Finding Floyd

GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

(Continuation of manuscript from 2/26)

My dad’s family of sharecroppers didn’t make enough money pickin’ cotton for some of the basic necessities of life, never mind luxury items. Things like watches were for rich folks. Poor folks new work started before the first rain of sunlight kissed the cotton bloom and ended after the sun dropped the curtain on another day.

When the days came and those kids could afford a watch, they had one, not for the sake of jewelry, but for the need of being on time for work. There was a distinct difference between a watch and jewelry. Even earrings, necklaces, and rings were far and few between for the girls, never mind the men.

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Jewelry is the last thing on a kid’s mind when they’re in need of a pair of shoes.

When I was a kid we struggled too, but nothing compared to the harsh world my dad had known. We didn’t have jewelry either. My mom sported only her wedding ring that was worn thin opposite the humble diamond side of that little circle of devotion.

The blue collar side of the tracks that we hailed from meant spending money was measured in second-grade mathematical equations. If we wanted more – we worked.

It was the summer after sixth grade. My buddy Greg and I were knockin’ on doors in the little town that is famous for being the hot spot in the nation on occasion – that with taking the temperature down by the lake, where it’s a hint cooler.

The little town of Lake Havasu City is also famous for a couple other things; one, the transplanted London Bridge. And two, rocks. It’s some of the nastiest soil I’ve toiled in.

After the severe summer rain storms, back before they called them “monsoons”, folks front yards would be decimated. What little top soil there was, was washed to the street and whisked off toward the lake by the violent summer rains.

There are only two types of folks that knock on doors trying to sell things; greedy people and desperate people. Greg and I fell into the latter category.

Most people, like nineteen out of twenty, got downright angry for having to haul their backyards off the couch and stroll to their front door to shoo away a door to door salesman. Even more so when they’re punk kids trying to get into wallets.

Every so often we’d get lucky. We’d offer to rake the rocks in their front yards, which always turned out to be tons, for forty bucks. Plus we had to haul them off the property to boot. Since it took two, three, even sometimes four full work days, in 120 plus degrees, it was close to slave labor.

Come payday we were kings with our very own greenbacks. We did what most dumb kids did…. We peddled our bikes down to Zimmerman’s and forfeited our hard earned cash for Rock-N-Roll.

My first payday helped line Elton John’s mohair suit pocket via the album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.

JUDGE THE BOOK BY ITS COVER

He sat quietly in church, hands folded, hunched slightly at the still proud shoulders. He was an aged man, one you’d never be able to judge the book by its cover.

He was tall and lean, except for his beer belly, around 6′-5″ or 6″, but with dusty cowboy boots and his ten-gallon hat, he looked ten feet tall, acted like it too. My uncle Buck looked like something out of a movie, or a nightmare to the man who he was at odds with, especially if he’d been drinkin’.

judge the book by its cover

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When I was a kid, uncle Buck was almost bald, a sun-scarred dome surrounded by circular grey hairline below. He looked worn and old even before he really was. Truth is, he looked almost the same from his forties into his seventies. I’m pretty sure he never thought he’d live that long.

Buck kept a pair of tight fitting black leather gloves in his back pocket. He didn’t wear them all the time – and for darn sure not for fashion. He only pulled them on to fight.

It was hard for me to imagine the two sides of a person as a kid. My uncle was special to me, a second dad, what you think an uncle should be.

If it weren’t for my uncle Buck I’d have never got my first dog. He knew my heart and desire. That day at the grungy stables where he boarded his horse, I never left the new litter of pups in the barn. “A boy needs a dog, Harl,” he told my dad.

After a short dissertation about my mom and work associated with a dog, uncle Buck said,”Pick yourself a pup, boy.” I looked at my dad and he reluctantly nodded.

You don’t know that gratification of giving a youngster something they long for until you’ve walked in those shoes, but I could see clearly my uncle Buck was thrilled for me.

Growing up in a lake town has its advantages, one of them is fishin’. I couldn’t begin to recall how many times I’ve been fishin’, a lot, but the majority, probably seventy-five percent of all the times in my life, was with my uncle Buck.

Like a lot of folks from that generation, they didn’t throw around words like love, but they showed it with their actions.

As a young man, when I was in need, my uncle Buck, the man the world thought was crazy and mean as the devil, was there for me. He wasn’t perfect, but no one who knew the man who called out a gang of bikers and rode his horse through a bar could grasp that he was a caring person.

Hillbillies say that “blood is thicker-‘n-water”. Maybe that’s why our uncle Buck treated us the way he did. Maybe that’s why I understand now what I never could as a kid; the dark side of a man.

I haven’t done things my uncle Buck did, but things I’m not proud of all the same. I fight the flesh, what southerners call demons, too. All of us do to one degree or another.

When I think of my uncle Buck sitting in a church, the others referring to him as “brother” followed by our last name, I’m reminded of God’s precious grace and redemption… and that you can’t judge a book by the cover.

THE ODDS WERE IN MY FAVOR

The odds were in my favor, but I hadn’t placed a bet with the local bookie – I don’t even know who he is. The odds were better, way better, than the drunkard and his girlfriend Bessie in “The Band’s” song, “Up On Cripple Creek”. The odds were in their favor too, “they had ’em five to one”.

It wasn’t until after the fact that I found out what my odds were. They were 10,000 to 1… I shoulda’ bet.

It wasn’t a sporting event – although it was caused, in part, by sporting events. It was the past catching up with me. Seems the faster we go, the bigger the price we have to pay… eventually. We all remember what happened to the cocky Gingerbread Man…

It’s hard to imagine how many times we’ve ignored sound advice. I even mocked wise people trying to warn me of the dangers associated with pushing the envelope… not so different than the Gingerbread Man in his younger, uneaten, days.

the odds were in my favor

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It was a routine procedure; cut one of the five herniated discs off along with the bone spur that was making my left leg go jingle jangle jingle, and back to reality. That was the plan…

That was on a Wednesday. On Thursday I was happily disobeying doctor’s orders. I was out and about driving like the Gingerbread Man once ran. I wasn’t taking any pain meds, so I wasn’t breaking the law… well, except for the speed limit.

By Friday I wasn’t feeling quite as cocky. Come Saturday and a 102-degree fever, along with a lightening rod in my back, and it was back to the hospital.

There’s not many places in life I dread more than a hospital. The weight of dread on my shoulders felt like 500 pounds used to when I’d tease gravity with the weight on my back, like teasing a hungry dog with a snack.

After massive needles were threaded into veins for blood tests and I.V. fluids and what seemed like an eternal wait, it got worse. When the ER doc said the words they echoed in slow motion as the rest of the noises and world fell silent, “Admission – mission – ission – ssion – sion – ion – on – n”. I couldn’t even hear the guy in the bed next door choking. He’d shown up with a piece of steak lodged in his throat…

They hauled me off to the medical torture chamber they call “The MRI tube”. This, after midnight, after I’d driven to great lengths to avoid the tube before the surgery, refusing to get jammed back into the air-conditioned tomb.

After the tortuous hour, they pulled me from the tube with sweat literally pouring off the plastic shoe-horn-type-gaskets they used to squeeze me into it.

The test confirmed an epidural abscess, staph infection, inside my spinal column.

It’s truly miraculous how the body is designed by God to mend. In hindsight, it seems pretty astounding that the times tempting fate and blatantly abusing these soul cages that our spirits haven’t been yanked or abandoned ship.

If grace is that abundant for our passing bodies, how much more valuable is it for our souls? The odds were in my favor…

CONSEQUENCE

A special request for a repost from January of 2014 by a very special person.

She could see him in the distance. He was a good man… how she loved him, after all the years. She waited at the stream, watching the only man in her life as he worked in the field. He was bent over meticulously pulling every weed, he’d been bent over most of his life now and his hunched back showed it, the precious scar on his side now faded.

He paused, stood, wiped through both eyebrows with the back of his arm. His hair was grey now, so were the eyebrows. He caught sight of her and waved from a distance… he still had the most generous smile. She smiled and waved as if she were still a girl.

consequence

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She glanced down into the water; the bright midday sun reflected her image in the gentle ripples. Her smile faded as she saw a glimmer of the once headstrong girl. She thought about the earth, her life, her man, their past, their future… and consequences.

She remembered the early days… Life was perfect. She had all she could imagine… for the life of her at her age looking back she couldn’t figure out why she wanted more, but she did…

Her tears mixed unnoticed into the moving waters as the memories washed over her, carrying immense regret that reflected in the waters. She thought about the death of her son… and her estranged son… How he could break their hearts was as unbearable as the loss of the other.

She tried to fathom how much her actions affected her world and the world all around her. The consequence. She could only imagine… She was grateful for her man and all the other children she’d been blessed with… She was the Matriarch now, but she didn’t feel worthy. Her children could never grasp what it was like to walk in her place, to carry the burden she did.

She gazed at the wrinkles around her eyes and realized her remaining days were fewer than she might know. As a young woman, she had planned to live forever, but she wanted more… traits that were obvious in her offspring…

She filled the bowl with the cool water and took a drink before filling it fuller for her man. She could see his tired skin still shining with sweat as he turned; he always seemed to sense when she was around… She appreciated that he worshiped the ground she walked on… even now when she was old.

“You’re too good to me, my love,” he said. She loved hearing those tender words and came to count on them like the rain.

“It’s just water, dear,” she passed it off humbly. He drank the whole bowl down, the drips falling into his heavy beard.

“It always tastes better from your hand, my love,” he smiled.

“You’re watching for snakes?”

“Of course!” he reached out and grabbed his wife, turning her, placing both arms around her and clasping his hands in front of her, “The crops are going to be strong this year,” he said peering out over the pathetic crop.

“Mm-hmm,” she paused, “We just didn’t know how good we had it…” She leaned and turned to see the face of her man, “Why don’t you blame me or hate me for what I’ve done?” she asked again.

“We’re in this together, have been all our lives,” he answered.

“But I ruined our family… I couldn’t have known that it would ruin the world!” she began to cry.

“If I’d have been the man I was supposed to be, you’d never have made a mistake to begin with… I was weak… I blamed you, but it wasn’t you, my love… it was me.”

“You’re too good to me, my love,” tears ran like her stream.

“We’ve not been the best, but I fear much worse will likely follow.”

“I’m sorry, Adam.”

“I’m sorry too, Eve.”

THE GROCERY STORE

I’ve parked and walked by it, I don’t know, maybe fifty times? Enough times that I should be familiar with the surroundings and everything in, on, or around the front of the grocery store I patronize.

I”m sure a lot of folks meander by the chocolate and vanilla fake stone flanked with the chocolate syrup colored stucco pop outs and don’t really see it.

I don’t like going to the grocery store, and sure as help not twice in one day.

My first trip to the store was to get a flower arrangement, a balloon filled with helium, a card, and a few necessities, like my favorite coffee creamer.

The balloon and card both said “Happy Birthday” on them. It was my wife’s birthday and I already had the gift part taken care of, so this was just the icing on the cake, so to speak.

The card was yellow, massive, the kinda card that you open and it plays an amusing song that turns to annoying after it’s been opened for the twentieth time.

The first feeling you get when you discover you’ve lost something is violated. The first thing you do, at least people like me, is to accuse somebody else.

I dug through the trash to make sure I didn’t toss the card with the feeble plastic grocery bags – grumbling about the cashier. After I discovered the card not to be found in the trash cans, I poked around for the receipt that showed that the birthday card never made it into her hands… which didn’t make me feel any better about the situation.

As I pulled back into my favorite area of the parking lot, the space between the grocery store and the small store fronts, I noticed it. For the first time.

the grocery store

A time gone by…

A public pay phone – or the housing that used to hold a telephone. A reminder of days gone by. I stopped and took this picture inserted before I went back in the grocery store.

I was reminded how we get in such a hurry we miss the little things, the details. I was also reminded how quickly life passes and that change is imminent.

As I stood beside the car, taking the time to snap the picture, long gone memories came back for a visit. I remembered calling our house after the movies for a ride from the pay phone I didn’t have a dime for. They knew it was us, even though they couldn’t hear us and come to pick us up and take us home.

I smiled, but not one of those almost laughing smiles. It was more of a glad-for-the-memories-but-a-little-melancholy-’cause-they’re-never-coming-back kind of smiles. It was mixed with an I-need-to-stop-and-smell-the-roses-more-often- type of sighs.

I couldn’t find the card. It was gone. But I got another annoying song playing type.

The next morning I realized I’d got the wrong creamer… Three visits to the grocery store in less than twenty-four hours. I should know that place like the back of my hand.