. How many ways to chew it? One. You sleep, you wake up, you chew your eggs the same way every time. Do you want to just hang around till you die of old age?”
The little man was listening. He was buying, Diskus knew. Continue reading

High Water

pubbed here

Willy was born delighted in the middle of a rainstorm that threatened to flood the root cellar where they were hiding from the lightning. She had wide-open blue eyes. Her tiny expressive face soundlessly oohed and aahed and grimaced and startled with each feeling from the very beginning and, soon, she had a coo of contentment that nurtured her mother and then a three-tone song of a laugh that always made her siblings smile. Thunderstorms and floods threatened them so often but Willy’s birth let Mama engage with them easier from then on.
By age two, she had become the sixth oldest for the second time when her mama got sick in child birth and by four she was fifth oldest again when she stopped seeing Ezreel, who used to feed the pigs. She knew every inch of the farmyard and garden, had her own names for every chicken, pig, cow and horse on the place and could boil water on the stove, if mama was there. Continue reading