NOW AND THEN

NOW AND THEN

 

 

I can stop writing to you now

Writing is all I am

 

Until the end you will always be Then to me

 

Am I ever even a faint smile to you?

 

You’ve been gone a long time now

I haven’t gone anywhere

I am caught remembering

A Time now

Long gone

 

I will find for myself the answer

The answer I already know

Or stop asking

 

I’m not important

 

You were just a promise I made to myself

 

I don’t want anything anymore anyway

 

 

(You must want something )

(What do you want?)

 

 

High ground

 

Jesus Christ

I’m talking to myself again

 

 

(What is it about this being crucified thing?)

(Shedding your body?)

(Rising?)

 

 

I felt love approaching

I was so sure

 

So was I crazy or were you my destiny?

 

I was crazy

You were my crazy

 

That is rock bottom comedy

Me unfolding like a paper party horn

Rolling to the end

Sounding a tissue trumpet

 

 

(What are you afraid of?)

 

 

Things as they actually exist

 

I believed there was a me and you

It’s only me

I am it alone

 

 

(Oh please stop it)

(Can I just laugh at you now?)

(I am weary of you)

(I won’t be back)

 

(Yet here I am)

 

(I wished you would stop writing me)

(Let me go)

(Let me go for your own sake)

 

(You aren’t my fault)

(You knew what we were doing)

 

(So I am glad for you)

(Now and then)

 

 

 

Advertisements

THE JOYFUL SUTRA


,

,

THE JOYFUL SUTRA SINGS

Sixteen Sacraments of Desire

,

1

Be glad you are not a rock

You are the envy of the dust

,

2

Be glad you are here

Be here Joy fully glad

,

3

Be glad you ask, “Where does It All go?”

You hide It from yourself

,

4

Be glad you bless what you have lost

Panning for gold

,

5

Be glad you have so little time

Think of those who have less

,

6

Be glad you are not the next generation

They get what is coming

,

7

Be glad It is a puppet show

(Shocked laughter)

,

8

Be glad you have not

Time to slow down

,

9

Be glad when Love has you

It Is all you will ever know for sure

,

10

Be glad you will miss me

Until you are forgotten

,

11

Be glad you are not those pretty people

They are God’s problem

,

12

Be glad you can not Save yourselves

You should be ashamed of yourselves

,

13

Be glad you can not ignore your pain

Love would not lie

,

14

Be glad you can hold on

Let it burn

,

15

Be glad you are taking responsibility

Now go

,

16

Be glad you have nothing to lose

You can’t imagine The End

<•

,

,

NOW NOT NOW

If I live, if I live for thirty more years

Mirror, mirror

Mirror dusty

Will I be ninety-nine?

My wife is growing faint

She has blurred to me

Unsteady she she

Holds seance with our cats

On the couch she sleeps

I can’t well hear her,

I glance toward her now

I barely hold her

It’s hard for her me to kiss

My teeth are clenching

I am obsessed with something

I can no longer understand

Damn my blood of sea captains

I couldn’t read the stars

I was casting off the ones I love

I was not worth what I thought

I am a standing wave breaking

A birth and death unchanging

Bye-bye, bye-bye

Hidden in a shimmer

That is we

Crossing paths of waves bye-bye

All these intersections

Appeared so real

We are the passing

Passing in each moment

Voracious

Consumers of ourselves

<•

 

 

 

TALES OF KIBASH by Ayah Haal

 

واحد 1

Zuhra is a twelve-year-old black Palestinian girl. She lives in a compound of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Zuhra has a goat named Kibash.

This morning Kibash carries a heavy pouch for Zuhra, given to her by two cousins who said, “Be very careful. Give it to a man who will take it from you in the field. It is a gift for him.”

The life of Zuhra is a hard one as a girl, a difficult one as a Palestinian, and often a harsh one as a black, even though Zuhra’s people have lived on the land since the days of the slave trade.

Zuhra is determined to hold her faith, saying, “I am a child of Allah Blessed Be His Name, and I am no less, even if I am a black Palestinian girl.”

Zurha’s goat Kibash bleats, “It is better to live one day as a black Palestinian girl than live a thousand years as a goat!”

Zuhra scolds, “Kibash! Goats are blessed to be sacrificed for Allah Blessed Be His Name.”

Kibash wags his tongue, saying, “And so you can see why we goats are Agnostic!”

Zuhra blushes at the blasphemy of Kibash.

Kibash concludes, “At least your misery is the Will of Allah Blessed Be His Name.”

Zuhra nods, “I hear your wisdom, Kibash. Thank you for your comfort, my dear friend.”

 

اثنان2

Zuhra and Kibash approach the Israeli military check-point outside her compound.

Zuhra recognizes the young Israeli soldier, Raphael.

Kibash wags his tongue and whispers, “Raphael burns your cheeks as does the sun.”

Zuhra catches Kibash’s tongue and pinches it.

Zuhra says to Kibash, “Please. Don’t embarrass me. Raphael must already wonder what is wrong with me. I am 12-years-old and unmarried.”

Raphael smiles and he raises his rifle to Zuhra.
Raphael calls out, “Good morning, Zuhra”, then he grins and wags his tongue at Kibash, saying, “And to you as well, Kibash.”

Zuhra lowers her eyes and Kibash begins to nibble at the tempting strap of the pouch he carries.

Raphael asks, “Going to the field again today, Zuhra?”

Zuhra replies shyly, “Yes.”

Kibash tugs at the strap of the pouch he carries and Zuhra pulls it from his mouth, scolding, “Kibash, behave!”

Raphael narrows his alert eyes and asks, “That pouch: is it new, Zuhra?”

Zuhra looks up at Raphael and smiles, “It contains a gift for a friend of our family.”

Raphael asks, “What is it?”

Zuhra replies, “I was told not to look inside. It is a surprise.”

Raphael then sees that Kibash has yanked out some wires from inside the pouch.

The object within the pouch begins to emit a soft high pitched whine.

Raphael suddenly bends down to Zuhra. He grabs her up into his arms and dives behind the barricade.

The pouch is hanging in Kibash’s mouth by the exposed wires held in his teeth.

Raphael covers Zuhra’s head with his own body and braces himself.

The explosion, the foul explosion of intestinal gas from Kibash’s rear end is apocalyptic.

There is sudden wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Israeli military check-point.

Zuhra cries. “Kibash is the Father of All Stinky Smells!”

It takes many minutes for the broken wind to heal itself around Kibash.

The ham radio that had been concealed in the pouch now emits a squealing noise.

Kibash continues to chew on the ham radio wires saying, “This thing is unclean. No wonder it tastes so good.”

Raphael confiscates the damaged ham radio and urges Kibash and Zuhra on their way.

Zuhra mutters to Kibash, “Why must you defile my intentions?”

Kibash answers, “Ask Allah Blessed Be His Name.”

Zuhra scolds in disgust, “You are the Imam of the Damned.”

Kibash warns, “Take care or I will issue another Fartwah.”

 

ثلاثة3

In the field at last, Kibash goes to work eating the weeds and thistles, clearing the field for cultivation.

Zuhra daydreams about Raphael, thinking, “Raphael does not care than I am black and Palestinian.”

Around Zuhra, several young boys cultivate the cleared portions of the field.

One of the young boys, Hosni, calls out to Zuhra, “Get to work, slave.”

Another boy, Nadim, laughs, “Slave.”

A third boy, Tariq, throws a stone at Zuhra.

The stone hits Kibash instead. He raises his horned head.

Tariq laughs, “I have stoned the Devil!”

Nadim laughs, “The three of us must stone the Devil seven times!”

Zuhra cries out in alarm, “Kibash is not the Devil!”

Hosni shouts, “He is a known Devil!”

Zuhra pleads, “At worst he is only an admirer of the Devil!”

The three boys raise their arms and conduct a concert of stones.

Suddenly, Kibash leaps, lowers his head and charges at the three boys, with alarming alacrity.

Kibash repels those oncoming stones with his lowered horns. Then he is upon the panicking boys. They grovel beneath him as he wags his drooling tongue over them.

Kibash quotes, “Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith.”

The boys look up at Kibash, in terror. They wail, “Forgive us! Let us return to our cultivation. Please, Devil.”

As the three boys run away, Kibash returns to Zuhra and winks, again quoting, “No one is free of sin: we must forbid evil nonetheless.”

 

4أربعة

The moon is annoying Kibash.

The muttering and pawing of Kibash interrupts the prayers of Zuhra. She goes to the goat pen and asks, “Kibash, what is wrong with you? You interrupt my prayers.”

Kibash blows his nose, saying, “The moon god is capricious and dances month to month in my sky!”

Zuhra admonishes Kibash, saying, “The moon is a sign of Allah Blessed Be His Name. The moon is not a god.”

Kibash replies indignantly, “The moon is the god of goats.”

Zuhra says, “Muhammad God’s Messenger split the moon in a miracle! The two parts of the moon stood on two mountains!”

Kibash replies victoriously, “The same way is a goat split in sacrifice! The same way is a goat’s head split into two horns.”

Zuhra asks, “Then why does your god, the moon, dancing in the sky annoy you?”

Kibash asks incredulously, “Why? Because that is how I pray!”

 

5خمسة

The Angel Gabriel comes to Zuhra and Kibash in the field one day. He appears as an old man with a very white face, his long, loose fitting clothes also white, but his hair black as the night sky.

Kibash speaks first, asking, “Sheik, what can we do for you?”

The Angel Gabriel as an old man turns to Zuhra and asks of her, “Please tell me about Islam.”

Zuhra says without hesitation, “Islam is to bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah The Praised and Exalted and that Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him is the Messenger of Allah. Islam is to establish the Islamic prayer. Islam is to give alms to the needy. Islam is to fast Ramadan. Islam is to perform pilgrimage to Mecca if you are able to bear the journey.”

The Angel Gabriel says, “You have said the truth.”

The Angel Gabriel as an old man turns to Kibash and asks, “What are the signs of the Hour of The Judgement?”

Kibash says, “The signs of the Hour of Judgement have already come: most people bear the mark of the internet, most things spoken are a lie, men think that they are women and women think that they are men, people divide themselves into a thousand ways worse than Babel, what is done in Sodom does not stay in Sodom, governments perform in a circus, all desires are called good, and Allah Blessed Be His Name is mocked and the people worship Darwin.”

Gabriel as an old man falls to his knees, bows his head and weeps, saying, “It is worse than Allah Blessed Be His Name has yet revealed even to me.”

The old man then shows himself as Gabriel. His six hundred wings cover the sky from horizon to horizon. His feathers now fall as fire.

The air raid sirens sound like trumpets.

 

6ستة

Zuhra and Kibash meet themselves, an apparent “Zuhra” and an apparent “Kibash”, in the field one day.

Zuhra is terrified. Kibash paws the dirt threateningly.

Kibash says, “Do not be afraid, Zuhra! Those two are our personal Jinn, the Qareen we were born with. They can only whisper in our ears and urge us to commit sin.”

Zuhra calls out to their Qareen, asking, “Why do you appear to us? Why are you not shadows?”

The Qareen “Zuhra” bows to Zuhra, saying, “You have captured me with your spirituality. You are pious, you never sin, you never miss a prayer. I am now your servant.”

The Qareen “Kibash” bows to Kibash, saying, “You are capricious, your appetite is unbounded, you bear horns to honor He Who Was First To Enter Hell. I will be your servant if you deny Allah.”

Zuhra pleads, “Do not listen, Kibash!”

Kibash says, “I will accept your service if you can answer three questions.”

The Qareen “Kibash” grins, “You will find that I know everything and that I will be a useful servant.”

Kibash asks, “Who is Allah?”

The Qareen “Kibash” shakes his head, “He is the one true God.”

Kibash asks, “Who is Muhammad?”

The Qareen “Kibash” smirks, “He is the last prophet of Allah.”

Kibash says, “Impressive. Now, what is The Religion in the sight of Allah?”

The Qareen “Kibash” licks his lips and says, “Oh, please. This is too easy. The Religion in the sight of Allah is Islam.”

Suddenly the Qareen “Kibash” cries out and falls to his knees.

Kibash smiles and says, “Now you are a Muslim. Never have another negative desire.”

 

7 سبعة

One night Kibash is dreaming. In his dream he argues with a locust.

The locust has arisen from the ground at Kibash’s feet.

Kibash lowers his horns to smash the locust, saying, “You are greed itself, devouring every green thing. You will not starve me!”

And the locust says, “For each of us you smash, ninety-nine will arise. Each of us holds ninety-nine eggs inside. We will rise again like souls from the grave at the Hour of Judgement! Remember: we are the ones who destroyed Pharaoh. What can a foolish goat defend? We are an Army Of Martyrs.”

Kibash leans down to the locust, wags his tongue, and then licks up the locust, swallowing him whole.

When Kibash awakes he asks Zuhra for the meaning of his dream.

Zuhra contemplates and then answers, “A dream about eating means you hunger for something. Eating alone means you are lonely. Eating locusts in a dream means that you will receive money!”

Kibash stamps his foot, saying, “I hunger only for food, and when I am with myself I am not lonely, and surely if I receive money it can only mean that I have been sold for meat!”

 

8ثمانية

Zuhra sits under the large old mulberry tree in the courtyard outside her home. She thinks of her father and mother.

Zuhra sighs, “Peace Be Upon You, Father, Mother.”
Kibash joins Zuhra He kneels to recline beside her, asking, “Are you remembering your family?”

Zuhra replies, weeping, “Yes. Oh, Kibash, the years do not exist. My Father and Mother live in my mind today.”

Kibash comforts Zuhra, saying, “That is a blessing.”

Zuhra, bursting, says,“How is it a blessing that they were killed? For this I have no wisdom.”

Kibash advises, “Death comes to all. We all belong to Allah Blessed Be His Name. We all own only our Faith.”

 

9تسعة

The father of Zuhra was Jawara, a Muslim African.

He had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, leaving behind his wife and children.

The conflicts between Palestine and Israel trapped Jawara and he never saw his family again.

Zuhra’s father was remarried to a Palestinian woman named Enaya who became Zuhra’s good mother. Enaya would read the Quran to the infant Zuhra.

Jawara would slaughter a lamb beneath the large mulberry tree. With the other men of the village he fed the poor of the village with lamb, porridge, and vegetables .

Jawara and Enaya had a female goat named Karam. Karam was the good mother of Kibash.

Little Zuhra loved little Kibash and they were always together.

One day Jawara and Enaya were walking hand-in-hand when they were caught in a cross-fire between Israeli military and rebel Palestinians.

Jawara and Enaya died hand-in-hand.

Little Zuhra and little Kibash became like sister and brother.

 

10 عشرة

Corporal Raphael of the Israeli Military has morning patrol with Corporal Sarah at the Al Aqsa Mosque checkpoint.

This is the checkpoint through which Zuhra and Kibash pass daily to work in the fields.

Raphael has no bias against Zuhra as a black Palestinian. He has come to think of Zuhra as more than a sister but that she is “too young”.

Raphael realizes that in her own world Zuhra could be married already. Such thoughts trouble him.

Raphael shakes his head, thinking, “Why do I make such troubles for myself? Always.”

Corporal Sarah watches Corporal Raphael and asks him, “A shekel for your thoughts?”

Raphael snorts wryly, saying, “I would owe you half a shekel.”

Sarah points with her chin, saying, “Speaking of half shekels, here come that girl and her goat.”

Raphael is not aware of his smile but Sarah is.

Raphael raises his hand in greeting, calling, “Zuhra. You too, Kibash.”

Zuhra bears the smile of Raphael.

Kibash belches.

Sarah says to Zuhra, “We need to see your identification .”

Raphael whispers to Sarah, “This is not necessary. I know these two. For some time now.”

Sarah says, “I know. You grow complacent, Raphael,” and she looks down upon Zuhra.

Kibash feels the jealousy between Sarah and Zuhra. He wags his tongue to say, “Raphael burns both of your cheeks like the sun.”

Sarah demands of Zuhra, again, “Your identification,”

Sarah suddenly is given, by Allah Blessed Be His Name, a vision of Zuhra as a beautiful young woman being consumed in a pillar of fire.

Zuhra suddenly is given, by Allah Blessed Be His Name, a vision of Sarah with a great wound on her temple.

Raphael suddenly is given, by Allah Blessed Be His Name, a vision of Kibash bestowing upon him his horns. Then Raphael is sacrificed and burned.

In an instant all three visions have dispelled.

Sarah, pale and humble, whispers, “Pass with God.”

Zuhra bows and says, “May you always be with Allah Blessed Be His Name.”

Kibash wags his tongue at Raphael, saying, “Welcome to my world.”

 

11أحد عشر

While patrolling the field last night, Raphael and Sarah are killed by Palestinian rebels.

Raphael’s mutilations and Sarah’s wounds make them appear as if sacrificed.

Zuhra and Kibash have find them in the early morning. Zuhra wails face down in the dust.

After a long time, Kibash notices a yellow heifer on the nearby hill.

The yellow heifer descends to them slowly.

Kibash sees that the yellow heifer is a flawless animal and it’s skin seems to radiate the sun.

Zuhra is still face down in the dust that is wetted with tears.

Kibash wags his tongue, asking, “Yellow Heifer, you are of flawless beauty. How do you roam this field without a master? Why are you here in this field of Death?”

The yellow heifer answers, “Allah Blessed Be His Name is my only master. I have been sent because of the purity of Zuhra’s faith.”

Zuhra at last arises beside the slain Raphael. She is stupefied and bewildered by the yellow radiance of the heifer.

The yellow heifer approaches the corpse of Raphael. She kneels and touches him with her nose.

The yellow heifer turns to the lifeless form of Sarah. She kneels and touches her with her nose.

Raphael and Sarah stir and then they stand up as wobbly as babies.

Zuhra cries out and collapses again, this time in praise to Allah Blessed Be His Name.

Kibash says to the yellow heifer, “That was the greatest sign of them all.”

The yellow heifer prays, saying, “You all were lifeless and Allah Blessed Be His Name gave you all life, and Allah Blessed Be His Name will take away life from you all and will again restore you all to life: then you all shall ultimately return to Allah Blessed Be His Name.”

 

12 اثنا عشر

Zuhra is now an old woman whose beauty is a sunset.

The great-great-grandson of Kibash is now Zuhra’s young companion. The great-great-grandson resembles Kibash himself and he is called Kabir.

Kabir asks of Zuhra, “Why do the old men in the village say that Kibash Peace Be Upon Him was a Devil?”

Zuhra smiles and remembers, saying, “I love Kibash but he was an admirer of the Devil’s independence.”

Kabir asks, “Is it true that you and Kibash witnessed many miracles?”

Zuhra nods, “Allah Blessings Be Upon Him confided in us.”

Kabir asks, “What would Kibash Peace Be Upon Him have said about me?”

Zuhra recalls, laughing, “Kibash said that Heaven is for goats who have no one to remember them.”

Just then Kibash appears in a turquoise radiance.

Little Kabir is startled and he hides behind Zuhra who laughs with sympathy.

Kibash speaks, wagging his tongue, saying, “Be careful what you desire, Kabir.”

Kabir bleats, “Are you real, Kibash? Where do you come from?”

Kibash laughs, “I have been in your heart. Are you real, Kabirl?”

He nods to Zuhra and winks.

Kabir comes boldly from behind Zuhra, saying, “I am real in the Heart of Allah Blessed Be His Name!”

Zuhra claps with delight, saying, “Kabir ate the Quran when he was a kid.”

Kibash laughs, saying, “So the teachings of the Quran are near to Kabir’s heart.”

Zuhra says, “You must be proud.”

Kibash agrees, saying, “After all, I am the Father Of All Stinky Smells.”

Kabir hops with embarrassment. Then he says boldly, in retaliation, “And I am the descendant of a Devil!”

Smiling with humble gratitude, Kibash, Kabir, and Zuhra pray together in turquoise light.

 

#

 

 

Take it off from any checklist

>

Time is cashing out

I have slowed down to a tree

Poetry takes away what is in front of your face

Where does it all go?

Dog watches gopher

I am sixty-nine

How can I love them all?

Poetry is your fruit

Don’t think too much

Is this why time ran out?

Was a badly ordered checklist

There is little left

What is there no time for?

Love your love

>

That’s my exercise

Chasing time

Closing time

I can’t get used to this

>

I was daydreaming

<•

KISSING HER KOWBELL

 kissing her kowbell 1

KISSING HER KOWBELL

        I met Hayley Kowbell when we were sixteen.  We both went to Chippewa High School.  Her father owned the Sweet Ridge Cattle Company.

        I had seen Hayley around but I first officially met her in Honors Literature.  I liked to read.  Louis L’Amour was my favorite author.  I loved frontier stories.  I don’t know why but when I saw Hayley sitting there in class I just sat down at the desk next to her.  It wasn’t like me at all.  I only nodded hello to her at first.

        I don’t say much, ever.

        When our teacher, Mr. Sayers, called roll on that first day he called out, “Buxton Carter?” and I raised my hand but I quickly turned to Hayley and I said, “They call me ‘Buck’.”

        Hayley had that half-smile and she just said, “OK.”

        Hayley was a surprise.  She looked like a Wisconsin cowgirl, her cornflower hair and freckles and the way she dressed in denim shirts and jeans.  But she was real smart and I couldn’t believe how much she read books.

        One day she just turned and asked me about our reading assignment, “How do you like A Farewell To Arms?”

        I said, “I like it.  The way Hemingway writes it’s like a clean-polished wood carving.”

        I guess that was the right thing to say.  She liked that.

        Hayley said to me, “Who’s your favorite author?”

        I told her, “Louis L’Amour.  I love frontier stories.”

        She gave me that half-smile and damn if I didn’t feel kind of embarrassed so I asked her, “Who’s your favorite author?”

        Hayley said, “Camus.”

        I heard “Kah-moo” and I thought she was teasing me.  I must have looked perplexed to her and so she asked of me, “Albert Camus?  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  He was born in French Algeria.”

        I said, “Oh, yeah.”

        But damn if I didn’t know anything about Camus.  And damn if I didn’t google him right after class.

        Hayley was an athlete like me.  She was on the swim team.  She was real popular.  Before I knew who she was I’d noticed her among all the girl swimmers.  She was strong and graceful.

        I was Cross-Country.  I liked being alone, challenging myself.  I would find my own harmony running and I would feel like I could run forever.  They say that it’s because of en-dolphins, I think.  I sure would feel like a dolphin.

        So Hayley and I had things to talk about.  Or more like as not she would talk and I would listen.  I listened to her like she was music.  Then I’d make a joke and she would laugh and I would feel funny like I wanted to kiss her face.

        Hayley had a funny saying.  Whenever she liked something she would say “That sure kisses my Kowbell”, and when she didn’t like something she’d say “That sure don’t kiss my Kowbell”.

        I was only sixteen but soon enough I found myself thinking that Hayley’d be a perfect wife and then I’d daydream about what it would be like to have kids.

        But she had a boyfriend.  Gavin Hawke.  Hawke the Jock.  He was a senior and he was the Quarterback Hero and the Senior Class President.  The real problem was: he was a nice guy.  Well, I didn’t really hate him.  I was jealous.

        I knew I was in love with Hayley.

        If Hayley suspected my feelings she sure didn’t let on.  She even thought that Gavin and I should be friends.  When we both shook hands at her say-so I could see the cold suspicion in Gavin’s eyes.  He knew what I was all about.  I couldn’t blame him.  I marveled at Hayley’s hold over both of us.  But Gavin would always find some excuse when Hayley would recommend that he and I hang out together some place.

        Anyway, Hayley got me a job working at the Sweet Ridge Cattle Company, her family’s business.  I was so lucky.  Most other kids worked at Wal-Mart.  Her family also bred horses and that’s where I worked: tending the horses.

        Hayley was a great rider.  I could tell that she was holding back when I went riding with her sometimes.  That didn’t help my case any.

        One day Hayley started talking about the Wisconsin High School Rodeo Association.  But she was talking about bull riding!  I didn’t get it at first but she was telling me that she wanted to learn how to Bull Ride.

        Hayley said to me, “The Wisconsin High School Rodeo Association is sponsoring a three day bull riding school by Terry Don West.  He’s one of the top five Bull Riders of all time.”

        I asked, “Why the hell do you want to be a Bull Rider?”

        Excited, Hayley replied, “I been reading about Maggie Parker and I found a interview with her on YouTube.  She started riding bulls when she was my age.  And she’s smaller than I am.  Maggie talks a lot in that interview about the adrenaline rush.  She says: ‘Bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports because you’re up against an animal and you don’t know what he is going to do or what he’s thinking.’  Maggie’s got no quit in her.  That sure kisses my Kowbell.”

        Hayley was out there like that in everything she did.  And it wasn’t just sports.  She won the Dolly Crockett Homemaker Award in her Home Economics class.

        I walked home after school that day with my friends Travis and Flip.  I put it out there: “How do you make a girl do what you want?”

        Travis thought a minute and then he said, “Chocolate condom.”

        Flip said, “What you want to ask is: how do you please a girl?

        Travis sneered, “Who cares?  They’re supposed to please you.”

        Flip eyed me and asked, “Growin’ antlers, Bucky-Boy?  Who you got in mind?”

        They were no help.

        I got home and my Uncle Garrett asked me, “Learn anything today?”

        I lived with my uncle.  My mom died when I was a child.  Head-on car crash.  My dad survived but he was so fucked-up he has to live in a hospice.  My uncle stepped-up to take care of me.  My grandma is still amazed.

        Grandma would tell me, “Your Uncle Garrett was always headed for trouble,” but she never told me what kind of trouble.  Uncle Garrett never had any women over to our house.  I figured he was being protective of me.

        I showed Uncle Garrett the picture of Hayley which was in the school newspaper story about the Dolly Crockett Homemaker Award and he said, “Oh, yeah, cute as a bug, Buck,” and then he asked me, “Why don’t you just ask her out somewhere?”

        I sighed, “She has a boyfriend.  Gavin Hawke, the football hero.”

        Uncle Garrett said, “I see.  Well, why don’t you find an excuse to study with her if she’s in your literature class?  Then you can take a break and go out to eat somewhere casual like.  Seems to me you gotta think like you’re the quarterback of the opposing team, get it?”

        I smile wryly and said, “That makes her the football.”

        Uncle Garrett corrected me, “That makes her the goal.”

        I clutched the hope and said, “Yeah.  The ‘opposing team’.  It’s a game, right?  Thanks, Uncle Garrett.  Thanks a lot.  How’d you get to know so much about girls?”

        Uncle Garrett said, “I don’t know about that.  Affections are tricky varmints, Buck.  You hunt varmints by their habits.”

        I smiled, “I don’t know what that means, but thanks.”

        My chance came when Mr. Sayers assigned us The Grapes of Wrath.  I asked Hayley real casual-like, “Can we discuss tonight’s essay assignment?”

        Hayley said, “Sure.”

        I asked her, “Can we meet at the public library?  It’s kind of distracting around school here.”

        Hayley replied, “Sure.  Meet you there after school.”

        I couldn’t tell you what I did the rest of that day at school.

        Later at the public library, after we were making fun of the way Mr. Sayers always dressed, with his bow tie and sweaters, Hayley got serious and asked me, “What do think those between-chapters are supposed to represent?”

        I said, “I think they were Steinbeck’s original notes about the novel, but he used them like clips from newspapers.”

        Hayley was engaging me, “But what did they do to move the story along?”

        I said, “They were like, like what you call…foreshadowing.  But Steinbeck used it to trick you sometimes and get you all worried about what was coming next for the family.  Like the story about the bad accident and the dead children.”

        Haley sat back and said, “Well, That sure kisses my Kowbell.  Mr. Sayers should like that.”

        I smiled.  Then I was real smooth when I said, “Reading about Ma Joad cooking has made me hungry for biscuits and gravy.”

        Hayley grinned and then she imitated Mr. Sayers, saying, “So you would say you were deeply moved by The Grapes of Wrath?”

        I ran with it quick and I said, “Hey, Hayley.  Why don’t we deeply move to Joey’s BBQ?  Aren’t you getting hungry, too?  I’ll buy.”

        Hayley looked at me funny and said, “You’re buyin’?  That sure kisses my Kowbell,” and she laughed and I wanted to kiss her face and then she said, “Sure.  Let’s go.”

        Joey’s BBQ was real informal and had great food.  They made their hamburgers out of steak trimmin’s.  And their salads had big slices of carrots, long-wise like bacon, and whole green onions and I always got extra pickled beets.

        I don’t talk much, ever.  But with Hayley all I had to do was strike a spark with most any question and she’d catch fire, she had something to say about everything.  But right then I really had to ask her, “So, are you still serious about learning Bull Riding?”

        Hayley answered while she grinned and exaggerated her cheek full of salad, “Hell, yeah!”

        Uncle Garrett had told me that instead of trying to hold Haley back, which he forced me to admit I would never, ever, be able to do anyway, he said I should support her and why didn’t I go along and take the Bull Riding class, too.

        Uncle Garrett had said, “How dangerous can a class be?  I’ll pay.  I can see what this girl means to you and I can be your ‘Offense Coach’, Buck,” then he had said, “Go long,” and he had laughed, motioning down an imaginary gridiron.

        So, after Hayley had said, “Hell, yeah!” and was daring me to say something, I’m sure, like girl’s shouldn’t Bull Ride, I surprised her and I said, “It sounds like a rush to me, too.  Thanks to you, I’m thinking about taking the Bull Riding class, too.”

        Hayley pretended to choke and cough and she laughed and said, “You?” but then she touched my arm and said, “I’m kidding.  I’ll be glad to have you there.  Gavin is no support.”

        And I thought to myself, “Yes!”

        But then, wouldn’t you know it, I saw a couple of the guys from the football team come in and sit at a table across the room.  One of them noticed us and said something to the others and then they all looked over at me and Hayley.  One of them got on his cellphone.  I could see the blitz formation.

        Hayley followed my gaze and she saw the guys and she waved at them innocently.

        I waved too.  They were smiling at Hayley and they frowned at me.

        Hayley turned back and she then was lost to me in thought and she said almost to herself, “Gavin is talking to some college recruiter tonight.  He might get a football scholarship.  His dad has connections.  He’s getting ready for pre-med, you know.”

        I said, reluctantly, “That’s great.”

        Gavin’s dad was a doctor.

        Hayley continued, “Gavin’s sweating every grade.”

        The only thing I was sweating was Hayley.  I suddenly felt like a bush league quarterback with fourth down and ten yards to go.

        I said, “Hey, want desert?  The Cowboy Cake will kiss your Kowbell.”

        Hayley looked at me with doubt.

        I enticed her, “It’s made with dark chocolate, coffee and cinnamon.”

        Hayley slowly smiled and said, “Buck, you are evil.  Sure, why not, but let’s split one, OK?”

        There was one piece left when Gavin showed up.

        Gavin startled us both when he appeared beside me and he said, “What’s this?” and he took the last piece of cake with his fingers and put it in his mouth and then he reached over and bent Hayley’s head back and kissed her.

        Hayley laughed, embarrassed, and she said, sing-song like, “Ga-vin!”

        Gavin was looking at me and he said, “Mmmm,” then he turned to Hayley and asked, “What’s going on?”

        Hayley said, matter-of-factly, “Taking a break from studying.”

        I said, “Hey, Gavin.  How’d it go with the recruiter?”

        Gavin said to me, curtly, “Good enough.”

        Then he bent down and kissed Hayley again and he said to her sweetly, “Really good,” and then he glanced back at me with a crocodile smile.

        I said, “That’s great.”

        Gavin asked Hayley, “Are you about done here?”

        Just then the check came and Gavin nabbed it and he paid.

        I had to say, “Thanks” to him and he knew I would have to.

        Hayley said as she kissed Gavin again, “Thanks, sweetie.  We’re done,” and then she said to me, “See you tomorrow, Buck,”

        Gavin wrapped his tentacles around her and pulled her away to his teammate’s table.

        I plugged my sick stomach with a painful grin and I said, “Yeah, see you.”

        Later, when I shuffled in the front door, Uncle Garrett asked me enthusiastically, “How’d your game go tonight?”

        I said, “I got blown out.”

        I told Uncle Garrett what happened.

        Uncle Garrett said, “One game does not a season make.  Sounds like you had a good game, though, Buck, until that final down.”

        I grumbled, “Final downer, you mean.  How many chances am I going to get?”

        Uncle Garrett reminded me, “There’s Bull Riding school.”

        I had to grin and say, “Yeah.  What could possibly go wrong with that?”

        We laughed and I went to my room.  Later, laying on the bed I finally realized that it was a pretty good night.

        The next day I told Travis and Flip about what had happened, expecting them to be impressed and to encourage me.

        Travis said, “Nice moves but, dude, you will never make this happen.  She’s a rich girl.  He’s the fucking Man at school.”

        Flip said, “You got balls, man, but you’re going lose them.”

        Travis added, “Although, you know, fucking Hayley Kowbell might be worth losing your balls for.  I know I’d consider it.”

        They were no help.

        Later that same week, Uncle Garrett had told me one morning that he was heading out that same evening for a while and that he wouldn’t be home when I got there after school.

        And so the house was indeed empty.  I put some tomato paste on a couple English Muffins and I added cheese and a few olives and I micro-waved what I called “mini-pizzas”.  I sat on the porch listening to tunes on my iPod.

        At sundown a full moon was rising and I felt agitated.  I decided to go for a run.  I put on a sweatshirt, my swimming trunks, and my running shoes.  I stretched and warmed up.  I never wore my iPod running.  I believed: when you listen to music, listen to music; when you run, run.

        I would become my own music.

        I took a breath and then I suddenly exhaled like a starting gun and I set out down the road.  I hit my harmony running and then I became pure motion and I was gliding up and down the waves of hills like a dolphin under the full moon.

        Over an hour later I was slowing down to a trot approaching my home and I could feel my body heat radiating from my face.  I felt purified.

        The lights were on in my house.  There was Uncle Garrett’s truck.  I figured that Uncle Garrett must be home early.  Whatever he went out to do must not have taken long.  I wished again that he felt like he could go out and have a good time more often and not worry about me.  I didn’t care if he brought a girl home.

        I walked up the porch steps and I could see through the screen door into the kitchen.

        I stopped.

        I could see my Uncle Garrett standing over Mr. Sayers who was sitting at the kitchen table bent over.

        They both looked at me when I entered.  I started to say, “Mr. Sayers?  What brings you here?” but I stopped when I saw Mr. Sayers’ bloody black and blue face and I realized his bow ties was gone and his sweater and shirt were torn.

        I opened my mouth and looked at my Uncle Garrett.  He was messed-up and bloody too!

        I cried, “What happened?!”

        Mr. Sayers looked up at my Uncle Garrett and then he looked back at me and said, “I got jumped and they were kicking the Jesus out of me.  Your uncle saved me.”

        Uncle Garrett was looking down at Mr. Sayers with his hand on Mr. Sawyer’s shoulder and his mouth pursed and his lip bleeding and his cheek torn and he glanced up at me and his eyes were glistening and they flashed.

        I yelled, “Who did this?!”

        Mr. Sayers stammered, “I, I’m not sure, but I think it, it was…”

        Uncle Garrett growled, “We’re sure!  It was fucking punks from your football team.”

        I yelled, “What?!  Why?!”

        Then I suddenly got the sickening thought that it must have had something to do with the other night at Joey’s BBQ.

        Mr. Sayers started to stand up and then he collapsed back into the chair with a yelp.

        Uncle Garrett said, “That’s it.  We’re going to the hospital.  Now!” and he lifted Mr. Sayers out of the chair so he could stand up and he supported him and he told me, “Get the door, Buck.”

        Uncle Garrett drove away with Mr. Sayers slumped in the truck.

        They very next day Honors Literature was cancelled.  The word was that Mr. Sayers had left suddenly to tend to his sick mother.

        I had no excuse to talk to Hayley anymore.

        I finally found Gavin and Hayley sitting together at a lunch table.  I marched up behind them and I yelled just as nasty as I could, “Hey!  Gavin!”

        Gavin turned around and Hayley said, “Buck!  What are you doing?”

        Gavin stood up and he loomed over me and he asked me coldly, “What the fuck is it?”

        I stuck my chin at him, “Mr. Sayers isn’t ‘visiting his sick mother’, is he?”

        Gavin asked me contemptuously, “What is wrong with you?”

        I was sure that Gavin was going to kill me but I was determined to hurt him.

        I growled past him to Hayley, saying, “Someone from the football team fucked up Mr. Sayers!”

        Hayley was aghast and she said, “What?!”

        The Gavin seemed like he had taken a blow.  He looked down and he turned to Hayley and he said quietly, “I know.  Hayley, I didn’t tell you.  I’m going to find out what the fuck…”

        I yelled, “You know?!  You know?!  And just how the fuck do you know, Gavin?!”

        Gavin turned to me and took a step toward me and Hayley called, “Gavin!  Don’t!” and Gavin snarled at me, “My father is a doctor at the fucking hospital, you moron turd!”  and then he said quietly, “Somebody beat-up your Mr. Sayers outside some gay hangout somewhere outside town.”

        I didn’t fully grasp what Gavin had just revealed and I didn’t know what to say so I just said with righteous anger, “They bloodied up my uncle, too!”

        Hayley asked, “Your Uncle Garrett?”

        I said, “Yeah!  My Uncle Garrett!”

        Then Gavin asked me, “Your Uncle Garrett?  What was he doing there?”

        I replied proudly, “Saving Mr. Sayers!”

        Both Gavin and Hayley just stared at me.

        Hayley suddenly looked down and then the realization hit me like a sock on the jaw.  My head jerked to the side and my eyes were wide open and I stared at nothing, stunned.  My wits came back and I turned again to Gavin and Hayley and the two of them together were looking at me with fucking pity.

        I yelled, “Fuck you both!” and I turned and I began to run and I ran and I ran and I ran back to my only home in the fucking world.

#

[Continued (click here)]

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS