INFINITELY BLUE

15_infinitely blue, crop1

INFINITELY BLUE

 

 

     He was small and wiry and had curly white hair and infinitely blue eyes. He was in his early 60’s. He was known as Harding “Hard On” Miller. He washed dishes at The Driftwood coffee shop and restaurant a few blocks from the ocean in this little seaside village of Cambria.

     The owner of The Driftwood, named Robert, with big sad sympathetic eyes, had hired Harding one morning over coffee after listening to Harding’s unabashed story. Harding was living out of a truck down in the beach parking lot.

     This morning here at the front counter Robert was handing to Harding a colorful envelope and Harding was oddly upset. Harding set the tray of dirty dishes down on the counter and grabbed the letter from Robert’s hand. Robert winced at that but maintained his sympathetic ear.

     Harding fretted, “What the f.. Hell? I can’t believe it. Again! What is going on?”

     Robert said softly, “It’s a Christmas greeting card, Harding. What is wrong with that? Who is it from?”

     “That is exactly the question! I don’t know. There is never a return address and the stamp is always cancelled from the same town I’m in, no matter where I go! If I didn’t know better I’d think I was schizo and writing to myself for company! My parole officer sure ain’t doin’ it.”

     Harding lowered his voice suddenly and glanced at the two cops, a male cop and a female cop sitting at the other end of the counter. The male cop was eyeing the ocean vista obliviously. His female partner was silently interrogating her face in the black coffee. Harding continued in a whisper that he thought was secure but which resonated off of the shiny hardwood counter and the big window in this nearly empty restaurant.

     “Even when I was in prison, I would get a card every holiday, every birthday, no signature, no return address, just a hand-printed ‘Thank you. You are missed’ always at the bottom of every card. Is that weird or what?”

     “Weird,” agreed Robert. “But really kind of nice. So what is the big deal?”

     “It is creepy. It’s like I’m being stalked. I’ve spent enough time with people looking over my shoulder for one lifetime.” He glanced at the two cops again. They were both turned away. He thought they were both looking out the big window, but the woman was now watching Harding in the reflection while her partner’s eyes were setting sail for that bank of fog on the horizon.

     Harding picked up the tray of dirty dishes and walked back to his washer station, setting the tray down on the stainless steel table. He then lifted from the tray a half-empty bottle of ale that some fisherman had left that morning. The young cook called to him, “Hey, ‘Hard On’, what’s happening?” That bottle, in Harding’s hand, was now a serious parole violation, but Harding walked in a trance with the Christmas greeting card, out the back door and he finally sat down to overlook the reedy creek that sauntered toward the ocean.

     Harding stared at the Christmas greeting card. And with a first splash of ale down his throat, some shiny memories were uncovered. He was suddenly thinking about that evening at Comozzi’s Saloon, right up the street in the village, twenty-six years ago.

.

.

.

     Twenty-six years ago, sitting at the bar had been this slender red-head with the most shamrock-emerald eyes. Harding had looked around for the guy she must certainly have been with, but he saw no one qualified. He sat beside her at the empty bar and asked, “Anyone claim this seat?”

     She smiled, looking up at Harding’s reflection in the big bar mirror, “He’s not here.”

     Harding thought to himself she didn’t say “I have a boyfriend (get lost!)” and he then said, “I’m Harding”

     “I’m Shauna.”

     The two of them lost track of how many rounds they bought each other that fateful evening as they poured out each other’s lives. Harding remembered the pressure of his buried pain being released into those deeply forgiving emerald eyes of hers as they had talked.

     “All I ever wanted was for my father to be proud of me.

     My father was a pilot in World War Two. He flew a Liberator in daylight bombing raids over Germany. His best friend was his co-pilot. Half of those guys were shot down.

     He met my mother while she was dating his best friend. When my father and his best friend played baseball between missions my father would just keep looking over at her and she would just keep looking over at him. They were married near the end of the war. He lost touch with his best friend.

     My father was always my hero. But he was never happy with me. My mother was always the life of the family holidays, but even she thought I couldn’t do anything right

     I was always in trouble.

     My father had become the pastor at our church and also the head of my youth group and he was respected by everyone in the community. But he would laugh at my answers to questions during Bible class. He would make me put my nose into a chalk circle on the blackboard and wear a dunce cap. When I wanted to play Church football, he sneered at me that I was too small. Besides, he would say, don’t grow up to be one of those low-life athletes. When I signed-up for Church football anyway, he would never come to a game. One day I was doing really good: I made two touchdowns, and we needed one more to win. Suddenly there was my father holding a clipboard. I asked him what he was doing there and he said he was now the Assistant Coach!

     He benched me and let some lousy guy “have his fair turn”. We lost. I was so furious I quit the team. And then he would always mock me in front of everybody for that, for being “a quitter”.

     The worst was one day in the garage when I found an old trunk of stuff from my father’s pilot days. There was a picture of my father’s flight crew with his best friend and him in the middle. I had never seen a picture of his best friend. His best friend was a tough looking little guy and…and… I had his best friend’s eyes.

     My father caught me and snatched the picture and hit me; really pounded me, telling me to stay out of his things. I left home and joined the Marines that week.”

     Harding and Shauna finally took their bottles of beer outside of Comozzi’s and headed down to a spot near the creek.

     They were making love when Shauna’s boyfriend found them

     The boyfriend’s crew commenced beating Harding while the boyfriend dragged Shauna up the bank, cuffing her repeatedly with the back of his hand. They left Harding crumpled and crying “Leave her alone!”

     But a few minutes later Harding came up behind them in the street outside Comozzi’s. The boyfriend was harshly restraining Shauna and growling between his teeth how he was going to smash her face. As the boyfriend turned around, Harding, bloodied and limping, shoved a broken beer bottle into the boyfriend’s throat. Shauna screamed and the boyfriend’s crew now swiftly beat and kicked Harding unconscious.

     The circumstances were not important to the court. Harding had come back with “deadly intent” and, after a half-hearted presentation by his court-appointed lawyer, Harding was convicted of Attempted Murder. He was sentenced to 25 years.

     He never heard from Shauna again.

     Harding’s family then all but disowned him. He never saw them or heard from them again. His friends vanished.

     But about ten years later he began to get the greeting cards for his birthdays and holidays.

     His parents both died while he was in prison. When he was paroled he was a stranger in a strange land. He had the small inheritance left to him from his religious parents. He bought a pick-up truck with a camper shell and eventually landed in the parking lot of the Cambria beach.

     All that time the mysterious greeting cards had followed him with every move.

.

.

.

 

     Twenty-six years later, as Harding sat there, bottle in hand, overlooking the reedy creek sharing his memories, a shadow fell upon him. Harding started from his reverie and turned around. He reflexively but futilely dropped the ale bottle.

     Standing there was the female cop.

     Harding, even as he plummeted into despair, noticed the eyes of the female cop. They were as infinitely blue as his own eyes.

     The female cop spoke softly, “Hello, Harding,” then she showed a hesitant smile, saying, “Father. Dad,… I’m your daughter. My name is Deirdre.”

     “Daughter…?” His mouth fell open. Harding arose.

     “I sent you that greeting card. I sent them all. Do you remember Shauna? She is my mother. She told me your story when I could finally understand, when I was about ten years old. She made me promise not to tell you anything. She thought that she had hurt you enough. She was ashamed. So I secretly wrote birthday and holiday cards to you in prison. When I became a cop I could always find out where you were.”

     Harding was speechless, blinking and moving his lips.

     Deirdre took a deep breath, “Dad, you have a little granddaughter. And she has your eyes…”

     Harding put his hand against the side of his face, “Granddaughter…?”

     “Dad, my husband Brian and I want you to come live with us. Even if it’s only for awhile.”

     Harding lowered his hand from his jaw, “Can I ask you: where is Shauna?”

     Deirdre tightened her lips and said haltingly, “She, she died… She died…”

     And tears filled both worlds of infinitely blue eyes.

.

#

 

.

.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~^~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Follow This Link To My AMAZON.com SITE

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

 

Advertisements

THE GRASSHOPPER IN WINTER

 

In all the facets of his eyes, with Meadow of the Valley burning green,
The rolling colors up and down the hillside shined, petted by the wind.
Galahad the Grasshopper did thus not need to dream,
Offering to Aesop Ant, in passing, morsels of a leaf that he did love,
From high atop the towering weed, from where his heart did leap,
Called Galahad to him below, “Hey, can you stop, Aesop, my friend, and watch the spring in beauty burn?”

Aesop Ant replied, “Well, meadows do that sort of thing”, and tilting head from toil’s burn,
“You will find the Meadow is not always green,
And what is real is dreadful preparation.  Somehow does the worst upon us always leap.”
Appalled at Aesop’s rude philosophy, cried Galahad into the wind:
“What of Love?”
Aesop Ant just smiled and waved good-bye, “Good luck with Love, a Dream.”

A shadow fell on Galahad, and startled him from Aesop’s troubling Dream;
Above him saw a Butterfly alight upon the flower, wings a prism interceding for the sunlight’s burn.
“Sorry to disturb your dreaming.  I am Bethanie.”  She sipped the flower she did love.
“I am Galahad.  It is a lovely day.” His armor never shone before so green.
And Bethanie enjoined, “I hid when I was just a silly little caterpillar, dreaming of the wind.
But now I raise my wings to me and into beauty soon shall leap!”

Into every facet of his eyes did Bethanie’s true beauty leap.
Galahad did nod with every movement of her wings, to hear as if he did thus deeply dream:
“But now is time to drink the world and spill no drop into the wind.”
Then suddenly was Galahad no longer happy; something in his eyes did burn.
Added Bethanie, “But, you are welcome to accompany my journey high above the green.”
Galahad restrained himself from leaping then and there, while saying “That, I would be sure to love.”

“Can you stay apace with me?” asked Bethanie, “No matter what you love?”
Galahad without restraint said, “Yes, I can.  For I can glide the farthest of them all after I leap.”
“Then let us go while sun still shines and all the grass is green.”
Away from Galahad she fluttered like a dream.
Galahad leapt to the sky, and spread his wings to glide; to leap and glide until his legs did burn.
Down the valley to unseen horizon blew the wind.

Galahad did slowly fall apace, and finally descry not Bethanie in bygone wind.
Heart of his, a beating compass, blindly pointed love
Until the sun of that first day was no more seen to burn,
And from behind, a full moon crouched and into stars did leap.
Galahad now found himself beside a tiny creek that fell into a sandy pool, inviting him to dream.
Wearily he nibbled on a leaf, and heavy was his armor, fading green.

Far away, a Cricket choir chirping helped his spirit into slumber leap,
Rekindling desire, cherishing an unforgotten Dream.
Something cold did his way whisper, withering that Dream so green.

Waking up most suddenly from all he thought were memories still green
Galahad felt fiercely cold and bitten by the wind.
In all the facets of his eyes were tears that froze that former Dream
Of springtime months ago; Of Love.
Winter cold was gnawing now upon his heart, to death if he away could no more leap.
Beyond the gloaming garden, thence he knew not when he fell, he smelled a farmhouse fire burn.

Shivering, an ember in his heart did once more flare and burn,
Shining in all facets of his eyes, again so brightly green.
A leap
Into the wind,
Gliding for his unseen Love
With their waiting Dream,

Narrowly ajar, an open window, shining bright, perchance another dream,
Through which Galahad could see a lusty fire burn,
Embracing in the fireplace a sweet dry branch with love.
And near the windowsill in colored lights bestrewn, there stood a Christmas tree still green.
Galahad nudged through the open window, as it kept at bay the wind,
To the Christmas tree then did he leap.

Sailing to the crowning star where with that faithful leap,
Galahad, now warm beside a golden light that shined just like his Dream,
Without the wolfish winter wind,
Within him fever still did burn,
Glowing tarnished armor green.
Thus did he believe delirium brought Bethanie, in visions of his Love.

Galahad was sure that now he truly saw his Love;
All the facets of his eyes across the room did leap
Above the mantle, on the wall, inside a frame of green,
Where Bethanie, transfixed as mid-flight in a dream,
Held her wings outstretched, where interceding shadows race and burn,
Everlasting in a chambered replica of wind.

Then Galahad in flashing horror saw a pin was driven through her back, to hold her in imaginary wind.
He cried out as he leapt across the void to be beside his Love.
Tapping frantically on glass reflections in which shadows race and burn,
Slipped and fell he to the hearth.  In paralyzed despair he watched for an eternity the hellish fire leap
Until the flames revealed his fate inside a final Dream.
Into the glowing ashes dipped he tattered wings that once were green.

With wings of fire, back up to the crucifixion chamber’s frame of green
Galahad did leap his last, to lie with Bethanie and immolate his Dream.
The mingled smoke did through the open window toward unseen horizon leap.

.
#
.

.