THE HUNGER – Chapter 5.

Chapter 5.

“No, captain, I’m not expecting anyone,” replied Markham.

“What are you so nervous about?”

“It pays to pay attention,” said the soldier.

Harry took another swallow of beer and nodded his head.

“Something tells me it’s not a good time to go outside,” he said to the GI.

“It’ll be over soon.”

More gun blasts, an explosion, and a horn that wouldn’t stop blaring made Harry smile ruefully.

“How much have you had to drink?” asked Markham.

“You’ve been watching me since I walked in,” said Harry.  “Can’t you count?”

“Did you have anything to drink before you came in?  Any drugs?”

“Fuck you,” said Harry.  “What are you, a cop?”

The soldier leaned across the table.  Without thinking, Harry stretched forward towards him.

“This is a job interview,” Markham whispered.

Harry laughed out loud and then wiped his mouth with his sleeve before taking another drink.

“I’m on a pension,” he said.  “I don’t need a job.”

“We need you,” his companion replied.

Suddenly, the noise outside ended.

“The cops will be cleaning up the street for a few minutes,” he said.  “Let’s go out the back door when the barriers are gone.  I need to talk to you in private.  You’re going to need a ride home.  Your tires have been slashed.  Your windshield is broken.  There’s no way you can drive your car, now.”

“Whaa?  What are you talking about?”

“Just listen to me.  I know what I’m talking about.”

“You’re nuts.”

“Tardis will watch the table,” said Markham.  “This is very important.  Important to you.  Step out back with me and I’ll explain everything I can.  It won’t take five minutes.  Then, we can walk around front and check your car out.  If you still think I’m nuts, you’ll never see me again.”

Harry leaned back in his seat and studied the other man.  His piercing blue eyes looked intelligent and his chin was solid looking.  He didn’t appear nervous or crazy.

Neither man spoke for three minutes that seemed like hours.  Sirens were wailing.  Then, there was the sound of the barriers being lifted and the doors to the bar unlocked.

“Are you ready?” asked the colonel.

“Sure, why not,” said Harry.

Harry grabbed his walking stick, slid across the bench, and pushed himself up.

He followed the man in the uniform down the back hallway, past the employees’ entrance to the kitchen, past the restrooms and the janitor’s closet, and approached the door marked Emergency Exit.

“The alarm won’t go off,” promised Colonel Markham.

Harry followed him out into the alley.

THE HUNGER: Chapter 4.

CHAPTER 4.

Dr. M’Kimba  Bambatha kaMancinza glowered down from his jewel-encrusted podium.  The bare fluorescent tubes above the room crackled and flashed, highlighting his coal-black face and emphasizing the contrast between his skin color and that of his coffee colored and honey-toned followers.  His yellow eyes burned passionately and he accused each and every one of his worshippers with his right hand’s index finger.  He pointed to this one and to that one.  His long, discolored fingernail reflected the harsh lights nearly as well as the rings that graced each of his fingers.

He slapped his hands down on the lectern, closed his eyes, and raised his face to the ceiling.  His neck, with his prominent Adam’s apple, seemed boneless, like a snake that was digesting a rat.  He gathered his thoughts as his nervous audience gazed in rapture at the holy man, their leader, their god.

The austere meeting hall, with its whitewashed walls and its fifteen-foot ceiling, had the acoustics required for this firebrand to entrance his followers and lead them to follow him to their ultimate reward:  freedom from poverty and control of the city.

“You’re all niggers!” Dr. M’Kimba screeched. You are half-breeds.  You are the spawn of the KKK.  You make me want to puke.  You’ve never seen Mother Africa.  You’ve never had a pure black thought.  You are born to be slaves and you’ve never gotten that shit out of yo’ motherfucking heads.”

He backed away from the stand and looked mournfully at his hands, those long hands raised in supplication.

“Am I wasting my time with you?”  He said this in a near whisper, but his voice carried to the farthest corners of the room.

Mutterings of, “No”, “No, brother”, “Nossir”, came sputtering from the crowd as they gazed imploringly at the man on the dais.

“You gotta get off your knees and STAND!” kaMancinza yelled.  “You gotta be men.  You gotta shake off them chains and take what be yours,” he said.

“Yassuh.”

“Say it.”

“Right on.”

“Preach it.”

A cosmic smile stretched across the preacher’s face.  His snakelike eyes were shining slits.

“Perform the sacrament,” he said, pulling a blanket covered with swastikas off a wooden chest on the stage behind him.  He tossed open the four-foot by six-foot lid of the box and waved his congregation forward to the cache of automatic weapons.

THE HUNGER: Chapter 3.

Chapter 3.

The sounds of the gunfire, the screaming brakes and the muffled shouts brought back unpleasant memories. Harry shut his eyes and took a few deep breaths.  Things slowed down for him until a tall man in a starched U.S. Army ACU marched to his table and stood over him.

“Heya, Stump.  How ya doing?” he asked Harry.  Harry opened his eyes and recognized the silver leaf on the intruder’s shoulder. 

“Do I know you, Colonel?” he asked.

“I doubt you would recognize me, captain.  You were pretty doped up when we met.”

The last thing Harry wanted to do was to swap war stories, but he waved the colonel in to sit across from him at the booth.

“You’re dressed for a party, colonel.  What brings you here?”

“I wanted to talk to you.”

Harry rubbed his left hand down over his eyes and stretched his cheek and jaw muscles.  That hand slid down and grasped the long-necked bottle of beer in front of him.  He had a swallow of the brown liquid and offered the second bottle to his new companion.

“None for me, thanks,” said the soldier.  “I’m on duty.”

“Bullshit,” said Harry. “I don’t trust any son of a bitch that won’t drink with me.”

“Colonel Markham,” said the GI, introducing himself.  He reached across the table to shake hands and Harry’s hand met his. “Bob Markham.  We met at Landstuhl.  You were a captain, then.  I was a lieutenant.”

“Why were you there?”
“Shot in the arm.”

Harry pushed the beer across the table and Markham took it from him.

Harry looked for Tardis.

“So, why are you looking for me?” asked Harry.

“We need to talk, outside,” answered the soldier.

Something crashed against the front of the bar and a boom that sounded like a cannon roared.

“Not a good time,” said Harry with a sad smile.

“Another round,” Harry said to the waif that minced its way to his table.  “Tell Bob, ‘Thanks’, but I’m buying my own drinks.  Two more beers.  One more double.  Forget the water.”

Tardis  pranced over to the bar, weaving his way around a couple men who looked like they were about to fight.

Harry looked quizzically at his unwanted companion.  Markham took a quick drink, wiped his mouth with his forearm and surreptitiously looked left and right, over his shoulders.

“Expecting someone?”

THE HUNGER – Chapter 2.

Chapter 2

A high-pitched siren song, much like that used by large trucks as they back up, warbled from outside the bar.  It was accompanied almost immediately by the sound of bars and gates rolling into place out front.  Almost everyone in the bar reached into the breast pockets of their coats or to the back of their belts to guarantee that they were armed.

The old man had shrugged off his coat and folded it on the bench beside him.  Now, he pressed down on it to assure himself that his revolver was in its place.  He pulled the pistol out of its holster and slid it onto the seat next to his right hand.  He covered it up with his jacket and shifted his sight from the windows to the front door and back.  Scanning.  He was unable to see the back door from where he sat; but he knew that it was made of steel, that it had locked when the barriers out front had slid into place, and that heavy bars now prevented any entry or exit from that direction.

The pre-recorded announcement blasted through the bar.  “We apologize for this inconvenience.  A disturbance has been discovered outside.  The police are on the way.  Do not attempt to leave until notified.  Do not panic.”

Tardis, with a furrowed brow and a twitch in his cheek, carried a tray to the old man’s table.  There were two bottles of beer on the tray, along with the whiskey and water.  “On the house,” said the youngster.  Harry nodded his appreciation and, with a wan smile, waved to the bartender.  Dan, the bartender, reached below the bar and silently placed his shotgun on the countertop.

Outside, gun shots rang out.  These were not the “pop pop pop” sounds of .20 millimetre pistols or the “rat a tat tat” of 9’s.  These were the booming sounds of large calibre handguns, rifles and automatics.   At first, they had been scattered and heard every few seconds.  Soon they were replaced by a waterfall of gunfire and the sounds of something smashing into the bars and gates that blocked the front of the bar.

Dan held his hands high and shouted to his customers, “Everything is under control.  The police are coming.”

Harry spilled a few drops of the precious liquor when he pulled the large shot glass to his lips and gulped down the burning liquid.  He was disappointed.  He had hoped to spend a quiet evening with quiet people in a quiet, well-lighted place.  The lights flickered and went out.

Within three seconds, the emergency lighting came on, bathing the drinkers in LED lights that were twice as bright as the Tiffany-inspired lights that normally made the Blue Moon such a pleasant spot.

He was slightly curious which of the inner-city gangs were disturbing the peace in this normally pleasant blue-collar neighborhood.  Normally, they kept their violence to their own neighborhoods. 

Sirens screamed on all sides. 

He took a large slug from one of the bottles of Guinness and said a quiet prayer for the safety of the police officers that had just arrived and were now exchanging gunfire with the junkies and meth heads in the street.

THE HUNGER

CHAPTER 1

Never tiring, it clutched him with its icy talons.  It raked his skin and rotted his insides.  He stared at the blank wall in front of him and dimly acknowledged that he had always been alone, that he would always be alone, and that he would die alone.

The old man had suffered from the hunger for his entire life and he wondered if others felt that emptiness, that barren sense that nothing was real and that there was nothing besides the hunger.

He pushed down on the arms of the chair and forced himself to stand.  He grabbed his walking-stick and stumbled to his bedroom and dressed.  After that, he looked into a mirror and forced his remaining hair into place, put on a leather jacket, and worked his way out of his apartment and into the hall.  He locked the door and headed out.

The Blue Moon tavern was a cozy dungeon, a quiet place for quiet men to nurse their misery and to escape their demons.  The old man snatched his cane from the back seat of his car and hobbled in past the neon lights in the windows.  Inside, the bartender gave him a nod and no one else seemed aware he was alive.  That satisfied the old one.  He didn’t come here to be told he was a hail fellow, well met. 

He spied an empty booth at the end of the room and headed for it.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the bartender, a beefy weightlifter gone to seed, raise his hand and wave to the waitress.  Or was it a waiter?  It was a stick-thin elfin creature with a pixie cut and ear rings.  The bartender pointed to the old man and the server danced over and met him as he jammed his walking stick against the wall and bounced onto the seat.

Before he could settle into place, he was hearing, “Good evening.  I’m Tardis.  I’ll be your server.”

“Nice to meet you, Jarvis,” said the old man.  “No need for a menu.  Bring me a double Maker’s 46, a Guinness draft, and a glass of water.

“Certainly, sir,” said Tardis.  “Will that be all?”

“Bring me the bill with the drinks.  I won’t be here long,” he replied.

Tardis scampered off.  The old man arranged himself on the bench and wrestled his prosthetic leg into a position that looked almost normal.

The Further Adventures of Nick Jackson, CPS Worker

CHAPTER 18.

I look for messages, reminders left on my desk by the clerical staff, and then I begin writing myself notes from all the phone messages.

I am reminded time and again that I failed to make two promised home calls yesterday afternoon.  I attempt to return some of the calls.  Finally, I reach a woman and I tell her I’ll be out to her place in two hours.  She’s my client.  She has just one leg.  She’s younger than I am.  It is all sad.  She should be out, dating.  She should be dancing. She lives with her parents and sits daydreaming in her wheelchair.

The young fellow with autism is the worst.  I brought him donuts for his thirtieth birthday.  In two years, the only thing I’ve heard him say is, “Dance Music, David Bowie.”

It’s all relative.  Compared to that guy, I’m the luckiest man in the world.

I sign out a car and go to the breakroom.  I need some coffee.  One of the clerks is coming in the other door.  Mary Markowicz works at the front window, a tough job.

“How’s it going, Mary?” I ask her.

She flashes a giant smile and says, “At least I’m not you.”

Coffee made, I return to my cubicle.  There’s a message from Sara Chapman.  She wants me to call.

THE END

MOTORCYCLES

My second motorcycle was a bastard to start.  It was a racing machine, a 441 Victor.  There was a compression release on it that you had to squeeze before trying to kick-start it.  If you didn’t have the start pedal in the right place and if you didn’t prime the carburetor, it wouldn’t start.

You’d bounce right up in the air.  My right calf was black-and-blue all summer long, the year I owned that bike.  Sometimes I’d have to push it down a hill, jump on and pop the clutch to get it running.

It sure was fun, though.  It had just one cylinder and it would pound away like a rocket’s engine, when it ran.

My 3rd and 4th motorcycles were BSA’s, too.  The third one was a 500 cc Gold Star.  It was a little bigger than the Victor, but not as much fun.  My last one was a 650 Lightening.  That one had two cylinders and was easier to start; but it was another BSA and it tended to vibrate itself to pieces.  Unlike a Triumph, both cylinders would fire at the same time, instead of alternating.  That gave the bike a great sound and a lot of torque.

It was stolen in 1984.  For thirty-five years, I kept that motorcycle-rider endorsement on my driver’s license, telling myself that I was “between” bikes.  I was between bikes until I got my most recent driver’s license.  I finally realized that I would never ride another.

Probably, that’s for the best.  Too many people get killed or mangled, riding on motorcycles.  I had a friend who was run over by a truck and killed in 1974.  Another one slid his underneath a truck in 2000.  He lost an arm and a leg.  His leg was amputated so high up that he couldn’t get a prosthesis.  His insurance company remodeled his home and gave him an indoor swimming pool; but that wasn’t so good as having a complete body.

In 1989, I got divorced and turned forty.  I was walking down the bright, antiseptic hallway of a Kroger store with a friend and he pointed out a gaggle of young women down by the dairy section.  They were impossibly thin, long-haired, chatty, laughing, bright shiny Christmas ornaments.

“Watch this,” he said.

We walked towards them.  They walked toward us.  We walked past each other.

“Did you see that?” he asked.

“What?” I said,

“We’ve become invisible”

It was true.  At the age of forty, so many years ago, we had become middle-aged men, no longer attractive, no longer of any interest.

That was long ago.

Now, I live in a nice, upscale neighborhood.  One of my neighbors owns an old wooden horse from a Merry-go-Round.  He has sanded it all down and he is repainting it.  I met another neighbor just last night.  He was polishing a Maserati.  Can you imagine?!  A Maserati.  I’d never seen one in person, before.

My next-door neighbor’s son is dating a girl whose father gave her a Tesla for her eighteenth birthday.

I am cataloguing all my old LP’s.  It’s fun for me.  I take three or four of them out of the bookcase a couple times each week and look on the Internet to see when they were first released.

I am just up to the “D’s”.  So far, the oldest one I’ve run across is called THE FAMOUS CARTER FAMILY. It came out in 1961.  I know I’ve got an Elvis album that’s older than that.  The newest one I’ve documented is KNOCKED OUT LOADED by Bob Dylan.  It was released in 1986.

Bob has always been an inspiration to me.  The first time I saw him in concert was the summer I got divorced.  It was at an outdoor venue called The Castle, in Charlevoix, Michigan.  We’d had a blistering hot and dry summer.  Grasshoppers were everywhere.  Bob put on a courageous show, switched from an electric set to acoustic, but finally he gave up.  Too much rain.  Go figure.

The week after my second wife and I returned from our river cruise on the Yangtze (where we got to see the nearly-completed Three Gorges Dam), the two of us went to the Palace at Auburn Hills to see Bob Dylan.  Joni Mitchell was the warm-up act.  It was a good show.

The best show I’ve seen him put on was just last year, on Halloween, at the State Theatre in Knoxville.  He must be taking a break right now.  I see he’s not scheduled to perform again until April 4, in Tokyo.

I guess he’s slowing down.  Last year, I’d hoped to see Jerry Lee Lewis again.  I’d seen him in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1967.  Someone in the crowd hollered something about his cousin.  Jerry Lee slammed down the lid on his piano and announced, “If someone will put a lid on that trashcan, the concert will continue.”  Great performer.  Lots of energy.  He canceled his June concert in Knoxville because he’d had a stroke.

For years, I kept going to Merle Haggard’s website, hoping to see him perform again.  Like Jerry Lee, I had first seen Merle at the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids.  That was in 1969.  He was playing Jimmie Rodgers’ songs from his SAME TRAIN, A DIFFERENT TIME album.  Now, he’s dead.

I got to see Willie Nelson a couple times.  He’s stopped touring, now.

Today is the day I clean the guestroom shower and change the towels.

Tomorrow, I’ll clean that bathroom, and on Tuesday, I’m planning to clean my old Rabbit Air air purifier.

After that, it’s Christmas.

I’m looking forward to getting a new pair of hearing aids in January.

Life is great.  I hope I get to see Bob Dylan perform again while we’re both alive.

FUN THOUGHTS for a CLOUDY MORNING

A PRIMER ON WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE NEAR FUTURE

Is a party line impeachment vote bad for American democracy?

The United States no longer has Whigs and Tories on the ballots. That’s because times changed and people realized these parties had outlived their usefulness.

Possibly, by 2024, the Democrat Party will have dissolved and turned into half a dozen competing minor parties. After all, no one in their right mind can honestly grasp every concept, every philosophy, and every competing ideology now presented by the all-inclusive “Hate Trump” Party.

The only coherent idea presented by the party that has completely lost its focus and direction is that all its members wish that Hillary had not been such a miserably inferior candidate in 2016 and lost to a political newcomer. If there can be said to be an overweening belief within the leadership of the Democrats, it’s that time can be unstrung and the world can go back to 2015, when Donald J. Trump was considered a joke and a fool, when Hillary was promised the election, when globalism would continue to grind the Western world into poverty and despair.

The Democrat Party will dissolve and fail again in 2020, simply because it no longer has a coherent identity, a platform, or any realistic ideas.

The concept of an impeachment for purely political reasons is antithetical to the thinking of our founding fathers. It was believed that a President could be, and should be, removed for criminal acts. It was never imagined that an impeachment could be launched or ever be successful simply because so many people disliked the president on a personal basis.

So, in one way, it is a shame that things have come to this, that our society, so fractured, so full of self-hate, so incapable of logical thought, would react on a purely emotional basis to attempt to remove a President of the United States for no legal reason. It is a shame, yet, it is a historic moment. It is a time when those who posture as social justice warriors, as heroes of the downtrodden and discriminated against, are exposed as the party of fascist control of the masses, as proponents of idiotic conceits, and as the party of the wealth elites.

The failed removal of POTUS 45 will go down in history as the time when the Democrat Party finally self-destructed. Good Riddance.

The American public is about evenly split over whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN Poll. What’s next in the US politics?

The Second Coming

By William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats foretold what would happen when a political party became so consumed with hate, so dishonest, so inviting of radical fanatics with no common purpose, faith or belief.

What we are seeing is the end of the Democratic Party. CNN and MSNBC can hold all the ridiculous panels in the world, and one thing will never change: the American People will not stand for anarchy, socialism, and the destruction of the Constitution of the United States.

Things look confusing, right now; but, in November, 2020, the PEOPLE will speak loud and clear, just as the people of Great Britain did last week. We want a Democratic Republic and not a fascist government, controlled by a wealthy elite whose only goal is to enrich themselves and trick an electorate (which they believe inherently inferior and stupid) into voting for them. The future belongs to America, and those who are working so hard to destroy it will be a footnote in history.

THE PSYCHEDELIC SIXTIES

Back when LSD was legal, back when the CIA was experimenting on people with their Project MKUltra, back when Sandoz Labs was sending it to Harvard for Professors Leary and Alpert, back when Owsley Stanley started cooking it for the Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, I was just a child.

In truth, I was an adolescent, a boy without any goals or dreams, a teenager in the suburbs that was being led by the nose through a college-prep education that everyone assumed would lead me into an awarding career in the budding field of computers.  I’d built an analog computer when I was in eighth grade.  I got my picture in the paper.  I was a whiz with numbers.  I was told that I’d either be a computer programmer or a banker.

During my senior year, I took calculus at Grand Rapids Junior College and ran into a young man a year older than me who was then in college.  He got me high on marijuana.  Shortly after that, his cousin reported him to the police and he went to jail.  Those were paranoid times.  I learned that the word “nark” was both a noun and a verb.

My high school sponsored a “vocation day”.   Any student that showed a glimpse of potential was driven to some boring place or another to see what their future was going to be like.  I was taken to a bank and I got to see lines of sad-looking skinny white men wearing white shirts and ties, all sitting at adding machines, rows and columns of identical-looking men sitting at identical little tables, staring down at columns of numbers and cranking the handles of adding machines.  Brought up in a conservative Christian home, I knew this was what Hell would be like for me.

All of us seniors had to write an essay about what it would be like to be a professional at something.  I had never played any sport, had never run any race, wasn’t much of a swimmer, was legally blind, and scared of diving off the high dive into the school swimming pool.  My essay was about being a professional hockey player.  It was not well accepted. 

Still, my guidance counsellor had hopes for me.  I passed the first class in Differential Calculus and started the second semester in January, 1967.  Maybe it was because I’d been run over by a motorcycle and had a blood clot on my brain back in 1960, maybe it was just a genetic flaw.  I ran into a brick wall in that second semester at college.  While other students seemed to have no problems memorizing theorems and equations, I’d take three pages to solve a question that others would complete in half a page.  I kept having to start at a point that everyone else seemed to have passed long ago.  I started spending more time at the record shop and riding the escalator at Herpolsheimer’s Department Store.  Herpolsheimer’s was a great store.  It had a monorail suspended from the ceiling in the basement and kids could ride on it and look down at the toy department at Christmas time.  If you pay attention, you might notice Herpolsheimer’s featured in the movie THE POLAR EXPRESS.  Isn’t that something?!

Anyway, school kept seeming less and less fun. 

On March 21, 1968, actress Dyan Cannon divorced Cary Grant, one of Hollywood’s biggest advocates of LSD. 

On October 24, 1968, possession of LSD became a crime.

By 1970, 1 – 2 million Americans had tried the drug.  That’s the year I got drafted.  Most of my friends in the Army had gotten busted for dealing.  I was dying to try acid.

For weeks, my best friends, Arturo Montano, Savas Alvarez, and I had been smoking hashish and I kept asking for LSD.  Finally, on a night when I was assigned to be on guard duty at the Headquarters Company barracks at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, they agreed.  The only condition was that I had to drop the acid one hour before beginning my tour on guard duty.

CHANGES – Part 1

I never had any interest in genealogy.  Maybe it was because all my relatives seemed so uninteresting.  Maybe it was because I was the youngest of all the kids in my father’s extended family and they all picked on me.  I don’t hold it against them (too much).  They were just children, too, and children, like coyotes, always single out the weakest and the smallest. I was weak and I was small.

Unbeknownst to any of us, I was blind, too.  No one figured it out until I was in fifth grade and lessons started to appear on the chalk board in nasty Miss Mitten’s classroom.  My memories are scrambled and like torn scraps of paper.  All I remember clearly was that when I was very little, I’d complain to my parents that I had headaches.  Their ironic response still jangles in my mind.  “It’s all in your head,” they’d say.  Was it eye strain?  Was it anxiety?  Do little kids have migraines?  I don’t know. 

I just remember going to an eye doctor and, when he asked what was the smallest line I could read on the chart, I said, “What chart?”  So, I got glasses.  I can remember the first movie I went to that I could actually see on the screen.  It was CASH McCALL with James Garner and Natalie Wood.  Before that, everything was just fuzzy.  When other kids would ask if I saw something, I’d say “yes”, just not to be left out.

But I started talking about genealogy, didn’t I?  Like I said already, it didn’t seem like anything worthwhile to me.  My parents were boring.  My aunts and uncles were boring.  Their kids seemed stupid and mean.  The whole pack of them seemed to be living in a different world than I was.  They all went to church and so did I.  Away from work, the men all dressed formally and the women all wore dresses and were overweight.

The thing that stuck out in my mind was how self-righteous and pompous they all seemed.  They prided themselves on their humility.

What I didn’t know then was that both my mother’s family and my father’s family was chock full of preachers.  My mother’s grandfather, Judson Hudnutt was a circuit rider for the Free Methodist church.  He took his horse and buggy from Cedar Springs to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, preaching to people.  I got to read his diaries.  “Praise the LORD,” he would write, “One soul was saved.”  Some difference from the Billy Graham crusades we always watched on television.  On my father’s side, the first ancestor of mine to touch his feet onto the New World was Jacob Clement.  He arrived with a cluster of other Moravians from Switzerland in 1706.  According to the history I’ve read in the past twenty years, most of the men and grandchildren in Jacob’s family went on to become Mennonite preachers.

My dad must have been a rebel:  he got worldly and became a Free Methodist.

Now, I have to change gears and be nice.  The fact is, I lived an over-protected and pain-free life (outside of school, where I was faced with normal children).  Every Sunday, we’d get dressed up.  My mother even put cufflinks on my shirts and made my older brother and I wear ties.  Every Sunday afternoon, we’d have dinner at grannie’s house.  That was Fern Anderson.  Her dad was the circuit rider.  Her husband was Axel Anderson.  I wish I’d gotten to know my grandpa better.  He got to America from Sweden when he was just six.  I saw a picture of him in his WW I uniform, once.  He always scared me because he talked so loud and he never interacted with us kids much.  He was quite deaf, probably from working in a foundry most of his life.

We would watch INDUSTRY ON PARADE on television and get sleepy because it was always too warm.

But holidays were a treat.  They really were.  My family, for all its faults, as boring and straitlaced as they all were, they loved Jesus.  Every holiday, be it Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas, was a very holy event.  At Christmas, my cousin Roy, my brother Randy, and I, would be in a skit and sing “We Three Kings”.  At Thanksgiving, the adults would dress us up like Indians.  There would be prayers and singing.  My mother, her sister Lois, and my granny all sang like angels.

We seemed to live in a protective bubble, separate from all the rest of the world.

I wanted to escape so bad I felt like howling at the moon or banging my head on the ground.