Monday’s Rune: A Memoirish Library Essay


Howdy! And Happy Monday, Y’all.

Since the American government still had an active conscription/draft system, I enlisted during my senior year in high school (1964). I eventually went to college after four years in the U.S. Air Force, which would later result in my first of three closely related “career” choices.

In May of ’66, I married Yolonda. More than half of our first two years together were spent as 20/21/22-year-olds living and working in Ankara, Turkey. I was not sent to Viet Nam. Happy Honeymoon.

I started college in September of 1968, as one of what would become known as Vietnam Era Veterans. I registered as a sophomore transfer from the University of Maryland, Overseas Division.

The Viet Nam War was raging and nearing its high-point years. LBJ was about finished. The Tet Offensive had hardened much more of U.S. public opinion against the war. While not ambivalent, I disagreed with both sides of the argument at that time. I was confused, as were many Americans. I had two short term goals: graduate and get a job. Yolonda was the Brazos County Attorney’s Secretary at the time. Every cop in the county knew her.

We lived in “on campus” student housing. Our “home” was a small one bedroom, one bath, unairconditioned apartment in southeast, central Texas. We eventually bought and installed a window a/c unit.

The campus library was my retreat, a place to read, study, and to people-watch. At the time, everyone exiting the building was forced to have their possessions searched to prevent theft.

One evening, Yolonda waited for me at that library while I was part of a psych department research study. I found her waiting in our car. She asked me if I would know if my penis was exposed out of my pants. She had been cock-flashed by a student employee. The perv got busted, and we’ve been sharing the experience for fifty-plus years. They are everywhere.

I’m writing this while sitting comfortably, sipping coffee, and eating a pastry from my public library’s coffee bar. These days book checkout is on the honor system, and nobody is searched.

I still like libraries. I am not a prodigious reader, although I read every day. Libraries are strangely comforting to me even though everyone has access to the facility, library card or not. Libraries are what they are and do what they do. The same is true of people.

My first library from childhood was in an old, mid-19th century, church building and still is. I also like old church architecture. Maybe there is a reason for my library/church juxtaposition of interest. I recall no pervs in the stacks from back then, but if those books could talk… (wait, we have talking books nowadays.)

Computer stations at the Central Branch of the Osterhout Free Library

It seems like it began for this boomer with the assassination of JFK. My first ten years after high school, the sixties, and early seventies, were a coming-of-age time for me and a tumultuous period in American History.

More than fifty years later, I still like to sit in libraries and write, read, search for books, people watch, and sip coffee. I may ponder what others say or claim. I think about how differently we all see the world and each other.

But at this point in my life, I really don’t give a shite what anyone thinks of me, except for Yolonda and our three middle-aged kids; less so, a few teeny-bopper or early 20s grandkids.

So far, I think I pass muster. Sort of.

Bill


Look both ways for what is right. Arguing does little good.
Mind the gaps lest they become crevasses of civil division.
Find your tribe and take a side. Keep trying to understand.
Support public libraries, not book bans or burns.

Sammi’s Weekender #277 (renege)

Click on this graphic to open Sammi’s page with links to more 49-word renege writing pieces.

Renegade Renegade

I was born into a world that no longer exists.
I was dealt this hand when my life began,
then and there.

Convinced, cajoled, and directed into treaties and agreements by threats, guilt,
intimidation, and false promises;
when given limited control, I reneged.

I wasn’t the liar. Not then.


As days pass, everything changes in us.
Regret and mind past gaps enough to make things right.
“For everything there is a season and a time….”

Monday’s Rune: On Labor Day 2022


Let Me Clarify

They were not smart or rich. Some might write. Few to none finished school. In many ways they were all slaves.

The children, the men, and the women were trying to survive, to make it through the night.

No great athletes, not a genius among them. The company was the enemy. The boss.

I think of them on Labor Day. About my dad, the filthy coal miner, who swore I’d never work in the mines.

He was right.

When the mines shut down, he was lucky to find any job. He was a plumber’s helper. He mowed lawns and dug sewer ditches. Finally, as a nurse’s aide for the same pay I got as a teenage knucklehead, for my summer job, as a gardener’s assistant, he worked until it was finished.

Mom was a cleaner of footwear in a shoe factory. She had to take two early morning buses and often walked home. Her hands were always dirty and stained from cleaning factory shoes. Sucky work.

I never did piece work, nor had black lung, but at a young age I knew all about both.

Labor Day! I love it, but the more I think about it, and the more I learn about the labor movement, the more pissed off I get.

Wars and soldiers did not build this country. The rich damn sure didn’t. Cowboys (not the jerks in Dallas) and labor did. Workers built America.

Damn it!

“No gods, no masters.”


Look both ways and try to understand.
All workers and all labor around the world are brothers and sisters.
Mind the gaps and may we treat them well. Welcome to America.

 

Monday’s Rune: Drove my Chevy to the levee…


But Buyer Be

My family didn’t own one—so,

I knew nothing of
automobiles back then
except about how to drive
(not well) and add gas—

My first (legal) car
was twenty bucks—
I got it for fifteen;
Mom said,
(Dad didn’t know, yet—
he called cars “motors”
and expensive things “dear”)
but she said, “Oh, dear,
I wonder
what’s wrong with it.”

I was about to learn so much
about oil,
rings, pistons, and
timing points, and why not
grab hold of a bare spark plug wire
on a running straight six,
and about positive and negative.

Guys at school, the ones taking
auto mechanics shop classes,
(learning something useful)
were not the ones to ask
even though I took
English III (again) with them.
(I’m still grateful for how
smart they made me look
and feel—but
another story there.)

Because
while those know-it-alls
claimed auto knowledge,
helpful they were not,
and I’d already bought
my old green Chevrolet
capable of burning
a quart of oil
per city block or
country mile—either way,
lesson learned late.
Learn first, then buy
(now I tell me).

And used car salesmen—
that lesson took a lot longer.

Buyer
beware. Be aware.


Look both ways as time keeps on slippin’ into the future.
Mind the gaps, feed the babies, shoe the children, house the people livin’ in the street.

Looks better than mine did. Click on pic to hear Don Mclean’s song, “American Pie.”

Friday Fictioneers for July 29th 2022

I woke to a surprise this morning when I discovered that the Maven of freestyle, the Mistress of the breaststroke, and the Madam of fictioneering, Rochelle, had slipped in a prompt photo I took out in the wilds of my daughter and son-in-law’s west Texas grange.

Click on the remnants of the greenhouse to spread over to Rochelle’s blog camp so you can grow your own stories of 100-word micro-fiction.

Click on my prompt photo to go to Rochelle’s page with all the fixin’s.

Genre: Horticultural Fiction
Title: Greenman Phish-heads
Word Count: 100

***

What happened here?

The well-water went bad years back. The plants died. Now it’s only what grows naturally: mesquite, cactus, and other wild things. The Green Man makes his home in there now.

What’s over there?

That’s Uncle Billy’s Phish Camp. That’s Julie’s cat house over to the left, and that big building is the main house.

Green Man isn’t real.

He’s real. Come back next Spring and you’ll see his magic. It’s beautiful. Get in the truck and I’ll show you the business end of the Greenman rebirth. Maybe you’ll meet him. It’ll make you a believer forever.

***


Look both ways and learn to grow new beginnings.
Mind the gaps as you turn tragedy to treasure.
Greenman is all thumbs.
It’s never too late.

Click on Billy or Julie (in the current Greenman Nursery) to read other fantastic stories inspired by the prompt photo.

 

Click on the west Texas Green Man to learn more than you ever wanted to know about him.

Monday’s Rune: Independence Day


On This July Day

Born a year after
the last big war,
for decades,
I said the pledge
with hand over heart and sang
patriotic songs.

I took cover under my desk,
was a Boy Scout of America
who could properly fold the flag
and post the colors at twelve.
I prayed every day. I trusted God.

I played at war and we
always won. We were
always right, better,
and stronger. Powerful,
but merciful.

I enlisted before
graduating from high school,
I saluted. I knew, followed,
and respected flag etiquette —
still do. I swore
to protect our Constitution.

I spent two careers in the service of
(willing to, but not wanting to,
die for) my country—my people.
I thought I taught my children well.

Now,
examining my conscience
I find I am a man of a different mind,
No longer as certain of our goodness,
of our unitedness, of our honest
democracy. I feel fooled and
deceived. I feel hated by my own.

It’s not the date, it is the old spirit
where I question my allegiance,
to what or whom?

It is still in me. I still care.
But nothing is the same.
Confidence is dead. For our
freedoms, I worry with dread.

I feel conflicted. Lost.
Our enemies are close.
How patriotic am I?
I should be. I want to be.

In truth, I feel this way
not because I no longer love
my country,
but because I still do.

Happy 4th, anyway.
Be careful out there.


Look both way as we try to understand.
But deeply mind the gaps.
Even the Nazis thought they were right.

According to THIS Gallup poll, it’s a thing.

 

Sammi’s Weekender #266 (flippant)

Click to flip over to Sammi’s blog and more 74-word wonders.

Was it something I said?

Many things I’ve done and not done
which brought me much self-inflicted grief;
like transfers or removals from jobs,

I’ve sat smiling at wrong times,
adulted too young, or the drink I tasted
when I got more than a little bit wasted,
‘twas most often my spectacular speech
that others appreciated the least.

I’m gifted this flippantly waggish tongue
emitting my intently presented voice
speaking a cutting language, exposing
my cantankerously lighthearted snarkastic choice.


Look both ways when words fly like the breath of buzzards.
Mind the gaps and if your gunna do it, go all the way.

Monday’s Rune: Perspective Poetry

Saturday (June 18th) , I wrote this poem at the Round Rock Writers Guild Word Yoga (poetry) exercise Zoom workshop. My friend, Kathrine, said she wanted to see it here. Who am I to disagree?

Her excellent blog is published at: https://lklatham.com/. Her exceptionally wonderful books of dark, speculative fiction designed to beguile the imagination and convince you the things that go bump in the night are real is sold wherever great lit can be had.

 


A Moment of Time

My mantra is right here, right now
in this place with my life
that is the sum total
of forty-million moments;
some so frightening
I thought I would die,
others so boring
I thought I would die,
but here I am,
right here, right now,
just me—Mister Bill—
and my 40-million moments,
greedily hoping for
ten or twenty million more,
when frightening or boring
are equally
(un)important to me.


Look both ways with awareness of time, but this moment is all we have.
Mind the gaps for good days and bad, as pleasantry is a matter of perspective.

Monday’s Rune: Big Country Swap Meet


Listen: Brack-In Ridge

Reportage from Abilene, Texas.

The parking lot guy collects a five spot.
I joke: five dollars to see my
brother-in-law?
The good ol’ boy
with the best trash and
the biggest damn stash east of the Pecos.
I suppose west of, too.

A cowboy swap meet.
Auto stuff, mostly.
Kind of a thing in a place,
next to a silent (today) drag strip.
I spied more vendors than not.

Gear heads. Rust is the most
favored color and condition.
Many men’s junk—treasures
for another’s home, yard, or garage.
To be sold again one day down the road.

Huge bushy mustachios, semi-clean blue jeans
with stained dirty shirts work, baseball caps
of some kind to cover secret coded bald heads,
hidden lips that barely part
speaking a strange dialect,

What’s the least y’all take?
I’h gotta have ‘at old junk.

Gotta get that much,
‘at’s mah last one,
except fer ones I ain’t sold yet.

Big sky country, gateway to western Texas.
And women looking. And high priced
cars, trucks, scoots, and toys
that been rustin’ for years.
Who knows where?

It’s a tribe thingy.
I like ‘em,
but I don’t get them.
They don’t get me. Seems fair enough.
Still, it’s fun to sit and stare. To look,
and to listen.


Look both ways, be y’all a seller or a buyer.
Mind the gaps for the best deal.

 

Monday’s Rune: Standing Down

It was unthinkable, back when
my without-resumé or bona fide
job was Dad: our father,
leader, wizard, fixer of all
things and people broken,
savior of my tribe; shaman,
vet, and driver out of all demons.

Despite my foibles,
hidden as many were—
we managed to cope.

Burdened with adversity and misguided history
we owned our piece of the world,
we held the keys that controlled the universe,
wherein I was (am?) suddenly
no longer the center to which they would turn.

Call it what is, that’s life, dismissing
whenever shit happens, when I’m forced
to admit I don’t know why. To say
I was wrong about so much.
I think and think again about it all,
the ultimatum. It wasn’t you. It’s me.


Look both ways when seeking the mysterious purpose of life,
or finding of the true self, or taking on the vocation mantle of service.
Mind the gaps for the distractions of relief are dear.