From the edge of the swamp

Location: marengo, il, United States

Monday, April 30, 2007

Dan Dances the Tarantella

Felix ran a smooth shop which ordinarily displayed the mildest of manners. But Felix uncharacteristically surprised the entire crew the day his tarantella arrived.

Weeks in advance, he quietly requested the spider from a soldier headed for desert maneuvers who agreed to capture one for him. His face shined when the dusty man returned, grinning and holding a white shoebox aloft.

“I got you one!”

In two seconds flat Felix had the lid off the box. Then he stuck his hand down inside. A portly man standing nearby turned to see what the commotion was about, but almost spit out a cigar stub as his head jerked back.

Inches from the portly man’s face hovered an out-stretched palm. In the very middle stood the hairy beast, motionless and staring blankly at him. He blanched when Felix made the offer.

“Want to hold him for a minute, Dan?”

If a gentleman who chews cigars all day suddenly finds himself caught in a room of Marines who all begin to watch his next move, then the man must act boldly.

“Sure” Dan stammered and stuck out a hand.

It turned into a pitiful spectacle. People next had to stand up and watch as a grown man made a serious attempt to escape from his arm and all of its glorious containments. Up the wrist the hideous beast came, and onward, and the man’s head leaned back even more. The spider tap-tapped its way across his huge forearm and the neck of the man struggled in vain to stretch just a bit farther away.

Each Marine would later admit to enjoying the on-going tragedy, especially when they saw the slow-footed spider politely march past the man’s straight and locked elbow, going upwards as it were, headed for the higher parts of the shoulder and all he could conquer, and then there, at that precise moment, saw him also try to appear like he knew total peace, but the sweat beads gave him away.

All heads hurriedly turned away then: it being both difficult and embarrassing to see a man fall from grace.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Wild Cat Tale

Allen snorts but rolls over and lays still, so Thelma eases her body out of bed, hurriedly buttoning a thin gown against the chilled night air. Then quietly removing a shotgun from its roost over the headboard, she crept from the darkened room to investigate the racket near the end of the dam. Her henhouse just recently sounded an alarm and most of her chickens were excitedly hard at work on the project.

But by the time Thelma got to the area, things inside the coop were back to normal again, all but for a sampling of discontents who grumbled unsettled thoughts amongst themselves, chicken-style.

A sudden movement in nearby bushes frightened the poor woman, and so she reflexively aimed and fired a shot.

Thelma stands up now and stretches an arm up over her head to indicate just where and how she held the lifeless bob cat by the scruff of his neck.

Then she clucks her tongue twice and shakes her head once.

“His tail still dragged the ground, honey.”

Monday, April 23, 2007

Early Gifts


The word travels muted, like a foghorn.




The pitch of the note modulates, rising to try a solo flight.


Tony darkens my doorway holding a new case of Corona, a bag of fresh limes and a large tub of imported diplomacy.

“What’s happening? What’s going on, my brother? Good to see you as always. Alright now!”

A flurry of hand motions, fist-pounding, knuckle-knocking, palm-slapping as well as yelps of joy. All of this hogs the remaining light with exuberant hugs. Each proclaim that the Good Times just arrived.

“Hand me a knife so I can slice one of these babies up. How the hell are you, man?”

In due time a tape recorder becomes a witness. Later on, it delivers honest sounds of beers, guitar and howlings at the moon.


A static fuzzy sound fades out but then returns.

“Judas priest, how you get this mother fucker…?”

Static sounds dot one edge of the scene.

A loud click leads off on a rhythmic four-chord progression. With eyes closed, Tony sways and sings.

“Mamma said, mamma said!”

For the next half-hour, music blossoms.

It is difficult, but if you stay focused you will find that no types or sorts of real musical talent rest for any length of time in or anywhere near the vicinity of my good pal, Tony. He cannot carry a loose tune halfway across an average room, not in a legal sense in any legal case on the docket (neither fact bother the man at all and he refuses to care).

Tony makes up lyrics. I make up melodies. He provides words while I provide tunes, and we jam for a while.

The tape rolls and records it all. Our occasion rates a second side of the tape to be recorded before trouble raises a voice.

(listen for the faint cries of David, who is five and lays sick in bed. He woke up complaining, so his loving mother confined him there before dashing off to spend her day at the market. Tony showed up around noon) <p>

(David groans between lines)


“Momma said, momma said!”

Tony always starts off singing that.

“Momma said, momma said!”


I accent with a hint of A minor before returning to the immense realm of the deep E7th.

“Momma said, my momma said…”


(slap-a-de-doody-whop on the strings)

David’s one-note tune competes and struggles to outlast the surfing bass tone which bolts from A to land dead-center in the key of my E.


After that brief but magical wave of music tumbled down from a height to crash and explode into flurries of tossed foam, the old guitar was content to lean and rest while smoke and a cold beer went to have a dance.

Tony trots down the staircase, looking for a urinal.

A voice bellows up the shaft.

“Sweet Jesus! Man, David done went and opened up all the Christmas presents!”

My tape recorder broke right after that, so more details are scarce. Besides, I have to go anyway -- the wife don’t trust me being alone much anymore.