June 21, 2014

Now is the summer of my discontent. My right shin and foot have been in a cast for two weeks and I’m relegated to stretching for exercise. Scout the Cat is enjoying my downtime. She sleeps now as I write, her left front leg inserted into my useless, right bedroom slipper. Her lush, striped fur shows red highlights from her nightly brushing.  She won’t tolerate an actual brush of course, but she has her own stone knife which she drags around the house, and I gently slide the blade of the knife over her belly and back and off come softball-size tufts of fur, and the cat makes orgasmic sounds and mewls for more stroking.

I miss the Genehouse walk. I have seen Farmer Orville twice, but I can’t stand long enough to enjoy our usual round of talk and tales and lies and I cannot hold Reba the farm dog in my arms. As to the fates of Hummingbird Man and Dexter and the scantily clad girls on the River Road trail, I cannot say. I can dream. 

My neighbors are mourning the senseless death of a young woman whom I knew as a fellow customer at my local convenience store. She got drunk, and her boyfriend took her car keys, and she ran into his bedroom and grabbed his gun and shot herself in the face. People gather at the store and talk about “the tragedy” and shake their heads. It isn’t a tragedy; it’s what happens when muddled minds play with death as though death were a puppy, and dead is suddenly real and a girl’s corporeal self now vanished. I mourn for the young man who sleeps on a bloodstained bed, for the mother and father who had to see their daughter’s exploded head.

My driving is limited to the convenience store, for coffee, and to the grocery store. When I got my coffee this morning, the morning of the longest day, I saw turkey vultures gliding and watching an overripe dead raccoon on the north side of the highway. The alpha vulture had landed and stuck its head inside the cavity of the coon, and every time a car passed the bird raised its head, the coon corpse sliding down and over it—the second vulture I have seen with a Davy Crockett hat on its head.

The vultures perch on the giant cell phone tower in the parking lot of the abandoned gas station at the corner of Clifton Terrace and Route 3. They are quite a sight at sunrise, 30 or more black birds facing west and waiting for wind lift and heat. I can see them from my porch, the slight sway of the tower over the treetops and the vultures’ wings splayed in balance.

A nor’easter struck last night, plunging the temperature some 20 degrees in minutes and rain slashing at the house then exiting as fast as it came and the heat and thick humidity returning. I went to my utility room to check the windows and found the body of a tree frog wedged between the screen and the glass. I had heard a tree frog the night before, and I smiled and noted that the sound was particularly loud. I didn’t know that the frog was uttering its last bleats, “Taps” for its self.

I could have saved the frog, had I known. I could have saved the girl, had I known. I wonder, will I sing “Taps” for myself? Will I vanish? Will I take one of a hundred stone knives in this house and sacrifice myself?

This is two weeks of solitude playing me like a broken record.


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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