Out of the frying pan…You know the rest

Wilmer McLean

In 1861 Wilmer McLean was retired from military life. A grocer by trade, living in Virginia with his family, Mclean was perfectly fine with not having to be involved in the war. At 47 years of age, he was far too old to reenlist when the war broke out. A southerner at heart and a business man by trade, McLean valued his status as a Virginia gentleman. Which was why he was overjoyed when he was approached by Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard to use his home, located just outside Manassas, as a perfunctory headquarters. As luck would have it, the battle of Bull Run would begin that very afternoon as Union an Confederate forces converged on McLean’s front yard, marking the first major battle of the Civil War. Beauregard and his troops exacted a heavy toll on McDowell’s unseasoned Union army, but not before getting off a number of shots themselves. The Union just happened to be canon heavy on that particular day. One of those canons lobbed a fiery ball through the roof of McLean’s house, landing on his kitchen table. The home survived, and so did McLean and his family. But his business, along with many others in Manassas, suffered because of the war. Wilmer filed for bankruptcy and moved his family to a home in Appomattox, Virginia.

Appomattox Courthouse

In 1865, General Lee’s dwindling forces fought their last skirmish at a little known area of Virginia known as Appomattox Courthouse. Lee lost 600 hundred men in that battle and quickly surrendered. The war was over. On April 9th of that year, Wilmer McLean was approached again by yet another Confederate General. Only this time it was Robert E. Lee himself, requesting to use the home for a meeting. That meeting was Lee’s official surrender of the Confederacy to General Ulysses S. Grant. The surrender took place in the parlor of the McLean family home, overlooking the battlefield, still being cleared of the dead. Once it was over, the two general’s shook hands and Lee departed. Later that month, Wilmer McLean gave a statement to a local newspaper saying: “The war began on my front lawn, and ended in my front parlor.”

An Unforgivable Act

What is it about you that I detest so much? Your smell? Much like an offensive version of burnt ketchup and something rubbery. No, that’s not it. Is it your lack of compassion when faced with the burdens of your fellow man? Not quite. Could it possibly be the way you wear your hair, all combed to one side like you’re trying to cover up part of your brain? Although this is loathsome, it is not the reason. If you wish to know why, I will tell you…

You broke into my home. Yes, I realize that the door was technically unlocked but that didn’t give you the right to enter. You used my bathroom. This horrible realization I’m not even going to comment on. You sat in my chair, browsed through my extensive library and watched my television. However, all would have been forgiven if you simply hadn’t eaten my entire bag of pork rinds!

It is not for me to say

As I sit here at my corner desk in my cramped room in my small but not-so-modern apartment, writing an essay on South Carolina’s aggression prior to the shots on Fort Sumter while snacking directly from a family sized box of Chicken in a Biskit crackers and drinking flavored water in an attempt to relieve myself of the burdens of caffeinated sugary goodies, I can’t help but wonder what it must be like to be God. Does he allow snacks and drinks in his kingdom? I have stopped drinking alcohol (in theory) but would there be whiskey available? Yes, this is quite a random thought to have at this time of the day but are we not guided (also in theory) by our conscious thoughts?

Hello there…

I understand that it has been some time since you last heard from me. School has me laden with this task and that. However, it is always exciting when I dive into a new project. Please stay tuned for the wonderful things to come.

What is History?

History has been defined as the study of past events and human affairs.  But history itself is so much more.  History is flipping through a collection of family photographs with a loved one.  It’s the emotion that one feels when they remember those that they have lost.  History is remembering; remembering a time when we were young and the treasures of the world were at our feet.  Sledding down a snowy hill with friends until your toes are numb, not wanting to go home.  History is made when family comes together and laughter is shared along with tears.

            History is learned from textbooks in a classroom.  Yet it is experienced out in the world.  In the library doing research.  Discovering knowledge once unknown.  History is regret and anger, tragedy and triumph.  History is the hearts of a people coming together in hope in the wake of devastation.  History is the comfort given to a dying loved one at the side of a hospital bed.  It is remembering the joy when a kite takes flight on a windy spring day.

            History is not for the faint of heart.  It is there for those that not only wish to learn from the past but to endure it.  It is not there for us to like or dislike.  It is there for us to learn from.  If history offends, then it has done its job because then we are less likely to repeat it.  History is not ours to change or destroy.

Sky Frogs (revised) Based on actual events

My name is Willie Gardner and I got a story to tell y’all.  Not like one a them book stories, more like news an shit.  Maybe I should call that news lady that’s on the TV all the time talkin bout shit that happens in all them other places.  Ain’t nothin ever happen here.  But just the other day it did, I tell ya.  Jus two whole days ago, that’s 48 hours to you dumb folks, I was drivin down by the big farm out the other side of town when I had to pull the emergency break.  The break pedal doesn’t work cause the car’s a piece a shit.  A friggin frog fell out the sky an landed right on the friggin hood.  I lost my shit! Another one smashed on the window of the car next to me and some dumb lady was screamin somethin fierce.  There was hundreds of em.

First off, I don’t believe in no aliens. Let’s get that out the way right quick. But when them frogs were fallin outta the damn sky, I lost my shit. Some idiot said it was some kinda weather thing. No sir! Them frogs were real and fallin from the friggin sky! Aint no weather can do that. I jumped out the car and scooped five or six of em an threw em on the seat there. Whatcha gotta know is that these frogs here aint no normal reptiles. How do I know? Cause they friggin talk to me, that’s how I knows they aint no normal friggin frogs. The proof is there on the inside. Tommy Pistil came over last night an set about cuttin one open. Now, I aint what you call smart, but I know a real frog from an alien frog, an I’m tellin you for sure that these frogs are settin to work some kinda magic or somethin. Tommy grabbed a blade that I once used to peal somethin off my foot an set in to cuttin one open. Right down the friggin middle of it. He went to school an all so he’s knows all about frogs an shit. After he’d cut a big hole he showed me all the regular frog stuff like the guts an shit. He told me that it was a normal lookin frog. But the hell I say! That’s just what these frogs want us to be thinkin. If’n you was a frog from space, you’d be makin yourself look normal too. Tommy lost his shit an went inside to grab a beer. That’s when the friggin thing sat up and started in to speakin. I tell you right now. You don’t ever want to listen to frogs when they got that talkin shit goin on. Tommy came back out and I told him what was goin on with the dead frog and he laughed like he’d been listenin to one of them funny people on that you tube. I told him it was real and he fell back on a chair an opened his beer with his one tooth that points kinda outward like.

Ma came out an set about yellin somethin fierce. Why were we messin with all them frogs an shit? I told her they was from Pluto or some place like that an she lost her shit too. Everybody’s losin their shit over frogs that aint normal. I put the rest a them frogs in a shoe box my old man had left me in case any a them frogs fell outta the sky and I went inside. Aint nobody gonna tell me that sky frogs are like normal frogs. Now, I sleep like a baby or some shit like that. But that night I couldn’t sleep at all. I kep hearing that frog talk comin from the box, an there was a little shinin too like the moon had been in the box with em. I sat up an looked inside that box and you know what, those frogs were havin a meetin like they was plannin some evil shit.  They was talkin to each other like they was in the army or some shit.  I seen one a them army movies at the theater in town with Pearl weeks back.  She didn’t like it at all but I was like, Damn! Them armies be tearin shit up! Them frogs all looked up at me with that froggy look and told me to go the fuck away. An you know what I did? I kicked them friggin frogs in the friggin teeth. Aint no sky frog gonna mess with my sleepin. No sir.  It musta been a dream or some shit cause I woke up an them frogs were walkin around like they had some work to do or some shit.

Billy Wort come over cause he heard about the frogs.  It was seemin like the whole town been goin ape shit bout them frogs and that got me thinkin.  I could make a big mess a money with these friggin frogs.  Billy started takin pictures with his old man’s camera.  Story goes, he swiped it off his old man when he was sleepin bout a year ago.  He sat up an started fixin into choking him an shit.  I’m guessin there’s more to it but I aint rememberin it right.  You gotta ask Billy bout that one.  Anyways, when billy was takin them pictures, a man came round the house and started askin ma a mess a questions she didn’t know.  He was askin her if’n she ever seen frogs fall out the sky and I was like shit ya I did!  I told him about the frogs fallin out the sky an the box I got an the meetin they was havin.  He got all excited like he was drugs like Mikey Pallet was when he got all that weed from the city.  You’ll have to ask Mikey about that cause I don’t do no weed.  That shit makes ya crazy.

I ran into the barn where I got my bed an shit an grabbed them frogs out the box and showd’em.  An you know what that guy did?  He took them frogs and took off for the woods.  Like I was sayin before, I aint what them teachers be callin smart.  But I gots me one a them advanced intellects.  And I knows that you can’t take no sky frog alien into them woods.  But I don’t think this guy knows that cause he ain’t from around here.

  So I followed him into them woods.  The guy threw them frogs into his pocket and he was runnin.  I had to run to keep up with him but I was good whit all that cause I ran all the time when I was little.  Morty and I used to chuck potatoes at cars when they’d pass the house.  Sometimes we’d jump into the ditch an shit or we’d take off runnin.  So I knows about runnin.  An when the old man used to chase me out the house when I’d swipe his nudie books, I learnt all about runnin.  Runnin aint just in them movies.

When he was runnin he tripped on a log and you know what?  He dropped all them frogs and they went flyin an shit like they was birds.  I tried catchin em but they know’d better than to hang with me.  I was fixin in to cook em up and they know’d it.  This guy that took em, he started in to cussin an shit an was awful mad.  I was laughin an he got real crazy like and pulled out a pistol just like my pa and pointed it at my face.  Told me to git so I did.  I aint fixin to have my face shot off on account a no sky frog.

When I got back to the house, ma was actin real weird like.  She was all dressed up like she was fixin to go to church er some shit like that.  I know’d she aint been to church since pa got hit by that limo rollin through town while back.  She told me that church was for God people, an God don’t hit no man with no limo.  She was sittin in the truck like she was fixin to go somewhere but she can’t drive on account of that cancer in her head.  That truck didn’t run anyways so when it started I jumped back and got out the way.  When I got close to look in, you know what I saw?  Sure as shit she had one a them frogs in her lap like she was carryin a frog purse er some shit like that.  That frog was drivin that truck like he owned the sombitch.  I aint never lied to no one, especially about no frog.  This is some real shit right here.  Tommy came over and gave me a cold one and I just sat there on the ground an shook my head.  There aint no messin with no sky frog.  No sir.

Toby

Saturday
7:AM

Elaine Maxwell woke feeling uneasy. Not from the previous week’s nightmare but something else entirely. The empty glass that held her vodka lay on the floor next to her; explaining in full, complete sentences that maybe her uneasiness was a symptom of the drinking. She stood and steadied herself and walked to the kitchen. Gavin would be up soon. Today is the day of the big game and he was going to take some pictures for the paper. Elaine couldn’t understand how he could just go about his day as if nothing had happened. She began to fume, like steam escaping a tea kettle. She sighed. It was his way of coping, she supposed.
With the coffee brewing, she went upstairs to start a hot bath. She passed by Toby’s room and saw that the door was ajar. It would be a long time before she would feel strong enough to enter his room again. She reached in to close it then instantly bristled. She heard a clicking sound coming from within and held her breath as she stepped inside her dead son’s bedroom.
“Well good morning sleepy head.”
Gavin sat behind a large wooden desk, typing away on a laptop. The room had been designed as a modern man’s office. Shelves along each wall held books and portraits. A framed photo hung along the back wall. Three figures smiled back at her. She had never seen that picture before. Inside the elaborate frame Gavin sat next to his wife on an old felled tree stump. Their Daughter, Jessica, sat between them, her smile so wide that her face hurt. An expensive set of golf clubs stood in the corner of the room near the only window.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Elaine yelled.
“What do you mean?” Gavin seemed oblivious. “I’m just getting some work done. Did I forget something?”
“Where are all of Toby’s things?”
“What are you talking about?”
“His toys. His clothes. What did you do with it all?”
Elaine was livid. She felt a rage boiling inside her that hadn’t been there before. It’s true, each person grieves in their own way. But this was the process a bit too far. Gavin had taken all of Toby’s belongings and turned his room into an office for himself. It was selfish and unforgivable. Gavin stood, feeling slightly agitated.
“Whose toys?”
“Toby’s! You removed every memory of him!”
Gavin dropped back into his chair, unaware of how he was going to handle this. She had been up late drinking the night before. She had been drinking a lot lately. He didn’t judge, he enjoyed the bottle as much as anyone, but when it affected your reality, perhaps it was time to put the bottle away for a while. Gavin rested his face in his hands.
“Elaine, darling…”
“Don’t ‘darling’ me. Where is it all?”
“Where is what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
By this time, Jessica was up and watching the argument from the hallway. She was confused because her parents rarely argued. She was scared. She wanted to run to her mother and tell her it was alright.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Where are Toby’s things?”
“Who’s Toby?”
The question came as a shock. Like a bucket of ice cold water thrown on her head. She turned numb from the result of it. The color drained from her usually beautiful skin. Her world collapsed upon itself and she could feel the room spin. Not the kind of spinning that comes with a vodka hangover but more like the real thing. Like that one carnival ride that you would never go on. She turned toward the doorway and saw her daughter standing just under the transom. Jessica asked again.
“Mommy, who’s Toby?”
Twenty minutes later Elaine was dressed and in her car, driving up Lamont Road towards town. Was this a dream? Was she in shock. Gavin had suggested that he take her to the hospital. She refused, of course. Instead she scooped up the car keys and left in a rage. Her son was gone and it was her fault, and now her family had taken every last bit of his existence and erased it.
Her tears were hot on her cheeks, like rain on desert asphalt; creating ruts down the length of her face.
She turned left on Water Street and pulled into the first open spot available. It was nearly 9AM now and the sun seemed to focus its attack directly on her as she stepped out of the car and crossed the street. She was walking towards the river when a lady accidental bumped her shoulder as she passed.
“Excuse me.” The woman said politely and continued on.
She was dressed oddly in a thin, tan overcoat despite the weather and Elaine gave no notice until she saw the young boy holding the woman’s hand. The boy was wearing faded red shorts and a stripped t-shirt. His shoes were dirty and looked a size too big for his feet. But it was his hair that stunned Elaine. The boy had a full head of blonde curls. Not overly curly but wavy; bleached from the summer sun. The boy turned back and smiled knowingly at Elaine. She froze instantly.
“Toby?” She said, not loudly. She wasn’t 100% certain. But when the boy turned again at the recognition of his name, she was.
Elaine ran as hard and as fast as she had ever ran in her life. They were a block and a half ahead now. Her arms pumped as her stride increased. She felt a stitch in her side and slowed just a little. The boy and the woman turned left at the next block.
“6th street.” Elaine pulled out her phone, ready to call her husband then thought against it.
She turned on 6th and felt her breath leave her as she saw that they were no longer there. Had they ditched her? She turned back, passing Daisey’s Cafe. There, at a table near the window sat the woman and her son. Her son, Toby. She weighed her options. What was she prepared to do? For her son? Anything. Her first instinct was to walk straight up to this lady and take her child back. The woman in the overcoat seemed a tad more physically capable. Elaine hadn’t even been to the gym since before Christmas. She took out her phone and dialed the police.
The spectacle taking place outside the cafe had garnered quite a crowed. Onlookers watched as two women argued, with the police doing what they could to keep them calm.
“Mrs, Maxwell,” a short and skinny officer named Williams tried to talk to her. “I understand how…”
“Understand?” Elaine screamed. “You don’t understand shit!”
The officers felt increasingly irritated.
“Arrest that bitch and give me back my son!”
After a continuous barrage of insults and foul language, Elaine was cuffed and detained. They set her inside a squad car while they dialed her husband, who arrived only minutes later in utter disbelief at what was happening. He was led to the car to speak to her.
“Lainey, what are you doing?”
“She took our son, Gavin. That bitch took our son!”
Gavin hung his head, he was angry at this outburst, the argument earlier. And yet, he was deeply saddened. They would find a therapist, then, more than likely, a decent attorney. He stood and took hold of her shoulders.
“Elaine Marie Maxwell.” He recited her full name whenever he wanted her attention. Most often it would bring laughter as Gavin could never keep a straight face. “We do not have a son!”
Officer Williams strolled over to the couple. It was clear to him what was happening and he was fine with it. Better to let them work it out at home than to have a shit ton of paperwork to complete. He took the cuffs off Mrs. Maxwell and left, leaving Elaine feeling like she had just walked out of a nightmare. The lady with the overcoat walked calmly over. The boy clinging to her side. She looked up at Gavin.
“My sincerest apologies.” She said, taking Gavin’s hand. “I hope everything will be alright.” Gavin smiled politely and nodded. He had no way of answering her so she continued.
“Would you mind if I spoke to your wife?” He was reluctant at first, not wanting to stir the pot anymore than it has been already. And yet, he felt that it would be good for her to have a dose of reality. He nodded and the lady who had still not given her name, took Elaine by the hand and led her away from her husband. She stood directly in front of her and Elaine glared back. The woman calmly tilted her head towards the blue Watertown sky then put her finger to her lips and whispered.
“They’re listening.”

Lilith

I walk this beaten path of wood and stone.

‘Tis not a ghost nor creature I am known.

Her golden hair and eyes of fire imbue.

Time rests upon the castle birds unflown.

I share with her the mist of morning gray,

Of dark and ceaseless winds of pure dismay.

From withered, lifeless skin, the blood be mourned.

To love her once more upon death’s new day.

MISSING BOY NOW BELIEVED TO HAVE WANDERED INTO WOODS – AUTHORITIES SAY.

Watertown. Creek County Sheriff’s department, along with local police and volunteers, searched the area of Beggar’s Woods yesterday in hopes of finding 8 year old Toby Maxwell. Young Toby went missing late afternoon on Tuesday of this week. He was last seen in the front yard of 409 Primrose where he lives with his parents and older sister. The search in Beggar’s Woods near Diamond Creek began in earnest after a child’s shoe was found near the north bank. That shoe was later identified by Toby’s mother Elaine Maxwell. “The shoe was a big break in our efforts. We are hopeful that the boy will turn up.” Said Creek County Sheriff Preston Forge. Sheriff Forge refused to comment on a rumor that a ball of human hair had been retrieved at the creek bank. As of this morning, the search in Beggar’s Woods continues. The Maxwell family has yet to make a statement regarding the disappearance of their son. It has been confirmed by the Watertown police that the FBI has offered their assistance. No word yet on whether that offer has been accepted, though agents from the Boston field office arrive at the scene on Wednesday. Citizens of Watertown and the surrounding area are being asked to call in to the Sheriff’s hotline if they have any information on the whereabouts of young Toby Maxwell. That number is: (717) 427-1191. Michelle Sayers, Watertown Press.,

A tease from my next project.

Consider please, the choices that we make everyday. Not only the major decisions but the minor as well. You’re walking down the street and you see a delightful pair of shoes in a shop window. You turn and step forward. That decision has altered the universe. Your choice to inspect the shoes rather than move along to your planned destination, changed the course and the outcome of life on the planet for you and all living things. Don’t believe me? What if I told you that if you had continued down the block, a man driving a green Ford Focus would turn left against the light and hit you. Not killing you of course, but you are forever paralyzed from the neck down. You piss and shit yourself every hour, and strangers have to clean you and feed you. Still not convinced? Consider the driver of that car. Was it his intention, when he left his house that morning, late for work, to run you over? Of course not. However, the affect of hitting you caused a number of, let’s say, unwarranted circumstances. Apart from the legal trouble, which, in truth was not all that terrible, he began drinking; often heavily. The guilt he coveted from injuring you consumed him. His wife left him, and his life never recovered. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for aggravated battery. In his cell, he cut his own throat with a sharpened, plastic fork. Let’s take it a step further, shall we.

Why was he late for work? Well, what if I told you that his wife was pregnant with their first child and he was up late taking care of her while she was sick. So, he didn’t get enough sleep. His wife begged him to take the day off but with a baby on the way, how could he? I would wager now that you’re glad you stopped to look at those shoes. I think it might be time for me to frighten you; just a bit. Because you chose to turn and gaze at those gorgeous shoes, your life goes on. No hospital. Your not paralyzed. And our driver? he goes on to work, being only a few minutes late. He clocks in and proceeds to perform the duties of his job. He is a good worker. A hard working family man. His performance at the company has been exemplary. He deserves a promotion. The manager calls him to tell him that he would like to see him in his office. The driver of the green car apologizes and says that he cannot at the moment because he’s doing the work of three people. The manager tells him that it’s no bother. He will come see him right away. He has good news. The manager, happy to be giving a good man good news, trips on his own feet and stumbles head fitst down a long flight of stairs, killing him instantly, and leaving behind a wife and two children. The greedy manager who takes his place fires the driver for being late. All because you liked those shoes…