Ferocious Centipedes [Sketches of Minnesota ]

Here are a lot of simple and warm hearted stories of a boy growing up in Minnesota, for the most part. The name comes from one of the Stories, but its subtitle should be: "Grandpa's House." All stories are fact. see site: http://dennissiluk.tripod.com

Monday, November 27, 2006

Indian Blanket (A Sketch in Life--1953)) Dedicated to Mike Siluk))

Indian Blanket
(A Sketch in life—1953))
Dedicated to Mike Siluk/By: D.L. Siluk))

I was but a kid back in ’53, my brother Mike, two years older than I, we seemed to get along better then, better than now that is. When we were both young we’d play in our backyard, up a ways was a long embankment, with rolling hills behind (I once put fire to that hill, but that is another story); anyhow, we’d lie on our Indian blankets by the house in the backyard, play cowboys and Indians, Mike had a Mohawk, daring he was, it was the last few summers I’m talking about, prior to our moving, we even built a tent out of those old Indian blankets, we were together nearly all the time back then. Then one day we up and moved, we just disappeared, grandpa, mom me Mike, we moved from Arch Street in St. Paul, Minnesota up a few miles, north that is, to Cayuga street; oh, perhaps two miles in-between, here and there.
No one from the neighborhood knew we had gone, I think, nor cared, and the next thing I knew, we were in our new home, it was 1957-58, and I played cowboys and Indians in the attic; getting pretty old for that I think, I was ten years old, Mike was twelve, at which time I had asked him to play with me, knowing he had his new friends of course in the new neighborhood, of course, “Don’t tell anyone I played with you this…(Little People, we called it).” I assured him I’d not tell, and perhaps that was the end of our Cowboys and Indians saga. What would take its place would be poetry, in the following year, 1959.
As I think back now, growing up too quick takes the fun out of life, perhaps it wasn’t too quick, and it just seems so now. So I can only say to the parents out there, let them play, they will not forget those far off days.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Donkeyland--Sketches! of a Shoeshine boy [Cayuga Street Gang-50s & 60s]

Of a Shoeshine Boy

[& The Cayuga Street Gang—50s & 60s]

Advance [description of Donkeyland, the family in 1958]. We moved there in 1958, when I first saw it, the house my grandfather purchased for $7000. Dollars, it looked big from the outside, and was bigger even more so in the inside; an old Victorian home built around the turn of the century, old man Beck had died, and we were moving in. When I say we, I mean, my brother Mike, me Dennis, my mother Elsie, and my grandfather Tony, or Anton. Grandpa was an old Russian, from the Baltic area, born in 1891, came over to America in 1916, fought in WWI, and married, had eight children, my mother being the second to the oldest, Ann.
There are about thirty characters I will be talking about in these sketches, all are real, their last names somewhat changed, altered for legal purposes, but like it or not, it was as it was back then, as I say it.

Cayuga street absorbed two streets, and then it ran into Mississippi Street, it ran East and west. Mississippi Street, ran North and South, on the other end of Cayuga, was Jackson Street, and across the street was the long, very long Cemetery, Oakland Cemetery.
Beside us was a large empty lot, perhaps the space of five homes at one time, and a hill, we all called Indians Hill. On the other side of the empty lot was where my mothers boyfriend lived, they both worked at Swift’s Meat Packing Plant, in South St. Paul, his name was Earnest Brandt.
Behind our house was old Rice School, and down the block from Rice School, was the old Jew’s grocery store, small, but most were small back then; a legacy now gone.
To the side of our houses, on the embankment, for the empty lot was what you might call the valley, or plateau, were old Man Stanley’s house, and his wife [both retired; the old man [born around 1893] would die in 1960, and the woman [born around the turn of the century], would at 93-years old, in the 1990s].
In the years to follow, in the mid 60s, they started building a bridge over Mississippi, in the process, under the bridge, where the railroad was, its trains, yard and tracks, was now a large mud hole, our swimming hole.
Across the street on Cayuga from our house was where Roger and his family lived, in back of him was a foundry called Structural Steel, the whole neighborhood would work three at one time or anther, as each person turned 18-years old. Behind and to the south of Rogers house was the train yard, where they’d come in, and hook up with other trains and then deliver their load.
Alongside Mr. Stanley’s house was Lormer’s house, and up the block, on the second part of Cayuga Street, was where the Lund’s lived. In back of our house, on the block there was where Steve [Reno] lived. And down a few blocks, towards Mississippi, on a hill was were Sid lived. Jack Tashney, and his brother lived all the way down Jackson Street, at the end of the Cemetery.

Index of Sketches:

Advance: details of the Environment of Donkeyland

1—Shoeshine Boy [1959]
2—First Kiss [1960]
3—Milwaukee Bound [1967]
4—A Night with Tequila [1959]
5—A Drunken Voice from Beyond [1960’83]
6—To an Old Dead Friend Reno [1960s]
7—John L. vs. Chick [Fight by Indian’s 1963]
8—First Knockout: Chick and Snipes [1960]
9—Street Fight: Larry and the Big Guy [1964]
10—Vacant House [Notre Dame de Paris] 1959
11—First Poem: Longfellow’s Window [1959]

The Sketches

A Map of Donkeyland [the Neighborhood; 1950s & 60s]


Shoeshine Boy

Christopher Wright was walking home one evening; he was 12 ½ years old, a strong looking lad, reddish hair, determined if anything to make a few bucks. He had already made $4.35-cents; he charged .15 to .25 cents per shoeshine, depending on the bars he’d go into, and the composition. Yes, even at thirteen, or almost being thirteen, he was using psychology to make a living, or better put, to at least figure out if he could outsell his opponents, for there were other shoeshine boys on the beat. If he saw one, the shoeshine was automatically .15 cents, for he knew there were between .25 to .35 cents. Plus, when he charged .15 cents, he always got a tip, making it .25 cents anyway. The end result, it was a busy evening, and he had to get home by 11:00 O’clock, or his mother would surely be fuming thereafter [wondering and worrying], and so he made his last bar, leaned against the building next to the arc light, and started counting his pocket full of change.
—Not looking about, just counting, counting and recounting, with a smile on his face, it all came to $4.35 each time, thus, he was satisfied with the tally. Dust had crept in, as his blue-green eyes looked at the coins in his hand, and sensitive ears heard a voice, a demand,
“Hay boy,” it said, “hand it over…” the stern voice unrelenting.
When he looked up, holding two hands full of change, it was a tall thin white boy, about sixteen or seventeen years old, possible too tall for his weight; --Chris being about 5’5” at the time, and this kid close to six-feet he simply looked up, and straight into his eyes, not saying a word.
“I said boy, hand it over, or I’ll beat your head against the brick wall.”
Chris hesitated, somewhat in disbelief, then as he adjusted to the surroundings, taking in a deep breath, as if he had but a second to deliberate and spit it, a yes or no, he said,
“No-pp!” and the boy stepped two feet in front of him, grabbing his shoulders and pinning him against the brick wall. Now things were seemingly becoming a little gloomier.
“I said boy…hand it over or…!” another voice came from behind this tall white robber, it was a heavy voice this time—a strident voice, it had kind of an accent to it, and when Chris looked around the thin kid’s lower part of his right shoulder, he saw even a taller person than the white lad, a big tall black man: the scene became a bit dubious (was he going to rob the tall white boy after he rob me, Chris was thinking? Inasmuch as that was one thought, it was not his only; but often times when such things happen like this, one swears—hours pass by, when in essence it is but a few seconds if not minutes, yes, time for Chris was lost somewhere in-between. Before Chris could run and escape, or come up with something magic, something peculiar happened.
“Leave the boy alone… [pause],” said the rustic voice of the black man—as the pandemonium thickened the ghostly scene of the evening; Chris looked, at the taller black man’s eyes, eldritch-black, they had opened up wide, like umbrellas, big and broad and strong, real burly looking. The white boy didn’t pay too much attention to the voice behind him at first: only giving a morbid twitch with his mouth and eye [or at least that is what Chris observed], and then the voice said in a more gaudy way, a second time—more macabre than ever:
“You just can’t hear, can you, I said NOW!” and as the huge black man was about to grab the white lad, the white chap turned about, his eyes opened up as wide as White Castle Hamburgers, for they were right across the street from one of those cafés. With one hand the black man pushed the tall white lad away from Chris like a twig: making everything a ting more haunter,
“You want to make something of this,” he asked the white boy, adding, “If so, let’s get to it, if not, and get going before I flatten you on the cement.”
And the white lad was gone, just like that. The black man then turned to Chris [whom at this time was more concerned about getting home than a punch in the face],
“You best be getting on home, you’re lucky tonight,” he added with a grin and smile as if to say, ‘…can’t believe a black man stood up for you, --haw?’ Had he been reading Chris’ mind, for that did occur to him for a millisecond.
—Chris, up to this moment in time, never really knew a black person. But this deed or call it act of kindness or even endeavor on behalf of him was imprinting for the most part, his first encounter with a black person would stick thick with him the rest of his life. If anything, as he would progress in life, he would see the character of a person vs. the color before he made his future judgments, and not even know why; that is to say, he didn’t know why, until he was much older in life, when most people examine the ‘whys,’ and ‘ifs,’ of life. If anything, racism would be a foolish noun to him, not fully comprehensible, not fully accommodating, yet in life despairing moments would prop this noun up, here-and-there; it would not have the impact it had on others for him, it would not dominate his life, nor alter his sleep like others. One might oversimplify it, as he did, by scarcely looking at it, yet observing it he did, but such perfect simplicity would mean being somewhat naive, and if anything that may have been his worse sin in a world he was about to enter, for it was the being of the 60’s.


First Kiss

If thirteen is not the year you grow up 40%, from being a simple kid to being a un- mystified, perplexed, bemused kid, I don’t know what year to pick out then. But it was for Chris, in many ways. His first everything it seemed; kiss, drink, cigarette, and sex, and I hate to think any deeper into this area in fear I may come up with a load of other adjectives, this was the year of what might be labeled: year of the mongoose: like a snake eater, he ate everything life had to offer.
Said Rodger with a little reluctance in the tone of his voice, yet wanting to impress the guys, and Chris, whom had never kissed a girl, thus, he was willing to share a kiss from his girlfriend, who now after ten-minutes of trying to get Chris into the mood to kiss her, was willing, as was now more than ever his girlfriend, so Rodger said:
“What do you think Chris, she’s ready to give you a big kiss, you ready?” said Rodger,
“No, I don’t know, I’ve never kissed a girl before,” Chris answered with hesitation, but more than willing to give it try now that he had time to let it settle in his mind, in the back of his mind, or so he was trying to convince himself.
“Does she agree without you making her?”
“Yes! She said ok, but the offer is not going to last forever. If you’re afraid just pass it up, it’s your loss: Sherry is waiting with warm lips, make up your mind.”
“No, I’m not afraid:” Chris took a deep breath, looked at Sherry, the other guys, her beautiful blond, silk-like hair, long shapely legs, dark blue eyes: her thin waist was more than eye-catching, rather very attractive to gaze at and now he was as if he was granted a poppers-rights. He was thirteen-years old, she was seventeen, and Rodger was nineteen. He always got the good looking babe’s, thought Chris, as several of the neighborhood kids were standing about waiting for the event to take place, which started as a practical joke when they found out Chris had never kissed a girl.
The gang was watching impatiently, making gestures to one another as if to say: let’s get this on the road, or forget it, it’s getting old news: their attention span was not concussive for another era they were born in the right place at the right time, as free as birds, and as strange as lions.
Chris decided at that moment as the gestures were being thrown back and forth, he’d make his move, to make the most of it, glancing at Rodger,
“Ok, I’m ready!” he confidently said with a heroic smile.
--Rodger was one of the main members of the unofficial neighborhood gang [what the police called: Donkeyland], or if you will, group-members, otherwise known as the ‘The Cayuga Street-Donkeyland Gang,’ so nick-named by a police officer that patrolled the area, and for the most part was partial to the kids. He had said once, and Chris overheard it,
“You guys down here, live in Donkeyland, and are a bunch of hard-headed kids.” I guess when he went to the St. Paul; Police Station where he worked it was well known as such; again, referring to the location of Cayuga Street by Oakland Cemetery, as Donkeyland. As a result, Chris did pick up on it and it never left his character [as it is now written here].
As Sherry approached Chris, standing at one time several feet to his side by Rodger, now stood next to him, making him a bit nervous, she was within two feet of his face, that is to say—both looking, staring—almost gazing with a glimmer, right into each others eyes (it was a magical moment for Chris). His heart was beating, pulse rapid, and his bowls he could feel in his stomach, in the form of cramps, he actually wanted to grab her for a moment, but did not. She smiled that soft, reserved smile he had often seen her give Rodger, then put her hand on his shoulders: “You ready, Chris?” she asked with a sincere, cheerful voice.
“Yup,” he commented, now breathing hard, and for a moment, not breathing at all. And then she touched his lips gently with hers, softly positioning them both (that was when he stopped breathing), as if to fill all the space available she had room for on his lip with hers; not wanting to slid off and catch the side of his mouth, but wanting a perfect kiss, and a little harder she pushed; she had already moved into, and onto his lips completely, within a foot of him now she moved the other foot closer as the kiss extended into a long minute, and her body was touching his, and the kiss became long and wet. Then slowly, and carefully, she withdrew from the process, from him. Rodger was a bit startled, and couldn’t help from staring like a hawk ready to devour someone or something, should someone say the wrong thing: he was by all regards somewhat surprised she seemingly enjoyed it; everyone looking at Chris for a response. But if anything, everyone was moved by Sherry’s performance, as was Sherry herself.
“Well,” Rodger said, “Did you like it?” Sherry still looking with a smile at Chris,
“I want another, another one, a second kiss…I mean, if it’s ok with you and her…?” said Chris with his eyebrows almost touching the top of his forehead, opening up his eyes wider as if to absorb every little piece of warmth the kiss gave. Everyone started laughing, that is, everyone but Sherry, she remained reserve and together, and simply displayed a smile: --that is to say, everyone but Rodger, who said immediately

[Frank and to the point]: “I shared enough; you’ve got to get your own girlfriend.” For Chris the kiss would last a long, long time. Sherry seemed willing to go for seconds but for the sake of preventing a war, she remained silent, as the several members stood in Lormer’s yard, two houses away from Chris’ taking in the moment, said very little, the magical moment, and entertainment had passed; -- Lormer’s house was where many of the kids went to play pool in his basement. Or as in this case, hang around the backyard and until his parents told everyone to scoot. His father was a top chef, and he was related to Frankie Yank Vic. Chris and he were best of friends, Lormer being a year older, a few inches taller, had a hook for a nose which the guys made fun of, sometimes calling him, “Eagle Beak,” but then everyone had a nick name back then it seemed.
He had a professional pool table in his basement, and his mother and daughter played the piano often, and when possible preached the Jehovah Witness’s Gospel to whoever would listen. Lormer had several brothers, all older; one who had just got out of prison one that hung occasionally around with the gang, and one that was older and was hardly ever seen. The daughter was but seven years old during this time, and was as spoiled as spoiled a child could be, and everyone made fun of it; she was as spoiled as, as a cat with five dead mice, wanting more.
The yard was huge; they not only had a front yard, but three sections to the back. At times, it was hard for either of Lormer’s parents to see what was happening in their backyard. Chris’ yard was also long in the back, with his house being on a hill, and the garage being below it, a little land in front of it, and an empty lot next to it, it became a turn-around for the gang’s cars on Cayuga Street, especially when they went dragging.
The summer was warm, and by the looks of things many other things were in store for Chris, not just this first kiss, but it was the catalyst to a long run play in life. He would measure all kisses according to this one possibly. Sherry’s father was the Cemetery Custodian, and lived with her family in the Cemetery, she would never be forgotten; her charm, beauty, and her kind approach
I guess we observe more than what we think we do, growing up, and this would be one moment that would migrate into Chris’ fibers. Another one being: a black family had moved into the neighborhood, and Chris’ grandfather, Tony, had befriended the male person, or only black man of a family in that neighborhood. As the gang within the neighborhood structure asked about him, and why his grandfather had taken a liking to him, Chris simply explained (now being older than that shoeshine boy),
“He walks and talks with my grandpa, what’s the problem, I suppose they must get off the same bus, or meet at the bus stop or something on the way back from work,” trying not to make much of it.
Chris got thinking, no one really knew where he lived, that was how important it was yesterday, but today, for some reason, they were wondering, the why of it had not come to surface yet; and this black-man had moved into the area about six months ago to Chris’ best guess. Oh sure there was talk about him, but no one ever seen him after dark, or when the whole gang was around. And the few that did see him, may have insulted him with a few bad remarks, but they were not laud ones, and he may not have even heard them. But surely he got some stares now and then. Therefore, at this point and time, he was more of a ghost than a picture on a wall you might say, no daily contemplations on this matter, that could have possible turn into an issue.
Chris had noticed his grandfather had walked with the black-man on several occasions. But for some reason, the gang of about twenty-two white-members, never fooled around with family or the friends of family members, kind of an unwritten code, and Chris knew this, and simply added to his statement,
“My grandpa doesn’t speak to many people, everyone knows that, I’m surprised he spoke to the black-man, he must be out of the ordinary.” That was the last anyone ever said anything on the matter. It was his grandfather’s friend, and the gang respected that. Had he said anything other than that, who knows what? At the time Chris didn’t know it, but this second impression of sticking up for a black-man was stamped on his soul also, as was the first, as a shoeshine boy.


Milwaukee Bound
- 1967 [Fall]

Chris didn’t know it, but the following decade would be one of intolerance: and some growing pains. They lived in the same old neighborhood both Jerry Hines and Chris Wright, only two blocks west and down a block on Jackson Street from one another—this was Jerry’s and Betty’s house, just a hop-skip-and-jump one might say to each other’s abode. Across the street from Jerry’s house was Oakland Cemetery. Chris was twenty-years old and Jerry about twenty-nine—back then. Jerry being several years older than Chris Wright was available and usable in the sense of travel—something that was stronger than most anything else in his life for some peculiar reason, something that would stay with him all his life most variably; and so in the summer of l967, Jerry got into a dividing-harsh fight with his girlfriend Betty. Having told Chris about this, they both decided to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And this is where the story begins.
—Chris had a l960-Plymouth-Valiant [white], it didn’t run all that good but they, He and Jerry figured it would make it to Milwaukee, and so in the middle of the summer of ‘67, hot as a volcano, they loaded his car, when Betty was gone [Betty being his live-in girlfriend at the time], each grabbed what money they had, Chris having about $125.00 and Jerry about $250, and off they went.
As the miles went by on their way to Milwaukee, one right after the other, they kept drinking cans of beer, smoking cigarettes—chain smoking for the most part, as the Valiant strolled along the black asphalt interstate [s], making stops along the roadside to go to the bathroom, buying more beer at the nearest gas station, or roadside stop, drinking more beer, making more stops to take a leak: kind of a circular motion to these ongoing events. Matter of fact, they were making so many stops, they both got tired of stopping and started pissing into cans, and whomever was not driving would throw the cans out of window into the fields along the thruway; sometimes just barley missing cars if a good upper wind got hold of it. It was party time all the way, and for the most part, all the time for them two.
Now with loose conversations, the heat coming through the windshield, the breeze hitting their hands as they flopped out the window going down the highway, a bird wasn’t any freer. They lit cigarette after cigarette, talked, laughed, drank and sang. They didn’t do a lot of planning, but enough, --barely enough, but enough, their plan was: they’d sleep in the car until they found an apartment, then get a job, and stay in Milwaukee for a few months, then they could figure on what to do next—not a big plan or even an elaborate one by any means, but then the world and life was simply for them, and again I say, at least they had a shred of a plan, like a slice from a piece of pie. Their quest, their goal, if you could call it that, was to chum around, that’s what they’d do, and just chum around is what they were doing. Life’s responsibilities or demands were irrelevant, if not cumbersome, and if ever one was caught in a vortex of remoteness, Jerry was, he had enough for the moment of everything in life, yes, and in a way he was running away, as Chris was not. Chris was simply running to escape a city he saw too much of, he got the travel bug early in life; he was running to run. No one really knowing where they’d end up, at the end of it all to be exact, and no one putting anymore thought into it past the planning I had already explained: Chris again, was simply available, usable, along with willing, and had an ardent desire to see how far he could go, travel, and the farther the better.

[The beginning of fall] It was a chilled night, as black as dark-ink, the moon was one-quarter lit, and if there was such things as ghosts, they seem to have been running back and forth across the moon’s light with a grayish robe of a mist. It was a little past midnight when they caught a glimpse of the highway sign that read:
Milwaukee to the Right, ‘…turn-off 2-miles,”’ and so Jerry, whom was driving did just that, took the turned-off where the arrow was pointing, whereby, we were on a one-way that lead us directly to the downtown area of Milwaukee. Chris’ face flashed with undeniable excitement, it was as if he was being reborn, his blood was regenerated, there was no logic or reason to it, it was a high: a desire filled, a craving to the top, like an empty cigarette package replenish, akin to getting drunk, a destination-high, a quest, all that and more: save for the fact that the boredom from driving helped turn the moment into a rage of excitement.
“Oh boy, I get to see the city,” he said with anxiety of not being there at that very moment. Jerry gave Chris a more mature chuckle to the fact they had made it. Specifically, about to make it into the city limits their destination.
“Just hang on, we’ll be there in a moment,” said Jerry, turning the wheel a bit to the left, as he was turning onto the entrance to the city: then straightening them out to go directly ahead you could not see lights appearing in the distance, an illumination of dotted-lights. They both smiled, they had almost or nearly gotten to their destination—it was getting closer by the second. Just down and around a bridge or two now.
The one thing they did not take into consideration was the times: it was the 60’s, and neither Chris nor Jerry, could bridge, or even conceive the white and black dilemma that was sweeping the country; for the most part, they were isolated from it. Oh yes it was on TV all the time, but until you are in the mouth of the whale, one never can conceive the depth of the situation, or should I say, the depth of the stomach of the whale. There had been some café, store, and tenant-building damage in the black areas of the City of St. Paul, but not much, not in comparison to the rest of the country. Back in those days, every city had its riots, its racial issues. It was like a plague; but St. Paul, being the conservative city of the Midwest, the City of Culture as it has been called, was almost naive to it. They also lived in a neighborhood that didn’t read books or newspapers all that much or watch the news, it wasn’t a big deal for or to them, only one black family lived in the neighborhood someplace—no one even knew when he had moved in but a few years back might be adequate: the black man had befriended Chris’ grandfather, and therefore was left alone. But no one ever saw a black man in the neighborhood before this, much less deal with riots.
No one came to the Cayuga Street area—or walked through the area without good reason, unless they lived there for there was a gang of some twenty-two guys and gals that hung out on the church steps. It wasn’t called Donkeyland for nothing; for at one time it was the highest crime related area in St. Paul, and they boasted of that, and the police even tried to avoid them [them being, the whole area—the gang of sorts]; matter of fact, they nick-named it Donkeyland because there were so many hard-heads there: and yes, it suited them. They beat the police up if they chased them up Indians Hill, which was in the middle of Cayuga Street, right next to Chris’ house. But as I was about to say, as they rode down the turnoff, and on-into the city center, a white, a huge white car was following them. Chris first noticed it—a ting after they entered the outer rim of the center.
“Something wrong Chris?” said sleepy-eyed Jerry, driving.
Chris turned about for the third time to examine the white car, again seeing the car following them…then all of a sudden said Chris with a crisis voice, a voice trembling, a decadence to his face:
“Oh shit, look, look at what they just pushed out the damn car window, the white car—they’re…” almost along side of them now,
“…looks—J-j-Jerry, a damn shot gun…”
Jerry looked quickly, “What is going on?”
Then out of another window of the car, came a voice from a loud speaker coming right from the white car, you couldn’t make out what exactly was being said though—so they continued on, Jerry driving closer to the center of the downtown area now, looking at a gathering of people on two differed corners—in a four or five square block area; if anything, it looked like a protest, if not some combat zone; --the voice over the speaker now, indubitably said—[even louder than before]:
“Move out of the city’s area, immediately, or we’ll shoot!”
Chris looked at Jerry, “Where’s the way out Chris,” asked Jerry [the word shoot sticking in both their minds like a spider to a fly caught in a web,
“To the right, to the right, over there man…” Chris pointing toward a half lit up bridge: without hesitation, and responsive to his tone of voice, Jerry immediately turned the car southwest, and out they went as fast as that six-cylinder car would go.
In short, both Jerry and Chris’ temperamentally was shock, disbelief, and spellbound, but somehow they must had caught a sign that said, Madison, Wisconsin, for that is where they headed; and sometime down the highway they had stopped to check the map, and talk about Madison to see if both agreed of the new destination, prior to this stop it would seem they were both ill-balanced.
When they both arrived in Madison, not being able to find a job, they both would end up in Omaha, Nebraska, whereupon, just across the boarder was Counsel Bluffs, where Chris would find a job working for Howard Johnson’s as a dishwasher, and three weeks later Jerry’s girlfriend would show up, and that would be the end of the adventure. She’d stay until the end of the month, and they’d all return back together to Minnesota. It was for Chris the first of many adventures—antiquarian pursuits, and the first real racial confrontation.


A Night with Tequila
[Post, San Francisco: -- l969]

I was in-between going into the Army, which would bring me to Augsburg, Germany, and then on to Vietnam, and leaving San Francisco, where I had lived for a year, and practiced karate with the famous Gosei Yamaguchi, and worked for the famous cloth designing company, Lilli Ann. Thus, leaving San Francisco, I had went down to Southern California to meet with my brother, he and I then ventured down to Mexico for a day where I bought a bottle of tequila, with the worm in it. This would prove to be an adventure in itself, with an unforgettable night, linger in the future; notwithstanding, I will leave out the trouble that took place in Mexico, and be thankful we got out in one piece, and with my bottle of Tequila: and leave it at that, but let me add, the beer was heavy, and we almost got in a fight with several Mexican Soma -type looking wrestlers. In any event, we did make it out alive, as you are reading this, and therefore I must have.
And then on to [bask to that is] St. Paul, Minnesota our home city and state --my brother, myself, his wife and two-kids went by car, and yes I carried my bottle of Tequila, all the way. I had never drunk the stuff before, and figured I’d save it for a special occasion, hoping it would come soon. Plus, it would be a new experience for me when I did drink it, that is to say, showing everyone that damn famous worm, everyone talks about. When you moved the bottle of Tequila about–you could actually see the worm floating every which way.
We spent a day in Salt Lake City, Utah, as we had found a cheap, small motel close to the inner city; my brother’s wife got chased back to the motel for being out past 10:00 PM without her husband, as she was trying to buy some groceries.

I think we had a good laugh on that, that evening.

I didn’t see much of the city, although I did look for a few bars, I guess everything was either underground, or they had some secret black market where they hid the booze, but there was no chance for a nice cold beer, I figured that out quick. In any case, the night came quick, and we all slept well; the morning came quick also.
We took turns—that is, my brother and I took turns driving his car over the long dusty roads, but the weather was pleasing, a bit warm yet it made driving comfortable.
When we arrived in St. Paul, it was but a few weeks before my brother decided to head on up to North Dakota, Grand Forks, to help put in a cement platform, for a garage in, helping out his father-in-law. I told him I’d go along and help if he didn’t mind, and it all seemed quite productive, for the most part. And when the day arrived to leave’ --yes again, I carried my bottle of Tequila all the way to the Dakota’s with me: almost as if it was a gift from the god’s.


As we arrived in Grand Forks, we all stayed at my brother’s father-in-law’s house, the very house we were to do the construction work at, in the back yard. The hot weather was starting to leave the Midwest, and the cooler air was coming down from Canada, as September crept in slowly. It was a good time to work the construction part, that is, without sweating to death. The Midwest was extremes, hot in the summer and cold in the winter. In fall, it was perfect, especially for construction.
As I got to meet the rest of my sister-in-law’s family, I think I must have been saving this bottle of Tequila for this occasion, for I had a sense it was not going to make it back home. I had hid the bottle in my brother’s car, and drank beer the first night I was there with the rest of the relatives. His wife had several bothers and we all sat around getting drunk, --talking about how we were going to go about building the wooden frame of the foundation, to pour the cement for the garage: that is, the ground work was already done, leveled and the wooden frame needed to be made, this could be done quickly in the morning with long two-by-four boards, thereafter, we’d do the cement work, and then we’d stay an extra day and have a get together, kind of celebration. It all sounded grand.
During this time I had met Paula, a friend of the family. I was twenty years old, and she was seventeen, we both seemed somewhat attracted to one another—time would tell.


As we worked all day the following day on the cement, digging a foundation, putting up sides-boards to pour the cement, and measuring, along with putting in other sources of support like, stones etc., we finally did pour the cement, and it turned out better than what I had hoped for. We really did not need professionals, only a good thought out plan, effort, and a gathering of the willing.
Now it was party time. Paula told me to skip the get together with the family at my brother’s wife’s house, for the time being, and head on to her friend’s house, and join their party this evening, and we’d come back to join the family workers later, for they also would be having a party. It all sounded reasonable to me.
As we got to the party [7:00 PM] Paula introduced me to several of her young friends, and I pulled out from underneath my jacket the bottle of Tequila I had purchased in Mexico, the one with the worm in it.

Paula said, “What is that thing in the bottle?” As she was reading the label that said ‘Tequila,’ on it, she added, “I heard of this stuff, it’s pretty strong, isn’t it?”
[A rhetorical question at best] “It’s a genuine worm alright,” I clarified, adding, “…that is what indicates it’s the original Mexican thing.” I really didn’t know what I was talking about—for the most part—but whatever the ‘thing [worm], meant,’ nonetheless, made for good conversation.
As we sat on the sofa in the living room of her friend’s house I checked Paula out, I liked her, she looked a little French-Canadian, that is to say, she had a natural tan to her skin, almost olive. She had short black hair, a shapely body, to include a pear like base [or underneath --about 5’ 3” inches tall, stunning looks, a real beauty.
We both had a few of the beers the folks at the party offered, and then I opened up the Tequila.
She asked me [pleadingly-with a touch of humor] “Should I try to drink the worm when it surfaces out of the bottle or see if it comes out of the bottle while I pour it into my glass, and then drink it?”
“Forget the glass, take a swig right out of the spout, and if you get the worm, swallow it. That’s the best way to do it. Let’s see who gets to it first.” We both smiled at one another, and down the ‘hatch’ we drank our first, longgggg-shot. I drank about three shots at once, --along with taking some salt at the same time putting it on my hand and licking it; someone had told me to do it, it was actually a little more agreeable with the salt, the Tequila that is. And then Paula did the same. No one got the worm; we again looked at one another and laughed.
“Ham m,” we both hummed at each other.
“Let’s try again,” I said contentedly...
As the night went on, a few of the folks from my brother’s wife’s family, along with my brother came over to the party to check on Paula and me. They saw we were drinking away like two silly kids. I was now 21-years old, I could legally drink, but Paula wasn’t, --I think they were more worried about Paula, being 17, and I suppose I may have looked a little dangerous to my sister-in-law, being with her younger sister.
They sat by us and had a few drinks of the Tequila, and then feeling all was well and under control left us to ourselves. They were only up the block about four houses in any case, meaning, if they needed to run to her rescue, they could. I think they were afraid I’d steal her away and run to Minnesota with her, --or her with me. We were just having a good ol’-time, no more, no less.
At 11:00 PM, Paula asked if we should call it a night, we were both getting pretty drunk.
“No, no,” I said, “Let’s finish the whole bottle and whoever ends up with the worm is the winner.” [Although the winner only got the worm.]

“Ok, Ok,” she atheistically said, at first glance.
1:00 PM
[Halfheartedly I told Paula.] “It looks like my turn to drink.” Yet, I could hardly find the bottle, let alone see the worm. At great length I put my hand out to grab the bottle:
“Ok, here it is,” I took a big drink, “…the worm is still in there Chick,”
Paula commented. I looked I couldn’t see it, “I must of drank it,” I replied, no answer.
Paula [who has risen] “Who got the worm?” she asked, no answer. She moved about, trying to stretch, laying on the floor next me, where she had passed out, and I on the sofa had passed out right along with her [a pause].
“I think I got it,” I grabbed the bottle on the floor with the Tequila label on it, it was empty, and the worm was gone.
“I think I ate it, or swallowed it, and then I must have passed out,” I explained to her [a little stiffly].
“No,” she replied, “I think you tried to get the worm out, and couldn’t, and there was a little substance left, and I had the next try, and got it out.” We looked at each other [wearily] struggling to up on a smile and started laughing. Whoever got the worm we would never know for sure? But one of us did.
“I think Paula,” I commented, “…we both ate the worm, I got half and you got half. If I recall right, I got the worm out safe and sound, and poured the rest of the Tequila in a glass, and cut the worm in half, and we both had the last drink together each getting half the worm.”
“Really,” she said, [after listening for a moment].
“Absolutely,” I wasn’t sure of anything, but I dreamt it or for some reason it came out naturally. Who knows after you drink a fifth of Tequila what happened to the worm, maybe it walked away. Whatever the case, Paula was a little more agreeable with that ending to the worm.

Written, 2003 [revised 2005]


A Drunken Voice from Beyond

There was those days, I farted my brains out after a good drunk
I thought I’d never live to see twenty-five, at twenty and a half—;
The clock never stopped for me to rest. I just coughed up slim
Each morning from my chest, smoking those damn cigarettes—.
Ah yes, indeed: bad breath: farting, and coughing, was my image.

Sleeping with the holes and whores, or whatever came around:
I shall not accuse anyone of dirty socks: back then, at that time,
For I was the worse of the lot, by far: not innocent, no trophies.
My skin pale, a limp dick at times: red, pink blotches, swollen,
I looked at times, as if was dead: amazing to be writing this.

“Who was I?” I’ll never know for sure, I’m not that same guy:
Tight I was, wireless, no roots, a drifter, and half a brain low—:
Spidery unsafe fucking whites, Negroes, Mexicans: everything!
I had few smiles to give, no real goals, and a worried mother:
The drunken road had no end: drinking, sneezing like smelly fish,
Yet tenderly my mother took me in, nourish me, and I lived…
To tell about this endless trip, my lizard-like hell: pitiful squid!

#1367 6/4/2006

Note: anyone who has sobered up after 22-years of drinking I take my hat off to them; I started drinking at 13-years old, and stopped at 35-years old; it is a hard balancing act, in a world that is off balance from the start. Therefore if you are recovering, good, if you want to try, good, if you want to die, and you feel alcohol is better than life, so be it; have it your own way, but perhaps you can leave the rest of us alone in the process, so we can enjoy life.


To an Old Dead Friend Reno[From Donkeyland-USA]

In the heydays of the early-sixties car-loads of us neighborhood-bums ignorant and arrogant dreamers came crashing through the streets, funny we all remained alive, free-spirited Christian infidels, with stray spirits, many never find the way out, too good to be true.

Often I used to loiter past the old church steps to the Mount Airy Bar, time after time like you, waiting for something…. There in that neighborhood we got hooked, like two bears to honey, someone, somewhere praying for our souls, “Where is God, take me from this booze.”

Now I stand outside the consecrated ground remembering your high school smile, You lost, but like one who’d won… I gave it all up, long pursuit of God’s demon, man-slayers with drugs and booze, those transitory imps, fell off you lice back into the neighborhood, like friendly mice, when you died, in your early fifties, still covered, confused, and drugged, true to your boyish wariness in high school.

Old friend, I see your wife burdened, living a single life, on whatever she can, under your hand, she was nothing worn, waiting for you to come home, broken-hearted lioness, hands of stone waiting—then you hung yourself in prison.

#1374 6/25/06


John L. Vs. Chick, Fight by Indian's Hill
[Part III Donkeyland; Cayuga Street Gang; 1963]

I didn’t know John L. all that much, not until 1964 anyway, I was all of sixteen years old, when we got into a fight. It kind of was provoked, night of us wanted to fight; John was a bit drunk, and we were in what the neighborhood called, ‘the turn around,’ which was next to my grandfather’s house where we lived, an empty lot, kind of, space between the park, and our garage, and the kid’s cars would turn around here to go back up the street.
That is where John L. was this one summer evening in 1963, and where I was, it was perhaps 9:30 PM, a dark 9:30 PM, and Larry (a relative of John’s) was egging him and me on to fight; there also was Ace (also known as the Big Bopper: Jerry S. was his real name, I had dated his sister once, she went to the same High School I did ((Washington High), and was a twin); anyhow, here we were, about seven of us, and Larry was egging John on to fight me, telling him he couldn’t lose (and when I heard that whisper: Larry to John, I made a decision there and then); I liked Larry, but he was much older than I, and we didn’t hang out together then, we were only distant friends.
“Come on let’s fight,” said John to me, looking at Larry for confidence and assurance. And I looked about, and heard everyone push for the fight to start, so I ran into the weeds, and out into the baseball field, Indian’s Hill behind me, and John ran after me, and then I stopped, and John froze somewhat: he didn’t expect me to stop and face him right on, know what to do was on his mind: so he went to throw a punch, and he missed, and I grabbed him and threw him on the ground, and started to punch away, punch his lights out, and he said: “Stop, stop, please, I give up!” And I let him up, and he said, “You got to go back there and tell them all I won, if not, Larry and the guys will beat the shit out of you.”
And so I agreed with that, knowing now they were related and that to keep peace: so we walked back, and they all stood looking at John and I, we didn’t act like two fellows just finishing a fight, a voice said: ’…who won?’ and I said, “John got me on the ground and I gave up, and so I guess he won.” My pride was hurt, but I survived the neighborhood, and in the long run, that is what mattered. But John and I turned out to be best of friends in time, and there are a few more stories to that. We even traveled to California together in 1967.


First Knockout: Chick and Snipes
[Donkeyland; Cayuga Street Gang; 1960]

I really couldn’t say, myself, but what I remember was we all stopped playing the baseball game and walked over to the new kid standing somewhat in the way of the players; he had moved in by Brandt’s house, called Snipes. He had a gray tea shirt on (muscle man shirt on), looked pressed even, clean. We were all dirty, and he looked too clean for us.
“Anytime anyone of you guys want to fight me, I’m ready,” he said, I noticed a smirk on his face, and he looked ready, but he looked as if he was going to walk away, so everyone walked over to him and started saying: ‘…me, me, let me, meee…have him…!”
Jack, my close friend wanted to fight him bad, and he was always hyper, and he was real comfortable with the idea at first. The train of guys (or so it seemed), all were standing in that empty lot around him now, Indian’s Hill in the background of us: everyone was gambling for the right to beat his ass now.
Jack said, “Let me kick his fucken ass (Jack swore a lot),” and the kid put up his fists and was ready to go, they only stopped because one of the other guys wanted him. Doug, and Roger, Larry (the tough guy of the neighborhood) and a few others and me all wanted him, but Larry was to big for the guy, and much older, and would have killed him, so he knew he couldn’t afford to tangle with him.
Now there was a circle around him, and he stood quietly, stone still, as everyone wagered for the right to fight him, punch him out, every body wanted the right to punch him out, and I looked, just stared at him. I had been weight lifting, had several fights before, but was no tough guy, not like Larry anyhow, but was getting a reputation—somewhat.
“Can’t I have him,” I said, and everyone looked at me, I mean everyone, and they looked at one another, and Snipes looked at me, and he shook his head ok, as if it was ok for me to fight him, and when he did, I grabbed him and threw him on the ground, and I never stopped punching his face-in until someone grabbed me off of him (I think Jack): lest I make him hamburger. I suppose I was waiting to show the boys what I was made out of; this was a chance, perchance I was thinking that, I don’t know; they’ll tell me later how I was, I told myself. But I had lost control somehow, a light went off in my head, I didn’t like that, it was dull youth telling me to fight I suppose, but I had won the fight, light on or off it didn’t matter, to win was the main thing. But was it unfair? I mean I jumped the gun; didn’t give him a chance. But I didn’t look at the Golden Glove Rules, none of us did, I just punched, grabbed, and I didn’t squander any time in the process.
It was a few weeks later Snipes came to my house, asked me if I wanted to fight him again, since I did not give him a chance. I said I’d care to fight him, but I really didn’t care not to either, I wasn’t mad (and I knew I had to be mad, or take a few punches to get me made first, then I could fight). He said in his own way: I’m not afraid of you; not sure if I can beat you, your pretty strong, but I’m fast with my fists, and didn’t get a chance to use them, but if you’d rather leave it alone, I can but I need an apology for taking advantage of the moment. I said, sure, I’m sorry, but that’s the way I fight I suppose. Evidently he needed prep time; I needed to get mad time. I got to liking Snipes, but he suggested we stay a distance away from each other, lest someone get mad, and he didn’t want his family to provoke anything if I went around his house. I accommodated him, why not, it saved his pride, and who knows, I might have lost the second fight.


Street-Fight: Larry and the Big Guy
(Donkeyland; Cayuga Street Gang; 1964)

[1964] With the corner of his eye he saw Larry, he carried a light coat, it was early summer, he looked as if he came from a baseball game, there were several of them that came down the stairs to the basement party, uninvited, to invade the party. Larry had punched out a wise guy earlier at the party and now he wanted his friends to get revenge for him. John saw them all coming down the stairs, and the big guy, the heavy one, asked, “Where is Larry?” but had saw Larry from the corner of his eye anyway, he knew him by instinct. Larry was half drunk, fumbling about, and he remarked, across the dance floor, softly, watching the man sidle past a few guys to get to him. John looked like he was ready to pass out but watched what was about to unfold closely, as I did, and was flinging his hands about. The party members were swaying with the music, flashing lights; the basement party was cramped, eager.
“I’ve seen what you’ve done to my nephew (whom was brushed badly, beaten like hamburger),” said the big man about two inches taller than Larry, who was perhaps six-foot one inch tall, and the big man perhaps forty pounds heavier than Larry, whom was all of 190-pounds himself. Most of the kids at the party were part of the Cayuga Street, unofficial gang, part of what the Police called; “ Donkeyland.”
“I’m Larry,” said Larry to the big guy. A punch came from the big guy’s right hand, it stunned Larry—then he grabbed Larry like a wrestler and hit him again, but then Larry checked him, and with speed, a jerk here and there, he hit the guy four times, but the big guy absorbed the punches, and Larry could not dance and box like he wanted. Everything was too cramped, too hot, Larry was too drunk; as a result, the man hit Larry again, and his head jerked back. I had never seen Larry beaten in a fight before, and this was looking like a defeat in the makings.
I was at this time 16-years old, in three months, I’d be all of 17, and my friend John, the same age, a relative of Larry’s joined in on the fight, with one of the friends of the big guy, and got slaughtered in the corner of the basement: a puffy face to boot. A few others got involved with the fight, then Larry who had fell to his knees, got back up, his lightening punches did not put the man out only punish him to the point of using his bruit force to push him down again, but he was puffing like a train, losing his breath; but he anticipated, Larry anticipated this I think, said, “Let’s go outside and fight, I got more room there.” And everyone, perhaps twenty kids, everyone from fourteen to twenty-five, went outside in the backyard, University Avenue was close by, a busy street, and behind that was the house were an alley divided the house and a bar.
Now outside, Larry waved the guy on to fight, and he started to and Larry got into his dance, like Clay, and the man before throwing a punch, trying to lift those heavy arms, received two from Larry; thus, Larry was now the aggressor, on longer on the protective side of the fight; hence, the big guy quickly picked up his coat from where he threw it on the ground, threw it over his shoulder, jumped in a car that had pulled up, jumped on the seat quick, as Larry picked up a long board, and chased the car, smashing the sides of it several times, but it got away.
The fight was over, Larry leaned back, caught his breath, “Let’s go back to the neighborhood,” and we all left to get drunk down in Donkeyland, on what was called: Indian’s Hill; as usual.
Written 6/3/06 [Part One: Donkeyland; the Cayuga Street Gang of the 60s]


Vacant Houses
& Notre Dame—de Paris]))

There was a two year period in my life, between eleven and twelve years of age when I’d go with my friend, Mike Reassert, searching into vacant houses that were about to be torn down by the state, in Downtown, St. Paul, Minnesota, for building bridges, and new fancy government buildings. These were all residential homes, and apartments complexes at one time. The year was 1959; it was summer, and a weekend, Saturday, if I recall right. The particular building we went into this forenoon was behind the police station, which was on 10th Street by Cedar; a bakery was nearby, and Jackson Street parallel. Often times the doors were left open in these soon to be smashed and shattered residences, and tramps, bums would sleep in the hallways, they never bothered us boys much, and if one moved too quick we’d hightail it out of there like two wasps. Today we didn’t see any, and so we moved from the first floor to the second floor of this four-plex apartment building.
It was near noon, as we rummaged through the hallways into the littered apartment, litter everywhere in it, its windows gazed upon the street outside, its curtains half torn off their reels. An old elm tree was ripped out of the ground, its thick old roots naked in the sunlight, the light of the sun entered through the window so as to shoot a ray through the dirty glass, all the way to the ceiling, showing the gray old spider webs in the corners of the rooms; it was a one bedroom apartment, the bathroom dingy as gray lace. The once white walls were drab except for the ones where the pictures hung (I didn’t know then, what I know now, we live out our childhood in dreams, somewhere down the adult road of life, in stages).

(The closet.) Light barely passed through the window into the closet as I opened it, the light seemed to have had a tail, as it moved past the chairs of the kitchen, and a reflection of the light in the living room, shinned on the sofa chair as I looked through the archway in back of me now—both lights somewhat helpful; the closet had sawdust in it, perhaps rats or mice were chewing holes in the walls, every so often I’d hear one in a room, they gnawed on everything that had a shape. Then I saw a frame, a picture in it, I pulled it foreword, shook it a bit, to take the dust and particles off it, wiped the glass somewhat clean with my shirt and elbow, it was of an old church in Europe. I looked closer; it was of Notre Dame de Paris. “Hummm…” I wondered.
“Leave it be,” said Mike, “its too hard to carry back and lug all-round all day.”
“No,” I said, not sure why, it simply caught my eye.
As time would tell, I’d go to Europe, and from the first time in Europe, in 1970, to my last time in Europe, 2002 (perhaps a dozen times in Europe all together, and some five years total time spent there), I’d see many Cathedrals from Spain, to Germany, to Istanbul, to London and Paris, and Notre Dame, I’d see four times, and perhaps each of those times in Paris, I’d go to Notre Dame, every day, thus, going into the Cathedral thirty times or more—complete. Going right up to its bell tower once, and climbing along its top ridge, looking and examining its gargoyles —and the rest of Paris.

Written 7/25/2006; El Parquetito, Café, Lima Peru


First Poem:
Longfellow’s Window
[1959; in Donkeyland]

It was perhaps May, the year was 1959; I was sitting on the top level of the attic steps, somewhat motionless, looking out the window into the backyard, we had a long hilly backyard, very green in the summer, grandpa cared for it like it was a treasure, proud, he even fenced it in after a number of years, after people trampled through it, as if it was a highway. The sunlight hit my face, it was a weekend and mother was downstairs doing something, perhaps housework, she was always busy. I had found some paper in a drawer and I slowly went to write, drawing my pen to paper, a word came forth, then writing again, a few more words, without looking at the paper my thoughts flowed through my mind, and my body was full of emotions. I slid the paper in front of my pen again, and noticed I had a stanza of some kind, then heard Grandpa’s old black mantel clock strike twice, it was 2:00 PM, next I went back into my silence, more like scratching with my pen now, words and syllables, rime and accents, trying to dance and sing with the pen, as words flowed onto the paper.
I re-read my first stanza, it would be, or become my first poem. I had listened to an old record [78] my mother had given me, by Jimmy Boyd, and so I came up with the name, “Who.” I think the song was named that, and it was a simple poem that needed a simple name, like the song. I had no idea of course I’d study poetry in the future, write 1400-poems, produce nine poetry books, and so forth and on. But that was the beginning, as all things must have a beginning, that is, all things must have its first step.
I found a second sheet of paper and copied the poem, and made the corrections I needed, it was now 4:00 PM, and dinnertime. (I had folded the poem, and put it into my pocket, asked my mother in her bedroom later if I could read it for her, and I did, and she liked it—of course, and then back into my pocket it went).
Next I went upstairs to the attic bedroom, where my brother and I slept, him on one side of the attic, myself on the other, a window in-between, this was on the opposite side of where the steps were, and the reason being the beds were there, was because the chimney stretched from the basement all the way through the attic, through the roof: too close to the window to put beds.
For the following week, I’d look out that window and figure poem two would have to be coming soon, and it would have to come out of that window, and it did. I was consumed, to realize I could express my emotions this way, instead of being crushed with them, holding them inside like excessive water.

It would be years later I’d venture out to see Henry W. Longfellow’s House, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and gaze through his window; then after that, I’d purchase an expense signature of his (original), singed “Yours Truly Henry W. Longfellow…. 1877” a great poet indeed.

Written 7/25/2006; El Parquetito, Café, Lima Peru

End Poem

Train to Newport (1962)

I was but fifteen-years old, when
Tom and I snuck into the freight yard,
To catch a train going to Chicago.
I was surprised at my stupidity—!
It stopped in Newport, Minnesota,
Seven-miles from home, and we
And we both (Tom and I) kicked stones,
Walking those dark miles back home.

Note: The author did many things when he was young,
but he never hopped a train again, it was his first and
last time. #1241 2/23/06


Reviews of the
Author Dennis L. Siluk


From the Counsel General of Peru: Efrain Saavedra: “How beautiful the poem (‘The Ice Maiden’),” as he read it in his Chicago Office, on 2/14/06 (Valentine’s Day).

Dennis received two columnist awards in the past three years. In addition, in 2005 he was awarded Poet Laureate, of San Jeronimo, Peru. He has met and discussed his forth book of Peruvian Poems, with the Ex First Lady of Peru, now High Senator, Keiko Fujimori; and is friends with the Consul General of Peru, in Chicago, Efrain Saavedra.

—Rosa Peñaloza de Siluk

[June 2006] Dennis was number #1 Poet (out of 131), and number #1 author for Arts and Entertainment (out of 704), for an international magazine, Ezinearticles [Annual Readership: 12-million]. He presently lives in Peru, and Minnesota, with his wife Rosa. This is his 34th Book; he has a worldwide audience.

Dennis’ works comprise over 2200-writtings: 500-articles; 250-short stories; 33-books (to include novels of fiction and nonfiction; alcoholism, suspense, drama, plays and a horror); 15-chapbooks; 1400-poems.

SMS.ac, International mobile phone services, has now picked up Dennis’ writings, with over 50-million users. [June 2006]


From the author and poet, E.J. Soltermann, commented on Dennis' poem in his new book, "Last Autumn and Winter,” called "Night Poem, In the Minnesota Cold," he said: "That is Poetry." I know that is not a lot of works per se, but a powerful statement it is, coming from someone who can judge poetry for its worth; as Dennis once said, “Only a poet is suitable to critique a poet’s poetry.” Rosa Peñaloza

By Rosa Peñaloza,

I have in the past written many comments about Dennis’ work, and today I want to share with you some of his reviews and comments other people have had. He has a variety of literature out there, from short stories (over 225 now), to articles (over 850), to poems (over 1400), to chapbooks (he has done about 13-chapbooks) —and of course his 34-books, and he is working on four other books. Of these poems perhaps 400 to 500 are in books, the rest he has not published for one reason or another. Yet still out of this figure, about 250-poems are on the Internet, not in books.

For the most part, I think Dennis is best know for his travels and poetry; he has traveled the world over, now it is almost 28-times around the world, or as he said: 694,000-air miles; not to include all the travels he has done cross-countries, on the road, etc., he did when he was young, going to: San Francisco, Omaha, along with Seattle, and the Dakotas; he lived in all those places in the 60s; in the 70s he traveled throughout Europe for four years, during this time he went to Vietnam, in 1971, and came back to Europe thereafter. Now he has spent, or taken eight trips to South America, where he has his second home, and where he loves the Mountains by Huancayo.

Here are some of his reviews:

Note 1: Recent interview on Radio Programas del Perú, concerning his two publications: “Spell of the Andes,” and “Peruvian Poems”; reaching five countries, and three continents; over 15-million people; by Milagros Valverde, 11/15/2005, 11:00 PM. (Milagros read poems from both of Mr. Siluk’s books: “Spell of the Andes” and “The Ice Maiden”.)
Note 2: “Spell of the Andes,” recommended by the Cultural Agency in Lima- Peru; located in Alfredo Benavides # 605 - Apartment 201, phone number 2428942

Note 3: Interviewed by JP Magazine, interviewer Jose Luis Pantoja Ventocilla, who had very positive comments and appreciation for Dennis’ Poetic Peruvian Traditions and Contemporary way of Life; 10/26/2005.

Note 4: Mayor of San Jeronimo, Peru, Jesus Vargas Párraga, “All mayors should recognize Dennis’ work (on his Poetic Traditions of Peru; and favorable articles for the Mantaro Valley Region) and publicize it.... (paraphrased: we should not hide his work)”

Note 5: 91.7 Radio “Super Latina”, 10/19/2005, interviewer Joseito Arrieta, reaching 1.2 million people in the Mantaro Valley Region about the book “Spell of the Andes” (paraphrased): the Municipality and the Cultural House from Huancayo should give an acknowledgement for the work you did on The Mantaro Valley.

Note 6: Channel #5 “Panamericana” 10/16/2005, “Good Morning Huancayo” (in Huancayo, Peru ((population 325,000)); interviewed by reporter: Vladimir Bendezú, on Mr. Siluk’s two books: “Spell of the Andes,” and “Peruvian Poems”: also on, Mr. Siluk’s biography.

*Note 7: Cesar Hildebrandt, International Journalist and Commentator, for Channel #2, in Lima, Peru, on October 7, 2005, introduced Mr. Siluk’s book, “Peruvian Poems,” to the world, saying: “…Peruvian Poems, is a most interesting book, and important….” (Population of Lima, eight million, and all of Peru: twenty-five million)) plus a number of other Latin American countries: reaching about sixty-three million inhabitants, in addition, his program reaches Spain)).

Note 8: More than 240,000-visit Mr. Siluk’s web site a year: see his travels and books…!

Note 9: Mr. Siluk received a signed personal picture with compliments from the Dalai Lama, 11/05, after sending him his book with a letter, “The Last Trumpet…” on eschatology.

Note 10: Ezine Articles [Internet Magazine] 11/2005, recognized by the Magazine Team, as one of 250-top writers, out of 14,700. Christopher Knight, Editor; annual readership: twelve-million (or one million per month). Dennis has about 10,000 readers of his articles, poems and stories, alone on this site per month.

Note 11: Dennis L. Siluk Columnist of the Year, on the International Internet Magazine, Useless-knowledge; December 5, 2005 (Annual Readership: 1.5 million).

Note 12: Dennis L. Siluk was made Special Author, status, for the site www.Freearticles.com

Note 13: Mr. Siluk’s works are on over 400-web sites worldwide as of (early 2005)

More Reviews:

Benjamin Szumskyj: Editor of SSWFT Magazine Australia

“In the Pits of Hell, a Seed of Faith Grows”

"The Macabre Poems: and other selected Poems,"

“…Siluk’s Atlantean poems are also well crafted, from the surreal…to the majestic…and convivial…” and the reviewer adds: “All up, Siluk is a fine poet…His choice of topic and theme are compelling and he does not hold back in injecting his own personal thoughts and feelings directly into his prose, lyrics, odes and verse…” (September 2005)

“…I liked your poem [‘The Bear-men of Qolqepunku’] very much. It is a very poignant piece.”

Aalia Wayfare
Researcher on the Practices
Of the Ukukus

“I just received your book ‘Spell of the Andes,’ and I like it a lot.’

—Luis Guillermo Guedes, Director
Of the Ricardo Palma Museum-House
In Lima, Peru [July, 2005]

“The Original title of the book Dennis L. Siluk presents is ‘Spell of the Andes’ which poems and stories were inspired by various places of our region and can be read in English and Spanish. The book separated in two parts presents the poems that evoked the Mantaro Valley, La Laguna de Paca…Miraflores, among other places. The book is dedicated to ‘the beautiful city of Huancayo’…”

By: Marissa Cardenas, Correo Newspaper,
Huancayo, Peru [7/9/05]
Translated into English by Rosa Peñaloza.

Mr. Siluk’s writings, in particular the book: ‘Islam, in Search of Satan’s Rib,’ induced a letter from Arial Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, along with a signed picture. [2004]

“You’re a Master of the written world.” [Reference to the book: ‘Death on Demand’]

—Benjamin Szumskyj,
Editor of SSWFT-magazine out of Australia [2005]

A poetic Children’s tale “The Tale of Willy, the Humpback Whale” 1982 Pulitzer Prize entry, with favorable comments sent back by the committee.

“Dennis is a prolific and passionate writer.”

—Matt James,
Editor of ‘useless-knowledge,’ Magazine [2005]

“The Other Door,”…by Dennis L. Siluk…This is a collection of some 45 poems written…over a 20-year period in many parts of the world. Siluk has traveled widely in this country and Europe and some of the poems reflect his impressions of places he has visited. All of them have a philosophical turn. Scattered through the poems—some long, some only three lines—are lyrical lines and interesting descriptions. Siluk illustrated the book with his own pen and ink drawings.” —St. Paul Pioneer Press [1981)

“Your stories are wonderful little vignettes of immigrant life….

“… (The Little Russian Twins) it is affecting….”

—Sibyl-Child (a women’s art and culture journal) by Nancy Protun, Hyattsville, Md.; published by the Little Peoples’ Press, 1983

“The Other Door, by Dennis L. Siluk-62pp. $5….both stirring and mystical….”

—C.S.P. World News [1983]

“For those who enjoy poetry…The Other Door, offers an illustrated collection…Reflecting upon memories of his youth, Siluk depicts his old neighborhood of the 1960’s…Siluk…reflects upon his travels in poems like: ‘Bavaria’s Harvest’ (Augsburg, Germany and ‘Venice in April.’’’

—Evergreen Press
St. Paul, Minnesota [1982]

“Siluk publishes book; Siluk…formerly lived in North Dakota…”

—The Sunday Forum
Fargo-Moorhead, North Dakota [1982]

“Dennis Siluk, a St. Paul native…is the author of a recently released book of poetry called The Other Door….The 34-year old outspoken poet was born and reared in St. Paul. The Other Door has received positive reaction from the public and various publications. One of the poems included in his book, ‘Donkeyland-(A side Street Saga)’, is a reflection of Siluk’s memories…in what was once one of the highest crime areas in St. Paul.” [1983]

St. Paul, Minnesota

“This entertaining and heart-warming story …teaches a lesson, has all the necessary ingredients needed to make a warm, charming, refreshing children’s animated television movie or special.” [1983]

—Form: Producers
Report by Creative
Entertainment Systems;
West Hollywood, CA
Evaluation Editor

The book: ‘The Last Trumpet and the Woodbridge Demon,’ writes Pastor Naason Mulâtre, from the Church of Christ, Haiti, WI; “…I received…four books [The Last Trumpet and the Woodbridge Demon…]. My friend it’s wonderful, we are pleased of them. We are planning to do a study of them twice a month. With them we can have the capacity to learn about the Antichrist. I have read all the chapters. I have…new knowledge about how to resist and fight against this enemy. I understand how [the] devil is universal in his work against [the] church of Jesus-Christ. Thanks a lot for your effort to write a so good book or Christians around the world.” [2002]

Additional (mixed) Notes and Reviews:

Mr. Siluk was the winner of the magazine competition by “The Eldritch Dark”; for most favored writer [contributor] for 2004 [with readership of some 2.2-million].

And received a letter of gratitude from President Bush for his many articles he published in the internet Magazine, “Useless-knowledge.com,” during his campaign for President, 2004 [1.2-million readership].

Still some of his work can be seen in the Internet Ezine Magazine, with a readership of some three-million. [2005, some 350 articles, poems and short stories]

Siluk’s poetic stories and poetry in general have been recently published by the Huancayo, Peru newspaper, Correo; and “Leaves,” an international literary magazine out of India. With favorable responses by the Editor

Mr. Siluk has been to all the locations [or thereabouts] within his stories and poetry he writes; some 683,000-miles throughout the world.

His most recent book is, “The Spell of the Andes,” to be presented at the Ricardo Palma Museum-House in October 2005, and recently reviewed in Peru and the United States.

From the book, “Death on Demand,” by Mr. Siluk, says author:

E.J. Soltermann
Author of Healing from Terrorism, Fear and Global War:

“The Dead Vault: A gripping tale that sucks you deep through human emotions and spits you out at the end as something better.” (Feb. 2004)

Love and Butterflies
[For Elsie T. Siluk my mother]

She fought a good battle
The last of many—
Until there was nothing left
Where once, there was plenty.

And so, poised and dignified
She said, ‘farewell,’ in her own way
And left behind
A grand old time
Room for another

Love and Butterflies…
That was my mother.

—By Dennis L. Siluk © 7/03

Visit my web site: http://dennissiluk.tripod.com you can also order the books directly by/on: www.amazon.com www.bn.com www.SciFan.com www.netstoreUSA.com along with any of your notable book dealers. Other web sites you can see Siluk’s work at: www.eldritchdark.com www.swft/writings.html www.abe.com www.alibris.com www.freearticles.com and many more

Books by the Author

Out of Print

The Other Door, Volume I [1980]
The Tale of Willie the Humpback Whale [1981]
Two Modern Short Stories of Immigrant life [1984]
The Safe Child/the Unsafe Child [1985]

Presently In Print

The Last Trumpet and the Woodbridge Demon

Angelic Renegades & Rephaim Giants

Tales of the Tiamat [not released]
Can be purchased individually [trilogy]

Tiamat, Mother of Demon I
Gwyllion, Daughter of the Tiamat II
Revenge of the Tiamat III

Mantic ore: Day of the Beast

Chasing the Sun
[Travels of D.L Siluk]

Islam, In Search of Satan’s Rib

The Addiction Books of D.L. Siluk:

A Path to Sobriety,
A Path to Relapse Prevention
Aftercare: Chemical Dependency Recovery


A Romance in Augsburg I
Romancing San Francisco II
Where the Birds Don’t Sing III
Stay Down, Old Abram IV


Perhaps it’s Love
Cold Kindness

The Suspense short stories of D.L. Siluk:

Death on Demand
[Seven Suspenseful Short Stories]

Dracula’s Ghost
[And other Peculiar stories]

The Mumbler [psychological]

After Eve [a prehistoric adventure]


[Poems-Volume II, 2003]

The Macabre Poems [2004]

Spell of the Andes [2005]

Peruvian Poems [2005]

Last autumn and Winter [2006]
[Poems out of Minnesota]

Poetic Images out of Peru
[And other poem, 2006]

Orion’s Orchards
Selected New Poems
[And other Poems, 2006]

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ferocious Centipedes [Sketches of a Minnesota Shoeshine Boy's Life]

Ferocious Centipedes
[Sketches of a Minnesota Shoeshine Boy’s life]

Written by: Dennis L. Siluk

Index of Interlinking sketches/episodes
And Poems

Index of Stories:

Note: dates are approximate
Non-fiction/ Stories 1 thru 15 were written in St. Paul, Minnesota; 16 through 23, written in Lima, Peru

Introductory Poem: Grandpa’s House

Introductory Poem: —Passing by the Cathedral
[Written 2/21/2006]

Ferocious Centipedes
[This Series written in St. Paul, Minnesota]

1—The Attic [1958: written 7/20/2005]
2—Grandpa’s Mantel Clock [1959: written 8/8/05]
3—Goldfish, Dying [1959: written 9/30/2005]
4—The Dark Bedroom [1954: written 8/3/2005]
5—Ferocious Centipedes [1953-55 [?]: written 8/17/2005]
A Poetic Story: —The Cat Poem [1959]
[Written #1065 1/6/2006]
6—The Winter School [l957: written 8/1/2005]
7—The Lunch Box [1956/In English and Spanish]
8—The Big Carrot [1959; written 9/24/2005]
9—The Corral [1952: written 8/7/2005]
10—The Pig [1957: written 8/13/2005]
11—The Porch [1960: written 11/24/2005]
12—The Wino [l958: written 8/13/05]
13—Grandpa’s Reproaching [1957: written 9/28/2005]
A Poetic Story: —The Potato Patch [1957-58]
[Written 1/31/2005]
14—The Brick [1952: written9/29/2005]
15—The Big Mouse [written: 8/7/2005]

Grandpa’s House [Series]
[This Series written in Lima, Peru]

EP= El Parquetito Café

16—Grandpas Pipe [1959: written 4/22/2006/in Peru]
17—The Wiggly Tooth [1958: written 4/17/2006]
Written at EP/Café, Lima Peru
18—Dust Under the Bed [1956: Written 5/16/06]
19—2nd-Fight [1957: Written 5/16/06]
20—A Double $500 [1962: Written 5/16/06]
21—“Woodview” [—Detention Center: 1961]
Note: Stories: “Dust Under the Bed”, “ 2nd-Fight,” and
“A Double $500 written at Angelo’s Café 5/15/2006;
Written 5/18/2006 at Angello’s Café [Lima, Peru]
22—Grandpa Was Always Old [Elegy]
Written in Peru, 5/18/2006
23—First Sight of Death [1956-57]
Written 5/19/2006 EP Café/Lima, Peru
24— “Liver or Steak?”
[Grandpa’s House/1956]
Written 6/1/2006 at the “Favorita,” café in Lima, Peru
25—Huge Horse [1960]
Written 5/19/06 El Parquetito [EP] Café, Lima, Peru

End Poems:

1—Train to Newport (1963)
[Written 2/23/2006]

2—The Missing Song
[End Poem #1331/5/1/2006]



About the Houses

A note about the stories and the houses you are going to read about shortly, those involved with the stories here. There are two houses here Dennis will be writing about, and a boarding farm; the first was at 109 East Arch Street, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The City drew up plans [a design] for low income housing that involved a certain area of land, and his grandfather’s house was on the list to vacate: so his Grandpa was forced to move: as was his brother and along with my mother, we all moved, all of us who lived there with Grandpa, moved out in the summer of 1957. We moved to 186 Cayuga Street, in St. Paul, Minnesota, about two miles away from where the other house was. Prior to these two houses, between the years of 1949 and 1951 or ’52, the author and his brother and mother lived on Ingelhard Street, in an apartment, on the weekends, and during the week, lived in North St. Paul, on a Boarding Farm, until that is, when they moved in with their Grandpa.
He, Dennis was born in October of 1947, so you can look at the dates of when the stories took place as you read them. It was the Post WWII era. Then the 50s came into the scene, with Rock ‘n Roll, at the head of the switchboard. The dance called The Twist soon won the hearts of many; Elvis and Pat Boone, were replaced soon by the Beatles, and Elvis had his ‘Comeback,’ in 1968, but these stories you are about to read only touch the surface of the 60s, and for the most part, remain in the 50s; about a ten year period, a decade of sketches of a restless youth, growing.
The Author has used the name of Lee, his middle name, and Chick, a nickname his mother called him growing up, to specify him as the character in the story.

By: Rosa Peñaloza


Passing by the Cathedral

I often passed by the St. Paul Cathedral:
Passing by in a car;
Perhaps I’ve passed it a million times,
I’ve never counted, it always swells
My heart.
I pass it so fast
(Nowadays, or so it seems)
It’s hard to make it out; but no need to,
I know it by heart…
I want to get out of the car and go up to it:
It rests on a summit (the highest point in
St. Paul, I do believe), to what,
I’m not sure,
It seldom changes its composure.
A passing glimpse is all I get—my eyes are not
As quick, or swift as they used to be—
Getting old.
When I was young: to walk in those great halls
Of hers, or under her great dome—walk
Around those monstrous pillars: often crossed
My mind—and one day I did, and I seemed
So very small, listening to my echo… return!
In autumn, its copper dome looks bluish, with
Autumn colors of: red, orange, green and blue
(Around it): most beautiful.
Leaves brushed across
It’s encircling streets and lawns, by the
Minnesota winds….
They put on brown copper to its dome, a new
Roof, they call it; about five years ago, that no one
On earth likes—heaven I doubt will even
Glance at it now.
It’s a shame, the young folks will only have
Pictures to look at how it used to be, until that is,
Until the copper molds with age again.

#1229 2/21/06


The Attic Bedroom
[An Old Type Winter—1958] Short Story

Again, Lee, now eleven-years old, and Mike, his brother, two years his senior, ran through the second floor attic bedroom discovering Grandpa Anton was listening, they heard grandpa cursing and mumbling in the living room, then their mother crossed from the kitchen to the dinning room and they could hear her foot steps crossing into her bedroom opening up the upstairs attic door, usually it was left open so the heat could rise, but closed when the boys wanted the attic to be sound proof. Their mother [Elsie] like a baseball umpire calling a strike asked would say: “… what is going on up there?” It normally was a good pillow fight. They’d back off slowly standing by the cold window, their beds on each side of the window, they’d be silent for a moment—looking at each others eyes…(wanting to laugh but stone still) the chill of the wind seeping through the crevasses of the window had a bite to it—: and then they’d start laughing when the coast was clear, when they’d hear her go walking away, but she’d leave the door open for assurances it would remain quiet
Lee and Mike, and their mother lived with Grandpa Anton, and they all knew who owned the house, Grandpa…and quiet was a virtue on his list; as a result, Lee and Mike would run down the stairs to put their coats and hats on, to venture out into the arctic type Minnesota winter: through the kitchen to the pantry entrance where the backdoor was—: grandpa would be pacing the living room floor, pipe in his mouth looking at his watch–-glancing at the black mantel clock in the dinning room against the wall, a mirror overhead, as if he was going someplace… waiting for the Sunday’s roast to be done…he’d follow the boys with his eyes looking above his pipe and knuckles as he placed his tobacco…testing to see if it was lit far enough down the hole of the pipe.

There was no dog to kick, so Grandpa Anton would kick the rug, as if there was not enough noise to distract him, but grandpa Anton was not one of those—widowers, who for thirty-years who liked sitting around too long; so, over and over and over he’d walk his path from the front door that lead out to the porch, from the living room where the T.V. sat, to the entrance of the dinning room which was partitioned off only by a huge archway, as if there was a no-go zone. If Hop Alone Cassidy was on television, he’d sit in his sofa chair in front of the it (hoping I’m sure) the roast would not demand his assistance for a small piece of his time; yet—unrepentantly …the phone would ring, and on the other end would be an Uncle or Aunt of the boys, they all came over for Sunday dinner, all fifteen of them—it would be sacrilegious if they protested (and didn’t), and so they’d come, no matter how much snow, rain or sleet was forecasted for the day, —other than a tornado, they’d come. It was best also, that they call, for the phone had a forty-call limit on it, and a party line to boot: that at times had double conversations [parties] going on, as you’d try to carry a dialogue with your caller…it could be hectic.
Lee and Mike would be putting on their boots to tread through the heaps of snow the winter wonderland left the night before, for it was never graceful in allowing man or beast a pathway in that area of the country.
(Leaping backwards just a bit here.)
Grandpa now, who had been listening to the boys upstairs—also to the racket in the pantry, he waited patiently for the door to slam standing by the phone, hoping they’d stay outdoors for the day, the whole day…god forbid they come back before Hippie… was over… but now back to the phone; …the boys could see Grandpa talking through the three windows (along side the house) as they walked by the dinning room, as he stood on the boarder of the living room and dinning room…the-no go zone: the boys tightening their scarf’s around their faces as the below zero winds and snow slapped raw frosted ice at their cheeks and foreheads, eyes, freezing every exposed piece of flesh, even their hair, creating white frozen beards, numbing the rest of their exposed skin, while trying to creep around the edges of their hats up their pants legs, to chill whatever was left, and onto their earlobes, and into their ears, Old Man Winter, hoping to frost-bite the living…daylights out of them.


Grandpa's Mantel Clock [1959]

The main dresser or cabinet, better described—for it was in the dinning room of the house on Cayuga Street where our family had moved to in 1958—the main dresser held the black Mantel Clock of my grandfather’s; as would be described: a long and dark wooden clock, turn of the century type, as I recall, with two cabinets below it which kept the doilies, linens and other such things in place, for the dinning table. On top of the long stretched out dresser (piece of furniture) a section was for my mother’s things or at least that is where her keys and such items would end up each day after work, so she could grab them quickly in the morning as she dashed off to the stockyards in South Saint Paul, Minnesota, about thirteen miles away; and then, there—right in the middle onto of the cabinet [cupboard] was the old turn of the century wooden clock, black with pillars on it. Black as black can be: shinny black. It looked like it had a porcelain face, and it might have said ‘Made by Seth Thomas,’ in it (as I recall)—on the face of the clock. As one walked through the kitchen, to get to the living room crossing over through the dinning room, it was to the left (by grandpa’s no-go zone), with a mirror adjusted on the wall right over the clock, you could see the dinning room table if you stood right in front of it, and its six wooden chairs.
It was an eight-day clock; it rang on the half-hour, and hour. Grandpa would wind it up every so often, no one else dared to touch it. The Old Russia Bear, had it there ever since I can remember; my grandmother, whom had never seen us boys, my brother and I, died in 1933, died at the age of 33, died of double-pneumonia, her picture was next to the clock, on the right-hand side of it, to the south.
Also there was a cigar box full of coins nearby the clock, mostly pennies, but other coins as well; —and I liked to check them out for the dates, I saved pennies, old pennies back then. I always wished I could find the 1909 S VDB penny, boy what a prize it would had been, but I would have to wait 45-years, and then buy one for $800-dollars. One time I got a 1914 penny, and someone said the ‘D’ had been cut off it, so it was not worth even a penny; my luck. I never had much luck to speak of; only a lot of good breaks in life, so I didn’t count on luck for much, if anything. But my grandfather would allow me to check the pennies out, off and on during my formative years, and when I got older too, I’d end up buying a black mantel clock (like that penny), and I would eventually send my son a black mantel clock who lived several states from me (Cody, in Columbus, Ohio). It is funny how we absorb life’s little idiosyncrasies; more often than not we pick up and live our childhood perhaps sideways—after our childhood is long gone that is; what we couldn’t do then, we fix it up now (not a bad thing, or good thing, just something we do). But it was nice he thought of me; all because of a clock and a box of pennies, we both found something to talk about, and he didn’t talk much.


Goldfish, Dying! [1958]

It is forenoon, the summer of the year 1958. My mother just went down stairs, she says, “I won’t be long, I got to wash a few cloths.”
I’m at the sink, cleaning out my fishbowl. Grandpa is outside, trimming the lilac bushes; my brother is someplace with his new go-cart. As I was about to say, I’m cleaning the glass of the fish bowel in the kitchen, that is; taking the rocks out: replacing the water, cleaning the rocks, and I look at my goldfish (I’m eleven years old); I remain standing at the sink in the kitchen.
Now I got everything ready: the new water, and the rocks are back into the bowel, and I’m—I’m about to put my goldfish back into the bowl: slowly I pick it up, pickup my glass with the fish in it, my intentions are to drop the fish in the rounded top (the hole) of the bowel (and I know I got to be quick)) and coordinated)); I will have once chance, but I’m ready; I’m already to pour the fish back into its home: yes I say again to myself: I got to do it hurriedly, but the fish is feisty very lively today (perhaps overfed them yesterday)) there are two of them)); two quick witted fish, I think they are—quicker than me anyhow, and I get the notion they do not like the environment right now in that glass, so I raise the glass up and as I start to pour the water in the glass, with the fish in it, into the glass bowel, with the fish, the hole of the bowel looking at me, the glass hits the rim, the rim of the glass bowel and the fish falls head first (both) into he sink, and I panic, and I panic, and I rush, rush, rush to save my goldfish: I’m in a terror, fright, alarm…god, what can I do…?

[?] I scream: “Mom…mom…my fi…as...fa…s…help!!”

My mother runs up the stairs. Her face is not calm, and sullen, her eyes brooding and alert— (here adrenaline has kicked in to high gear) within them I can see trouble for me: her expression is sudden, intent and concerned. My eyes are like marbles, the fish is in the sink wiggling all about, it might go down into the drain (I tell myself): I trip over your tongue, my words stutter out slowly: everything is upside down in my head, words coming out right—I look at her and the fish: her and the fish: her and the fish.
My mother says: “Fish…what fish…? are you talking about…!~? What’s the matter, are you hurt?”
She looks in the sink, at me, at the fish in the sink, at me, grabs the fish, puts it into the fish bowel, so easy, too easy (I’m thinking, why I couldn’t do that).
“Explain to me what is the emergency for you to be screaming so loud? (Hesitates) —The fish?” she asks staring into my marble eyes, with her sudden, intent and lack of concerned eyes now (knowing there is really no emergency). I think she knows it’s the fish, and I overreacted (woops).
“I couldn’t get the fish…it was, was, was...go,gooo…ing to go down the drain, I thought I was ga-going to kill it, I mean, it was going to die in the drain…I got…I couldn’t get it, it, it…though it would stop breathing...!”
“Do you want me to have a heart attack?” she says now, with a civil voice: no more concern, no more anger, just a sigh of relief, and a time for explaining.
“Not again, do not call me up these stairs to save another fish again, next time…just make sure there is no next time, ok? Pick it up and put it in the bowl!!”
“Yes,” I said, and then was tongued tied, as I looked at my fish swimming around safely in my fish bowel, and my mother walking down the steps. Was it worth it—Yes, I think so—but I’m sorry I caused her to think the worse had happened to me: but what are mothers for? Did I ever do it again—never!


The Dark Bedroom [1953-54?]

[St. Paul, Minnesota] It’s hard to forget ones old home, or house, it was at 109 East Arch Street in St. Paul, Minnesota, it was: grandpa’s house, mom and my brother Mike (my older brother by two-years: I was six then, perhaps six and a half years old), along with two aunts all lived there in the early 50s; an extended family type situation you could say. Anyhow, he, my brother was snoring away—(Mike) you could see into the living room through the open space of the door (I opened it a bit), the space heater was flickering with light—(fire) I could see it, hear it; it was where everyone was—everyone besides me and my brother—that is, everyone else in the household were in the living room.
“Hush in there,” Mother said, “…you boys go-on back to sleep now.”
The black mantel clock was ticking, the door shut again, and the room went dark then Mike said, beside me:
“Go to sleep—will you!” pulling the covers over his head; therefore, I remained quiet; that is, quiet and restless, but by being quiet I could hear the voices in the living room, that is what I wanted in the first place, I just wanted company, but so be it if I couldn’t have it; it was as if I could hear the dark, it stopped, and mother looked at me peeking through the opening of the door again—Grandpa was smoking his pipe as usual, sitting by the fire, socks on, the big black and white T.V. on; mother just bought it at the Emporium I think, or perhaps the Golden Rule, both big department stores; she bought them a few months preceding this evening.
The dark went away, and mother looked at me again; Betty and Rose were watching the T.V., her sisters. Mom walked by my door again, smiled, walking to the kitchen, couldn’t tell if the smile was for me—the smile—or something someone said in the living room; she had a lit cigarette, a chain smoker (she would smoke for forty-years then see me quite smoking, and she’d get on her hands and knees and ask the Lord to help her, and that would be that, no more smoking).
“No.” Grandpa said, mother had asked a question.
“Yes,” Betty said.
As mother walked by with two glasses of water, cigarette in her mouth she looked at me again. Then the dark came back, she had shut the door, kicked it I think. I could sense her presence standing and waiting outside the door; she was still outside I think, waiting for me to open it, I’m sure of it. I could hear her breathing, I think. Then I woke up, it was morning.


Ferocious Centipedes

As a child I lived for a long period of time in an extended family environment, my grandfather, Anton was the head of the house, and it was my brother and I, my mother, and two of her sisters living in a small three bedroom house. The house was heated by a space heater in the living room. The iceman had to bring dried ice to keep our icebox cold; we had a well along side of the house for water, and there were old barns next door on each side of our house, being converted into garages. The city of St. Paul was quite conservative back then [in Minnesota]. And many families lived like us—together in an extended family environment; those setups seem to be coming back some nowadays, with the shortage of houses in Minnesota, and high rents. They were hard-working folks, my family: uncles, aunts, grandfather, and my mother; my mother worked for Swifts, at the stockyards, and my grandfather a painter, worked for a few outfits, and eventually, acquired a restaurant, along with his day job as a painter and had someone work it when he couldn’t.
My brother Mike—two years older than I—and I slept in the bedroom next to the dinning room; my mother in the bedroom across from the living room; and my grandfather in the bedroom across from the bathroom. The two sisters slept on the couch and a rollaway bed, in the living room, and sometimes with my mother. This was during the early fifties [1951-57]. We did have plenty to eat on the table back then, just not much money to do anything else. It was in 1956 when we got our large black and white television, and what a crown of glory it was for the house.
Of all those days, there are a few select that will never slip my memory. My mother, poor woman, she’d be walking in the dinning room setting up lunch, or wiping down the curtains, and a centipede would appear; you know, those little creatures, wormlike animals with a hundred legs, one for each section of its body, slim body, and little antennas (modified legs, that can be poison fangs) you can’t really see those legs, unless you are on top of them. Little beady eyes and yellowish in color (they came in all sizes: large, medium and small back then), some a bit more tan. They could run when cornered I’ll tell you that, perhaps faster than the Roadrunner (that cartoon Roadrunner on TV I used to so much of), and I suppose that is what made them more creeper than a mouse, for my mother was not afraid of mice.
But let me get to the point here. She’d jump and scream when she saw a centipede; indeed she would—, scream until her lungs almost collapsed. She definitely looked as though she needed calm down pills. Arrayed in a morbid, pale face, grandpa would come running from wherever he was: basement, kitchen, cellar (feeding his pigeons), thinking the roof fell in, fell on top of her—only to find out he had to undertake the killing of a ferocious centipede, thus, he would take his bare-foot, smash it, and walked away saying,
“I can’t believe this, it…it…by god-what is the matter with that woman!” and then came an entourage of four lettered words.
Next, she’d quickly put on her slippers if she didn’t have them on already: white-moccasins, with beady-laced trim around, and in the center of the leathered moccasins; she was partial fond of that kind of footwear.
To be quite frank, I never saw a more frightened person over a centipede in my entire life—then, and up to now, more than my mother. During these outbursts, she seemed to suck up all the oxygen in the room she was in; yes, without a doubt, I’d seem to get exhausted just watching it, watching these trials of fright; during those years we lived at 109 East Arch Street. I really felt for her, I mean, I felt helpless wanting to help her, and perplexed at the same time, because I couldn’t; trying to figure out what was so scary about a bug, other than it was creepy looking.
Then there was the spiders who loved to entertain my mother, and they seemed to paralyze her like the centipedes, to the point there was no escape from them, but to scream; and scream she did; again I say, old grandpa would look at her when she’d go into those ferocious spells, and just utter, “Yeah, yeah (and the four letter words)…” and shake his head as if it was loose at its core. But I kind of miss those days. Well, kind of, she’s been gone now for a few years, and just before she passed on, I brought back a large dead tarantula, from South America, and told her if she could hold the dead creature, I’d give her a little pot of bullion, and she held it, but only for a five seconds, and she got her pot.

A Poetic Story—The Cat Poem [1959]
[Written #1065 1/6/2006]

Note by the author: I am not sure what got into me about wanting to write a cat poem (as you can see I selected a great name for the poem); I just did it, out of the blue. I must have been triggered somehow because I do not care for cats. To be honest, if God gave me a choice between cats and cockroaches, I’d take the latter: and I’m sure I might have been a happier person. I do think cats are good for something, not sure what, perhaps for rats. It all stems back to when I was a boy scout, or at least that is what a psychologist would say: flashbacks, the white rabbit syndrome. When I was out camping at St. Croix campgrounds (Minnesota), back when I was thirteen, or so, I was in a big tent with kids, and guess who wakes me up? Yes, a cat purring down my mouth paws on my throat, and it scares the crap out of me when I opened my eyes and saw those marble eyes staring into mine. Now that I think of it, perhaps this poem is long overdue. In any case, I dedicate it to all the cat lovers out there, to include my wife:

The Cat Poem

Cats, I never did care for them
My wife had—before we wed—
Fifteen of them—.
They’re too lordly in the household
For me—:
Too aristocrat-able to please;
They are everything but what they
Seem, and
They seem surreal; and endlessly
Dreaming—or perhaps it’s scheming
(I can’t tell the difference)—but,
One thing I do know: they have mystic
Marble-eyeballs—: gives me the chill.


The Winter School
[Ecole St. Louis/in St. Paul, MN; 1957]

“We…!” [We being: my brother and I] were a team, that is, we were quite the team growing up in the inner city of St Paul, Minnesota, during the l950s; we wrestled with the long drawn out winters of the late fifties on our way to school, Ecole St. Louis.
My mother, a meatpacker, who worked at the ‘Swift & Co.,’ in South St. Paul, across the Mississippi River—the stockyards, that is, was the biggest in the USA, next to Chicago’s I heard. And the few times I got to go out there with my mother’s boyfriend, Ernie, to pick her up—she had to work a different shift often—I got to witness it’s hugeness, and it was like a little city unto itself.
As I look back now, it seems I was just enduring those winters, one after the other—the winters nowadays are nothing compared to them it seems. Yes, I remember trying to rush to grow up and get out of this winter wonderland of Minnesota also. But my brother Mike and I in spite of this, had to wait, and so as the winters came and left, we would hike through the snow, across the Mont-airy Park (where we once lived on Arch Street, until they converted it to low cost housing), down the hill, across the road, and into the downtown area of the city, to 10th near Cedar Street, where Ecole St. Louis, our French, Christian school was. It was a three-mile hike, and by the time I got to the school, my legs were sore from lifting them up to take the next step forward, especially if the snow was hard, and you could not push your legs forward, rather, you had to lift them, and set them back down to the next step. This went on until you got to the sidewalk, which was down the hill, from the park I just mentioned. No public busing then.
The school was right across the street from the Police and Fire Station. I loved this little French school, I wasn’t French though, not by a long shot, not sure why it was referred as that, other than the parish was supposed to be French, and I always assumed the church belong with the school—; matter of fact, there were more Irish, and Polish kids there than French. And none of the nun’s was French, or looked or spoke French, to my attention to detail. The only thing French about it was its name I think, other than, possibly its structure—and again I say, adjacent to the school was the French church, or parish I just spoke of, there you may have found your French people.
The school was erected to house classrooms, and we had some one hundred and thirty children at the school. We had big classrooms, and sometimes had two grades per classroom. And my guess would be there must had been thirty plus students to a room at times, if not forty.
The school consisted of two stories on a high basement of native limestone; Minnesota is good for limestone. The top story was a slate mansard roof broken by circular windows with fleur-de-lis ornament. I think a French-type dome, narrow façade composed of a forward block or pavilion. The back and sides of the building were of a much plainer design. Actually there was a third floor, but it wasn’t used, I had snuck up to it a few times. An attic I’d had called it back then. But prior to my attending the school which was constructed and opened in 1886—the church preceding it by thirteen-years—was used for a theater of sorts. When I snuck up into it, one could put his foot into holes in the floor-boards, created and broken by time’s neglect; and other rats like me sneaking up for a glimpse I suppose, didn’t help it. If you didn’t watch your step, I do believe one might have even ended up on top of a teacher’s desk below. Some of the boards even looked as if they were rotting in places, possibly a few holes in the roof causing dampness—into our youthful little bones below; and then weakness to some beams. They can swell you know, and then be reduced in strength. And so carefully I explored the forbidden.
The school was not free to attend, and at times it did become costly for my mother (a single parent); I especially got the feeling of its high cost, when my mother’s workplace ‘Swift’s and Co.,’ went on strike. During those days, my mother would instruct us boys, for it was just my brother and I, instruct us to tell the Mother Nun-Superior [or principle], they’d have to wait to get the next payment [tuition], they always frowned on those provocative requests, and I was the giver of bad news often, too often to their liking: not building up much of a rapport with the chain of command. I told myself a number of times I’d not cry if the school closed down, or if my mother could not afford to pay, going to a public school was fine with me, a little scary, but fine. I doubt they would cut your hair there with a grass cutter, or make you write your name fifty-times on the blackboard for leading a gang in the back of the school to fight another class. Hick I thought, I had leadership skills (and in future time, became a Staff Sergeant in the US Army; and even ended up in a little war called Vietnam); is that not what they wanted. Plus, I won a knife, for not missing any school, the year before. But Mother Superior looked at me stern, when she said:
“Now you can pick any one of these five items for your reward for not missing any school…” and I looked at a holy cross, and a bible, and a picture of Jesus and Mary, and then I took the fishing knife. She gave me a sneer, and so I held onto the knife tightly (instinct), and quickly got away from her before she talked me into changing my mind, and item, I do recall her echoing:
“You sure you want the knife?” I was sure.
But for reasons unknown to me, my mother wanted my brother and me to have a Christian education. Although I can’t remember much about them talking about the bible—, but we did respect the flag, and go over the Ten Commandments. And a quick prayer in the morning never seemed to hurt, sometimes silent, in front of the beautifully painted statue of Marry, and a few words to the American Flag beside her out loud, and on with business we went. I guess today it’s against the Constitution for some odd reason. Oh well, things change.
Once we got to school, my brother went upstairs, and I down, kicking the snow off our rubbers above our shoes: that is, went over and around our shoes, unzipping them down the center, then putting them in the back closet area, where we all hung up our coats, hats, and hoped everyone remained with Christian values for the rest of the day, and didn’t take them.

Linda was favored by my nun teacher, not sure why, she was cute, I liked her, and knew where she lived, and even went over to see her once or twice, with my friend Mike Rosette, and he and I got in a fight over her (my first fight); something like that. A few of the older kids were trying to coheres me to defend my honor; as you might expect, Linda was watching, and I, I…hate to admit, I wanted to show off. And so I continued unabated and I knocked Mike on the ground—I stopped, even though the other kids told me to continue, I just, just couldn’t continue. Mike kind of whispered in a hurtful way,
“…they’re simply egging you on…to give them a show…!” he added something like: and for me not to get encouraged by it. And so I stepped back, and the older kids got mad; he was right, it was their show, and now it was over. Point well taken I thought afterwards, for Mike and I were still friends.

—I remember the tall ceiling in the rooms in the school; it had lowered light fixtures that hung overhead, giving a rustic kind of atmosphere, and it seemed to give off shadows, and blotted light. When a sunny day came in winter, a glare came through the windows. Matter-of-fact, I never liked sitting by the windows in winter, the windows were always cold, and the window sills allowed cold air to seep through, and it got against my neck, up my legs, and ankles, and broke my concentration; what little I had back then; I think I was hyperactive, but that word was not used back then, it was called, mischievous, or high energy. My energy, my blood was like a wild river running up and down my body, giving me chills sometimes. And when I left to go home after school, onto the busy city streets I’d rush to walk home before it got dark. Winter in Minnesota made the days short and nights long. And if I had a dime, I’d walk a block over to Jackson Street and wait for the bus. My brother got out an hour earlier not sure why, I guess because he was in the upper grades and it was a gift to the elder for making it through the lower grades. If you could survive through all these winters at this school, I guess you deserved a little something, my day was coming I told myself. It was just a few more winters away.
Well, things didn’t work out as I thought they would, or maybe they did, matter-of-fact, maybe they worked out for the better. In l958, my mother was out of work again, and we couldn’t pay the tuition, and the school couldn’t afford to waive it for a period of time and so I was forced to go to a public school (sometimes things work for the better). It was a bit frightful, especially that summer thinking how I was going to get to school in the winter. I had it all sorted out for the little French school. But I pushed it aside and figured things would work themselves out somehow, they always did. And they did; and I got to stand in the snow now in winter, or inside the Jewish grocery story about five blocks from my house to wait for the bus. It was too far to walk, seven miles that is; as Ecole St. Louis, was but a few. The school closed it doors in the early 60’s, it was sad to hear that: and then they tore it down to make space for another building, a more modern structure, ugly as hell. Well, that’s progress for you. But that was my last winter at the school, l957; I had been there since l954. No big thing.


The Lunchbox

[1954-1957] We couldn’t always afford the hot lunches at St. Louis school [in St. Paul, Minnesota] during my elementary years [formative years], so my mother bought me a lunchbox, a Lone Ranger designed lunchbox, and I was proud to own it: yes indeed, very bigheaded about it, I suppose, if kids had heroes, and not absorptions, he was kind of my hero. And my mother would make my peanut butter sandwiches, from none other than Peter Pan Peanut Butter gars, not sure if they sell that kind anymore; then of course came Skippy Peanut butter down the lane, and a little computation [I was 9-years old then].
Then I think we went back and forth with which peanut butter was best for my lunchbox, I mean, it had to be the best for the Lone Ranger lunchbox, for I was carrying his symbol about (and I think I even had some kind of secret badge to a club of his if I recall right). And amongst those sandwiches, were a lone banana or apple, or orange, I hoped not the orange always, it was too messy, and I’d just stick a finger in it and such out all the juice, and go wash my hands. Thus, I preferred the banana.
Then my brother Mike and I would march on down to school, and when lunchtime came, I’d march on down to the basement of the 1886, schoolhouse, and eat lunch in the lunchroom. There were different times for lunch for different classes and grades, and so Mike being two grades higher than I, ate before me, and left school before me, at 2:00 PM, verses, my 4:00 PM. But I always prayed mom would forget to buy wax paper for the sandwiches, and have to give us .25-cents [or was it .15-cents?] for lunch: yes I preferred the hot lunch to the cold, although I liked bringing my Lone Ranger lunchbox.
If, in fact, anything, as I look back now, my mother (who has passed on ((July 1, 2003)), loved being a mom, I mean, she really did. I suppose the years of us boys in our teens got too her, as they do to most parents, if not all parents, but I think (as I now look back and review some old pictures), she just simply like being a mom; enjoyed it, love it. It was more than a job to her. She never had much in life, but she had that.
On Sundays, old Grandpa, Russian built, stout, would call up the family for afternoon dinner; it was always like a banquette it seemed. He was a good ole soul, just cursed with the wicked tongue a lot (as they say in Peru: he had hair on his tongue). He’d make the best Sunday dinners anyone could have imagined. And if the relatives would not come over to eat, God save their souls, he’d start to curse the Old Russian way, and it would go on eternally, or so it seemed. You’d think he was fifty feet tall, he was 4’11, yes, just under five foot, like my wife, and she thinks she’s fifty feet tall to. Anyhow they came, and what was left over: chicken or ham, we’d get in the lunches until doomsday [doomsday being, until there was no more of course]. I mean grandpa bought a 20-pound ham, two chickens, sausage, and the stove was cooking from midnight the day before until noon the following day, just before everyone sat down to eat on Sunday; sometimes his cooking pans he’d put in the oven, were so large, they barely fit.
But yes, yes undeniably, there was a problem though: when mom put the ham onto the sandwiches, and wrapped them in wax paper, by noon the following day, they’d be soggy, yes really, saggy as milk on breed, and you’d have to drag the meat off. But I never said anything, lest I end up with peanut butter five days in a row.
In the lunch room Linda MaCalley the eye catcher of the room, we had two grades in our room, and between thirty and forty students [big rooms, and lots of heads to look over, at and around], as I was about to say, Linda MaCalley, she was the prettiest one in class, and we sat together now and then, more than, than now, but it happened. I even stuck up for her once, that is, I was playing by her house one day, downtown St. Paul, after school, walked my friend Mike Reassert, his home (he and Linda lived by one another; we were all poor folks], and he said something about her and a fight started, I got the better of him, but she got to watch her hero fight for her. It didn’t lead to anything, but then the Lone Ranger’s followers couldn’t expect much, could they now? I had a reputation to uphold for him. He may have been my first hero, I’m not sure, but it is good to have good heroes to emulate. It delivers down the road of life. I don’t know much of Mr. Clayton Moore, whom was the actor in the movie [s], but I can say this, they don’t make his kind anymore. Nor would I care to have my children emulate any new actors of today, God help their souls should they. Anyhow, this is the tale, the story of my first lunchbox you could say, in those far of days of my youth.


The Big Carrot [1959]

Uncle Ernest, who really was not my uncle but my mother’s boyfriend for some forty-years found out my secret when I was eleven + years old, back in the summer of ’59, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He had about a half archer of land in the city, and a big garden and he gave me a small section of it, of the garden that is, so I could grow carrots.
Well, I was grateful, and so I tried to copy him by planting my seeds in a number of rows: not too close, not too far apart, and picking out the weeds, watering it when needed, and so forth and so on; but my carrots just didn’t grow like his: but my envy grew.
Well, we lived next door to him—kind of lived next door, across from an empty lot, a big empty lot—dividing our houses: my brother Mike, my mother and my grandpa, we lived together; but it was grandpa’s house. And Earnest had two children who lived with him. And so it wasn’t a long hike to his garden: with a simple jump over the fence, which he never liked.
So it was that that every so often I’d go and check on my garden to see how my carrots were doing: and they were not doing very good, not compared to his. This one day, summer day, 1959 (the year he traded his old 50-Chevy and bought his Galaxy Ford 500), I saw him go into his house—using the backdoor, my mother had just come down to visit him (he could see her walking from our home to his), and so I knew he’d not be back in the garden for the rest of the evening. They took turns going to each others houses, for the most part, but as time went on, and I got older, it seemed she preferred—his, because of grandpa: it was his house, and he’d be ornery all the time, and—you know, its better left alone. And so that is how it was.
As I was about to say, Ernie went into his house, as I often called him back then: Ernie, and I got to looking at his garden, he had many things growing but somehow I was more interested in how his carrots were growing. The top of his carrots were as round as my writs, and mine were as round as my thumb: this was not just, not fair by any means I felt, and envy set into me, like white on rice. Consequently, I looked here and there, mostly at the backdoor that lead out to a wooden platform, an open porch kind of, to see if Ernie was coming, and he wasn’t. Carefully I dug around and pulled out one big carrot of Ernie’s from the back row by the fence. Then I padded the dirt around it so he’d not expect any dirty deeds (but life is never so sweet is it).
So the deed was done, and I went back home to watch T.V. with grandpa—I hid a few apples in the side of the sofa and across from me was grandpa, who was watching as usual, watching TV and in-between me, watching a western, as he liked; his pipe half out, half lit, in the ashtray burning slowly, him in his sofa chair.
“Vhen you e’er stop eating~” he’d say with his normal mumbling, not looking directly at me, but from the corner of his eye, “…ya, ya, ya, et, eet, eet, and vait tell you got to buy dhe food…” the old Russian never stopped complaining. Anyhow, I had the two other apples in the corner so when he saw me eating the apple, I’d eat the seeds and all (I still do to this day), and when he looked at me again, he kept seeing the one apple, never knowing I had three. He thought I was really eating slowly, two hours to eat one apple. He never was the wiser.
Anyhow, about 9:30 PM, the next day, my bedtime was 10:00 PM, Ernie brought my mother home, walked her home, and they were in the kitchen. My mother asked me to come in the kitchen for a moment, and I did. Ernie was there with a big carrot in his hand, for a moment I thought it was just some vegetables from his garden he was bringing over (he did that quite often), and he said:
“Does this look familiar?”
“No,” I said, “Why?”
“I think it does,” said my mother, with an evil eye, or an inner eye looking through me.
“Well,” she said, “Ernie found this in your garden, and for some odd reason it didn’t seem to belong there with all your little carrots.”
“Yup,” I said (I couldn’t talk my way out of it I knew), adding, “I, I didn’t think taking one carrot would matter, I mean you got all the big ones, I got only small ones.” No logic to my statement, but at eleven years old, has any kid got logic, or all that much to say? I think they were trying to hold back the humor of the situation, but it was theft, and it had to be dealt with.
“Didn’t it seem obvious that it would stand out?” asked my mother (I think my envy blinded me).
I looked a bit anxious for being caught, I guess I was sorrier for being caught, than for taking the carrot, but it proved I couldn’t be a thief: in any case, I said, “I never thought of it.” And that was the truth.


The Corral (North St. Paul, Minnesota; 1952)

I stood there against the fence, within the corral, sunbeams brushing across my face, yellow hay soaking into the drying up mud from the rain yesterday; listening to voices of the people around Dan, and Dan the horse; another horse I don’t know his name, whom was by Dan, were restless or so it seemed; I was listening, watching and not thinking about anything at all even when I heard Dan stomping in the mud like a mad mule, I stood there with my eyes closed for a moment I think they were closed, I seemed to be drifting a bit, I was scared a ting, he was hissing People trying to hold him, someone trying to mount him, kids and people all about; he’s being resistant. Now he’s kicking, I opened my eyes Are you hurt (said a voice)?

Tears pouring down my face
I didn’t make a sound
Tears pouring down my face
I felt a kick into my ribs
Dan must have kicked me, hard to breathe
I felt a kick, a kick, and a kick—yes a kick
I didn’t think Dan would have
Janet held me close to her
He’s just five-year old, Dan
What’s the matter with you!
She grabbed his harness
Slapped his face
Quiet now—quiet down!
I know Dan wouldn’t I know that
She held onto me, I wanted to cry
I wanted to say let me go
She held him back, pushed his face
Grabbed me from under his legs
How’d I get there?
I was there
Her face was saying, he could
He could strike out again
Her face was saying that
She took my hand and rubbed it
Against his neck—
My ribs hurt
Then she noticed a bee sting
She said so,
Look at the bee sting
Then she noticed me, she smiled
Along the rim of the saddle
Almost between the saddle
My ribs hurt
She noticed that now
There was the—a dead bee
He must had hit him with his tail
Tried to kill the bee, jumping
Now say his name
She told me
My little heart started beating fast
Say it again
I said it three times
I heard a bird
It seemed to mellow me out
I wanted to cry: I sniffled
And tears came out of my eyes
My head seemed numb
Up, out of a—of a; we walked
To the house

(The boarding farm, l952 it was)

That evening in my bunk bed, my blood surged steadily against my ribs (I can feel it now as I write this).

I kept on thinking for a long time: why did Dan kick me, he didn’t see me I think; I think he’s always been my friend. I feed him almost everyday. That’s what I said to myself. I now could hear Janet (the owner of the farm) and the other kids downstairs,

“Quiet,” she said to the kids…I was thought to be sleeping.

I tried to see my bruised ribs, but my neck hurt trying to bend it along with my twisting over to see the backside of the upper part of the rib area.

“Has it stopped?” Janet asked.

She startled me in the dark, I was thinking of Dan, and here she came into the bedroom; I jumped, and my ribs hurt when I jumped.

”Yes, it almost stopped, I think.” So I said.

She put a cool rag on it, against it, told me to hold it

“Damn, if it will not leave a big burse, your mother will see it and I got a lot of explaining to do.”

I heard a phone ring downstairs, Janet turned to hear if it was for her, the voice said, and “Kiddy Corner— she’s busy right now, can she call you back…?” then I heard the phone receiver heavily put back into place.

My face felt cold, in the warm summer night, it was dark in the bedroom. I got thinking about how I’d feed Dan tomorrow, if Janet let me.
Later on that night Janet come back up stairs, to my bedroom with a piece of beef and put it against my swollen rib side, tied it kind of with some gauze-tape.

“You’ll need this for tonight, beef will take the swelling down, it’ll help,” she said, with an unsure smile on her face now. I wanted to feed Dan tomorrow, I wanted to ask her if I could, I mean, I normally could, did this stop things now?

I think my mother’s coming tomorrow, I said to myself, it’s going to be the weekend, and she comes to pick me and Mike up on the weekends, after work from Swifts (the meat packing planet in South St. Paul). Tomorrow is not too far off. I’ll feed Dan and mom will be here about 5:30 PM, and she’ll take us to stay at Grandpa’s; we’re going to move in there for good, soon. I think I’ve been here for a very long time.

I was there for three and a half years, on the boarding farm, and just after I opened up my eyes after Janet went downstairs, I opened up the curtain to see the back area of the farm, where Dan slept. When they told me to stand by the fence pole, and everyone was busy trying to steady Dan, I must had walked to him, no one seeing me, out to him, wanting to ride him, we were all going to ride him, not sure when my turn was, but that is when he kicked me…it was twilight now, ‘I feel fine,’ I told myself, looking out the window; the gable not allowing me to see right above the house, a more extended view. The cow in the neighbors pasture was still out, ‘I wonder when he’ll have to go to sleep?’ I asked myself.


Big Pig

[1957—summer] It was a bad year for Mike Russet, and his father; he had gotten cancer, and died. I hadn’t’ known anyone to have died up to this point, it was my first encounter with death: experiencing with the face of someone I had known, met, liked, my very first look at loss; that is, it was my very first stumble upon it, it was a new feeling, kind of like he belonged, and then was gone, that is he belong to this world, he was here, and now he was not, out of it, and not for a week or month, but not to return: prior to this, his father, Mike’s father would take Mike and me out on town trips, like a picnic or so; a few things—not often, but occasionally. And so this story I tell out of sadness, for we laughed our stomach sick, and I think Mike’s father would have loved us such a remembrance.
For me it was always nice that he asked me along, knowing he wanted to be with his son, but Mike wanted me along also, more so (or so it seemed), and his father wanted to please Mike; but I often felt out of place, or even misplaced at times; but I like Mike’s father, my father had left before I was even born. So it was a new feeling if anything that his father accepted me and liked having me along. I was ten and a half years old; Mike was a year younger than I. But I’d remember this one afternoon the rest of my life; oh it must had been about several weeks before he was bed-ridded, when he took both, me Mike and Mike’s mother to a farm outside of the city’s limits, and both us boys kneeling against that farm fence were astounded at something as we looked in the pigpen—and then looked at each other, like the wino we once encountered—we were amazed at what we saw.
Mike’s father kept looking at us boys off and on wondering what we saw: a frown came over his face and we boys were just laughing hilariously; laughing without talking, as bad as with the wino.
“Let me in on the secret, —the joke boys?” his father said to both of us boys, and we looked at one another, stared a moment, holding our laughs inside of us, than looked at his father, then at one another again, then back at the big pig laying sprawled out on the ground, half asleep, a male pig; Mike then checking me out again, for the umpteenth time.
“Come on boys,” his father said, with a curious look.
“Ok, are you sure you want to know?” hilariously laughing, asked Mike, trying to hold back his laughing back but couldn’t—lest his father think the joke was on him (and it was not), and me looking the other way so as not to make Mike laugh any harder than what he was so he could speak,
“But I don’t want mom to hear,” says Mike to his father. And he whispered in his father’s ear as Mike’s mother stepped back and shook her head as if we were all nuts (I think she knew the secret).
“Pop,” Mike said, “Chick and I have never seen such huge—you know what’s before on, on, on anything before….”
And as soon as we just couldn’t get over laughing, and able to tell his father that with a straight face, we busted out laughing until our guts pained us again. His father started laughing more at us boys than at the sleeping pig, shaking his head, looking at his wife, and Mike’s mother shook her head again, said with her squeaky voice,
“I’ll fine out later…not sure if I want to…”—and then looked at the pig as not to spoil the moment for us, the gang now. And we all rested against the gray dried up wooden fence gazing and gazing—as if into wonderland.
Said the father after several minutes later, “Can I pull you boys away from here, away from those big nuts on that pig, and have you seen enough?”
“Oh sure,” said Mike, with both our eyebrows up in the air, and taking our last hard look at the humongous balls of the big—.


The Porch [1960]

[St. Paul, Minnesota; 1960] “I cleaned under the porch, grandpa, as you said; you said yu’d pay me four-dollars…? I cleaned it all this morning.”
“Yu dats god dn aldedy yaw…!” said Grandpa with his ornery Russian rustic voice.
He stood looking at me, kind of staring, not sure as usually if (the Old Russian Bear) if he should believe me.
“…vat you gwin do ef dat rat comes git out, dis crap al-here?”
“You dont think its clean, grandpa?” I said.
He looked at me with that annoyed gaze, kind of a wanting to eat me up look, I was thirteen then, and I think he liked my older brother Mike much more than I, but then I could annoy people I suppose, and for some reason Mike didn’t; or so he had me believe.
“I guess I better clean it again!” I said to Grandpa, watching him check under the porch as if it was the Taj Mahal. Then, as he pulled his body out and up, from under the porch he said, “noa..noa, No! I clen my self…” and he mumbled something else, I couldn’t make it out, a ramble that is; as usual. He stood up looked at me (a serious face now), “dat no good—loks…vike…shit!” Old Grandpa had a hard time speaking English, but he knew them swear words perfect, every letter came out of his mouth flawlessly.
In any case, I left him alone for the afternoon, he’d pay me later I told myself, he was a complainer—moody at times, and this was one of those times; but his word was like gold, if he said he’d pay, he’d pay. I found a softball game going on and joined in, in the empty lot next to our house.

[4:30 PM] Mom had called Mike and I for supper; her voice would echo across the large empty lot, and down Cayuga Street: “OHHHH…Mi…cooo clll—Oh…Chick…time for dinner,” and she’d do the same when twilight came about. It got to the point, we both [my brother and I] felt a little embarrassed that the whole neighborhood heard her calling us; that is as we got older and deep into our teens.
And when I got in for dinner that evening, we had pork chops on the table, and brownies. She cooked pork chops a lot; hamburgers with crushed onions in the hamburger, a lot of chopped onions, with apple crisp pie.
Grandpa saw me eating, and mom was walking back and forth from the kitchen to her bedroom (along side of the dinning room), and crossing through the dinning room, she saw Grandpa in the living room by the T.V. pacing to and from the porch, mumbling “Vat I got to pay, hit I clen the crp out me-sef…” he looked at mom, said, ‘…her, gie to Chick,” it was four dollars for the cleaning: then he went back to his not so good language, “Gd dmn, sn bith, do evy ding me-slf…” on and on and on he went with such language.
Then he went out to the screened in porch, fixed his pillows on the sofa he had out there, and put his pipe in a standup ashtray, and laid down on the coach, as he did so often, in the heat of the summer, and fell to sleep.


The Wino [1958]

Standing in the middle of the sidewalk on a brisk Saturday (forenoon) in the summer of 1958, on a declining hill by St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul (where I was born), nearby there was tenant housing, where my friend, Mike Russet’s family had moved to, moved into a few months prior to this event; we stopped to peer down the street to look at what was happening this Saturday, —stone still we stood, and Mike, as sly as if something was in the makings: which would be to my surprise. Both us boys had seen the wino but only one of us was thinking of a scheme, the other would follow—that of course was me. The wino was finishing up his last drink, he was even licking the rim around the top of the brownish glass bottle to get the last flavor of the substance out; it was a hot summers day.
He, the wino was watching everyone around him from the corner of his eyes, waiting to beg to a passerby for another coin: a client, one that looked merciful enough to feed him a drunk, that is a coin he’d ask for food, but he’d use the money for drinking of course, we saw him do it before: ‘…yes, yes a coin to get rid of me,’ I’m sure he was thinking, ‘I’m worth that much’; it was a small bottle of something he had just polished off, thought Mike, as he looked on the ground, looking at a similar bottle a ½ pint whisky bottle—empty; now that I think about it, —Mike reasoned—diverse thoughts circled his perimeter, —then he noticed on the ground by him—by the wino down the block, about sixty-yards away, still looking about for a sucker—another brown whisky bottle similar, it was what he had just polished off, drank up…small like the one he just saw, one likened to the wino’s bottle he just finished: he whispered something to me, I dare not say it yet.
Said I, with a grin and a nod to my head, “He can’t hear us!”
“Yaw, I suppose,” replied Mike looking down at the wino, almost, just about ready to laugh but holding it back.
“You sure?” questioned Mike, with a doubtful smile I put on my face, a frown that made his upper go up, and part of his face turn pale.
At this point, Mike was not even looking at the wino, and had stepped along side of an extended porch so the wino or no one else could see us, unless they were walking up or down the sidewalk, and no one was. A car passenger could see if he went out of his way to check between two houses—but there was no reason for that, I think. But that was not the case either; it was secure, as Mike asked,
“Anyone coming?” asked Mike, and I replied “No, not yet.”
Mike had filled the bottle up with some yellowish fluid [waist], half it, saying, “Your turn…” with a smirk on his face that wanted to turn into a smile, but for the moment it was stern as it looked at me, trying to infer this was serious business. This was symbolism at its height, symbolism saying, possible, and saying: our friendship is at stake here. I looked deadly into his bold unfriendly eyes, said, “I can’t, I can’t do this…!”
[Sternly I said:] “I’m not bringing it down there,” I told Mike. With a bit of charm and upper-lip sarcasm: he almost produced a laugh, but still he would not allow it, he: Mike started walking down to the wino or derelict.
Within a few minutes Mike had walked the sixty-yards back up the hill and we both watched the drunk unscrew the top of the bottle, the Mike had given him and urinated in. Anticipation was in both our eyes. We could hardly hold our feet still, and I for once I was not breathing, well—hardly breathing. My eyes were like Mike’s I do believe, as big as golf balls.
Said I to Mike, “It is like watching the face of Doctor Jackal and Mr. Hide changing in front of you,” as he started to pour down the… [a pause came]…brownish bottle of liquid.
Then after the fact, when he realized it wasn’t what he thought it was, he became outraged—and lost for words, throw the bottle on the hard concert sidewalk like a madman, the glass and contents shooting in all directions, and his arms went flying in the air upward, his fists scolded us two figures up the hill staring down at him, up the street: us two figures breathed into our nostrils new air. A crowed started forming around the middle-aged drunk: sympathy comes in strange ways.
I, myself was ashamed, I even watched it, participated in it, but it was only until now that reality of the moment took hold of me, of both us boys I suppose. And later on I’d feel kind of, let’s say, somewhat remorseful, that is I never did it again—he did say (Mike—stoutly), ‘never again’. But as soon as that moment passed, and it did pass quickly, you could notice our faces together changing as they looked at the drunk and themselves, it was as if the winos humiliating experienced triggered the biggest laughter I ever experienced.
“Mike!” I said, “Stop it!” But for the most part it was all too late, the wino threw the bottle, his arms were flying in the air, people were looking up at the estranged two figures up the hill, and tears of laughter were coming, rolling off our faces, two kids: one eleven, which was me, and the other Mike ten. I, or we, just couldn’t hold it any longer, especially Mike: I know I blame him more than myself, and perhaps I shouldn’t—oh well; it is how I remember it, or want to. It was a total breakdown of the body into laughter; we were even stomping our feet like bulls, bulls, not sure if we should run or stay laughing, we were both under a fretful attack—almost frozen, paralyzed in astonishment.
As we witnessed the people by the wino pointing their fingers at us, we darted to the back of the building, because we noticed a few of the guys started walking up the block at a fast pace towards us; we both jumped on our bikes racing down town to the Robert Street Bridge. Then, once we arrived, we settled our bikes, looked over the bridge, caught our breath and finished our laughing.
The landing, or dock area was quiet as our eyes peered down onto the Mississippi River. At the same time a dark cloud seemed to be circling our heads, as we insanely laughed again, even to the point of holding our stomachs and trying not to look at each other.
“But he—“ said Mike, and before he could finish his sentence, I responded with, “He what—he asked for it, is that what you were going to say?”
Mike shook his head ‘yes,’ and we both busted out laughing again. And I shook my head—as he nodded his head like before but with more swing to it, thinking what a crazy thing to do and get a laugh over.
[Tired and trying to catch our breath] “You know it was all done in fun, a joke Chick… [Pause] don’t get so, you know, over it.”
“Sure,” I said, and the day went to something else.


Grandpa's Reproaching
[The Old Russian Bear: 1957]

Old Grandpa Tony [Anton] swore more than most people prayed, and I’m talking about the clergy. A 4’11 inches tall man, that’s all he stood, I always thought he was at least six foot tall, even when I went to high school, but no, he was four foot, eleven inches tall. It’s not the unpardonable sin, I know—to swear, but if you added them all up, all the cussing words he done in front of me, and then there is 24-hours to the day, it would top the Andes, and then some. But he was kind enough to allow my mother and my brother and myself to live with him, in his house during my formative years. And back in the fifties, it was rough, so I suppose I can say, thanks gramps. But the Old Russian Bear, used to say:
“I tell you vhut you gottaa wtch dem boys Elsie (his daughter and my mother)—dhay mak-a too mch noyce!”
All the time, we had to be like mice.
“Well,” I heard mom say, “I can’t watch them every second of the day?”
Grandpa thought about that for a while, “I gonna thorw dem out!” he’d say. I think he started telling mom that from my thirteenth birthday on: steadily. He liked my brother Mike for some reason: perhaps I didn’t pay him much attention, or for that matter attention. I was very active: meaning, overactive, I could never seem to slow down, and that may have bothered him. Nowadays, they give kids pills up the tuba to slow them down: back then, mom would say: ‘Go run it off…” and out the door I went, and I’d run a mile here or there, and come back and eat up a storm (my son and my grandson are the same way, but now they want to give them pills, pills: have them run it off, that is how I got rid of it).
“Yes,” mother would say,” I’ll tell him to play out side more…” (I was but ten, then, at the time). I think it all started one day when I was in Ernie’s 1950 Chevy (my mother’s boyfriend for forty-years), and mom was looking at me in the backseat, and I was about seven years old then, and I asked about this and that: many, if not too many questions, never could be settled too long, and she noticed that, and would try to answer my numerous questions, and she’d get tired, and say:
“Stop! You’re wearing me out with questions.”
So when I got older I bought an encyclopedia set and read it a few times from start to finish: a to z. One year I read 400-books, after all my other activities. I slept four to six hours all my life, until I got ill, and slept 10 to 14 hours; made up for all that lost sleep.
—Then Grandpa would put his pipe in his mouth, pace the kitchen, mumbling,
“Them god…d…m..kids.”
He didn’t want us boys to stay with him in the house, but he didn’t want mom to leave, she did all the work, and bought the TV and the furniture, and did his laundry, and bought the groceries: she was an economic asset for him, as he was for her (or us). He bought the meat for the Sunday meals, paid the heat and water bill, and phone bill. They had a good system going I suppose. I always prayed mom would take us kids out of that environment, but it was as it was, and it gave me a father figure I suppose: he had good work ethics, and I suppose I got that from him. In any case, mom, she’d reinforce, by telling me, “Nobody’s going to kick you out.” And he never did. When I grew up: went to Vietnam, and came back home for a visits, Grandpa, being in WWI, was proud, but he still had that bear in him, and one day he said something, and I got mad, and I wasn’t a kid anymore, and I said:
“Grandpa, don’t swear at me, if you don’t want me here I’ll leave, but if you swear once more I’m going to knock you on your ass!” and I walked away angry. I had always felt bad about telling Grandpa that, even to this day, it really wasn’t called for: I could have walked away like always, I just wanted to let him know, I was not that little kid you could pull his ears, when you didn’t like what was happening. And I was sorry for that, as I had said—but I did make up for it, I think. When he was too old (meaning, 83-years old, he worked up to 78) and his children were coming over to count his money (he had several children living at the time), and was threaten by them, I heard about it, and made myself present when they were present, and told everyone: the threatening was over, that if I heard about it again, I’d throw them out, everyone out. I think, Grandpa may have heard it from the dinning room, not sure what or how he felt, but I guess, if it made up for that bad remark, so be it.

A Poetic Story—The Potato Patch [1957-58]
[Written 1/31/2005; #1183] SPM

One day—oh, I suppose I was, say ten,
I asked my mother to ask my grandfather
For a garden plot—, somewhere in our
And somehow, she got him to agree—;
Twisted his knees, perhaps—I don’t
Know—but the Old Russian Bear
Was hard to please…!
It wasn’t a garden to plow or hoe,
Just a patch, a little plot in the backyard
By the fence: that’s all.
And there I planted my first garden—
It was kind of neat (so I thought), hidden
From anyone passing by; until I found out
Potatoes grow underground—
(not on top), and yes, it was
A mess, thereafter: digging, weeding,
It seemed the season would never end,
But I did stick with it; and then came the
Day, the great day, to pluck those
Potatoes from their abode, and to show
Them to my mother and grandpa:
I was quite proud.
And when I did, when I pulled those
(roots and all) potatoes—from
Under the earth, I was devastated to
To find out: the eyes were bigger
Than the potatoes.
Traumatic I took it at first, I think
I even cursed
Advice? I have none, but I’ll tell you,
I never tried to grow potatoes again.


The Brick (1952)

I was only five-years old back then, when this occurrence took place: the ‘brick,’ situation; my brother Mike, was seven, the antagonist not sure who it is or was, but Steve the owner’s son was about seven at the time, and Jill was nine, the owner’s daughter. Jill used to come into my bedroom: about dusk, I was on the top bunk, so she had a hard time reaching me, but she did: poking the pin in me, she was my anatomist if anything (and her mother would tell her to stop, but she didn’t until I told my mother and it somewhat halted); her mother owned the foster-farm in North St. Paul, Minnesota, and she was a jealous daughter, for her mother’s attention: Janet, whom I called Aunt Janet, took a liking to me. We’d stay there four nights out of the week, and would go with my mother, who worked at Swifts Meat Packing Plant, go home with her on the weekends to her apartment, where she was staying, and at the times, at our grandfather’s house, which eventually we’d move to, after the aunts and uncles moved out of course. It was a Russian extended family situation at my grandfather’s house, in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Arch Street (109).
During those days, at the foster-farm called: “Kiddy-Korner,” we’d help build a big swimming pool in the back of the farm house; she owned about four acres of land, and she had some thirteen-children to care for during the day and there were about four of us during the nights; she [meaning: Janet] was forever fighting with the authorities over the right to have us stay overnight, so it seemed.
But as I was about to say, Janet decided to make a swimming pool in the back, way backyard, by the fence, the cow meadow, adjacent to her property. In those days it was not easy, you didn’t just call in the pool man. But you did call in a bulldozer to level the land out, and then got one of those big tractors with a scoop on it to dig out a big hole, which she did, in the shape of the old cast-iron bathtubs. It must have been several feet deep: perhaps either or so, the water and the sides another foot or two, above the water, for it went over my head (the sides) a number of feet. But the water had a gradation, or gradual increasing steepness to it, which got deeper as you went forward; thus, as you went further into it, the deeper it became: north to south.
Well, during this process of building the pool, I couldn’t do much, but I helped carry a brick or two, at a time: laying them down on the extending tiles. Let me explain: after the hole was dug, they put some kind of rocks in it, around it, and other things, and then tar if I recall right: then pout more tar over the tiles: roof tiles, or so I remember them to be. The pool was perhaps fifteen feet wide, eight feet deep, and thirty feet long. Under the tiles was that black tar again, and I’d put a brick on the tiles sticking out like weeds, that seemed to bend around the dirt, and tar under it, but stuck up somewhat nonetheless. At any rate, the brick would hold it down, so it would not get ripped off or apart, and one rip led of course to another, and bigger ones, and then you’d have to find where the hole was and tar it back up again, and so forth and so on: so it could become significant, should you not use preventive measures.
Well, during the building process, Mike, Jill, and Steve were up their playing around by the pool, trying to help, and so were the other kids: a few of the workers, likewise, and myself. When I looked up this one early afternoon, when I looked up, up I saw everyone was staring–and Janet saying: “Who did it, who threw that brick!~?” And tears came from my eyes; I saw my brother drop to his knees, his hands over his eyes and head: blood coming from his scalp. No one said a word (I’m not sure I knew what to do but cry), but the memory would stick into the mind, as well as Mike’s head. Well, we all survived though those far off days, but it was a sad few days after that.


The Big Mouse [1959]

[St. Paul, Minnesota; 1959]

“You boys upstairs go on to bed now—go to sleep, make sure you’ve turned off all the lights,” mother was saying. “Go on now!” she repeated herself, hearing me getting into bed; Mike was lying back in bed with his cloths on. I sat back up a moment, to say my prayers, on my bed in the hot attic bedroom, my brother Mike on the other side of the room, both of us about three feet between the window, and no wind.
I heard our door, which led into her bedroom, close downstairs, she’d be in bed soon I figured; but first she’d go and see how grandpa was, and be back in the bedroom thereafter. Mike was preparing, just waiting, as if he had it all timed.
“I’m going out tonight, as soon as moms in bed,” said Mike.
“Yes,” I said, as he was wiping his forehead of sweat from the heat, there was little if any ventilation in that attic, and one window on each side of the upstairs attic did little to cool the place, it had to cross the whole length of the house to the other window, and the chimney was in the way so we got no cross breeze to mention.
Mom was sleeping now, and Mike grabbed his keys, out the window he went, tucked the screen back into place climbed over the porch by the kitchen—which was over by the stairway, on the other side of the attic, opposite from where we slept. He climbed down the roof, to a ladder he had set against the small porch, he’d come through the front door when he’d come home, and put the ladder back in place as soon as he descended to the ground, as he did often. He’d be romping around with the guys in the neighborhood in a short time I figured.
—It was 2:30 AM, he came back I could hear him coming up the stairs, step by step; he sounded like a creeping something. I heard mom down stairs, Mike had to go through her bedroom, and then open the door to the attic, and then climb them stairs, to get back into his bed. I heard mom again,
“Go away, get awy…” she sounded, “…damn mouse…get out of here!” her arms had even come out from under her sheets, shooing the mouse away in a combative way; but it was my brother, he was the big mouse. (I was but twelve-years old, back then, Mike two years older than I).
I heard Mike get in bed,
“Mom been sleeping all night?” he asked.
I was barely awake, “Dont know…I think so.”
He then laid on top of his covers, “…man it’s hot.” He said waving something in front of his face to cool himself off.
“If mom asks, I was up here all night ok?”
“You mean lie to her?”
“No, not really, you were sleeping, and I went down to go to the bathroom, and you just heard me coming back up and woke up, so you don’t know one way or the other—right?”
“Yaw, I suppose…go to sleep…”

The arc light was shinning through the screened-in window; it lit the street and sidewalk, and the tree in front of our house, and above the porch’s gable, right into our attic bedroom. The fair was going to start pretty soon, it was August, and it started the last week of August, and went up to the first day of school. Thinking about that, I fell back to sleep. Incidentally, my mother never found out who was the: Big Mouse.


Grandpa's Pipe [50s & 60s]

[1959] With his mouth open, slightly opened I should say, grandpa’s mouth mumbled (from long habit I expect, I presupposed—back then, back in the late 50s and early 60s (when we all lived in an extended family type setting)) and I was but ten years old, there about: take or give a year or two))—and I suppose from years of practice) automatically opened (insulting whomever at the moment, was by him, not directing it to the: noun (or: person, place or thing), just swearing away, swearing under his breath…in his broken English: ‘…vat dam hell matter dhis fu…kn pepe, god…dam son na bitch…!” and when his mouth opened, things leaked out of his mouth like molasses); he watched me move about in the kitchen, looking over his spectacles, or glasses he seldom wore, except if he wanted to read the paper, which he couldn’t read but every fifth word in English, the old Russian Bear —then grandpa started to strike his match at the same time of his mumbling and sucking off the stem of his pipe, trying to ready himself to light his tobacco inside this black framed hole that held the tobacco: and brown bottom drum called a pipe; stained from a decade’s use I expect; his mouth still moving, still talking to the pipe or himself, not sure, he couldn’t have been talking to me, he seldom did, perhaps a half dozen times in ten-years, and today was not my lucky day, or my unfortunate day: as I was saying or about to say, he swept his hand backwards, the match pulled away from the lit tobacco in the furnace of the pipe, the steam of the pipe he was still sucking onto make sure it stayed hot and lit.
Still talking to himself, I was as I said before a ten to twelve year old kid, looking about, not at anything in particular, perhaps making a peanut butter sandwich, or drinking a glass of milk: glancing at grandpa now and then, and pacing about, around in the kitchen as if I was at the Alamo looking here and there for the incoming enemy: that in itself annoyed grandpa: he’d always mumble to my mother: “…vay cant dat boy of yor play outside…goddam it?” (he’d pause a moment, turn about and swear): ‘…dam son of bitch, kick his ass out…!”
It was summer, mother was at work, Grandpa semi retired now, he paced the living room like a wounded leopard, and it often reminded me of that invisible rabbit, James Stewart the actor portrayed in the movie “Harvey,” I mean who was he talking to, like James Stewart, perhaps the invisible Harvey.
Now grandpa was puffing away, and I got thinking—that’s cool, the pipe and all, but it takes a lot of work and coordination. I can’t remember exactly, but I do remember being fascinated with his pipe, and I reason it came out when I got older, for as a young adult, I purchased a pipe, and became a copycat, not realizing I was, but I was.
As a result, when I see a man with a pipe nowadays, I often think of grandpa, but even more so, the quite life we had, the smoke of the pipe circulating the living room, and then it fading into nothingness it was all about an unforgettable decade for me, it would rest on magical air, I’d think; it all seems so somber now, now that I’m getting to his age.


The Wiggly Tooth [1958]

It was a matter of extraction, I was eleven-years old, and my tooth wiggled, and wiggled, and wiggled too much, too long, and it had to come out one way or another. Even at eleven I knew this, but barely. I was at my mother’s boyfriend’s house, Ernie, as we (my brother and I) got used to calling him, adding the Uncle on it, making it: Uncle Ernie, hence, that was the long version.
Ernie and my mother had been watching T.V., she normally went there about 6:00 PM, to about 9:00 PM each night: she left at 9:00 to 9:30 PM, usually: the reason being, she could get back home in time (for we simply lived next door, kind of, an empty lot between the two houses, his and my grandfather’s that is, where us boy’s and my mother lived with my grandpa): anyhow, she’d get home before 10:00 pm, so she could call us boys (Mike, my brother, and myself) back into the house (as we’d be someplace in the neighborhood, but we always heard her voice calling), to get ready for bed at 10:00 PM.
This evening—the time must have been somewhere between 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM, when the issue came up—this evening I happened to be at Ernie’s house (it was summer, and I was on summer vacation from school), complaining to my mother about my loose wiggle tooth. As I complained, and she listened, turned from the T.V., set, both her and Ernie were watching, I think ‘Gunsmoke,’ or perhaps it was ‘The Red Skeleton,’ for some odd reason those two shows come to mind: Ernie said, after putting his popcorn down (they often made it while watching T.V.:
“Tie your tooth to a string, and put the other end of the string around the doorknob, then slam the door quickly, that will save you a lot of time thinking about your tooth, and you will not have to go to the dentist!”
So said Ernie, in a quick, almost unemotional way, as if it was like plucking a weed. I looked at him strangely; my eyebrows perhaps hit the top of my forehead,
“Doorknob,” I said.
“Yes, doorknob, and I’ll get you the string.”
He got up and put the string around the doorknob, I looked at my mother, she didn’t say a word; I then looked at Ernie, “Really!” I said, baffled.
“That’s how we did it when we were kids,” Ernie said, as simple and plain as the night was dark: strangely dark. I think I started to laugh, not out of it being funny, but out of not knowing what else to do, for now the string was hanging on the doorknob, the T.V. was playing, my mother was eating popcorn, and I was staring at the doorknob and back at Ernie, and back and forth my eyes went.
I had learned something about myself I suppose, perhaps it was then, or earlier, I can’t remember exactly, that being: I didn’t want to play games, but wanted to get down to business and on with life, and so daringly, I took that string, as Ernie helped me to tie it around my tooth, yes indeed I did, we tied it right around that tooth, quickly so I’d not change my mind. I had never heard of such a thing, but I had not heard of many things, at eleven-years old who has, and I suppose we trust our adults do we not: to a certain degree anyways, or at least I did back then, back in 1958, when I lived on Cayuga Street, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
It was all facially confirmed, I mean, my mother’s face said: go ahead, or so I read it as that. Ernie’s face said: what you waiting for; and if I had had a mirror my face would have read: do it or don’t, but don’t think about it for eternity.
So Ernie and I tied the string around my wiggle tooth, and he stepped back for the big bang, and I opened the door that opened outward, towards me, and I slammed it, and the door shut with my eyes closed. When I opened my eyes the string was dangling, I figured it had slipped off, that is, it slipped over my tooth off of it, and I’d have to try it again, do it over, but as I went to fetch the string, there was my tooth, to my amazement. I put my finger into my mouth, and discovered the tooth was no longer there of course, rather a little hole, and empty space between other teeth.
I now had the tooth in my hand and asked my mother: “Can I have a dollar for my tooth, I still believe in the tooth fairy…” it was a rhetorical question of course (I didn’t believe, but I was at that age where I was a ting daring), and she looked at me with an upper lip, and said, “I believe you can, “ with a slur, and pulled out three quarters, saying, “it’s all the change I got, I’ll have to owe you a quarter.” And that was that.

Note: When I woke up this morning, I had a dream, it was not about my tooth, but a tooth on the left side of my mouth was hurting—nonetheless; and so as I wiggled about, trying to get into a better resting position, half asleep, this occurred to me, the wiggly tooth, that took place back in 1958, the story of my tooth being extracted by way of a doorknob. It is true, what one man said long ago: it is the accumulation of little things in life that make life worth living and remembering, for there are only a few big ones in between; thus, life is made up of little things; something like that he said, and how true it can be. 4/16/2006

Grandpa’s House
[Written in May and June, 2006 while in Peru]

Stories written in May, 2006 [in Lima, Peru] specifically for a book that was going to be called Grandpa’s House, but more stories were added, and the name changed; thus, stories 18 thru 22 fall into this category.

Grandpa’s House


Dust Under the Bed [1954]

I can’t remember what I did, but it got my mother mad to the point I ran and hid under my bed. She was house cleaning it seems (now that I look back). It was on the weekend, and it was not the very cold part of the year, for there was a fire in the space heater in the living room, and it was on. I was perhaps seven-years old at this moment. We lived with Grandpa in those days, on Arch Street, in St. Paul, Minnesota. I ran, and remained quietly under the bed, it was unpleasant to say the least, but I felt safe for the moment. I squirmed to the far side of the wall, so my mother could not drag me out from under it—yet I found out she had no intentions to put that much work into this episode of my life young life.
She came into the living room where the television was, it was new, our first black and white T.V., and we all marveled at it. It looked as big as a doghouse, a bloodhound’s doghouse. The bedroom was next to the living room.
“You better come out from under there unless…” she hesitated, gave me a beam of a smile, and she then walked away, just like that, it made me think,
“Unless what?”
For a time she sat in that big sofa type armchair, in the living room, in silence doing something. She was always doing something: sewing or mending, washing or cooking, or going to work at the stockyards; always keeping herself occupied with things and thoughts. I was being filled with her face and figure in the chair to the exclusion of all else.
Occasionally she’d look down towards me, as I hid in the dark corner under the bed.
“I’m going to be waiting right here, don’t worry, I’m not going anyplace” she said, promisingly, “you will be hungry, perhaps tired, and all that dust there—you will have to come out sometime, and I will simply be waiting.”
And then I started coughing—as if she had ordered the dust to be activated to annoy me—(I always did tell her in later years, she should have been given a PHD in psychology); I learned that day, the power of suggestion is nothing to fool around with, if someone knows how to use it.
“What are you going to do, just lay there all day?” Mother told me after about forty-five minutes under the bed.
In a pouting manner, I said, “I don’t know…!” I halfway cried, I didn’t blame my mother for her actions, and she never once did over punish me (or so I feel), but I was molding and my new found formal reason was working overtime, and she knew I suppose, she knew she had to take time off to teach, punish, or discipline, lest I end up in life having no limits.
And so I thought under that bed, on that dusty old hard floor: she could wait forever, she’s comfortable, I’m not, and what the heck is a thrashing or licking, compared to this, I mean, it would be over in a minute, and here I am 45-minutes later, torturing myself. Bingo, a light came on. And like a little soldier I came out—defeated but no more dust in my face.
I marched up to her and lay over her knees and got what I expected, and it was over. So what did I learn? Perhaps not to compete, if you can’t.

Written at the Restaurant “Angello,” 5/16/2006


2nd Fight [1957]
Grandpa’s House

I was ten-years old, and we were about to make a move from Arch Street in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Cayuga Street, and I was walking my neighborhood feeling pretty good about that, a ting scared of what it would be like, but nonetheless, an exciting time for me to live I thought; one of my friends from St. Louis School was moving also, and it was sad to say goodbye, and I felt he was so lucky, now I was part of this panorama (or so I felt). I passed the top of the hill, we lived down it: almost in the middle of the hill it seemed, and I saw nearby the monkey, the old man kept in his backyard, funny I thought, a monkey, I’ve seen it many times, but this day was different, in a month or so I’d be gone, perhaps this would be the last time I saw his money. I snuck a few times (in previous years) in his backyard to see that monkey; the old man chased me away whenever he caught staring at his monkey, a few feet from him (or her). And the grocery store, more on the candy level for me, was about four blocks away, I was somewhere in-between, and crossing an empty lot.
It was my last year at St. Louis School, and I had just got my polio shot. As I was now going on 10-years old, almost, but not quite; thus, as I was walking through the empty lot, six boys followed me. A few looked familiar, vaguely though. One of the six boys came up to me, left the grips of the other five, and pushed me, shoved me for no reason; excited, and confused I said, “Why…” couldn’t think of another word. Perhaps he didn’t like my red hair, or my Irish temper, or my Russian bulldog head.
I looked at him again, he looked angry, and he pushed me again, and I pushed him, but I pushed him so hard, you could hear him fly unto the ground with a thump. He got back up, looked at the other five, and was unsure what to do now. I was asking him, and myself at the same time: why do you want to fight me, what did I do. There was no real answer, it was as I guessed, my red hair I suppose. And when you get five men or boys together, they normally go over the edge in such case, as this one would prove.
“I just don’t like you,” said the boy, and he pushed me again, and I pushed him again, and he fell again onto the ground, and got madder, but was not capable of doing much beyond falling. But then the circle of boys got closer to me, they surrounded me, pushed me back and forth like a yo-yo… and I fell a half dozen times, and when I got up, they pushed me back down again (there was more pushing going on than punches, if I remember correct). I assured myself I would not, would not give them tears, (what they all wanted to see I believe), so I grabbed sand and threw it in their faces, jumped up, and ran back down the hill to my home, Grandpa’s house where I lived. I was much faster than they, and so I was saved, but now the tears came.
Mother was in the kitchen, she saw me crying and asked, “What happened?” then she examined me, my cloths were dirty, not torn: had they been she would have gotten mad at the kids and perhaps ran to their parents house and asked them to pay, but again I say, it was pride coming out in the form of tears, and no worn to shreds, cloths. She looked, “Sorry,” she said, “but I can’t do a thing for you, if you want to win a fight, you got to learn how to fight, or run.” Her philosophies in life were simple.
Perhaps that is why, when we moved to the house on Cayuga Street, I started weight lifting, and in the years to follow learned Karate, and out of the many fights I had, I can’t remember losing one, but I must have I’m sure.


A Double $500
[Grandpa’s House]

I was fourteen-years old, in 1962, living on Cayuga Street in Grandpa’s house, and both my brother and I knew of Grandpa’s wine cellar, in the basement; Mike, my brother had visited it a few times with his homemade crafted key, and drank his and my portion of Grandpa’s 140-proof, vodka, and some of his wine and beer. I never did, not sure why, just didn’t, and one day Mike told me he did, I had never caught him doing it, nor tried to. And grandpa was asking my mother: how come his beer was missing; of course Grandpa, didn’t think Mike would do such a thing, he was his Golden boy, you could say, and so my name came to my mother’s attention, via, Grandpa. But I was innocent, of any wrong doing in that area.
It wasn’t long after that information was given to me by my brother, that my curiosity got the best of me, and I thought I could carve a key like Mike out of a nail, and I did, just like that, so simple I thought, and opened the wine cellar door. Yes, I told myself, yes, it was all there, the wine, the beer, and the vodka, plus a few other bottles of this and that. And it was all laid neatly on old papers. Very old paper; so old they had turned from its original color, to an antique dark brown. Some of the papers dated in the 30s, some in the 40s and a few in the early 50s.
I was more interested in the old papers than the booze, and so I started to read them, pick them up; move the bottles here and there. One of the papers still had its sports section in it, said something about the Baseball Team, the Saints, winning or losing, not sure, but in Minnesota in 1962, we had a team called the Twins, a baseball team, and here was the Saints, prior to them, so it was interesting. And as I looked and read, I wanted to keep some of the old papers, and perhaps, replace them with new ones, not sure what I was going to do; before I could make up my mind, two $500-dollar bills fell out from under one of the papers.
I was in awe, stood in semi-shock for a moment—stone still. I had never seen a $100-dollar bill, let alone, $500 dollar bills, and here were two. I heard roomers that Old Man Beck (the previous owner of the house) had hidden his money, and then died, and his children sold my grandfather the house. But then, it seems not uncommon for such mysterious stories to come to light like that, when a loner dies in a big house; when in essence, there is no money in most cases. But here it was, $1000 –dollars, so perchance they were right, the old man indeed had some bucks. On the other hand, could it be my Grandfather’s? So I deduced. Of course I wanted it to be Old Man Beck’s, so I could keep it and sleep at night.

Well, I took the money went to talk to my friend Lormor, he lived two houses away (a year older than me), and his brother Tom (in his mid to late 20s) was selling a 1956 Oldsmobile. I explained to him about the money, but no one else, and he talked to his brother Tom. And I guess I thought at that time, all was fixed, and all I needed was to have the car put into my name, if in fact it could be so easy. But before that took place, other issues arose.
Said Lormor on the phone:” Chick, my father came home, asked Tom how on earth does a fourteen year old boy come up with $1000-dollars? I think they are going to come over to your house and talk to your mom…”
I guess Tom didn’t say too much I’m sure he wanted the deal to go thought he had the money now.
The next thing that took place was a knock at my door, and Tom, Lormor, and the father were there, and my mother answered it. I think I wanted to hide, grandpa was someplace in the living room, and my heart was leaping everywhichway.
The father explained that I had given two $500-dollar bills to Tom, and was it really mine to give. Lormor had not explained everything to his father up to this point; he played dumb, you could say.
Well, the money was given back to my mother, whom talked to Grandpa about it, and he of course said it belonged to him, and accused me of drinking his beer and wine now; if my brother was under suspicion, he was no longer. But was it Grandpa’s money. I knew where he hid his, under the stairs, and he was not as made at me for taking $1000-dollars, than he was for me not cleaning under the front porch one summer a few years back. So it made me think. It still does.


Woodview Detention Center [1961]
[Grandpa’s House]

Part I

Scene: A cell in a holding facility at Woodview Detention Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, the summer of 1961. The cubicle, cell or room, however one may want to see it, is furnished with an iron cot, and me, the occupant; I am 14-years old, and I am required to be in here for my first 24-hours at the facility before going to a larger cell with (perhaps) other kids (or as they call us, delinquents). The cell is clean, perhaps too clean, and not much in it. The floor shines, tile like substance, as are the walls, brick style. It is late in the evening, a breeze lingers, brings a chill, a ting of mist perhaps from the nearby Mississippi River.
I stand silent in my cell, a bit intoxicated, a little disorientated, fogy with a T-shirt on, a pair of worn jeans, my hair must be messy, I really can’t see it clear, though the little door window with a screen through it; I can see the other cells thought, and I seem satisfied with the way I look, my appearance. I am well toned, my muscles that is, from weightlifting, running track and gymnastics. No tattoos; I am considered to be a good-looking kid, for the most part.
—My brother, Mike, went to Redwing, a few steps up from where I am, in the incarceration field, likened to ‘Boys Town,’ I suppose (he is two years my senior).
In a few days I will go to court for under age drinking—the judge, he is the key here, my mother will be with me, notably the judge will want to give me mercy (my first offence), but I will say ‘No!’ to this offer of kindness (perhaps at this time I seen it as pity); this will be the only time see my mother cry in her life (I know she ((perchance)) has cried before, but I have not ever seen her do so.
“Why?” asks the judge “do you torture your mother like this, and slash at me with pride?”
I had told the judge to send me to jail, to Redwing, like my brother, who was presently there. Said the judge with difficulty trying to figure me out, “The police found you sitting on a case of beer in the playgrounds by Cayuga Street, next to your house, called ‘Indian’s Hill,” drunk, and all you had to say was: an old drunk bought the beer for you.”
Not sure if that was a question or a statement, but I didn’t say a word, I felt bad my mother was crying, and the judge was right, my pride had gotten in my way, so I left him no choice but to lock me up. And here I am standing in this cell looking right and left down and up the corridor.

Part II

Odd. Chick or Dennis, as I was called [ds]. Nobody gets much fresh air in a cell, so it seems, and its worse in the summer. I paced the floor, knowing there was no way out. Counted the bricks in the cell on each side of the walls, 245, that is when I stopped counting and listened to the sounds of the corridor. People snoring, talking, doors from the staff opening and shutting, flashlights checking on everyone, even me; all nightlong. I heard Pat Boones new song, “Moody River,” it fit this time and place, it was as if it was written and sung just for me. They must have been playing it in the office down the hall.
Morning. “Want some breakfast?” said a voice standing outside my door; I got up, “Yeah!” I said, and the door opened and he put the try on a steel gray looking desk across from my bed, and left.
I was surprised the morning came so quick. I got thinking: is there a warden to this place? Then I saw folks being taken to the back outside area, fenced in of course, for sports. I saw a bit envious, and yet I had another 18-hours to go in this cell before I could join the rest.
About this time of my incarceration I had asked myself ‘why,’ and left it at that. I didn’t know at the time but I’d spend two weeks here, a death sentence to me almost. And at the end of the two weeks, my attitude would change. I learned from this experience, if anything, you change, or there will be people willing to spend a lot of time trying to change you. But that of course would call for a readjustment of mind-set, and/or way of thinking.

Egg Shell

I felt I was in an eggshell, with two windows, and I was witnessing the world go by. I knew I was in a holding area after a week, and the judge was going to come out and see me. I was hoping I’d not have to remain here two weeks, but I was wrong, the judge wanted to make a point, and he did.
The interesting thing I discovered was, I begged to be allowed the second day, to mop the whole building, facility, the floors, just to be out of the eggshell. And as the few Sunday’s came, I went to church, to get out of my cell, and on Saturday’s, I went to craft shop for the same reasons. When I was locked up, I felt like I needed to vomit, I was gasping for air. I said to myself, calm down, be cool, like everyone else, and I did, got to go to the big aquarium, the cell down the hall with the four teenagers in it, like me; I thought that was a great reward.

Written 5/18/2006, at the Café Angello, Lima, Peru


Grandpa Was Always Old
[1956-1967: Elegy]

Grandpa was old—he was very, very old, it seems all my life he was old. I know now, looking back, how many years he lived, 83-years [died: 1974], but he looked old at forty, perhaps fifty. I’m fifty-eight, I often wonder if I look old, as old as he looked to me; whatever the case, he was very old to me. Something gray and cold and at times hurtful, that been around forever, he was part of that. He personified that to me, to others, but particular to me.
I’m sure Grandpa never thought when he was gone, someone would write stories about him, many of them, and in the stories they tell of this younger man, me, with a sense of humor I hope, and everyone knows, Grandpa does not have to have grace, or lightness of touch, a dream of beauty breaking through the sun beams coming to earth. Grandpa can be Grandpa.
O, those who knew him shall have many good memories, some that other people will never have, because of him.
Long ago, when he was the owner of a restaurant, downtown in St. Paul, Minnesota, when I was a kid, I used to go eat there [1956-19??]: a hamburger, pie and coke; I always had the same. He’d give it to me free, and sometimes he’d make me pay, sometimes not, but he’d always walk away saying: “…godam kids all da like is da-hamburger, coke, hamburger, coke…” if indeed that was all he was saying, I never got past that, couldn’t make out the rest (the old Russian Bear).
His friend, who helped him with the restaurant, told me he got robbed a few times, but then later on in years to come, when he was going to sell the cafe, Grandpa said about his friend, to me: “godam son-bitch, crroook…he steal everyding from me, fu..k ass…” oh well I’d say, just give him a ride home.
This is a real picture of Grandpa. He was always old in spirit, and at the end of his life, I don’t think he knew what to do with it.
He was trampling through his lilac bushes during the last days of his life, pacing a path in the house from his porch to the kitchen; the ceiling was his sky full of stars now. He got old, so very old quick, and up and died, but it seems I never saw him get old, he just was always old, and then died. I suppose I didn’t see him get old because he was always old to me.
I think Grandpa did all he wanted to do in life, his road was long and we: my brother, my mother and myself, are all better off today because he let us live with him so long ago, had he not, who knows what would have taken place.


First Sight of Death [1956-57]
[Grandpa’s House]

I had a passion for life, always have had it: you live it, or experience it, so I’ve learned; I needed to try almost everything that came to my mind, if possible—even look death in the face at nine-years old. I can’t even remember when it started, this impulsiveness of mine, nor can I say it has stopped; no, not even at 58-years old; perhaps it is a lot of nonsense. ‘Dang it all, that’s the way it is,’ I’d say, and go do it—and that’s the way it was, like it or not: it was my first sight of death (in 1956 or was it 1957, I can’t remember the exact year), and I shall not forget the moment when I followed Mrs. Larose, my elderly babysitter one afternoon, one summer to the morgue, when the police notified her that her separated husband had died of a heatstroke in a car; left in the car for two days, and alcohol over his breath.
Here I stood in the police morgue, a little room, with a silent little group of dead people, corpses. I don’t recall any windows in the room, all these bodies were laid out, covered like fish, this was my own sight of death, half death, I’ve yet to look it in the face: face to face. Then the moment came when the policeman pulled the white sheet away from her husbands face, to be identified, then I saw him: face to face, inches, or perhaps a few feet away. I was nine or ten years old, and death was odd to me, it was a bloated body, a terrifying body, discolored, not normal—this was death’s first look into my young face. I had known him slightly, seen him a few items at Mrs. Larose’s house, and talked to him. “Yes,” that’s Ed, my husband,” said Mrs. Larose.
My warm blooded insides, turned cold suddenly, I turned about and walked to the arch of the door, stood there a moment, it was like a winter night inside of me, in a summer afternoon.
As far as her story goes, I did not know why they were separated, or if it was a divorce; I heard he was a womanizer, and alcoholic, that is to say, that was her side. I never know his side.

Written at EP/Afternoon of 5/19/2006, Lima, Peru


“Liver or Steak?”
[Grandpa’s House/1956]

I never heard the end of this story, matter-of-fact, I had it told to me so much (for 45-years), I’m surprised I forgot to write about it before. Oh well, better late than never. Oh well, here we go, we lived on Arch Street, I was ten-years old then, it was in the year 1956. I was in the backyard playing, it was dinnertime, perhaps about 4:00 PM, and my mother had come home from Swift’s and Company, a meat packing company she worked at, out in South Saint Paul, Minnesota. She was now calling us in, Mike, my brother, two years older than I, he went in first, as I gathered a few items up, at the same time I left my Fire engine outside, and slowly walked through the screened in door. Mike liked liver, and I preferred steak, matter-of-fact, I hated liver, but seldom did we get steak, and usually ended up with liver, I opted for peanut butter sandwich on liver nights. This was not appeasing my mother in the least, save, she didn’t want to push it down my throat, so she left well enough alone.
“Dinner time!” My mother called, and we both came into the house, sat at the kitchen table, as my mother went into the icebox, where below was the dried ice to keep everything cold. There on my plate was some meat. I examined it, it looked a bit strange to me, and my mother knew I didn’t like liver.
“It’s steak, don’t worry about it—just eat it.” She said, convincingly.
I looked at it again, it didn’t look like steak, it was a thin steak I told my mother, if indeed it was steak, and there was no bone or fat on it. A funny steak to be sure, I told myself, but she said it was, so perhaps it was.

I seemed always to be hyper, over stimulated in my youth; actually, it was my life style to be always anxious, restless, so it seemed. I got bored easily. So I looked at the steak, thinking, dusk was around the corner, I’d eat it quickly, and get back outside and play a bit. So I ate heartily.
“How is the steak?” asked my mother, she had a peculiar smile on her face when she said that; actually, she usually didn’t ask and it seemed to find an odd corner in my mind and rest. I looked at her and said, “It’s fine…mom,” and continued to eat and finished it finally.
“Fine… you say, so you liked the steak, without the bone?” She said.
“Yaw, its fine mom,” I said about to get up, wash my hands before I went back out side; I’d take the garbage out with me, for it was my brother’s turn to do the dishes, and me the garbage, we took turns each week or sometimes a month a time then we’d trade jobs.
“You really liked the steak Haw?” My Mother said, again.
I hesitated for a second, “Sure…” I said, grabbing the garbage bag, “it was liver I gave you (she added), see, you really can’t tell the difference between steak and liver.” At that very moment, I started to try and vomit up the liver, and she just looked at me strangely and said, “Stop that, you said you liked it.”
And I said, “You tricked me…and I bet it was steak anyway.”
“No,” she said, convincingly, “it was liver, and that proves you like liver, when you think it is steak.”
Well, what could I say, I think it was an odd tasting steak, but I went along with it, and I heard that story for the next 45-years, and I still hate it.

Written 6/1/2006 at the “Favorita,” café in Lima, Peru


Huge Horse [1960]
[Grandpa’s House Series]

I was in the air, and when I landed, it was hard, real hard, I thought I broke my tailbone, god in heaven, I felt the pain go from someplace in my lower section, to and through my ass, and up and down my spine, my legs, I normally didn’t swear, but I did this day, and aloud, every horse in the carrel looked at me, even the Huge one that threw me off his fat towering back. But that is not how it all started or ended. It is how it was at the moment, as I stood up on my feet. Give me a…

“Gee whiz, gosh almighty,” I said, “that horse is huge, and what the hick are those tubes in him, he looks like a Frankenstein horse Donny?”
Randy looked at the other three horses in the carrel at the University of Minnesota Veterans Clinic farm, in back of the St. Paul Fair Grounds (of which I did not know it was a clinic at the time). We had jumped the fence and had ropes on us, and I was determined to ride today, and the huge horse was kind of looking at me, as if it wasn’t sure of what was happening, but was willing to let me ride him if I dared, and I dared. I was thirteen-years old: I mean, thirteen and a half; and so were the other two boys: thereabouts.
As I got closer to the huge horse, I noticed some white bandages, like patches on him, on his legs, thigh. He walked slowly, more like an ox than a horse I thought. I had never seen such a huge horse. ‘Maybe he’s under some kind of experimentation,’ I pondered. I mean he looked ok, except for those crappy patches, and that tube in his neck. Perhaps he was a prisoner, and they were forcing him to undergo those horrid experiments. Who knows, so I pondered?
I jumped up on the horse, after Donny put his hands together into the form of a step-rope (or lope), and put my foot in it and he pushed me upward, and over I slid onto this huge horse’s back, I almost split my pants, my legs were a wide v-shape now—and his back was wide, very wide; now Randy was putting the rope around the horses mouth, for a harness, and gave me the rope-end, up along his mane, and I grabbed it, and off I went around the carrel a half dozen times. I was willing to share Huge with the other boys, but they didn’t want him, he was too big, too scary, and perhaps too old. I must have ridden him for all of twenty minutes or so, when he started to tremble. I talked to him a bit, but he was getting more annoyed with me than I cared for. Then I looked into the upper part of his big eyes, they looked a bit fogy (I didn’t know exactly, nor perhaps, any better, but I suppose I should have figured it out, he was ill), and then suddenly, out of nowhere, the horse bucked, it took all his energy, everything he had, I noticed that. I was, it seemed six feet high, and he bucked again, and I flew this time, flew high off him like a pigeon being stoned and falling off a bridge. Onto the ground I landed, where I am now; as I stood up on my feet I said to Randy, Give me a hand, and he did.
I was stubborn back then, and blindly so, for I wanted to ride him again, but he fell, Huge fell, that is one leg dropped somewhat, and he lost his balance, and then regained it, as the keeper of the barn came out, saw Huge and me, and everybody, and he started to yell, “These horses are sick, get the Hell out of here…!”
We quickly ran to the fence, as the man picked up speed, and jumped over it the same way we had come in; I took my last glance at Huge, I was sorry I rode him, sorry he was ill, but I was glad I got to talk to him, and look into them big fogy eyes of his.
I think he was old, very old, and he liked me because I was young and dumb I suppose, and allowed me to have a sporting day with him. But it was too, way too much for him, and he didn’t know it at the time himself, only after we rode a while did he figure out he was not that young wild horse he used to be, I do believe he forgot that for a moment. How do I know this: well, I could be wrong, but I’m fifty-eight now, and that’s how I feel these days.

Written 5/19/06 EP Café, Lima, Peru


End Poems


Train to Newport (1962)

I was but fifteen-years old, when
Tom and I snuck into the freight yard,
To catch a train going to Chicago.
I was surprised at my stupidity—!
It stopped in Newport, Minnesota,
Seven-miles from home, and we
And we both (Tom and I) kicked stones,
Walking those dark miles back home.

Note: The author did many things when he was young,
but he never hopped a train again, it was his first and
last time. #1241 2/23/06


The Missing Song

An era in me embraces my youth
It seems but an autumn’s day,
When life and love, with jealous hast,
Went fast, to grabbed it all away!
For then, no more a thoughtful breeze
it somberly moves me now—
And haunts my breast, its absentness
the living grave of remembrance.