November 14, 2013 

I’m on the Genehouse Trail, jacketed and with a new black fleece hat pulled over my ears. I’m over-dressed; it’s 50-some degrees out and gentle breezes blow, the river’s flow blown bank to bank, north to south. I make quite the noise, rather like a broom sweeping, for I have to shuffle through long swaths of downed, crackling leaves. Summer’s over; I have no hopes of meeting interesting people for months to come. This is the existentialist’s flaw, putting the drear in dreary, expecting solitude. And I feel as dead as the leaves, as washed out as the leaves, my bones as brittle as the autumn leaves.

When . . . as if on cue, here she comes a jogging, a bouncy young woman clad in a red fleece top and yes, my summer favorite, black spandex bottoms! her long strawberry hair alive in the wind! her round cheeks rosy red from exertion, her generous lips blowing puffs of breath!

She stops!

Of course she stops. I’m Gene. We exchange hellos. She points at my head and says, “Cool.”

Cool? My head is cool? Oh, I realize, she means the new black fleece hat I’ve pulled over my shaved head. And then she stretches, bending from the waist, touching the toes of her neon Nikes,* and I silently admire her litheness. Then off she jogs, and visions of sugar plum fairies dance in my head—who knows what’s in her head?

(Certainly not the bent-backed old man in the cool hat to whom she was so kind. I watch her—to make sure she gets across Clifton Terrace Road safely; I’m nothing if not Mr. Safety—and I sigh the old man’s sigh.)

Midnight the night before. I couldn’t sleep. I decided not to fight it. I turned out all the lights ands sat in my La-Z-Boy recliner.* Still the house was bathed in light, coming from outside. I popped open a Stag beer, raised all the blinds, put the composer god Samuel Barber’s “Piano Concerto”? (an LSD frenzy of classical music that I play every day, sound cranked up) in the stereo and stood at the west window of my office.

A three-quarter moon hung just above the woods. It was a pale yellow mist drizzling light streams on my meadow, and I thought Picasso’s ghost had been here, for his bare-naked-lady black ink drawings stretched along the ground: maple ladies, oak ladies, Osage ladies, walnut ladies, the shadows of their gleaming bodies rising in all directions; and their loosely-sewn garments lying in tatters, orange and purple and scarlet and yellow on the yellow light, and their headless bodies rose and stretched and bent, ballerinas’ legs splayed, gymnasts’ toes pointed at Saturn, and there were the lustrous junctions of their legs, the mounds of Venus, altars before which men bow.

Well, not all men.

That afternoon my landlord had dropped by to check on my furnace. We stopped at the aforementioned window and he pointed at the trees. “What does that remind you of, Gene? Where the tree branches join?” LOL. I knew what it reminded me of but I am a Midwesterner—I keep my concupiscent thoughts to my self.

“Volvos,”* the landlord said. “See? Crooks of the trees?” **

(Sigh an old man’s song-sigh, knowing his limitations and useless intimations and wasted contemplations.)

As my landlord—not ME, my landlord—would say, the pulchritudinous young woman had a great, uh, Volvo.

So on I walk, and I begin to sweat. I pull off my new black fleece cap . . . and see, to my dismay and embarrassment, the sales tag is attached by a plastic thread on the cap top, a sticker reading “X-Large” is pasted on the top—oh my lord.

But then I think, wait, I know now what “cool” meant. The young people wear their clothing tags as a statement. They are walking advertisements. The young woman was praising me. So why do I feel foolish?

I tear off the sales tag, peel off the sticker and shove them in a pocket and think, Bah, humbug, I know, Christmas* is weeks away, but then I think, wait, I’m cool, and suddenly I’m jaunty again, but then my spine cracks, and then I think the world’s not so bad after all, and then my right foot slips on the leaves, but I right myself, only to get hit on the head by a falling Osage orange the size of a softball.

(Sigh an old man’s song-sigh, knowing his limitations and useless intimations and wasted contemplations.)

*Product Placement: Hey, Nike, send me some shoes, size elevens!

*Product Placement: La-Z-Boy recliners, the official chair of Genehouse! I need a new one!

*Product placement: Volvo . . . the car for Genehouse readers! And—on the off chance that a Volvo dealer is reading this—I have always admired Volvos, and yes, you may sponsor this Chronicle and give me a car.

*Product Placement: Christmas! Genehouse readers buy-buy-buy!

**Sidebar: To my women FB friends: I’m a mere reporter, so don’t think me sexist or lustful; I’m a harmless old man. (I hear you, Judy, the two Kathy’s, Toni, Sheila S. et al, saying “Amen.”)

**Sidebar: See, ladies? I stole the idea. It wasn’t my idea; it was the landlord’s idea!


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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *