Pictures at an Exhibition

May 8, 2016

THE STORM came so fast yesterday, sun to green and purple sky, the sound of the 70 mile per hour wind like a freight train riding Route 3, and it slammed down and exploded trees, and it uprooted a huge old tree in the Melville Cemetery, which lay, this morning, across eight rows of graves, and hail scoured bark, and bird nests flew and there were orphans everywhere, and my yard looked as though a giant had beat it with giant’s baseball bat.

HUMMINGBIRD MAN wasn’t home this morning but his wife was, holding her new baby girl grandchild in her arms, and her husband’s obsession was in full view, the red feeders hanging from windows and trees, and a cage with a singing canary hung from a branch and swayed in the breeze, and I saw my first rubythroat glide in and sip and chatter at the canary.

SUNDAY MORNING ON THE ISLAND OF SCOTCH JIMMY was dotted with wild birds, a Canada goose mother and four goslings in a row, padding after her tail-to-beak, the nervous father bringing up the rear, and great egrets plied the roiled water for stunned fish, and overhead two great blue herons soared eastward, their wings flapping slowly, just enough lift to keep them in the air, and lines of small ducks padded upstream.

THE THREE WISEMEN sat at Table 2 at the café, Old Man Grayson telling Jerry and me about his bootlegging days, Alton to Chicago for booze and cigarettes, him a kid riding under the canvass, armed with a pistol and an axe handle in case of hijackers hijacking the hijackers, and Jerry explaining Skype to an 87-year-old rough-hewed man whose knowledge of the modern world was confined to the St. Louis Cardinals, spying on his neighbors, and watching another Jerry–Springer–on the TV and learning about love.

THE MAYOR OF GODFREY drove the bluff hill roads in his sporty car and sized up the storm damage, and waved to me and mouthed “tomatoes soon.”

AN ACCIDENTAL MOTHER ON MOTHER’S DAY fretted over ten baby ducklings moving as one on the Great River Road path, a wave of brown and stripe and yellow fuzz, stone to stone, whap of tiny webbed feet, “cheep, cheep, cheep,” and I didn’t know what to do: flag down a car, call 911, take off my shirt and collect them all in the cloth and drive to an animal shelter, oh god, come night they would be ten small meals for raccoons, coyotes, foxes, my cat if I brought them home; please help me, please; and then the mother duck, fifteen minutes later, waddled past me and gathered up the kids and my mothering was over, and why was I sad?

THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN and her frightened dog walked by me, leaning out and away, perhaps thinking I was a bad guy, and I have been a bad guy, and I’ve done some good, “I’ve Done Some Good” my country song I sing alone at night.

A MISSISSIPPI RIVER WOODCHUCK watched me, only running for it when I was ten feet away, scrambling up the steep bluff side, an engine of marbled fat and fur undulating against gravity.

STEVIE waved to me and I shouted “Happy Mother’s Day,’ and she folded my greeting into her chest, this very old woman known to hikers and bikers and drivers, Stevie’s Fish Stand corner of the Great River Road and Clifton Terrace, about to open for the season.

DOG WALKER OF LAVISTA PARK let me hug his fat blond dog, the mutt slobbering my face, and we talked about the storm, how it lifted up two portable johns in the park’s parking lot and smashed them flat, and I said: “How’d you like to have been standing in one of those johns when the storm hit,” and he replied: “I wouldn’t want to be standing in them johns under any circumstance,” and we laughed so hard, snot shot out from my nose.



About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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